Radio Raheem for a new generation

Twenty-five years is a long time. I have many memories of the Summer of 1989, and one of them was going to see a movie that shook me up, Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.” And apparently, the current president and his then-girlfriend saw the movie too that summer, as evidenced by the film clip above.

The event that sets off the riot that marks the high point of the movie was the strangulation death of a character named Radio Raheem. I was appalled as the police placed his character in a choke hold and ended his life. It touched off a riot where Sal’s Pizza gets destroyed, and Mookie–Spike Lee’s character–leads the way by throwing a garbage can through his boss’ window. I walked out of the movie examining American society, and that was clearly what everyone in the theater was supposed to be doing.

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Now flash forward a quarter century, to the tragic case of Eric Garner. Whatever it was he may or may not have been doing on the streets of New York on a Thursday afternoon, he met with the same fate that Radio Raheem did in Spike Lee’s movie, all those years ago.

But Eric Garner had a family, unlike the fictional creation that Radio Raheem was. Still, it seems hard to believe that our current president, who apparently remembers the movie very well, doesn’t have something to say about how life–and death– has imitated art.

Leadership involves, well, doing the right thing. And when an unarmed black man is choked to death on the streets of New York, or any other city, it’s something we should reflect upon.

Yes, we have an African American president, which twenty-five years ago did not seem possible. And yes, he has other issues to deal with, from Gaza to the border issue. But an unarmed black man died at the hands of police in our largest and most visible city. I’d very much like to hear what our president has to say about it. Even if he channels that young man who took his girlfriend on a date to see a movie 25 years ago, it would be worth listening to.

It may be the last time, I don’t know

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I went through this entrance to the Lincoln Restaurant a hundred times, at least. Having breakfast there was a Sunday tradition in the days before my kids were born. And now, unfortunately, it’s shut down.

I hadn’t eaten there in a long while before it happened, and few restaurants get as long of a run as they had on Lincoln Avenue and Irving Park Road in Chicago. So worse things are going on in the world than this. And yet….

I wish there was some way to know when the last time I went there really would be the last time. And that goes for lots of things in life. If you know it’s the end, you can soak it all in and enjoy it a little bit more.

That’s what Barack Obama did at his second inauguration last year. He knew it wasn’t coming back again, so he spent a few seconds enjoying the view. There was something very human in that moment, no matter what anyone might think about him personally.

But we don’t always get that kind of a heads up. We go to places and we do things every day not knowing if, or whether ever, we’ll get a chance to do them again. Will the passport that I’m now waiting in line for be my last one? I hope it isn’t, but life won’t let me know that for certain, either.

The only thing to do is appreciate the uncertainty, and hope that the passport will get some use along the way. I’m sure that I’ll write something about it when it does.

From one brilliant president to another

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The only guest post I’ve ever had, in the more than 1,100 posts I’ve put here through the years, was a tweet that Barack Obama sent out on the night he was re-elected. He went out and spoke to his supporters after sending it, but those who follow him on Twitter got to hear the news of his re-election first. As a social media dabbler, I loved that gesture.

Today’s post isn’t a guest post, per se, but it is a statement on Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address that is eloquent and very appropriate. I’ll just shut up and let anyone who hasn’t seen it take it all in.

Thanks to President Obama for capturing what Lincoln’s speech means, and how it still applies–and will always apply–to the American nation. Bravo, Mr. President!

Predictions for 2012

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Here’s something I started writing on December 29, 2011. I saved it as a draft, and never gave it much thought until I discovered it this morning. Other than overstating Obama’s electoral vote totals, I think I was pretty prescient. Here’s my not-quite-a-year-ago predictions:

OK, so I’m not that much of a prognosticator, but there is a whole new year stretching out before us in a matter of days, so here’s my best guess:

President Obama will win reelection. I think he wins a majority of states, and probably 350+ electoral votes. Lots of money will be spent, and the media will try to make it a “down to the wire, anybody can win” race, but it won’t be close in the end. Obama won’t even have to break a sweat.

Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination. The primary season will fizzle out after the big Super Tuesday results, and nobody will be able to stop Romney as he runs away from the field.

Nobody–Ron Paul included–will mount a third party candidacy for President. Such campaigns are ultimately doomed to fail, and Paul and his people will decide not to go there.

