The Superbus's Thoughtpad

The Cowardice Of The Confederate Flag

Posted by Chris Bowen on June 24, 2015

naziconfederateI need to say this, up front: the Confederate Flag is evil. People who fly that flag are at the very best deluded and ignorant; in most cases, they’re just outright racist assholes, and this has every bit as much to do with what it’s come to mean since the Civil Rights Movement took off as it does the fact that it was the battle flag for a country that was founded literally to preserve the right to own black people.

But the speed at which it’s become toxic bothers me. Here’s the thing: the only thing that changed was one (1) asshole went into a church and blew away nine black people. The effect of the flag on modern society, what it means, whether it’s racist, or a symbol of heritage… all of this has been debated in the past, and frankly, the right side won. The problem is that people didn’t have the courage to go against what was, in most parts of even the South, a noisy minority. In short, the people who could have removed the Confederate Flag from state houses years ago were racists at best, cowards at worst.

But now, South Carolina’s taking it down from its capitol, and other states that have that setup are considering likewise. Many businesses are refusing to carry merchandise bearing it, despite the fact that it was A-OK at this time last week. Everyone’s running from it, and in the process, they’re demonstrating the same level of chickenshit cowardice that kept it flying in the first place.

I fucking hate fads. The desecration of a flag that should have been summarily desecrated decades ago has become a fad, much the same as listening to (and later disliking) certain popular music artists, or a hairstyle. This obviously right decision has literally nothing to do with right and wrong. It’s a business decision, pure and simple, and it’s shameful that the only thing that can get people to move is the fact that the wanton murder of nine innocent churchgoing black people tends to be bad for the bottom line.

Nikki Haley is not a brave woman for calling for the Confederate Flag to be removed from Columbia. She is a political coward who picks easy targets to bully, yet is skilled at turning a negative into a positive. Her inaction on this made her state look like a joke for years, and fostered a hostile environment for minorities. Evil thrives when the good do nothing, after all. The same goes for WalMart, Amazon and other companies who will no longer sell the merchandise of a nation of traitors. I don’t think they should get a pass because they made a bean counter’s decision off of the blood of nine innocents.

The free market’s impersonal nature is seen as a feature of its supporters, and not a bug. As a supporter of free markets, I agree. But nothing is ever perfect. The actions by these corporations, on an issue that was largely decided long ago, is a perfect example.

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Thoughts on Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, Pre-Fight

Posted by Chris Bowen on May 2, 2015

mayweather-pacmanLet’s talk about the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight. Or more specifically, the recent history of pointing out that Mayweather is, inarguably, a terrible human being and that being a cause for boycotting the fight.

Not wanting to be a part of the ridiculous hype – and more ridiculous cost ($100! Plus some of the “licensing” companies that license the fight to bars are gouging prices) – of this excessive clusterfuck is somewhat noble. I personally have never really agreed with the notion that someone we don’t like politically should have their business destroyed, but this isn’t about politics; Floyd Mayweather gets away with beating women *constantly* specifically because he’s also very good at beating men who are trying to hit him back. Saying “screw you” to that is the least anyone can do.

But I have to ask: did you boycott boxing after Tyson was convicted of rape? Or do you boycott any of the other fights involving people who are, by and large, career criminals? Boxing brings in more criminals, charlatans and other mooks than any other sport *combined*. It’s essentially a lotto ticket for those that have no other chance, and a consistently good source of income for those who don’t fight but instead abuse their fighters (the poverty rate for even top-class prize fighters is *INSANE*). You frequently hear boxers referred to as, for example, a “young” 35. That’s code, as Bill Simmons pointed out yesterday, for “he spent a few years in jail”. There are very few good people in boxing, and many of the best fighters with the best fights ever are/were horrible, terrible human beings. Even Manny, who is being investigated for tax evasion, is no saint.

This fight, and Floyd’s past, are getting attention because of the sheer size and scope of the fight. Precious few people have pointed out Mayweather’s horrible baggage in the past (two of those, Rachel Nichols and Michelle Beadle, have just been denied press passes by the Mayweather camp). But the fight is $100 and the licensing costs are absurd specifically because people are *clamoring* to watch and will pay those prices. It sucks, and frankly I think even the power brokers in boxing know that this is the last, best chance at a massive payday as MMA takes over the gladiator spectacle, but don’t pretend that this sport was ever clean. This isn’t Ray Rice in the NFL; this is an entire sport of people who make Ray Rice look like a saint.

Bear in mind this comes from someone who grew up boxing. One key point in that: the gloves that fighters wear aren’t there for protection. They’re there to shorten fights, due to the increase in knock-outs from blunt force (the entire face takes the blow), to encourage fighters to throw to the face more, and to bring more fans in from the spectacle of a guy getting rag-dolled, which never really happened in bare-knuckle fights. They were never a safety concern, they were a capitalistic concern. That, in itself, should be just as much cause to leave boxing altogether as the fact that one of its many terrible human beings happens to be terrible to women.

Oh, the fight? Right. I think Mayweather wins enough rounds to win a split decision. That’s all he has to do. This is a bad matchup for Pacquiao, who relies on knockout power he doesn’t have anymore and who has a five inch reach disadvantage. So Mayweather can duck, duck, absorb shots with his shoulder, and keep hitting Pacquiao enough to score points.

And with that, and the crowd’s inevitable disappointment, boxing’s big fight era will very likely draw to a close. The management is too self-absorbed to let the truly good fights happen, and frankly, the public is waking up to just what a sham the sport is in terms of its disposing of fighters and its outright corruption. Even the WWE is less corrupt; at least there, you know everything’s scripted.

But then again, we’ve tolled the death bell for boxing before, and ultimately, aren’t my comments a major reason why it persists? Here I am, stating why boxing is terrible, then showing my knowledge of the sport and its mechanics to give an educated guess as to how a fight will go. Even with all of the above stated and understood, I still can’t just ignore it.

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The Bus Attempts To Preview The NHL’s Insane First Round Of Playoffs

Posted by Chris Bowen on April 15, 2015

yxrm83O7There’s nothing quite like the NHL playoffs. Baseball’s are at the end of a marathon and by the time they come, it’s turning cold and most everyone just wants to go home. Basketball is fun, but centered around too many superstars. Football is also great at playoff time, but it doesn’t take on the same cultural significance that hockey does to certain parts of the US and Canada. It’s one thing hearing a football stadium go nuts, but it’s another altogether to see 16,000 people in an enclosed arena going nuts while wearing all-white.

The best thing to say about the NHL playoffs is that they’re so awesome that even the NHL can’t screw them up.

To the NHL’s credit, they did their best to bring about a sense of rivalry with the move back to a divisional format, and this year’s playoffs comes with some ready-made hatred, particularly with the Canadian teams. This is a secondary subplot to the fact that the setups themselves are goofy when considering preseason predictions; both the defending champion Kings and defending President’s Trophy winning Bruins are out of the playoffs entirely. The first round is looking to be good; here, I’ll break them down and try to guess how they’ll play out.*

* – It’s important to note that I have *NO IDEA* what’s going to happen. This is going to be the equivalent of a monkey playing darts. The season was goofy, we have two teams carried in solely on the backs of their mediocre goaltenders getting white hot, and of the sixteen teams in the playoffs, there are about seven or eight legitimate contenders, of which five come from the same division. This season was bat shit. DO NOT make bets based on these predictions, because I have almost zero confidence on most of them.


Fans who like pretty numbers on the scoreboard might be a little bit disappointed in this series if things hold up the way they have in the season. On one side is Carey Price, who is almost surely going to win the Hart Trophy as the league’s overall MVP, let alone the Vezina. On the other is Andrew Hammond, the “Hamburglar” who got lit up in the minors, got called up to the NHL because Ottawa was literally running out of goaltenders, and then instantly became Ken Dryden in single-handedly carrying the Senators to the playoffs. Assuming he doesn’t become a pumpkin, the scoring will be low. Even better, these teams hate each other, and the last time they played, the series became a tire fire.

Ultimately, the Canadiens have a little bit too much for the young, relatively untested Senators. I don’t think Hammond will revert back to what he is – yet – but this is a bad matchup for Ottawa considering their strengths are the same as Montreal’s, and Montreal is better.



The Red Wings might be the weakest team in the playoffs other than the Flames, on paper. Normally, that would carry water, but if this was about roster strength the Kings would be in the playoffs and the Jets would be home. Furthermore, the Red Wings are still the Red Wings; they keep winning, as they have for two decades.

