Editors Note: Do you ever turn on the radio in your car, and find yourself with nothing you can bear to listen to? This is a sure sign you’re getting old. It’s like hearing yourself use the phrase, “These kids today.” You’re supposed to get wiser as you get older, but I have my doubts.

Random Stuff That Confuses Me


Reaching my 60s has given me a window into how my father must have felt as the modern world began passing him by. I remember being about 15, and Dad was poking at his car radio buttons, suffering through snippets of Led Zeppelin, the Monkees and the Grateful Dead. Finally, with confused disgust, he asked plaintively, “Whatever happened to The Hit Parade?”

In his youth, The Hit Parade radio show broadcast songs from the Swing Era. Like Rip Van Winkle awakened in the 1960s, poor Dad was clueless that his music was going the way of the Edsel and the phrase, “hubba hubba.” I can only imagine how confused he’d be if he woke up in 2013.

As a World War II vet, he’d think he was through the looking glass when a soldier convicted of selling secrets demands that his government pay to turn him into a woman. I won’t debate whether Private Bradley Manning is a traitor or a whistle-blowing hero (he’s a traitor), and I have no problem with someone who feels compelled to change his sex. However, I’m confused when it became the taxpayers’ responsibility to foot the bill for his transgendering.

Recently, two other soldiers were convicted on the same day as mass murderers. Psychiatrist Nidal Hasan killed 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood. Robert Bales killed 16 unarmed Afghan civilians, including women and children. Major Hasan received the death sentence, while Sergeant Bales got life without parole. I’m a bit confused by the difference in military justice.

I’d hate to think simple prejudice got Hasan, a Muslim, the stiffer sentence. I’d like to think the fog of war in a place like Afghanistan was a mitigating factor for Bales, whereas killing one’s comrades adds treason to Hasan’s crime, and a psychiatrist based stateside has far less excuse for murder than a soldier in combat. But who knows?

I’m also clueless when it became our duty to protect Syrian rebels from their own government? They’ve never liked us, and they won’t like us any better if we bomb the place. I’m confused why we owe the Syrian people, who’ve never been our friends or friends of our allies, any expenditure of American blood or treasure.

And why did President Obama draw a line in their sand when we can no longer afford to be the world’s policeman? He must have known the GOP would criticize whatever action he took in the region, and Fox News has surely prepared talking points attacking both intervention and non-intervention. Realistically, if Obama invented a no-cal chocolate that cured cancer, Rand Paul and Sean Hannity would agree it’s both illegal and immoral.

Republicans confuse me. They tout themselves as the Christian party, but they’re most rabid about the social issues that Christ never mentioned — abortion, gay sex, gun rights — while uninterested in the poor, whom Jesus was passionate about (see Matthew 25:40, et al.).

They’ll sweat blood to protect tax breaks for millionaires, while striving mightily to deny food stamps to destitute families. Paradoxically, the favorite philosopher of conservative thinkers such as Paul Ryan is Ayn Rand, a militant atheist who wrote, “If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.”

I’m also confused by the GOP’s contradictory assessments of who shut down the government. Ted Cruz gained widespread right-wing street cred by wasting $24 billion of the taxpayers’ money on this futile gesture, yet other conservatives, especially in the right-wing media, continue to lambaste “the Obama shutdown,” blaming it on his intransigence on the Affordable Care Act.

Not a single Democrat voted against the resolution that reopened the government and averted default, while 162 Republicans voted against it. Nonetheless, conservatives can’t seem to agree on whether they’re proud of the shutdown or had nothing to do with it.

Obamacare passed both houses of Congress, and was signed by the president, who ran on it in 2012 and won again. House conservatives wasted more than 40 votes trying to repeal it, then they took it to the judiciary, where the Supreme Court, including John Roberts, the Republicans’ hand-picked Chief Justice, ruled it constitutional. But that wasn’t good enough for Senator Cruz, who seems to believe that a bill doesn’t become law until he’s approved it.

This is oddly similar to the latest chapter in the Moxley murder case. Michael Skakel was tried, found guilty and lost every appeal for a decade, but no prison can hold you if you can hire enough lawyers and spend the GDP of a small nation on endless litigation until you find the right judge and a defense that judge will accept. I wonder if people with smaller checkbooks get similar “justice”?

A mean-spirited joke asks: Why don’t rats gnaw on the corpses of lawyers? The answer: Professional courtesy. Clearly, in the Belle Haven murder case, this wasn’t true. Skakel’s current lawyers have had no problem feeding on the carcass of their colleague, Skakel’s former attorney, Mickey Sherman, whose reputation they’ve trashed.

Skakel must have had incompetent counsel, because he spent a fortune, but was found guilty anyway. That his conviction has now been set aside neither surprises, nor confuses me. Like my father, I spent years working in the Belle Haven section of Greenwich, so I learned early that money talks, and the legal system works differently for the wealthy. And that’s something that never changes, no matter what year you wake up in.

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