Saving the paper

Elvis Papers

Yesterday I had some time to kill while my car was being worked on. The usual procedure is to go into their waiting room, get a cup of coffee, and flip through a magazine as the mechanics are working their magic. But yesterday was a bit different than that.

Around the corner from the car dealership is a resale shop, which is closer to a standing estate sale. I’m sure that their inventory comes directly from estate sales, where after the estate sale is closed and people have carted away what they want, a significant amount of  detritus still remains from the deceased person’s life. The things that a deceased person thought enough of to hold on to in life, but don’t have any similar meaning for those who are still left on the earth. Things that are probably going to end up in a dumpster, unless someone steps in and assumes ownership of them.

I went to this place, with the intention of filling up the time I had to wait for my car. As I moved through the items, looking for interesting items to pick up–or at least write about on my blog–the perfect item came to me. I didn’t buy it, but I’m more than happy to write a few words about it in this space.

The item was a copy of the Chicago Tribune from August 18, 1977. Elvis Presley had just died, and the paper was filled with stories about his life and career and impact on music and on American culture. And someone, all those years ago, did the same thing that I did whenever important events occurred: they saved the day’s newspaper.

In today’s world, nobody really does this anymore. We read about events online, and we watch television coverage of the event itself, but there’s no reason to save a newspaper when you don’t read newspapers to begin with. But the internet didn’t exist for most people back in 1977. If you wanted to learn about these events, and you wanted to help record the event for posterity, you grabbed whatever newspapers you could find and you put them away somewhere.

The paper from the day before Elvis died wound up in the trash, but the paper from the day after Elvis died was special, at least to this person. Throwing that paper away would have felt like a denial that his sudden passing was significant in some way. And so they held onto it instead, to prove that something important had happened, and that they were alive to see it.

When Barack Obama was elected back in 2004, and took the oath of office back in 2005, there was still a remnant of that left. I remember waiting in a line at the Chicago Sun-Times to buy a copy of that day’s paper. People would have, in an earlier time, just held on to the paper that was delivered to their house that morning. But home delivery of a newspaper isn’t so widespread anymore. People like myself, who were out of the newspaper-reading habit, had to make an effort to obtain a newspaper. It’s a sign of the times, really. As fewer and fewer people are familiar with reading a newspaper in a physical form, the act of saving a paper for posterity will become a thing of the past, if it isn’t already . That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something worth pointing out.

I walked out of the resale shop, without the newspaper or anything else. I walked back to the dealership, and my car was waiting for me when I arrived. And as I got into my car and drove off, I found myself whistling a few notes from “Heartbreak Hotel.” I suppose Elvis’ legacy goes beyond what you could find in an old newspaper, anyway.

The social media president

Over the next four years, there will probably be many instances where I can look at President Obama and say “I like what he just did” It was like that when he sang “Sweet Home Chicago” at the White House recently. When Mick Jagger hands you a microphone, and Buddy Guy wants you to sing, and B.B. King is playing his guitar for you, you just have to go with it, and that’s exactly what he did.

And so it was when members of the U.S. Gymnastics team went to the Oval Office to meet the President lately. McKalya Maroney became an internet meme with the “not impressed” look on her face at the Olympics last summer, and the President not only knew about it, but he asked her to make that face with him, then had a picture taken of it, and then sent it out on Twitter, where it’s now gone viral.

Whether you like social media or not, it seems that the President is fully on board with it, and is willing to use it, too. As someone who not only writes a blog but has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr, and a few others I can’t think of right now, I say good for you, Mr. President. You’re blazing a trail for other public officials to follow, if they’re smart enough to see the possibilities that it has.

Pizza and the Presidential debates

I see the term “wiping the floor” used a lot in politics, especially with regard to the recent Joe Biden-Paul Ryan meeting in Kentucky. And every time I hear it, I cringe a little bit. Is this an exchange of ideas, or an arm-wrestling match? And if your guy–whoever it might be–somehow does succeed in “wiping the floor” with the other guy, will it really change anything? Anything at all? I very much doubt that it would.

By this stage in the game, most people have made their minds up about the whole idea of a second term for president Obama. Either you want that to happen, or you don’t. And the idea that there’s still a sizable chunk of the electorate that can be swayed one way or the other is silly, in my opinion.