I think this is the final nail in the Red Wings’ coffin, though. They’re just not that good, and I’m surprised they made the playoffs. Detroit’s defence is solid, but their goaltending’s spotty, and Tampa can light up anyone in the tournament.

Congratulations to 20 plus years of success, Detroit. Take your curtain call and begin your rebuild in earnest.



It’s great to see the Islanders in the playoffs for their final season at the Nassau Coliseum, reliving memories of the 80s, before most of their roster was born. 

Unfortunately, the Islanders have an atrocious penalty kill, and Washington has one of the best power plays in the league. I don’t trust Ovechkin in the playoffs because he can’t shake the additional attention, and I surely don’t trust Braydon Holtby, but I think the Caps have enough to take out the Islanders for good, ironically closing out Nassau with a home team loss. As nice as it would be for the Islanders to take on the Rangers in the playoffs, I don’t see it happening.



The Rangers are flying, having won the Presidents Trophy despite the lengthy absence of all-world goaltender Henrik Lundqvist; if anything, backup Cam Talbot solidified a solid contract from another team. Furthermore, they’re deep, and their younger players like JT Miller and Kevin Hayes have fit in well with established veterans like St. Louis. And the defence, while lacking in top-flight, Drew Doughty superstars, is deep from one to six, from Ryan McDonagh down to the criminally underrated Kevin Klein.

Pittsburgh has superstars, for sure, but their defence is beat up, their goaltending is inferior, and I just don’t see a lot of direction from this team. If they’re going to advance, their goaltender will have to steal some games, and Crosby is going to have to take over, something that’s really not in his DNA; he’s a facilitator, not a cheerleader. And even cheerleaders can’t do much when they’re picking the puck out of their net all the time. It won’t be a sweep, but it won’t be close.



For anyone who wasn’t alive for the last time the cit y of Winnipeg saw playoff hockey – a non-remote possibility considering it was 19 years ago – let me just say that the city goes absolutely batshit. They might not have invented the whole “dress the fans in one colour” tradition – that’s Calgary’s “C of Red” – but they’ve surely perfected it, and the Winnipeg White Out will be rocking once Game 3 hits. By the way, the team is also a blast; they can score, and if the two headed goaltending monster of Ondrej Pavelic and Michael Hutchinson can hold up, this is a very winnable series, because Anaheim has holes.

The Ducks’ first line is far superior to that of Winnipeg, for sure. But they’re not that deep, and their goaltending has been flaky all season. Josh Gibson is the goaltender of the future, but he’s been iffy all year. If there’s a major upset candidate in the West, this is it.



There’s two ways of looking at this series. The first is that neither of these teams should be here. Vancouver’s old, slow, and unsettled in goal. Calgary was considered a frontrunner in the race for Connor McDavid, and their stats indicate they should be much worse than their record indicates. Basically, they’re this year’s Avalanche.

But on the other, it’s still the Canucks vs. the Flames, in the playoffs. Neither team cares that they’re not supposed to be here, and frankly, neither do the fans. This is going to be a bloodbath. These teams hate each other, their fans hate each other, and there’s a legitimate question as to how much is going to be left in the tank of whoever wins.

Vancouver’s goaltending situation is kind of silly – in one corner is Ryan Miller from Not!2010, in the other is Eddie “I’m The Better Goaltender” Lack – but it won’t matter in this series. Calgary is simply overmatched.



Wait, this is the 1 v. 4 matchup!? These are two of the best teams in the NHL! Holy crap, the Central was brutal.

This is basically St. Louis’s punishment for not winning the Western Conference outright. Minnesota has been a completely and totally different team since acquiring Devan Dubnyk, who would be getting more attention if he had a fast food related nickname of his own. Dubnyk went from likely being exiled to Europe after being let go by the three different teams – two of whom were the 2nd and 3rd worst in the entire league – to potentially playing on a Cup contender. As for the Blues, they have an incredibly deep roster and solid goaltending. Now, it’s time to make them realize it; goaltending controversies have marked the past few seasons in St. Louis, when the answer should be clear-cut (hint: the answer is “ride Brian Elliott until he drops”).

Because of the uncertainty in net – one bad goal could see Jake Allen in net – I have to give the edge to Minnesota.



Have I mentioned that the Central division is unreal? Because man alive.

Nashville was another team, not unlike Calgary, that was predicted to be near the bottom of the standings when the season started. But unlike the Flames, who have largely been opportunistic and lucky, the Predators have actually been good. They got the 2nd seed in the best division in hockey despite a below par season from Pekka Rinne, and are solid first to last.

But they’re not the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks are basically the Spurs of the NHL at this point, where the season is secondary to the playoffs, knowing they can turn it on. They’re stocked, they’re stronger than Nashville, Corey Crawford is tremendously underrated even with a ring, and they should be able to handle Nashville.


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The Bus’s 2015 Major League Baseball Preview

Posted by Chris Bowen on April 8, 2015

1280px-Major_League_Baseball.svgMy Facebook page (which you should all like because it’s awesome and you all love me very much) is yelling at me because I haven’t updated in 11 days. Facebook cares not that I was in the middle of moving apartments and bring 35 years worth of crap with me in the process. Noooooooo! Sure, you’re in the middle of moving into a new condo with the love of your life, whatever, pay attention to meeeee!

Alright, Facebook. I will provide you with something I can crap out in my sleep: my thoughts on the upcoming 2015 MLB Season. An asterisk next to a team indicates a projected Wild Card pick.


1. Baltimore Orioles
2. Toronto Blue Jays *
3. Boston Red Sox
4. New York Yankees
5. Tampa Bay Rays

I don’t think Baltimore losing Nelson Cruz is going to hurt too much. He’s a strong hitter, but they have others, and his output is likely to be replaced just by Chris Davis coming back to form not that his medication is approved. I think the division will be close between them, the Blue Jays and the Red Sox. No one can pitch, but Baltimore’s pitching is somewhat less shitty than Boston’s and Toronto’s (Boston’s ace is Clay Buchholz, and he is, for lack of a better term, spineless). Taking up the rear are the Yankees, who will be good for back page fodder if nothing else, and the Rays, who will almost surely trade Longoria and are looking at heading back into another swoon. I almost guarantee this team will find a way to move within five years, and will finish last because of Joe Girardi’s brilliance.


1. Cleveland Indians
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detroit Tigers
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Minnesota Twins

I’m not quite as high on the Indians as Sports Illustrated is – they picked the Indians to win the whole damn thing – but they’ll be good. They’ll beat out the vastly improved White Sox. I’m not buying Detroit this year; they’re old, they’re injured, and Miggy Cabrera can’t do it all himself. The Royals were a wonderful story last year, but I don’t think they can keep it up; a lot had to go right for them last year. Minnesota is going to be terrible, but that’s by design at this point. Enjoy the Torii Hunter retirement tour, and buy your Byron Buxton jerseys now.


1. Seattle Mariners
2. Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim*
3. Oakland Athletics
4. Texas Rangers
5. Houston Astros

As a Mariners fan, I am positively giddy for this upcoming season. A good rotation, a decent offence, no weaknesses, Seattle’s finally going back to the postseason. The Nelson Cruz signing will be ugly at the end of that contract, but it works for now. 2nd and 3rd will be close, but in the end, the Angels have Mike Trout and the A’s don’t. Both Texas and Houston will be bad, but at least the Astros have light at the end of their tunnel; in three years, everything we’re saying about the Nationals, we’re going to say about the Astros. Texas is in trouble, with injury, age and contract issues abound, but at least there’s help on the farm. No matter what, this looks to be the most exciting division in either league.


1. Washington Nationals
2. Miami Marlins *
3. New York Mets
4. Atlanta Braves
5. Philadelphia Phillies

Words are being thrown around to describe Washington – words such as “prohibitive favourite” and “162 game victory lap” – that will make anything short of a sweep in the World Series into an upset on par with Kentucky Basketball losing their chance at 40-0. The rest of the division is bad enough to make them at least winning the East a foregone conclusion. Miami has talent, as painful as that is to admit, as well as the best hitter in baseball and one of the best young pitchers. No one else in this division projects to be .500. The Mets will come close, but the Braves (who are already selling off players) and the Phillies will be atrocious; Philly looks to be the worst team in the majors.


