Thursday, January 31, 2013


Here's another example of why the gun laws in this country need to be refined. So what if he's an old man. This is a classic case of someone who should not own a gun.

Part of me thinks, though, that this is what the gun folks want. That way they can point to the violence and say, "See? People need to defend themselves against this sort of thing." The more shootings, the merrier, eh? Maybe they think that Abad should have had a gun and then he could have shot back.

Oh, no, wait, that wouldn't do. He was Latino.

Ah, That Explains It

With the standoff down in rural Alabama entering its second day, we now know a little more about the suspect who shot a school bus driver and took a kid hostage. His name is Jimmie Lee Dykes, age 65.

Neighbors describe Dykes as being "anti-government" and said he was "a long time concern" in the community, reported. Court records show he was due in court Wednesday morning to face menacing charges, according to the station. 

Gee, I'm shocked. I wonder if he was a regular reader of Kevin Baker's site. Of course, this is a great example of the study that I put up from the other day as to the danger that this type of person, whether acting alone or with others, presents to the public. Where are the left wing radicals that shoot bus drivers and take kids hostages?

And this is yet another example of why the current system we have regarding guns needs to be refined.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Yep. That's pretty much it.

Working Out Just Fine

Let's see...

Grades too low, so St. Paul dad pulls AK-47, charges say

Authorities: NM teen accused of killing family put rifles in van, planned Wal-Mart shootout

Gunman in Ala. bus shooting holds boy hostage in bunker

And breaking just a few hours ago...

3 shot at Phoenix office building

And these are just highlights of the last week.

Yes, I see it now. Our gun laws are sufficient and seem to be working out just fine. In fact, we need less regulation and more guns in light of these events. That'll solve the problem, George Orwell.

What was I thinking?

The Clock is Ticking

On Monday, the president met with law enforcement officials from the five communities where there have been mass shootings. One of those communities was mine where seven people died in a workplace shooting at Accent Signage, in Minneapolis, last September.

The man seated to the right of the president in this photo  is Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. Sheriff Stanek was elected sheriff in 2006 and again in 2010. I voted for him both times as he is a fantastic example of a leader who recognizes that thinking outside of the box is vital in pursuing solutions to the very serious problems our communities face today.

Oh, and Rich Stanek is a Republican.

Sheriff Stanek's point to the president was this. "Gun control alone will not solve the complex problem of guns and extreme violence. We have an access problem. Individuals with severe mental illness should never have access to guns.

This is from his piece in the Star and Tribune a two weeks ago.

Federal law already prohibits high-risk individuals from buying guns -- persons determined by a court to be "mentally ill and dangerous," felons, drug addicts, fugitives, illegal aliens, dishonorably discharged soldiers, those who have renounced U.S. citizenship, and domestic abusers all are disqualified from gun ownership. 

The National Criminal Instant Background Check System (NICS) assists law enforcement in identifying the disqualified. Trouble is, the system is woefully underdeveloped. A majority of relevant records have never been included in NICS; millions of names are missing from the federal database.

Since then, Congress passed the NICS Improvement Amendments Act to improve development and management of the NICS Index. But state participation still is voluntary, and only 12 states actively have engaged in an effort to submit mental-illness records.

Step One: Make state participation mandatory. This would have broad bipartisan support and have an immediate impact on gun violence. But how much of an impact and is it enough?

But even if we updated the NICS Index with every relevant record (and we should make every effort to do so), it still would not be enough. For a mentally ill person to become disqualified for gun ownership, there must first have been an act of violence, or an arrest leading to the extreme measure of a court hearing and decision. In my view, this is far too late to provide meaningful care and treatment to those in need. 

Multiple studies show a strong link between untreated mental illness and an increased risk of committing violent acts (when properly treated, even the severely mentally ill pose no greater threat than do those in the general population). The parents of Andrew Engeldinger, the suspected killer at Accent Signage in Minneapolis last summer, said they tried to push their son to seek treatment for paranoia and delusions, but he was an adult and refused help.

This is the crux of the problem. If someone is an adult, we can't force them to seek care. As Stanek goes on to explain, we have an epidemic of mental illness in this country that has reached biblical proportions. Other countries have plenty of guns but they don't go around shooting each other at the rates that we do. Why?

It's not enough to say, "Well, it's our culture." Other countries have access to the same films and video games that we do. It's more than that and once you get into the details, the central cause that emerges is mental health.

We need a real strategy to address this unmet need for forensic psychiatric care and to prevent those with untreated mental illness from committing acts of violence. This must become a public-safety priority as well as a public-health priority.

More than anything, we must encourage individuals facing mental-health issues to seek treatment. We must "make it OK" for our family, friends and colleagues to seek treatment.

Exactly. And this would be why I will support Rich Stanek as long as he continues to run for office. We need more Rich Staneks around the country to embrace this mentality.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cumulative Risk and Complacency

His thesis is that in our society we become inured to everyday risks that are more likely to hurt us and overemphasize risks that are extremely unlikely. We're more afraid of events that we can't control — extremely low-probability occurrences such as crazed gunmen, terrorist attacks and plane crashes — than we are of much higher probability events that we can control, such as falling in the shower, dying in a car accident, lung cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

My mother-in-law recently broke her hip crossing the street (falling can be fatal in the elderly), so his point about falls hits close to home:
Life expectancy for a healthy American man of my age is about 90. (That’s not to be confused with American male life expectancy at birth, only about 78.) If I’m to achieve my statistical quota of 15 more years of life, that means about 15 times 365, or 5,475, more showers. But if I were so careless that my risk of slipping in the shower each time were as high as 1 in 1,000, I’d die or become crippled about five times before reaching my life expectancy. I have to reduce my risk of shower accidents to much, much less than 1 in 5,475.
This logic applies to all sorts of events in our lives besides showering: driving, chopping wood, cleaning the gutters, cutting tree branches, and so on. I know three guys, one of whom nearly died, who have suffered extremely serious injuries either falling off a roof or getting hit by heavy tree branches.

This means that you're more likely to get hurt performing a small-risk mundane task repetitively that lulls you into a sense of complacency and carelessness. Like carrying a gun everywhere you go.

If, for example, there's a 1 in 10,000 chance that you'll accidentally shoot yourself or someone else each day you carry a gun, over a ten-year period the chance grows to 30% (1 - [1 - 0.0001] ^ 3650), and 52% over 20 years.

What determines that basic chance? Basically, how smart and careful you are. Consider the Kansas man who accidentally shot his wife at dinner in a steakhouse when he reached into his pocket. Why was there a round in the chamber? Why wasn't the safety on?

If the NRA has its way, we will have far more to fear from getting shot at dinner by poorly trained gun owners scratching themselves than we do from nutcases like James Holmes shooting up movie theaters.

People who love guns like to think they make them safer, but they actually become a menace to everyone around them. But most of all, you endanger yourself: you're much more likely to commit suicide or accidentally discharge the weapon and hit yourself or a family member than you are to stop a gunman. And even if you do encounter a gunman, the very act of pulling a gun puts you at greater risk.