I’ll give an example of what I mean. Like most people, I like eating pizza. So much so that even if I had the most terrible pizza that’s ever been put together, I might walk away and tell others how bad it was, but I’ll go back to eating pizza again the very next time I can.

And so it is with President Obama and his challenger. If you’re convinced that Obama must go, and his opponent is somehow reduced to a sputtering mess by the force of Obama’s reasoning tonight, are you ever going to think “You know, maybe four more years wouldn’t be such a bad thing for the country”? No, of course not. You’d say “Well, Obama didn’t play fair” or “Romney had an off night” or something along those lines.

The next two televised joint appearances (I can’t quite find it in me to call them “debates”) will happen, because the politico-industrial complex has declared that they should, but you’ll find more meaningful action watching the Yankees try to solve Jason Verlander instead. That’s just my opinion, though. It’s all you can ever expect to find in this space.

Home, home again

Wednesday evening, O’Hare Airport

The plane touched down a few minutes early and the plane de-boarding began as usual. The terminals at O’Hare seem excessively long, especially late at night when the bustle has ended for the day. But there are bags that must be claimed, and a cab that must be hired before the short end-of-the-summer trip can officially be declared over. So it’s time to get walking.

After the bags have been picked up from the conveyor belt, I followed the arrows toward the cab stand. And I noticed a television with Paul Ryan’s face, and his strangely hypnotic gaze. The sound was down, but the captions were on, any anyone who had an interest in what he was saying could have stopped to listen to the points that he was making. It shouldn’t be too surprising that no one did, however.

There are airports and other public places where Ryan’s speech might have gained interest, and perhaps even great interest. But here, nobody was listening to his sales pitch.

This is President Obama’s backyard, and Illinois will go for the incumbent this fall. And  the bombardment of political ads in the “battlegound” states, such as the one that I just came from, isn’t happening here. And for this reason, among many others, I tell myself I’m glad to be home.

The letters tell me something

One of my favorite websites is the anagram finder at wordsmith.org. It’s fun to take someone’s name, enter it into the finder, and see what comes up. Sometimes, the letters form words that indicate something about the person in general. For instance, an anagram for Clint Eastwood is “Old west action” and, judging from the movies he’s been in over the years, it would be hard to argue that this doesn’t apply.

I put in the names of the President and his apparent rival into the anagram finder, and got some interesting results. “Barack Obama” yields things like “Maraca Kabob”  and “Boa Cab Karma” with the words “Back” and “Karma” coming up over and over. But nothing too exciting or relevant, I thought.

Then I typed in “Mitt Romney” and saw what came up. “Metro Minty” was sort of funny, and “Me trim Tony” is strange and humorous at the same time. But I noticed a pronounced pattern among the anagrams that came up: Most of them contained the words “I”, “me”, “my”, or “mine”, none of which can be found in the name of his opponent. And it seems very fitting for these words to be in there, in my view.

Mitt Romney has done extraordinarily well for himself over the course of his life. But what’s good for his “me” isn’t, and won’t be, good for the royal “we.” He’ll make out very well, if he should win the election, but there’s no reason to suspect that his good fortune will be America’s, as well. And the anagram finder thus revealed something that I suppose I already knew.

America must be better than this

The Trayvon Martin story is now getting media attention, and I’m glad to see that. When I originally got an email about his story, asking me to sign an online petition calling for an investigation into what happened, I signed it without a second thought. It really was the least that I could do, putting my name and email address on the record as being opposed to the murder of  someone who hadn’t done anything wrong.

I wish this story had never happened in the first place, and that Trayvon Martin was still walking the earth, but that’s not reality. I also wish that George Zimmerman had been arrested and charged with murder, but that’s not reality either. So where we are right now is that an unarmed young man is dead, and nobody is being held responsible, even though there’s no doubt about who killed him. And there’s not much doubt about why, either.

How this plays out will be interesting. I hope it’s more than just a shouting match about gun rights. This kid and his family deserve better than that. And I hope it doesn’t fade away after a couple of days, like so many news stories seem to do in this culture. This family will never get Trayvon back again, so for the media, or the public, to see this as a two or three-day story would be wrong.

