Monday, March 19, 2018

Let's Be Careful Out There

You have to admit; the US is really jammed up lately. The country is in chaos and we’re all just along for the ride. There are so many legitimate outrages; you can’t even follow them all. In the time it takes to get good and pissed off about one thing, three more outrages pop up and divert your attention. So let me do a “drive-by” on some of the many sung and unsung hot-button issues from this week.

Trump is becoming even more erratic. Just fired Secretary of State Tillerson. Second in command at the FBI, Andrew McCabe, fired two days before he was set to retire, robbing him of his 20-year pension. (Which he may be able to maintain, due to a flood of job offers from Democratic congressmen.) And now he’s making his usual warm-up moves to facilitate firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

He fired Tillerson in favor of getting someone who agrees with his chicken-hawk foreign policy. (And I’m sure what Tillerson reportedly called his boss might have played into it as well.)
Tillerson was not really a statesman, to be sure, just one more oil exec looking to make the world more profitable for other oil execs. But he never really had a chance to get anything done because his boss undercut him publicly, at every turn.

He fired McCabe, “officially,” for a routine briefing he gave to reporters, about which they claim he lied under oath. I’m sure it totally had nothing to do an effort to discredit the FBI after a year-long battle with them.

And obviously, he wants to fire Mueller before he gets arrested. Mueller has subpoenaed his business records now. President 45 knows the shit is getting real now and he could be getting into a lot of it. Deeply.

Aside from Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and Jeff Flake, (two of whom are retiring after their current terms), the Republican Congress has been mute. They know their phony baloney jobs depend on the guy in the oval office remaining in power. If they criticize the president, they have to worry about Trump's offended base backing a primary challenge. So to that extent...

House Republican Investigation of Trump closes, claiming “No evidence of collusion.”  Right. And I bet they did their due diligence too, scouring their jacket pockets and the spaces between their office sofa cushions, looking for that evidence. “Nope, no evidence here! Case closed.”

This was a kangaroo kommittee from Day One. They knew going in that due to the Republican majority, there would be no finding of guilt regarding this president. They cut off lines of inquiry and lobbed softballs at the hand-picked “witnesses” who did appear.
Meanwhile, Mueller is having no trouble at all in finding evidence and gaining guilty pleas. And that’s just the stuff we know about. The man is chopping wood and laying bricks. When he finally brings charges, he will have built a foundation.

General Barry McCaffrey calls Trump a “serious threat to national security.” He saidHe is refusing to protect vital US interests from active Russian attacks. It is apparent that he is for some unknown reason under the sway of Mr. Putin.”

I love it when situations like this happen because Republicans don’t know what to do. This is a retired 4-Star General, so Republicans have to choose between their knee-jerk tribalism to back the man they voted for, versus their deification and idol-worship of the US military.

I’m betting they’ll back their guy. After all, the general was director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under Clinton, so that alone makes him a raging liberal. And only a Republican can judge another Republican, right? That’s the heart of their argument about the FBI investigation. There are some Democrats on the investigation team so they must be biased?

I already shot that down a while back. As if it’s only “fair” if Republicans investigate Republicans? Hey, look how fair to Trump the Congressional Investigation Committee was! I’m sure that’s exactly the kind of investigation they want.

If you want a rigorous investigation, you get someone on it who is motivated to do the job well. But that’s the last thing they want, isn’t it? I say, as long as they’re not manufacturing evidence, it doesn’t matter who’s investigating. If it’s evidence, it exists no matter who finds it. (Whether they enjoy finding it is irrelevant.)

Now Trump wants to have talks with North Korea. This is something he directly ridiculed his Secretary of State for trying to do. And of course, Fox “News” loves it.
I saw a brilliant video compilation over the weekend, which featured clip after clip of the Fox gang criticizing Obama’s overtures to talk to North Korea. Horrible! Worst idea ever! Knows nothing about diplomacy. Selling out the country.

What follows then is another array of clips of the Foxfaces lauding Trump for proposing the exact same thing. This is why Fox “News” is a joke and should never be taken seriously. They have no standards other than “whatever the conservative does (today) is right.”

Airlines are now killing our pets. As if they aren’t treating us with enough contempt as it is, now they’re killing dogs by making them travel in the overhead bin. And then a GOP congressman immediately proposed a bill to stop such practices.
I think the airline missed a major opportunity here. If they really wanted to kill the dog, the flight attendant should have just shot it with a gun. That way, United wouldn’t have heard a peep from half the political spectrum. Although they might propose mental health screening for the cabin crew, but then not follow through.

Yeah, the Gun Thing is still going on. Kids across the country walked out of school to hold a 17-minute protest, with varying degrees of cooperation from the schools. Some assisted, some issued detentions or suspensions.

I maintain that none of these protests really matter unless they turn into votes. The only way to change anything is to vote, as a group. Not many of these kids will be eligible to vote in November. Most will in 2020. The issue will be whether this movement has enough steam to carry for two and a half more years. Republicans are basically telling the kids to shut up and get back in class and let the grownups talk.

We’ll see if the kids can talk back at the polls.

Meanwhile, the misinformation runs amok.
Two main fallacies here… First off, 200 years ago, it would take all morning to shoot a couple dozen people, with the single-shot musket loads.

Secondly, in the last 30 years, aside from whatever one thinks about child discipline, the proliferation and availability of semi-automatic handguns and rifles has spiked. Out-of-control kids used to have to settle for standard handguns, but now, anyone can walk into a gun shop or gun show and walk out with a military-grade killing machine and a high-capacity magazine.

