Suck It Up, Bernistas

Dear fellow Bernie backers,

I feel your pain. I know your heartache. Like you, I long for a Democratic Party that that stands for boldly progressive policies, that embraces an agenda that benefits the little guy instead of the one percent, that shuns the pessimism and defeatism of our nation’s recent politics, that appeals to our better angels. I, too, was inspired by the Bern’s improbable campaign, and saddened that he didn’t quite make it to the finish line ahead of his rival.

The difference between you and me is that I’m almost as old as Bernie; I’ve seen all this before, and I have some advice based on my long experience observing, writing and cartooning about politics.

Bernie lost. It sucks. Now get over it and support Hillary.

I know, I know, it’s a painful thing to hear. Here’s something else you won’t want to hear, but it’s the truth.

Like it or not, we have in this country a two-party system. You can vote for the Democrat, or for the Republican. Any other vote is wasted, or worse. Voting your conscience, while it may seem noble and righteous, is, to put it bluntly, stupid.

And I don’t think you’re stupid.

Either Clinton or Trump (assuming the Republican Party doesn’t come to its senses and dump The Donald) is going to win in November. Nobody else will. It may feel really good to believe that by voting for someone–anyone–else, or by refusing to vote at all, you will avoid being responsible for the result, but you won’t. In fact, you may well be criminally complicit in putting a terribly wrong person (that would be The Donald) in the White House.

Yes, I know. That leaves Hillary, imperfect as she may be. Suffice it to say that nobody who’s been in politics for very long is without sin, and that includes, believe it or not, the Bernster. He is not the Messiah. He’s a cranky old socialist (the best kind, in my opinion) with some appealing ideas, and Hillary’s not the devil incarnate. I won’t even bother to go into why the reasons you despise her are probably dead wrong, because they don’t really matter.

Here’s the only thing that actually does matter, and it’s not that Donald Trump is an obnoxious narcissistic asshole without the judgment, temperament, experience or wisdom to be president; it’s that if Trump wins he will appoint the next Supreme Court justice, and the Republicans likely will continue to control both houses of Congress.

Despite what you might want to believe in your zeal for Bernie and your distaste for Hillary, there are substantive differences between the Democratic and Republican parties, and those differences have real and important consequences.

Let’s start with the now deadlocked Supreme Court. The next president will either keep the Court reliably right wing or swing it for the first time in a generation to the left. Would you rather have him appoint another Antonin Scalia or have her appoint another Ruth Ginsburg?

Would you rather have the next president fight for gun control or for the NRA? For the middle class or for more tax cuts for billionaires? For regulation of the banks or for letting them run amok? For fair lending practices or for greed? For workers’ rights or for big business? For a higher minimum wage or for the status quo? For supporting unions or for busting them? For criminal justice reform or for mass incarceration?

For investing in infrastructure or for more spending cuts? For solar and wind power or for Big Oil and coal? For strong environmental protections or for their repeal? For action on global warming or for climate change denial? For strengthening the social safety net or for destroying it? For protecting Medicare and Social Security or for starving them? For respecting people of all religions or for demonizing some? For an open society or for a surveillance state?

And I could go on and on.

And here’s the thing: despite what some candidates promise, the president isn’t an absolute monarch. He or she can’t wave a magic scepter and make college free or mandate universal health care or stop corporations from shifting profits overseas all by his or her lonesome. The next president can’t do very much of anything if Congress won’t go along, That means that the president’s party needs to control at least one house of Congress, and preferably both.

There’s a very good chance in November that the Democrats take back the Senate, and at least significantly weaken the Republican stranglehold in the House, if they win the presidency. See, there’s this thing called coat tails, in which the party of the winning presidential candidate usually makes big gains in Congress. It would be nothing short of catastrophic if the Democrats were to lose the presidency to the egomaniacal buffoon the GOP has selected, and Congress were to stay in Republican hands, as well. Which could happen if enough Bernistas make the wrong decision on election day.

Those are the real issues in this election, not whether you can stomach anyone other than the Bern.