If Zimmerman did nothing wrong, it sends an unmistakable message to anyone and everyone in this nation: If you have a gun, and you decide that someone is a threat to you, you can go ahead and shoot that person in self-defense, without any legal ramifications. You get to play judge, jury, and executioner.

George Zimmerman can–and should–be sued for killing Trayvon Martin in civil court. He should be deprived of every dime that he ever had, and every dime he will ever hope to make. But society–that’s all of us–should have the first say-so in the way that Zimmerman is punished. And if society punts in this situation, it will only embolden others with similar thought patterns as Zimmerman’s to take actions against those that they consider “suspicious.” It will literally become open season in America, on African American males most directly but, in the final analysis, on every last one of us.

This simply can’t be allowed to happen. But without an arrest, and without a prosecution for murder–rather than some lesser offense–that’s the message being sent out right now. Any illusions that I ever had about progress being made in this country, as embodied in President Barack Obama, have started to melt away in the face of George Zimmerman’s self-appointed neighborhood watch program.

I send my best wishes to the Martin family. That won’t undo what has been taken away from them, but it’s nearly all I can do at this time. I can also speak out, and I’m doing that here in the hope that a handful of people will read this online.

I studied history in college and in graduate school, and I learned that America tolerated a lot of bad things for a very long time. But how much it has grown over the course of my lifetime will be revealed by what it tolerates–or does not tolerate–today.

Sandra Fluke and the Kill for/Die for thing

It’s a typical Saturday morning, and around my house that means ice skating. My older daughter had a lesson with a coach at one local skating rink, and my younger daughter had another lesson at another rink. It’s a good thing that we have two cars and two drivers to acommodate them.

After I drove my little one to her practice, paid her coach, tied up her skates, and made sure she got onto the ice OK, I stood and watched her for a few minutes. I was bursting inside with my feelings of pride and love for her. Earlier in my life, before I had kids of my own, I would have considered such thoughts sappy and suspect in some way. But now, having crossed over to the other side, I completely understand them. That’s just how it works.

After leaving the ice rink area, I came upon a news story about Sandra Fluke, Rush Limbaugh, and President Obama. As I watched the story, the afterglow of my thoughts about my young daughter brought the story home to me in a way that I otherwise would not have considered. And of course the first thing I wanted to do was capture those thoughts in this space, before everyday life comes in and strips the story of any meaning.

I love my daughters so much that I would kill for them, if it ever came to some outlandish situation where that would be necessary. I don’t want to do that, and I’m not a killer on any other level, but I would do it without any hesitation or regret. And, on the other end of that spectrum, I would lay down my life for them, if another situation were to arise where it would be needed. I love my life, but I love them more. And I would hope that every parent feels this way.

When filtered through this lens, the difference between Rush Limbaugh and Barack Obama became crystal clear to me. Obama is a parent; Limbaugh is not. That’s why Obama called Sandra Fluke, and mentioned her parents in the phone call. It wasn’t meant to score political points for him, although surely that’s what’s happening. The reason for the phone call is that Obama has that kill for/die for thing about his own children, and he acted on that in order to reach out to a young woman who is in a difficult place right now.

And who put her into this difficult place? A man who has no children himself, and almost certainly lacks the kill for/die for thing that Obama has, and that I have, and that perhaps you have. Limbaugh could apologize, as some people seem to want, but he won’t mean it. It would be a grudging, carefully-worded sentence if it ever comes at all, and it will be done for the sole purpose of saving millions of dollars in ad sales for his radio show. I doubt that it will come, and if it does, it won’t change the fact that he lacks–and always will lack–the kill for/die for thing within himself.

Am I judging him? Not really. He is what he is, and I’m too charitable and too rushed for time (no pun intended) to try to spell that out here. And I’m not saying parents are any better than non-parents. This is not meant to put me or anyone else on a pedestal. But it is meant to suggest that Limbaugh did what he did for a reason, and Obama did what he did for an entirely different reason. And I’m glad that the one I identify with is the one who’s running the country.

UPDATE: Limbaugh did issue an apology on his website on Saturday. It was far more direct than anything I had expected to see from him. But he has lost many advertisers over this, and he deserves every bit of the losses he incurs.

