Op-Ed: The Tragedy of Cecil and Prosthetic Manhood by Rick Levy

Two of the oldest rationalizations for trophy hunting is “controlling problematic animal populations” and “we give the meat to grateful local villagers.”

If it’s about ridding an area of problematic species (rogue elephants, vicious giraffes, snotty antelope, etc.), these fearless hunters could go hunting in Baltimore for a couple days, while never venturing more than a few blocks, and pose over a pile of dead rats the size of a pickup truck. That’s the size of the pile – the rats are no bigger than scooters.

The other excuse casts the trophy hunter as Mother Theresa bringing lunch to the poor, rather than a sociopath engaged in blood drenched self-celebration. But that doesn’t mean these great white hunters can’t slake their thirst for humanitarian good works, and still pursue their hobby.

The recently slaughtered lion in the news probably weighed roughly 350 pounds, and the mad dentist’s sick kicks cost him $55,000. The hungry villagers would see about 35 to 50 pounds of meat. For $55,000, this humanitarian could buy 5,000 pounds of beef, ship it to Africa, and have enough change left to come to the Eastern shore and go deer hunting – REAL hunting, of a non-endangered species. Not a baited kill, not the captive slaughter Dick Cheney was enjoying when his pal’s face got in the way – and I know a few shore natives who’ll gratefully accept that venison (or Sika tenderloin!). If it’s about the glory, there’d even be change left for a gun-totin’ humanitarian oil portrait to hang over his fireplace.

So when we talk about privileged tourists, traveling the world to witness first hand the magnificence of the animal kingdom and blow ’em to Kingdom come, spare us fables of the welfare of fearful, hungry natives, as the rationale for the hunt for prosthetic manhood.

Op-Ed: How to Mark the 150th Anniversary End of Civil War by Rich Levy

What is the appropriate way to mark the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War?

Five years and the blood of six hundred thousand Americans were poured onto our soil, to settle the right of states to erect a hierarchy of God’s children, and then terrorize those destined to inhabit the muddy realm somewhere below His grace.

We speak hopefully, of wounds healing, of society’s evolution. We march, and we legislate, to drag the recalcitrant into the light of a just world. Yet, the blood of that rebellion will not evaporate, as long as its coppery bouquet is reverently savored by the heirs of vanquished traitors. It wicks and soaks and swells the aquifers of Hell.

Even as we hope that the river has been forced into an unreachable place, has dried to but a historic stain, the heirs of bludgeoned rebels must slake their thirst, and though we believe we are parching and draining their sustenance, they are dowsing for more, they are tasting the earth to sink ever deeper wells, drilling and blasting through our best intentions and our hope for fully realized humanity, to slake the depraved thirst that will not die.

Every corpse at a traffic stop? Dowsing for blood.

Lies electoral fraud? Thirty states attempting to restrain the eligible from voting?Another hungering well head appears.

Where corrupt webs of laws, fines, and fees impoverish and criminalize 75% of a city’s citizens all to raise revenue to perpetuate that corruption, the heirs of America’s homegrown enemies are twisting the faucet and licking their lips in anticipation.

When the election of a nonwhite citizen brings the heirs of treason to their hind legs, braying sentiments which had lately been the province only of isolated, angry barflies, but are now in heavy rotation on a leading news network; while caricatures of witch doctors, nappy-headed clowns, and vulgar insults to the families of public servants are proffered as “ideas to be freely exchanged”; when a public official of mixed Anglo/Native American ancestry is sneeringly addressed as “Pocahontas”: This is how the heirs of our traitors kneel, baptising themselves at the ancient stigmata, warm and wet once more, ofAmerica’s original sin.

Can our nation survive while nurturing the fragile pride of those who would have destroyed us? No.

Must the next iteration of Sherman’s march be, not fromAtlanta, but from sea to shining sea? Not in a nation that can appraise its derelictions as keenly as it does its noblest aspirations.

The Congress, in our democracy dedicated to equality under the law, should declare April 9th to be a federal holiday, marking America ‘s first triumph in the unending struggle for human dignity. And as a corollary, not one cent of federal revenue should fund the construction nor maintenance of any Confederate memorial, grave, nor the site of any momentary traitor’s victory over what Abraham Lincoln prayed were The Better Angels of Our Nature.

Op-Ed: A True Story by Rick Levy

True story. An old fellow grew up with guns, loved shooting and hunting, and passed his passion on to his son – even named him “Colt”, after the manufacturer of the venerable “Peacemaker”. That love of responsible and skilled gun ownership was part of their familial bond, and when the boy married, his bride, a nuclear plant scientist, loved shooting, too. They were not only avid hunters, they delighted in target shooting at the range and in their vast Idaho woods. They took extensive safety training and held concealed carry
permits.

Like many citizens living avidly under the second amendment, there were firearm enthusiast’s gifts under the Christmas tree. The doting husband’s gift to his wife was a lovely purse, specifically designed to secure a concealed weapon – which she never left home without – in a zippered compartment. Every time the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre leaves powder burns and spit on a microphone, we must hold the picture of such as this family to restore our belief in a responsibly exercised, constitutional right.