So suck it up and vote for Clinton, and for every other Democrat on the ballot.

Naming Rights

Here we go again.

Sports Authority, the giant sporting goods chain, has declared bankruptcy, not that I really care. At my age I’m no longer particular about where I buy the goods for my rapidly-diminishing athletic needs.

But I do care about the name of the place where my beloved Broncos, the reigning NFL champions (YAY!), play. Old-timer traditionalists like myself will never accept any name other than Mile High Stadium. It’s probably a vain hope, given that money is involved, that the stadium authority will finally tire of the round-robin of naming rights and restore the once and only proper name.

At least that dreadful first attempt at a compromise with history, Invesco Field at Mile High (what or where is Mile High?), mercifully vanished when Invesco Field became Sports Authority Field (no longer at mile high) in 2011.

One of the rumors floating around is that Sports Authority might be bought out by Dick’s Sporting Goods, which brings up a fascinating possibility.

Some history first: when the current structure was built in 2001 to replace the crumbling Mile High Stadium, some wag decided that its lithe curvelinear form resembled nothing so much as a diaphragm. Fortunately, that notion never caught on, and the disturbing image of violent men playing for territorial advantage inside a woman’s contraceptive device faded from memory.

But, what if Sports Authority does become Dick’s, and the naming rights are transferred? Will the Broncos now practice their manly profession in diaphragm-shaped Dick’s Field?

Which will surely be referred to, simply, as “The Dick?”

I may have to give up my season tickets.

 

 

 

Second Printing

The Sleeper Ave. book is evidently a hit, because readers snapped up the entire first printing. Not to worry, though, because I ordered more, and they’ll be back from the printer soon. All your favorite Sleeper Ave. stories in one glorious 220 page full-color collection.

PROMO-COVER

Remember, it’s not for sale.

Here’s how you can get it:

When I started Sleeper Ave. a year ago, I funded the project through a terrific independent journalism site called Beacon Reader, which I want to continue to support. So, for a contribution of $20 or more through my page on Beacon Reader, I’ll send you a copy of the book just as soon as it’s off the press.

It’s easy. Just click here or on any of the green buttons and you’ll be sent straight to Beacon, where you can support great journalism and get my book in the process.

Another HOF Snub

I’m a homer. I admit it. I’m a Denver Broncos fan. I bleed orange and blue. Today, I’m red, as in angry.

My home team bias aside, the latest in a long list of Hall of Fame snubs is ridiculous. The Broncos had three players in the final ten: Terrell Davis, Steve Atwater and John Lynch. Six of the ten were voted in.  All three were left out. Again.

The Denver Broncos play in their record-tying eighth Super Bowl today. Only six men who have played for the team are in the Hall. One of those, Tony Dorsett, played the bulk of his career for Dallas, and in Denver for a single, forgettable year. He doesn’t count.

Only three of the remaining five, Floyd Little, John Elway and Shannon Sharpe spent the bulk of their careers with Denver. Gary Zimmerman and Willie Brown had productive years here, but spent most of their playing careers on other teams.

How does a team that has been to the Super Bowl more than all but two other teams have so few inductees in the Hall? The Kansas City Chiefs, with three AFC championships and a single Super Bowl victory, have 18 (including Joe Montana and Mike Webster, who were short-term add-ons at the end of their careers). The Oakland Raiders, with five AFL/AFC championships and three Super Bowl victories during their glory years, have an astounding 26 in the Hall (Eric Dickerson, Ron Mix and Rod Woodson were late-career rentals). The San Diego Chargers, who have been to the big dance only once and lost, have an even dozen, ten of whom count (John Mackey and Johnny Unitas played there for a year).

All three of this year’s finalists were worthy and may eventually get in, but the list of those continually left out of the conversation is galling. How do Randy Gradishar, Tom Jackson, Louis Wright, Rod Smith, Karl Mecklenburg, Goose Gonsoulin, Lionel Taylor, Rich Jackson and Dan Reeves, to name a few of the most deserving, not have a bust in Canton?

