Monday, June 13, 2016


On occasions like this, I turn to leftwing news sources to see what the official line is.  Not surprisingly, this event was basically an anti-gay hate crime made possible because our gun laws (damn the NRA!) are too loose.  This song was on all their lips well before noon.  It started with some local Florida Democrats, then Obama pounded it home, and then it was reinforced by every Democratic politician that CNN and MSNBC could find.  I looked at a few leftie newspapers on Monday morning, and they all took the same tack.

As Mark Steyn (Monday’s Limbaugh sub) pointed out, all the European papers had “ISIS” in their headlines.  In the US, ISIS tended to show up somewhere in paragraph 6.


As I and 10,000 other people have pointed out, ALL mass shootings in America occur in gun-free zones.  This is simply the latest.  They will continue to happen until gun-free zones are outlawed across the country. 


An event like makes it much more likely that Donald Trump will be your 45th President.



Saturday, May 28, 2016


I’ve mentioned Benny before in these pages.  He is the maintenance man at the store where I work, and he’s the sort of guy who can fix anything.  Plumbing, electric, ceilings, floors, refrigeration, heating and cooling---you name it.  In addition to his job, he has a side business buying cars, restoring and reselling them.  He could probably fix your pacemaker if you gave him the instruction manual, a sharp knife, and an anatomy book.

The other day, I mentioned to him that I had taken my mother-in-law to the National Jewish Museum down at Fifth and Market in Philadelphia, and that we had enjoyed the trip.  He told me he had been there about a year ago with his daughters (who are eight- and ten-years old), and he agreed the place was well put together and said he was glad they had gone.

(Picturing Benny at the National Jewish Museum is itself amusing.  He is built like a fireplug, with a pointy, satanic beard.  Both arms are covered with tattoos that appear to encase his arms in dark, heavy chains.  He also has several piercings in his eyebrows and a five-inch-long, Frankenstein-type bolt that goes through the back of his neck.  At a glance, he appears to be a one-man Puerto Rican biker gang from hell, and imagining him strolling through the NJM, where the typical visitors are a 65-ish Jewish couple from the Main Line, made me smile.

The image is false, by the way.  I’m sure Benny is street-wise, but he’s a pussycat.  Since he has daughters, I once asked him how many times he had seen “Frozen,” the Disney movie.  “Double-digits,” he said, rolling his eyes.  “I know every fucking song by heart.”)

“So my daughters came home from school last year, and it must have been around Puerto Rican Day or something, and they start telling me about how poor the Puerto Ricans were in the 50’s and 60’s and how they had to leave the island, and how hard it was to find work, and then the Anglos were discriminating against them, and so on and so on and so on.  And you know, I just hate that shit they feed them in school.  I hate that victim shit.  We’re not victims.  I’m not a goddamn victim!  We have a house, we have cars and computers and a flat-screen and there’s food on the table.

“So I took them down to the Jewish Museum, and we walked through the whole place and read all the exhibits, and a few times, I made sure to tell them, ‘Now look at this.  You think Puerto Ricans had it tough?  Well, look what those bastards did to the Jews!!’

 “And that’s the last I heard of that crap about how pitiful the Puerto Ricans are.  Great museum.  Very useful.”


Sunday, May 15, 2016


I don’t remember the last time Pennsylvania’s presidential primaries mattered.  They are held so late in the primary season that the races are almost always decided by the time we get to vote.  This year, however, on April 26, Hillary and Bernie and Donald and Ted and John were all over the place.

Here’s what surprised me: the number of apparently normal, even somewhat informed friends and acquaintances who were voting for Hillary as if it were the most natural thing in the world.  Of all the unexpected things that have happened this election season, this is the most puzzling.  The Trump phenomenon is a strange one, to be sure, and I didn’t see it coming, but I have come to understand it.  The matter-of-fact acceptance of Hillary as someone one might vote for, however, remains a mystery.

Now, let’s be clear.  I understand liberals.  I know how they think.  I am surrounded by liberals and I always have been.  I live in Philadelphia, where there has not been a Republican mayor in my lifetime.  I do not know a single person who lives here and is registered Republican.  So when people I know vote for Al Gore or John Kerry or Obama, or our various left-wing Congressmen and City Councilmen and Mayors, it doesn’t surprise me in the least.  I get it.

But Hillary?  Doesn’t she belong in a completely different category?  Is there NO level of depravity and corruption that will make a liberal Democrat pause and think, “Well, wait a minute.  I know she’s the anointed one this cycle and I know she’s a liberal and a Democrat, but I don’t have to vote for her, do I?  I mean, why can’t I vote for O.J. this time?  That way, I wouldn’t feel so dirty.”

If these Hillary voters were kids who don’t know anything, that would be understandable, I guess.  But the kids are voting for Bernie.  The Hillary voters I’m talking about, the ones I know, are older.  They’re my age.  Hillary voters in general are over fifty.  And that’s what I can’t fathom.  The people voting for Hillary are people who know the Clintons.  They’re old enough to remember the Clinton presidency, and Hillary’s role in it, and the Senate election, and the election campaign of 2008, and the Secretary of State years.

And yet, somehow it doesn’t matter.  Really?  It doesn’t matter that they trashed the White House ($20,000 in damages), before they handed it over to the Bushes?  It doesn’t matter that they rented out the Lincoln Bedroom?  It doesn’t matter that they sold presidential pardons?  It doesn’t matter that Bill pardoned Puerto Rican terrorists in order to curry favor for Hillary with New York Puerto Ricans for her Senate campaign?  It doesn’t matter that they stole the freaking White House china when they left office and later had to give it back??

And I’ve barely touched the surface here.  There’s the Rose Law Firm records that were subpoenaed but which she couldn’t find even though they were in her bedroom for two years.  And her miraculous $100K profit on cattle futures.  And the execution of Ricky Ray Rector in Arkansas in 1992.  And the Rwandan genocide that Bill could have stopped with a phone call, but couldn’t be bothered.

I mean, why not vote for one of the million liberals, good Democrats all, who DON’T run a money-laundering operation that spends only 10% of its budget on actual charitable work.  Hey, you tin-pot psychotic dictators---do you want the private cell phone number of the US Secretary of State?  Do you want her to come to your broken-down hellhole of a country and legitimize you, treat you like David Cameron?  Well, all you have to do is book her husband for a million bucks or so in speeches.  Sweep off the tarmac.  Here she comes.

There’s so much of it, and it never ends.  There apparently has never been a time in her life when she was not crooked.  In 1974, even before anybody knew her name, she was fired for dishonesty from her job as an intern on the Watergate Committee.  Yes, that Watergate Committee.  And to the Democratic geezers and baby-boomers voting for her, none of this matters?

If nothing else, how can anyone vote for a person who, at Andrews Air Force Base on September 14, 2012, while standing over the bodies of four Americans murdered at Benghazi, lied to their grieving relatives by blaming the murders on an internet video, a ridiculous story she knew to be false?  How can Democrats vote for a woman who would do such a thing?


