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Tom discusses the reaction to his remarks about high school Republicans, Elmore Leonard and more

A few things before we blessedly leave August behind:

• A columnist (or even a normal person) cannot speak his mind in public and then not expect stuff to come back his way. In fact, it's rather disappointing when stuff doesn't come flying back a columnist's way. But every now and then, the return stuff is just too weird. The other day, I got an email from a woman who told me in no uncertain terms that white people should never criticize Latinos because "they don't know what it's like to be a Lattino (sic)."

Yes, she used two t's, either to emphasize her Latina-osity or to answer the age-old question "¿Quien es mas macho?" She said that people should only criticize (or poke fun) at people who are like themselves. That would limit me to older fat guys, although I'd first have to make sure that they have green eyes lest I leave myself open to another email.

What really got me was the outrage over a joke I made about the Sabino (High School) Teenage Republicans. They're really nice kids, but come on, People! They're T-e-e-n-a-g-e R-e-p-u-b-l-i-c-a-n-s. That's grotesque, in and of itself. And yes, I would find it bizarre (albeit somewhat less so) if there were a group of High School Libertarians or Teenage Democrats.

The group had sponsored a congressional debate in which my late friend, Dave Sitton, had participated. Dave and I had grown up about 12 miles (and a couple years) apart in the San Fernando Valley. But while I attended Ghetto Tech, Dave went to the upscale Catholic school, Our Lady of the Rich White Kids. When he and I went to lunch later that week (after the debate), I asked him whether they had had a Young Republicans group at his high school.

He laughed and said, "When I was growing up, it was cars and sports, girls and the beach. Politics came later."

He told me that he could argue for hours about the makeup of the Dodgers' pitching rotation; that was important to him at the time.

I know Lori Oien, one of the people who got upset. She's a nice person who is concerned about, and active in, her community. Plus, she does a good job of wrangling those northeast-side teenage political mavericks. However, she has to know that it doesn't matter how old (or young) a person is, if they stand up and say, "Hey, look at me; I'm different," they can't get all huffy if somebody points them out and says, "Look at that guy; he's different."

So, while most high-school kids are wondering whether Robin Thicke and Pharrell should be sued because "Blurred Lines" sounds an awful lot like the Marvin Gaye classic "Got To Give It Up," some kids at Sabino are debating the relative merits of the positions taken by right-wing economic gods Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek.

(For the uninitiated, von Mises believed that all poor people should be rounded up and killed, with their bodies chopped up into little pieces and used in cattle feed. That position has since been discredited because we now know that the use of animal byproducts in such feed can lead to bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Meanwhile, while Hayek also believed that the poor should be rounded up and killed, he felt the bodies could be put to more constructive use, like in the formation of speed bumps and such.)

Or maybe it was the other way around. I should ask Rand Paul Ryan (who is now one creature). He would know.

Finally, if any of the Teenage Republicans were truly offended ... well, you'd better get used to it, because if you insist on remaining Republican, you're going to invite all sorts of dookie to be dumped on you in the coming decades. It's almost all in fun and it's 100 percent American, so relax.

• A brief farewell to writer Elmore Leonard, who died last week at age 87. His gritty (and often hilarious) crime novels were almost exclusively action and dialogue, to which he explained that he "just left out the parts people didn't read, anyway." His legacy lives on in the brilliant TV series, Justified. He'll be missed.

• There's a great picture in last week's Time magazine. (Yes, I still subscribe to—and read—magazines.) It was part of a look back at the March on Washington, which took place 50 years ago this week. As I mentioned here a few weeks ago, in the front row of the marchers was Charlton Heston, along with Harry Belafonte. In the second row was a young (and ridiculously handsome) James Garner, with Diahann Carroll and Paul Newman. Then came Tony Franciosa and Marlon Brando.

I first saw that picture as a little kid and my Italian-American mother wanted to know why they put the Italians in the third row. As Richard Pryor would say, "That's the politics, baby."

• Finally, as the fringe-dwellers continue to use talk of impeaching President Obama to pull the Republican Party closer and closer to the edge (I'm betting that a substantial number of Republicans believe that the world does have an edge), a recent survey shows that 29 percent of Republicans in Louisiana blame President Obama for the slow initial response to Hurricane Katrina, even though it happened more than three years before Obama was first elected.

Sadly, that's the politics of today.

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