Monday, December 31, 2012

Cliff Dwellers

This single statement says everything we need to know about the current state of our politics and our economy:

“Something has gone terribly wrong,” said Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, “when the biggest threat to our American economy is the American Congress.”
It's from this article, which explicates further.

[Can't remember where I got that image: it's from a while back. Sorry, whoever...]

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Forgive Me Father

We read the heartbreaking and maddening stories all the time: kids horribly treated by their parents, or caregivers. (One just happened here, matter of fact, leading to a thirty-year sentence). Tortured, beaten, starved, chained, locked in tiny rooms. And we know that in many, maybe most or all cases, the children still try to love their abusers, feel it's their fault; if they just try harder, the abuse will stop. The parent loves them, and this is how they show it. I deserve it, the kid thinks. I must do better.

When it's discovered, we grab the kids out of their homes, remove the abusers from society, and try to love the kids, tell them it's not them. It's their daddy. He's the bad person, and we'll keep you safe from him, we'll make him go away.

When mass murders occur, when kids are killed wantonly or accidentally or die slowly from a horrible disease, what do we do? Prayer circles. Our president shows up to pray with the grieving. We ask god's mercy and reaffirm our love for him and that we know he loves us. We pray to the one who, any way you look at Christian doctrine (fundamentalist, at least), allowed it to happen, caused it to happen, and ask for his blessing. We abnegate ourselves in favor of our abuser.

We're exactly like those poor abused kids, except there's no one there to save us from the abuser, to take us out of his house. We rationalize, we bend ourselves in knots trying to reconcile the notion of a loving and powerful and knowing god with what we observe of the world. We have scholars and theologists who come up with explanations, like relatives who lie to the cops about the whereabouts of a murderer on the run. No matter the horror, we continue to believe god loves us, that it's somehow our own fault.

I've said, and I guess sometimes I actually believe it, that I wish I could believe in god. How much easier would life be with non-answers to everything? But, more and more, even as I get closer and closer to nonexistence (in many ways I'm already there), the less I think that. I suppose I can't say with absolute certainty that there's no god; but I know, without any hesitation at all nor second-guessing, that if there is, he/she/they/it is nothing like the Mike Huckabee/Pat Robertson/Billy Graham/Rick Santorum/TV preacher Christian view. You can dance a dozen theologists on the head of a pin, and none of them can reconcile reality with belief in an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful god.

If I don't especially relish the idea of being infinitely dead (my rationalization is that I've already been that way, before I was born, and it must have been okay; survived it once, can do so again), I'm okay with not needing to invent a bunch of mythology, or to believe a bunch of self-contradictory and logically incompatible notions of a supreme being. I feel no less bad after the Connecticut murders than anyone else; but at least I don't have the added misery of trying to make it fit into an impossible god-centered world-view.

I know and accept that, for many, religion is a meaningful way through life; that for them it's about generosity and caring for one's fellow men and women, and a source of strength in times of need. I've seen it in patients, gravely ill, and their families, and I've been glad for it, for them and for me as a caregiver. I have religious friends whom I respect and admire, who are undoubtedly better people than I am. But the knowledge that as I write this, on the Sunday after, people are gathering in churches to pray to their god, praising him, asking him to bless the grieving Connecticut families now, when he didn't then, makes me nearly physically ill, in the same way it does when I think about those kids in homes where they suffer daily abuse and, because they know no better, seem to ask for more.

[Image source]

Thursday, December 27, 2012

When They're In Charge

Putting the oxy in oxymoron, when Rs, who hate government, are allowed to govern, this is what they do:

In 2003, when a leaky gypsum stack at an abandoned phosphate plant threatened to kill a vast cross section of Tampa Bay's marine life, Charles Kovach came up with a solution that saved the bay.
But this month, 17 years after he was hired by the state Department of Environmental Protection, Kovach was one of 58 DEP employees laid off by the agency. Kovach believes those layoffs were designed to loosen regulation of polluting industries.
"I've seen the way politics has influenced that agency in the past, but never like this," Kovach said. "It's not about compliance (with the rules). It's about making things look like they're compliant."
There's only so much sighing a person can do without hyperventilating and keeling over.

[Image source]

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Problem Is Not Complex And The Solution Is Blindingly Obvious

Thanks, Jacob Horner, for the link!

Interesting, isn't it, that in all the discussions we've heard and read, this is the first time that I know of that someone has pointed out what is, indeed, obvious: the same cultural issues to which Wayne LaPierre and his apologists point, exist around the world. And we're better (which ain't saying a hell of a lot) at addressing mental health issues.