Wednesday, May 11, 2016


The reaction of most people to the transgender bathroom wars (North Carolina, Target, etc.), is “Why?”  After all, it’s not like this was a problem.  Nobody ever told a transgender person to get out of a particular public bathroom, did they?  Because if there had been such a case, we would all know the name of the poor beleaguered soul who had been embarrassed and humiliated by us Christian, Bible-thumping haters when all he or she had ever wanted to do was take a leak.  It would be Rosa (or Roosevelt) Parks all over again.  So why, suddenly, and for no apparent reason, are places like Charlotte passing laws making it a violation of law to question anybody, of any sex, with any sort of sexual organ or organs or secondary sexual characteristics, about their choice of a public restroom?  Why can’t a store manager ask a guy with a full beard, tattoos up both arms, a well-earned reputation as a child molester, and a boner in his pants why he is going into the little-girls’ room?

There was no need for these laws.  There is no epidemic of anti-transgender bathroom discrimination, is there?  In fact, it hasn’t happened even once.  So why did the radical left start this war?

The only purpose was to excite a reaction from the state legislature in North Carolina, which promptly restored the status quo by annulling Charlotte’s ordinance.  Recognizing that the subject matter did not need to be addressed in the first place, and that all Charlotte was doing was to encourage frivolous lawsuits, the state shut down the entire issue.

And this is exactly what the radicals in Charlotte wanted---a war.  Charlotte could now wail that it had been trying to prevent the scourge of anti-transgender discrimination that was sweeping the nation, and to protect the (four? five?) transgender people in Charlotte from the degradation of being questioned about which bathroom they were using, even though they had never been questioned about it before.  It doesn’t matter that there was no underlying problem.  Once the state reacted, the activists could accuse them of bigotry.

From the French Revolution to the Soviet Union, from Mao’s China to the faculty lounge at Harvard, the people who want the state to rule every aspect of our lives hate two institutions that have been foremost in human hearts and minds since we all emerged from the caves.  Marriage and religion are the two things that drive totalitarians mad because they are the only things that prevent most people from having a primary loyalty to the state.  One of Stalin’s biggest disappointments was his inability to break the emotional bond of marriage that made spouses cherish each other more than they loved the Soviet Union.  And while churches were destroyed and clerics murdered, the Soviets were unable to obliterate their subjects’ love for God.

In Obama’s America, this battle continues.  The assault on religious freedom (explicitly protected by the 1st Amendment) is relentless, with Obama repeatedly characterizing the Constitutional right as merely a “freedom to worship” while demanding that his federal government define the actual mission of religious institutions like Notre Dame University and the Little Sisters of the Poor.  And as for the marriage that humans have recognized for millennia, it has now been transformed, warped, its original purpose disguised behind an array of feel-good justifications including a state-mandated recognition of love, self-esteem and self-actualization.  For ten thousand years, marriage provided safety for women and children, and allowed families to flourish.  That original meaning is still there, somewhere, but since the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell, it is buried under rainbow flags and waves of narcissism.  I gotta be me, you know---that’s the real purpose of marriage, according to Justice Kennedy.  Our children will now be somewhat confused about the meaning of marriage, and its purpose; our children’s children will have no idea what it once meant.  Obama has succeeded in a way Stalin could only dream of.

So for the radicals, the Charlotte bathroom law is necessary, even though it addresses no existing problem, because it starts a fight over the two beasts the Left forever dreams of slaying.  Issues like this (and LGBT issues in general), are twofers.  They provide a path to attack both religious freedom and the family.  For those that dream of an all-powerful state, they are irresistible.  It’s an opportunity to make their case that all our traditional beliefs about sex and gender and family are hateful and discriminatory.

And where do our hateful ideas come from?  Where do we get the idea that people with penises are men, and that they are different from women?  And who told us that men and women should marry each other and have children and raise those children?  These most fundamental notions of the sexes and marriage and family come from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Quran, and other religious traditions from around the world, all of which are in basic agreement on these points.  That is why, once these scriptures are thoroughly discredited, they will have to be suppressed.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Many, many Black History Months ago, when my son Tex was in third grade, Harriet Tubman was the subject of a “module,” (or whatever they call them) in his history class.  It was a lengthy module.  He was required to study the adventures of Ms. Tubman and construct a time-line of her life.  Tex is not a complainer, but wife and self could not help but notice he was not enjoying the module.  I can’t say exactly what it was that annoyed him about the project because he is not the sort to discuss these occasional disturbances to his fundamental sang-froid, but suffice it to say that Sandy and I were careful not to use the words “Harriet” or “Tubman” or “Harriet Tubman” around him for quite a while.  A few days ago, when I mentioned the Tubman-for-Jackson currency swap in a phone conversation, icicles began forming on the telephone I was holding.  I had tried to make a little joke about Harriet Tubman.  But apparently, it’s still too soon.

So we have strong feelings about Harriet Tubman in our family.  Personally, I like her.  She’s mostly known for helping slaves to escape the South via the Underground Railroad, and God bless her for it, but there were many people who did that perilous work and she was far from the most prominent.  Much more impressive, I think, was her work as a spy for the Union during the Civil War.

The job was not less dangerous than helping slaves to freedom, and she was apparently extraordinarily good at it.  Her sources, of course, were blacks living in the Confederacy who knew, through their work for their masters, what the plans were, where troops and supplies were being moved, and so on.  Though they would be reluctant to risk their lives sharing that information with a white spy who had snuck across enemy lines from the North, they trusted Harriet Tubman.  Not only was she black, but they knew who she was and what she had done.  To most white southerners, she was just some anonymous colored woman, so she was usually able to pass unnoticed by the authorities.  Some have argued she was the most valuable intelligence asset the North had during the war.
In addition, she was a devout Christian woman her whole life and she always carried a gun.  I mean, what’s not to like?

And Andrew Jackson?  Well, he won the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812, so he was a genuine war hero, and he was a popular legislator in the House and the Senate, and he became the seventh president, and he owned hundreds of slaves and he founded the Democratic Party (the party of slavery).  So he’s a mixed bag at best.  I hate it when people in the past are judged by modern standards, so let’s not do that, but does he really deserve to be on the twenty?  I mean, forget about Harriet Tubman for a minute.  I can think of half a dozen old dead white guys I’d rather see on that bill.  Why not John Adams?  Why not Thomas Paine?

Let’s be clear.  The decision to replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman is solely based in political correctness.  For the Obama Administration, this is about getting rid of an ODWG and putting a righteous sister on some money.  In fact, however, they chose the correct ODWG and the correct sister.  I assume it was an accident, actually.  I assume it was done because Obama’s crew doesn’t know much about history.  If they did, they would never have picked an armed, Republican, devout Christian to replace the founder of the Democratic Party.  But in spite of themselves, they got it right.

The problem, however, is not this Tubman-for-Jackson switcheroo.  It’s that Obama wants to get all the ODWGs off the money and replace them with representatives of modern victim groups.  Jackson, however, is the low-hanging fruit of the ODWGs; there will be some serious bitching (at least from me), if they try to remove any of the others.