Don’t whine to me about “your children.” (Note that it’s not “our” children, indicating that the fault is with everyone else.) Semi-automatic weapons allow one to kill dozens in seconds. Don’t tell me that a kid with an old 6-shooter or two would have the same effectiveness.

Obviously, there are multiple factors and the peer to peer alienation and harassment of kids, lack of discipline from hippy parents, and hyper-discipline from unreasonably demanding parents are several of them. But you can’t just willfully disregard the efficiency of these guns in killing large numbers of people in a very short time, nor the flood of them in American households. It’s intellectually and intentionally dishonest. But that’s what passes for persuasion in the 2000s.

And speaking of dishonesty…

Supreme Court is about to hear a case about Crisis Pregnancy Centers. This is a case, pure and simple, about whether politically motivated lying is protected speech. You’ve heard about these “CPCs, right? These are places that masquerade as women’s health clinics but whose only goal is to prevent women from seeking or receiving abortions. Once lured inside, women are given factually inaccurate warnings of what would become of them should they endure an abortion. (You’ll raise your risk for cancer, you’ll invite mental issues, you’ll become sterile, your soul will burn in hell, etc. They tell them not to proceed with an abortion until they have confirmed via ultrasound, that the baby is viable!)
California has a state law that requires these places to post a sign directing patients to other facilities if they wish to pursue getting an abortion. The CPCs obviously don’t want to provide any information that might lead to an abortion, so they’ve sued.

I think this is another case where one might be able to thread the needle. If I’m the judge, I say the CPCs have to make it plain that this is not a place to go for full women’s health services. They can’t pretend to be something they’re not, just to lure in unsuspecting women in crisis mode.

I would also say that if they make it plain what they are, they needn’t direct their “customers” for other treatment.

But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? They want access to pregnant women by any means necessary, so they can cajole, threaten and browbeat them into acting according to someone else’s religion. They know they can’t very well put up a sign saying they’re a place for you to come to be talked out of an abortion. Who would show up? So they have to trick people into their offices in order to get to their “target customer.”

I call that false advertising, which is something that is not protected speech under the first amendment. But who knows what the four Catholic men plus hardcore conservative Gorsuch will rule? I’m not optimistic. This is the first of many chances Republicans have been waiting for, to chip away at Roe v Wade, until it’s no longer relevant.

And they’re willing to legitimize straight-up lying to your face in order to do it, because their moral compass is more important than yours.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Free Floating Olympic Thoughts

I meant to write about the 2018 Winter Olympics in the previous weeks, but there was too much for me to cover with the school shootings and NRA vs The Children blood war. So I’m sorry if this is a couple of weeks too late. After the last three posts, I’m due for something goofy.

I’ve written about various angles of the Olympics before; Favorite Olympic Moments, Endless Conspiracy Theories, US vs Russia in Hockey, for example. This probably won’t be so singularly organized… call it “Free-Floating Olympic Thoughts.”

DVD Director’s Commentary: Damn it! That’s a good title. I’ll have to amend the half-assed title I was working with, “Belated Olympics Post.” Just a peek into the Creative Process…

One of the things I like about the winter Olympics is that the events seem so exotic. I mean, with the summer games, you have people running, jumping, swimming, diving, throwing things and punching each other, all of which are somewhat routine activities. But the winter games? It’s bobsleds and snowboards and skiing off ramps and skiing while shooting guns and racing around on ice and yelling at rocks as you slide them across the ice. It’s anarchy!

The short track speed skating relay is a blast to watch. The teams have to pace the contestants on the inside of the oval and then tag in while the other drops out. It looks like someone fastening a giant zipper.

Bobsledding looks like a lot of fun to do, but only if you’re the driver. The other guy, (or multiple guys), get about five seconds of furious activity while pushing the sled out of the starting area and then they have to hop on the sled and bury their head in the spine of the dude in front of them. THAT looks like it has all the appeal of being smuggled into a drive-in theater by hiding in the trunk. You just have to hunker down until it’s over.

Luge and skeleton look terrifying. Those are the one-man sled sports; with luge, you go feet first and with skeleton, you go head first. Gee, I wonder why they named that activity “skeleton.” They probably have a graveyard right beside the training course.

I’m fascinated by the half-pipe sports, especially the snowboarding. It always makes me wonder how you learn how to do that stuff. I mean, how do these kids survive practicing? Even landing on pillows, you can jam your neck clear into your chest cavity. My theory is that they’re actually aliens, and can telescope their necks up and down like E.T.
"Where’s the half-pipe, dude?"

And who has more fun than the snowboarders? They all looked like they were having a ball… except for the ones who fell on their heads from 15 feet in the air. But Chloe Kim looked like the belle of the ball. I guess winning a gold medal at 17 will do that.

I was glad Shaun White won too, as the old man of the bunch. But I literally gasped when I saw him dragging the flag on the ground while he was in the throes of celebration. I was like, “Oooooh, they’re gonna be on his ass about that tomorrow…”

And they were, but maybe it’s our short attention spans, but it didn’t seem to blow up into the scandal I thought it would. Maybe it’s because he was a white dude. If that was a black dude, I’m pretty sure Mike Pence would have paid a biathlete to shoot his ass.

And by “biathlete,” I mean someone who competes in the biathlon, which is a mix of cross-country skiing and target shooting. If it was a “bi-athlete,” Pence probably would have paid him to shoot himself.

