Category Archives: POLITICS

Why I’ve Changed My Mind About H. Clinton, But I’m Still Likely Not Voting For Her

In most of my conversations, debates… arguments, about this year’s presidential election and expressing my not voting for Clinton, they have usually come down to the other person trying to tell me how awful Trump is and how qualified Clinton is. And then I express agreement on these, and try to express my actual reasons for not voting for Clinton, the conversation usually breaks down, and it for some reason defaults back to telling me how awful Trump is. So before I explain a. Why I no longer hate Clinton, and b. Why I’m still likely not voting for her, let me clarify a couple of points beyond question so that no time needs to be wasted beating dead horses:

1. Trump is awful.

“Awful” isn’t even close to the right word. Not sure there is a right word in English for what Trump is. As politely as possible, he would absolutely be the worst thing ever to happen to the US. Take every bad president from Andrew Jackson to Herbert Hoover to Richard Nixon to G.W. Bush and then increase the horrible ten-fold and that’s still better than Trump. When people bring up Hitler and Nazis in an argument, that’s usually a Godwin and a ridiculous end of conversation. In Trump’s case, comparisons are quite apt. His rise and ideological beliefs, as well as being a megalomaniacal sociopath, are spot on. He’s a racist, bigoted, ignorant, narcissistic, pathological liar with delusions of grandeur and is barely competent enough to be on reality TV, absolutely not in any position of power.

So please, if you have any desire to explain to me how awful it would be for his as president, please refer back to point 1. and realize I get it already. It would be. No disagreement.

2. Clinton is competent.

Even back when I despised her, I still never ever said she wasn’t competent. She’s eminently competent to be President of the USA. In fact, while Trump may be the very worst candidate ever (I don’t know, maybe whoever ran against Herbert Hoover was worse…), Clinton is likely the most qualified person to run since… I don’t know, since maybe FDR. She’s served in congress, she was Secretary of State, she’s been incredibly successful in business, in diplomacy, in war. And while I hate her manner of speaking in public, that means nothing in whether she’s capable of being president. She has the background, the education, the experience, the temperament needed for the office. And I never said she didn’t.

So please, if you have any desire to explain to me that she’s qualified, refer to this point 2. and realize I understand that and completely agree.

Why I Hated Clinton.

  • She was a lying liar.

Up until a few weeks ago I had her pegged as the worst lying liar. That was half the reason for my hatred. I knew her to be as much a liar as the worst of them, completely untrustworthy. And, in fact, there are indeed videos of her saying on record one thing and then later claiming the opposite, and even denying saying the original. Claiming she didn’t have a stance she had, or seemingly fabricating events. On video. You can find them. And that absolutely cemented my opinion that she’s the worst of the lot!

But then something happened: Non-partisan fact checkers did their job, researched her statements and claims throughout the primaries, and found that of all the candidates in all parties, she was actually the most honest. (Depending on which metric is most prominent: “completely true” or “mostly true,” she even squeaked past Bernie Sanders!) Fact check after fact check. Article after article, showing that, no, she’s not a paragon of truth, but that she’s absolutely not the worst, or even among the worst, or even half bad. The worst that can be said of her, is that she’s the least lying politician of the bunch.

So, if one wants to say, “Clinton, the lying liar,” by all reputable metrics and standards, you would have to add that qualification on every politician you refer to (including Sanders). And that’s just ridiculous. So while yes, she lies (i.e. she’s a politician), she’s the least lying of them all and so I can no longer use that as a reason to dislike her (any more than I dislike any politician, in principle).

  • She stands for everything I hate in the oligarchy/corporatocracy.

Fundamentally this hasn’t changed at its core: Hillary is no question about it, the establishment’s candidate who still works for the 1% that own and run the government (essentially, not literally — it’s not some conspiracy theory), and the corporations who have more say and power than the people.

That said, she’s not nearly as much a tool as I blamed her of being. I’m not here to convince anyone, just explain myself, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time looking for the links, but in recent weeks I have read several articles by respected journalists and publications with reasonably unbiased slants, explain with facts her record as a senator. She did not in fact cow-tow and arsekiss half as much as I thought to corporate lobbyists and interests. Her record shows that, much of the time, despite being the representative of the state Wall Street belongs to, she stayed mostly neutral on bills that were pro-corporations and benefiting the wealthy. She doesn’t have a Bernie Sanders-esque liberal, or very liberal at all, record. But she’s very much centrist and marginally right-of-center when it comes to financial, banking, Wall Street issues. Not the terrible bulldog for the oligarchy I had thought. We’ll get more into this topic in a bit, but just suffice it to say right now, that all things considered, her record’s not horrible on financial issues and I can’t really hang my hat on that as a reason to not vote for her, like I thought.

So why not vote her??

Okay, so now this is where it gets messy and deals with issues of ideology — which sometimes deals with different but mutually valid ideas that just need to be accepted as different. A topic that even we liberals, who are generally better at accepting different ideas from their own, have a difficult time with.

  • Voting itself is tyranny of the majority.

Much of my ideology is anarchistic. Much of my ethos sides with the idea that democracy itself is inherently criminal and unjust, and its tool of voting for something where non-unanimous decisions are forced upon those who vote differently, is coercion and violent. This idea is easily seen when the people of California in an exercise of “democracy,” voted away marriage equality the equal rights (“Prop 8”). The fact that that decision was overturned later doesn’t change the fact that the rights and privileges of a minority are controlled by the vote of the majority, and that’s inherently coercive and unethical.

I’m not going to spend much time on this, but if you’re interested, please read this article: http://www.crimethinc.com/texts/r/partys-over/.