Washington and Lincoln?  No way.  Jefferson?  Well, Jefferson certainly has his detractors, but his founding father cred is untouchable.  He did write the Declaration of Independence, after all, and more than doubled the size of the country with the Louisiana Purchase.  Then there’s Alexander Hamilton, who started the mint and the national bank and wrote most of the Federalist Papers and now stars in his own hip-hop musical on Broadway.  And Ben Franklin?  Nobody will take old Ben off the hundred.  I mean, it wouldn’t be a Benjamin any more.  Even the lefties like him because they think he was an atheist.

All of which brings us to Ulysses S. Grant.  And let’s face it.  He was not a founding father, he was born way too late to fight the Revolutionary War, and he had no role in building the fledgling republic.  Nevertheless, the $50 bill is the coolest-looking currency we have.  Grant looks like a general, a winner, and a tough SOB.  Grant, with his steely eyes and a half-smile pushing through that bushy beard, is just about the manliest man we have on our money.  He looks like he just kicked Robert E. Lee’s butt halfway to Appomattox Courthouse.  I always use fifties when I’m buying my flame-throwers, Tennessee whiskey, chain saws and other manly stuff.
I’d hate to see him replaced by Margaret Sanger.


Sunday, March 6, 2016


Consider the following:

·        The Department of Justice refuses to seek statutory minimum sentences in criminal drug cases though it is required to by law.

·        The Little Sisters of the Poor are forced by the government to pay for abortions.

·        Hundreds of self-proclaimed “sanctuary cities,” which refuse to enforce federal immigration laws, are ignored by Obama, the DOJ and ICE, and face no repercussions.

·        Members of the New Black Panther Party, in uniform and brandishing nightsticks, intimidate white voters on Election Day in 2008.  The DOJ, though it knows the individuals and has photos of the crime, refuses to prosecute.

·        Secretly, and without warrants, the Administration gathers phone records of staff at the Associated Press.

·        The Obama Administration, through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, arranges for thousands of guns to be sold to Mexican drug criminals, resulting in the violent deaths of hundreds of innocent Mexican nationals and at least one US border agent, then refuses to comply with Congressional subpoenas seeking information about the project.  The US prosecutes no one for the illegal gun sales or the subsequent murders.

·        Christian and conservative groups applying for 501(c) (4) status are harassed for years by IRS agents, who then resist Congressional scrutiny of their actions.  No one is prosecuted.

·        After Obamacare is passed, hundreds of executive “waivers” (with no basis in the statute), are issued to unions, friends of the Administration and Democratic campaign contributors so that the most burdensome provisions fall only on groups Obama does not like or which have no insider status with his Administration.

·        Amnesty is unilaterally granted, by executive order, to large numbers of illegal immigrants, ignoring current law.

·        “Operation Choke Point” is set in motion, where various government agencies, without any statutory authority, force banks to choke off access to financial services for businesses the Administration disapproves of, like those who sell ammunition or make payday loans.

·        Following a military coup in Egypt, the Administration continues to provide aid to the Egyptian government even though it is prohibited from doing so.

·        Four Americans overseas are intentionally killed in counterterrorism operations without any judicial process.

·        The Administration unilaterally changes long-established bankruptcy law by giving unsecured creditors superior status to secured creditors in the Chrysler bankruptcy.

·        Following the receipt of large campaign contributions for Obama from executives at Solyndra, the Administration awards $535 million in federal grants to the company, which then goes under.

·        Obama, by edict and without any statutory authority to do so, delays the employer mandate under Obamacare.

·        A sitting U.S. Senator (Menendez) of the President’s own party, who expresses disapproval of Obama’s “legacy” deal with Iran, is immediately indicted by the DOJ on complicated corruption charges that will occupy the Senator’s time and attention for years.

·        The Administration takes TARP money (which legally can be used only to rescue financial institutions), and uses it to bail out GM, then appoints a “czar” to run GM for months without any authority to do so.

If you are among the millions who read this blog regularly, you know I am not a Trump fan.  Though I concede he possesses a peculiar genius that has put him atop the Republican field, he remains a crude, dishonest person who is not only ignorant of things a President needs to know (e.g., history, economics, the Constitution), but also does not care that he is ignorant.  (He also is reputed to be a worse golf cheat than even Bill Clinton, though this was previously believed to be scientifically impossible.)  Finally, his policy positions, to the extent one can figure out what they are, are those of an Eastern blue-state liberal Republican, and I won’t vote for Eastern blue-state liberal Republicans anymore.  Mitt Romney was my last.

But while I don’t like Trump very much, the support for him is easy to understand, and the dismissal of Trump’s supporters as yahoos is insulting.  It’s an attempt to belittle Trump himself, I suppose, but it’s not merely unkind, it is foolish. While it is true there are white supremacists and xenophobes among his voters, the vast majority of them are rational, sensible people who support him for rational, sensible reasons.  Most know exactly the sort of person he is, and they may like him about as much as I do, but they are choosing to vote for him because they are frightened by what has happened in America over the last eight years.  Trump is an inevitable response to the (partial) list of Obama’s illegal acts that began this article, and to the unfortunate conclusion that law in America is coming to be used merely as a tool to enforce leftist social policies, and not as a bulwark of freedom and equal protection for individuals. As the rule of law frays and begins to break down, the rise of a candidate like Trump becomes a certainty.

The phenomenon happens everywhere, and is easier to see in places where the process is much further along, where civil society has completely failed.  In a place like Libya or Iraq or Syria, for example, when all semblance of law and government devolves into looting and score-settling and civil war, what happens?  What happens with the decent folks in quiet villages when everything and everybody is suddenly at the mercy of roaming armies and criminals and soldiers of fortune?  What happens to the people who have been raising families and growing crops and running cafes and pouring concrete, and who now find themselves helpless against the armed and violent forces all around them?

They look for tough guys to protect them.

People in such a place will get together and form a militia, consisting of farmers and shop-keepers and young guys who don’t have anything better to do, and they will set up a checkpoint at the edge of town in order to keep the bad guys out.  The message to outsiders is far from complicated:  “You can’t steal these chickens.  You can’t rape these women.  You can’t kidnap these children.” Where there is fear, decent people turn to the “strongman.”  In Libya, that may mean some local, friendly guys with automatic weapons.  In America right now, it means voting for Trump.  The motivation is exactly the same. 

And there is no one else on the Republican side who fits the role.  The party has held the House and Senate throughout most of the Obama Administration, and despite campaign vows to fight back against Obama’s autocratic rule, his spending and his disdain for the law, virtually nothing has been done.  Historically, the House has often reined in a President of the other party by refusing to appropriate funds for his initiatives (it’s how the Democrats shut down the Vietnam War, for example), but this Congress refuses to exercise its traditional “power of the purse.”  The Republicans in charge of Congress will not even stop the government from funding the dismemberment of babies. The people voting for Trump are not only frightened by the current government, they are disgusted with the standard-brand Republican Party (McConnell, McCain, Ryan, Boehner, et al.), that has betrayed them.

Voting for Trump is a perfectly rational response to both the current government and the current Republican Party.  While I do not agree that Trump is the solution to the problem, and I don’t believe he will do what he says he will, I understand the impulse to embrace him.  The options for those who want to save and rebuild the American republic are very limited.