That was the image until the cautious old fellow’s 2-year old grandson, sitting in a shopping cart, reached into that specially designed purse, found Mommy’s gun, and blew a hole in more than a pretty picture. The young, responsible, well trained and concealed –carry-licensed mom was dead before she hit the floor in the Wal-Mart.

Once more, the store, the cinema, the school, become Grand Guignol theater. After the scene is scrubbed, hosed, and reopened, we’re left to parse American gun culture. Left to separate Cliven Bundy’s redneck goons with rifles trained on federal law officers, from the pretty young gal at the range. Left to divine a half dozen moral slobs brandishing their ARs in the Chipotle because they can because freedom, from the skilled young couple who “carried every day of their lives”. If the days of our lives
were a home video, they’re looking like one directed by Sam Peckinpah.

The CDC finds there are 22 accidental gun deaths – errors, suicides, criminal homicides – for every justifiable shooting death in America. For every “thug” whose backside was deservedly, legally capped, there are 22 others who’ve crossed over from despondency to rigor mortis, 22 who’ve always been careful owners until a week before their memorial service.

How do we reconcile the lunatic perforating school children and teachers, from that little Idaho boy? He’ll keep asking questions as he grows up, keep asking about the parent he remembers only as a vaguely loving aura, keep asking for stories of the aching space in his heart until he’s old enough to learn why they go to the cemetery on Mother’s Day instead of Olive Garden, until he’s a big enough boy to know of Mommy’s last Christmas in a blood-drenched housewares aisle?

The best of the holidays to you all, and a Happy New Year as well; may you hold your families closely, blessedly intact.

Op-Ed: Hoariest Tropes Wrong on Wealth by Rich Levy

I’ve met well-off Democrats who could buy me with their sofa cushion change, while we work together to help our ruptured middle class and the increasing ranks of the poor. Yet, one of the hoariest tropes grunted repeatedly by conservatives is that Liberals Hate the Wealthy, and it’s inverse corollary, The Wealthy Should Fear Liberals.

The Koch brothers, or Wall St. overlord Jamie Dimon, or their camera-ready mutations like Willard Romney, are not menaces to society because they’re wealthy. No, those swells must obsessively snake without conscience every last dollar from our pockets because they are sociopaths; they don’t care how their greed degrades life for everyone else. Being incredibly wealthy makes them exponentially more dangerous, when they want it all badly enough to buy a cable propaganda network, a Republican Congress and a few of the worst Democrats as insurance, to get it. We’re told to eat it and say thanks, because these titans of success decree that this is How It Must Work. Really? These greed heads exemplify the outlook of America’s most successful?

The Spectrum Group specializes in market research on the wealthy – and not just totting the demand for caviar forks, offshore power boats, and jewel crusted flip-flops. They recently undertook to perform the CNBC Millionaire Survey. All ages and genders, all political persuasions, as long as they had a Thousand Large available to invest. 94% surveyed believe the American Dream can still be attained, and they tend to define that dream as prosperity and success. Well, okay.

Now get this: 51% of the seven-digit club says income inequality is the biggest domestic problem in America!! Torches and pitchforks, tentatively at ease. For the roots of that economic inequality, about half look at family and cultural influences, 65% fault low financial literacy and 78% a deficient school system. Oh, and for those who insist that shiftless triflin’ by takers who’d rather twerk than work is the only barrier to success, only 6% of our top-shelf imbibers said people worth less don’t work as hard as the wealthy. Those are not the sentiments of platinum card creeps!

Then why are we continually offered the government of a few sociopathic billionaires, and told that their road to success, over the bleached remains of a broadly productive and contented society, is the only way to a vigorous economy? What about the insight of 9.6 million millionaires, many of whom apparently align with progressive policies? Why are they ignored, in favor of the greed of a few dozen Citigroup and Goldman execs, the wingnut sugar daddies whose appetites have so molested our economy?

What do our millionaires see as the solutions? Hang on to yer top hat, Uncle Scrooge!

63% support an increase in the minimum wage!
64% recommend higher taxes for the wealthy!
64% back enhanced saving incentives and opportunities for the lower brackets! 83% back increased support for education!

Mother, I’ve put the guillotine back in the barn; maybe we can work with these folks…

Op-Ed: Nothing to Fear but Fear, Itself by Rich Levy

Fear is an internal alarm – that beast chasing you is an immediate mortal threat! But fear is useless when dealing with the abstractions and nuances of modern life, where rationality is the survival skill.

· After 9/11, government fed our fear, railroading into a bloody foreign policy failure – without leaving a mark on 9/11’s true perpetrators.

· Splinter factions and fundamentalist shock troops are now equipped with tons of US ordinance we left behind.

· The ranks of ISIS are filled with Iraqi-military, after we pushed them into involuntary exile. This is lawless fundamentalism, armed and staffed by our intentionally groomed fear.