1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Pittsburgh Pirates*
3. Chicago Cubs

4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Milwaukee Brewers

I want to put the Pirates at the top here, but the Cardinals are too good. Pittsburgh’s pitching isn’t as good as St. Louis’s, and the Cardinals have no discernible weaknesses. I think the division goes down to the wire, with the loser hosting the Wild Card game. The Cubs are going to be a fun team to watch, but they’re a year away from seriously contending for a wild card spot. I think the Reds hold off just long enough to prevent them from going into full rebuild mode because their stars are really good, which is better than I can say about the Brewers, who aren’t good and won’t be getting good any time soon; they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball.


1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Francisco Giants
3. San Diego Padres
4. Colorado Rockies
5. Arizona Diamondbacks

The Dodgers will win this division almost by default; the Giants might be the defending world champions, but losing Sandoval really hurts a team that already don’t have much power in a spacious ballpark. That doesn’t mean I like the Dodgers, mind; Yasiel Puig will be fun to watch if only to see how the normally staid baseball world reacts to his antics, but they have the look of a 100 win team that folds in the NLDS to me. I think the Giants could make the Wild Card if the Marlins didn’t play so many games in the putrid NL East. The Padres made so many changes that I don’t know what to make of them; they have the smell of a .500 team, but I wouldn’t be surprised no matter what. They could finish in the wild card, they could lose 100 games. Both the Rockies and the Diamondbacks will be very, very bad, but at least Arizona will be entertaining to watch for people who like crooked numbers.


The playoffs themselves are a crapshoot, as the 116 win 2001 Mariners found out. Predicting how they’ll play out in April could be accomplished just as easily with a dart board and a trained monkey. Just for giggles, I’ll predict how the playoffs would play out if everything above happened, though it should be noted my official playoff predictions are the same now as they will be in October, when we know who makes it: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

AL WILD CARD: Angels (H) over Blue Jays
NL WILD CARD: Pirates (H) over Marlins

ALDS: Mariners over Indians, Blue Jays over Orioles
NLDS: Nationals over Pirates, Cardinals over Dodgers

ALCS: Mariners over Blue Jays
NLCS: Nationals over Cardinals

WORLD SERIES: Nationals 4, Mariners 1. Welcome to your first World Series, Seattle! Unfortunately, Washington has a Cy Young candidate as their fifth pitcher (Doug Fister). Seattle doesn’t have the bats for that lineup.

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If Bowe Bergdahl Is Found Guilty Of Desertion, He Should Be Executed

Posted by Chris Bowen on March 26, 2015

bergdahlToday, Bowe Bergdahl’s defence lawyer announced that his client was being charged with desertion and worse.

The saga of former Taliban prisoner Bowe Bergdahl took a new turn Wednesday, with the Pentagon announcing at a press conference charges claiming the U.S. Army sergeant deserted his post intentionally before winding up in the extremists’ hands in Afghanistan.
Bergdahl’s attorney, Gene Fidell, told CBS News his client had been informed of the charges earlier Wednesday.

The two articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that apply are Article 85 – Desertion – and Article 99, Misbehavior before the enemy. The last one is the heavy one:

Any member of the armed forces who before or in the presence of the enemy—
(1) runs away;
(2) shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place, or military property which it is his duty to defend;
(3) through disobedience, neglect, or intentional misconduct endangers the safety of any such command, unit, place, or military property;
(4) casts away his arms or ammunition;
(5) is guilty of cowardly conduct;
(6) quits his place of duty to plunder or pillage;
(7) causes false alarms in any command, unit, or place under control of the armed forces;
(8) willfully fails to do his utmost to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy any enemy troops, combatants, vessels, aircraft, or any other thing, which it is his duty so to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy; or
(9) does not afford all practicable relief and assistance to any troops, combatants, vessels, or aircraft of the armed forces belonging to the United States or their allies when engaged in battle; shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.

Both articles, in a time of war, are punishable by death, with article 99 in particular carrying a life sentence. However, it has been noted that prosecutors will not be seeking the death penalty.

They should. Forgetting the fact that servicemembers died to try to save him, and that we gave up five prisoners to get our one person back, there needs to be a penalty for this kind of cowardice.

One of the things I remember from my time as a junior enlistee was how not-seriously people in my rank took being in the military for the most part. Despite basic training, “A” schooling in many cases and being stationed on the equivalent of a flying city with combat jets and gigantic guns, many people I served with simply didn’t give a crap. One guy I used to serve with ran a barbershop inside the same space that housed machinery that was capable of transporting 130,000 pounds of airplane. Much of this is a consequence of just why people join the military – far more do it due to opportunism or a desire for perks such as college money versus a desire to actually help their country – but the reality is that many people don’t quite seem to fully grasp they’re in the military until shit goes down.

Executing Bowe Bergdahl would have the consequence of reminding anyone considering desertion that we are at war, and with that comes certain responsibilities. Simply put, it would be tactically advantageous to hang this man – a man who, again, caused five of our own prisoners to have to be released and six Americans to die in an unsuccessful rescue mission – for the crime of putting his brothers and sisters in harm’s way. In a crass way, killing Bergdahl – assuming his courts martial shows him guilty on all counts – would directly make the military stronger, as a means of steeling the reserve of other cowards in a direct way: either you can chance it with the enemy, or we can kill you. Your choice.

This sounds cruel to the ear, and even a bit Stalin-like, but to the complainers, I offer a simple “tough shit”. This is the military, and we are at war. We are at war with an enemy that murders by the thousands. Argue about our reasons for being there all you want; I did, when I was in, not being in favour of the Iraq invasion, but I did my job anyway. I had other sailors relying on me.

Furthermore, this isn’t Vietnam. No one is being sent to war against their will1. The United States military is 100% volunteer. We’re not drafting anyone. If that was the case, then I would not be pushing for this. Bowe Bergdahl made a conscious decision to join the Army after we went to war; it’s not anyone else’s fault he had buyer’s remorse.

Of the people that don’t take the American military seriously, a not-insignificant portion of that includes its own sailors, marines and soldiers. After all, we are all shown the UCMJ, and the parts that say that they can kill us if we do certain things, but no one really takes it seriously. It’s about time to show that the military has bite when it comes to our own, too.

1 – I’ll list one exception here: the National Guard. If you’re a National Guardsman who was made to go to Iraq or Afghanistan for what was essentially a lie to benefit a few companies with White House ties, then yes. You have a legitimate right to be pissed.

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Triggered by Triggers

Posted by Chris Bowen on March 25, 2015

In the Sunday edition of the New York Times, Judity Shulevitz pointed out something that’s been an issue within left-leaning groups for awhile: the increasingly onerous push by college students, primarily left-wing liberal arts schools, to demand “safe spaces” where they can be free of offensive language.

KATHERINE BYRON, a senior at Brown University and a member of its Sexual Assault Task Force, considers it her duty to make Brown a safe place for rape victims, free from anything that might prompt memories of trauma.
So when she heard last fall that a student group had organized a debate about campus sexual assault between Jessica Valenti, the founder of, and Wendy McElroy, a libertarian, and that Ms. McElroy was likely to criticize the term “rape culture,” Ms. Byron was alarmed. “Bringing in a speaker like that could serve to invalidate people’s experiences,” she told me. It could be “damaging.”
Ms. Byron and some fellow task force members secured a meeting with administrators. Not long after, Brown’s president, Christina H. Paxson, announced that the university would hold a simultaneous, competing talk to provide “research and facts” about “the role of culture in sexual assault.” Meanwhile, student volunteers put up posters advertising that a “safe space” would be available for anyone who found the debate too upsetting.
The safe space, Ms. Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma. Emma Hall, a junior, rape survivor and “sexual assault peer educator” who helped set up the room and worked in it during the debate, estimates that a couple of dozen people used it. At one point she went to the lecture hall — it was packed — but after a while, she had to return to the safe space. “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

Hold on. Let’s stop right here. A college student at Brown University – an Ivy League school – can’t handle different viewpoints to her “dearly and closely held beliefs”? So she has to go into a room that even a six year old would wrinkle their nose at to “recover”?

Go on…

Two weeks ago, students at Northwestern University marched to protest an article by Laura Kipnis, a professor in the university’s School of Communication. Professor Kipnis had criticized — O.K., ridiculed — what she called the sexual paranoia pervading campus life.
The protesters carried mattresses and demanded that the administration condemn the essay. One student complained that Professor Kipnis was “erasing the very traumatic experience” of victims who spoke out. An organizer of the demonstration said, “we need to be setting aside spaces to talk” about “victim-blaming.” Last Wednesday, Northwestern’s president, Morton O. Schapiro, wrote an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal affirming his commitment to academic freedom. But plenty of others at universities are willing to dignify students’ fears, citing threats to their stability as reasons to cancel debates, disinvite commencement speakers and apologize for so-called mistakes.