Monday, February 8, 2016


I last commented on the Republican race for the presidential nomination on November 8, and even though the voting has begun, and even though a few of the weaker candidates have thrown in the towel, nothing in the fundamental dynamics of the race has changed.  There has been plenty of noise but the signal remains the same.

From the moment Trump entered the race, there has been one issue---immigration.  Trump has demanded that the laws be enforced, that a border fence be built, and that any plans for a path-to-whatever for illegals already here be dropped.    Every other Republican candidate, with the exception of Ted Cruz, has a long record of supporting open borders and amnesty for illegals.  Those in leadership positions in the Republican Congress and in local offices (the “Republican establishment”) also support Obama’s policies and even want to loosen border controls further.  Many elected Republicans, and most of the current candidates, have taken campaign contributions from groups and individuals that seek what is called “comprehensive immigration reform.”  These donors include the US Chamber of Commerce, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, and many others.

Trump’s support comes from Republican voters (a majority of them) who want the border enforced, and want American laws respected.  They feel betrayed by elected Republicans who have promised these things but then broke their promises and allowed millions of illegals into the country.  Some of these immigrants are dangerous criminals.  Some bring disease.  Some bring cultural values (e.g., the inferiority of women and a boys-will-be-boys view of rape) that ordinary folks in San Antonio or Des Moines or Albany find appalling.  Yet there is little effort, even when these immigrants are identified, to expel them.

This issue (and the fact that Trump is not an elected Republican owned by the open-borders money guys), is the reason Trump is leading in the polls.  It is the only reason.  He is a vulgar, inarticulate man with little credibility and no apparent understanding of the Constitution, the role of law in the American republic, the history of our foreign policy or macro-economics, but when he says he will build a fence and enforce the laws, Republican voters believe him because he is the only candidate (except for Cruz), who has not yet lied to them about this issue.

The Republican Party could have taken Trump down at any time simply by taking his (one) issue away and embracing border enforcement, wholeheartedly and without prevarication.  A flat-out, unambiguous statement of a change in policy would do it.  No more “paths” to whatever, no more “dreamers,” no more lies about a fence, no more sanctuary cities, and no more driver’s licenses for M-13 gang members.  Bring back Newt Gingrich for a day and make it a new Contract With America. And that would be the end of the Trump candidacy.

At this point, however, it is clear the Republican Party either cannot or will not abandon amnesty.  This means its only option is to find an open-borders Republican candidate who can beat Trump.

First, of course, there was Jeb(!).  Though he is still nominally in the race, even the good old boys have figured out he is not going to get the job done.  

Then, a couple weeks ago, the party decided they could take down Trump with, believe it or not, Donald Trump.  Feelers went out, overtures---hey, maybe we can work with this guy, maybe once we bring him into the fold and tell him he doesn’t have to spend his own money, maybe he’ll make a deal with us.  He makes deals, right?  He just wants to “win.”  So if he wins and he’s our boy, well, then we can finesse this whole fence problem.

It’s a plausible theory, or at least one can understand why the amnesty forces and donors within the Republican Party would find it tempting.  Trump is a guy who praised Hillary as a great public servant, thought Obamacare was just fine, and was pro-choice about five minutes ago, so he looks very much like someone who doesn’t have any core beliefs but will say just about anything if it will enable him to “win,” (whatever “win” means at any given moment in his strangely un-nuanced mind).

And that plan is still in play, at least on the back burner.  The problem with it is that he is so mercurial that he cannot easily be trusted.  One day, the people of Iowa are wonderful; the next day they are idiots.  One day Megyn Kelly is a brilliant journalist and commentator; the next, she is menstruating all over him.  If he is elected on a platform in which the major plank is building a security fence on America’s southern border, what are the odds he would actually do it?  Personally, I have no idea.  So how can you make a deal with the guy?

Now that Jeb(!) is toast and the co-opt-Trump scenario is at best a desperation back-up scheme, the new champion for the pro-amnesty Republicans is Rubio.  His last-minute surge in Iowa makes him a player, and he has always had some attractive qualities.  He’s young and cute and articulate and Cuban.  (Some of his mannerisms and gestures are reminiscent of JFK, and there is speculation that Rubio has studied film of Kennedy and does this on purpose.)

Rubio is attractive to the good old boys, of course, because of his participation in the “Gang of Eight,” the Senate group of four Democrats and four Republicans who drafted an immigration bill and almost pushed it through.  The problem is that Rubio’s role was so large and so notorious and so dishonest that too many Republicans remember what he did, even though it was a few years ago and Rubio has since recanted his support for amnesty.

Rubio appeared on the national political scene as a tea-party Republican running for the Senate in 2010 against Charlie Crist, former Governor of Florida.  Illegal immigration was a BIG issue in that race, with Crist arguing for a “path to citizenship” and Rubio vigorously denouncing him and demanding the laws be enforced.  Though Rubio was a virtual unknown at the time, he pulled away from Crist in the race largely on the basis of the immigration issue.  It was only two years after this election that Marco Rubio changed his tune and supported amnesty in the Senate.

Candidates like Christie and Kasich and Fiorina all have amnesty skeletons in their closets, but you have to dig for them.  Every serious Republican, however, remembers Rubio’s betrayal on this issue, and those who may have forgotten will be reminded by Cruz and Trump.  With immigration the major issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, Marco Rubio would have to explicitly acknowledge his perfidy, apologize for his error, and pledge to take a hard line on border enforcement and swear he will never support any sort of amnesty in the future.  He hasn’t done that, of course.  No politician ever wants to make that sort of mea culpa, even if he’s caught in the sack with an altar boy.  Instead, Rubio claims he has changed his views.  Sort of.  But it’s just not good enough in the 2016 campaign for the Republican nomination.  Speculating in a theoretical way, Rubio might actually be the best candidate for the general election, and he might be able to beat whatever geriatric white person the Democrats throw out there, but Rubio will not be the Republican candidate no matter how much money Mark Zuckerberg drops on him.

And all of this leaves us where we were when I last addressed these issues in November.  The only way to stop Donald Trump is for the Republican good old boys and donors to give in on the amnesty issue and allow our laws to be enforced.  And they won’t do it.  They won’t do it even though they are convinced Trump would lose the general election.   (On that point, I’m not so sure).  The Republican establishment, in other words, would rather Hillary or Bernie or Joe be elected President than give up on their quest for open borders and amnesty for illegals.


Saturday, February 6, 2016


If you have been paying attention to the last few postings, you know where I come down on this one.  And remember, I’m the guy who told you Phil would see his shadow, Trump would finish third in Iowa, and Bernie would beat Hillary (actually, I still might be right about that one).

I’ve said from the start that Denver doesn’t belong here, and I’m not going to change my tune now just because the Broncos squeaked past the Steelers and the Patriots (in Denver both times, of course).  Carolina, by contrast, crushed two very dangerous opponents, Seattle and Arizona.  Average yards/pass here favors the Panthers 6.0 to 4.6.  The Panthers outscored their foes by more than ten points per game; the Broncos by only three.

