Some Thoughts on Civility

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:22

    Now clearly the kids in this case are not angels, nor is it a great idea to butt into the Decatur school board's business, but I guess it's been slow lately for Jesse and this is the best he can do. He looks foolish talking about prayer "to see us through." But like many of these so-called reverends, that's the only line he knows. He probably says that when he can't find matching socks in the morning.

    Incidentally, has Jackson ever taken any black person to task over anything? Has he ever said, "You guys better shape up or ship out"? I don't follow his antics, so I don't know. But I suspect not. I'm surprised MUGGER was so easy on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. I checked it out after seeing it mentioned in the papers every day, and I lasted 15 minutes. The questions were a real disappointment: they were either easy general-knowledge questions (which most of the contestants still managed to miss), or trivia questions about current tv shows that only a couch potato would know. Is this their idea of useful knowledge? Any normal person would be embarrassed to win. What a joke compared to the quiz shows of the 1950s (which I wouldn't watch either).

    Millionaire is also a grim reminder of the state of basic education in America. People were flubbing questions about basic geography of the U.S. that would have been considered insultingly easy 40 years ago.

    God knows what these people could be good for in the workforce. My advice to potential Millionaire contestants would be to put down the remote control once in a while and read something written before 1960, when at least people could find Chicago on the map. (Though I know it's a lost cause.)

    A couple of things about Adam Heimlich's "Seven Days in Israel" last week: He mentioned a laptop left behind on a city bus that was subsequently blown up by police. That's because all abandoned packages in Israel, and especially in cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, are considered potential bombs. Anybody that had been there more than a week would know that. Hardly a month goes by in Israel without some kind of terrorist attack somewhere, and being suspicious of abandoned packages is second nature to Israelis. I remember passing a backpack on a bench in Tel Aviv; a few minutes later, as I was leaving a store, I heard the explosion as the police blew it up.

    And it is true that Israeli men are unusually aggressive?especially after they finish compulsory military service. They don't want pussies in the army. But they are also extremely nice people, especially toward Americans, and that was missing from Heimlich's account. The story about the driver who ran over somebody's suitcase?that is pretty atypical behavior in Israel. As for the market vendors, some are quite pushy and impatient, but that's the Middle East. The ones in the Jerusalem market I found to be very nice.

    Joe Rodrigue, New Haven

    D'Souza's March MUGGER: I've been reading your criticisms of Sen. John McCain. I'm a supporter of that candidate, and had a few comments regarding your piece. I agree with you about your basic premise?that journalists tend to favor certain candidates and to be hard on other ones based on their politics. My question is, so what? Aren't you doing the same thing? All you do is dismiss every criticism of Gov. Bush by stating that any frontrunner would do what he did, and then rip into McCain, giving him no credit and calling him a phony. I grant you that McCain is playing the political game a little bit, just like every candidate who's ever run. But to call him a scumbag? Isn't that a bit strong? You may disagree with his politics, but it's hard to convince anyone that a guy who voluntarily remained as a prisoner of war for nearly six years (and trust me, I've spoken to guys who were there with him) would have serious enough character flaws to be called a scumbag. And as far as the anger issue, I've followed politics for a long time, and have seen Reagan, Clinton, Bush Sr. (do you remember him with Dan Rather?) and even George "I won't answer the cocaine question....well, maybe I will" Jr. get angry at journalists. You guys are mostly assholes trying to break them down, so of course they get pissed every once in awhile. Quite honestly, I have no problem with people who show passion. Maybe passion's a good quality to have in a president. You and I both know that you're blowing the Arizona Republic article out of perspective?McCain, after all, has never gotten along with that paper. Wow, George Bush gets along better with some journalists than others! So what?

    Most American voters really don't give a shit whether McCain gets along with his Republican governor and the Arizona Republic, or if Bush gets along with The New York Times. They care whether their president can answer basic questions from Boston tv journalists about leaders in strategic hot spots. (Yes, there are parts of the world outside of the Middle East.) Did you see how angry Bush got at that one? Since anger's a bad thing, maybe Bush shouldn't be president.

    I understand why some folks don't like McCain. He champions campaign finance reform, yet he still runs a political campaign. I can't fault you in taking note of that. Nevertheless, though he isn't perfect, he runs his campaign with far more honesty than Bush does, and you know it.

