Monthly Archives: March 2015

How Democracy Will Destroy America

How Democracy Will Destroy America by Peter Burrows elburropete@gmail.com 3/30/15

The Founding Fathers had a deep distrust of democracy.  They thought democracy inevitably led to mob rule and dictatorship.  They constructed our Constitution with safeguards to prevent this, first by establishing a representative democracy, or republic.

Recognizing that even a republic is vulnerable to emotional tides that can sweep away the rights of citizens, they built in other constitutional safeguards, the primary one being a system of dual governments, state and federal, with each jealously guarding its Constitutional sphere of authority from the other.

To further dilute the power of the madding crowd, each state, regardless of territorial size or population, was given equal representation in the Senate, through which all legislation must pass.  Hence, scrawny New Mexico has as many senators as brawny California. To a lesser extent, this is also true of the Electoral College, where each state’s vote is the total of its number in the House of Representatives plus its two senators.

What is usually forgotten is that only men could vote until the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920.  Some point to that moment as the beginning of the end of the noble American experiment: A country “of the people, by the people and for the people.“ True, the federal government began its huge expansion about then, but the driving force was the New Deal program to fight the Depression, not legislation to appease women voters.

Far more destructive to our republic was the Seventeenth Amendment, passed in 1913, that mandated members of the Senate be elected by popular vote. Prior to that, Senators had been appointed by each state’s legislators, sort of republicanism squared.  Now, both the House AND the Senate are filled with career politicians whose number one priority is getting reelected.

The most recent move to a greater democracy was the Twenty Sixth Amendment, passed in 1971, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.  As I recall, there was an undercurrent of guilt over the Vietnam War casualties which had many spouting the non sequitur, “If you’re old enough to fight, you’re old enough to vote.”

All of the above is trivial compared to the burgeoning efforts now underway to really kill off our republic.  For example, San Francisco’s board of supervisors is mulling allowing 16-year-olds to vote.  After all, if you’re old enough to drive, old enough to pay taxes on your part time job, you’re old enough to vote. Eventually, we’ll hear the argument that voting will give these young adults a sense of responsibility. It will be good for them. Yes, lowering the voting age will help our children.  That’s a tried and true political winner.

Add to that, a March 24 article in The New York Time’s Magazine by NPR “Planet Money” founder Adam Davidson, suggesting we could have as many as 11 million new immigrants every year.  Open borders, he writes, “would benefit nearly all of us.” (1)  That assertion is highly debatable, but what isn’t is that such an influx would greatly expand the number of potential Democrats. Maybe that explains President Obama’s recent trial balloon: Mandatory voting.

All this has me fantasizing about what the typical progressive might consider an ideal world.

First, we up the immigration quotas from south of the border to 30 million a year with instant citizenship because we are all “citizens of the world,” and, hey, this is a democracy, right? Everybody should get to vote.

Second, we lower the voting age to 14: “If you’re old enough to be a parent, you’re old enough to vote.”

Third, people who can’t speak English get to vote twice. As minorities in an English speaking world, they are facing daunting obstacles that somehow should be compensated for.

Fourth, people on welfare should also get to vote twice, as their fate is so involved with government programs.

Fifth: Mandatory voting.

It wouldn’t take too many election cycles before this expanded democracy would call a Constitutional Convention to write a new Constitution, one with all sorts of rights, e.g. the “right” to a good job, the “right” to water and food, the “right” to a college education, the “right” to retire at 50, and all sorts of other things that would be approved by a huge majority of voters. Some rights would disappear, such as the right to bear arms.  I bet term limits for presidents would go too, as well as the “archaic“ Electoral College.

This would end our democratic republic, with all its restrictive limits on what some people think is good government.  To quote progressive icon Thomas Friedman: “—what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions, and I do think there is a sense of that, on, on everything from the economy to environment.” (2)

Gee, Tom, how much better to be China forever so we could always “authorize the right solutions.”  Think about what “authorize” means, folks.