The video ought to be required viewing, as a starting point, for anyone arguing for or against gun control.

The Fourth Monkey

Research no evil..

Here's an eye-opening article which lists the ways legislators have prevented researchers from looking into gun violence.

The nation might be in a better position to act if medical and public health researchers had continued to study these issues as diligently as some of us did between 1985 and 1997. But in 1996, pro-gun members of Congress mounted an all-out effort to eliminate the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although they failed to defund the center, the House of Representatives removed $2.6 million from the CDC's budget—precisely the amount the agency had spent on firearm injury research the previous year. 
Funding was restored in joint conference committee, but the money was earmarked for traumatic brain injury. The effect was sharply reduced support for firearm injury research. To ensure that the CDC and its grantees got the message, the following language was added to the final appropriation: “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” 
Precisely what was or was not permitted under the clause was unclear. But no federal employee was willing to risk his or her career or the agency's funding to find out... 
When other agencies funded high-quality research, similar action was taken... 
... In 2011, Florida's legislature passed and Governor Scott signed HB 155, which subjects the state's health care practitioners to possible sanctions, including loss of license, if they discuss or record information about firearm safety that a medical board later determines was not “relevant” or was “unnecessarily harassing.”...
The article doesn't mention which party has led the charges, so I have no idea.

And as long as we're talking studies, there's this, which, because it pretty much blows out of the water the trope that arming people prevents gun deaths, ought to be a separate post. From the Violence Policy Center:

The analysis reveals that the five states with the highest per capita gun death rates were Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, Mississippi, and Nevada. Each of these states had a per capita gun death rate far exceeding the national per capita gun death rate of 10.32 per 100,000 for 2006. Each state has lax gun laws and higher gun ownership rates. By contrast, states with strong gun laws and low rates of gun ownership had far lower rates of firearm-related death. Ranking last in the nation for gun death was Hawaii, followed by Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York.
Emphasis mine. But it should be everybody's.

[Image source? Well, there are about a million of 'em for the same pic.]

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


And let us count our blessings on this holiest of days, rejoicing in the goodness we see throughout the land, the generosity of spirit and wisdom of our leaders, and the Christ-like compassion of our fellow citizens for one another.

mmmph gasp eerrrk  frrtzz .... 

[I ripped the image from an email from Starbucks] 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Greetings From Our Robot Masters

Teachers, Teaching

Brilliant comment from a teacher friend of a friend:

Instead of having a cop in every school, there should be a teacher in every gun store.

It should be on bumper stickers.

[Image source]

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Here's my latest local newspaper column, published today, reminiscent of a recent post here, but a little less shouty:

What is there to say about the latest American mass murder? It’s all been said, and will be again, and nothing will change. I’m glad our president is addressing it, but I’m not optimistic. If there was a time for sensible gun legislation, it was the day after the first weapon was invented after the musket. Now, America is armed to its dentures, and guns don’t wear out; assault weapons and clips big as your arm are everywhere, no matter how much some, including me, may wish otherwise. 