Here come the culture wars

The economy seems to be picking up, and so the plan to attack Barack Obama with “double-digit unemployment” seems to have been put on the shelf. So how to challenge an incumbent president who killed bin Laden and saved Detroit? By revving up the culture wars, of course! The birth control dust-up with the Catholic bishops was an opening salvo, and now the recently-departed Whitney Houston is being brought into it, as well.

The decision by Governor Chris Christie to lower flags to half-staff  in her honor is completely his call to make. And unless you plan to move to New Jersey sometime soon, there’s nothing that people outside the state can–or should–do about it.

The people who are getting worked up about this–at the media’s suggestion–would likely have no problem if Lee Greenwood were to be afforded a similar honor at some point. But no, she was a drug user, and so we can’t honor her. But that reaction misses the point. Drugs may have played a role in the creation of many artistic works. And writers such as Hemingway and Poe have famously suffered from alcohol abuse, and no one thinks twice about honoring them or their artistic works.

Go back with me to 1991 for a moment, when the invasion of Kuwait had just taken place. The sound of Whitney Houston’s voice, and the image of the Super Bowl flyover, was a huge measure of reassurance at an uncertain time. If you missed that video the first time, or you’ve consumed a steady diet of extremist blowhards in the meantime, it’s presented up above for your consideration.

It’s hard to do this sometimes, but separating the art from the artist who created it is a vitally important thing to do. Whitney Houston had a successful singing career, and touched millions of people by the sound of her voice. That’s what you hear when you turn on the radio, and that’s what comes through in the video above.

To take such an honor away from her, because she made personal choices that may not have been the best ones to make, seems to be putting up a glass house around us as a society. And do we really want to do that, just so some politicians and media outlets can divide us for their nefarious reasons? I hope we’re better than that.

Newt Gingrich and the new Willie Horton

I listened to “Meet the Press” on the radio this morning and Newt Gingrich was the first guest, basking in the glow of his win in the South Carolina primary last night. In the interview, he tipped his hand as to what his electoral strategy for the fall election will be, should he get the Republican nomination for president.

Right now, Newt Gingrich is running as the “outsider” as he tries to defeat Mitt Romney, who he has branded as the “establishment” candidate. Should he be successful in this, he will switch course for the fall election, painting himself as the “insider” in the tradition of Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s name came up again and again in the interview with David Gregory. Gingrich went so far as to call himelf a “populist in the Reagan tradition.” See? Tradition! Lawrence Welk on the TV, and all of that. Those were the days!

But in the fall he will try to paint Barack Obama, the duly elected president of this country, as the “outsider.” I’ll get to why in a second, but for now it appears that  “outsider” is the label Newt Gingrich is attaching to himself, and he’ll switch to being the “insider” just as soon as he accepts his party’s nomination.

Remember how “Willie Horton” became Michael Dukakis’ downfall in 1988? If you’re in your 20s or 30s you may not remember, but if you’re early 40s and older you remember it well.

Willie Horton was serving a life sentence in prison when he was furloughed in 1986 by Governor Michael Dukakis. He didn’t return from his weekend furlough, and in the Spring of 1987 he raped and killed a woman. A tragic loss for the woman and her family, but a golden opportunity for George H.W. Bush, the incumbent vice president and Dukakis’ opponent. All Bush and those around him had to do was tell the story, without any names involved, and it would have been bad enough for Dukakis. But Bush and his people took it to a more repulsive level than that.

In all my life, I’ve never actually met any white people named “Willie.” Whenever I meet someone with that name, they usually go by “William” or “Bill.” There’s Willie Nelson, of course, and perhaps some other people that I can’t think of right now. So it’s possible that a person named “Willie” could be a white man. But the Bush campaign showed Willie Horton’s face and –surprise!–he is an African American man. An African American man with big bushy sideburns, no less.  A character right out of the blaxploitation movies of old, except that he was all too real. Bush got the reaction he wanted, and overcame a large deficit in the polls to defeat Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election.

If Willie Horton’s name had been something like “Harry Potter,” this tactic may or may not have worked on the same level. But the combination of the man’s name, the crime he committed, and the picture that was shown to White America on the TV screen was simply too much for Dukakis to overcome. Any sense of racial “progress” in this country was no match for centuries of racial fear, going all the way back to America’s earliest days.

