Animal news: the Raven Queen has disappeared. Uh oh.

Anyone who has visited the Tower of London and been subject to the Tower spiel knows about the ravens and the prophesy.

OK, say you weren’t listening to the spiel so…there are a bunch of ravens which stroll over the Tower’s lawn. (Yes, there is a lawn, called the Green. For some reason.) And ravens are very big black birds. Surprisingly big. Sort of scarily big.

Well, those ravens stick around on the Tower Green because they can’t really fly off it. Some of their wing feathers are subject to barbering. Seems that when you clip a bird’s wing feathers, they can’t achieve soaring lift-off.

The reason the ravens have clipped wings…well, it isn’t reason at all. It’s the opposite of reason. It is a dusty 400-year-old superstition: if the ravens leave the Tower Green, the monarchy (and the Tower) will fall. Thus, some bright 17th century light figured, “Hey, if I keep them from flying away, we’ll be hunky-dory.” Or whatever the 17th century equivalent of “hunky-dory” was.

However, the Queen of the Ravens, by name Merlina, has somehow managed to depart the premises. (This may be one of those irritating hindsight warnings but maybe you don’t want to call your Raven Queen “Merlina.” It is suggestive.)

The Times’s Alan Cowell takes precisely the right tone about this monumental piece of news:

LONDON — They flap and lollop and squawk and scavenge. They hold the future of the realm, some say, in their fearsome beaks. And now one of them — their queen, Merlina — has been reclassified to M.I.A. from AWOL, heralding the feared redemption of a purported prophecy dating from the time of King Charles II in the 17th century: When the ravens leave the Tower of London, the building will crumble and the kingdom with it.

That at least is the story so far, a blend of myth, invention and hard-billed commercialism that has elevated the resident colony of ravens at London’s famed prison and palace on the north bank of the River Thames to a rare status: clipped-wing guardians of the national destiny, tourist-dollar magnets.

The ravens have a wrangler, a/k/a ravenmaster. He called Merlina “free-spirited.”

“But I’m her buddy, and so she normally comes back to us, but this time she didn’t, so I do fear that she is not with us anymore,” he told the BBC.

Look, I don’t want to sound nit-picky, but if Merlina is not there, she is definitely “not with us anymore.” (Oh, I know; he means Merlina may have gone off to die.)

But you can always depend upon me for a rosy thought. What if Merlina has done a Joe? That is, managed to make her way to Melbourne, so she can link up with Joe, the racing pigeon? If Joe can solo from Oregon to Australia, I’m sure Merlina can get there from London. After all, she’ll be staying within the Commonwealth.

Thing is, will Australia plan to kill her? Kill the raven who guarantees their monarchy’s eternality? I don’t think so. And if Merlina is indeed hanging out in the backyard of Kevin Celli-Bird, I bet she’ll spread her (unclipped) wings over Joe and give him protection.

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Incitement to violence, our emotions and the First Amendment

I love lawyers because they engage and inform my rationality; they settle me down. Without them and the law they represent, I’d be left entirely to my idealism, i.e., my emotions.

I love my emotions but need the antidote to their extreme levels, which offer some sort of moral release but no actual solution to the problem exciting them.

The first time I understood all that was when I worked for lawyers. When bad things happened to good people, when civil rights were abused, as the only non-lawyer around I became the office id, would get furious, would ask, “Can this happen? What can be done about it?”

When you’re living in pure id, the only action you can take is physical. My weapons of choice were and are tears, yelling, stomping around, dark mutters about killing, strangulation fantasies, all interspersed with the word “fucking.” (Forget guns; they’re the choice of men whose eyes lift from their phalluses only for riots. When I imagine killing someone, I think of my hands around his neck.)

After my outrage, I’d talk to one of the guys I worked for and would learn what could be done through law and what couldn’t. Learning what was practicable, while not entirely satisfying, calmed me down.

Suzanne Nossel’s New York Times opinion piece, “Don’t Let Trump’s Second Trial Change the First Amendment,” had the same effect on me. (The subtitle: “The House was right to impeach the president, but the legal definition of incitement shouldn’t give way in the process.”)

Relinquishing emotional reaction to awfulness is not easy. We’ve all gone through times in which we’ve been furious at the way we’ve been treated by someone, have dealt with the situation effectively (even brilliantly)…but have stomped around spitting out anger for a while afterward. Even after a good friend points out, “You won. You don’t have to be angry anymore.”

In law, things often come down to the (legal) meaning of a word. In this case, “incitement” is the Word. “Incitement” hits the emotional system, not the brain. Indeed, that’s the point of it, isn’t it? You don’t incite someone to rational behavior; you incite mobs to be violent. And at the same time, “incitement” rouses the anger of those of us who are not inspired to mob violence.

So here’s a semi-serious warning: reading Ms. Nossel’s excellent essay may serve to reduce your justifiable rage and you may not like that. However, please remember it is now time for the deliberate process of our laws to supersede our instantaneous emotions.

It’s OK and it will be OK. We won. Remember: we won.

We won.



Posted in 2020 presidential campaign, American fascism, J. Judge and courtroom, Politics, The Facts of Life, Trump Stuff | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Animal news: what’s the deal with Joe?

I’d been picking up bits of info about a pigeon named Joe who, after a monumental voyage from maybe Oregon to definitely Australia, is now on death row.

Huh? I was saying to myself. Well, now the “huh?” question has been answered, thanks to my worldwide researcher, Ellen Kaye, who sent me the facts about Joe, as reported in the Washington Post:

An Alabama racing pigeon that survived a lengthy and mysterious trip across the Pacific Ocean — landing last month in an Australian backyard — is now facing the death penalty.

Local authorities, worried about disease, say they plan to kill the bird as soon as they can catch it.

Well, that’s mean, isn’t it? If they haven’t gotten their hands on Joe — and, given Joe’s acuity, maybe they never will — how do they know he’s diseased?

The exhausted pigeon, sporting a blue band on its ankle, “rocked up” to the home of aptly named Melbourne resident Kevin Celli-Bird last month, the man said.

“It was pretty emaciated so I crushed up some biscuits,” he told Australia’s 9News. 

The bird, a racing pigeon registered to an owner in Montgomery, Ala., is believed to have escaped a competition in Oregon in October, possibly hitching a ride aboard a cargo ship before reaching Australia.

I once was in love or whatever with a guy who had racing pigeons. That’s about all I know about them.

But now the pigeon, which Celli-Bird has named Joe (after President-elect Joe Biden) hangs out in his backyard, bathing in the fountain and has even befriended a local dove.


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