NRA president Wayne LaPierre and Tea Party congressfolk like Louis Gohmert want every citizen to be packing. Really? Think about the fact that when nineteen innocents were hurt in that police standoff in NYC, all of them were shot by police, among the most trained gun handlers we have. Consider the result if, in that theater in Colorado, a bunch of people had stood up in the dark and starting firing. Ask yourself how long a third grade teacher with a handgun would hold out against a madman with an assault rifle, wearing body armor. Arm everyone? I’d call that an admission that America is lost forever.
Prevention. Mental health care. How many times have we heard that killers had already been in therapy of some sort? We have no reliable methods for in-advance identification, let alone treatment, of killers. Maybe someday we’ll scan every brain at birth, turn a dial, and make them right. But not now. Medication might help some, but who’ll see that they take it? In Everett, we’re finally getting around to planning to provide inpatient mental health care. I don’t doubt it’s needed, and that it’ll be a godsend for many; but for people like the man in Connecticut, unless it’d be a permanent, preemptive (and, therefore, illegal) lockup, no dice. 
No, in my view we’re sliding down the slope ever faster, with no brakes to apply. Which is not to say we should give in and give up. Let’s try gun control. Again. Let’s get cops and metal detectors and better security (and fund them!!) in every school. And let’s address (and fund!!) mental health care. It can’t hurt. 
But there’s one thing I need to say, and I’m just stupid enough to do it: Deserving only one circle of Hell higher than the Connecticut killer himself is Mike Huckabee (and, a few days later, Newt Gingrich), who said, after the murder of those twenty beautiful children, that it happened because we’ve “systematically” removed God from our schools. What horrible theology. 
Think about it: According to the former governor and would-be president, God caused the attack to happen. (Because, when you’re all-powerful, causing is no different from allowing. I assume he doesn’t believe God is powerless.) Me, I’d rather believe in a loving and compassionate God, one who’s like the best parents in the world, many of whom are now facing inconsolable grief, while Mr. Huckabee informs us of God’s workings. 
When unimaginable tragedies strike, people naturally ask where God is. It’s been a question as long as there’s been sentience, and people must seek and find their own answers. But what kind of answer is Mr. Huckabee’s? And what sort of person could get comfort, or pleasure, from it? (In fairness to the rock and roll governor, other leaders, James Dobson for one, have chimed in even more unambiguously: shooting those innocent babies was the direct judgment of God.) 
I abhor it. And I’d hope God would, too. It’s hard enough to maintain belief in the face of such occurrences, to pray for His help for the families when He seems to have left it outside the door of that school; but Mike Huckabee’s way ought to offend everyone. Twenty little kids, humanity’s most cherished and hopeful gifts, struck down, says Mike, because of our struggles with the meaning of our Constitution. Not content that America already has more people praying to him than any Western nation, or that He’s on our money, in our Pledge of Allegiance, that every president ends every speech calling upon His blessings, Mike Huckabee’s God lets little children die because schools are spending their time trying to teach them how to read and write, leaving prayer to their hearts and homes. 
I don’t know how to make things better, but these guys aren’t helping at all.

[Image source]

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Just Since That Day In Connecticut

3 Shot And Killed In Mich... 18-Year-Old Shot Multiple Times, Dies... Man Kills Wife, Teen, Himself... Man Shoots, Kills Own Son... Cops Shoot Teen Dead...Man Gunned Down In Parking Lot... 5 Dead In Spate Of Shootings... 2 Murdered In Philly... 2 Kansas Cops Shot Dead... Shooter Killed... 4 Die In Apparent Murder-Suicide... Ga. Cop Dies From Gunshot... Argument Leads Teen To Shoot Friend... Man Shot To Death... Teen Dies After Being Tied Up, Shot... Man Shot Dead In Street... Drug Deal Leads To Shooting Death... Mother Of 2 Killed In Road Rage Shooting... Man Shoots, Kills Intruder... 1 Killed In Coney Island...Man Dies From Gunshot Wounds... Cops Investigate Gun Death... Shooting Victim's Body Found On Bike Trail... Man Charged With Shooting Own Brother Dead... Man Dies After Being Shot In Chest... Body Of Shooting Victim Found In Pickup... Teen Arrested For Robbery Shooting Death... Man Carrying 2-Year-Old Son Shot Dead... Man Fatally Shot Near Home... Parolee Dies In Shooting... 1 Killed In Buffalo Shooting... Man Shot Dead In Apartment Complex... Street Gun Battle Kills Grandma Bystander... Man, Woman Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide... Woman Shot Dead By Intruder... 14-Year-Old Arrested Over Fatal Gun Attack... Man Found Shot Dead In Parking Lot... Woman Shot In Face By Ex-Boyfriend... 1 Woman, 3 Men Shot Dead... 2 Die In Attempted Robbery... Army Reservist Shot To Death In Alley... Man Shot To Death In Bodega... 2 Shot Dead In Burned House... Man Shot During Break-In... Man Fatally Shot... 20-Year-Old Gunned Down... Man Shoots Self During Police Pursuit... 1 Killed In Baltimore Shooting... Cops ID Shooting Victim... 60-Year-Old Man Shot Dead... Shot Man's Body Found In Vacant House.... Woman Shot And Killed Outside Her Home...Shooting Victim Was 'Trying To Turn Life Around'... Slain Shooting Victim Found In Street.... Driving Altercation Leads To Shooting, 1 Dies... 3-Year-Old Dies In Accidental Shooting... Man Turns Self In After Allegedly Shooting Wife...Man Shot Dead Outside Home... 3 Slain In Separate New Orleans Shootings...Cops Investigate Shooting Death... Man Shot Dead In Ohio... Teen Shot To Death... Man Dies After Being Shot Multiple Times... Man Charged Over Son's Shooting Death... Cops Find 2 Men Shot Dead... 1 Dies In Shooting... Man Charged Over Gun Killing... 1 Shot Dead In Confrontation... Man Charged With Murder Over Shooting... Motel-Owner Shot And Killed... Husband Shoots Estranged Wife Dead... Suspect Arrested Over Deputy's Shooting Death... Police Probe Fatal Shooting... Cops Kill 2 Suspects In 3 Shooting Deaths... Man Killed Fighting Back Against Robber... Man Killed In Home Invasion.... Nightclub Shooting Kills 1... Child Brain Dead After Drive By Shooting... Man Charged Over Shooting Of Ex-Wife... Body Found In Vacant House... Teen Fatally Shot...