It’s now 24 years later, and another presidential election is drawing near. Gingrich knows that he can’t go to the Willie Horton well again, especially not with an African American sitting in the White House. So he’s going to try a different tack. Enter Saul Alinsky. The strategy that Gingrich is ready to employ, as soon as he gets the chance, is to turn Saul Alinsky into the Willie Horton of the 21st century.

Nobody really knows who Saul Alinsky is, and that’s important for this strategy to work. It’s the inverse of the Ronald Reagan strategy: take an unknown quantity, define him on your own terms, and then equate him with Barack Obama. And isn’t it better to tied to the president everyone knows, instead of some person that you’ve never heard of before?

And just as “Willie Horton” was useful for conjuring up age-old racial stereotypes, the name “Saul Alinsky” has similar evocative qualities. If you had to guess what “Saul Alinsky” was, would you say he sounds Jewish? I sure would and–surprise!–I would be correct.

Tying Barack Obama to a Jewish-sounding figure is the jumping-off point for describing Obama’s “otherness.” I’ll tell you right now that everything you’ll hear about Saul Alinsky will be negative. Gingrich won’t literally put horns on Alinsky, but that will be his intent, metaphorically speaking. And whether voters actually listen to this narrative or not, it really doesn’t matter. The Jewishness of the name itself is enough to do Gingrich’s bidding.

Ask yourself, if Saul Alinsky’s name was Brian Smith, would Newt Gingrich be so eager to tie President Obama to him? I’m going to say no. Whatever the forces were that led Alisa Rosenbaum to change her name to Ayn Rand are the same ones at work in bringing the name of Saul Alinsky into this year’s presidential election.

They haven’t had to do this so far, but Gingrich and his supporters would certainly deny that there’s any anti-semitism at all involved with projecting Barack Obama onto the canvas that is Saul Alinsky.  Nevertheless, I’m throwing the possibility out there on my humble little blog, in the hope that the issues surrounding the impending Alinsky-Obama linkage are fully considered.

Twitter and the #Newt

As ubiquitous as Twitter is today, it sometimes helps to remember that it’s only been around since 2006. That means that the 2008 presidential election, in which Barack Obama defeated John McCain, is the only one to have occurred in Twitter’s existence.

I remember how, in those days back in 2008, candidate Obama had a healthy presence in all of the social networking sites: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, you name it. He never really extolled it in any way that I remember, but I remember being impressed with the way Obama embraced social networking. It seemed that he recognized its potential in a way that none of the other candidates did.

It’s now 2011, and another presidential election season is coming around the corner. President Obama is sitting at 11.5 million followers on Twitter, and has almost 25 million “likes” on Facebook. If a social media presence was all a candidate needed–and it most certainly is not–the election would be a runaway of historic proportions. But nobody is expecting that it will be that at all.

It is against this backdrop that Newt Gingrich made what amounts to a very laughable claim last Summer. He claimed that he had more followers than all of the other Republican candidates for president put together. According to his Twitter page, he has approximately 1.4 million followers. That’s far more than his opponents, but still just over 10% of the followers that President Obama has.

After the number of Twitter followers that a candidate has became an issue in the presidential campaign, the story came out last that more than 90% of his followers are not real. So I decided to do a bit of investigating on my own. If a candidate is going to crow about his Twitter followers, why not see if it’s legit? The man wants to run the country, after all.

The first tip-off to a fake Twitter account, in my view, is the lack of a photo to go with the user’s profile. Who doesn’t want to show their face to all of their tweeps, right? (it means Twitter peeps, if you couldn’t figure it out. But I’m sure it wasn’t hard to figure it out, either). No profile pic, no actual person behind the account, in my book.

So I scrolled down the page of Newt’s Twitter followers and came to @paulthebraniac. He has a Twitter account (but it doesn’t show up when you do a Twitter search for the name), a real name (Paul Arent, apparently), but no picture to show us what he looks like. He hasn’t yet sent out a tweet (not even of the “Testing. 1, 2, 3” variety), so apparently he’s kind of shy. He also follows two people (or two Twitter accounts, anyway). The first is @cspan, and the other is @newtgingrich. And that’s apparently all that matters to Paul in the world. I have to believe this is a fake Twitter account, because anyone who chooses to follow nothing other than C-SPAN and Newt Gingrich hasn’t got too much of a life, to begin with.