However, I’m a bad anarchist. I don’t stick to the extremes of the ideology, I’m more into anarcho-syndaclism with a heaping side of Democratic Socialism. I really would rather not have violent revolution (which, may actually be the only way we finally get rid of the oligarchy as no one, ever, willingly allows people to vote away their power). I’m naive and delusional enough to think that maybe, just maybe, we can actually use the existing system to dismantle the oligarchy, even the patriarchy, create a more egalitarian and fair system, and not shed blood.

And that, right there, remember that, as it is the cornerstone of my decisions on who to vote for. Well, that’s a solid half, which we’ll come back to, and ties directly into my next point:

  • Vote for who represents you, not who is the least vile.

I’ll admit I don’t know enough political science to know just what the “founding fathers” intended with voting. I know the Federalist Papers are easily available, and even just that could probably lend insight. But regardless, it really doesn’t matter what they intended (because let’s be honest, we do know for a fact they did intend for white male landowners to have all the power, and black people to be counted as fractional people. So, even though they were wise enough to build into the Constitution the means of changing the Constitution, they were products of their time and culture and shouldn’t be held up as paragons of virtue and wisdom!)

Whether they intended this or not, I feel with absolute conviction that if we have to vote, if we have to cast an arguably worthless symbolic “voice” into the din, then one’s vote for democratic representative should be for the person who most represents them, their values, their ideals. And for me, Bernie Sanders is the first, possibly the only politician I’ve seen, who actually represents me and my ideals.

Of course, this is a two-edged sword. If people actually did that, really voted for their own self-interest, we would very likely have Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee. However, that is also why the people on the other “side” got Trump. Those people have no problems voting for someone they think represents them, regardless of how awful he is.

And maybe in a two-party system, voting for the lesser evil is the best we can do. If that’s the case, then that just proves the system itself is corrupt, broken, controlled by other interests, does not serve the people, and must be dismantled.

However, remember my cornerstone point: I’m naive and delusional enough to think that maybe, just maybe, we can actually use the existing system to dismantle the oligarchy, even the patriarchy, create a more egalitarian and fair system, and not shed blood. That becomes relevant to my decision not to vote for Clinton despite my thinking she’s okay, and Trump is New Hitler, here…

  • “But if Clinton doesn’t win, LGBTQ and women’s and ‘racial’ rights and progress will be destroyed! Why do you hate these people?”

Here’s part of the reason why, in the first place, I seriously doubt Trump being in office would be the apocalyptic nightmare, regardless of him being the worst. First of all, social progress, in general, is marching on! Despite the people of California voting away gay rights, it was overturned. Despite the attempts of many conservative states and legislatures, marriage equality is the norm. Transgender rights are now being attacked, but despite conservative hatred, progress is slowly being made, at the state level.

The Wall with Mexico is literally impossible, so no matter what Trump promises, that’s not going to happen.

A president actually can’t just push a button and launch nukes. It has to be authorized by the Joint Chiefs and military heads who wouldn’t let that happen just because.

There’s no guarantee that his supreme court nominations would even be approved (especially by a Democrat controlled congress), and if so, no guarantee that they’d make evil decisions. The liberal justices on there now have surprised me with supporting Citizen’s United and the decision to let police off the hook for actions taken while being ignorant of the law. And conservative justices have surprised me by upholding privacy rights and marriage equality. So Trump in office does not guarantee everything goes to hell.

And in fact, while I am not a “watch the world burn” kind of guy, his getting elected could actually galvanize the left, and be a catalyst for real, deep, progressive changes! It’s usually the case that the left is generally inactive and complacent when things are only kinda bad. Bad really pull it together finally when something really bad happens (at least for a while). Trump in office could actually trigger a serious non-violent rebellion that could ultimately improve social progress by a leap and a bound, instead of struggling inches.

Maybe.

And in that same vein, voting for Clinton in order to protect the progress made, is simply more kicking the can of change down the road. “Oh, this time is different! We have to make sure Trump doesn’t get in, then, maybe, next election, we can support real change. Status quo is better than the alternative, right?” Well, that’s a game we’ve been playing for decades. Let’s just not vote for That Guy this time, and and then maybe next time we can do something big to make real change.

Except the powers that be, the RNC and DNC, do not give us that opportunity to vote for anything else except for lesser evils (at the national level). This year is the first time a legitimately progressive, qualified candidate from outside the DNC became a valid and possible option! (And the fact he had to sell out and get the support of the DNC, which very publicly and on record declared they didn’t like him, didn’t want him, was working for the establishment candidate, just shows how much control the two wealth-based political parties have.) This was the time a real choice for change could have been made, but people sided with the “more electable choice.” (Which is ironic since if the people who wanted to vote for Sanders but voted for the “electable choice” actually voted for Sanders, there’s little doubt he’d have the nomination.)

Anyway, my main point is this:

  • A “protest vote” for Sanders IS an act of benefit for LGBTQ, women, people of color, and the people in general.

Point of fact: Most analysts and pundits and insiders agree that because of Sanders, Clinton moved to the left more than she would have. That after he conceded, the DNC and Clinton deigned to let him in and work together on the party platform — which is one of the most liberal and progressive Democratic platforms in decades. It took significantly from his campaign. Sanders influenced the Democrats, and Clinton, to be at least a little more progressive than they otherwise would have.

Now, here’s where I get involved in as much “game playing” as I accuse people who only vote for “the more electable person who’s not the Other Guy” of being… I live in Oregon, a state that has sent its electoral votes without fail for the Democratic candidate since 1988. And all polling indicates there is absolutely no question at all where Oregon is going this election. Clinton is getting Oregon, period.

