Thursday, May 28, 2015

What goes around …

Any good news source worth its salt commits to telling you the whole story, pursuing the conclusion with unflagging patience so you, dear reader, may know the whole truth, may find out how it all turned out, and …

Who am I kidding?! Just count yourself lucky I remembered writing about this stuff in the first place.

Now I'm following up:

Scouting nearly reaches the 21st Century

Put aside, for a moment, the weirdness that Robert Gates, former CIA chief, now runs the Boy Scouts of America.

Forget that the premier organization for American boys selected as its president the chief spook, the guy who ran the U.S. Defense Department under a couple of presidents. Forget that after a lifetime of controversial statesmanship, seeing the world's dark horror firsthand, Robert Gates now wants to be the chief Scoutmaster.

Consider instead that Gates quickly unleashed some reality on Boy Scouts: It needs to lift its ban on gay leaders.

Scouting earlier this year had changed its policy to allow gay Scouts, but not gay adult leaders. It was a massive empty gesture, looking progressive but effectively doing nothing but the same ol' same ol.'

"We'll help you become a man, and work that gayness right out of you so you can be a right-thinkin' red-blooded American adult."

Not gonna happen.

Gates said as much when he spoke to Scout leaders earlier this month at its annual meeting.

“I was prepared to go further than the decision that was made," Gates said to the Associated Press before the meeting. "I would have supported having gay Scoutmasters, but at the same time, I fully accept the decision that was democratically arrived at by 1,500 volunteers from across the entire country."

Enrollment dropped after Scouting's decision. The decision has divided Scouting. Gates' first task is to shore up flagging membership. But his direction is the right one. Whether Scouting installed him as the tough-talking high-profile figure to do what the organization couldn't — speak truth to power — it's the right direction.

Opponents arose anew.

Headlines for Gates' speech included, "Robert Gates Caves on Gay Agenda for Boy Scouts," from ("Independent. American." is its tagline; "consistently way right of center" would be more accurate); "Robert Gates to Boy Scouts: Surrender Your Principles," from the Catholic Crisis Magazine.

And the triple-whammy headline from another "independent" news source,
Robert Gates' surrender of the Boy Scouts
Exclusive: Pat Boone to group's prez on homosexual policy: 'What are you thinking?'
What Gates was thinking is that Boy Scouts can't hide from the real world anymore. Its obligation, its mission is to help boys of America be independent, self-sufficient leaders. Not just some boys: All boys who want the Scouting experience of learning citizenship and leadership from the lessons the outdoors teaches. Because few boys live anymore in Lem Siddons' world of "Follow Me, Boys!"

Life ain't a Disney®™ movie. It's waaaay more complicated. Boys need something more. Better. Gates, who's steered through the dark, complex world, knows that.

Keep climbing, Scoutmaster Gates.

Hung out to dry

I'm happy to report my neighborhood has dried out. Where not two months ago I saw stubborn greenery and wet sidewalks in the face of the fourth sere year of drought, now I see lovely brown, lovely yellow. Lawns are drying to the left of me, dying to the right, as neighbor after neighbor has let their curbs lose appeal so that we might all have enough water.

Our ugly former lawn doesn't seem so lonely anymore.

Granted, some folks still water, and their simple act of sprinkling lawns seems now so aggressive and wanton next to the brittling landscape of their neighbors. Eventually their sprinklers will go dusty too, I hope.

I have to laugh at the California Department of Boating and Waterways, appealing to boaters in its public service announcements that a day without watering their lawn will mean one more day of fun their boats, with enough water to prevent running aground. Seems a stretch, but hey, the advertising is free, I guess. Whatever floats your boat.

We're a long way from saving, and it may be too late. Some communities in the eastern San Joaquin Valley are out of water, and hot summer has yet to come.

Sprinkle a little holy water for hope …

It is designed to break your heart

A. Bartlett Giamatti, short-lived commissioner of Major League Baseball, said that about the game.

Don't I know it!

I like winning as much as the next red-blooded fan. But not at the cost of hard reality.