As Benjamin Franklin was leaving the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a lady asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” His famous reply:  “A republic, if you can keep it.”

It looks like we can’t.

(1) (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/29/magazine/debunking-the-myth-of-the-job-stealing-immigrant.html?ref=magazine&_r=0)
(2) http://reason.com/blog/2010/05/24/thomas-l-friedman-wants-us-to

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The Administrative State: Who Needs Congress Part Two

The Administrative State: Who Needs Congress? Part Two  by Peter Burrows elburropete@gmail.com 3/28/15

In part one, posted here on March 19, I ended with an email to this district’s Congressman, Republican Steve Pearce.  Below is that email and his response.

Two things are apparent:

1) Nobody read my email, or if they did, it was without understanding it.  (I bet emails are scanned for key words and a form letter reply is then sent. Probably the key word in my email was “EPA.”)

2)  Pearce’s reply illustrates one of the points made in part one, namely that Congress spends a lot of time passing laws to undo the laws passed by the unelected bureaucrats.  In this case, H.R. 5078, which passed with enough House votes to override a Presidential veto.

However, H.R. 5078 HAS NOT PASSED THE SENATE.  This means that the issue of  EPA overreach is still of great concern to those who would be most effected. This was very apparent at the Grant County/New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau meeting held last Thursday night at the American Legion hall in Silver City.

Perhaps the title of this article should read, “Who needs YOU, Congressman Pearce?”

(Full disclosure: I voted for Steve Pearce in the past and intend to do so in the future. The Democratic Party will never have a candidate with views closer to my own than Steve Pearce’s views.  You can bet the house on that.)

3/19/15 email:

Congressman Pearce,

Recent rulings by the FCC and EPA have made it quite clear that Congress is becoming irrelevant in an age of the administrative state.

To restore Congressional oversight, I suggest you propose a law that says that NO proposed bureaucratic laws/regulations go into effect unless they are approved, at the very least, by an oversight committee of elected representatives, preferably by a two-thirds majority.

I realize this would greatly increase the Congressional work load, a lament that will receive little sympathy from the public. To lessen the work load, I suggest congress eliminate some of the bureaucracies in Washington, starting with those that have NO constitutional authority, e.g. HUD.

This email has been published in The Grant County Beat on 3/19/15 as part of an article I wrote, which can be found in “Columns – Libertarian Leanings.” I plan to do likewise with your response.

Sincerely, Peter Burrows, Silver City

3/27/15 Reply:

Dear Mr. Burrows,

Thank you for contacting me to express your views regarding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and water regulation in the U.S. I appreciate hearing from you on this issue.

On September 9, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5078, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014 by a bipartisan vote of 262-152. The bill prevents the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from expanding their regulatory jurisdiction over ponds, streams, and ditches currently regulated by the states.

The EPA and Army Corp of Engineers’ proposed rule for Waters of the United States would have a devastating impact on communities throughout southern New Mexico. Farmers, ranchers, and small businesses are already over-regulated by the federal government, they do not need more. The proposed rule is another example of the Obama Administration’s continued attempt to unilaterally implement unnecessary federal regulations. H.R. 5078 blocks this blatant federal overreach by prohibiting the implementation of the rule, allowing the state of New Mexico and its local officials to continue to effectively regulate their own waters.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. I appreciate having the benefit of your views.

Sincerely,
Steve Pearce
Member of Congress

Walmart: Marxist Icon

Walmart:  Marxist Icon by Peter Burrows elburropete@gmail.com 3/21/15

Years ago I took a college course on Marxism.  I wasn’t trying to fire up any anti-capitalistic fervor, I just wanted to learn something about an economic philosophy that ruled so much of the world, or at least was the pretense for ruling so much of the world. Marxism didn’t make much sense then to a twenty-year old, and as I took another look recently, even less sense to a seventy-five-year old.