However, Oregon is also one of the few states with completely open write-in option for president. Whereas my vote for Clinton wouldn’t matter a whit, and not voting at all would make no difference, my write-in vote for Sanders would be one tiny nearly invisible drop in small bucket of people who may do likewise, who may vote their conscience and ethics and ideals and still vote for the better candidate. Maybe just enough to make an amount that can’t be ignored. 2%? Maybe even 4%? Goodness willing, possibly 6%?

In Oregon in 2000, 5% of the vote went for Ralph Nader and the Oregon popular and electoral vote still went to Al Gore — Nader did not “steal” anything from Gore in Oregon, and that was a close race. Writing in for Sanders isn’t going to “steal” anything from Clinton in this race where the margin is right now so huge, people are already calling the election in her favor.

What might happen if Sanders actually got a statistically significant amount of votes in states where people can still vote for him? If his running against Clinton can “send a message” enough to make her and the party move to the left, it’s possible his noticeable write-in presence could influence the party even more. And that would mean a greater mandate for the left to keep pushing for equal rights, pushing for progress in social issues for LGBTQ and people of color and women. And students and the poor and people who need medical care, etc. And, also, give him greater clout to get more influential power within the party and Washington, where his continued work for everyone except the 1% will have an effect.

If the race were close in Oregon, you know, I would actually vote for Clinton. And I would do so with the anarchist in me screaming bloody murder for even voting at all, but the Democratic Socialist in me shrugging and saying, “eh, that’s cool,” and I’d feel little ethical shame. But it’s not going to be close, it’s going to be a landslide for Clinton. So yeah, you can blame it on white cis-male privilege that I can vote how I actually want to, but my write-in vote for Sanders is actually still a valid and useful vote for equality and social change and progress. And if I do vote that way, I will feel good that I used my infinitesimal useless civic voice to add to a statement that could make an already not horrible Clinton administration a bit better because of it.

Guns and Mental Health

In the past when I’ve written on this topic, I’ve peppered every section and argument with links and numbers… this time I’m writing stream of conscious focusing on my thoughts and opinions. However, I’m more than happy to bring up numbers and facts if needed. Because if you have a different opinion, and this is going to be shocking based on this topic, but I welcome debate. Reasoned debate. Because contrary to what pretty much everyone believes on either end of the spectrum, this is not a black-or-white issue (and sadly, liberals who tend to find nuance and shades better than conservatives, are generally pretty fundamentalistly extreme on this topic as well). There is no easy answer, no matter how much one side or the other yells their opinion.

I’ve pretty much stopped being political or inflammatory on social media. It’s generally not worth it. And since the Oregon community college shooting last week, I’ve remained silent on it. Have not commented on the flood of posts that have come through my Facebook timeline, not shared any posts… except one. This one:

There’s a Way to Stop Mass Shootings, And You Won’t Like It

In short, banning guns in the US is nearly impossible, and likely won’t affect mass shootings anyway, banning “scary” guns won’t have an effect since most shootings happen with pistols, most shootings are committed by people who have no prior record and would pass/have passed a background check, are committed by people without a clinical history of mental illness and even so, do we want to have everyone’s mental health records open and searchable? His answer: pay attention to the loners and outcasts! (In brief.)

Then this morning on NPR, I listened to this interview with Malcolm Gladwell:

How Riots May Help Us Understand School Shooters

Also in brief, his theory is that the true psychopaths like Columbine’s Eric Harris already did the “hard part” of starting the movement, and what we have in the years since are disenfranchised loners steeped in a culture of Harris-worship following in his footsteps, with “the threshold that you had to cross to find yourself doing that has gotten lower”. It’s easier to be a follower in a riot than a leader. And the Internet has made it easier for these youths to want to follow in footsteps, regardless of how little the mainstream press glamorizes the shooters.

And then, what finally prompted me to want to say something, was watching last week’s “Last Week with John Oliver” where he had an otherwise fantastic and incisive piece on mental healthcare in the US, he lambasted anyone (focusing on idiot GOP politicians) who says the problem with mass shooting isn’t guns but mental health. Oliver compared bringing mental health into the discussion of mass shootings like vilifying Coke a Cola because it was in a commercial with Bill Cosby, implying gun control has everything to do with mass shootings and issues of mental health aren’t really connected except by association.

Now, I love John Oliver. Heretofore he’s not said pretty much anything I could disagree with. But that really set me off.

Here’s some information:

Over the last couple of decades, gun violence and specifically gun related homicide in the US has steadily decreased! It’s currently at some of the lowest rates it’s been in nearly 100 years. (Pause: Does the US still have a gun violence problem? Hell yeah. Can more be done to lower that? Hell yeah.) But, mass shootings have increased alarmingly. Which means we’re on the right path regarding what we’re doing as a nation on gun crime already (yes yes, more can be done), but on the wrong one regarding mass shootings. Why are mass shootings so different from other gun crime?

Another thing I saw recently, a lot of vitriol on Facebook about concealed carry on campuses, with comments implying the move would at best create random violence and at worst lead to more mass shootings, and bottom line, everyone is less safe! Two thoughts here:

Has the illegality of concealed carry on schools stopped mass shooters who illegally brought guns and illegally murdered people? Why would allowing legally carrying owners onto campuses increase more mass shootings, when someone who wants to mass murder is going to bring guns anyway?

It’s possible the increased chance that a shooter is going to be faced with a concealed carry citizen might think twice about their grand plan to kill as many people as they can until police finally respond. Maybe.

One of the biggest straw men arguments I’ve heard from anti-carry people is that concealed carry people are somehow more trigger happy and will a. cause more damage than they’d stop, and b. would be a distraction at best for law enforcement on the scene.