BZZZZT. This is where I draw the line.

Forgive me for never having been to college, but the way I understand it, it’s a place to be challenged, to have your “deeply held beliefs” challenged in an environment where having them disavowed will do no real damage. It’s much better to learn you’re wrong about something as a 20 year old kid than a 40 year old adult with a career, after all. But now we’re disinviting speakers based on their controversy? Not even speakers, but friendly speakers, who are generally on the side of those that are having them removed?

This is the liberal equivalent of book burning, which does no one any favours.

All of this reminds me of something Dan Savage, the founder of the “It Gets Better” campaign to help bullied LGBT1 teenagers cope with the awful abuse they get in school, went through when he was literally accused of committing a hate crime:

During this part of the talk a student interrupted and asked me to stop using “the t-slur.” (I guess it’s not the t-word anymore. I missed the memo.) My use of it—even while talking about why I don’t use the word anymore, even while speaking of the queer community’s history of reclaiming hate words, even as I used other hate words—was potentially traumatizing. I stated that I didn’t see a difference between saying “tranny” in this context and saying “t-slur.” Were I to say “t-slur” instead of “tranny,” everyone in the room would auto-translate “t-slur” to “tranny” in their own heads. Was there really much difference between me saying it and me forcing everyone in the room to say it quietly to themselves? That would be patronizing, infantilizing, and condescending. Cox gamely jumped in and offered that she had used “tranny” in the past but that she now recognizes its harm and has stopped using it. The student who objected interrupted: as neither Cox nor I were trans, “tranny” was not our word to use—not even in the context of a college seminar, not even when talking about why we don’t use the word anymore. I asked the student who objected if it was okay for me to use the words “dyke” and “sissy.” After a moment’s thought the student said I could use those words—permission granted—and that struck me a funny because I am not a lesbian nor am I particularly effeminate. (And, really, this is college now? Professors, fellows, and guest lecturers need to clear their vocabulary with first-year students?) By the not-your-word-to-use standard, I shouldn’t be able to use dyke or sissy either—or breeder, for that matter, as that’s a hate term for straight people. (Or maybe it’s an acknowledgment of their utility? Anyway…)
This student became so incensed by our refusal to say “How high?” when this student said “Jump!” that this student stormed out of the seminar. In tears. As one does when one doesn’t get one’s way. In college.

Mind you, Savage – who, it should be stated, seems to be going through his own dilemma regarding “old” vs. “new” liberalism here, much like many of us – didn’t say anything like “that trans asshole” or “trans people are terrible”. He used it as a noun. A neutral descriptor, even after long ago explaining why “trans” is good but “tranny” is very, very bad, basically the transsexual equivalent of “nigger”. Speaking of The N Word™, I’m reminded of an old Carlin bit on this matter that is apropos here:

“They’re only words! It’s the context that counts! It’s the user, it’s the intention behind the words that make them good or bad, the words are completely neutral, the words are innocent. I get tired of people talking about “bad” words, or “bad” language. Bullshit! It’s the context that makes them good or bad! (…) For instance, you take the word nigger, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the word nigger in and of itself, it’s the racist asshole using it that you aught to be concerned about. We don’t mind when Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy say it because we know they’re not racists… they’re niggers!”

Personally, I’m not worried about the idiot on the street corner screaming “nigger!” at every black person. I’m concerned about the person saying how horrible that person is out loud, but secretly clutching his bag a little tighter, patting his wallet down to make sure it’s there, and doing work behind the scenes to make sure “unseemly elements” don’t get into his neighbourhood. The first person is a buffoon, but the second one is the kind who makes sure, when a black person is hanged or choked or shot2, who brings up even the spectre of a criminal history, whether it was five days or five decades prior. They’re the dangerous ones.

This brings me back to what some students are trying to do on campuses, and goes back to the now-old debate about “triggers”. Even mentioning rape, or violence, or anything that happens in the world now seems to elicit screams to put in “trigger warnings”, lest what’s being said irreparably harm the person hearing or reading it. Effectively, it’s a very bad Tumblr thread in real life, but we try, because we’re not terrible people and would really like others to feel comfortable. In fact, I differentiate liberal activism from conservative activism in the sense that liberal activism is based around “we’d like everyone to be happy!” while conservative activism is based around “Fuck you faggot, I got mine!”.

But people screaming about triggers are not being actually triggered in most cases, and if they are, they should be seeking psychiatric help and never reading history, ever. They likely don’t know what a trigger is. I know what a trigger is. When you’re actually triggered, you are viscerally reliving parts of whatever caused you to be damaged in the first place. Your eyesight gets wonky. Your breathing escalates. Your body tenses. In worst cases, it can trigger a person’s fight-or-flight instinct. This can be in response to various types of trauma – rape, war wounds, domestic abuse, anything that causes intense, life-changing pain – but a trigger goes beyond “this makes me uncomfortable”. That’s when someone brings up a tough subject and you start to fidget. A trigger is when you hear, say, Cat Stevens on the radio and if you don’t pull over, turn the radio off and calm down, you will lose control of your car and crash and die.

Unfortunately, what ends up happening is that people equate any view of society that doesn’t equate to their own to be a fatally flawed human being. I’ve been called a “traitor” by liberals, feminists and others I typically see common cause with that I sometimes wonder if they’re more of an “enemy” than conservatives who would just as easily make many minority groups second class citizens if the Constitution allowed them to. This mindset makes enemies of moderates, and actually sets back the cause of equal rights. We cringe at people in the “meninist” movement screaming about “SJWs” as if that was an insult, but things like this give them easy ammunition, and damages the cause of those who have legitimate issues that will never be adequately addressed because the movement spent political currency poorly.

I would advise liberals to remember a hard truth: when it comes to creating social good and – dare I say it – social “justice” – that boxing rules apply: if there’s a draw, the title doesn’t change h ands, and powerful interests who are hell-bent on keeping the status quo – and are buttressed by the apathy of the average person who doesn’t care so long as they get to watch Modern Family at night – currently hold a lot of titles. Enabling an environment that is open to change means making as many friends with as many reasonable people as possible. Calling everyone a racist who is beholden to an unseen patriarchy, and then trying to either ignore or silence well-meaning protests, is not the way to do that.

As for those of you in the safe room? There’s nothing wrong with telling you to grow a spine and grow up. If you are a minority group, many people automatically dislike you. They are fools, yes, but they have to be dealt with. It doesn’t matter when or how, they have to be dealt with or you will never affect change for anyone, including yourself. Despite what a few Tumblr blogs made by a 15 year old say, you are not special and you deserve nothing. Either learn to stand up for yourself or you will never accomplish anything. That includes listening to people who might offend.

And if you are actually “triggered”, do what I did: learn to cope with it. Life is much tougher than that.

1 – I know the acronym has been updated… what is it now? LGBTQR… STLN And A Vowel? At some point, “inclusion” has to involve people who are willing to meet somewhere near the middle in order to be included.

2 – Make sure to read this link of what George Zimmerman has to say about his murder of Trayvon Martin. Holy shit! This man hasn’t been committed yet?

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Posted by Chris Bowen on December 7, 2014

When someone asks me what a concussion’s after effects feel like, I ask them if they’ve ever seen a cartoon character get stuck inside a bell that another character hits with a hammer. If yes, that’s life with concussion symptoms.

Take that, mix in uncertainty and depression, and welcome to the last months of my life. It’s OK, though. I’ve been down this road so many times that I know all the curves.

I wish I’d have just gotten hit in the face.

Over the past three weeks, I’ve had two shots to the head that could be considered concussions. The first wasn’t even that hard; a mid-tier U14 player – at a level where most of the players will be lucky to get a regular shift in a decent high school league before they go play men’s league – a kid carried his stick high and clunked me in the head. It shouldn’t have hurt me because I didn’t get hit that hard – though my friend figures that might just come from my adrenaline kicking in, “crazy motherfucker that (I) am”1 – but it did, and I spent most of the following week groggy and dizzy, the telltale signs of a concussion. I ended up dropping all of my games that weekend, which I despise doing, pissing off one of my assignors in the process.