The brutal math of baseball means a hero loses his second chance. The Giants sent journeyman ballplayer Travis Ishikawa packing.

In baseball lingo, The Giants designated Ishikawa for assignment. That means he has a short time to decide whether to go down to minor-league baseball and hope for a chance with the big club again later, or try his luck elsewhere.

Elsewhere is where he was last year, schlepping it out with the Pittsburgh Pirates after he'd been let go before by the Giants. He was thinking of quitting. Then the Giants reacquired Ishikawa, and he made his way back into the lineup in the second half of the season.

Good thing, too, because Ishikawa hit the greatest home run in San Francisco Giants history (Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" in 1951 was the New York Giants' greatest home run, propelling that team over the Dodgers into the World Series.)

Ishikawa's improbable two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth, three-run homer against the St. Louis Cardinals put the Giants into the World Series for the third time in five years, and the Giants went on to win their third World Series ring.

The Giants nation went wild.

Then Ishikawa got hurt as this season began, and others took his place. The outfield soon filled up with too many lefthanders like him. He was built to be a first baseman, but the Giants have more than enough of them.

Ishikawa, October's hero, loses out. Winning has won out. It's a damned shame.

I hope he never has to buy a drink — even if it's milk — in the presence of a Giant fan for the rest of his life. He deserves that much at least.

We'll always have the memory of that home run, Ishikawa sprinting around first, arms upraised like wings.

Do some damage wherever you land, Mr. Ishikawa. Just not against the Giants.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

So … what's going on?

No really, I want to know: What's going on?

The side effects of a 9-to-5 life (well, 9 to 5:30, sometimes 11 to 8; it gets complicated; you get the point) have begun to manifest.

I no longer know.

The world gurgles rather obliquely any more. It roars and shakes and drips with blood and anger just beyond my peripheral vision, dully beneath my mittened fingers.

I used to know.

News used to break each day's silence, the fourth task undertaken upon rising: Click on National Public Radio.

All day newspeople revealed and picked at and analyzed and repeated the day's goings on.

Granted, it was not all the news, far from it. Maybe it wasn't always the whole story. But by osmosis, at the end of the day I knew the basic causes of a coup attempt in Thailand, or some of the blunt-force nuances of gun control, or what the heck ALEC is (you really want to know, by the way. Google™® it and be afraid).

No more.

I get the vague impression of unrest having taken place in Baltimore over allegations of police brutality. I think somehow that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat and highly likely to have President Obama's back, is angry with the president instead.

Something bad happened to the New England Patriots, maybe?

Democracy depends on an informed citizenry to participate fully. I barely had the informed part down before this full-time, out-of-home job, and had mused anxiously and sometimes publicly about the participation part. I was on the brink of participation.

Now I'm no longer even informed.

It puzzles me how anyone else can (1) know and (2) act.

If religion is the opiate of the masses (though Karl Marx really said, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.") could work be far removed?

How do we keep the free state moving ahead, how do we see ahead for all the tasks on our desks, on our phone, the matters at the ends of our noses?

Most of this is on me. I did not realize how such a major change in routine would change, in a major way, how I see the world; that's naive, I'll allow.

As part of the change, I got a real mobile phone. I'm one of you now, the last holdout, sold out. I'm supposed to do more with it, though until the weekend it was mostly for looking at facebook®™ on the train and running out the battery (and running up the data, it turns out, because, again, I didn't know).

Since the weekend, thanks to my daughter's information technology sleight of hand and my son's added advice and my wife's wishes and hopes, I have the chance to become a bit better informed: My email works again.

Trying to get email to work on my computer and my phone, I made it so email stopped working on either.

Email is oxygen. It is water, as you know. I was dead for a week.

Also, my newspaper, The Sacramento Bee, took this time to wage a complete redesign. To meet the future before the future showed up, or some such marketing phrase. It asked millions of readers and devoted years to focus groups, and came up with a color-coded product that resembles a newspaper in feel if not in actual form.