The 5 ½ point spread is large, and there certainly haven’t been a lot of blowouts in the Superb Owl lately, but this could be one of those games.  Take Carolina and lay the points.  Also, for those of you who care about such things, Carolina has outscored its two playoff opponents by a combined score of 55 – 7 in the first half.  They tend to come out of the gate like a freight train and then coast a bit.  For games like this, Vegas posts a total not just for the entire game, but also for the first half, and in this case that number is 22 ½.  I like the OVER for the first half. 

Trust me.  But don’t forget the groundhog.


Monday, February 1, 2016


The Iowa caucuses are tonight. Based on recent polls, Trump should edge Ted Cruz, with Rubio a close-up third.  Considering the campaign thus far, however, about the only thing we can realistically expect is a surprise.

That still leaves us with the question: what kind of surprise?  Will Trump actually win big or will he disappoint?

I’m predicting he disappoints.  Over the past few months we have all learned a lot about the unexpected political currents driving this race, and I have been as amazed as anyone.  The one thing I still can’t believe, however, is that Donald Trump, in an Iowa contest against Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, will take the evangelical Christian vote.  This bloc is a critical part of the Iowan Republican electorate, and it’s hard to see them, en masse, ignoring Trump’s divorces, his boasting about adulterous relationships, and his life-long (until recently) pro-abortion views.

Prediction:  Trump finishes third, behind both Cruz and Rubio, though I express no opinion on which one of the two actually wins.

On the Democratic side, Hillary is 0 -1 against socialists in the Iowa caucuses, and after tonight, she will be 0 – 2.  One thing you need to win Iowa is enthusiastic supporters who are willing to spend hours in a fire hall or a church basement on a mid-winter night in order to vote for their candidate.  Today is the day we learn just how un-enthusiastic Hillary’s minions truly are.

And as long as I’m predicting things, Phil will see his shadow tomorrow morning and we will have six more weeks of winter.

And finally, the Carolina Panthers will win and cover on February 7.

Not that you asked.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

2016 MFL PLAYOFFS---The Conference Championships

New England (-3) @ Denver

Going into last week’s game against KC, the questions we all had about the Patriots concerned their health.  Was Edelman really recovered?  Could Gronkowski play?  Did Brady have any lingering effects from the Miami game?  If New England had finally returned to something approaching full strength, they would probably find a way to beat K.C., but how many working organs did they really have?

We have our answer.  New England is just fine.  With Brady and Gronkowski and Amendola and Edelman all running and jumping and playing football, the Pats are (at this moment), the best football team in the AFC.

As for Denver, I said at the start of the tournament that they did not deserve to be in it, and I saw nothing in the Pittsburgh game to change my mind.  Manning played OK (no interceptions!), but did nothing to suggest he is the Peyton of old.  Roethlisberger actually had slightly better numbers.  Denver won because of their defense, which is still very good, and because Pittsburgh’s coach Mike Tomlin is as savvy about in-game decisions as a box of rocks.  Tomlin is one of those coaches (and he is far from the only one), who never think about game situations in advance and who, faced with a critical decision (punt? call a time out? kick a field goal?), with the clock ticking, simply chooses the first option that pops into his head.

New England’s AYP for the year is 6.8; Denver’s is 4.6.  New England outscored its opponents by more than ten points per game; Denver outscored its opponents by 3 ½.  It is true that Denver’s pass defense is superior, but overall the game lines up as a mere speed bump on New England’s path to yet another Superbowl.  Lay the points.

(Technology note: every time I use the word “superbowl,” my spell-checker tries to correct it to “superb owl.”)

Arizona @ Carolina (-3)

I pretty much told you where I was going on this one in previous posts.  Arizona’s AYP for the season was 7.5, the highest in football.  Carolina’s was 6.0.  Arizona’s point differential was 13.7 per game, which was three points better than the second-best team (Carolina).  I must take the three points here and bet Arizona.

Having said all that, however, you would have to be a fool not to notice what Carolina did to Seattle because it is precisely what a Superbowl champ is supposed to do.  Seattle is a good team.  They were the guys “nobody wanted to play.”  The Panthers, however, forced the Seahawks to disrobe, hoisted the Seattle pantaloons up the stadium flagpole, said bad things about the Seattle players’ mothers, smacked their bottoms with wooden paddles and then, just when they were about to sodomize them, got bored and decided to run out the clock instead.  It is true that Carolina took its foot off the gas pedal once the score was 31 – 0, but it’s hard to blame them for losing interest when the game is basically over with ten minutes left in the first half.  Despite the Seattle “comeback,” they were never really in danger of winning the game.

(By the way….  If you are losing 31 – 0 in the second half, and you score a touchdown, do you calmly line up to kick an extra point, or do you go for two on the theory that you need to try for every point you can possibly get?  Just sayin’.)

And in the other game?  Well, one has to be concerned about the deer-in-the-headlights look of Carson Palmer throughout much of the contest, and Arizona’s inability to dispatch an inferior Packers team until after sixty minutes had elapsed.

A sane man can be forgiven for thinking Carolina, playing in Carolina, is correctly favored in this game, and that they will roll over the Cardinals.  Well, who are you going to believe---my numbers or your lying eyes?


Sunday, January 17, 2016

MLK DAY--An Alternate View

I was thirteen years old when the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed, and I remember Selma, and Birmingham, and the killing of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, and the march on Washington, and the “I Have a Dream” speech, and all the rest.  There was a wonderful period, that seemed to last about five minutes, when everyone in America agreed that equality under the law was a grand idea and that, finally, everyone could share in the equal protection of our laws.  Then, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was murdered and his legacy and ideals were instantly co-opted and stolen by the race hustlers, welfare activists, reparation-seekers, black nationalists and Marxists who control it to this day.  Martin Luther King Day became a federal holiday in 1986.  I am one of the millions who hate MLK Day because it has never had anything to do with Martin Luther King.

And it’s getting worse, of course.

In 1994, Congress made MLK Day a “National Day of Service.”  Typical.  Only the left would think we need an official federal declaration of when to do a good deed.  This peculiar “day of service” business actually began in Philadelphia, where this year is the “21st Annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service.”

I know this because of a press release issued on January 6 by, (a name almost certainly coined by George Orwell), which informs us that this year’s co-chairs are the mayor, the fire and police commissioners, big shots from every major corporation in town (Comcast, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.) and, of course, the Superintendent of Schools.  “There will be projects at hundreds of schools in Philadelphia and throughout the region.  Volunteers will beautify dozens of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation facilities.”

Well, good for them.  But don’t you have to wonder a bit about these “volunteers”?  If every preening nabob in the city, and your boss, and your boss’s boss, and the CEO of your company are all urging you to “volunteer,” at what point does it stop being your idea and start being more of an I’d-better-get-my-ass-down-to-the-homeless-shelter-and-start-painting kind of thing?

Well, stop wondering.  The gloves come off a couple paragraphs later and the answer is revealed: “Participants will include students of all ages from public, private and parochial schools….” (emphasis mine).  And there we are.  Those 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds don’t want to spend their day off from school playing games or watching TV, do they?  No.  They all want to be “volunteers,” you see.  Their desire to spend the day scraping subway-station walls has nothing to do with the fact that their teachers and principals and parents and pastors are all telling them “It’s the right thing to do, Johnny.  And you want to do the right thing, don’t you?”