The next weekend, I had a 1PM game at one rink close to my home, then a 9PM in New Jersey, over two hours from that first game. The first game was smooth and easy, and yet I still didn’t feel right afterwards; my head hurt, I was having trouble focusing, and I wasn’t confident. I still made the two hour plus drive to New Jersey to work a college game with my assignor. During the game, on a face-off, one player – a shit head on a team loaded with shit heads – got spun around, and swung his stick, hitting me in the visor hard. “Why did he do this”, I’ve been asked since, and the best answer I can give is “why not?”. This isn’t the type of player who respects anyone enough to not swing his stick violently in an attempt to keep his balance, so if someone mentioned that he hit me in the face, he’d probably say I got hit because I was fat or something equally noxious.

It should be noted that just about everywhere now, referees and linesmen are required to wear visors. USA Hockey made the practice mandatory last season, and before that, I worked for college assignors who mandated it, mainly out of a desire to not be sued, but the first one to force it that I know of, Paul Stewart, has a supervisor on his staff, Pat Dapuzzo, who was cut by a skate blade, which ended his career. Dapuzzo swears he’d have been alright had he been wearing a visor.

I, on the other hand, swear I would have been better had I not. The stick went into my visor, and rocked my head hard. Unfortunately, that meant that the vibration of the helmet hurt me even worse; my ears rang for the rest of the game, and for days afterwards. Had I not been wearing the visor, I probably would have – at a minimum – had my nose broken, but I wouldn’t have had the rocking or shaking that the visor caused. Picture boxing with gloves; there’s a mistaken belief that the gloves protect the fighter from the blunt trauma of a fist, but in reality, that large pillow makes brain injuries worse, with the side effect being that the glove’s protection of the hand – which would likely be broken in an old bare-knuckle scrap as a wayward punch would hit bone instead of a nose – makes punching to the head more palatable. When people argue that the advancements in equipment actually hurt players because it makes them feel invincible, it’s the reality of my getting hit that they fear.

I finished the game, which ended in a tie with overtime. Of course I did. After that, I pulled my assignor aside and told him I was turning everything back. I was done for the year. I knew what was coming.

It’s strange that I can remember the last game I worked – before and after getting hit in the face with a wild stick – but don’t remember much after that. I don’t remember much about the drive home from New Jersey to my office in Norwalk, which I had decided to sleep in before the game because I figured it would be easier to just get into the office and relax before work the next day at 8 than to go home, go to sleep for three hours, and then get up at 6 to fight traffic. I don’t remember much about that work day except the fact that I was really, really hyper. Beyond that, everything from that week is a blur. I know I went home Wednesday because – as I would find out later – I was wholly useless, and actively snapping at coworkers. Overall, I missed three and a half work days due to my concussion, and beyond this week, I don’t remember much of any of it.

There are other things, some overt and some blindingly obvious. My short term memory is completely shot. I can’t remember conversations I had a few hours ago in some cases, and other times, the day prior or the day prior to that. I remember getting actually hit in the head with a hockey stick, but I couldn’t tell my boss what I was asked to do earlier in the day. Also, my night vision has been bad, once getting to the point where I drove over a curb. There are other issues – I get odd sensations of vertigo that come and go – but those are the big ones.

Of course, those are also just the physical issues. Vertigo and other ways of adjusting are not altogether difficult so long as one isn’t incapacitated. The mental issues are even worse. Being unable to do what I want to do is depressing enough, but then one adds in having depression as it is, and the cocktail becomes a real issue. I’ve been going through a roller coaster of emotions, most of which are that I’m broken, and useless, and not tough enough, which extrapolates to being a bad human being. It’s taken a lot of support from the people close to me to get through this one, and I hate leaning on support.

Since I ran my car off the road, I’ve been to the Veterans’ Affairs hospital and am being seen by the Traumatic Brain Injury guys. This is actually the worst part of everything: the waiting period to determine how jacked up I really am. Years of baseball, hockey, boxing, rugby, falling off of aircraft carriers – oh yeah, I fell 30ft. off of a fucking aircraft carrier and landed on another boat2 – and just living a dangerous lifestyle have finally caught up with me. I’m thirty-four years old and have had more than ten concussions at a bare minimum. If every concussion makes subsequent ones that much easier, at this point, I’m going to get knocked silly by a firm kiss.

I’m now forced to go through a battery of tests, pictures and who knows what just to see where I’m at. That wait is going to be awful. College is a wash, but will I be ready to go in time for the playoffs? Will I be ready to go for next season? Am I done, unless I decide to risk my future well being? Who knows! If I could have an answer on this, I’d be able to begin the process of moving on without hockey. That’s a luxury I don’t have for months.

Until then, I celebrate the small achievements. I celebrate that a few days ago, I got through a very minor workout – fifteen minutes on the bike, fifteen minutes on the weights – without falling over from being dizzy. I celebrate being able to drive at night again. I celebrate the vertigo, the dizzy spells, and the headaches not being quite as bad as they were weeks ago. Division 1 hockey? Right now, I’ll settle for running a mile and a half.

Hopefully, I’ll never have to celebrate these pitiful, minor victories again. Until then, I’ll settle for celebrating twenty-four hours without needing Excedrin.

1 – My first fear in writing about this is that I’ll be perceived as soft, particularly among peers in the hockey community. But this is a good time to mention that the man calling me a “crazy motherfucker” has seen me literally skate a shift with a nosebleed with a towel held to my nose, saw me finish a game despite literally not knowing where I was on multiple occasions, and remembers the years of my youth when I dove into fights – both as a peacekeeper and a participant – head first. When he calls me a “crazy motherfucker”, it’s because I’ve demonstrated proof of that throughout twenty years of his knowing me.

2 – If you’re saying “you obviously weren’t stupid enough to go back to work the very next day against doctor’s orders, were you?”, you didn’t know me when I was twenty.

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Hope And Change in Derby

Posted by Chris Bowen on November 12, 2013

Last Tuesday, Derby experienced what could only be called an upset: Anita Dugatto challenged a strong, incumbent mayor in Anthony Staffieri, and won. It wasn’t the only upset of the night – Ansonia put David Casetti in over James Della Volpe – but Derby’s election wasn’t just a repudiation on the mayor; it was a Democratic blowout. As of this moment, pending a few recounts1, Democrats comfortably hold the Board of Aldermen (7–2), Board of Education (6-3; all six Dems that ran, won), and Board of Appropriations and Taxation (6-4; all six Dems won again). Laura Wabno was also taken out by former mayor Marc Garofalo. Republican-endorsed Keith McLiverty held onto his Treasurer position, but only by 32 votes.

In short, it was a slaughter.

Normally, I would have a high amount of trepidation about 100% single party rule, and in some areas, I do. But for a few reasons, I actually feel good about the political situation in Derby for the first time since I moved there in 2008. A large reason for that is due to the calming effect Anita Dugatto’s campaign has had.

It should be noted just how small and unassuming Anita when you see her for the first time. I have a vague recollection of her from her time on the BoAT, and she was not someone people notice at first. Meeting her face to face for the first time at Democratic headquarters after it became clear that she had beaten Staffieri, I towered over her, at 5’9″.

And yet, she recognized me, someone she had never met, immediately. She asked if I was indeed Chris, and when I confirmed I was, she held my arm up and yelled “Chris Bowen is here!”. It was a bit mortifying, but it reflected the attention that Anita pays to everything in the City, something I remember from her time as a very inquisitive member of the BoAT. She would ask intelligent, probing questions, and develop a solution from there. Beneath that unassuming appearance lies a sharp, inquisitive intellect that takes in all details.

She also possesses mounds of charm. She visited my mother during her rounds when she was working to gain notice for the Mayorship, and my mother couldn’t stop raving about her, causing occasional consternation. At the time, I was still highly skeptical of a woman who had some weird views on local property rights, a sore subject with us trying to revitalize downtown. Since then, I have been able to look past this honest disagreement on the role of government in local property rights.

Derby has long been run, not just by men, but Men, Men with big egos and bigger mouths, who have fought with each other for decades, waging proxy wars on behalf of their friends and families. Police commissioners have been fired because of spats between the principal parties’ children regarding businesses. A mayor ran for, and won, an election largely because of a personal insult. At a time when economic stimulus is needed, the only stimulant we’ve received is testosterone. In plain English, the Men have fucked things up royally, engaging in their own pissing contest for their own personal gain, and Derby’s citizens don’t have a big enough umbrella to keep from getting wet.

Anita doesn’t impress me because of her genitalia. She impresses me because I believe she’s going to make an honest effort to undo of the damage that the past two administrations – at least – have caused with their interpersonal bickering. 2

Before I go any further in talking about how I expect the next two years to go better than the last four or so, allow me to say some words in defence of Anthony Staffieri.