Consider the case of Dan McKown, who was carrying a legal concealed weapon in 2005 when a shots rang out at a Tacoma Mall in Washington state:
Gun drawn, McKown scanned for the shooter. But the gunshots stopped. Unsure what had happened, McKown tucked his pistol back under his coat — just as the shooter walked right in front of him.
"So anyway, I'm standing there like Napoleon Bonaparte, with his hand, you know, in his jacket," he recalls. "So I said, 'Young man, I think you need to put your weapon down.' "

That moment of vulnerability gave the other guy just enough time to shoot McKown. The bullet hit his spine, and he found himself unable to aim his own gun.

"I prayed the most un-Christian prayer of my life, which was: 'God, please let me shoot this guy before he kills somebody else.' Because I was sure I was dead," McKown says. "Then he hit me again, again, again. And he spun me like a pinwheel."
McKown made himself a target and got himself shot. He may have also prevented further bloodshed, because after that the shooter holed up in a store with hostages.

Arguably the right thing to do in that case was to take cover, keep the gun out until the shooter's location was established, and then plug him in the back without warning. The problem is that McKown had no badge or police uniform, and any cop or other person with a concealed weapon coming onto the scene should follow that same advice and unknowingly shoot a "good guy" with a gun.

Which brings us to the real point: untrained amateurs should not be walking around with loaded guns in their purses, pockets or waistbands, like Plaxico Burress or the idiot who shot himself in the penis. If you're going to be armed with concealed weapons in public, you should be required to follow the same training and safety standards as law enforcement professionals. That doesn't mean some hokey two-hour training course. That means dozens of hours of training, drills, target practice, tests and live-fire simulations. And anyone caught with a gun in his pants should have a mandatory three-month stint in the workhouse.

The Second Amendment does, after all, speak of a well-regulated militia.

Even West Point?

I've been taken to the mat many times on here for talking too much about conservatives. So has Nikto. Both of us have said many times that the far right in this country, which more or less dominates the GOP, is dangerous and should be taken more seriously. Now the premier military academy in the school agrees with both of us.

In a report entitled, "Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right," author Arie Perliger discusses the rise in attacks (since 2007) by people aligned with far right groups. He centers his paper on three key questions.

(1) What are the main current characteristics of the violence produced by the far right? 

(2) What type of far-right groups are more prone than others to engage in violence? How are characteristics of particular far-right groups correlated with their tendency to engage in violence? 

(3) What are the social and political factors associated with the level of far-right violence? Are there political or social conditions that foster or discourage violence?

Good questions to start and he does an excellent job of identifying the three key elements of the far right: a racist/white supremacy movement, an anti-federalist movement and a fundamentalist movement.

There's quite a bit to pour over so I'm just going to highlight some points that I thought were interesting and encourage everyone else to read the whole thing.

If there is one ideological doctrine about which there is almost full consensus regarding its importance for understanding the far-right worldview, it is that of nationalism. 

Yep. This is where I get my valid comparison to Nazis. I realize this ruffles many feathers here but no one can deny that the Right are more nationalistic than the left. After all, the left hate America, right? So how can they be Nazis?

More specifically...

In the context of the far-right worldview, nationalism takes an extreme form of full convergence between one polity or territory and one ethnic or national collective. Two elements are required for the fulfillment of this version of the nationalist doctrine. The first is that of internal homogenization, i.e., the aspiration that all residents or citizens of the polity will share the same national origin and ethnic characteristics. The second is the element of external exclusiveness, the aspiration that all individuals belonging to a specific national or ethnic group will reside in the homeland. 

It's always puzzled me that the Right can't see how collectivist they act on a daily basis. Everyone has to think like they do otherwise they are not pure. We've seen this with the GOP primaries in the last two elections.

So how is this manifested?

The first includes concepts that complement the rationale of internal homogenization throughxenophobia, racism and exclusionism. Xenophobia involves behaviors and sentiments derived from fear, hate and hostility towards groups which are perceived as alien or strange, including people with alternative sexual preferences, styles of living and behavior;  racism refers to the same sentiments, but based on racial grounds, such as belief in the national and moral significance of natural and hereditary differences between races, and the conviction that certain races are superior to others. 

Finally, exclusionism is the practical manifestation of these sentiments on the communal or state level. Practically, outsiders are excluded from specific spheres of the social, economic and political arena, such as the labor market, the educational system and residential areas. 

I don't think there is a better summation of the GOP today.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Whither Sarah...

We don't hear much from Sarah "she scares the 'hell' out of Markadelphia" Palin these days. Every few weeks, she'll pop up, say something predictable and boring, and then retreat to her Alaskan bunker to wait out the "coming apocalypse."

But the recent news that her and Fox News have parted ways has left a whole lot of sour grapes in her mouth which have translated into some..ahem... interesting remarks. First of all, she's calling for a "larger audience." But wait, I though Fox News had the largest audience of the news networks. What happened? Oh yes...the election last year. Of course, this comment could just be her way of covering herself for being ousted at Fox. But I think it's more than that. The GOP does need a larger audience but in order to do that, they are going to have to change and, thus far, they are refusing to do that.

She also called for "more truth telling in the media" which made me laugh so hard I think I broke a rib. Considering that most the words out of her mouth are complete lies, maybe she should start with herself. The real money quote, though, was this.

“I encourage others to step out in faith, jump out of the comfort zone, and broaden our reach as believers in American exceptionalism,” she told the conservative news site in a short Q&A. “That means broadening our audience. I’m taking my own advice here as I free up opportunities to share more broadly the message of the beauty of freedom and the imperative of defending our republic and restoring this most exceptional nation.”  

“We can't just preach to the choir,” she said. “The message of liberty and true hope must be understood by a larger audience.”

Yes, please, by all means DO broaden your audience. I have encouraged many of conservative friends and commenters here and on Kevin's site to leave the bubble and stop preaching to the choir. As of yet, they have declined. So, maybe Sarah can be the trailblazer!

I'm looking forward to her explaining how our country needs to be "restored" considering we have the largest economy and the most wealth of any other nation on the planet. I'd like to hear how we can better defend our republic when are armed forces are already larger than the next 20 countries combined. This doesn't even include America's soft power in the world with products like the iPhone. I think her message of "restoration" is going to be a wonderful juxtaposition to our impending energy independence in the next decade.

And I'd really like to hear her try to convince the American people that Democrats don't believe in American exceptionalism. It's a lie that hasn't worked in the last four elections.

So, please, Sarah, do take your message of liberty and true hope outside of the bubble. My question for you and any others that follow suit is this

What are you going to do when reality smacks you upside the head? 

Now This Is Embarrassing...

PLYMOUTH, Minn. (WCCO) — Plymouth Police say a man is in the hospital after he accidentally shot himself inside a Rainbow Foods Sunday afternoon.

The shooting occurred inside the bathroom of the grocery store, which is located at 4190 Vinewood Ln. N. at 4:26 p.m.

The man suffered a non-life threatening injury to his lower leg.