    So keep on writing your articles and twisting your facts. But stop whining about The New York Times when you know that you're no better than they are. You guys are no longer journalists, but just politicians in sheep's clothing, and with very defined political agendas. At least admit that to yourself.

    Anil D'Souza, Chicago

    An ABC of Reading I see more of Maureen Dowd's column under Russ Smith's byline than hers. Although I suppose it's your job to read the whole thing, for laypersons I recommend my approach to Dowd: Read the headline. Start to read the first sentence. Jump seven-eighths of the way down the left column and pick up one or two key words. Then read the last two-thirds of the concluding sentence. And that's only on Sundays if you're still working on more than half a cup of coffee. Ray Martin, Ridgefield, CT

    Saint John of The Desert MUGGER: You've done it again. Another brilliant and insightful article last week about the press and its favoritism for Saint John McCain. You hit a home run with your dissection of how the press attempts to knock down George W. Bush while elevating McCain. Dennis Bunker, Burbank, CA

    Severe-a Nevada MUGGER: Magnificent column last week, as always. Despite my own political orientation (right-wing Jewish extremist), I have always held in high regard those of either the right or the left who have little tolerance for bullshit. In that regard, the worst thing that could possibly happen to this country would be the ascension of Al Gore to the presidency. Even Slick Willie has a minimal empathy for working people (which somewhat explains his success). As for McCain, I would have a lot more respect for him if he hadn't gone off the deep end with his tobacco follies, with his self-righteous indignation about campaign finance reform and with everyone else's inability to nail down his abortion position.

    I agree with you that George W. Bush is no lightweight. His victory over the repulsive Ann Richards in 1994 was truly impressive, as has been his tenure as governor. I was pleased to vote for him in 1998 when we lived in Dallas.

    However, I'm hardly ready to agree that Bush has it in the bag. This is liberal America now, after all, and it is now the Democrats who have a lock on the electoral college due to the radicalization of huge numbers of women, the brainwashing of Generations X and Y and the import of millions of Third World types known in the trade as "Democrats on Arrival," most of whom have settled in the large electoral vote states of New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas and California.

    Howard Hirsch, Carson City, NV

    Lenora's Heroes MUGGER: To link Patrick Buchanan to Jesse Jackson, as you do in your 11/24 column, is absurd. While you may like the sellout of individual rights, corruption and twisted ideologies of internationalism and globalism, I see no need for this mindless bashing for the sake of bashing. If you can't debate an issue with facts?or for that matter even come up with an issue?don't bother wasting my attention. John Campbell, Bakersfield, CA

    Force M.D. In his "Sloth Is Not a Virtue, Maureen" bit in the 11/24 "MUGGER," Russ Smith mentions how nauseating he finds Maureen Dowd's column about Al Gore. I get a similar feeling when I listen to those lockstep Gore supporters with their repetitive scare-tactic mouthings. One Gore supporter stated at a recent forum that "Gore is the most qualified candidate for the presidency." If qualified means eliminating gays and lesbians from the armed services or leaving them wide open to harassment, abuse and physical harm by supporting the "don't ask, don't tell," policy; or removing people from welfare rolls and leaving them with no health insurance; or supporting the bombing of the Sudan or Kosovo; or supporting the Gulf War and the yearlong bombing of Iraq; or allegedly turning his head while Russians laundered money; or hiring as his top media consultant Carter Eskew, who helped Philip Morris develop a $40 million ad blitz to defeat Federal anti-tobacco legislation; or staying silent about the ethnic cleansing in Chechnya?then Gore is qualified. On the other hand, if qualified means someone who voted against the Gulf War; who was the chief supporter of Superfund law; who opposes the Knight Initiative in California; who strongly supported Title IX; who authored the Newborns and Mothers Health Protection Act in '95; who supports full rights for gays in the military; who's presented a health care proposal (which is still being worked on) that will benefit more people, including people with AIDS; who was not involved in the past several years of broken-government shenanigans; but who rather was truly listening to people's concerns and ideas?then Bill Bradley is the qualified person.