And then, they turn around and point to the fact that two people on the Oregon campus were concealed carrying, and didn’t run across campus to engage the shooter as somehow ammo (sorry) for their argument against concealed carriers. I’m at a loss to explain that once. In this instant we have two trained concealed carriers who wisely understood they would be a hazard to responding law enforcement and decided to stay in the classrooms they were in to protect their peers should they need to. Unlike the myth that concealed carriers are trigger-happy vigilantes, they showed restraint and care in their decision. It’s a no-win situation that reveals that most anti-gun liberals suffer from cognitive biases just as much as pro-gun conservatives.

Personally, I would feel safer knowing there could be concealed carriers around me.

Another tangent: What about open carriers? Well, in my opinion they’re generally idiots with some kind of chip on their shoulder and power issues. Especially people who carry around AR-15s and other long guns! God, what tools! Seriously!

Now, I can point to individual instances where a citizen has stopped a shooting or some other violence by being armed, like this Youtube video that shows a guy getting attacked by a machete-wielding vet with PTSD, who bashed open his apartment to try to kill him: The resident yelled at him he was armed, warned him, waited until danger was imminent (didn’t go shooting wantonly) then shot the assailant in the legs, wounding instead of killing. But then, I know someone can point out the recent story of a guy trying to stop a carjacking but accidentally shot the victim in the head and missed the carjackers.

I can point to the story of the guy who used a knife to kill or seriously would more than 20 people on a campus, or the entirely ignored by the press other Oregon shooting a few years ago of a guy opening fire in a food court until a concealed carry citizen drew on him, didn’t fire, and the would-be mass shooter fled and killed himself. And someone can show me the recent article of a kid who shot and killed a girl he didn’t like for not letting him pet her puppies.

We can trade individual stories for days on end. But it’s like arguing climate change: Someone can point to record snowfall, someone else can point to record heatwave, but these are all individual datapoints for trends. The trend: climate change is real. And, overall gun crime has fallen and continues to fall, while mass shootings goes up.

Back to John Oliver and his Coke can metaphor, what he (his writers) seem to ignore, a point most liberals ignore: There are over 300,000,000 legal firearms in the US. And nearly all of them are used legally and responsibly. Most gun owners never talk about their guns, never use them except for safe and intended purposes. The fact that a tiny percentage of guns in the country are used for evil is ignored for the point that any gun is used at all.

In closing, what I hate most is the constant cry that “Something must be done about gun control!” Okay, great. What? Tell me what? Most people either say, I don’t know (which is fine, but let’s maybe start thinking about it instead of impotently crying “Do something!”), or if pressed, think all guns can be banned. Personally, I appreciate the rare meme I see about comparing regulating guns like we do cars! Required tests, required insurance, required safety inspections, etc.

As a gun shooter and enthusiast, I’m also a rabid NRA-hater and I’m enthusiastically all for greater regulation and control! (Hey, rabid gun-lovers who wave the Constitution like a magic totem: The document itself states “well-regulated,” dick. Having to take classes, carry insurance, pass checks, register your gun, is not equivalent to “They’s takin our gunz!!”)… (yeah, I know, I just committed an ad hominem fallacy there, sue me.)

But greater control isn’t a panacea for gun crime and certainly not for mass shootings. Something else must be done (in addition!) And people like that blogger I linked to at the top, and Malcolm Gladwell, have touched on the root of the issue with young white male mass shooters: It’s not the guns, it’s not even entirely mental illness: it’s what we do as a society and what we value and how we treat all of us, even the least of us.

Gun control, redux

Naturally, like many people, my thoughts have been on the topic of gun control of late. Naturally, if you know me, I have opinions on the matter.

However, you may be surprised to hear, my thoughts have evolved a bit.

But first, a metablog word: So, as you can see, it’s been nearly a year since the last time I’ve blogged on here. There are various reasons. One was the chilling effect that incident a year and half ago had on me. (Huh. I was going through the archives trying to find a reference to that incident, and can’t find one. Except where I vaguely refer to it. I guess it was so chilling it left me too skittish to even refer to it when it happened. Probably wise. Suffice to say, someone who vehemently disagreed with a political opinion of mine tried to get me fired from my day job. Tried very hard. And it had the desired effect: I censored myself a lot more. That person won. They limited my freedom of speech by making me afraid to speak. I’d say that’s a tool of the fascist, but that may or may not be libelous if I meant it.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah. I have also not blogged, even the banal stuff I promised because, well, Facebook is just too darn easy! Find a good article, hit “Share,” write a sentence or two: bam! Instant validation. When you can do that 20 times a day on various topics, why bother spending time in a long-form essay format.

But (coming back on topic) some issues and thoughts require careful consideration and discourse. And gun control is one of those topics.

Looking through my archives, it seems I’ve shared a few words on the topic before. Here’s most of the good ones:

I packed a lot of good facts and statistics in those posts, which is good since, today, I want to give more broad strokes. Not to say I want to avoid facts, but I want to avoid being too redundant.

Here’s my thesis statement right off: I’m pro gun, anti-gun culture. Pro gun control, anti-gun abolition.

These are not mutually exclusive opinions, despite what the more reactionary liberals would have you believe. In fact, usually whenever I state that I’m pro-gun and anti-extreme gun control, and support concealed carry, the reaction that more than half the time that comes from a reactionary liberal is:

Oh, so you think giving everyone guns would make us safer?!

I swear, the next time I see someone respond with that (and that’s a literal quote from one individual and nearly verbatim from others), I’ll ban/unfriend their rear. That is a textbook slippery slope, straw man logical fallacy. In no way have I, nor the NRA for that matter, nor any reasonable gun advocate I know, has ever suggested, or even implied, everyone should be given guns–or even that everyone should own a gun at all! In fact, most people probably shouldn’t.