Police are not sure how the gun discharged. There is no indication that this is anything other than an accident.

No one else was injured.

Police say the man has a conceal and carry permit.
Plymouth is a quiet suburb of Minneapolis. There is something ... unstable about a person who thinks they need a gun to go to Rainbow on a Sunday afternoon.

Though I have to admit that there is another possibility: maybe he uses his pistol to get off instead of Playboy centerfolds and couldn't wait till he got home. That would make this incident about mental health instead of guns.

Guns in the hands of incompetent people are a public health menace and should be treated as such. One man's right to play vigilante ends when he presents a danger to the public. This guy's permit should be revoked and he should made the object of ridicule by competent gun owners everywhere.

Instead of minimizing and excusing such incidents the NRA should get on the stick and demand higher standards for gun ownership.

The Good News Keeps Rolling In

For all the talk about how broken our health care system is, the world as a whole is actually doing much better than in the past. Some examples.

  • Dr. Benn singles out Rwanda as an example of stunning progress: More than 90 percent of eligible Rwandans were receiving ART by the end of October. "This is fantastic ... historical. That is beyond our expectations from a couple of years ago," Benn says. 
  • Kazakhstan is the site of another moment of global public health progress this year. In March, it was certified malaria-free by the World Health Organization, joining only four other malaria-endemic countries with that designation. 
  • Nigeria heads the pack of 17 countries poised to eliminate malaria. Their antimalaria agenda includes a $50 million bed-net program, underwritten by The Global Fund, which hopes the country will offer two bed nets per household. 
  • The Republic of the Congo, meanwhile, has made massive strides in combating maternal mortality. The number of women dying in childbirth dropped 60 percent between 2010 and 2011, from 740 deaths per 100,000 live births to 300 deaths.

There are many more examples like this happening around the world and the best part about all of it is that it is happening exponentially. Juxtapose this with the sharp reduction in extreme poverty and it's clear that we are heading in something more than the "right direction." 

Honestly, it's becoming more and more apparent every day that we are heading towards that Star Trek vision of the future and it's largely due to the leadership of the United States. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

No Liberal War on Science

A new charge has been leveled in the ongoing media campaign of false equivalences between conservatives and liberals. A piece by Michael Shermer, the resident skeptic in Scientific American, claims that there's a liberal war on science.

The conservative war on science has been well established: they don't believe evolution is real, they don't believe global warming is real, they have crazy ideas that women can't be impregnated by rapists unless they want to or God wills it. More to the point, they have passed laws to prevent the teaching of evolution, deny the facts of sea level rise and other effects of global warming and campaigned for office on a platform to take away the rights of women who have been raped, justifying it with bogus science.

Shermer's charges against liberals start with "41% of Democrats are young Earth creationists and 19% doubt Earth is getting warmer." This line of reasoning is fraught with error. Saying "I'm right because a poll said so" is a very weak start to an argument.

First, this is a voluntary poll: a self-selected sampling of people. Self-selected because many people just hang up on pollsters, or don't even bother to answer their phones. Only certain kinds of people are willing to endure the tedium of responding to a bunch of inane questions: some would call them pleasers. Even though anonymous, telling someone that you don't believe in the Bible's creation myth is tantamount to admitting you're an atheist. People who take the time to answer polls obviously place importance on what others think about them, and may be more likely to give the "right" answer to please the questioner, skewing the results. Furthermore, bias is inherent in socially sensitive surveys and their results simply cannot be trusted without knowing the specific questions asked: you can word a survey to get any result you want.

Second, being a Democrat does not mean you're a liberal. The majority of Democrats have moderate views. Many Democrats are conservatives and vote Democratic for purely partisan or tribal reasons (east-coast Irish Catholics and Jews, or example), or refusing to ever vote for Republicans because they perpetuate racism against blacks and Latinos. The Democrats who hold conservative religious beliefs are by definition religious conservatives and not liberals. Citing these statistics equates "Democrat" to "liberal," making the statement misleading and meaningless.

Third, holding a "liberal" or "conservative" view on one issue says nothing about what you believe on another issue. Conservatives have been pushing the false conservative/liberal dichotomy because they think it gives them traction. Dick Cheney believes that gays should be allowed to marry, but that doesn't make him a liberal. Indeed, many people believe the conservative view on gay marriage, drug use, contraception and abortion is that employers and the government shouldn't be telling people what to do in their private lives.

Fourth, owning a belief does not require that you work to foist that belief on others or sabotage others who hold contrary beliefs (the "war" part of the equation). In other words, having an opinion does not require that you be intolerant and oppress those with different opinions. If you believe the earth was created in a 24-hour day, but your faith is strong enough that believe your kids will be able to make the right decision after learning about evolution in school, you are not engaged in a war on science. If you think the earth's climate is not getting warmer, but you accept kids learning the facts about climate change, fuel efficiency standards, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and electricity generated by wind turbines, you're not engaging in war against science. The campaigns against evolution and climate science are led almost exclusively by Republican politicians and religious zealots.

The meat of the complaint against liberals is that they have declared "Armageddon" on science because the most extreme ones oppose things such as nuclear power, hydroelectric dams, wind turbines, genetically-modified organisms, etc. Again, more false equivalences. It's like saying that all Republicans are racist because former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke is a Republican (though like many southern conservatives, he was previously a Democrat).

First, people opposed to these technologies don't claim that the science behind them is a hoax. They believe that these technologies -- particular applications of science -- are dangerous, inappropriate,  ineffective or not worth the tradeoffs.

In particular, people who oppose nuclear power don't believe nuclear fission is a hoax. They believe that the current state of nuclear technology is not safe. Our nuclear power plants are nearing the end of their safe lifespans and we have nowhere safe to store the highly toxic radioactive waste. It's sitting in spent fuel pools or dry casks sitting outside nuclear reactors across the country, waiting for a tsunami or earthquake like the one that hit Fukushima Daiichi in Japan. And we're still creating 2,000 tons of nuclear waste a year, with no permanent safe place to store it. Oh, and what if terrorists get hold of that waste just sitting around in those dry casks?

However, if a national storage facility with safe and permanent storage is created, or technology is developed that eliminates these problems (fusion, for example), I and probably most Democrats will cease to oppose the expanded use of nuclear power. And I and most Democrats have no problems with properly sited wind turbines and hydroelectric dams, or even natural gas fracking as long as it's done without contaminating groundwater or causing earthquakes and environmental disasters disposing of fracking fluids.

Second, the number of "liberals" who consider wildlife more important than humans and therefore oppose wind, solar and hydro energy technologies is vanishingly tiny. The vast majority of Democrats are fine with the technologies that the strawman liberals oppose. By comparison, the Republican party is entirely controlled and financed by people pushing anti-evolution, anti-global warming, anti-gay marriage, anti-women's reproductive rights agendas. To win a primary every Republican now has to toe the line on all these issues, or be crushed by ads from those vested interests.