And  the voters didn’t take the opportunity to honor Pat Bowlen, one of the most respected and successful owners in league history, while he was still capable of accepting and appreciating it.

That may be the Hall’s biggest crime of all.

 

Look! Over there!

Really, people!

You’ve been obsessed with the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting for more than two days now. What has happened to your legendary short attention span?

We have a presidential campaign going on, and this is no time to get fixated on irrelevant topics like American terrorists or gun control. Please direct your attention to the real issue here, Syrian refugees.

Some of you will point out that Syrian refugees pose no immediate threat to this country, that the security process already in place  is stringent and that it will take at least 18 months before a single one can be cleared to enter this country, by which time the election will already be ancient history, but that misses the important point: that keeping the electorate worried about hypothetical threats is vastly preferable to having to come up with real solutions to genuine problems.

There is a real risk, if we don’t turn our gaze from Colorado Springs, that people will start noticing that American citizens shoot each other with alarming frequency, accounting for many more deaths and injuries than foreign terrorists can even dream of inflicting, and that our ridiculously ineffective and inconsistent patchwork of gun laws allows pretty much anyone, no mater how mentally unbalanced, to assemble an arsenal that would make a SWAT team swoon with jealousy.

Okay, if you still insist on focusing on the latest mass murder, consider this: if everyone in that clinic and all the people in that shopping center had been armed, the shooter would have thought twice about choosing that area as a target. Yes, I know that the officer who was killed was armed, and that the other five cops who were wounded were also, but that just proves that everyone needs to be even better armed. I know, there are already as many guns as people in this country. Evidently we need two guns for everyone. Or more.

And making it harder to get guns in the first place won’t stop someone who’s determined to kill people; all it will do is inconvenience law-abiding citizens. I say this despite a mountain of convincing evidence to the contrary, because it sounds good and most people don’t pay attention to actual facts, anyway.

I’ve already heard talk that mentally unbalanced people like the shooter are easily influenced by things like the selectively edited video that purported to show Planned Parenthood illegally selling body parts, and by the inflammatory rhetoric of anti-abortion activists, calling doctors who perform abortions murderers and comparing them to Nazi exterminators, but hey, what about free speech rights? Besides, the guy who made the video wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger, so I don’t see how we can blame anyone but the shooter.

But enough about Colorado Springs. It’s an old story already. The news channels have been covering it non-stop and the newspapers have already devoted thousands of column inches to it. There’s nothing more to be learned here. One obviously mentally ill man killed three people and wounded eight more. Sure, it’s tragic, but it pales in comparison to the real threat we face.

The Syrians are coming.

Spotlight

I saw “Spotlight” yesterday, the film about the Boston Globe’s investigative reporting of the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandals.

It’s a terrific film, a must-see in my opinion, despite my reservations about the accuracy of some of the scenes. As a journalist I’m not a fan of the slippery disclaimer, “based on true events,” which allows the film-makers to take any liberties they want and still claim their film is somehow accurate.

That said, the film convincingly documents the role of the Globe and its investigative team in unearthing the Church’s appalling cover-up of a vast scandal.

It’s been almost seven years since the Rocky Mountain News closed up shop, and I still suffer pangs of homesickness when I see newspaper newsrooms. There’s no place else like them, and once one works for any length of time on a daily newspaper, no other work, no matter how satisfying, comes close. One of the main reasons is the satisfaction of seeing the effect of an important story on the community, especially when it’s a revelatory piece of reporting.

This film reinforced my belief that the decline of the printed press is nothing short of a catastrophe for our democracy. What other institution can devote the time and resources necessary to unearth a scandal of this magnitude? As the movie makes abundantly clear, this story could not have been told except by reporters and editors with deep connections to the community and with the support of a substantial local publication. It’s hard to imagine any of the news-oriented websites, bloggers or pundits that are supplanting the printed press having the ability to support this kind of work.

