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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 4/9/21

Good morning, THE GEORGE FLOYD MURDER TRIAL I’ve taken to this nomenclature because I am repulsed with the idea that this is constantly referred to as the “Derek Chauvin Trial.” Why do we give his name this constant recognition? I think we have heard just about enough about the animal who killed Mr. Floyd. Is there any sentient American who, after seeing the films and hearing the testimony realistically can consider that this man wasn’t murdered in cold blood, abetted by his colleagues, in front of a group of onlookers yelling for them to stop and help? BALANCING RIGHTS I have been struggling to understand arguments against many reasonable proposals that are shot down by seemingly unreasonable arguments. I think we need to stop thinking about policy matters as “either/or” and instead think about them as “better/worse.” In legal analysis and public debate, there is a concept of balancing risks. A classic debate topic is whether nuclear energy should be substituted for coal-burning power plants. In the first case, the magnitude of the potential cost in human lives is high (in the tens of thousands from a single incident), while the odds of such an incident occurring are very low. In the latter case, the odds of a known amount of people dying each year are high (and verifiable), but the number of people killed in any particular year is relatively low. So the question is whether one picks the risk of nuclear event, which might never occur, over the continuing deaths from air pollution and environmental damage resulting from coal. The story with gun control fits within this construct. A common defense of unfettered gun ownership is that a person may break into a specific person’s home (the odds are low) and that the person is armed, unflustered, and a good shot in the dark (again, low), and the burglar will be immobilized or killed. Similarly, there is a chance that there will need to be a civilian militia to stand against the American government, should it slide into despotism or totalitarianism (also low odds). Add to that that with all the AK-47s and rocket launchers civilians may accumulate, they still are unlikely to approach the firepower of the U.S. military. But anyway… Every week we hear about a continuing parade (which seems to be escalating) of mass murders. The weapons are easy to obtain, often without background checks, typically with minimal or non-existent waiting periods, often with weapons of a variety that cannot be defended as appropriate for home protection or hunting, and without licensing and requirements to prove firearms proficiency and care. The odds of these killings continuing are high. We have the data. It’s happening all the time, without signs of abatement. So to use the “balancing” methodology, should we encourage the further arming of citizens, most uneducated in the use and safety of weapons, stockpiling more and more, in anticipation of the need to rise up against the central U.S. government if need be, or should we attempt to responsibly curtail the sale of guns and ammunition? Should we require firearm safety tests? You know, like we require driving tests? And as discussed previously, what about the public carrying of guns? Let’s measure the risks. On the one hand, having a gun handily strapped around one’s waist certainly prepares that person for the extraordinarily unlikely event that a similarly armed person might cause harm. The risk, however, of that person using that gun in anger or using it as a means of intimidation to quell free speech, free assembly or voting rights is far greater. Every death by gun violence feels preventable and yet our leaders are so bought-off by the gun lobby and the NRA (although, thank goodness they appear insolvent), and so worried about getting the votes of the far right and far left (depending upon their politics), that thousands of Americans are losing their lives and countless more are torn apart by the loss of these lives. BIG MISSES REGARDING BASEBALL BOOKS AND MOVIES Josh Feffer reminds me that one of the greatest of baseball books is Ball Four, by Jim Bouton. Josh says the book “got into the inner workings of a clubhouse and casts light on some not so enlightened people and practices that populate the game.” He is so right.

As for movies, Sindy Kessler correctly admonishes me for failing to include Eight Men Out as one of the greatest baseball movies. And the last example of widespread and shameless cheating in a World Series until the Houston Astros. As any baseball fan will know, the 1919 Chicago White Sox (forever to be referred to as the “Black Sox”) were involved in a gambling scheme to throw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, universally deemed an inferior team. Eddie Cicotte, the phenomenal pitcher who led the majors with a 29 record and a 1.82 ERA—was one of the leaders of this scandal, was one of the organizers of this uprising by the players against a parsimonious owner, Charlie Comiskey. It is a great piece of storytelling, evocative of an entire era. Great cast. Studs Terkel in a small role as a newspaperman.

MOVIE QUIZ QUESTIONS What was the only movie Lee Marvin sang in? What was the only movie Clint Eastwood sang in? Have a good weekend, Glenn

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