Another favorite of mine is the alpine skiing… the slaloms and the downhill. The downhill is especially entertaining just for the pure speed, as the skiers fly down the mountain going over 60 mph over packed ice. And it also doesn’t hurt my attention span that the US has a couple of skiers who are practically runway-model beautiful. In addition to being two of the best in the world, Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin are both stone-cold gorgeous.
Mikaela Shiffrin, All-American Girl

I felt bad for Vonn, who after missing the previous two Olympics with injuries, didn’t have the best of runs at this year’s games. I hope she retires before breaking any more bones. Shiffrin did well, though, with one gold and one silver. She has many more years to win medals and break limbs (and hearts).

As opposed to in years past, I watched very little Olympic hockey. This time there were no NHL players in the games. The US team looked like a motley collection of college kids and NHL retirees. They weren’t too inspiring as they failed to even make the medal round.

I was thrilled for the US women’s hockey team though, who beat Canada for the gold medal. That had been a big Canadian monkey on their back for a number of years. As it often does for these two evenly matched teams, it came down to a shootout, which the US won when our player pulled off a glorious triple move before burying the shot.

One thing that always bugs me: the way photographers always badger gold medal winners into posing while biting their medal. Can we please stop this? It's as pointless as it is trite. These aren't 1800s gold prospectors, they're elite athletes. And curlers. If I was a gold medalist, I'd shut that shit down in a hurry. They'd be like, "Hey, bite the medal." And I'd be like, "Hey, bite my ass, you no-talent hack! Why don't you go somewhere and grow an imagination?"

I didn’t watch very much ice skating either. I think the problem was because of skating’s popularity, NBC used it to anchor the nightly broadcast by putting it last. That way, they could flog it all night long to keep people watching. I mean, it was all prerecorded… they could have led with it at 8:00 if they wanted to. Meanwhile, I was ready for bed long before the “good” skaters performed.

In the end, the US won 23 medals, which was their lowest total in 20 years. But look how far they’ve come… in 1980, the year of the Miracle on Ice, the US only won 12. And there were only six golds: the one for the hockey team and five by speed skater Eric Heiden.

Now that the Olympics are over, I kind of miss them. For two weeks, there was always something on TV. But on the bright side, I no longer have the Olympic Fanfare trapped in my brain for days at a time.

Monday, March 5, 2018

More Gun Fallout

I’m really amazed that the backlash against unmitigated gun violence is still going on. After most mass shootings, all the attention is gone from the subject before the funerals are even finished. “The Kids” have done an admirable job; so admirable, in fact, that there has actually been some change.

Dicks Sporting Goods stores have stopped carrying semi-automatic rifles and banned sales of high-capacity clips to minors. They were already part-way down that path. They stopped stocking these weapons in their Dick’s-branded stores but still sold them at their 35 Field and Stream locations.

Walmart raised the minimum age to buy a firearm to 21 and stopped stocking rifles that even look like a semi-automatic.

And somehow, the Republic still stands.

I’m not too excited by these developments though. I mean, there’s no reason they can’t just decide to reverse course, once the heat dies down.

Remember that these are giant, highly sophisticated retailers. The only thing that matters is the bottom line and these guys have the most advanced audience measurement techniques around. I’m sure they’ve taken the country’s temperature and concluded that for all the noise coming from the NRA, they don’t outnumber the rest of us. So, if they’re going to be boycotted, better to be shunned by 5 million NRA members than 240 million of everybody else.


It was telling, watching the reaction to Delta Airlines revoking the discount they gave to NRA members who were traveling to their convention. You’d have thought someone was lining up NRA members and shooting them, for all the hollering. (Delta was “Persecuting NRA members,” I believe the sentiment was.)

That’s the essence of the modern conservative… when they don’t get treated better than everyone else, they consider it persecution.

This was a discount!  They weren’t being charged more than others, they were being charged exactly the same. Oh, the torment!

And the kicker? Delta said last year, they only had 13 people use the NRA discount on the way to the convention. All that fuss over 13 discounts.

Republicans: The Party that Cries Wolf!


You can tell the NRA is ratcheting up their press operations though. Last Wednesday, there were three stories on the top of my Yahoo home page, about people who defended themselves with guns. And from now on, I’d expect every such incident to be splashed across all the news feeds.

It won’t matter if there are hundreds of stories of people getting shot and killed, we’ll hear about those few who used a gun to save themselves.

We don’t even pay attention to the standard shootings anymore; they’re just too commonplace. There are only select incidents to which we’ll pay attention: shooting white kids, blonde women or a bunch of people all at once. But we’ll notice every time someone uses a gun to fend off a mugger or burglar, the NRA will see to that. And that’s how they convince people that we all should be armed. It’s a psychological ploy to make us think it happens every day. Doesn’t make it valid, though.


One of the talking points President 45 has been using, in making the case that teachers should be armed, is that an armed facility will make kids think twice about bringing in a gun and shooting up the school.

This is demonstrably false. Why? Show me one school shooting where the shooter got away.  Just one.

The prospective shooter knows his life is over once he fires that first shot in school. He will either be killed by cops, kill himself, or spend the rest of his life in jail.

The kids know who he is. The Administration knows who he is. There is usually videotape. There is no slipping back out of the school and carrying on with one’s life, unnoticed. The shooter knows this and goes in anyway because he doesn’t care.

The presence of armed teachers or coaches changes the equation, not a bit. Under the rosiest of circumstances, if everything goes perfectly, it’s possible the shooter could be stopped before he kills more people. But that’s not deterrence. Deterrence is when someone who wanted to shoot up the school due to consequences, decides not to go in.

What Trump is talking about is mitigation, not deterrence. Mitigation is making a bad situation less bad. And whether an armed school is a sufficient mitigation or not, once you factor in all the things that are likely to go wrong, (shooting of innocent students, or the armed teacher, and all the subsequent lawsuits), the mitigation shrinks considerably.