    At another forum, a Gore supporter stated that Gore wasn't afraid to "get his hands dirty." Like we needed to be reminded. When will the Clinton/Gore supporters get it? Can't they get it through their heads that the general public is sick and tired of the dirt, games, lies and gridlock? That we're tired of paying the wages of public officials (and those of their inflated office staffs) who continue to work to promote one another and their agendas instead working on behalf of their constituents?

    If the Republicans win next November's election, they can thank the Democrats who seem to never get it.

    Flora L. Ramonowski, Manhattan

    Cross-Checked By Fate I am a Canadian, just like Felipe Torres?who accidentally left his wallet on a bus in Port Authority, returned to find it gone and wrote you to express his confusion and disgust ("The Mail," 11/10). I love this city and I love its people, but lately the karma has gone all out of whack. Last year I found a watch on the floor of my health club, the deplorable NYSC at 36th St. and Madison Ave. I promptly returned it to the front counter. I didn't do this because of where I was born, I did it because it was the right thing to do.

    A few weeks later someone broke into my locker at the club, took my credit cards and went on a two thousand dollar shopping and eating spree in the hour and a half it took me to discover and report the theft.

    A few months after that incident, I accidentally left my waist pouch hanging on a treadmill at the club. When I came back the next day the waist pouch was there, but my walkman was gone.

    Last week I accidentally left my lock (with key) hanging on a locker for less than an hour. When I returned it was nowhere to be seen.

    In the four preceding years, I had not had one negative experience at the club (granted, it wasn't under management of a cost-conscious corporation then, but that's another diatribe). Now the locker room is plastered with bright signs from the 6th Precinct instructing me how to take care of my valuables. The advice boils down to this: don't bring them. More bright municipal notices are plastered in the steam room, which has been inexplicably shuttered for months for unnamed health violations.

    I realize my story is paltry compared to things that appear in the news on a daily basis. But as former police commissioner William Bratton recognized, our small quality of life experiences are symptoms of a greater malaise.

    For several years I looked down on my own native country as dull and overly socialized. I am now starting to see the appeal of a country that takes care of its citizens. A country where the social pressures that drive people to take an edge whenever they can, at the expense of their fellow human beings, at the expense of their souls, are monitored by the government with the same care and attention that this country spends monitoring interest rates, bond liquidity and the GDP.

    Every time I visit Canada, the thing I look forward to the most is its quiet civility. A kind and helping hand is never further than the nearest stranger. I realize this sounds trite and sentimental, but it's also fucking true.

    Rob Tymchyshyn, Manhattan

    This Baron's No Red I'm British and I live in Brooklyn. I am occasionally confused by the comings and goings in the new country. Usually, with the application of some common sense, I can work them out for myself without asking questions, but New York Press has got me stumped.

    What an earth is an effete Englishman doing ("The Sound of Old Eton," 11/24) singing the praises of one of the most elite and most expensive fee-paying schools in the United Kingdom on the front page of a weekly paper in New York City?

    I don't really give a shit that the author's father was "Baron George von und zu Franckenstein, one of the most distinguished diplomats Austria ever produced," but I do give a shit about this writer's boorish pronouncements on the class system and state of the nation in which he was born.

    It's like this, Baron: I've met a few of your Eton old boys and yes, like most people, I found what you describe as the Eton confidence to be much more like arrogance. Did it ever occur to you that if most people think you are arrogant you probably are?

    You say that you "hope this verbal class distinction will soon be antique." If you mean to say that England would be a better country without the snobbery and class distinctions that have dogged it throughout history, then I agree with you. But realize this: the only way this is going to happen is if the minority start sounding more like the majority. It's not going to happen the other way around.

    Max Schuelein, Brooklyn

    What About Dunleavy? MUGGER: First of all, with the possible exceptions of Charles Krauthammer and (sometimes) Michael Kelly, you write the best column in America today. Second, I literally just got back from lunch with David Bass and the first thing I read was your piece about David's shitty taste in food. Well, I think you may have a point, after having just watched him wolf down a mountainous plate of chicken wings and cheese fries (with no mustard of any kind in sight). But to give him credit, the guy does manage to pack down heroic quantities of fried food and still maintain a trim (or, as his more Rabelaisian friends might argue, "girlish") figure.

    Tom Riley, Philanthropy magazine, Washington DC