There are at least one million others who follow Newt Gingrich on Twitter. Hopefully all of them have a story associated with them, but I’m not going to go beyond the one I’ve pulled out here. And if you don’t have some doubts about the man already, this blog post probably hasn’t done anything to diminish his standing in your eyes. But for me, who would eat the keyboard I’m typing this out on before I would vote for Newt Gingrich, the case of @paulthebrainiac raises one more reason why his candidacy for the presidency can not be taken seriously.

Coming at life from the left

Yes, I have already written something about Dave Roberts and The Steal here. There’s not much I can say about him here, except to point out that he played for four teams other than the Red Sox, but I imagine that nobody knows this. And even though he’s the Red Sox’ 2004 hero, you’ll likely never find a Red Sox baseball card for him, either. Funny how that works out sometime.

The purpose of this post is to point out something that I’ve always been able to spot. Being a left -hander is strange, because you’re forever seeking out others who are like you. At least, that’s how it is for me. And it’s only when I see someone wielding a pen–as Dave Roberts is here–that I can tell what someone’s dominant hand usage is.

Being left-handed forever sets me apart from the majority of the people in the world. Right-handedness is the rule, and left-handedness is the unusual exception. If you took 20 people and put them all in a room, three leftys is about the most you could expect to find.

Sometimes I think about fellow left-handers like Benjamin Franklin, or Jimi Hendrix, or even Babe Ruth. Our current president is another example. We all have to find our way in a world that’s made for right-handers at every step. If you don’t believe me, try this: take a pencil or pen with text on it, and put it in your left hand. Can’t read the writing on it, can you? That’s just one example, but there are others (pencil sharpeners, fold-out desks, the computer mouse I’m using at the moment).

There’s lots of  horror stories about people who were born left-handed and were forced to change to being right-handed. The King’s Speech was about the issue, in the most indirect manner possible. Since Prince George was forced to become right-handed, the stuttering ensued as a result. Fortunately, this never happened to me. My left-handedness has guided me throughout my life, even if that does predispose me to all sorts of health issues. I never asked to be born left-handed; Nobody ever does. But you have to play the hand you’re dealt in life (no pun intended?), and it’s something I wouldn’t trade if I could.

Lincoln’s Hometown (and mine, too)

I was born in Springfield, Illinois, in a hospital that’s just up the street from where Abraham Lincoln lived for most of his adult life. Lincoln wasn’t born there, didn’t grow up there, and didn’t die there, but he did spend a good part of his life there. Or, as he said in his farewell address to the town, he passed “from a young man to an old man” there. And he lies there still.

There have only been a handful of presidents in American history, and I wonder if any of the others are as closely identified with their hometowns as Lincoln is. I rather doubt it, since the men who have grown up to be presidents are usually born in one place, more around at least a little bit in their lives, and win the presidency when they live someplace else. For instance, Ronald Reagan was born in Illinois (the only president who could say that), and then lived in several small towns around Illinois. But nobody knows that about Reagan. He’s associated with California, instead.

President Obama lived in Illinois when he was elected, but I don’t think there’s any danger that Illinois will ever be called anything but the “Land of Lincoln.” Lincoln owns the place, metaphorically speaking, and probably always will.

Every town and city in America has at least a few businesses that are named after Lincoln. And, in all likelihood, they aren’t named for business owners like Jack Lincoln or Fred Lincoln or even Seamus Lincoln. As a surname, it’s just not that common. So a business enterprise that calls itself “Lincoln Plumbing”–such as the one I found in Reading, PA during a random Google search–is hoping that your feelings about “Honest Abe” gives it a leg up over all the other plumbing companies out there.

In Springfield, this is taken to a whole new level. There’s Lincoln Yellow Cab, Lincoln Tower Apartments, Lincoln Greens Golf Course, and many, many others. And these are in addition to Lincoln’s Home, Lincoln’s Tomb, the Lincoln Presidential Center, and on and on. When your most famous resident may just be the quintessential American, why not?