I can’t speak for all gun ownership advocates, but I’m in favor of reasonable gun control. Meaning: yes, ban fully-automatic weapons. Ban assault rifles. Ban whatever can’t be reasonably used for hunting and home/self defense. In addition, I feel, everyone who owns a gun should have to take gun safety and usage courses, pass an exam, and re-certify every so many years, just as we do for driving. Also, mental health background checks should be considered, especially if there is a history of schizophrenia or anti-social personality disorders (sociopathy and psychopathy).

Now, can that position in any way be confused with: Let everyone have guns!!1!

Here’s the crux: Liberals tend to think the whole issue can be solved by banning guns. That somehow our culture will be more civil and less violent without guns. Just like how banning drugs has made people stop using drugs and dealers stop profiting off drugs. (That last was sarcastic, in case you didn’t notice.) But it’s not as simple as that.

Examples: England has outlawed almost all private gun ownership. Yet they have a terrible black market gun trade and high rates of gun-related crime. Meanwhile, Switzerland has a high rate of gun ownership, but extremely low gun-crime. Why is this?

People hate this, conservatives more than liberals, but on this topic, liberals hate it as much as extreme conservatives: The solution is complicated. It comes down to culture.

Face it, America has a violent, arrogant, thrill-seeking, short-sighted, selfish, adolescent-like, near-sociopathic culture. It’s mirrored and reinforced in our entertainment, it’s validated by the corporatocracy which defines our values, it’s evident in our brief history, and it’s exported by our military empire.

Add to that, we have deplorable, embarrassing, social care and safety-net system: the worst insurance-care healthcare system of the civilized world, massive poverty for a western nation, we treat drug addiction like a crime instead of a disease and thus exacerbate drug-related crimes, terrible mental health screening and care–our social structure is abysmal, which is why people often turn to crime, violent crime at that. Countries like Switzerland and most European countries, actually abhor violent culture and entertainment, care about their social structure, have higher education rates and put a premium on education, and strive to make sure their populace is physically and mentally healthy and happy. England, unfortunately, aside from their national health service, has a culture far too similar to the U.S. (thanks Thatcher!) and so suffers from much of the same cultural ills.

What I’m saying, is the problem isn’t the guns, it’s the people. We could ban all guns in the U.S. outright, but that’s not going to change the culture. We would simply have an out of control black market gun trade, and an increase in gun violence just as illegal drugs lead to violence connected with its illegal trafficking.

I agree, we should make it harder for people to get guns that can do a lot of destruction in a short amount of time. But what we also need to do is stop making human game preserves, or as they officially are called: gun free zones. Because if someone is intent on doing gun violence, you think making some place a gun free zone is going to deter them?

What can deter people intent on doing mass violence is the threat of an armed populace.

Yeah, I just heard that aneurysm blow in dozens of liberals.

Again, I am in no way implying giving people guns. Read my paragraph above on what I believe people should have to do to be able to own a gun.

Concealed carry requirements, for example, not only require people to understand gun safety, but also when and where the use of armed protection or reaction is necessary. People who are responsible gun owners, who have legal concealed carry licenses, are people who tend to train often and respect the tool. The scenario of some wanton cross-fire shootout among civilians pretty much only exists in (our violent) movies. It just doesn’t happen in real life.

What does happen in real life, is responsible gun owners have stopped mass killings.

Here’s a site which this fellow (an anarcho-capitalist, ugh!) has researched mass shooting events across the country, sorted the ones in which the killers shot at will until stopped by police, and ones in which an armed civilian got involved. The result:

The average number of people killed in mass shootings when stopped by police is 14.3

The average number of people killed in a mass shooting when stopped by a civilian is 2.3.

[…] it makes perfect sense if you think about from inside the mind of a heroic civilian with a concealed carry permit. It goes something like this:

BANG!
“Holy crap! that guy shot that other guy.”
BANG!
“He’s just going to keep shooting people.”
BANG!

And the shooter goes down.

Quite a few cases went something like that. In fact, I found only one example of a shooter stopped by civilians who killed more than 3 people. Jared Loughner killed 6 people in Tucson, Arizona before he was tackled by two civilians. Maybe it’d have been less if one of those two men were armed.

Police react to shooting events as fast as they can, but unless there happens to be a few around the corner, it takes them as long as it takes a killer to empty three clips of ammo at least, to respond. Usually, as that site shows, mass shootings end when the killer is finished and commits suicide. But like he illustrates, an armed, trained civilian can react and stop a mass shooter in enough time to same many lives.

But the Aurora shooter had body armor! A civilian would have had no effect and possibly kill more people!

Perhaps. But we know two things, especially about Aurora: 1. no one confronted the shooter and a lot of people died and a lot more were wounded. 2. in other shootings in which the shooter was wearing body armor, the shooter stopped shooting at other people and focused on the civilian.

Example: The Mark Wilson response to David Hernandez Arroyo’s mass shooting. Arroyo had already killed two people and was about to kill his own son, when Wilson, a civilian, shot him. Arroyo, instead of shooting the unarmed son, turned on Wilson and chased him down instead. Wilson was, sadly, ultimately killed by Arroyo. But his action saved at least one life, taking the shooters attention until the police was able to adequately respond.

Also in Colorado, when church security guard Jeanne Assam took her personally owned concealed handgun and fired on a man intent on mass murder, the guy’s plans were instantly thwarted (he certainly didn’t expect armed resistance at a church!) and he killed himself (instead of doing so after killing many).

That site I linked above details many such instances in which an armed civilian turns what could have been a news-making mass shooting into a page 3 shooting event.