I'm inclined each morning to turn The Bee upside down, in case the important news might be at the bottom. That seems so. The top of each section now features a knees-to-head full color shot of some columnist or another, wrapped in the text of his or her column. I'm not sure columns or opinions are news, or that they should be at the top of the page, or on the front of each section.

Nothing is where it used to be; the headline type is huge and whimsical and makes everything look like the features and comics section.

Where everything is now in The Bee doesn't always seem like a good idea.

Which is moot anyway, since I don't have time to read The Bee.

I'm busy color-coding folder tabs for work.

If you get a chance, tell whoever's running the world to be nice.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


SLO town — San Luis Obispo — from an angle we never saw it as college kids.
(Forget what I said about cameras before: I'm a mad fool with a smart phone,
taking more pictures than anyone would judge dignified.

We carried out our threat, staking out our base camp and exploring the world around it for our 30th anniversary.

Our sole mission: To see what's around the corner.

The only sure thing was where we'd stay for the night, and we weren't even sure about that.

The little Forest Service campground above Morro Bay on the Central Coast put us in a site next to a trailer that, despite being empty, thrummed and vibrated with a generator at top speed, so Nancy found a better spot.

Long ago a hill sloped all the way to the edge of a creek, and the Forest Service cut a road into that slope along the creek, and banked a steep berm with rocks and put a campsite atop the berm, above the road and out of sight of any passing parade: My fantasy campsite.

Filleting the catch of the day: A spectator sport in Morro Bay.
I love nature. But I also love when humans mess with nature a bit and create whimsical campsites like this.

Another time (with kids in tow, I mean) we would have spent most of our time at the campsite, the kids making a fantasy land of the high stone wall, Mom and I blocking off the ledge with lawn chairs and stacks of firewood and constant admonition not to go anywhere it.

We would have gone into town only as long as the kids' endurance and our patience held out.

This time, just Nancy and me, we only saw our funky campsite late at night and early in the morning.

Must … have … coffee.
Morro Bay, down the hill from camp, is where I'd like to retire. In my dreams, anyway. It's wondrous, with just enough breathtaking beauty and beachfront kitsch to make coming to the edge of the water as necessary as breathing. Morro Rock, a giant cap of ancient lava at the mouth of the bay, keeps the little town under its quiet spell.

The three PG&E smokestacks from the out-of-commission power plant still reach to the sky, a counterpoint to Morro Rock. People hated those stacks when they went in, I understand; now they're not sure they want to get rid of them. They show up in paintings, next to the rock, in the town's art galleries.

We rented a canoe and paddled along the town back to the estuary, where long ago we remembered the labyrinth of gullies winding around islands of pickleweed actually clattered and clicked with dozens of crabs. We saw a few crabs this time but they weren't in a noisy mood.

They like to decorate electrical boxes
in San Luis Obispo.
Sea lions swam about, waiting for the daily catch to come in. Sea otters, so rare here when I was a kid, lay on their backs in the green water, processing their own catch.

After paddling a couple of miles and turning in our rental, I asked the rental attendant whether anyone swims in Morro Bay.

"Sure, Chief," the kid said, "You can swim anywhere you want, just jump right in."

It wasn't what I meant.

"Wouldn't the harbor master want swimmers out of the ship channel?"

"This is the United States of America, Boss," the kid said. "You can swim anywhere you want."

A sculpture, by Elizabeth MacQueen,
honoring Chinese railroad builders in
San Luis Obispo.
Full of breakfast, we walked out of town to the point over the estuary, and found a restaurant (usually our downfall in any vacation is finding some place to eat before our kindness and patience has collapsed.) Full of fish and chips, we walked back into town.

Day one.

Day two, we parked our car near the railroad tracks in the south part of San Luis Obispo, our college town, and walked into the center of town. Some of San Luis Obispo reminded us of our days of yore. A lot of it was a complete cipher.

Unless you come from some Los Angeles suburb: Then the city looks familiar. San Luis Obispo, still lovely, used to embrace a lot of funk, with homegrown shops that sold specialty food at prices college students could occasionally afford.