In brief, Marx thought that capitalism would so skew wealth and income toward the owners of capital that the working class, the proletariat, would eventually break the chains of their “enslavement” and expropriate the means of production, converting it all to public property.  Thus freed from the capitalists’ chains, there would “inevitably” be “an enormous development of the productive forces of human society.” (https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/staterev/ch05.htm)

Eventually, this would allow the goodness of human nature to prevail, pettiness would disappear and there would be an “inevitable” withering away of the state, which would completely disappear when society lived by the rule: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. ( See https://silvercityburro.com/page/9/  “The Utopian Ideal,” 3/15/13)

This “withering away” might take quite awhile, and in the meantime, society would be governed by “the dictatorship of the proletariat.”  Marx didn’t intend for this to be the dictatorship OVER the proletariat, as has always been, and always will be, the case in Communist countries.  Marx envisioned democratically elected officials who would be at the service and bidding of common people, the proletariat, not the capitalist exploiters who had ruled the previous society.

Well, there can be quite a slip between cup and lip, and most observers would say the world hasn’t evolved quite the way Marx thought it would.

Or has it?

Some years ago, relations between the Soviet Union and the United States began to thaw, and the two nations entered a period of detente, with all sorts of people-to-people exchanges, smiley faces, bear hugs and whatnot.  I particularly remember watching a show, probably on PBS, in which a group of visiting Russian businessmen, as such they had in those days, was being given a tour through  an American supermarket.

One of the visiting Russians pointed to some cans on a shelf and through his translator asked, “Why are there so many different kinds of beans?”   The tour guide, obviously chosen for abilities other than economic insight, became quite flustered and picked up a can and said something to the effect, “Well, it’s because this kind of bean goes well with that kind.“  Oh, my.

Think about it.  The supermarket owner has a finite amount of shelf space.  To use this space most efficiently, the owner wants to maximize his sales per square foot, or cubic foot, whatever.  Why would the owner put a particular brand of bean on the shelf?  Because people BUY it. If they don’t buy it, it is soon replaced by a different brand.

There are brands of similar, but not identical products, throughout a supermarket.  There may be ten kinds of toothpaste,  twenty kinds of bread, five kinds of frozen pizza, and on and on and on. The modern American supermarket is a cornucopia of wonderful things, things unimaginable to my grandmother.  (It’s rumored that when former Russian leader Boris Yeltsin first walked into an American supermarket, he looked at the vast sea of products and wept.)

To the Russian visitors, it didn’t make sense to have so many different brands when having one, maybe two, was so much more efficient, so much easier to stock.  What the Russians didn’t realize was that the store wasn’t being run for the convenience of the managers.  In competitive markets, stores succeed or fail depending on how well they “convenience” the customers.

Indirectly, IT’S THE CUSTOMERS WHO RUN THE STORE!

If I had been running the tour, I would have put my arm around the Russian and pointed to the nearest lady pushing a shopping cart and said: “See her, comrade? In Russia, you would call her a member of the proletariat. Now, if that proletarian lady doesn’t like the selection in this store, if she doesn’t like the prices, if she doesn’t like how she’s treated, if she doesn’t like the parking, or if she doesn’t like the ladies room she will take her business elsewhere. She will fire us.

“Multiple her by ten thousand and this store will close, we will all be looking for jobs.  The ten thousand customers won’t have a meeting at the soccer stadium and put it to a vote. They won’t have to go to that much trouble. They just won’t come here anymore. They will fire us without lifting a finger.

“You know why they can fire us? Because they are free to shop where they like. We can’t tell them where to shop.  They tell us because THEY run things. Welcome to the dictatorship of the proletariat, comrade.”

The next time you’re at a Walmart, take a look around.  There are thousands of products.  Walmart is constantly bringing in new products, changing prices, doing seasonal displays, putting stuff on sale, and on and on. It’s New Mexico’s and the world’s largest private employer.  They got that way because they bust their butts trying to keep customers happy.