As for the Aurora, Colorado shooting, obviously we can’t know for sure what would have happened if there were an armed civilian or two in there. But here’s what I see would likely have been a worst-case scenario: Holmes would have started firing. Two, three, maybe five people get shot. The two poorly trained armed civilians pull their guns and fire, both hitting another two to four civilians (with concealed carry size handguns, most likely seriously wounding but possibly killing them). Holmes focuses on them long enough to kill them, and then continues. Instead of 12 dead and 60 injured, maybe 15 dead and 63 injured. Yes, every life is tragic! But is the final result that much worse?

More than likely, what would have happened: Holmes fires a few times. An adequately trained armed civilian realizes what’s going on and takes a kneeling position behind a row of chairs and fires back. Holmes stops shooting indiscriminately at fleeing people, and focuses on the shooter. He can’t see the shooter much better than the other way around, and has to try to locate and approach him. Meanwhile, more people are safely escaping without being shot at. A full minute or two passes while civilian and Holmes trade shots. Eventually, maybe Holmes kills the brave civilian (although, in nearly every single case but 2 of civilian opposition, the civilian is unharmed), but in that time, dozens of people were able to flee. Final result: maybe 4 dead and 12 injured. Still tragic, but significantly less so.

It’s also been shown that some shooters, when their plan goes south and realize there’s quick and unexpected opposition, flee instead….

Well, that’s my take. But what about the Second Amendment? Shouldn’t we be allowed to have AR-15s and assault rifles and high capacity clips and body armor to protect the republic from a corrupt government, like Jefferson and other Founding Fathers intended?

Well, at one time (one of those links above?) I would have possibly agreed. But when you really think about it, it’s far too late for that. No matter how many AR-15s the populace has, if the people wanted to revolt against an evil government, they would have as much chance against the U.S. military as an ant has against a tactical nuke. Gun hoarders and Idaho compound residents expecting to rise up against the government: yeah, give up the delusion. The only thing you’ll be any use in is if all technology stopped working and the world descended into medieval-like chaos, or Red Dawn comes true. And that ain’t bloody likely. No, if the government becomes so corrupt that we need to rise up, you better darn well hope the military is on our side, and that’s not going to happen. And if it does happen, the military coup will be swift.

That being said, it’s possible that the U.S. has avoided corrupt(er) and evil(er) governments thanks to the prophylactic threat of an armed populace. We can’t count the number of times something didn’t happen, so who knows how many times the Second Amendment actually prevented a fascist regime. (One can argue that that very threat has contributed to the plutocratic government’s more subtle corporatist military-industrial-complex takeover that influences our culture.)

But, water and bridges. As it is now, the Second Amendment just doesn’t matter any longer in the sense that guns are needed to protect liberty. The people vs. the standing military (something the Founding Fathers very much did not want) has already been terribly lost.

So, in conclusion: better (i.e.: smarter) gun control, and massive culture reformation are the only ways we’ll prevent gun crime.

Only in America.

20110920-110253.jpg

Had an interesting day last week with a significantly important coincidence:

So we spent two hours at work last Wednesday doing our annual insurance benefits review. For two hours, with our insurance broker and our Aflac rep, we discussed how much our insurance costs. How many thousands our deductible is. What’s in-network and what’s out. Whether ER visit costs get rolled into the hospital stay coverage or not. What conditions allow for supplemental insurance payouts and whether it follows you and your job. Tips and hints on how to try to get the insurance company to authorize and pay out for treatments. Etc. etc.

(Interesting note provided by the Aflac rep: 70% of bankruptcy cases in America are due to medical costs. And 50% of those — the bankrupt had medical insurance.)

So, two hours of numbers and facts and complex conditions surrounding how your life can be slowly destroyed by medical bills instead of quickly destroyed. Now for the comedic coinkydink:

That very morning, on the way to work, I was listening to a recent “Sword and Laser” scifi/fantasy book club podcast with a conversation with multi-bestselling and award winning author Robert J. Sawyer. And when asked how old he was when he was able to start writing full-time, he said he was writing full-time in his early twenties. Why? Because he’s Canadian. He expressed that, like him, a lot of Canadian writers and other artists are able to even have careers as artists, are able to work on their art from an early age and get good, developing their skill and talent early, allowing them to have decades of quality output far in excess of American writers and artists for primarily one main reason: socialized healthcare. As a young man, Sawyer never had to worry about giving up his talent and dream in order to find and work at a job doing not at all what he wanted to do in order to have healthcare. Sure, there were times he had to eat pretty skimpily, but that’s doable. Paying thousands of dollars for an illness or accident isn’t.

Award-winning Canadian author (among other things) Cory Doctorow once expressed similar arguments on an episode of American Freethought. He said now that he had a family, he’d never live in the U.S. again, never not live in Canada or the U.K., so that his daughter would never be without healthcare. He told a story of how when traveling across England, his daughter started developing a bad fever. They stopped in a town and saw a doctor who examined her, wrote a script, they picked it up, and were able to continue on, and they never had to fill out papers and only had to pay a couple of dollars (equivalent) for the medication. He and his wife get to thrive in their dream jobs because aren’t forced to work for healthcare.

I can’t say who because I didn’t ask permission to say, but I know someone in Canada who had a car accident not long ago. They were taken to the ER by ambulance, were examined, treated, and released with great care. They were provided with a new shirt because theirs had to be cut off, and, reimbursed for the cut shirt. All they had to do was show their Canadian citizen health I.D., and they got all this treatment without paying a dime or filling out paperwork.

Oh, of course, taxes pay for this care. But I once compared how much taxes I pay (sales, income, property) with a relative who lives in Canada (higher sales but no income (or property — one of the two, I forget)), and at the bottom line is we pay about the same in taxes.

…except they don’t have to pay what I do in health insurance premiums and deductibles and medical co-pays and out of pocket bills…. So, who wins here?