Some of those stores still exist. More stores look like Los Angeles got its hooks in the town, with high-end shopping for students' parents who find the town too serene, the cool trail along the lush creek beneath Mission San Luis Obispo too lovely.

Full of tri-tip lunch, we walked and walked and walked — then decided to take in a movie. It'd been a year, after all — since our last vacation.

Everything is beautiful, in its own way.
"Woman in Gold" is worth watching, based on the true-life account of a woman and her attorney retrieving a Gustav Klimt portrait the Nazis stole from the woman's Jewish Austrian family during World War II. It was a different window into a terrible time in history, though I would have liked more of Klimt in the story. We are teased at the beginning, watching the painter apply gold leaf to what is arguably his most famous painting; but then he disappears.

Later, we disappeared into a bar — something we never did in college — to watch the last innings of a Giant blowout over the Cincinnati Reds. I ordered pizza on my phone — this is akin to man making fire — and we gave half to some men living under bushes in a business park, and ate the rest on the way back to camp.

Day 3, we drank good coffee on the beach at Cayucos, the little town north of Morro Bay, then drove to Avila Beach where I had hoped to swim with a group I joined three or four years ago. There they were, waiting below the boardwalk.

Avila Beach — I wouldn't have been seen without a T shirt
here as a teenager, yet here I am doing a deck change on the beach,
swimming barechested with the beasties of the deep.
Full of breakfast, I took to the comfortable water, the only swimmer without a wetsuit. The bunch led me up and down the buoy line off the beach, then under the Avila Beach pier twice — the calm water kept us from bashing into pilings.

I wore sea salt home like a cape. We said our goodbyes to my sister who stopped by, and slogged our way home.

Let's go 30 more.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

'Twas ever thus

Some things never change, as this cartoon attests from 25 years ago.

But I must report firsthand that not everyone acts like this. Folks in the Central Coast — Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties in particular — regard water as precious cargo.

A waitress told us her restaurant could be fined for giving us water without our asking first.

A small public park included a new sign, proudly proclaiming the city's intent to let the lawn die.

Raised eyebrows are tamped back down with prominent signs indicating this or that particular patch of healthy greenery is sustained with recycled "gray" water.

Spare, native landscaping is much more prevalent there, and the sense of conservation is palpable. They acknowledge what too many others do not, that California is a Mediterranean climate.

Lesson learned.

Or is it?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Not bad

Dear Mr. San Francisco Giants,

Ok, that's better.

Not great, but better.

You're not losing so much, like you thought that was the object of the game.

You're winning more with last-minute heroics.

You've got a rookie who can really pitch, making up for the loss of one veteran and the wheezing efforts of a couple other veteran pitchers.

Another rookie can really hit, and quietly demonstrates that maybe you shouldn't have traded for a third baseman, because you've been grooming one all along.

You've got a real and permanent left fielder now, who makes me want to be in front of the TV when he's up to bat. He can cobble a hit simply by slapping a high bouncer into the infield.

Timmy's pitching like the old Timmy, only craftier. Romo struck out the league's scariest hitter with bases loaded! Crawford hits and hits, and hits for power. Panik's so good, it makes me wonder why more baseball players aren't named Joe. They're almost obscuring Angel Pagan's consistency, raking doubles and triples. Almost.

You're entertaining and exciting.

Keep it up. The Dodgers have 53 home runs. You've got 21. Work to do.

I hear basketball is being played somewhere. That's nice.

Monday, May 11, 2015

While we're young

Video exists — though we no longer have means to watch — of this day 30 years ago.

It's twilight in the final scene, made darker by the dense forest of oak and cedar and sycamore around Nancy's parents' house.

We are attempting to leave our wedding reception, probably long after we should have.

Our vanilla-colored Plymouth Valiant shudders and belches like a chained dragon, only less cool, backing up the sloped driveway with great effort.

Friends and loved ones stand about, cat-calling and laughing, because it appears we are not going to make it off my in-laws' property.

Our honeymoon at that moment threatens to commence somewhere within walking distance of Auburn, Calif.