With all the talk of what to do to prevent more school shootings, I haven’t heard a single word about one thing that could really make a difference.

How about our nation’s schoolkids stop being such little pricks to each other, huh? Stop incessantly picking on the freaks, geeks, and loners and just be nice.

Have there been any school shooters who weren’t already bullied, threatened or ostracized? They all seem to have that one thing in common. They hate the other students, and by extension, the school administration that allows the steady drip-drip-drip of torment to continue unabated.

It must be a part of the human condition… grownups do it so why not the children? Everybody seems to need someone to shit on.

Kids, from grade school on up, can be brutal to each other. Anyone who breaks the favored mold is ridiculed and harassed. I saw it every day when I was in school and now with social media, the harassment goes on 24/7, not just during class hours on school grounds. A little kindness, or even just the absence of malice, can go a long way to defusing some of these walking time bombs.

Granted, there are some legit sociopaths running around the hallways, regardless of what others do. This Parkville kid sounded like he might have been one of them. And the kids repeatedly brought him to the attention of the school and the police, yet no one acted.

So yeah, going all Kumbaya isn’t going to solve every incident; no one thing will. But it could make a difference in there being fewer shootings, couldn’t it? Any action that causes a reduction in the number of mass shootings should be embraced, even if it didn’t stop all of them.

So, to sum up the position of this blog, to reduce the number of mass shootings in general, (school shootings in particular):
·        Ban semi-automatic weapons, which no civilian needs for any legitimate reason.
·        Ban high-capacity clips, which no civilian needs for any legitimate reason.
o   In the face of the slaughter that these weapons enable, having fun on a shooting range or in the woods does not constitute a legitimate reason. Nor does taking on the US Army or National Guard because another black guy got elected president.
·        Offer buy-backs or trade-ins for these items.
·        Listen to kids when they identify a potential shooter or someone who’s “gonna blow,” and act accordingly.
·        Kids, don’t be such dicks to each other. The geek of today can become your killer of tomorrow.
·        None of this will work immediately because there are too many of these weapons in circulation already. But the longer the regulations stay in place, the more effective they will become. We saw what happened with the semi-automatic weapon ban that was sunsetted after 10 years.

·        Yes, if someone really wants to kill a lot of people, he still can do so. But we don’t have to make it so freakin’ easy.

Monday, February 26, 2018

And I Used to Think it was Bad When Teachers Hit You with Rulers…

Have you seen how conservatives and gun “enthusiasts” are bending over backward to assign blame for the Florida school shooting everywhere but with the easy availability of semi-automatic rifles?

The kids didn’t report their suspicions. The FBI dropped the ball because they were distracted by the Russia investigation. The Deputy waited outside too long. Unarmed teachers/Gun-Free Zones.

Each and every excuse there is bogus, except maybe for the Deputy waiting too long to go in. But I have doubts that he could have gotten into position in time to stop any of the killings. “Best” case, they shoot the kid inside rather than take him into custody outside, like they did. And who knows how many innocent kids get shot in the crossfire?

The one that’s getting the most traction is the most ludicrous; that we should be arming our teachers with guns so they can return fire. The Republicans are searching for their own gun-wielding Sister Mary Elephant.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had teachers I wouldn’t trust with the TV remote, let alone a lethal weapon. But even allowing that you’d have to make it an optional thing, I can’t believe that there’s anyone that thinks having more guns in school is a good idea.

I call this the Die Hard Theory, wherein some average Joe Teacher can wield lethal firepower in a high-pressure, chaotic, life and death situation and not only shoot the bad guy(s) but not hit anyone else, like Bruce Willis does in the Die Hard movies.

I saw a blurb that said that in live-fire activities, the NYPD hits their intended targets with only 18% of their shots. Now I don’t know if that’s true, but even if it’s 50%, these guys have gone through rigorous training with realistic simulations.

And we’re to expect that we can train teachers to do better than professional law enforcement officers, in the most chaotic and emotionally fraught situation imaginable? This is not target shooting on a range or in the woods. This is children running and hiding and your pulse is pounding and a shooter with rapid-fire capability is roaming the hallways.
And that’s just the obvious stuff. Think about some of the other scenarios.

What happens when a teacher pulls a gun on a student who’s misbehaving?

What happens when a student gets ahold of the teacher’s gun?

What happens if the gun gets stolen?

Who is responsible if a teacher hits an innocent student while defending against an active shooter?

What happens if a first responder sees a teacher with a gun and shoots him? If I were a black, male teacher, I wouldn’t want to come near a gun, lest I get accidentally shot by the police.

Then there’s financial stuff… Who’s going to pay for these guns, (while teachers often have to buy their own school supplies to give to kids who don’t have them?)

Who’s going to pay for that training? (Again, this can’t be range training, it would have to be a high-level program.)

Who’s going to pay for substitute teach for teachers who are off getting gun training, (assuming the teacher doesn’t give up time in the summer?)

Who’s going to pay for these “little bonuses” President 45 mentioned?

Teachers already have enough to deal with, fixing all the damage done to kids by their parents.
No, this is a bad idea and it just goes to show the lengths the gun nuts will go to keep any tinge of culpability away from the gun industry. Just look at the obvious flaws in the latest crop of Facebook gun memes.
No, killers don’t need guns to kill. But when McVeigh blew up a building with fertilizer, we banned or restricted large-quantity sales of fertilizer and the Sudafed chemicals. We can no longer take knives or box cutters on planes. The Nazis were a governmental entity and totally don’t have any logical place on this list, but even so, we banned the use of nerve gas. And don't even get me started on the atrocities committed by dedicated "children of God."