In the end, the Republican war on science has nothing at all to do with science. It all comes down to money: keeping oil company profits and donations from religious zealots and other vested interests flowing. Since they cannot win the argument on the basis of science, they have chosen to incite anger and cast doubt over the cost of alternative solutions and the science itself, because conservatives respond more to uncertainty and fear.

At least that's what the scientists say.

That Strange Yet Familiar Feeling

Deja vu. We've all experienced its mystery and I've always wondered if the phenomenon is related to the possibility that our minds could function outside of linear time. Are we remembering things that happened in the past? Or is it the future? As a recent piece by Amy Reichelt notes, the explanation is much simpler and less nerdy.

Many researchers propose that the phenomenon is a memory-based experience and assume the memory centres of the brain are responsible for it.

The medial temporal lobes are vital for the retention of long-term memories of events and facts. Certain regions of the medial temporal lobes are important in the detection of familiarity, or recognition, as opposed to the detailed recollection of specific events. It has been proposed that familiarity detection depends on rhinal cortex function, whereas detailed recollection is linked to the hippocampus. 

The randomness of déjà vu experiences in healthy individuals makes it difficult to study in an empirical manner. Any such research is reliant on self-reporting from the people involved.

This touches on something far greater than a routine phenomenon. In so many ways, we are computers. The bio-hardware in our minds act as hard drives and when we experience events that we may have experienced before, the memory stick engages and we remember. But perhaps the recollection is fuzzy and we can't quite place where or when it was. Imagine for a moment that we could have access to all of it whenever we wanted and in stark clarity.

With recent gains in technology and the ever present smart phone in the hands of nearly everyone, the merging of biology and hardware seems inevitable. This may mean that those memories could be accessed quickly for retrieval making the deja vu phenomenon a thing of the past. We'd know why we are experiencing that feeling that we've done something before. We'd also have clear and uncut access to everything we'd ever experienced. Reliving a long memory with a lost loved one...think about that for a minute.

Wouldn't that be amazing?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bubble Translated!

Let's put the following headline

President Obama pushes to fill ATF's top spot

through The Bubble Translator, shall we?


Ah, it is...

Ex-Ghetto Organizer, Current Negro Named Head of Federal Gun Grabbing Department

Big Babies

To give you an idea just how childish the Right are these days, take a look at these numbers.


And these numbers...

Washington Post

And now, take a look at this...

Washington Post 2

So, they support all the policies that President Obama has presented but if his name is attached to it, then they hate them. Yep, that's just about right.

And they wonder why the American people voted to keep the adults in charge...

Friday, January 25, 2013

At Least It Was A Woman This Time

I think as the rest of the country moves on without them we are going to see increasingly erratic behavior from conservatives. With this, they have taken "Do it again, only harder" to a whole new level.

New Mexico GOP Repesentative Cathrynn Brown has introduced a bill in the State’s House of Representatives that would prohibit women who have been raped from obtaining an abortion—or face a sentence of up to three years in prison as punishment for committing the offending act. The legal theory behind the proposed legislation? Tampering with evidence of a crime…seriously.

Part of me has to wonder if these people are secret Democratic plants that will the left win election after election. The alternative is that they really are this disgusting and, if that's the case, they can never be allowed to be in charge of anything significant. People that are this mentally unbalanced should simply retire quietly to Shady Meadows, be given their soup, and left alone to spout their insanity.

No wonder Bobby Jindal is calling Republicans the stupid party.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bill Nails It

Interesting...many of my libertarian friends have made this exact point...

Musings and Perceptions

I went to the club to work out on Monday and ran in to my ol' buddies Reverend Ed and Doctor Sean. They couldn't wait to start screaming at me about liberals and how they are going to destroy our country. They repeated, verbatim, many of the same arguments I see in comments on here. In fact, Reverend Ed used the same style as well as theme that my regulars here deploy  (e.g. a weasel question framed in such a way that the only response is a "win" for them).

For example, Ed asked me, "Where in the Constitution does it say anything about abortion?" When I informed him that I don't answer weasel questions, he huffed and puffed and said that I couldn't answer because that would mean I would be proved wrong and Roe v Wade should be overturned. I then explained to him that if he really wanted to reduced abortions in this country, he'd stop talking about the evils of fornication and and start educating people on family planning and making more emotionally intelligent decisions with their lives. In essence, work together to reduce unwanted pregnancies and take away the demand.

Sadly, he did not agree and I realized, like everything else with the Right, they don't want to actually solve problems. They just want to argue about them, "win" said argument, and implement policy in EXACTLY the way they dictate, never wavering or compromising in any way. Of course, this is never going to happen with the abortion issue. That topic, like gay marriage and climate change, has evolved to the point where it is no longer an issue. Guns aren't far behind.

This was evident when I asked each of them about the election and why conservatives lost. "People are stupid" they both replied. "Any reflection on your own party or perhaps some things that you might want to change? Immigration policy, perhaps?"

"Nope. Nothing."
"So, do it again, only harder?" I asked, chuckling to myself of course.

I then asked them if they cared if they lost election after election as it's pretty clear that the country is moving on without them.


As long as they are ideologically pure, continue to see compromise as a weakness, are unmoved by facts, intolerant of dissent, and are undeterred by new information, all is well in wingnut land, I guess. I told them they should find some more old white guys with 2 dollar haircuts to talk about rape some more. That seemed to work out well for them last year:)

Pastor Ed informed me that he would be home schooling his child. I applauded him for taking such a proactive effort in his child's life. He then went on to say that the reasons why he was doing it were: he wants to teach his child Hebrew and Greek  so he can know what the Bible really says (out of the bubble translation: so he can win the argument by claiming superiority over those who don't know Greek and Hebrew and thus say that HIS interpretation of the Bible is the RIGHT one); he wants to teach him logic (out of the bubble translation: so he can sound intelligent while lying in order to win the argument and claim superiority); he wants to teach him science (out of the bubble translation: so he can learn how evolution and climate change are myths perpetrated by liberals who are striving to achieve world domination); and, of course, civics, meaning an "accurate" interpretation of the Constitution. I almost laughed out loud at the science remark but politeness go the better of me.

Before Ed left to go home, I noticed how every time I countered what he said, he would go and try to find someone else to back him up. The other patrons at the gym would usually laugh or shrug and say they didn't want to get involved. Like my regulars here, he couldn't stand alone and discuss a particular issue. Bullies always need a gang, I suppose.

After Ed left, the best part of my time there occurred. Doctor Sean's son was hanging out with us off and on as he had the day off as well. After a long mouth foam and stomp off that included many topics, among them how bullshit it was that Martin Luther King day is a national holiday (and people think he's prejudiced...go figure!), how we are going to become like Greece (an oldie but a goodie:)), how China was going to overtake the world, and how Barack Obama is a communist, Doctor Sean's son, a freshmen in high school, turned to me and said,

"I'm sorry."

I smiled and saw in him what I see in my students: the future. More specifically, progress. Sean's son recognized how his old man was not really well in the head, politically speaking, and felt rather embarrassed. Obviously, somewhere along the line, he had some good teachers. Of course, Sean sends all four of his kids to a prestigious private school in the area which, according to him, is really, really liberal. When I asked him why, if he and his wife were so conservative, they send their children there, he shrugged and said, "It's the best school in the Twin Cities."