The irony is that neither Cuba nor North Korea, two of the last of the “Peoples’ Republics,”  has a single store like your local Walmart.  If they did, you can bet the proletariat wouldn’t be allowed in.  That store would be for the exclusive use of the ruling class.  Hey, around here you and I are the ruling class. Just ask Walmart.

 

 

The Administrative State: Who Needs Congress?

The Administrative State: Who needs Congress? 3/19/15 By Peter Burrows elburropete@gmail.com

I recommend everybody watch a terrific five minute “You Tube” of Representative Trey Gowdy, R-SC, on the House floor giving a speech on the purpose of Congress, ending with an impassioned declaration, “We make law!”   (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzZT9gW5gp8)

I really like Gowdy.  It is too bad he is so, so deluded.  Congress may THINK it makes law, but people who have to deal with the IRS, OSHA, the EPA, the NLRB, the USFWS, etc. etc. know that the REAL lawmakers are not the people we elect to “make law,” but a faceless ruling class growing ever more powerful.

The intrusiveness of this ruling class seems to be growing lately, and, as always, is mostly unchecked by the people we elect to represent us.  Let me be quite clear: “ruling class“ means the vast bureaucracies, especially those in Washington, D.C., that pour out new rules and regulations — laws — that nobody voted on.

What brings this to mind are new regulations from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that will essentially turn the Internet into a federally regulated public utility.  This could have very negative effects on innovation and the competitiveness of American business.  It was an effort pushed by Internet giants Google and Netflix, among others, and supported by all those who think the government should micromanage everything.

The FCC consists of five appointed members, not elected by you or me, who have historically been concerned with regulating America’s radio, telephone, television and cable industries.  The present configuration is three Democrats and two Republicans.  The vote to regulate the Internet was three to two. Can you guess who was on which side? (Hint: Obama appointed all five, only three of whom can be of the same party.)

Among the hundreds of other new laws recently “passed” by bureaucrats, perhaps the most damaging are new ozone standards from the EPA.  Plus, just out, a new proposal from the EPA to limit the time spent in hotel showers.  (I DIDN’T MAKE THAT UP!!)  Closer to home, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just “passed” a law quadrupling the area for the Mexican Gray Wolf recovery program and tripled the target number of wolves.

Nobody you or I know voted for any of the above.

The typical recourse citizens have is to challenge these bureaucratic dictates in court, where the laws’ validity will be determined by other unelected people.  Occasionally, Congress will pass a law nullifying the laws passed by the bureaucrats. Somehow, I don’t think that’s how the Founding Fathers envisioned things should work.

I’ve sent Congressman Pearce the following email. He probably has a staffer culling his emails, but I’ll let you know his response.

Congressman Pearce,

Recent rulings by the FCC and EPA have made it quite clear that Congress is becoming irrelevant in an age of the administrative state.

To restore Congressional oversight, I suggest you propose a law that says that NO proposed bureaucratic laws/regulations go into effect unless they are approved, at the very least, by an oversight committee of elected representatives, preferably by a two-thirds majority.

I realize this would greatly increase the Congressional work load, a lament that will receive little sympathy from the public. To lessen the work load, I suggest congress eliminate some of the bureaucracies in Washington, starting with those that have NO constitutional authority, e.g. HUD.

This email has been published in The Grant County Beat on 3/19/15 as part of an article I wrote, which can be found in “Columns – Libertarian Leanings.” I plan to do likewise with your response.
Sincerely, Peter Burrows, Silver City

People: Yes Wolves: No Part 2

People: Yes.  Wolves: No  Part two. By Peter Burrows elburropete@gmail.com 3/10/15

(On Tuesday night, March 10, 6:00 PM at the Woman’s Club, the TEA Party is hosting Laura Schneberger, President of the Gila Livestock Growers Assn., who will speak on the problems facing ranchers because of the wolf recovery program.  Public welcome, no charge.)

