Tuesday, August 13, 2013


I usually fall on the libertarian side of the argument when it comes to bans on drugs. Prohibition is counterproductive and should a free society really be regulating what individuals choose to put into their bodies anyway?

Lately I’ve heard and read a few arguments that the sporting world should just throw in the towel on performance enhancing drugs. Let athletes use what athletes are gonna use; end the cat-and-mouse game between detection and evasion.

Can’t get on board with that. In a hyper-competitive environment, lifting the ban would put “clean” players at a competitive disadvantage. It would encourage them to use PEDs when they wouldn’t otherwise, at potentially significant risk to their long-term health.

And the knock-on effects of allowing steroids and other PEDs could be tremendous. There’s already a problem with high school age kids using these substances to gain an edge in hope of grabbing the brass ring of a career in professional athletics. The vast majority will not make it, no matter what they take, and they risk their well-being even more than pros, because they don’t have any supervision or medical consultation.

Obviously, “cleaning up the game” is not easy, and it may be impossible to completely eliminate the use of PEDs. But that doesn’t mean that throwing in the towel is the right response. That just hurts the clean player and encourages reckless use by teenagers who can’t appreciate the risks they are taking.

Jim Cornelius

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The responsibilities of the gun culture

There can be nothing more grotesque than the slaughter of school children.

The nation has recoiled in revulsion at the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Nobody wants to see this happen again ... and again and again and again. So the national dialogue turns to gun control. Some want a ban on "assault weapons" while gun-rights advocates argue that a ban is cosmetic, ineffective or actually counterproductive. Some come at this issue with entrenched ideological positions; others plead for "common sense."

In the midst of all this, America's gun culture needs to take a good hard look at itself.

I am part of that gun culture. I have owned firearms since my early teens. My firearms use is for sporting purposes, but I have had occasion to wield a firearm in self-defense (thankfully, no shots fired). The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution recognizes an individual right to keep and bear arms. There is also a clause that includes the words "well-regulated."

It's time for effective licensing of firearms owners (some states already have licensing provisions). That's unwelcome to many in the gun culture, who fear that it is the camel's nose in the tent toward more severe ownership restriction or outright gun confiscation. I don't think so. Firearms licensing can be implemented as an extension of hunter safety and concealed carry programs, with the active participation of organizations including the NRA, which has excellent instructor certification programs.

Perhaps "assault weapons" should fall under a separate, more rigorous licensing tier.

Making the process of acquiring a firearm more serious across the nation would not prevent all gun crime, and it would not deter a disturbed individual from attempting mass slaughter. But it would create an opportunity for red flags to pop up, a window for intervention. And it could instill a more focused culture of responsibility in the gun world.

Yes, more regulation is onerous for those of us who already take our responsibilities seriously. But I'm willing to put up with some hassle I don't need to have more assurance that the guy who shows up next to me on the range has some basic level of competence. And regulating the user is more to the point than banning certain classifications of firearms, an exercise that has often been merely cosmetic and of marginal effectiveness.

I worked in the gun business, during and after the Rodney King riots. It was an intense time. The shop where I worked refused to sell to people we knew would buy a gun for "protection" and never learn how to use it safely and properly. We didn't want to arm people who would be a menace to themselves and their loved ones.

An appropriate licensing procedure would likely deter at least some of those types, and give an opportunity to flag others for further review. A quick criminal background check just isn't enough.

Real training and education would be a good thing overall, instilling safety, skill and a level of respect for the potentially deadly weapon you are keeping in your home, your vehicle, on your person.

There are many factors that contribute to mass killings - a mental health crisis and significant civic breakdown being primary among them. But we can't pretend that there's not something especially toxic in the combination of a disturbed young man and a lethal weapon. We know we have to separate drunk people from the car keys - and we've reduced drunk driving without banning either alcohol or cars.

Those of us who value our gun rights, our heritage, and our sport can't just stick our heads in the sand and accept the status quo. We can reduce violence. The gun culture can be part of the solution.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


The film “Lincoln” now showing at Sisters Movie House is well worth the two-and-a-half hours of seat time. Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of the 16th President is uncanny — something beyond acting — and the rest of the cast is excellent as well.

It’s talky and long, as befits an essentially political drama centered around the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in the United States, so it may not appeal if you’re simply looking for entertainment.

The film’s value is more than cinematic. It’s a good reminder after a bruising election in a starkly divided political culture that American politics has often (if not always) been built more on contention than consensus. We tend to think that our present partisan bickering is worse than what has gone before; it’s good to be reminded that 19th Century politics was practically a contact sport. Some of the personal vitriol that is flung about in “Lincoln” would scorch the eyebrows of our snottiest commentators.

As the film makes clear, this signal piece of legislation got passed mainly through arm-twisting and blandishments, not through pure oratorical persuasion. It is an example of the adage apocryphally attributed to Bismark: “To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.'"

No Marble Man could have orchestrated the sausage-making of Civil War era politics. It took a president who was a savvy operator and that is the Lincoln portrayed in the film. Here is a president who won’t lie to his allies… exactly… but is more than willing to shade the truth and allow them to believe things that ain’t necessarily so.

Abraham Lincoln is often treated as the closest thing we have to an American political saint, but he was far from that. In fact, the portrayal by many of his contemporaries of the president as a tyrant was not far off the mark. The film doesn’t shy away from this; Lincoln acknowledges that he took immense wartime powers upon himself because he believed it was necessary to preserve the Union.

And perhaps it was…

Yet, preserving the Union in and of itself was legally problematic. The seceding Southern states had a very strong case that the Union was a voluntary construct at its founding and that no state would have entered into it without the clear right to leave it at will. Lincoln simply refused to accept this premise, declaring said states to be in rebellion. And he used extralegal means to win the war and preserve the Union.

As Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens asks pointedly in the film: “Did you  conquer us with democracy?”

“Lincoln” offers up plenty  of resonance.  We have seen our executive take still more immense power upon itself to combat terrorism. And we have seen a dysfunctional Congress churn over legislation with the power to profoundly shape the future. History offers us a different lense with which to view our own times. That’s what “Lincoln” ultimately does, and does well. It’s worth soaking it in.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Imagine there's no 'floppers'

The NBA is cracking down on floppers — those who fake being fouled to draw penalties on their opponents.

Sports Illustrated notes that “The ugly trend of faking physical contact began in soccer, a sport in which gamesmanship has given way to players writhing in false agony around the world.”

This is an idea that should be extended to all arenas of life. Imagine: No more exaggerated or phony outrage. How would political campaigns fill the news cycle?

No more airtime for those who George Bernard Shaw called feverish selfish little clod(s) of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making (them) happy.”


I don’t much care for basketball, but I think I love the NBA.

Jim Cornelius, Editor