I like Tony. He’s a good man. And I don’t think his actions that I disagreed with were the result of some kind of political conspiracy; simply put, I don’t think he’s savvy enough to be that cynical. Some of his people are – Joseph Coppola comes to mind, but that’s also his job – Tony is the kind of person who, if you say something he doesn’t like, will go right to your face and tell you to go fuck yourself.

Unlike a lot of people, I like that. One of the reasons I voted for him in 2011 was that he ran an up-front campaign. A little loose with the facts, but I’ve started to view that as status quo in running for a political office; it’s simply my job as a voter and commentator to separate the fact from the BS. It was far better than that which Democrats ran, which involved banning citizens from their Facebook page for asking questions and then denying it, outright lying about things in the Mayor’s record, and in the end, having a sockpuppet account attack a man who was known to be a Staffieri supporter by bringing up a years-old road rage allegation. Tony campaigned like he governed: in your face, here’s my position, and to hell with those that don’t like it. I’m fine with that; it makes me a lot more comfortable to deal with someone coming at me from the front, than someone sneaking in from behind.

The last two years, I must admit, have been a dumpster fire. He did favours for political allies like Joseph Bomba. He vetoed an alderman’s vote to have an investigation done into the Katherine Kulhawik case3. Downtown went nowhere, again. Under no circumstances should Anthony Staffieri have been reelected.

A lot of the reason for the decline in performance, I believe, was that when you’re in a position of power, that means being attacked – for reasons large and small – by people who want to take that power from you and give it to themselves. Fending off those people takes energy, which is in finite supply. Eventually, the effort to ward off political attacks becomes so great that it takes away from the things a politician sets out to do in the first place. It’s a rare politician who can govern while not letting such complaints hamper him one iota – love him or hate him, Shelton’s Mark Lauretti is definitely in this category – and eventually, I think Tony just wore down. He became so preoccupied with protecting his turf from outsiders that he didn’t notice that parts of it were on fire.

I was personally done with Anthony Staffieri as my mayor, but I have no problem with him as a person. Here’s hoping he finds some time to relax now that his time in office is over.

From the standpoint of what I feel needs to be done to Derby, the election could not have gone any better. As I’ve stated in the past, my economic beliefs tend to be Keynesian in nature, so with a depressed local economy, investment is the answer. I’ve been particularly interested in buttressing what is known to be one of the lowest performing school systems in the state of Connecticut with more than just token money that doesn’t stave off cuts. Beyond that, the most damaging thing to happen to Derby politics has been the politicians, or more specifically, the pervasive party politics that have hampered even small moves, with everyone angling to get ahead and screw the other side. What better way to end a two party stand-off than making one of those parties completely irrelevant?

However, single-party rule – and that’s what we have, since the Board of Aldermen now has a supermajority – only works for a little bit of time before problems prop up. This is regardless of political affiliation, as both excessive deregulation and complete ignorance of female and minority rights in the South, and the insidious influence of workers unions and corruption in the Northeast and large cities have made clear. In some places, that majority can’t be broken; the South will always be a GOP because they believe Jesus is a Republican, and big cities will always be Democratic strongholds simply because

I do believe that Dr. Anita is not only sincere about reaching out, but has proven in the past that she will do it. However, also consider what I wrote about the person she is replacing just one section up. She will be attacked by people who want her power, by people bitter about this past election, and by people who just don’t like Democrats because something something socialism. And though it was voter disdain for Staffieri’s leadership that put her into office, the first tax increase of any kind will be met with stiff opposition, particularly on the east end of the city. Staffieri’s reaction to opposition was to bully his way through it; in short, he could be a raging dick. Anita strikes me as more of a thinker, but that will only get her so far in the face of dedicated opposition and opportunism. Will she be able to weather those first few storms? Can she become a hard-nosed bitch when that’s warranted?

All of that is down the road. There’s still transitional work to be done, new boards to swear in, and time for Dr. Anita, who owns her business virtually next door to Staffieri’s old restaurant, to get comfortable in her chair before her political opponents start to put fire under it. Derby voters, including myself, gave her and her team a mandate to do what is necessary, knowing the cost in increased taxes, to make Derby right again. Here’s hoping they have the wherewithal to pull it off, and the discipline to not go to the other extreme.

1 – As of right now, one Democratic alderman has a two vote advantage over a Republican rival. If that holds, the advantage will be 7-2 Democrats

2 – It’s a lot of this that kept me from voting for Ron Sill as my Ward’s alderman. I like Ron, I think he’s a good guy, but being the longest serving alderman in Derby history is not something I’d put in the win column at this point.

3 – It should be noted that the Aldermen eventually saw the report in private, and voted 7-1 to withhold the report from the public. This vote was simply inexcusable on all counts, and credit to Art Gerckens for being the lone dissenting vote.

EDIT: In an earlier version of this article, I incorrectly stated that the count that the Valley Indy had was not accurate. At the time I wrote it – almost a week ago – the state’s numbers weren’t out yet, which is what the site ended up using. I apologize for the error.

Posted in Local Politics | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Richie Incognito And The Male Disease

Posted by Chris Bowen on November 11, 2013

incognitoI forget the guy’s name, but I’ll never forget the time my home town of Seymour effectively beat a kid to Florida.

The Seymour High School football team1, in my freshman year of 19952, got in a lot of trouble because the parent of one kid reported the hazing that her son – someone I knew, but wasn’t very good friends with – went through and wanted answers. What kind of hazing? How about softball-sized welts on his back from being whipped, while tied up, by weightlifting belts that reportedly were made wet to make them hurt more. Basically, imagine being hit by the leather part of a championship wrestling belt after it’s been sitting in water for an hour and you have an idea. That’s the kind of thing a plantation owner would do to a belligerent slave.

However, this woman and her family made one key mistake: they didn’t get anyone else on board. Other people who took that barbaric abuse didn’t back him up, and other players, upper classmen, called him out. Things only got worse from there, as the entire school, and eventually the entire town of Seymour turned against him and his family. I don’t remember specifics, but he got abused far more, and far worse, as time went on. Eventually, the family moved to Florida, and though I don’t know them personally, it’s patently obvious that they moved because their son was being abused to the point of cruelty, not just by the jocks who turned on him, but by a town that abandoned the snitch, the heretic, and the one who could have hurt the season of a team two years off a conference championship. I mean, God Damnit, we have to beat Torrington! We have to beat Torrington!!!

When I think of the barbarity of what Richie Incognito is guilty of, I think back to that 15 year old kid who was abandoned by adults because he was deemed soft by the kangaroo court of a small town who takes its football way too seriously.

”This is the male disease. It’s called, being full of shit!”
– George Carlin, When Will Jesus Bring The Pork Chops

The saddest part of the Richie Incognito abuse of Jonathan Martin isn’t that it pissed off a bunch of small town yokels who aren’t even blue collar enough to be called “hicks” and brought on predictably spastic responses. It’s actually been the response of people who report on, and are involved with, professional sports for their profession. Grown men who can no longer ignore the increasing cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy – C.T.E., or the degenerative brain condition that effectively killed everyone from Dave Duerson (NFL) to Bob Probert (NHL) – and the pain and despair players have after their playing days due to their inability to cope with post-athletic life, and who know these players directly, talk to them, are in the locker rooms, and have celebrated a game that slowly and depressingly has killed its athletes for decades to the point where the NFL had to give a bunch of them a lot of blood money to make them go away. Some guy named J.R. Gamble made a point that the NFL “doesn’t need anymore bad publicity” while calling Martin “soft”. In fact, Martin’s “softness” is at the crux of the whole reaction. Miami’s locker room has picked a side, and it was entirely behind the man who called his teammate a “half nigger piece of shit”. Laughably, players are even saying that the white Incognito is more black than the half-black Martin – that’s a whole other issue about just what “black” is, onto itself – because of his perceived sensativity, Stanford education, and his upper middle class upbringing. It brings back memories of old Chris Rock skits.

Some former players – with Mike Golic leading the charge – have said that instead of leaving the team and telling people about the voice messages and the payments for lunches, Martin should have just punched Incognito in the mouth. Because that’s what I want in my locker room, the threat of serious injury from two men over 300 lbs. having a fistfight because one threatened to harm the other’s mother. Honestly, the whole practice is a little barbaric, especially when it’s coming from Miami’s General Manager, Jeff Ireland, the same person who once asked Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. The implication is simple: if you, as a paid professional athlete, are not willing to punch another athlete to write some banal wrong, then you’re worthless, or “soft”. And here I thought we had evolved past being apes.