Hmm...perhaps the only way to cut through that ideological blockage is the perceptual framework of "status." Cool...

Staking the Vampire?

Is Texas putting a stake in the heart of the vampire that is sucking the life blood out of education? The Texas House, in the state where George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind education program was born, has eliminated all funding for standardized testing in the 2014-2015 draft budget.

Standardized testing in Texas has become a bloodthirsty monster that devours children's lives:
Texas schools and students are strongly impacted by the testing schedule; during the 180-day school year, high school students now spend up to 45 days taking various standardized exams.
Yes, you read that right: Texas students spend 25% of their days in school taking standardized tests. Knowing how important these tests are for funding and teacher compensation, it's likely that much of the rest of the school year is spent in preparation for these tests. How do they have time to learn anything real?

We're out of Iraq, we're getting out of Afghanistan and we're slowly pulling out of the Bush recession. The days of No Child Left Behind appear to be numbered. It may take years, but there's hope that we will eventually undo the "legacy" of eight years of George W. Bush.

Next on the agenda: cutting off the head of the zombie in Bush's Medicare Part D that prohibits the government from negotiating with drug companies: Medicare often pays almost double what the Department of Veterans Affairs does for some drugs, like Lipitor.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Colbert Channels the Boiling Pit of Sewage

The last minute of this hilarious clip from Colbert is truly a gem. The boiling pit of sewage!

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Yes, where was the hopelessness, dammit!? If you aren't talking about America's impending doom, then you must be a commie!

Can It Get More Ironic?

Last Saturday, on "Gun Appreciation Day," Nehemiah Griego, a 15-year-old boy, murdered his parents and three siblings. At 1:00 AM he went into his parents' closet and got a .22 rifle, which he used to kill his mother. He shot his nine-year-old brother and his five- and two-year-old sisters in the head. Then he waited until his father Greg came home, whereupon Nehemiah ambushed and killed him.

The house has a sign outside saying: "Protected by Smith & Wesson Security Services."

Nehemiah texted a picture of his dead mother to his 12-year-old girlfriend, loaded up the family van with an arsenal of rifles and shotguns, then spent the day with the girl. He contemplated murdering her parents as well as going to Walmart and shooting the place up and dying in an exchange of gunfire with the police. Somehow he got sidetracked and went to the church where has father was a pastor. After initially saying his family had died in a car accident, 911 was called and he eventually confessed to the murders.

If this had been a weekday this might have been Sandy Hook all over again.

Comments from the right are typical: reader responses on the New York Daily News site blame secular society for the breakdown of the family. The kid's dad was a pastor and a chaplain. Then they start talking about demonic possession. Seriously. Then it's violent video games. Then it's his father's violent past: he was a former gang member with an arrest record a mile long.

Comments from the left aren't much more charitable: this is the predictable outcome for people who glorify guns and violence. We should just let these nuts have their guns and natural selection will take its course as they all kill each other.

Me, I still have questions.

Why are there so many incompetent nitwits who store guns where their kids have easy access to them? Why does a former gang member with a long arrest record have an arsenal of weapons in his closet? Why are so many parents oblivious to fact that they're raising murderous little monsters? Is is really wise to give impulsive teenagers training and access to weapons of mass murder? Why didn't Pastor Griego learn a damned thing from Sandy Hook? How many other Nehemiahs are out there with stupid and complacent parents?

Maybe we should start treating stupid gun owners as a public health hazard, like people infected with turberculosis.

Smart gun owners should get after all the idiots who can't control their own weapons. They should demand action from their own numbers to rein in problems of their own making.

Don't Fuck With Hilz

I can't think of a better example of the nature of the GOP these days. They don't want to solve problems. They just want to argue and "win"...something.

It's obvious to me at this point that the reason why the Right is so touchy about this is they want people to forget about that movie trailer. The last thing they need is more bad PR that shows them to be...well...what they are:) Moreover, they simply can't stand the fact that the Obama administration has done a better job on international security than they have. They have been "proved wrong." Heavens! So, it's the classic redirect and lying which result in it somehow being all Obama's fault.

Unfortunately for Ron Johnson, he found out the hard way what happens when you fuck with Hilz.

Compare and Contrast

I find the different reactions to tragedies like Columbine and Sandy Hook to be fascinating and, well, quite revealing. On the one hand we have the Sandy Hook Promise which talks of supporting families and making communities safer through education. We also have Rachel's Challenge which took the writings of the first victim of Columbine and turned them into a nation wide movement based on love and hope.

On the other hand, we have this:

Men armed with rifles walk through Portland to 'educate'

and this:

The guy in the photo above went into a JC Penny's with his gun to go shopping and prove a point, I guess.

I imagine the world that the people behind the Sandy Hook Promise and Rachel's Challenge are trying to live in. Then I imagine the world that the ass hats in Portland and Riverdale want to live in. It seems pretty clear to me which one is the better choice.

That would be the one that does not look like the NBC television show Revolution. 

What the fuck is wrong with these people? Rather than carry around their guns on a chest thumping parade, they should know...out maybe helping people?

I think about how this culture created a person like Eric Harris, who walked up to Rachel Scott as she was eating her lunch outside Columbine, and shot her multiple times in the head, toros, arm, and legs and then I take in all the ugliness from the gun community, the idiots above being prime examples, that we've seen in the last few weeks since Sandy Hook (some of it here in comments) and I'm led to an inescapable conclusion.

They created  this problem and they should never EVER be put in charge of anything.

Yes. Yes it is what they are saying.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Incompetents and Crazies

Last week an armed security guard hired in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings forgot his gun in the bathroom of a Kindergarten through eighth grade charter school in Michigan. The gun was unloaded, and was quickly found. The guy was a retired weapons instructor.

Not long ago I was wondering if it really made sense to hire armed geezers with slow reflexes, lousy vision and bad hearing to protect our schools. I now have to add "forgetful" to the list of belittling descriptors.

Yeah, I know. Accidents happen. No harm, no foul. But a lot of accidents seem to happen with guns. Last Saturday was "Gun Appreciation Day," and five people were accidentally shot at gun shows in three different states. That same day a guy in a Texas Walmart shot himself when a gun in his pocket went off, a six-year-old Ohio girl shot herself in the face with her dad's gun, a 14-year-old Georgia boy shot his brother with his mom's gun, and on and on and on.

At this point gun advocates point out that a lot of people die in car accidents as well. It's true. We've got a stretch of freeway near our house that's constantly clogged with traffic and there are always accidents. But if the NRA ran the Department of Transportation their solution would be raise the speed limit and put more cars with bigger engines on the freeway.

The fact is, we have taken significant steps to make cars safer over the years. We require licensing of all drivers and all cars. We require seat belts, air bags and crumple zones in new cars. We put up stoplights, reconstruct intersections to make them safer, erect collapsible barriers on the roads to lessen the impact when accidents do occur.