Guns are the only lethal weapons we don’t rein in when they’re used to commit crimes. And that’s because the NRA, whose only constituency is the gun manufacturers, convinced people that any regulation on guns is an assault on the 2nd Amendment, which much remains sacrosanct. In other words, they don’t care how many bodies pile up as long a gun sales don’t drop.

Then there’s this piece of willful ignorance:
The NRA knows full well that the problem America has with them isn’t what their members do, it’s what the organization does. They aggressively fund candidates to the point that they own them on gun issues. And if anyone casts a hinky vote, not only do they start funding competing candidates, they fire up the smear machine by unleashing Fox “News” on TV and the bots and trolls onto social media.
That is why you’re watching conservative politicians twisting themselves into knots to avoid casting aspersions onto the gun industry; they’re protecting their own jobs at the expense of schoolchildren and anyone else with a pulse and the will to live. But the blame has to go somewhere, doesn’t it?

And Trump? NRA or not, he will always come down on the side of appearing “Strong.”  That’s his favorite descriptor. He wants to be strong. His opponents are weak on this and weak on that, but he’s always stroooong. He wants more guns and more bombs and a stronger military with bigger planes and I have never seen a bigger example of “compensating!

He even said that if he were at the school, he would have stopped the shooter with his bare hands.

Seriously. Cadet Bone Spur wants hand-to-hand combat.

This guy doesn’t even want to shake hands without hand sanitizer. Purell should have sponsored his campaign.
Notice how he and the rest of the Republican leadership) want other people and other places armed, but when it comes to places that Republicans gather?
Except where it could affect ME…

How messed up do you have to be to attack high school-aged survivors of a mass shooting? Have you seen the attack dogs sharpening their fangs for these kids? One kid is getting death threats. Another is being ridiculed for her haircut. One minute they’re dodging bullets, the next they’re getting flamed online for having the nerve to want to do something about it.

The argument about keeping arms to go up against the government is ridiculous too. Ask the semi-automatic rifle-wielding Taliban how they fared against the US military. They were squashed like bugs. No band of local yokels is going to go to war against the US of A, even if we DO elect another black man. “Red Dawn” was another movie unpinned from reality.

I really hope the kids’ movement grows legs and they can transform speeches and demonstrations into voter registration and then VOTES. Because nothing will ever change with gun laws until politicians who are beholden to the NRA are voted out of office.

Voters have the power to do that. We all do. We can ignore the threats from the gun fondlers and ignore the smears against decent people and point out the nonsense spewing from the NRA about the sanctity of the 2nd Amendment and elect people who want to end the carnage. Because there’s one inescapable fact:

No civilian needs a semi-automatic rifle or high-capacity clip. Not for hunting, not for home defense, not for personal protection in the streets and not for the overthrow of a government who happens to represent the will of the country, if not their own.

And once you strip away all their bullshit, all that’s left is, “But I wanna gun that goes boom-boom-boom.

No, a ban on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity clips won’t eliminate killing or violence. But it will make it harder to kill so many people in so little time. Maybe not today, or next year, or within this generation. But the difference will come.

The lack of immediate gratification is no reason to delay a necessary action. Even the kids can see that.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Bang Bang Redoux

Oh, look, another “active shooter” incident.  Go figure.

Yesterday, 12 17 people were killed when yet another gunman went into a building and randomly shot a bunch of innocent people. 

We Americans have already expressed the opinion that we don’t care.  I mean; we've been expressing it for the last 20 years and even more loudly in the last several.  Sure, a few people try to do something to change the gun-lust nature of our culture, but they are quickly and loudly beaten back into the margins.

We the People have spoken loud and clear: “Keep your Commie hands off our guns.  We don’t care how many people are slaughtered on a daily, monthly or yearly basis.  We don’t care if they’re military men, high school students, moviegoers or first graders.  If you want to prevent more killing, give us more guns.”

And so it goes.

So spare us the weepy eulogies.  Spare us the press pool footage from the gravesites.  Spare us the interviews from neighbors who say the shooter was a good boy.  Our unfettered right to play with guns far outweighs the loss of life and limb, because no one tells US what to do. 

So no background checks, no waiting lists, no restrictions on ammo clips or armor-piercing bullets.  We wanna buy a Bushmaster AR 15 on credit at WalMart and start shooting stuff before we make the first payment.  We want it all because it’s cool and it says we can have them in the 2nd Amendment.  That’s the only Amendment that counts, right?

Fuck you, we’re Americans.  We just don’t care. 

Because if we did, we’d do something about it.

I wrote those words on this site about four and a half years ago and obviously, not a damned thing has changed. We are in the same endless cycle. 
As soon as the tragedy hits, conservatives and gun nuts are out in force, saying “This is not the time to discuss the guns.” And that buys them time for the furor to blow over and the public to move on to the next outrage. And then the next mass killing happens and it’s “Not the time” again. At no time have I ever heard them say, “OK, it’s time,” which is by design.

And then they push the “good guys with guns” fallacy, which is good for the NRA’s business, but never takes into account this part:
Republicans have no intention of addressing the slaughter committed with semi-automatic weapons for two reasons:
1)      The gun fetishism entrenched in their “base,”
2)      The absolute power to remove them from office wielded by the NRA.
And thus do we find ourselves in the perpetual state of “Now is not the time,” and “Not enough guns.”

This is also the only time Republicans pay any attention to the issue of mental health. People with Mental Health Issues are much in demand by the right, as convenient scapegoats for the shootings, so to take the heat of the guns. They rail against how we have to do better in addressing mental health problems, but not so much that they won’t eliminate policies that actually address mental health like the one President 45 revoked last February.
When a president tweets about how the violence problem comes from mental health issues but just personally eliminated a policy that restores the ability of mentally ill people to buy guns, he is basically saying “it’s my fault,” but isn’t smart enough to realize it.