At an undisclosed location, if possible.

But then the car screams and roars and catches, leaping backward up the steep lip of the driveway and spinning onto Foresthill Avenue, pointed west.

Valiantly, the Valiant lurches ahead and settles on a uniform speed, disappearing into the last light, leaving all whom we love wreathed in the milky blue smoke of burning oil.

Inside the car, unseen on video, we are laughing at ourselves for our rude departure, laughing at this first moment alone together, as husband and wife, our hearts light and free.

We have an idea where we're going, but not quite. We'll see when we get there, but first, let's go around this corner.

It was the perfect moment to foretell these last three decades.

Though we have lived through life's rich turmoil, planning and hoping and struggling and failing and changing, and planning and hoping some more — though we have made an equal number laughable blunders and surprisingly wise moves, with more to come — we have always done so together.

Being married to Nancy and being in love with her has been the easiest thing I've ever done. Of course this anniversary is a big deal, but she would tell you too: We just figured this day would come. It's not that we never doubted: We've just never seen reason not to expect it.

Everything was new and different and slightly unsettling from that moment on 30 years ago this night, and continues to one degree or another today.

We spent the night at a bed-and-breakfast in Sutter Creek, about an hour south of Auburn on Highway 49, which weaves together the Gold Rush towns along the foothills of the Sierra. So new, our first night together, amid prim gingerbread 19th-Century fashion. The restaurant, a short walk on a crooked sidewalk from the inn, sprung for a bottle of wine to mark our wedding day. We, a married couple having dinner, looked around to other couples, wondering aloud if, say, 30 years later, we will still have things to talk about.

A couple staying at the bed-and-breakfast — they own one of the largest trucking companies in the state — gave us advice on life and marriage. I forget what they said, but we didn't disagree. We didn't know any better.

The next morning we found our windshield covered in Oreo™® cookies, placed, we learned, by Nancy's former college roommates Sharon and Donna. The creme filling™ was supposed to ooze over the glass and delay our departure — I'm trying to imagine myself laughing while I tried to clean the mess. But it was cold overnight in mid-May and the cookies plinked off without a trace.

Such a considerate prank.

At Don Pedro Reservoir, where we camped the next night, I locked the keys in the car, though the trunk was open. How were we to know we could have gotten into the car through the trunk? The tow driver showed us when he arrived three hours after our call.

We owned Yosemite Valley the next night, surveying it like first explorers before other campers had begun showing up for the season. The towering canyon walls enveloped us in cool green-blue. Nancy never quite lives down the moment in which, for some reason, she decided to drink from a still pool on the bank of the Merced River.

We spent the next two days in the valley's hush in our campsite, Nancy too sick to move or talk or think. Somehow my locking the keys in a car that was really not locked at all goes all but forgotten.

Maybe that's why being married 30 years seems so easy. Nancy is kinder.

Highway 49 runs into Highway 41 near Coarsegold and descends west to the central San Joaquin Valley, where work awaited. The editor had been a bit worked up about giving me a couple of extra days off, since I'd only started at the newspaper five months before, but he was married with little ones underfoot, and felt for me.

Our working lives were to begin. Our lives lives were to begin.

Nancy ended up working at the same paper, and we lived the life of a young couple with plenty of time to go to movies and ride bikes — I bought her one on layaway, a working man, providing for his woman — around Kings County.

We've been in Sacramento for 27 years, doing the usual — wondering how we raised our wonderful children, taking out mortgages, renting, buying, leasing, working, getting ill, getting better, trying this, trying that, changing. Always changing.

Our views, our outlook, our looks: Always changing.

But always together, for more than half our lives now. That hasn't changed.

We are not equally yoked, as we had been admonished in becoming wedded. I have dragged my feet a great deal of this marriage, Nancy carrying much of the weight in weighty matters.

We have had our, "Oh, if you only knew what I put up with about you all these years!" conversations. The top of one small couch sags, the frame inside broken from when I got mad once during one of those conversations. Best friends argue. Best friends remain best friends.

We have changed each other over time, much more for good, I expect, than ill.