The poor fuck. The poor, stupid fuck.

Another sad commentary: I’m just as guilty as Richie Incognito. Maybe not to his degree, but I am far from being a pure advocate for a healthy work environment.

Really, it started in the military, or as I know it, the first time since 5th grade that I started to lose fist fights. “Clear the shop” was the universal sign that it was going to go down, and everyone would dutifully leave the room, mainly so there would be no witnesses. There were a LOT of fights, usually over something ridiculously petty; I can’t even remember the cause of most do my fights.

But when I think back, I remember how skeptically I would view people – even people in my work centre – who threatened that barbaric method of conflict resolution, because damnit, this system works for us! No one else gets what we go through, or how we do things! We address disagreements by bashing who we disagree with, because that’s how it’s done here, and if you don’t believe in that, you’re probably a sissy, or a fag! And those are bad, because they always have been!

Kind of sounds like “The Code” you hear all of these meathead players and jock sniffing writers refer to, doesn’t it?

Even now, thinking back, I can’t imagine my workcentre having the “kinder, gentler” rules that society would normally dictate on us. The same people who reversed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, fought against the cover-up attempts regarding Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman, and who fought for justice regarding Abu Ghraib – all great things – I would view with outright revulsion and disdain were they to do that in my work environment in the Navy, despite the knowledge that that work environment has made my civilian adjustment that much harder. I routinely get myself into hot water because I handle civilian situations – in all of my various careers – the way I would in the military short of punching someone, and yet, I still would not change a thing from my early 20s. I would not change handling situations, and being handled, in a very bad way that human beings do not act like, because I look back later and say it worked, somehow.

In short: I advocate the very practice that I am now condemning.

The poor fuck. The poor, stupid fuck.

What else is notable about what I just stated about my Neanderthalic work environment, bred from a notable athletic career and carried through in the “service” of my country, is that it doesn’t work. I say that I would resist efforts to change it, but that’s only because it’s what I know; my own environment is viewed with 20/20 vision through rose-tinted glasses, but empirical evidence suggests that I am completely and totally wrong. My own career in leadership suggests that I’m wrong; the times I have handled situations with a deft, sensitive touch – or, dare I say it, a civilian touch – it has largely turned out well. Any time I have forgotten that I left the military ten years ago, and competitive locker rooms before my service time, it’s usually led to problems. I’ve also never hazed anyone in my life. Here’s how I’ve handled newcomers, in my work career and my hockey career, especially as a referee supervisor: I’ve shook their hands, welcomed them in, and made them feel comfortable, because we all have a common job. Simply put, I don’t have time to put Icy Hot on someone’s balls; we have real work to do.

That’s why I don’t take seriously the dinosaurs and star-struck writers who talk about How Things Are Done In The National Football League. These people, simply put, don’t know any better, and even if they did at one point, their minds have been made mush by a sport that routinely sends its players to the morgue early, if they’re lucky; ask the family of Kasandra Perkins about that. I’m happy that Mike Golic and his brothers have made a very good living off of football, sending their children to very good colleges while still being lucid into their 50s, but Mike Golic has sounded like the worst kind of ex-athlete this past week: like one who doesn’t know when to let go, and lets the past grip everything about him. What worked for him in the 80s works now, because fuck evolution. Oh, another ex-player committed suicide, how sad. Now, how will Pittsburgh’s line hold up against the San Francisco pass rush!?

I’m not seeing a whole lot of deep thinking about this, or at least some self-awareness, and that’s distressing, because here’s what I really think: the people who can’t even look past the fact that Richie Incognito Was Just Toughening That Stanford Educated Pussy Up, and Jonathan Martin Is a Crybaby And A Coward Who Violated The Code, are cowards. Weak willed, weak minded followers who would do anything to be accepted by men they deemed stronger than they were at the time, and demand that same acquiescence from those behind them. In a way, these men are just jock sniffers themselves, too battered by a system they’re afraid of throwing them overboard to question anything happening around them, desperate for validation; validation from their fathers, validation from their coaches, from their teammates, and from the crowds at their games. So long as the music doesn’t stop, they smile their empty grins, and keep bashing people, friend and foe alike.

Now, please tell me again that Jonathan Martin is the coward here.

The poor fucks.

The poor, stupid fucks.

1 – It should be noted that Seymour has fallen on hard times, mainly because apparently, all of their good players were from Oxford, who eventually got their own high school.

2 – If my antipathy towards Seymour High athletics sounds like it comes from someone who went to another school and made his athletic bones outside of high school, you’re right; I went to Emmett O’Brien. And petty high school squabbles are so CUTE! Have fun arguing over Seymour v. Naugatuck, guys. I’ll be doing playoff college hockey in March.

Posted in Sports | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Telegraph Road, Derby CT

Posted by Chris Bowen on November 1, 2013

Spot of the former Derby Billiards

Spot of the former Derby Billiards

The elections are coming back to Derby, as they do every two years. Two years is an infinitesimal amount of time in politics, so it’s easy to become weary at the kabuki theatre we’re subjected to every other year. This side did this, and because they’re fundamentally bad people, be sure to vote for my side on election day. It’s honestly wearying – I’m shocked at how jaded I am to my local political scene, considering I’ve lived in Derby for five years now – but despite what makes sense to anyone, the people who can seemingly do nothing but bicker and make excuses are still in charge of my city. In Derby, stasis is the order of the day, as many of the people on the ballot have been on the ballot, or in power, for a very long time, bickering and arguing and fighting the same battles over and over, many of those battles dating back to their high school days.

When you have so many other distractions that don’t involve getting into, and staying in, a political office, it’s easy to lose track of things. It’s much easier to demonize your opponents and say they’re why everything’s jacked up, and you’ll fix it, than it is to actually fix it. Sometimes, people just need a reminder.

Derby political candidates, consider yourselves reminded.

The Ghosts of Yesteryear

For a brief time in my youth, I lived at 185 Main Street in Derby. It was a second floor apartment above what used to be Club Soda, a low-rent bar. It wasn’t the greatest place to live, but it was home, before I moved to Seymour. Today, that building is largely empty; I’ve heard a rumor that there’s an office on the second floor where we lived, but as far as I know, everything’s empty, including Mario’s Cafe, which seems to have been out of business for years.

Of course, when I was living there in the 80s, there were businesses all up and down the road. They weren’t exactly top-flight retail – the kind of retail we know of now just didn’t exist back then – but they were the kind of small businesses one could expect in a factory town. Next door was a small pizza place, farther down were the usual package and other smaller stores, and Derby Billiards, where I would often be taken to play video games. Just off Main Street was a little grocer called Valero’s. I don’t remember many of the specifics, but could point out areas that I knew about if shown in pictures. The stalwart was Hubbell Brothers shoes, just before the curve that takes drivers to the four-way intersection.

Housatonic Lumber.

Housatonic Lumber.

Main Street is now unrecognizable, and not because the businesses have changed. They have changed, in that they’ve largely disappeared. My old building is empty, and while the pizza place to my left is now a dance studio, to my right looks like a disaster area. Milardo’s, a place that handled floor coverings, is long gone. Across the street, another business that handled home decor is gone, and has become the headquarters for Derby Republicans trying to reelect Mayor Anthony Staffieri to his fifth term. Most telling is that the buildings that used to house Derby Billiards and Hubbell Brothers don’t even exist anymore; they were condemned and taken down as the first step in Derby’s downtown revitalization project, which is now a bipartisan laughing stock. Derby Billiards lives on in spirit next to Nuts ‘n Bolts in the form of Breaktime at Jak’s, which is every bit as shady as the old place was; Hubbell Brothers, after trying things out in the old Valley Bowl parking lot, finally closed down for good in 2010. Looking to the left, one could be forgiven for thinking they walked into downtown Detroit for a minute. A package store is still open, but barely; on it, rests a sign talking about a future auction of the building. Next to it are dead business after dead business, some of which I can’t place without relying on old Google Maps images. Just before getting on Rt. 8 lie the corpses of both Rio Grande and Lifetouch, the latter of which was used as the campaign headquarters for Derby Republicans in 2009.

There’s a poetic statement to be made there: political head butting caused a lot of this mess, so why not have politicians lie in the mess they created?