The result is that per-capita traffic deaths have been declining for years, but gun deaths have been going up, though they've stabilized somewhat in recent years because of a general decline in violence. Gun suicides have continued to climb, however.

The simple truth is, the more people that have guns, the more accidents there will be. To prevent that we need to use technology to make guns less accident prone and to prevent them from being fired if dropped or when kids get hold of them. We also have to keep loaded weapons out of places where they just don't belong, like Walmart, bars, schools, colleges and churches.

And we have to keep them out of the hands of people who just shouldn't have them. People like Christian Philip Oberender.

Oberender murdered his mother with a shotgun in 1995, when he was 14. He got out a while back, and he was just arrested for amassing an illegal arsenal of weapons, including an AK-47, a Desert Eagle and a Thompson submachine gun.

Now, this guy is a real wackjob. In a letter to his dead mother he wrote:
I think about killing all the time. Why god do I feel like this? The monster want to hurt people. Guns are too fast. The monster want it to be slow and painful. There is so much pain in my heart and soul. Me want other to feel it.
How did he get these weapons? He applied for a gun permit, but swapped his first and middle names on the application. Recent changes in Minnesota law require all gun permits to be automatically granted within seven days. Police just don't have the time to investigate all applications in that amount of time.

It's only random chance that Oberender was caught before he copycatted Sandy Hook, which he'd mentioned on his Facebook page along with a picture of his guns. Sheriff Jim Olson spotted Oberender's name on a shift report. Olson happened to be the detective who caught the Oberender murder case 18 years ago.

The NRA has been working diligently for decades to gut gun licensing laws, making it trivial for criminals, crazies and terrorists to get hold of military grade weapons and making it hard for law enforcement to catch them. Our gun permitting process needs to completely revamped. It needs to be nationwide, and include criminal and mental health history, fingerprints, photos, face recognition and previous gun and ammo purchases. This will allow police to quickly investigate gun permit applications in the time frame dictated by the NRA's desires for instant gratification.

If the NRA is going to insist on a right to buy guns on demand, the rest of us have the right to keep them out of the hands of crazies, criminals and incompetents.

Good Words

I'm not much for presidential inaugurations. They bore me, quiet frankly. I find them to be about as exciting as such things as the Macy's Day parade hence the dearth of comments about yesterday's pomp and (snooze) circumstance.

I did enjoy the president's speech, though, and it's going to be interesting to look back and see if he accomplishes what he has set out to do. I found this quote from my local paper to be a perfect summation.

Simply amazing: an inaugural address that referred to Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall. Justice Sotomayor swearing in the vice president. A gay inaugural poet. The beautiful first family. All these images and more paint the picture of America today, and where it's moving-the path to progress.

Progress, indeed. I talked about this yesterday in reference to Dr. King but we really have come a long way.

And we should be proud.

In One Photo, Everything that is Wrong with America

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Question For Dr. King

As I think about Dr. King on his day today, I find a question continually percolating back up to the surface of my mind. Would he be happy?

Looking at the state of race in our country today, the answer would be yes.

We have come a very long way from his time when he left this Earth almost 45 years ago. In fact, we have achieved beyond what he dreamed of in his lifetime. Talk to mostly anyone under the age of 25 of how there was a time when black people were treated differently and most of them get the gas face. Seeing past color is simply a normal day for them.

We just re-elected a black president. We've had black secretaries of state. There have been and still are black CEOs of major corporations. Black History month has gone from being an one time a year thing to all year long. 82 percent of blacks 25 or older have a high school diploma. 2.9 million blacks are enrolled in college, up from 1.2 million in 1990. That's more than double. Black owned businesses have seen their revenues rise 53 percent in the last decade alone.

In short, our culture has become much more diverse and accepting.

No doubt there is still racism and bigotry in our country. The poverty level among blacks is very high (27.4 percent in 2010) and only 18 percent of blacks have a bachelor's degree or higher. So, if Dr. King were still alive today, his efforts would likely be focused on those numbers.

But if he walked out of a door in 1968 and came through a door in 2013 he would likely be hospitalized for shock. I can only imagine what his joy would be at seeing his dream realized.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Making Our Case For Us

Remember this photo?

Every American does.

It was a moment when we all stood together and began to heal. Everyone rallied behind the president who promised that the people responsible for the attack would be hearing from us soon.

Can you even imagine anyone accusing the president here of being a disgusting human being for using the firefighters as props in an obvious PR campaign?

Yet with this...

...some in the country did just that. A few of my Facebook friends said truly ugly things that left me speechless. It's enormously sad that these same people can't see that both photos are the result of the same type of violence...devastating...senseless...profoundly horrible. More importantly, both photos represent the best in America in the face of brutality and hatred.

Yet because the latter has to do with guns, it's pile on time and fuck you, Mr. President. I wonder how long it will be before these kids start to get harassed by the Right. It's happened before. I agree with what Nikto wrote yesterday. There's something really sick about these people. That's why I have no filters on their comments here.

Their words make our case for us.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Do Guns Make People Crazy?

Last Wednesday an  83-year-old Minnesota man went nuts and had a shootout with cops. After coming out blazing with two handguns he was shot by two cops. He was declared dead at a Mayo Clinic in Mankato.

On Friday night a Minnesota man holed up in his townhouse after relatives reported that he was making suicidal comments. The cops checked on him and found him pointing a shotgun at his head. They retreated, sent in robots to check on him, and eventually negotiated a surrender.

In December a Minnesota man shot and wounded his wife. She then barricaded herself in the bathroom, and texted her neighbor for help. The husband shot himself when the cops came to rescue her.

Is everyone in Minnesota going crazy? Or just the men with guns?

The basic theorem of the NRA's logic in gun ownership is that guns don't kill people, people kill people. The corollary to this theorem is that only criminals and crazy people should be prevented from having guns.

But what if the very act of owning a gun makes you crazy?

The Slippery Slope

By definition, if you own a gun you intend to kill someone should the opportunity present itself. You think killing people is okay, and you don't mind doing it. This lack of empathy could be the first sign of psychopathy. The idea that you need to protect yourself from unknown people may be the first sign of paranoia. In any case, by taking this first step down the slippery slope gun owners slowly buy into the idea of murder.

At first guns are only acceptable for self defense: my life is worth another life. Then guns become necessary to protect one's belongings: my stereo is worth a life. Then guns are required to prevent trespassing: my privacy is worth a life. Then guns become desirable fashion accessories wherever I go: I need one to enforce good manners on other people. Then the gun becomes the first response in any situation, including suggestions of reasonable gun laws or the loss of an election.

Gun Addiction

Gun ownership is like drug addiction. It starts out with a gateway gun: a revolver purchased for self defense when a neighbor's home is broken into. Then a shotgun, because it's hard to aim in the dark and you want to make sure you get the bastard. Then a Glock pistol for target practice, with a 20-round clip so you don't have to reload as often. Then a Desert Eagle, because, boy does that bitch have a kick! Then an AR-15 in case society breaks down and you need a rifle that can do everything. Then a semiautomatic AK 47 that can be converted to full auto with a little kit you got off the Internet, because, well, you can never have enough protection after the federal government invades and the Apocalypse is nigh.