Now, I don’t think it’s directly the president’s fault that some twitchy dipstick shot up his school. I blame all the Republicans who took money from the NRA and the Democrats who are too spineless to stand up to them. These are the people that overturned the assault weapons ban and made semi-automatic rifles easier to get than a six-pack.

That’s outrageous. A nineteen-year-old can go to the local gun shop or Wal-Mart or Target and walk out with a legally purchased semi-automatic rifle. But not a bottle of wine, because he’s too immature and that would be dangerous. That is the extent of the perversion that is our current gun legislation.

Of course, this was a white kid.

You want to get some gun laws changed? Let every black man in America line up to purchase a semi-automatic rifle. Laws will be changed within the hour.
I’ve said it before but there is no rational purpose for any civilian to own a semi-automatic rifle or high-capacity magazine. None. The zombie apocalypse isn’t real. A civilian can hunt or defend his home with a handgun, shotgun or standard rifle. This is real life here, not the movies. But the carnage in our schools and public places is very real.
If we remain a culture that values the rights of a bunch of gun nuts to play with lethal weaponry over the rights of schoolkids not to get shot for sport, then we deserve what we get.

And I know the old tired “gun defenses.” Like this one:
No one in their right mind ever said no one would get shot anymore. That’s a classic straw-man argument. Any changes in gun legislation would take years, if not generations, to show an effect, solely because of the resistance to giving up guns that are already in homes. We must have the patience to let new regulations work. This isn’t a problem to be solved over a long weekend; there is already far too much firepower in the country’s collective gun closet.

But do you notice how we still have drug laws? And you know why? That’s because they make it harder to get the goddamn drugs. You have to be covert. You have to take precautions. You have to have cash. You don’t just walk down to the fucking big-box store with a charge card and walk out with heroin.

There should be hoops and there should be rigorous background checks for any gun sale because at each stage, there’s an opportunity for a plot to be snuffed out.

I think the kids have it right. This time around, the kids who just went through hell witnessing the murder of their teachers and classmates are asking very hard questions of their representatives. And if they can’t now, these kids will be able to vote very soon. We’ll see if this outpouring of outrage has any legs. I hope so.

And I think the first order of business must be to neuter the power of the NRA.

The polls always say that people are generally in favor of common-sense gun regulation. It’s only the hard right and gun fetishists who demand the Second Amendment be tantamount and absolute.

So we should make a pledge… we won’t vote for any politician who receives funding from the NRA. (Which basically means, “Just vote Democratic.”) (I know, not always.)

This won’t be easy. I mean, I’m sure the NRA can find ways to funnel money, quietly and anonymously, to any politician they please, thanks to Citizens United. (Thanks, Koch Brothers!) But as constituents, we can ask for politicians’ stances on gun legislation, vote for those who pledge to pass meaningful gun regulation and then see that they follow through. This is especially true in the House of Representatives, where they have to run for re-election every two years. They are, by design, supposed to bend with a rapidly changing culture, as expressed by their constituents. If they renege on their word, we vote them the hell out and put in someone else.

The NRA can’t force us to vote for their guys; all they can do is run smear ads against their opponents.  (Well, and buy their own Russians to hack the election process.)  But it’s up to us to decide who is going to do something about the mass killings in this country. We already have enough martyrs; we need to do something to stop creating more of them.
As for the current batch of gun-buggering politicians, they can shove their mealy-mouthed Thoughts and Prayers right up the same hole they keep their trigger fingers.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Memo Wars

Last week I wrote about the “Nunes Memo,” where the staff of Congressman Nunes went through the FBI surveillance requests on some Trump campaign staff and picked out all the parts they could spin into nefarious intentions, and wrote up a memo about them. President 45 decided to release it, over the national security objections of the whole of the federal law enforcement community.

Now the Democrats have created their own memo that provides information that was omitted from the Nunes memo, that counters the assertions contained therein.

And to the surprise of exactly no one, Trump decided not to authorize the release of that memo, due to national security concerns.

Hmmmm. I bet you that each of those national security concerns coincides with points that debunk charges from the Nunes memo. To release a redacted memo may basically neuter the entire response.  Which is exactly what the Republicans intend. Remember, Trump thinks the Nunes memo exonerates him. We’ll see how much valuable deflection is left after these redactions. I’m not optimistic.

You have to take that with a grain of salt. He thinks that the sun coming up in the east exonerates him. You can’t take that stuff at face value. It’s just one more example of yelling a lie over and over until it becomes accepted as the truth. The Republicans are masters at it, Trump in particular.

Speaking of repeated lies, let’s look at some more bogus Republican memes captured from the wild.
Let’s go line by line:

“If we get nuked, it’ll be by…

Right off the bat… regardless how who nukes us, these SOBs know who to blame. Of course, that’s a given. When has a modern Republican taken the blame for anything? Just look how Sean Hannity is furiously tap-dancing to credit Trump with the flush stock market and Obama for the recent downturn. They’re shameless.

“Missiles built with technology given to China by Bill Clinton…

China has had nuclear tech since the 60s. They could have blown us up any time they wanted ever since.

“Funded by Iran with money Obama gave them…

So is it the Chinese engineering our demise or is it Iran? Doesn’t matter when you’re smearing with a broad brush. And not to pick nits, we didn’t give Iran any money; we unfroze their assets, giving them access to their own money, in return for standing down on weaponizing nuclear energy and permitting inspections, (which is the opposite of arming them).