At the very end of the film, there’s a scene in the office of the Spotlight team with the phones ringing off the hook as hundreds of victims of priestly abuse call to add their stories to the record.
In an odd twist, the supposedly least interactive of media, the newspaper,  benefitted immensely from the interaction between the publication and its readers. In the end, the Globe ran more than 600 stories about the scandal, many of those fueled by the continued conversation between the newspaper staff and the paper’s audience.

That dynamic interplay between the newspaper and the readers has been, in my opinion, a crucial part of maintaining a healthy society, and I wonder if anything will, or can, ever replace it..

 

Be Very Afraid

Today, just a week after the horrific events in Paris, a day after another deadly terrorist attack in Mali, I am announcing my candidacy. I am running for office not for myself, not from any personal desire for glory, but out of a sincere belief that this country is being led, tragically, in the wrong direction.

It is clear to me that my opponent is out of touch with the American people and dangerously naive about the threats we face at home and abroad. He would have you believe that the appropriate response to the growing menace of terrorism is to double down on the traditional American values of openness and inclusiveness. He would tell you that the American people are strongest when we refuse to alter our way of life out of fear. He would have you believe that the greatest threat to our nation is not murderous jihadists but abandoning our core values in the face of terrorism.

To that I say, fear, fear itself, is the only reasonable response. My message to you, my fellow Americans, is simply this. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

My opponent will likely point out that in the last decade only 24 Americans have died from terrorist attacks in this country. He will tell you that every single year, more than 30,000 Americans are killed by guns and another 30,000 die in auto accidents. He will remind you that mentally unstable mass murderers with insanely easy access to guns have killed more than 900 in that same period.

To that I say, so what? These things happen. My opponent would have us waste precious time and limited resources by making it harder for homegrown terrorists and the mentally ill to get guns, taking away our precious freedoms in the process, when we should be eavesdropping on every phone call, text message and Facebook posting, building a giant wall around the entire country, and preventing even one single immigrant from coming here, even if most of them are fleeing the very terrorism we have just witnessed. Yes, once we were a nation of immigrants, but that was then, and this is now. We must also commit hundreds of thousands of troops to an endless war against a shadowy enemy in a dozen countries, with no clear strategy or end game, and with the real risk of further inflaming and emboldening our enemies.

What I propose will cost billions, perhaps trillions, will end once and for all America’s long-standing tradition of welcoming the downtrodden and oppressed to our shores, will likely result in many more American casualties than the terrorists would ever be able to inflict otherwise, and won’t do a thing to prevent radicalized or deranged American citizens from going on murderous rampages, but it will give us the comforting illusion that we’re doing something. The world is just too dangerous for us not to pretend that tough talk, knee-jerk xenophobia and pointless war-mongering is the answer.

We can’t be too safe.

Or too afraid.

I promise, if elected, I will do my best every minute of every day to keep every American in a constant state of fear.

Obama’s Failed Strategy

We of the opposition have officially had it with this president! I think I speak for every Republican when I say that Obama’s response to the threat of the Islamic State  is either incredibly naive, or worse, criminally stupid.

He actually refuses, in the wake of the carnage in Paris, to  alter his administration’s tragically failed policy against ISIS. Despite the horrific bloodshed, and the obvious ongoing threat of more, he still wants to stay the course. Still no American troops committed to the battle, still total reliance on untrustworthy Arab partners for military action, still wholly invested in a woefully ineffective air campaign, while ISIS gobbles up more territory and expands its threat to the civilized world. Sure,the president says this misguided, weak-kneed policy was developed in concert with and support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the nation’s intelligence community, but come on! This is the best they could come up with?

What’s the alternative, you ask? Hundreds of thousands of American troops on the ground? A multi-front war that consumes vast resources against a shadowy army operating in vast ungoverned areas of half a dozen failed states across North Africa and the Mideast?

Of course not. That would be almost as  foolish as the president’s current inept strategy.