It explodes into full-blown paranoia when a terrible tragedy occurs — like Sandy Hook, a black president getting elected, or there's talk of limiting magazine size — and a massive gun- and ammo-buying binge sweeps the country.

The Scientific Basis of Addiction

The major factor in most addictions is the rush of dopamine into the brain. It happens with cocaine, running, gambling, shopping, porn, sex, food, nicotine, caffeine and, yes, as the NRA says, video games. But for the same reason video games are addictive, so too are guns: the thrill of shooting a real live full-auto AK gives the same rush that any first person shooter video game gives. Only a real gun is a thousand times better because it acts on all the senses: the feel of cool smooth metal and a coarse grip, the smell of the powder and oil on hot metal, the warmth of the barrel, the flash of heat on the skin, the powerful recoil as you fight to control the sheer power in your hands. That's when the blood and adrenalin really start pumping and the brain is filled with dopamine.

Movies and video games are just pale imitations on a screen. Being addicted to a video game might kill you if you play for 40 hours straight, but it's no more likely to make you go on a shooting spree than a runner's high.

As with any addiction, the surge of dopamine declines over time and a gun addict needs greater stimulation: more guns, more ammo, bigger caliber, bigger magazines. After a time just thinking of shooting makes the addict happy. He starts cooking up schemes to skip work to get his fix at the range, because it just feels so god-damned good there. He drops all his old friends and hangs out with fellow gun addicts. And then, finally, he starts to think how good it would feel to shoot his boss, or his ex-wife, or the stupid bitch that lives next door or the 13-year-old black kid he's certain stole his guns.

Because of the dopamine surge that they evoke guns become a natural response to any stressful situation. Just like any smoker, cokehead or gambling addict.

Sure, many of these shooters started out crazy and guns come second. The NRA wants to prevent them from getting guns. But how many people start out with guns and then go crazy? Shouldn't we be just as worried about them?

The men involved with the incidents of madness above were probably all mentally stable at one point. But over time they lost it. Did guns warp the pleasure centers of these men's brains, deaden their sense of empathy and cheapen life?

The Numbers

Let's take a look at some numbers today. There's been a lot of shrilling from the gun folks about how Americans overwhelmingly support their point of view. That's not true.

A Pew Poll shows the following:

A recent poll from Washington Post-ABC shows similar numbers. 

So, what should we take away from this? Well, the first thing is obvious. The majority of Americans back the president. Specifically, an overwhelming amount support background checks for private and gun show sales. An overwhelming amount back the prevention of people with mental illness from purchasing guns. Two thirds support a federal database to track gun sales. Over 50 percent back bans on high ammo clips and assault weapons. That's much higher than I thought it would be. It seems clear to me that the background checks, the mental illness exception, and the database are all going to happen. It's simply going to be a matter of time.

But a key question remains as we go forward. Right now, the NRA has just under 5 million members. There are roughly 300 million people in this country. Are we going to let 1.75 percent of the population dictate how  we are going to live in this country with guns? What a load of bullshit. I get shit constantly for the 50.1 percent that supposedly rule our country but 1.75 fucking percent? Are you KIDDING me?

The gun folks like scream long and heard about dictatorships and autocratic rule. Perhaps it's because they hate in others what they fear in themselves. The 2nd amendment doesn't trump every other right. The Constitution also guarantees the right to private property and charges the state with the task of protecting that private property with force, if necessary. If the 2nd amendment is, indeed, unlimited, the government can't protect private property anymore and we have anarchy. Don't I have the right to peaceably assemble or do I have to have a gun now? Don't I have the right to go to church (another place where there have been shootings) and freely worship?

According to the gun people, I don't.

Friday, January 18, 2013


It's been ten years since David Bowie has released any new music and most of us were beginning to think that he packed it in. He just turned 66 so no one would blame him, right? Yet here is...back with a corker of a new track called "Where are We Now?" It's sort of a cross between Young Americans mellow Bowie and the Berlin Era. The new album, entitled The Next Day, will be out March 11th in the UK and March 12th in the USA.

Here's the new single:


An ex-student recently sent me two links from which I found interesting. It bears mentioning that I've always had at least a third of the classes I teach be comprised of libertarians. These aren't like the conservatives that post here. In fact, they are mostly like one of my star commenters, juris imprudent.

They don't give a crap about gay people, abortions or any other social issue. They think our military budget should be slashed dramatically along with everything else in the federal budget. They think the United States should not have foreign troops stationed anywhere in the world. This last one has caused many an intense debate in class and usually marks the one time when I get the most opinionated, citing example after example of why it is necessary, at times, to have an American military presence in parts of the world. One such student asked me if if I though he was being naive. Since I don't lie to kids, I said yes. He's the one that now works for the Cato Institute, btw:)

Anyway, another ex-student sent this article to me regarding Jon Stewart's recent piece (which I posted here) on the gun debate and this article from last December on the NRA's massively tone deaf presser. I found both to have some very interesting tidbits. Let's take the last one first as that was the first to be released. First we have the title...

NRA Fights Anti-Gun Hysteria With Pro-Gun Hysteria

No shit. That's really what's going on, isn't gun hysteria.Reason's analysis of their statement?

Not exactly the voice of calm reason. LaPierre evidently wants people to panic, as long as they stampede in the direction he prefers.

Which would be right out to buy more guns...just like they did. And they like to throw out words like "sheep" and "useful idiots"...

The article then takes an interesting tack...citing how rare these mass shootings are so why is he encouraging people to go out and buy guns? Oh yes, the federal government.

After a very funny comment about LaPierre (" but it is drowned in the flood of foam flying off LaPierre's lips"), the article concludes with this...

Last night I suggested that Piers Morgan's televised faceoff with Larry Pratt "pretty accurately reflects the general tenor of the current gun control debate, with raw emotionalism and invective pitted against skepticism and an attempt at rational argument." The NRA and Wayne LaPierre seem determined to prove me wrong.

It's nice to see an admission of error from the Right.

The other article expands on this amazement at the irrational behavior by the gun people.

So, should we be pursuing new, "common-sense" restrictions on the buying, selling, owning, and operating of guns? I am not a gun person - I've gone shooting exactly twice in my life and didn't enjoy either experience - and I find many of the arguments of gun-rights advocates unconvincing or uninteresting. The notion that a rag-tag band of regular folks armed with semi-automatic weapons and the odd shotgun are a serious hedge against tyranny strikes me as a stretch (and I even saw the remake of Red Dawn!). Hitler and the Nazis didn't take away everyone's guns, as is commonly argued. They expanded gun rights for many groups (though not the Jews). When the whole mutha starts to come down, if the choice is between Jesse Ventura or Janet Napolitano, I'm not sure where to turn.

This is an excellent summation of the libertarian youth of today and how they think. It's a very astute statement that relies on facts and has criticism in it that is highly justified. Who are the real leaders here and why should any young person follow them?