Probably not a comprehensive list.


Extremely Well Said

I wish I could write as well as Timothy Egan. (His wife is no slouch, either.) (My wife, no slouch, tells me they're not related.)

On Friday, after a week of hiding, the National Rifle Association will attempt to explain why it has spent more than two decades trying to ensure that weapons of mass murder are accessible to madmen. They will probably make pious remarks about the children slaughtered one week ago, divert attention to the moral rot of Hollywood and secular society, and throw out other distractions as part of their promised “contribution” to solving a uniquely American pathology.
He was exactly right about Wayne LaPierre, of course. And there's lots more worth reading in the piece.

If only the 47% who voted for Mitt Romney could be made to accept responsibility for their actions...

[Image source]

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fair Warning

I'm nothing if not inconsistent, and the amazing volume of comment spam is starting to get to me again. It's not that hard to delete, I'll admit, but it's really annoying. And, given the few comments I get, and the fact that the number seems approximately independent of whether there's word verification or not, I'm seriously considering reinstating it. I'll not (presumably) eliminate comments again; but, even acknowledging the near unreadability of some of the word images up with which Blogger seems to come, I'm getting close to making it happen.

Meanwhile, if I haven't already mentioned it, Blogger has the worst spam filter since Hawaii adopted it as the state comestible.

[Image source]

Poisonous People

First it was a coverup. Now it's a fake illness. Next, it'll be whatever unimaginable conspiracy is next, and next after that. Are there more poisonous people than our current Rs? Is there no hateful and impossible thing they'll not believe about our president and his intentions? As the RWS™ and Fox "news" crew foment one nasty theory after another, keeping their listeners enraged and befuddled, can there be any hope of toning down the rhetoric of our so-called legislators? When one party and its advocates claim the other are nothing but America-hating liars, can there be any compromise?

The latest assertion came from former U.S. diplomat John Bolton, who, during the Dec. 17 edition of Fox News' "On the Record," insinuated that Clinton's "diplomatic illness"—in diplomatic circles, this is the feigning of an  illness to avoid an engagement—kept her from testifying. 
Bolton's claims came on the heels of an article in The Daily Caller by Jim Treacher, who wrote, "If she has a concussion, let’s see the medical report. Let’s see some proof that she’s not just stonewalling. If it’s true, then we can all wish her a speedy recovery. But it’s ridiculous to expect us to take her word for it." 
Conservative blogger Lucianne Goldberg earlier had tweeted a message comparing Clinton to a kid playing hooky. "Hillary has given us a great new excuse. Don't call in with a cold or a bad tooth. Just say you have a concussion. It can last for days."

... And an opinion piece from the New York Post calls Clinton's illness "one of the most transparent dodges in the history of diplomacy."

Horrible, horrible people.

In his remarks after appointing Joe Biden to head a group charged with addressing gun violence, the president noted that many of the teabaggers in Congress (he might have used another word) come from districts that he lost; and that they fear reprisals if they're seen as compromising on anything, any time. And why wouldn't they? Those people (and, no doubt, the ones they elect) have swallowed whole the insanity that spews hourly from right-wing media. To America-hating Muslim communist Nazis Sharia-law imposers, you don't give an inch.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a man who'd read my newspaper column and contacted the paper in an effort to talk to me. (He doesn't have a computer.) The editor emailed me, and I called the guy, an older man, who took me to task for suggesting Fox "news" isn't a wonderful source of news. On and on he went, about the stories you only hear from them, the critical information kept from us except there, the fact that Obama is taking away our freedoms. Brainwash boiler plate.