Instead, unlike Obama,  we would use American strength and know-how to lead a broad coalition of trusted Arab partners to take the fight directly to the enemy, supported with an intensive campaign using all the available resources of America’s superior air power, including fighters, bombers and drones.  In this scenario, we would need no American boots on the ground, but we would use our expertise, advanced technology and tactical superiority to arm, train and direct our regional partners.  And we would develop this multi-pronged strategy  in close  consultation with  America’s military leadership, along with the CIA and the National Security Agency.

What a difference this kind of bold leadership, combined with a clear, comprehensive strategy, would make,  if only our president would listen.

Going for 100

For the past several years my beloved Colorado Rockies, the local semi-pro baseball team, has flirted with an historic achievement–100 losses in a season, a number which assures that a team is genuinely awful and not merely very bad.

Most fans will have tuned them out by now, given that by mid-June the Rockies are usually so far behind in the standings that they play no part in the pennant race.  I, however, have found a way to stay interested in the fortunes of the team until the very last day of the regular season.

I am rooting for them to lose 100 games, a mark the Rox have never achieved in 24 years of mostly lousy baseball.

They have been so very, very close for the last four years, but have been unable to lose enough squeakers late in the season. One more bullpen meltdown here, a botched double play there, a failed bunt attempt or two, and they might have made it happen. But no. Inexplicably, they manage to avoid just enough fundamental breakdowns to pull out a handful more than the 62 wins required.

In 2012 they very nearly made it, losing 98. It was heartbreaking. They fell apart in 2013 with a mediocre 88, sometimes playing almost competent ball, but roared back last year with 96. This season they’ve given me new reason to hope. With a the worst starting pitching in baseball, a truly dreadful bullpen, a punchless lineup, at 24 games under .500  they are on track to lose 96 again this year, meaning that the final weeks of the season are critical.

One can only hope that the September call-ups, especially the pitchers,  will be even more horrendously inept than the current roster of forgettables, and that they’ll manage to boot just enough games to make it to the magic century mark. How exciting it will be if they can reach the final contest with 99 losses, and that last game, against the Diamondbacks on September 30, really matters for a change. That will be one to watch!

Go Rockies! You can do it!

Who Does This Pope Think He Is?

Okay, I’m done. Over it. Finished. I’ve had it. I  gave this guy every chance, but this time he went too far.

I was fine when the previous two Popes were all bent out of shape about contraception and abortion and gay marriage. As long as the Catholic Church was obsessed with how other people behaved in their private lives, I had no problem with the Pontiff. I’m not gay and my wife is too old to have any more kids, so what do I care?

But this time it’s personal. Who the Hell does this Pope Francis guy think he is, anyway, telling me how to run my business?  SteinCorp is a multi-billion-dollar international manufacturing/energy/pharmaceutical conglomerate. If for one moment I let myself believe in human-caused climate change, I would have to seriously reconsider how we do business all over the world. Making changes on that scale would be inconceivably catastrophic to our bottom line.

And don’t lecture me about the poor. My business gives plenty to charity. And where would my employees in Bangladesh be without the $5 a day I pay them? And is it my fault that building collapsed? Like I can spend my time inspecting every one of our facilities around the world. Plus, they’re used to breathing air the color of dirt and handling poisons that would fell a bull elephant. Are any of them going to live one day longer if I shut down my factories and throw them out on the street?

What would you have me do–believe in what all those know-it-all scientists believe, or what is convenient and expedient for me to believe? Answer to the Pope or to my shareholders? Hmm, let me mull that one over.

Fortunately, the majority of the members of Congress, many of whom I have generously supported with massive campaign contributions (you’ll have to guess which ones. I don’t have to tell and neither do they), have my back on this one.  And I can tell you for a fact that most of them are not happy with this Pope one bit. So long as the Church was aligned with the Republican social agenda, we were all good. But now? How dare you meddle in politics?

So, Mr. High and Mighty Pope Francis, if you want to waste your life worrying about the planet, do it in private and stop bothering me. I have a company to run.

You’ll do yourself and the Church a lot more good if you get your nose out of my business and back into the bedroom, where it belongs.

 

The online home of editorial cartoonist, writer and analyst Ed Stein.