America stepped up from economic collapse to defeat history’s most advanced military and depraved political force, in World War II. Now we’re told to shudder before the “greatest threat since the Hitler’s Thousand Year Reich” – a band of desert sociopaths who, every last one of them, couldn’t fillCamden Yards.

Since 2010 (when DEFICIT!!! was the preferred panic of fearmongers)congress has cut Ebola vaccine research spending by half. They watched WallStreet loot your retirement, but *hooray!* less funding for science pimps. Political hacks will set public health policy on the fly, demanding dramatic travel boycotts that medical experts oppose, and theatrically harassing health workers; this fear response is from the fear of losing an election. Some gullible pols so fear their president, they boycott his nominations. When political grifters commandeer public health policy:

· We face the challenge of Ebola without a surgeon general.

· Vaccine research on Ebola is years behind where it could have been.

· Harassment of health workers becomes a political gimmick, and isolating the part of the world in most dire need of western expertise, as well as economic activity, hampers containment of this epidemic exactly where doing so is most critical: in western Africa.

From fear of a president’s nominees, fear of problems unaddressed by an empty office, to denial of educated expertise, so goes the nation that could once marshal resources, under a handicapped president, to defeat polio.

· We fear the virus from which one person has died in America.

· Flu kills as many as 49,000 annually, especially those without access to health care. Yet…

· The Tea-stained GOP House majority, rhetorically incontinent after the Affordable Care Act, barked through over 50 failed votes to repeal health care for tens of millions of people.

As firearms carnage mounts, our fearful/angry caucus breaks into the kindergarten bathroom dance, demanding more weapons everywhere.Elementary school shootings? Up-Arm the teachers! University slaughter? Concealed carry for campuses! Unhappy populace, jaywalking teens, you’ve watched too much“COPS”? Militarize the police! America no longer holds the lamp that lights the golden door; America twitches in fearful crouch, clutching so many guns wedon’t know which ways they’re all pointing.

Politicians sell fear because they think they’re selling to cowards. Whether telling epidemiologists to stay away (Thanks, Gov. Jindal!), birthing “democracy” in Iraq, “showing those thugs who’s in charge” our streets, or packing heat to buy a sandwich, when imagination extends only to fast, fearful responses, we hand our fate to Murphy’s bloody Law every time.

Point-CounterPoint: Think Again About War with ISIS by Rich Levy

Another bigfoot invasion by America will do nothing to diminish the embrace of religious slaughter by some in Syria and Iraq. With Iraq in a shambles and 150,000 civilian dead as a result of our last attempt to save the mid-East from itself, America is seen not as the savior of the Garden of Eden, but more as a world-wide version of the Ferguson cops. But ISIS isn’t an unarmed kid or a sign wielding protester; it is shooting back at us with the very weaponry we sent to “save” Iraq. It is insanity to dive back into this viper’s nest with a ground war, utterly heedless of any lesson of the last ten years, regardless of how much oil they sit upon.

Why the relentless drumbeat to war? Who benefits? Certainly not the people of the mid-East. Not the impoverished and under-educated Americans we send to fight on our behalf while we go freedom shopping. America will not benefit as long as our infrastructure continues to rot, and our schools remain third rate, while pallets of taxpayers’ money fill the holds of C-17 Globemasters to be shipped off to whomever Republican retreads and their Tea party usurpers assure us are the next founding fathers, battling the Hitler of the month.

Posturing warriors benefit. So long as Lindsey Graham needs a vote, he’s flexing a little military muscle. Likewise, John McCain will be treated like a military expert by lazy media stars; McCain learned everything he knows about military strategy and geopolitics in a prison camp; without imminent war,

McCain fades like a vague recollection. War profiteers will benefit; there’s no shortage of Halliburtons and Cheneys and their allies by appetite, in search of their next blood meal.

If the President holds back, the opposition “finds” feckless cowardice, if he drops the hammer on ‘em he’s a warmonger; the pathological opposition wants only to see him in the middle of war, with all of its nightmarish unintended consequences. The GOP has had to swallow whole the contempt in which they and their recent administration is held, and they crave the redemption of turnabout at any cost. Even at the cost of war? Yes, of course. They’ll axe your health care, hype Benghazi forever, take the nation to default, and leave the offices of judges and ambassadors unfilled; these are just tools to get what they want. Fear is their medium by which to seize power. Of course, by war.

Joining with other nations to neutralize a real, but limited threat, we can only succeed through serious, cautious determination. Wildfire fear mongering, as we have seen recently and repeatedly, incinerates progress; it is the lowest form of inspiration, the cheapjack cousin of leadership, regardless of who does it. There have always been the brutally power-hungry; there have always been some ignorant adrenaline junkies who will follow them. That grim human flaw which animates ISIS must not be allowed to become the model for American foreign policy.

Rich Levy met candidate John F. Kennedy at the age of five, and at fifteen became politically active in the 1968 elections. He has been in the marine trades for 40 years, and lives in Dorchester county with his wife and dogs. He enjoys music, boating, and motorcycling, and is a member of the volunteer fire company. Rich avidly follows news and politics as an active liberal Democrat – which, in his opinion, is the only kind of Democrat to be.