None of this takes into account the businesses that aren’t on just this stretch of road – Housatonic Lumber is a statement in and of itself on just what Derby used to be and what it isn’t now – and are off of the side roads, or past Main St. and onto Roosevelt, like Derby Cellular. It also doesn’t take into account the businesses that have died but been replaced by others, such as 500 Degrees, and the never-ending turnover in the restaurant space next to the Nutty Company. The fact is that this stretch of road is indicative of the problems that have hit both Derby, and the Valley in general.

Mario's Cafe. Before, this was known as Club Soda.

Mario’s Cafe. Before, this was known as Club Soda.

A Tailor-Made Financial Crisis

The financial recession of 2008 affected the whole country, from Wall Street to the proverbial “main street” that politicians refer to when they want to reference so-called middle America. It’s easy to blame what happened in ’08 for the problems that are befalling this area, but that’s missing a large part of the story. What we’re going through has been a long time coming; the financial crisis just brought it to a head faster.

The history of the Lower Naugatuck Valley is one of factories, and the blue collar workers that worked them. During America’s period of industrialization, the Valley was one of the most prosperous areas of Connecticut as factories sprung up around the Housatonic River to manufacture heavy metals. As that industry declined, the fortunes of this area reflected the new reality, but the area was still home to enough blue collar jobs to make living in the area worthwhile.

Since the time of my youth, however, a few things have changed.

– Factory work in the Untied States in general has plummeted. This is due to a few factors, including: automation of many routine tasks, outsourcing of work to third world countries, and decreased demand for American made goods.
– Connecticut’s economics have shifted. The state’s tax burden is among the highest in the country, and while that has shifted the state’s work force into being more white-collar, that’s only good news for Fairfield County and Hartford; it’s very bad news for a very blue-collar, conservative area with no technological footprint to speak of.
– The economic collapse and resulting recession of 2008 wrecked harder havoc on the Valley than most other areas because many of those aforementioned blue collar jobs got slashed all at once, causing drastic ripple effects on the communities.

Miliardos. I don't even remember who the other company was.

Miliardos. I don’t even remember who the other company was.

Derby, and by extension other Valley towns, have been fighting the effects of a shifting workplace – where factory jobs have been gradually replaced to shift with the changing manufacturing and workplace landscape – for a long time, decades, but the financial system crashing upon itself accelerated the decline. Nowadays, Derby, as well as the majority of the Valley, has become a bedroom community; a place for commuters working in Norwalk1, Stamford, and New York City to plop their heads and take their kids to soccer practice before going south or north (to Hartford), where the real action is. My girlfriend is probably the best example of what the Valley has become: she lives in Beacon Falls, in an apartment complex that was converted from an old factory, and works on the Norwalk/Darien border in marketing. This is no fault of her’s, and if you were to ask her it’s not even a “fault”; I’d argue it’s merely circumstance.

Seemingly, the only jobs left in Derby are those in hospitality. Restaurants are plentiful, as are jobs in retail, the latter of which are particularly plentiful on the Orange line, but as Derby Democratic mayoral candidate Dr. Anita Dugatto notes, those aren’t careers; those are transient jobs. Anyone trying to make a living off of the vast majority of the jobs in Derby who doesn’t own their own business is struggling, mightily.

What makes the above that much worse is that at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be much hope of that getting better.

Flesh Wounds vs. Crippling Disease

Naturally, with the election less than a week away, the obvious question is: how does someone fix this mess? How does someone not only fix the figurative war zone that is Main Street, or even worse, the (sometimes) actual war zone that is the areas around Olivia and Elizabeth Streets?

The easy answer is the political process. The Democrats will do this thing that the Republicans didn’t do, but the Republicans do that thing better, and whatever side I don’t like, they are fundamentally evil people, whereas I and my people on this side are God’s gift to politics, and in this election–

STOP. It’s not about this election. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. Here’s a dirty secret: the 2013 will not fix what is ailing downtown Derby. The problems in Derby are much deeper than any one election can fix.

To me, the problem breaks down easily into three major points:

This tile business is now the home of Anthony Staffieri's reelection effort.

This tile business is now the home of Anthony Staffieri’s reelection effort.

An Inbred Political Environment That Rewards Certain Connections – Everyone who works with, or close to, City Hall seems to be a friend, ally or husband/wife of someone else in power in Derby. This results in more questions than answers when it comes to former Republican aldermen being given jobs, directly on the Mayor’s order, among other issues. So and so’s wife has this job. Such and such’s friend holds another job. Even if situations like these lead to no problems, the optics are problematic.

Even beyond that, there’s a dynastic approach to local politics. Ron Sill’s wife worked at City Hall until her recent retirement. Three members of the Szewczyk family are running for various positions. Three incumbent politicians work in City Hall as their day job. Marc Garofalo’s rearing his head around again. It’s the same people, or the same peoples’ friends, and it’s getting ridiculous, especially when so many problems are affecting the City and many of these people were at the helm as things started to turn.

Broken Trust Between City Hall and Derby Citizens

The case of former tax office employee Katherine Kulhawik showed the complete and total lack of transparency in City Hall, and the resulting lack of respect voters feel they’re getting. Tax scandals are nothing new to the Valley – ask Oxford and Shelton – but whereas both Shelton and Oxford were very aggressive in taking care of their internal strife, Derby attempted to sweep everything under the rug, culminating in the Mayor vetoing a party-line request by Derby aldermen to investigate just what happened, and everything else has been handled in an executive session where minutes aren’t recorded. The implication is clear, and occasionally has been stated: if news got out how bad the damage was, residents would be very upset. Frankly, residents should be even more upset now.

The trust issue isn’t limited to Republicans. When transitioning to the Staffieri administration after former mayor Mark Garofalo was voted out of office, the latter’s administration decided to do a full shread – delete everything to the point where forensic software couldn’t recover it – of all hard drives within City Hall. In a hostile relationship that has embarrassed Derby, it was just one of many “fuck you”s between the two.

Derby voters have virtually no reason to trust anyone that they elect to office, and they are consistently given new reasons why.

A Tale of Two Derbys – I got a good earful of something at a recent meeting at Bradley School to determine the temperature for redistricting. Simply put: Derby is completely divided.

At the Bradley School meeting, the cafeteria was standing room only as parents came in to 100% slam the proposal. Good intentions on the part of Superintendent Conway were reacted to with something that was one step below a lynch mob, with many parents concerned that the Irving kids being in the same school as their children would negatively impact their own kids, as well as bring down their property values. The implication was clear: keep those poor people on the west end of town away from us.

Unfortunately, the impression that there are two Derbys was also in effect at the Irving meeting, where it was brought up by parents on both sides, with one Bradley family even noting they were intimidated to come out to Irving, and others from Irving saying the same thing about Bradley. They felt unwelcome.

The two schools are separated by five miles.

We cannot figure out what’s wrong with Derby and how to fix it until these key issues are rectified. Who’s in City Hall is irrelevant. The downtown development will forever be a fantasy. Main Street will continue to look like a shanty town. Everything that residents currently argue about is a distraction; the real issues are deep, and one two-year term before another election will barely scratch that surface.

Rio Grande Restaurant & Bar.

Rio Grande Restaurant & Bar.

Six Lanes of Traffic… Three Lanes Moving Slow

The residents that one sees when they walk on Main Street are the kind that have always lived and worked there. The immigrants who run the convenience store are every bit as hard of workers as the second generation resident who worked at Housatonic Lumber after graduating from high school. The demographics have changed, and the jobs have changed, but the makeup and character of the residents and workers hasn’t.

The major things that have changed is the condition of the remaining buildings. The population is starting to show the effects of the changes. Derby High School graduated just over 60 people in 2013; to put that in perspective, I graduated Emmett O’Brien Tech in 1999 – always smaller than the main high schools – and my class graduated 98. The population is getting progressively older, and the kids are leaving, either before high school or just after it. The thirty somethings – my age bracket – aren’t coming in, either; the ones who grew up in Derby that I know couldn’t be happier that they left, and the ones who have children in elementary school are avoiding one of the lowest scoring school systems in the state of Connecticut like the plague.

Those are the conditions of a ghost town. When the young can’t wait to get out, and the old can’t stay alive, there’s no one left.

Until those trends are reversed, and until the underlying causes for the symptoms are addressed properly, people will continue to flee. Conditions will continue to get worse. Poverty will continue to increase. And there will continue to be more boarded up windows than window shoppers on the modern Telegraph Road.

1 – Despite my extreme distaste for my city being nothing more than a glorified hotel, I’ve become guilty of perpetuating it too; I work in Norwalk.

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