Decisions await, expensive and thorny ones, variations of the decisions you make, too, at certain ages and stages. Every so often, with some work and luck and pluck, we will make the correct decisions, and laugh at the ones we botched.

We will celebrate this anniversary as we have most such occasions, especially lately, with the merest of plans, only enough to secure a base camp.

We have an idea where we're going, but not quite.

What's around this corner? Let's see.

Happy anniversary, Nancy. Love, Me.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hue and tone and color

Please forgive me, for I will have sinned.

Either by omission, or sloppy phrasing or misguided intent, I will eventually have blown it in this blog. I will have blundered into offense, most likely by trying not to offend.

So when you reach that point in the post, note: I already apologized. I will be prepared to apologize again, nonetheless.

Here goes:

My wife complimented me on the post I wrote in winter about overblown outrage over President Obama's remarks at the annual prayer breakfast. The Islamic State of Whosit and Whatsit had just become all the rage — in a horribly real sense of the phrase.

Critics of the president took one phrase out of his remarks — about how religion can be twisted for evil means, and (lest we forget) Christians also have a history of using religion for violence and dominance, from the Crusades to slavery in the United States — as evidence of Obama's (1) hate of America, and (2) defense of brutal Islamists.

My wife agreed with the points I made. She is nice and generous that way.

She brought up the harsh criticism of Obama's remarks that I highlighted in my post, including those by a woman named Star Parker, a conservative columnist and political activist who founded the Center for Urban Renewal and Education. Like Obama, Parker has been a community organizer, though perhaps with different aims.

Parker in at least two venues in conservative media described Obama singled-out remarks as "verbal rape."

“Let me put it in context then, because I was in that room and it was frankly verbal rape,” said Parker.
“We were not expecting it, nobody wanted it, it was horrible to sit through and after it was over we all felt like crap.”

This was not the part of her response I wrote about after the fact in my earlier post. I wrote the next sentence in her comments instead, "Verbal rape is what it was. Because he pulled the air out of the room."

Parker elicited a "Wow!" from fellow guest panelist Geraldo Rivera — Out of admiration? Genuine shock? — on Sean Hannity's Fox News show.

Ben Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, also told Fox News after Obama's comments, “It makes me feel that perhaps we’re being betrayed. Perhaps we don’t have a leader who feels the same about things as most of us do.”
(I wrote the earlier post because I still don't understand the offense and outrage here. Is it not factual, what President Obama said? Is it not reasonable [ironic word] today to expect that people kill in the name of their religion, and that some Christians are probably killing or harming others for reasons they determine righteous in their beliefs? Are those offended trying to say, "That was then, this is now," that Christians are blameless in contemporary mistreatment on religious grounds?

(Or is it all just so much more posturing to win political points and prickle the political base?)
"Wow, 'verbal rape!?'" my wife said.

"That was Star Parker," I said. "She's African-American."

"Really?" my wife said.

"And Dr. Ben Carson, the pediatric neurosurgeon? He's African-American too."

I felt my teeth try to corral my tongue the moment I said this, trying to swallow the words. Because, why does it matter if two of Obama's harshest critics are African-American? Am I expecting all African-Americans to side with President Obama by virtue of color or heritage? Of course not. Do I expect African-Americans to give Obama leniency? Of course, no.

So why did I say it? Why did I feel need? Maybe because it's very difficult not to notice. Maybe it exposes a prejudice in me that conservatives — and especially conservative critics — are predominantly white, predominantly male. Maybe it's something uninformed about me that finds black critics so unusual.

Maybe it's difficult as well not to note Parker and Carson's role on Fox News, difficult not to ask (if only in my mind, but here it is, in a blog post) if their being African-American is why they're on Fox News, criticizing President Obama. Fair and balanced.®™

I give Fox News credit for being a media voice, a court jester if not a town crier, anxious to point out, relentlessly, the president is an emperor who has no clothes, and is Muslim, despite longstanding and repeated and blatant evidence to the contrary.