And thus does MLK Day become a celebration of involuntary servitude.  Martin would have been so proud.


Friday, January 15, 2016


KC @ New England (-5)

The Chiefs and the Pats are the two best teams left in the division, so the winner of this game will be my heavy favorite to win next week as well.

With the five points, it’s extremely tempting to take the Chiefs in this spot.  They have won eleven games in a row, they are second in the AFC with an AYP of 6.4, they appear reasonably healthy (for an NFL team in mid-January), and they crushed Houston in their wildcard game.

(Note: the big win last week has little value as a harbinger.  I looked back about ten years and teams winning a wildcard rout do not routinely win the following weekend.  In fact, it often happens that they are themselves routed by a rested divisional winner.)

On the other side, however, are the Patriots, a team that warrants serious consideration on pedigree alone.  In addition, their passing offense gets the AFC’s top AYP score of 6.8.  AND Edelman and Amendola will both be playing (though Gronkowski remains questionable).  AND nobody ever got rich betting against New England in New England in January.

I have to pass this game.  I expect the Patriots and Belichick will somehow find a way to win, but there is no reason to think KC will fail to give a good account of themselves.  If forced to choose, I would take the points with KC, but I would rather just watch and enjoy this game and save my cheese for the next contest.

Green Bay @ Arizona (-7)

Arizona has the best AYP (7.5) in the NFL, and they are my choice to win the Superbowl.  Their point differential of 13.7 points/game is the highest in the league.  In addition, they have an excellent pass defense (though others may be slightly better).

Last week, I listed Green Bay as a “pretender,” and the fact they beat another pretender (the Washington Ethnic Slurs), does not transform them into a “contender.”  Actually, it’s hard to be terribly impressed with the win.  The game was not decided until the 4th quarter, and Rodgers and Cousins had roughly comparable performances.  Green Bay remains a team that struggled through the last half of the season and a team with the worst AYP (5.4) in the NFC.

Of all the games this weekend, this one appears to be the biggest mismatch.  If Green Bay manages to sustain a running attack as they did against the Slurs, it could be close.  That seems unlikely, however.  On December 27, Arizona beat Green Bay 38 – 8, and there is no reason to expect this result will be substantially different.  Expect a blowout and lay the points.

Seattle @ Carolina (-2)

With the best record in football, Carolina is the rare team that manages to succeed without a great deal of reliance on the big play.  The team’s AYP of 6.0 is not a bad number, but it is fourth in the NFC, and results largely from Cam Newton’s largely error-free season (only ten interceptions) rather than his ability to complete the bomb.  Along with that comes the 2nd-best (first was Buffalo) rushing yards in the league and the best pass defense.

In a sense, Carolina is a test of the hypothesis to which I have dedicated my life and the lives of my eight wives and 36 children in our heavily-fortified Nevada compound.  You can win a lot of games by being the Carolina Panthers, but in the playoffs, there will come a time when you have to score and you have to score now, and you have to be able to do it against anyone.  This is why Michael Jordan and Joe Montana and Reggie Jackson and Wayne Gretsky are revered figures in sports.  It’s also why Barry Sanders never played in a Superbowl.

There are outliers in any data set, of course.  The 1990-91 NY Giants (the team that made Parcells an official “genius”) certainly didn’t fit my mold, and neither did the 2000-01 Ravens.  They don’t disprove the theory but they remind us that these are not science experiments, they are football games, and on a given Sunday….  It goes without saying as well, that I am merely a blowhard and predictor concerning NFL results and not the vehicle of football’s consciousness.

So maybe Carolina is an outlier.  Certainly, it can win this game.  Carolina can win the Superbowl.  I’m just not picking them to do so.

This is a close game.  Seattle’s AYP is 7.0, a full point higher than Carolina’s, but Carolina’s pass defense is clearly superior to Seattle’s, as is its point differential.  Also, there are a dozen other statistical measures that seem to favor Carolina.  (One that does not is rushing defense---Seattle has the best in football.  Which is nice when you are facing the 2nd best running game in the league.)

Finally, there’s the petulant Marshawn Lynch for the Seahawks to deal with.  Maybe it means nothing when your star running back decides his contract issues are more important than the opportunity to play in a playoff game, but it can’t be a positive for the team.

And all this leaves me---nowhere.  On balance, the only result that would surprise me is a blowout by either side, and that makes it tough to play into a 2-point line.  So I won’t.

Pittsburgh @ Denver (-7)

For all the reasons discussed last week, Denver’s status as a top seed is practically supernatural.  They probably shouldn’t be in the playoffs at all.  Against a contender, they would lose.  Against Pittsburgh?  Well, if we knew Roethlisberger were healthy, I would take Pittsburgh to win outright.  As it is, I will still take the points and the Steelers.

Denver’s AYP for the year is 4.6.  Pittsburgh’s is 6.0.  It is true that Denver has one of the better pass defenses in the playoffs and Pittsburgh has one of the worst, but it is also true that Pittsburgh (a 6 seed) outscored its opponents by 104 points, while Denver outscored its foes by only 59.  For every point that can be cited in Denver’s favor, there is at least one for the Steelers as well.

Peyton Manning may recapture the magic this weekend and throw for five touchdowns, 420 yards and no interceptions, but I’m taking the points here.  As Damon Runyon instructed us, “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet."


Thursday, January 7, 2016


It’s that time again---time to analyze the NFL playoffs in terms of, primarily, yards-per-pass, our measure of a team’s ability to make big plays.  The basic number for each team is derived from its passing yards, with a penalty deduction of 50 yards for each interception.  This adjusted passing yards number is then divided by the number of pass attempts.  (The stat, and the method, is not one I invented.)

The Washington Ethnic Slurs, for example, had 4095 passing yards, and we subtract 550 yards from this total to account for the 11 interceptions thrown.  This leaves 3545, which we divide by 555 pass attempts. Our adjusted yards/pass (let’s call it AYP), for the Slurs is thus 6.4.  Over the years, a team’s AYP is highly correlated with its performance in the playoffs.  Other statistical measures (e.g., rushing yards per game, scoring defense, takeaways, etc.), are of no value at all in predicting who will win the championship.  Since it’s easy to do, I also calculate defensive AYP for each of the playoff teams, though I suspect it has no particular meaning independent of the number of interceptions a defense achieves during the season.  I also notice point differential, regular season match-ups of teams that will meet in the playoffs, and important injuries.  Finally, for the past eight years, players on all the teams have graciously provided me with stool samples that I examine under a microscope in my garage before incorporating them into the soil in our front garden where they fertilize our Spring tulips.

If you have ever questioned whether the NFL belongs to quarterbacks, a look at this year’s quarterback ratings should straighten you out.  (The quarterback rating is the mix of completion percentage, TD passes, interceptions and passing yards that has been used by the NFL since 1973 to determine its passing leader.)

This year, there are six QBs in the NFL who had ten or more starts and ratings over 100.  The only one not in the playoffs is Drew Brees.  The others are Russell Wilson (110.1), Andy Dalton (106.3), Carson Palmer (104.6), Tom Brady (102.2) and Kirk Cousins (101.6).