I asked for examples, and he had none. When he said that Obama's speech in Connecticut proved he wants to take away all our guns (the man keeps several in his car), I asked him if he thought that, after such a tragedy, any president would fail to suggest something needs to be done. Which is all Obama said at that time. He chose not to answer. Nor did he reply when I pointed out that Obamacare, against which he railed for a while, was a conservative plan, based on one originally produced by a right-wing "think" tank, and that if liberals had had their way we'd have single-payer health care.

The bullshit and lies that flow like sewage from right-wing media are not innocuous. They convince people like that man, who sounded nice, and like the occasional commenter here, that something is deeply wrong. They just don't happen to know what, have no real examples, but they're convinced it has to do with liberals, and Obama. (I asked him, after he said Obama is taking away our freedoms, which ones he had in mind. "Lots of them," he said. Which ones, I asked. In what way do you feel less free? "Lots of them," he said.)

There's deep and immutable pathology at work here, and it's demonstrably destructive. Bullshit like the claims of Hillary's fake concussion works; it fuels the fires made to burn hot in the fevered minds of those too stupid, too hate-filled, too endumbed by the propaganda, to see what's happening to them, or to give the tiniest of shits.

Destroying America? Right claim, wrong target.

[In an interesting followup, one person on Fox states the obvious (Hillary is testifying in January), and the factuality is such a rarity that it rates one of Andrew Sullivan's awards for taking on one's own side.]

[Image source]

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What Might Have Been

More on the "narrow escape" theme: turns out Mitt Romney spent nearly nine million government bucks on his magical-thinking transition team. It included five hundred people. It spent two point five million alone on "design, construction, and space planning" for its offices. So much for efficient, small, and thrifty government. What a good CEO, huh?

[Image source]

Problem Solved

One Hand Clapping

Far be it from I to say "I told you so," but in the fiscal slight-slope-downward negotiations, Obama seems to be pissing off the left as much or more than the right.

I remember someone saying a fair contract is when both sides think they got screwed. (I suppose it could have been framed that both sides think they got a good deal, but when would that ever happen in politics?)

Anyhow, my point is just that that's what happens in actual negotiations: people move toward one another. Personally I don't find it alarming, in general, that Obama has indicated willingness to compromise. As long as there's movement from the other side, i.e. John Boehner, who seems to prefer to negotiate by crying to the press when he doesn't get everything he wants. Clearly, for him and his side, it'll never be enough; never be a real "bipartisan deal" until and unless Obama caves on everything. And no matter what happens, the crying over Obama's failures of bipartisanship and his dictatorial presidency will continue from the likes of Fox "news" and its believers of whatever they say.

This time around, so far at least, the president is resisting going all the way. That part I like. But it ain't over yet.

[Image source]

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


No relation.


Well, that was interesting. Yesterday I participated in Huffington Post Live, an online video show they run all day long, divided into various segments which, like HuffPo itself, vary from the serious to the silly. My appearance was, by the time it happened, out of place to say the least.

My presence there came about because of my most recent column in our local paper, about the war on Christmas. HuffPo wanted to do a section on it, and somehow someone there had come across my article. So I was contacted. But by the time I got the message, it was too late for that show. Having never done an online chat of any sort, a nice lady there sent me the link to download the plugin, confirmed it was working, and invited me to participate the next day. Seems their model is to have somebody with credentials, along with a panel of regular folk. The topic was the NRA, the main guest was a lady state legislator from Tennessee, a staunch R, gun owner, member of the NRA (like Romney, a "lifetime member," which means you chose to pay enough up front to be called that. Not, as Mitt would have had us believe -- along with many other lies -- that he'd been a member his whole life).

Anyhow, as leader of the majority R caucus in her legislature, having theretofore been given an A+ rating by the NRA, she chose to oppose (while working to compromise with the NRA) legislation written by them making it illegal (as I understand it) for a homeowner to refuse to let a gun-toting person onto his property. Really. The NRA poured money into a campaign against her, and she lost her bid for reelection.

The panel of whatever it is we were consisted of me, a student at Howard University, and a lawyer from Canada. The most fun was beforehand, while Tavis Smiley was droning on and on in the previous segment, several minutes beyond our time to start. During that time we all (including the legislator) talked among ourselves, face to face, as it were, introducing ourselves, asking questions of each other. I liked it. The session itself was okay, but since I have no knowledge of the NRA other than the fact that Wayne LaPierre is a lying idiot conspiracy-monger, catering to the most paranoid wing of the gun-owning populace, I felt weird being there. Plus, I looked like a fat piece of shit.

Next time, if there is one, I'll have to mount my laptop higher, and look up. Or stick to radio.

[Image source]

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