In every modern country in the world: the citizens do. In the U.S., and only the U.S., health insurers do. And the so-called healthcare “reform” that was recently passed? That “Obamacare” (which can be called “Newtcare” since it’s the same reform proposed by the House Republicans in the 90s), it actually put insurers in better position to make more money while hurting small businesses and much of the people. But, small wonder considering how many millions of dollars politicians, from both parties, get from insurance industry lobby.

Do I hear someone yell, “If you love Canada so much, why don’t you move there!“? Oh, I swear I wish I could, I really very much wish I could. But it costs to move and I’m too far in debt with student loans.

Oh, did I mention that, like most of Europe, most of higher education in Canada is also as free as their healthcare? They have this crazy idea that a healthy and educated citizenry is somehow good for the country on the whole. I know, crazy, huh?

Update: Well this is funny!
Note the date of today’s post — September 2011. Well, after posting this post, my blog automatically created a set of “related posts” links (see below). And lookee what’s likely still the first suggested link.

It’s a post I did in April 2009 about the same author(s) talking on different podcasts about the same thing. I’d totally forgotten! Wow, so much has changed in the last 2 to 3 years, huh? Oh I’m laughing til I cry.

Be it resolved…

This has, without a doubt, been an absolutely terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. Probably the worst one, evah! (The only, and I mean only, bright spot was I finally got my Masters Degree in English . . . and even that’s pending until next year when I pay for and turn in super-expensive copies of my thesis and pay the rest of my school bill — not counting, of course, student loans I need to start paying on.) The badness is butting right up to the very end of the year in the last days. There’s been serious financial difficulties; there’s been a scary person, terrorizing my private and work life because they were offended by a political opinion I expresses online; there’s been legal scares; I’ve failed to make any progress on any of my writing career goals; our beloved family pet died; and the turmoil associated with completing my previously mentioned thesis. This year can’t end soon enough.

With the coming of this completely arbitrarily demarcated new year and new decade (contrary to popular opinion, decades begin on “1” years, e.g.: 2011, not “0,” e.g.: 2010), I need to make some serious changes; I need to refocus, re-prioritize, and start anew. As someone I don’t recall said, “If you want things to be different, you must do something different.”

Part of my problem is frakkin’ Facebook. It’s an evil, evil bane on productivity and a facilitator of my getting distracted and bent-out-of-shape about subjects that, while are important, serves only to make me upset and completely unproductive in regards to what’s even more important in my life: my nascent, budding writing career that I hope to make into a viable “second job,” with aspirations of it being my main job within a couple/few years.

In addition to the craptacular events that have sideswiped me and/or made me utter a general “WTF, world? W. T. F.?!” every other week, it seems, I recently read a blog post by writer/director Kevin Smith: “SMonologue #2.” The first half he discusses “Clerks 3” and the cost/process of investing in a movie idea and making it happen. But the important bit is the last half, in which he writes:

Continue reading Be it resolved…

Remember…er, the 5th of… oh! November!

In honor of the upcoming simulacra of a holiday, Guy Fawkes Day, I’m reposting the blog post I did last year for it. Enjoy!

——–

In honor of Guy Fawkes Day this Nov. 5th (Wiki link)* are a couple of links for light reading:

A recent musing of mine on anarchy and democracy: link

An excellent (and scary-sad) collection from Classically Liberal of examples of police stateabuse and misconduct.

* Like most things in postmodern culture, this topic is well filled with contradictions. Guy Fawkes, for example, was not truly an anarchist (as far as I can tell). He, along with his cohorts, were simply p.o.ed that Catholics were being descriminated by the Protestant British government and decided to get rid of it, hoping to establish a Catholic-friendly one. (*sigh* what, religious violence again!?)

Guy Fawkes ironically became a symbol of later anrchistic movements despite his basically being just a religious terrorist.

Guy Fawkes was also appropriated by the British cultural hegemony as a symbol of celebrating the God-protected and ordained rule of proper British royalty. (Much like how Hitler propagandized his surviving the Valkyrie assassination attempt as a sign that God protected his divinely ordained Third Reich. [I may have just Godwined myself, but it just goes to show that anyone and everyone can and does invoke God’s favor when things go well for them.])

And now there’s this Anonymous group appropriating Guy Fawkes to protest Scientology. Interestingly, as this is a quasi-religious fight, this may actually be a more “appropriate” use of Guy’s image… if not for the fact that what they’re really doing is using the image created by the film “V for Vendetta”. They’ve taken an image crafted for entertainment consumption, based on a hyperreality of an appropriated image, of a man whose purpose has been fictionalized by one group and celebrated for it’s failure by another group for ideological justification…

Ow. Jean Baudrillard is probably laughing in his grave over this a-historical postmodern pastiche! (I think I see a scholarly paper in this!)

On voting.

Once again, it’s the season where I’m absolutely inundated with requests — no, demands — that I vote. I’m told it’s my civic duty. I’m told in haughty, self-righteous, proud acrimony that if I don’t vote, I have no right to complain, as if my freedom of speech is revoked should choose to not select a career politician who I despise less than the other guy to “represent” me — when none of these people I’m told to select from actually represent me.

So, am I going to vote next week? Actually, yes. But, with caveats, and I’m more than happy to explain why.

First, a little parable:

Three wolves and six goats are discussing what to have for dinner. One courageous goat makes an impassioned case: “We should put it to a vote!” The other goats fear for his life, but surprisingly, the wolves acquiesce.

But when everyone is preparing to vote, the wolves take three of the goats aside. “Vote with us to make the other three goats dinner,” they threaten. “Otherwise, vote or no vote, we’ll eat you.”