The other playoff QBs mostly have decent numbers as well:
Cam Newton 99.4
A.J. McCarron (Cincy) 97.1
Alex Smith (KC) 95.4
Roethlisberger 94.5
Aaron Rodgers 92.7
Brian Hoyer (Hou) 91.4
Teddy Bridgewater (Minn) 88.7
Osweller (Den) 86.4

And then there’s:
Peyton Manning 67.9


Contenders: Arizona (AYP=7.5), Seattle (7.0), Carolina (6.0)

Pretenders: Washington (6.2), Green Bay (5.4), Minnesota (5.6)

For the past few years, a lot of fans have watched Arizona and Carolina and wondered: what would happen if they got about 5% better and stayed mostly healthy throughout a season?  Well, here it is.  They are both extremely good.  AYP for Arizona, at 7.5, is the best in the league.  Carolina, under Cam Newton, has an AYP of “only” 6.0, but their pass defense is stifling and they had the largest point differential (500-308) in the NFL.

Seattle, with an AYP of 7.0, is clearly alive in the hunt, and not only because of Russell Wilson.  The team gave up the fewest points (277) of anyone, and after starting the season 4-4, went 6-2 the rest of the way.  In addition, now that we are in the playoffs, the Seahawks secondary will again be permitted, without penalty, to tackle any opposing receiver as he comes off the line of scrimmage.  (There was some indication that the no-flags-for-Seahawks rule was already in effect for the final regular-season game.)

In the regular season, Seattle’s pass defense was inferior to both Arizona’s and Carolina’s.  In addition, Seattle is a # 6 seed in the NFC so they will not get a home game.  It’s a rough path to the Superbowl for the Seahawks and they will probably have to beat both Arizona and Carolina on the road to get there.  They’re dangerous, they’re on the rise, but I still don’t like their chances.


Contenders:  Cincinnati (AYP=7.0), New England (6.8), KC (6.4)

Pretenders: Pittsburgh (6.0), Denver (4.6), Houston (5.3)

Denver is the #1 seed.  They get a bye week, and they will get two home games in a stadium with an atmospheric home field advantage that other teams can only dream of.  It’s extremely tempting, for those reasons alone, to list them as a contender.  In fact, if I knew Osweller would be starting for the Broncos, I probably would have.  Peyton Manning, however, will be healthy enough to play, and he almost certainly will.  I mean, he’s Peyton Freakin’ Manning!  How can you not start the guy if he can walk?

His numbers are terrible.  In ten starts, he had 17 passes intercepted and an AYP of 4.2.  His QB rating of 67.9 is twenty points below that of the mediocre QB’s who got lucky this year and get to start a playoff game (Teddy Bridgewater of Minnesota has a QB rating of 88.7; Brian Hoyer of Houston is 91.4).  I am a Peyton Manning fan and I will be rooting for him to find the magic once again, but the Denver story this year is just a fairy tale.  They scored 355 points and gave up 296 for a point differential of less than 4 points per game---with those numbers, a record of 12-4 is almost impossible.  Normally, a differential like this gets you a 9-7 record, or perhaps 10-6.  They were extremely lucky to make the playoffs, and yet they somehow find themselves a #1 seed.

After a 10-0 start, the injuries finally caught up with New England, which lost four of its final six games.  The only thing holding this team together was Brady, along with a competent defense.  Now Brady has a high-ankle sprain sustained in the loss to Miami (thanks, Mr. Suh!), and while he will almost certainly play on the weekend of 1-16 and 1-17, we cannot know how effective he will be.  Edelman is also expected to return (finally).  New England cannot be counted out, but unlike the NFC where the top seeds appear to be two teams awakening into greatness, the AFC’s #1 and #2, Denver and New England, are struggling to hang on to their past  glories.

Cincinnati seems a more realistic choice, though their path to the Superbowl must go through New England and possibly Denver too.  But they can win, largely because A.J. McCarron has been close to brilliant in filling in for Andy Dalton (who seems very unlikely to play in the playoffs).  In seven games, McCarron has completed 79 of 119 passes for 854 yards, with only two interceptions.  This translates to a 97.1 QB rating and a 6.3 AYP.  He is not Dalton, but he may be good enough in a damaged AFC field.

Then there is KC, which is third in the NFL in scoring defense and has a good (but not scary) offense led by Alex Smith.  As a #5 seed, KC will have to win three games on the road to get to Superbowl (don’t call me “L”) 50, and while they should not be huge underdogs in any of those games, it’s still a lot to ask.


I don’t think we’ve ever seen four home dogs on Wild Card Weekend.

KC (-3) @ Houston.   KC has a better offense, a better defense, a better record, a better QB, a much better point differential.  KC has a (small) chance to win it all; Houston has none.  I lay the points with no regrets.

Pitt (-3) @ Cincinnati.  Hard to understand this line.  Maybe it’s the mystique of the Steelers or the legend of Roethlisberger, but I see no area of the game where Pittsburgh is superior to the Bengals.  “Experience” maybe---playoff experience.  I suppose I’m not looking for Cincinnati to romp in this spot, but they are better than the Steelers both offensively and defensively and the game is in Cincinnati.  The wrong team is favored.  Take the Bengals.

Seattle (-5) @ Minnesota.  On December 6, Seattle went to Minnesota and beat the Vikings 38-7.  The Vikings then lost a close game to Arizona and finished with three strong performances over Chicago, NY and Green Bay (in Green Bay), so arguably Minnesota is a better team now.  But so is Seattle, which is superior on both sides of the ball.  Also, Russell Wilson is a superstar and Teddy Bridgewater is a mutt.  A nice mutt, but a mutt nonetheless.  This is not my favorite game of the weekend, and I don’t like laying five points.  But I will lay them.

Green Bay (-1) @ Washington.  Neither of these teams will survive the next round of the tournament but one of them will win this game.  I don’t know which one.  Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers, of course, but he has had a bad year and Kirk Cousins has had a great one.  The Packer defense is superior to Washington’s, but the Ethnic Slurs have steadily improved this season while Green Bay has clearly gone backward.  If I had to choose, I suppose I would take Green Bay but with no enthusiasm.  I pass.


Saturday, January 2, 2016


A while back, I started asking friends and family members about their first memories.  It’s a subject that has always interested me, perhaps because I have several odd ones myself, and I’ve wondered why certain early events stick in the head and others don’t.  I can’t give you the complete answer to that question, and nobody else can either, though the topic has been studied for many years.  Even Freud (remember him?), had something to say about it.

My go-to guy on brain matters is a saxophone player named Dr. Richard Harner, who claims he once studied brains and operated on them at the University of Pennsylvania.  (I know he still has a prescription pad, so maybe he’s telling the truth.)  He told me about Wilder Penfield, who was often described as being “so damn smart you can’t believe he’s Canadian.”  Penfield was not only Princeton’s football coach, but was also the first doc who operated on people’s brains while they were awake, and had conversations with them as he electrically stimulated the neocortex bits (much as Bill Belichick does today).  One of the things that happened when he did this was that people started remembering things that had happened decades before, which led him to theorize that all of our experiences are stored away somewhere and that “forgetting” is simply a matter of not knowing where to look.  There’s no way to prove this, of course, partly because there is no way to prove that the tales Penfield pulled forth with his electrical probes were actual memories rather than dream-like concoctions.