When I first arrived in Silver City almost ten years ago, I attended a public meeting on the wolf recovery program. I remember it was at the Unitarian Church, and I believe it was put on by Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.  I remember the presenter was a young man of sincerity and passion.

I was there to learn about and lend my support to the wolf effort because I thought it sounded like a good thing.  Being from Wisconsin, I had a lot to learn about the Southwest.

To the best of my dimming recollection — this was ten years ago folks — the program was concerned with the difficulty of introducing the wolf to this area. The high mortality rate of the wolves was dramatized with pictures of wolves caught in traps, wolves that had escaped traps by gnawing a leg off, wolves that had been shot, wolf pups with no mother, etc. etc.

Like most of us, I associate wolves with dogs and what I saw was upsetting. Even more upsetting was the attempt to blame all this wolf carnage on the ranchers.  I voiced my opinion that the blame was on the people, including those in that room, who were trying to shoehorn the wolf back into an area where it was neither welcome nor needed.  I felt like shouting “Stop this inhumane experiment, damn you!”

Things have gotten worse since then. This past January the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expanded the Mexican Gray wolf recovery habitat four-fold to encompass the southern two-thirds of Arizona and New Mexico, and jumped the target wolf population to 300-325.  The aforementioned Michael Robinson immediately protested that the area wasn’t enough and the target number of wolves too low.

Rule One for Government Programs: THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH.

OK, how would I run a wolf recovery program in the unlikely event that I thought that would make the world a better place?  The first thing I would do is buy out all the ranchers and farmers who object to the program.. These are the folks who were here first, some going back generations, who earn a living here that will be hurt by the wolf program.  They’re also the folks who could sabotage the program if they’re not on board.

I would pay top dollar and then some. The livestock would be sold off and the lands restored to as close to original as possible.  If some wanted to keep their homes but not ranch in any way, fine. Everybody would be happy.  I know what you’re thinking: “Where you gonna get the bucks, Burro?”

Easy.  I’d tap the vast left-wing billionaire environmental club, starting with Tom Steyer, Oprah, The Google Boys, etc. etc.  Should be able to raise $50 to $100 million a year until the job is done.  It might take 20-30 years. There will be rancher holdouts who love their lifestyle, holdouts wanting more than “top dollar plus,” and some who just want to be obstinate.  It will take some time.

Why isn’t that being done now? Because that would mean that those in charge of the wolf recovery program recognize that the people who were already here have rights, feelings and traditions that should be respected instead of violated. If you believe that’s possible, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

They’d rather use government money and coercion, the ranchers be damned and to Hell with the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause.  (Laws are such petty annoyances.)  They don’t give a damn about the wolves, either.  That’s obvious.  As to cattle, sheep, horses, pets and all the wildlife the wolves will kill, that’s just the price to pay (by others) to achieve “nature’s balance.”

It’s not really about putting the wolf back in the wilderness, it’s about getting the people out of what used to be the wilderness, but is no more.  According to a couple of grizzled ranchers in Catron County, Charlie McCarty and Hugh McKeen, who wrote books about trying to ranch in New Mexico, the Federal Forestocracy is actively on the side of the environmentalists.

What’s really ironic is the fact that human beings, far from being the agents of wolf extinction, have in fact guaranteed that Canis lupus will be on earth for as long as people are.  With a breeding tweak here and there, over time the wolf has evolved into a rich array of wonderful creatures we call “dogs.”

Wolves. Wonderful animals after ten thousand years or so of human engineering.  Otherwise, leave them in the wilderness.

People: Yes. Wolves: No.

People: Yes.  Wolves: No    by Peter Burrows elburropete@gmail.com 3/9/15

(On Tuesday night, 6:00 PM at the Woman’s Club, the TEA Party is hosting Laura Schneberger, President of the Gila Livestock Growers Assn., who will speak on the problems facing ranchers because of the wolf reintroduction program. Public welcome, no charge.)