My only criticism of the article comes at the end.

Once you strip away the raw emotionalism of the carnage at Sandy Hook, or the Aurora theater, or Columbine, or Luby's, or whatever, you're left with a series of inconvenient truths for gun-control advocates: Over the past 20 years or so, more guns are in circulation and violent crime is down. So is violent crime that uses guns. Murders are down, too, even as video games and movies and music and everything else are filled with more fantasy violence than ever. For god's sake, even mass shootings are not becoming more common. If ever there was a case to stand pat in terms of public policy, the state of gun control provides it (and that's without even delving into the fact that Supreme Court has recently validated a personal right to own guns in two landmark cases).

This is one of the problems with the youth of today. They lack empathy. We can't "stand pat" after Sandy Hook. I think it's fantastic that the numbers are going down but that doesn't mean we should ignore the qualitative analysis of these crimes. And, even one death, as the president said yesterday, means we're not doing something right. Further, those same landmark cases also said that the 2nd amendment is not unlimited. That means there is room for new policy.

But I take a great deal of heart in these points of view because they have kernels of rational thinking in them. At least that's a start.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What They Need To Understand

Check out the reaction from Joe Scarborough and the rest of the commentators in this clip. It's a perfect summation of how far out there the "in the bubble" folks are today . Sick, indeed, Mika...but will they understand and come to terms with their behavior?


Who These People Are

Close your eyes for a moment.

Think about what those classrooms at Sandy Hook looked like after Adam Lanza went through them.

Spend some time trying to fill in the details.

Now, listen to this:

This is the mentality level we are dealing with today. I'm completely at a loss at the monumental disconnect from simple human decency here. If you think that this is just an outlier, I had a few of my Facebook friends make similar comments. But it gets worse.

Remember Gene Rosen? Several of the Sandy Hook kids showed up on his doorstep as the shooting was going on. They told him that their teacher was dead. He took them in and comforted them to wait for help to arrive. Guess what he gets now?

Gene's oft repeated, and changing, story about that day, focuses totally on the kids and the sound of gunshots. Even though his eyes and ears should've taken in the whole scene, his story focuses completely on the kids and the guns. Why? Well, if this was a false flag event designed to move political opinion on gun control, here in America, then you would get a lot more bang for your buck by talking about the innocent little children. That's what tugs on America's heart strings the most ... especially around Christmas time.

The above comment is one of many harassing emails and posts accusing Rosen of not only being a gun grabber but also being a part of the secret, liberal plot behind Sandy Hook to take away our guns.

Put both of these together with the latest from the NRA...

...and what do you get?

A bunch of fucking scumbags who need to be stopped.

These people have no compassion, only paranoia. No honor, only cowardice. No courage, only fear. No love, only hate. That's why they are called the American Taliban.

More importantly, that's why I have been urging the various groups who have courageously taken up the mantle to solve this problem to break out the big fucking dick and start swinging. If they think this is bad, wait until the voting in Congress starts.

As I said yesterday, it's time to get serious, folks. Because they sure as hell are.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Giant Step Forward

The president announced his plans today for addressing the issue of gun violence. Flanked by children who wrote in to the president concerned about their safety and with family members of the victims of the Newtown tragedy in the audience, he released this.

I'll get into what I think about his four main action items for Congress in a minute but let's talk about the 23 executive orders that he issued today. They are:

1. Issue a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

4. Direct the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

8. "Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

9. Issue a presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

11. Nominate an ATF director.

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

14. Issue a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

15. Direct the attorney general to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

Holy crap...this shit just got real. The media is largely ignoring this list and saying that the stuff with the serious teeth need Congressional approval. I disagree. If we started with this list, we'd start to make a dent, particularly with the issue of mental health. I think we are going to see a serious improvement in how view and handle mental health in this country by the end of the president's second term. That is a very, very good thing.

The other items strengthen existing laws already on the books (something the gun lobby has been calling for) so you wouldn't think they would complain but they are (natch!). Oh well. They can gripe all they want but the rest of us are moving on without them.

As for the the big ticket items, here's what I'd do. Put items 1, 3 and 4 in one bill and dare the House GOP to vote against it. All three of these items have the support of 80-90 percent of Americans. Background checks are common for all sorts of things, not just guns. We can increase school safety in a number of ways, included police officers or armed security. Increasing access to mental health services is universally supported.

Item #2 is pointless. Banning guns or ammunition won't do anything. He would have been better suited here to adopt Israel's gun registration and training process. We can't restrict the guns but we can increase the rigor involved in who gets to carry one. Remember, it's not the guns, it's the people and there are many that should not have guns. Some of this will be solved with the increase background checks to that is a good thing.

Today was a giant step forward and the president put it back to us to get it done. He admitted that he can't do this alone so are we going to help him?

HP Blunders On

After years of scandals HP announced that its sophomore CEO will receive a $15 million salary after the company lost $13 billion for fiscal 2012 and shares have lost half their value, falling from $26.61 to $13.85. Who is that CEO? Meg Whitman of eBay fame, the same woman who spent $160 million in a failed bid for governor of California against Jerry Brown.

The details of her compensation:
For the second year in a row, she will receive just $1 in salary. She will also receive a $1.7 million bonus and about $220,000 worth of perks, almost all of that related to use of company airplanes.
The bulk of her pay, though, is tied to the company's performance. She is to receive $7 million in stock awards and $6.4 million in option awards. Options are the right to buy shares in the future at the price they're trading at when the options are granted, so they're worth something only if the shares go up.
She sounds so noble, taking only $1 in salary, doesn't she? That $1.7 million will just barely cover her incidental expenses like panty hose and chewing gum, and the stock and options are just one big gamble, right?

But it's all a scam to avoid paying taxes. Only the $1 dollar and the bonus will be taxed at the new 39.6% rate. The vast majority of her income will be taxed at the new 20% capital gains tax rate (up from the 15% rate) when she sells the stock, as well as allowing her to completely avoid any Social Security and Medicare taxes on that income.

It's crazy that CEOs like Whitman can do such a terrible job and yet make so much money while paying almost nothing in taxes. And this is after the tax deal that Republicans fought so bitterly: it really puts the lie to the idea that the president is waging class warfare.

My predictions: to make the stock price go up Whitman will fire tens of thousands employees to convince Wall Street analysts that she's a tough leader. Then she'll announce negotiations with an Asian firm (probably Chinese) to sell HP's PC business to make the stock will go up again. Then Whitman will cash in big time with another fabulous golden parachute, and pay next to nothing in taxes on the windfall.

Why do I think this? It's happened before, when IBM sold its PC division to Lenovo in 2004. According to the former CEO, IBM chose Lenovo over other suitors such as Dell to curry favor with the Chinese government.

Even though HP is ostensibly an American company, the components in their computers are all manufactured in China or Asia. It boggles the mind that American capitalists have handed over the manufacture of all our computer and Internet infrastructure to Communist China, the very people who are most likely to engage in cyberwarfare against us.

It's not how Marx thought it would go down, but capitalism is ultimately dooming itself through its own greed.