“With warheads developed from uranium sold to Russia by Hillary.”

Complete bullshit. This has already been thoroughly debunked. Hillary did not have control of this uranium and her state department was one of nine departments that provided approval. (There are more areas of exoneration here, but I don’t want to dwell. You can click on the Snopes link above, for more details.) The uranium deal, as it applies to some nefarious plot between Russia and Hillary, is a complete fabrication. Not that you can tell by watching Fox “News” though.

“But Trump is the traitor? Got it.”

Finally, something based in fact. Trump is the only one who benefitted from Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump is the one who defers to Russia and Putin at every turn. Trump is the one desperately scrambling to try to derail the special prosecutor’s investigation into his Russia ties. Two of his staff have already pled guilty to federal offenses as it pertains to having ties to Russia, and more are on the way.

You know that saying that “if it looks like a duck and waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck?” Our president is one duck-tailed, waddling, quacking MFer.

The second half of this should say, “except all the stuff we made up for political purposes.”

Fast and Furious scandal: A police op gone wrong, no doubt. It was the same tactic police forces use all over the country… follow the guns/drugs from the street level dealers up to the bigwigs and take down the whole organization.  Unfortunately, this one went balls-up when they lost track of the guns sent to the cartels.  Oops. 

While a total embarrassment for law enforcement, I don’t see how it can be used to smear the presidency. Unless it’s a Democrat, because obviously, nothing that’s gone wrong in the country since January of 2017 has been Trump’s fault. Just ask him…

Uranium One Deal: See above. A complete fabrication promoted for political purposes.

Benghazi scandal: Ditto. It certainly wasn’t a high point, but not once have I ever heard a reason, convincing or otherwise, why this embassy attack was any different than the 11 fatal embassy attacks that took place during the Bush administration. Multiple congressional investigations uncovered not a single crime or anything that could even be charged. But because Hillary was seen as likely to run for president, the GOP smear campaign came out in force, with the objective of getting the word “scandal” and her name in the same sentence, over and over.

IRS Targeting scandal: More BS. IT was shown that the IRS went after liberal organizations too, for not being eligible for tax exemptions. And the ones Republicans always point to were based out of a single office in Cincinnati.

It’s kind of like those FBI texts. Just because a couple of employees might have partisan leanings doesn’t contaminate the entire organization. Nor does it qualify as a presidential scandal.

NSA Spying scandal: I’m not sure what they even mean with this one. The NSA was let loose to spy on Americans by the PATRIOT Act, in the wake of 9/11. There has been no political will on either side to put the genie back in the bottle since then.

Or they might mean the spying on Trump’s campaign people. Which is still BS. There was plenty of evidence pointing to shady behavior involving the Russians. And it turned out to be a valid concern. Look at the guilty pleas.

Also, in some instances, they weren’t surveilling Trump or his people; they were surveilling the Russians. And guess who happens to get caught on tape talking with them? Trump and his people. That’s just a case of the fly walking into the web.

Should I continue? No, you’re just embarrassing yourself.

The Obama administration was free of meaningful scandal, once you eliminate all the fake stuff, smears, political maneuvering and wishful thinking. There was no womanizing, no shady business deals, no tax evasion, no selling influence for profit, no un-presidential tweeting, no insulting or undermining our allies… The current guy steps on his own dick three times a week and twice on Sunday. There is no valid comparison.
This meme tells me the Republicans are now believing their own bullshit.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Nunes Memo is Just Another Con Job

This “Nunes Memo” is the latest in a line of Republican con jobs being actively pushed by the GOP and their media propaganda machines. They make it seem like it’s a lot more important than it really is.

In a nutshell, the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed the FBI warrants requesting surveillance on a couple of Trump campaign operatives. Then Rep. Nunes’s staffers went through it and picked out all the things they could spin as FBI bias, corruption, or just plain tawdriness, leaving out context or anything that would legitimize the behavior they were using to cry foul.

Basically, they were doing to this memo what those crooks were doing with Planned Parenthood “sting” videos.

By using this dishonest methodology, you could argue that the Batman movies were about nothing but a cross-dresser trying to bring capes back into fashion. You’d do that by leaving out the background of Bruce Wayne, the reasons why he dresses as a bat, and the greater problem of a crime-riddled city, run by crime figures with the first name of “The.”

The Nunes memo is a sham, a political hit piece designed to provide cover for the president to fire Rod Rosenstein, who, not coincidentally, is the only one who can fire Robert Mueller. And the only reason anyone wants to fire Robert Mueller is that they are terrified of what he is likely to find. (Or has already found.) The GOP doesn’t want the gravy train to come to an end so they’re mortgaging their alleged values and ethics so to ensure that criminals who are helpful to big business will remain in power.

And the scary thing about Mueller is that his process does not require the cooperation of Congress. He’s after criminal activity and federal or state charges.

Congress would prefer to conduct their own investigation, so that the Republicans who run it can, with their heads placed somewhere from which there is no clear view other than through their navels, declare that there was no wrong-doing, claim victory and kibosh the whole affair. Obviously, the GOP Congress is not going to file impeachment charges against 45 no matter what he does.

But Mueller can derail the whole thing, so they’re trying to derail him first. Doesn’t that make you proud to be an American? That’s our government in action… at least when it’s run by Republicans.

It’s laughable that they are trying to claim the investigation is being run by left-leaning ideologues…
Yep, just a bunch of hippie radicals, huh?

This is one more symptom of the blight that is Fox “News;” emboldening our elected officials to lie, repeatedly, right to our collective face. Yell a lie enough times and it becomes the truth, especially to people who want to believe it.