An example?  OK.  I have a vivid childhood memory of a trip to Alexandria, Virginia with my mother, to visit my Aunt Lorraine and my cousin, Patrick.  I may have been four years old and Pat may have been five.  Pat and I spent most of an afternoon outside playing with his friends, culminating in a fight when, from our “fort” in a wooded area, we threw rocks at the other boys and they returned fire.  The fight ended abruptly when one of the other boys took a high hard one right on the noggin.  Pat and I ran home, uncertain as to exactly what had occurred, but scared witless.

An hour later, a policeman showed up at the apartment and questioned my mother and my aunt about the incident where a boy, we now learned, had been killed.  (We had told them nothing about our adventure.)  The policeman then took Pat and me outside, questioned us separately, and we managed to convince him we had come back home long before the war started and knew nothing about it.

For 35 years, I walked around with this in my head, convinced I had been part of a rock-throwing war and was guilty of homicide.  Then one day, having dinner with Pat after a twenty-year separation, I asked him about the incident.  He looked at me like I was insane, or joking, and then assured me that nothing of the sort had ever occurred.  To this day, I remember what our fort looked like.  I could even identify the policeman---I could pick him out of a police line-up.  But it just never happened.  No fort, no rocks, no dead kid, no cop.  But just because there are things in your head (or, at least, my head), that never happened doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of real memories from long, long ago.

For a long time it was believed that very little children, under the age of four or five, simply did not have the brain architecture to form enduring memories.  This has been shown to be not quite accurate.  Memories do form very early, and a six-year-old can often remember events that happened when he was only a year old.  At the age of seven or eight, however, a phenomenon called “childhood amnesia” overtakes us and we forget almost all of those earliest experiences.  (No one seems quite sure why this happens.)  Often there will be one or two fragments that remain, however, and stay with us into adulthood.  These are the stories you get when you ask for someone’s “first memory.”

I learned two things in my amateur research project.  First, not everybody has an identifiable “first memory,” meaning a specific event, and when you ask them for it, you will get something (usually traumatic), that occurred when they were ten.  If you then ask for something earlier, you will get a vague response like, “Well, I remember the kids in the neighborhood when I was little.”  My only other observation is that first memories tend to have a powerful emotional content, usually a negative one.  Kids don’t remember the routine trip to the grocery store; they remember terror.

R. M.---“I was under two years old, not sure exact age, could've been 6 months, could've been 20 months. I fell out of a high chair into the edge of a radiator. I took a nasty gash in the eye area; any closer to the eye would have resulted in permanent serious injury to the eye. I was rushed to Wills Eye, treated, bandaged and sent home. I don't remember any of it! What I do remember vividly is laying in my crib later that day or night in the middle bedroom on Pickwick St. and out of the corner of I guess my good eye, seeing my father, who wasn't present when the incident happened, emerging from the top of the steps, entering the bedroom, and looking down at me with the big bandage over my eye.

P.W.---“My first memory is of being a toddler on a bridge at Maxwell Army base near Montgomery Alabama. My mother and I are on a bridge over a small river and she sets me down for a minute while talking to someone else. I must have waddled off a ways and was in danger of falling off the bridge as I remember a uniformed army guy (a private maybe) running to me, scooping me up and handing me back to my hysterical mother. I also remember the very fragrant magnolia blossoms. They were everywhere.

Note in these and other tales that often, a horrific event is not itself the center of the experience; rather, it is a parent’s reaction that sears it in the memory.

J.V.---"Mom was crying by the washing machine.  President Kennedy had just died.”  (This is a rarity---a first memory we can date precisely: November 22, 1963.)

L.B.---“I remember desperately crying at the front door, trying to block my dad from going to work and leaving me alone with my mom.

J.W.---“I was three years old and had to have my adenoids taken out, and I remember being in the operating room and having the nurse put the mask on my face to put me under anesthesia.  I remember the bright lights and the rubber mask and my fear that I wouldn’t fall asleep and I would be awake while they operated on me.

J.S.---“I was in the station wagon, which was packed with boxes and siblings.  We were moving to a new house and I was looking out the back window as our old house got further and further away.

S.P.---“I was sitting on the floor in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room, playing with a box of kitchen matches I had pulled off the table.  When my mother saw I was trying to light one, she flew out of a chair about ten feet away and grabbed it away from me.”   

L.M.---“When I was little, we moved to a big house, but the second floor wasn’t finished so we lived downstairs.  There were construction materials all over the yard.  One night, my mother was throwing a party and I climbed in behind a piece of wood that was leaning up against a wall.  When I heard people were looking for me, I decided it would be fun to hide until someone found me.  What I didn’t know is that my mother was extremely upset and thought I had been kidnapped.  One reason I remember it is because she kept reminding me of it when I was a child.  She still talks about it and how worried she was.

D.F.---“Getting spanked by my mother.  That’s probably my first ten memories.

C.H.---“I was having my diaper changed and my grandma lifted me up to the kitchen sink and started pumping the water to clean me up.  It was cold!

J.M.---“In a crib.  I remember the bars.

S.M.---“Standing up in a playpen, wanting to get out.

And finally, for sheer childhood terror, here’s my personal favorite:

J.G.---“We moved to Kenya when I was an infant, and I remember us being ‘on safari’ in one of the game parks.  My sister and I had to stand in some tall grass in the middle of the plains for a photograph and I remember being certain a lion was going to jump out any second and eat us.  We had to stand there for what seemed like forever and all I wanted to do was get back in the van.

The unusual memories are the happy ones, and while they are rare, they do exist.

S.S.---“It’s very mundane, and very peaceful.  I was in a train riding to Wichita Falls, Texas when I was two years old, and I was looking out at the fields going by and I was looking at my mother and father, who were in the train compartment with me.  And that is probably why I remember it---my parents were already divorced by then and the three of us never did anything together, but there we were on the train.

N.A.---“I was age three or four, and I was just old enough to go across the street to the Oreland ball field with an older neighbor girl.  She showed me how to pick honeysuckle flowers and split them to suck the juice out.

B.P.---“I was two, and I visited Honduras (where my mom is from) for the first and last time.  I was floating in the ocean in my Minnie Mouse floaty thing and the sun was setting and it was really beautiful.  My mom was on the beach looking at me and laughing and my Uncle Raoul was swimming underneath me.  He touched my toes, and I knew he was pretending to be a shark, but I felt very smart because I wasn’t fooled one bit.

And then finally, there's this first memory, which doesn't seem to fit in any category:

It was nighttime, raining, somewhere in the late 1940’s. I was about 50 years old and I was being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance because I had been in a car accident.  Then it all goes black for a while until I realize I am inside my mother and I am about to emerge and be born.  I know this is going to happen, and then it does, and there are bright lights and people running around and lots of noise and I start getting annoyed at all the commotion.  That’s my first memory---in this life, at least.  I was pissed off that everybody was making such a huge deal about me being born.