Good people love animals in general, and dogs in particular.  We transfer that special love so many of us have for dogs to wolves.  This is a mistake: WOLVES ARE NOT DOGS.  Wolves will eat your dog, and your cat, and your horse, and maybe even your grandchild, though I’ve yet to hear of that.

I have a great picture in my den of a wolf, face half hidden, looking through out-of-focus branches in a telephoto picture taken by the great wolf photographer, Jim Brandenberg.  I love the photo, and the wolf, but I wouldn’t love the wolf if he was in my yard.  If he threatened my dog, my cat, my family or my neighbor‘s cat, dog, or family, I’d shoot him.  Without hesitation, without a qualm. (To see the photograph, Google “wolf photography Brandenberg,” and look for “Gray Wolf.”)

Which brings to mind a problem with reintroducing wolves into our environment. If your dog comes into my yard and kills my dog, I’m going to make sure you are visited by the police.  Who am I going to seek redress from if a wolf kills my dog?  Multiply the intensity by a million for a child instead of a dog.

The above is not so hypothetical.  Just this past January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in its ongoing wolf recovery program, expanded the Mexican Gray Wolf habitat area four-fold, to cover the southern two-thirds of both Arizona and New Mexico. The informal population target for wolves had been 100. It is now 300 – 325.  This guarantees more frequent contact between wolves and people.  It also guarantees more headaches, heartaches, and financial woes for the ranchers of Arizona and New Mexico.

All this is of little concern to the people pushing the wolf recovery program.  They aren’t facing any financial hardships if a wolf kills a steer; they’ll never have to shoot a dog, horse or calf left to die after being mangled by a wolf.  And, if a human being is killed by a wolf, well, that‘s just too rare to be of any concern.  (Maybe becoming not so rare. A teacher in Alaska was recently killed by wolves while jogging.)

This problem of advocates not bearing the costs of their advocacy is seen throughout our society. The higher costs of renewable energy are of little concern to the elitist environmentalist. Those who advocate higher minimum wages rarely have any employees. Similarly, the popularity of wolf recovery programs is big in metropolitan areas with people who will never see a ranch, never mind own or work on one.

What especially distresses me are those wildlife lovers who claim reintroducing the wolf will bring “balance to nature.”  What these people fail to appreciate is that the wolf has been gone from this area for almost a hundred years.  People have moved in, and people have established a new balance of nature.  This new balance has introduced cattle, sheep and horses to the environment, and has also resulted in larger elk and deer populations, to the benefit of both hunters and wildlife programs supported by hunters and hunting license fees.

To a degree, people have replaced wolves in the “balance of nature.”  Reintroducing wolves will upset this balance and, at the very least, will result in a drastically reduced population of elk and deer. In Yellowstone Park, wolves began being introduced in 1995 and the once vast herds of elk have been reduced by up to 80 percent, with an attendant near destruction of a once thriving hunting industry.

Now, I am not a hunter.  I do not wish to kill elk, antelope, cougar, etc. for sport, trophy or meat. However, I do not feel morally superior to those who do hunt, and I have enjoyed my brother-in-law’s antelope stew on more than one occasion.  I rationalize this with the fact that hunters are needed to control the antelope and deer  populations.

Better hunters with rifles than packs of wolves.  I’d rather have wild game die more or less instantly than over a long period from a ripped-open intestine.  Wolves are vicious killers.  How a professed wildlife lover would want to turn packs of wolves loose where they will destroy deer and antelope herds is beyond me.  In addition, there are the domestic cattle, horses, sheep and pets that will also inevitably suffer terrible deaths due to wolves.

All this thanks to people who think it is their right to impose their version of cosmic justice on the rest of us. My question to them: Who made you God?

Thanks for the memories, Duke Ellington

Thanks for the memories,  Duke Ellington. By Peter Burrows elburropete@gmail.com 3/5/15

Clark Terry died.  He was 94. The name doesn’t mean anything to most of you, but it does to anybody who played, or tried to play, a trumpet in the last 60 years or so.  Clark Terry was a great jazz trumpeter.

