Monday, March 26, 2018

The #MarchForOurLives Isn't Enough

I didn’t write or design this graphic, but it fits.

I’ve been saying, ever since this movement began, rising from the blood spilled in Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School, that speeches, demonstrations, and marches aren’t enough. This transformative fire needs to translate into votes if there is a hope of affecting any changes in the nation’s gun laws.

And I’m heartened at what I’ve seen so far, in that there was a voter registration drive going hand in hand with the marches. Best to register as soon as possible, before the inevitable Republican push to add more obstacles between voting and those trending Democratic.

The GOP “war on voter fraud” states already disallow the use of student IDs to register, so I’m not sure what else they can do to discourage the youth vote. Maybe require a parent’s permission slip? I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to flat-out raise the legal voting age, despite how transparent such a ploy would be. I’m sure they’ll think of something.

You can tell that Republican leadership is scared stiff of the anti-gun youth movement. Their greatest hope is that it will all pass when the “Next Thing” comes along. It’s always worked this way in the past, however, this time seems different.

It’s been five weeks since the Florida shooting and we’re still talking about it. That’s about four weeks longer than we usually talk about mass shootings. This movement has legs.

So, it’s no wonder the smear machine is revved up. The NRA and their lapdogs in the GOP are throwing daggers and pumping out misleading information all over the place. US Congressmen are taking shots at 17-year old kids who have already survived someone literally taking shots at them.

There’s an obvious photoshop of Emma Gonzalez ripping up the Constitution, with requisite effects to make her scarier-looking. (Think the “blackened OJ” magazine cover.)

Former Senator and reigning champion of the Urban Dictionary, Rick Santorum, snapped that these troublesome kids should be learning CPR instead of trying to tell adults what to do. Doctors and people familiar with common sense and decency pointed out that not only will CPR not do diddley-squat for someone shot with an AR-15, but his advice is for them to prepare for when they get shot rather than containing even an ounce of prevention.

The NRA is claiming that “gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting the children, as part of their plan to DESTROY the 2nd Amendment and strip us of our right to protect ourselves and loved ones.”  This is part of a plea to join the NRA.

What the NRA and their pet Republicans don’t get is that these kids are leading us. They’ve seen, first hand, what these semi-automatic rifles can do; how much slaughter can be conducted in mere minutes. There can be no more effective advocate for this cause than these kids.
They don’t need ANYONE to tell them what to do. They understand the 2nd Amendment and know enough not to demand the end of gun ownership, contrary to what the NRA’s scare ads want you to believe. They know that semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity clips are not necessary for hunting, home defense, or ANYTHING of a useful nature. There are more than enough Standard rifles, shotguns, and handguns to keep people’s homes and loved ones effectively defended.

Conservative websites are serving up tinfoil hatted propaganda like this:
This is so wrong-headed, I can only assume those who share it on Facebook think, “Wow, he said ‘paradigm shift.’ He must be smart, so this must be right.”

The obvious, gaping, too-big-to-miss black hole is that regardless of whether children can own a firearm or not, THEY ARE THE ONES GETTING SHOT WITH THEM! That gives them every right to protest the destructive power of these weapons of war sitting in civilian hands.

Further, give me one example of how the big, bad, government is indoctrinating children into telling their parents what to do. Other than teaching actual science to fundamentalist offspring, I mean. This is the raving of people who have spent so little time in school, they have to make up outlandish conspiracy theories about what goes on in one.

Conservatives on Facebook are passing around invalid truisms like this:
This is a textbook invalid analogy. Both cell phones and cars have common and beneficial uses, so there are rules and laws in play to guide the behavior related to using them. Semi-automatic rifles have only one purpose: to obliterate anything the user shoots at. There is no benign use or necessity for these guns.

See, they HAVE to resort to misleading statements and strawman arguments because they can’t win on the facts. They HAVE to claim the very heart of the 2nd Amendment is at stake, (when it’s clearly not), or else gun manufacturers’ profits might dip. That’s what you do when you can’t win an argument; you argue the case that you think you CAN win.

That doesn’t make it valid, however.

And when a powerful organization like the NRA finds that things are suddenly not going their way, the way they have paid good money for things to be, they’re left with having to navigate through the icebergs of their own rhetoric.
Nope, no double-standard there… Like Republicans have shown with the gay marriage issue, they’re only for “State’s Rights” when states are doing things the GOP likes.

Last weekend, I watched a special on the civil rights movement, featuring a ton of news footage. While that movement and the one formulating now have many differences, I notice one useful similarity.

Under Dr. King, protests were designed to be peaceful, yet provocative enough to elicit violence on the part of the racists. The idea was to make the bigots show their true selves.

The Kids are doing that now. They are provoking a seemingly respectable section of the population… businessmen, congressmen, state officials, and garden-variety gun enthusiasts, into showing the lengths they’ll go to keep the status quo, regardless of the casualties.

Children were stalked, shot and killed, and those who survived are being vilified for daring to ask for better.

All so gun-fetishists can go out in the woods and play Rambo and businesses can profit from them.

Enough is enough. These brave kids need to carry this momentum into November and show up at the polls on election day, to vote out any MFer who puts NRA dollars ahead of schoolkids’ lives.

That’s the only way any of this will matter.

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.