While I’m all worked up, I might as well take a look at a couple recent conservative memes I harvested from Facebook.
Dear Republicans,
We will never forget your propensity to wrap yourself in the flag and military at every chance you get, especially when it gets you out of addressing any actual problems. Other people seem able to maintain more than one idea at a time. At this particular time, immigration is dominating the news cycles so a point about immigration is to be made.

Also, please explain how you have so many rules that only Democrats have to follow. Is there some kind of veteran quota? Is there a particular number of vets we have to showcase before we’re allowed to address another issue? I haven’t seen this kind of outrage since President Obama wore a tan suit jacket.

And by the way, what has this administration done for veterans, besides reducing their access to health care? You guys complained to high heaven about the VA under Obama. What have you done to fix the problems you were yelling about?

You love to position every social issue as a zero-sum game regarding veterans.

·        How can we afford welfare when there are homeless veterans?
·        How can we afford SNAP when there are homeless veterans?
·        Why would we pay for birth control when there are homeless veterans?
·        How can we take in war refugees when there are homeless veterans?

OK, you’ve been in charge for a year, with complete authority. What have you done for homeless veterans? Or any veterans? I think you just like using veterans to browbeat others into not helping someone else… usually a “brown” someone else.

All we see is lip service… a whole lot of flag lapel pins and not a hell of a lot of anything that would help. Like in the new budget proposals… the military gets a fuck-ton more money. How much of it goes to pay for the troops? (Answer: Jack Shit, compared to the money spent with defense contractors.)

You are more interested in using the military or homeless vets as a cultural bludgeon rather than solving their problems, so, forgive me if our shallow optics diverge from yours. Talk to me when you have a solution. Until then, go fuck yourselves.
We the People Without a Military Fetish

More Debunkery

Are you freaking kidding me. You WISH all we had was Trump hate. But first, let’s look at your platform/alleged accomplishments.

·        Border security. Borders are reasonably secure. Illegal immigration was down before Trump even ran for office. Walls are the least effective ways of securing a border. Most illegal immigrants flew here on a valid visa and then over-stayed. You’re proposing a $25 billion vanity project for the country’s leading narcissist. (I bet you could buy a lot of housing for homeless vets with that dough.)
·        Boom economy. Are you kidding? Only for major stockholders. The rest of us? Meh. This big stock bubble (it’s been solid for a while, but plummeting now, as I write,) only helps if you have major stock holdings. Are YOU rich now? Can YOU take it easy because of your flush stock portfolio? I can’t. Because the Trump economy only benefits those who can afford to plunk millions into the market. Big business is booming. The rest of us wait for the crumbs.
·        Better Trade Deals. Who’s he gonna deal with? Everyone hates us. He’s alienated all of our allies, none of whom are eager to do us any favors any longer, nor give us any better deals. Why don’t we ask the former employees at Carrier, who just lost their jobs to Mexico after one of Trump’s highly self-publicized “deals.”
·        Infrastructure. It’s falling apart, just like it was when the Republicans bottled up all infrastructure bills during the prior administration. Reducing the deficit was too important to spend money on fixing our crumbling roads, rails, and bridges. But not too important to refuse the massive tax giveaway to big business, though, right? That’s a demonstration of Republican priorities right there. They should be embarrassed to even list it here.  Where is the Republican infrastructure bill? (Hint: The Wall doesn’t count.)

You think all we have is hating Trump? Here’s what Democrats want to actually run on:

·        Creating workable health care system (again).
·        Securing reproductive rights, especially the right for women to reproduce whenever they damned well want to. Reinstating insurance coverage for birth control is a part of it.
·        Instituting a sane, non-bigoted immigration policy.
·        Doing something about automatic and semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity clips, including background checks referenced against the terrorist watch list.
·        Safeguarding same-sex marriage, or in other words, Equal Rights for All.
·        Repairing the separation of church and state.
·        Voting safeguards. The GOP is reinstituting the poll tax. We need to make it easier for everyone to vote, not harder for one party’s opponents. This is not Russia. (Yet.  They’re working on it.) Address racial and political gerrymandering.
·        Overturning Citizens United, which begat the whole mess we have now, where anyone with enough money can buy their own politicians right off the rack, without anyone being the wiser. And appointing judges who aren’t in the pocket of big business or the religious right.
·        Instituting a tax structure that gives the breaks to the lower and middle classes, and penalizes companies for moving businesses (and profits) offshore. End the loopholes. We will spend the money on goods and services and “trickle UP” to Corporate America, rather than the other way around. Let the corporate tax breaks sunset and let the rest of us keep ours. That’s what moves an economy.
·        Using real science when formulating policy, rather than political expediency, where the end is a done deal and the “science” is designed from the start to back it up.
·        Funding and strengthening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and ensure its independence.
·        Ensuring Net Neutrality. Internet service in 2018 is a public utility, to be treated as such.
·        Raising fuel efficiency standards.
·        Investing in wind and solar power. Fossil fuels exist in a finite amount and they’re damaging the habitability of this planet. It’s time to recognize that and act accordingly.

I could go on. There are tons of issues the Democrats can promote. Hating Trump is just a bonus.

In fact, he’s not much different than any of the rest of them. Pence, Ryan, McConnell, none of them would differ from the policies of the Trump Administration if he were gone. If the Republicans are to remain in charge, I’d prefer that Trump remain. The other guys would accomplish more of their destructive agenda without sitting on their ball-sacks every week. The fact that Dolt 45 is incompetent is the only thing that stops them from activating a full-on sci-fi movie dystopia in the here and now.

Without Trump, our only hope would be Jennifer Lawrence.