When I read of his death, what immediately popped into my mind was his great but brief solo on Duke Ellington’s Perdido, recorded way back in 1952:  The rapid staccato notes up and down the scale and then a burst of “pretty notes,” as Satchmo would say, that blended back into the orchestra’s theme. Great stuff.

I hadn’t played it in years, so I dug out my “Ellington Uptown” CD and sure enough, the solo hadn’t changed. (That’s a joke folks. I’m not THAT old.) Ever had times when a tune runs through your head for an hour or even longer?  Clark Terry’s little riff is in my head FOREVER.  Fine by me.

I couldn’t just play Perdido, so I relistened to “Take the A Train,” with Betty Roche’s terrific vocal, and “The Mooch” with it’s fantastic duets.  Oh Lord, Duke was such a treasure.

This got me to thinking of how lucky I am to be able to listen to something recorded over 60 years ago with such great fidelity.  My father couldn’t have listened to an Enrico Caruso aria of such quality, if at all, if he would have lived to my age.  Of course, it’s not just music from years ago that we can enjoy, but movies, too.  Some of those old ones are still pretty good. I especially like the Fred Astair, Ginger Rogers movies.

The downside of some of those old and not so old movies is age-shock, a term I just coined to describe how you feel when you watch Dirty Harry right after seeing Clint Eastwood on some news show talk about his latest movie. (Or, for that matter, when you watch yourself from years ago.  I’m trying to get my wife to throw out some old, old tapes from our curling years.  Once again, not something my parents could have done.)

Well, one memory led to another and I got to thinking about the first time I saw the Ellington orchestra live, and how, in some ways, race relations are worse today than 60 years ago.  The year was 1957 or ‘58, and the venue was some long forgotten dance hall between Chicago and Detroit. The big bands of the era would make a one night stand there as they over-nighted between the two cities.

My home town of Dowagiac was only an hour or so away, so four of us kids made the trip. (I remember the oldest looking buying a case of beer for the occasion. He was about 18. Legal was 21. Great fun.)

I still remember some things from that evening.  After a number, Duke would thank the audience for their applause with his great line, “Thank you, thank you, we love you all —madly.”  I also remember a little man playing the piano, who must have been the great Billy Strayhorn.  Especially memorable was the drum solo “Skin Deep,” where the entire band walked off the stage leaving the drummer all alone, pounding away.  After a few minutes, they wandered back in, casually picked up their instruments, put out their cigarettes and BAM! hit the opening note. Great theater.

One other memory that night brings me to today’s distressing political/racial environment. In particular, it is a common opinion amongst otherwise sane people that voter ID laws reflect white voters’ fears of losing their political power to “people of color” or some such nonsense.   One of my favorite professors over at WNMU, an Hispanic man, even made that statement at a forum last year.

I think this is very sad.  In my 75 years on earth as a white person, I believe I have spent maybe a billionth of a second worrying about white people losing political power. No, even less than that.  However, I got to thinking that I really don’t know what it’s like to experience life as a member of a racial minority.   I can sympathize, but I really can’t relate.

It outrages me that people would ever suffer from racial prejudice, from having different “packaging,” as Dr. Ben Carson would say.  You really can’t love music and be a bigoted moron.  There is no way you can tell the race or sex of a musician by listening to a CD.  Furthermore, some of the GREATEST jazz musicians were pure African, e.g. Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughn, Duke’s fabulous baritone sax player, Harry Carney, and many, many others.

However, I do recall one instance in which I was a minority of one white in a crowd of black faces. It was at the aforementioned Duke Ellington one-nighter.  As was common at an Ellington dance hall performance, a crowd would form in front of the bandstand, centered on Duke’s piano. I was in the crowd that night, and, you guessed it, I looked around and was the only white person.

I wish I could relive that moment. I was in good company.