I do not accept Fox as a news company any more than I accept CNN; neither organization demonstrates a dispassionate responsibility to inform us, who need informing desperately. All is not well: But that's true for everyone, not just each news outlet's particular demographic.

Fox and the others have agendas and frame their news as the-sky-is-falling messages with particular slants to achieve certain responses. They inform, but only so much, in a certain light, for a desired result: Power to their people.

Fox among the major news outlets is absolutist, the most egregious, the most extreme in how it frames news and assumes events, real or imagined, and then builds its programming on those assumptions.

They bring on pundits, including Carson and Parker, who carry out this carefully crafted architecture of message.

You have to agree: Saying the president committed "verbal rape" is must-see TV.

Carson appears often on Fox and can also be counted on to spin words into Fox News gold.

Carson bows to no one in achievement. His life became a movie: Raised poor in a troubled family, Carson rose from a poor student to medical school, overcoming discrimination eventually to become, at only 33, the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He is most famous, perhaps, for having separated twins who were joined at the head, fulfilling months of planning and nearly a full day of surgery, orchestrating a medical team comprising dozens.

He has written several books about what's wrong with America, which mostly has to do us with lacking God and morals.

Carson presents himself as upright and moral; ok, I take him at his word. Clearly he is brilliant and resolute. All the more reason I don't understand why he says such dumb things:
  • Being gay is a choice, for example, said Carson, "Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight—and when they come out, they're gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question."
  • "Looking at the AP course in American History that's being taught in high schools across our country. There's only two paragraphs in there about George Washington. George Washington, believe it or not! Little or nothing on Martin Luther King. A whole section on slavery and how evil we are. A whole section on Japanese internment camps and how we slaughtered millions of Japanese with our bombs. A whole section on how we wiped out American Indians with no mercy. I mean, I think most people, when they finish that course, they'd be ready to go sign up for ISIS."
  • "You know, Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is, in a way—it is slavery in a way because it is making all of us subservient to the government."
  • In response to the U.S. Supreme Court's consideration of the legality of same-sex marriage, he said the president does not have to abide by the court's ruling.
  • Carson has called President Obama a psychopath, and suggested he should be tried for treason based on his foreign policy.
They're not dumb comments so much as tailored, almost cannily, to the media on which Carson frequently appears. Parker's extended analogy to rape, for example, appeared practiced to me, rolled out at a key moment in this panel discussion, for maximum effect. I wouldn't have a problem with Carson and Parker and other critics making reasoned and eloquent opposition to the people and parties in power. Carson has the capacity, I presume, to be erudite.

But reason and eloquence is boring, reserved for PBS and NPR. "Verbal rape" equals money, equals votes. Give your hungry public something nearly as base and histrionic as that!
I'm pretty cynical and think President Obama has fallen short of his office — failure to close Guantanamo, proliferation of drone warfare, the opacity of his government and half-assed dedication of public education among them — but I wouldn't buy what Carson is selling, nor give any credence to Carson's frequent assertion that Obama hates this country and is trying to destroy it.

But Carson has a lot of adherents who love to hear his self-avowed political incorrectness.

Now Carson is running for president, one of many fat-chance Republican candidates, and a growing number who not only call on God to guide them — following a long presidential practice — but expect their god to guide your comings and goings and thinkings too.

Carson strikes me already as the irony candidate, just as I often regarded George W. Bush as the irony president, criticizing others in a way that could just as easily apply to himself.

In his One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future, he said, "Worst of all, we seem to have lost our ability to discuss important issues respectfully and courteously, and cannot come together enough to begin to solve our problems."


"Each of us can positively affect our nation just by making ourselves (and those in our spheres of influence) aware of the fact that we are being used as pawns by those who try to tell us what we should think as opposed to using our own common sense."

Carson can't fail on the campaign trail. He won't win nomination or the office, of course; he's not really in it for that. But he'll write more books and lecture at whatever fee he chooses about taking America back to some earlier time when everything was good and nothing was bad. He'll have his own Fox News show to update his yesteryear theme.

I'll be judging him by the content of his character.