The other three goats are shocked by the outcome of the election: a majority, including their comrades, has voted for them to be killed and eaten. They protest in outrage and terror, but the goat who first suggested the vote rebukes them: “Be thankful you live in a democracy! At least we got to have a say in this!”

Voting is a right. People fought and some literally died for he right to be able to vote in fair elections for such things as fair taxes, appropriate laws that are meant to help society function, and people who would represent them in a government by, of, and for the people.

But on most scales, that’s not what we have. We have a government where the higher up you go, the less you, as a person, are being represented so much as being governed in the interests of corporations. The congresspeople, the president, the massive support system that runs the federal government, are paid for by corporate profit — sanctified by the recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to spend as much money as they wish to make sure the politicians vote in their interests. In fact, the only politicians at all that get to that high of a level, that get their name on the ballot, are politicians that, regardless of the R or the D next to their name, will support corporate interests over those of the people.

These people do not represent me. I don’t not wish to associate a vote, by right and purchased by many people braver than I who gave their lives to give me the privilege and not the obligation to do so, to any of these people. A vote for a less vile, less corporate-owned, less dishonest, politician is not an exercise in freedom and liberty and civic duty — it is an insult and a mockery of freedom and liberty.

My right to vote quite certainly includes my right to choose to not vote, if that represents my opinion that the people who are my forced choices do not represent me. If I despise both options I have to vote for, I will complain about either one of them regardless of whichever one wins, and I should not have to be compelled to associate myself with either repugnancey in order to be granted the boon of being able to complain about them.

Especially when what I complain about is not just the puppets that I’m forced to choose between, but the entire corrupted and perverted system that puts only bought-and-paid-for corporate tools as my choices for representation.

Indeed, there are people who don’t vote, not because they are exercising their right not to, but because they’re too uninformed, detached, and unconcerned about the process, the system, civil rights and duties. You know what? They too have a right to complain! All people have an inalienable right to speak their mind (granted, so long as it does not directly incite harm to others), regardless of whether they participate in the farce.

I may pity and scowl at them in my own elitist, condescending way for not being involved and interested and engaged in the process, the events, the system that essentially controls their lives. But they still have a right to complain.

The parable above is often used to illustrate what’s called the tyranny of democracy. The idea that the minority must concede to will of the majority for no better reason than because they’re the majority. We all know this is on many levels wrong and unethical. It was seen during segregation, where the racist views of the majority violated the rights of a minority. We can see it today in such things as California’s Prop 8 in which the rights of a minority were eliminated by a majority vote.

If you ever found yourself in a vastly outnumbered minority, and the majority voted that you had to give up something as necessary to your life as water and air, would you comply? When it comes down to it, does anyone really believe it makes sense to accept the authority of a group simply on the grounds that they outnumber everyone else? We accept majority rule because we do not believe it will threaten us – and those it does threaten are already silenced before anyone can hear their misgivings.

–From THE PARTY’S OVER: BEYOND POLITICS, BEYOND DEMOCRACY
http://thecloud.crimethinc.com/pdfs/democracy_reading.pdf

I agree with the position. Majority rule; minority suffers. That’s all well and good so long as you’re part of the majority. But everyone belongs in someone else’s minority group. What happens when the majority on a given position, or condition, votes to remove a right of yours? How fair is democracy to you then?

As an anarchist, I believe ultimately in the removal of all coerced obeisance to the will of another group, whether that group has the force of greater numbers, or a monopoly on violence (the state). But, like Marx who understood that capitalism was a necessary step on the road to socialism, then communism, I understand we’re likely not going to have mass anarchism (nor communism) within my lifetime. The state is here, and it’s not going anywhere, any time soon. And the structure of representative government, as corrupt and flawed and manipulated as it is, should at least somewhat be made to work for the people and not for corporations, whenever possible….

So, I’m going to vote next Tuesday, despite the fact it will be a violation of my integrity. (I don’t believe in the very system itself, I shouldn’t support it with my participation.) But, living completely on the grid, within the culture, subject to the will of the hegemonic cultural logic, and millions of other people have no choice — so I’ll go ahead and cast votes where, and only where, I have a choice in which I think one option is ethically acceptable, and not because it’s the alternative to a worse option. If neither option represents my beliefs, it’s not getting my approval simply because of some non-existent obligation to have to choose one.

What gets my goat, is how so many of the people who wallow in self-righteousness and decree that you’re unAmerican and not worthy of the right to free speech if you don’t vote, are people whose entire civic consciousness, entire political activity, entire involvement in the world around them, begin and end with that 30 minute exercise once every couple of years — maybe only every four years. And of course, that just the way those in power like it. Convince people that they’re actually capable of changing things, get rid of bad and install good, improve the system, by making them think that all they need to do is vote for person A or nearly identical person B, whose differences are those that make people bicker while ignoring the fact the rot goes down to the roots. Make people think that voting equals change, and just shuffle the same agents of corruption and dominance through the offices while the very system itself that underlies the main problems gets blissfully ignored.

So, if you’re one of those who sticks your nose into the air with superiority because you go out of your way to vote for a new boss, same as the old boss, save your breath on me. I’m going to participate in the farce. But you better anticipate some write-in names on my part.

Discover… The Power of Stuff!

My daughter (and I, when I’m too lazy to work on writing like I should), watches a lot of Discovery Kids Channel. It has a lot of non-U.S. programming that’s a few years old, but much of it is educational or at least semi-educational while still being entertaining.

Well, I discovered a couple of days ago that Hasbro acquired controlling ownership in the channel, and they’re giving the channel a complete makeover including a new name (The Hub) and programming line-up. I took a look at the new line-up, and saw something interesting, but not surprising considering who bought them: the educational programming is being replaced with high quality shows like “Transformers”, “G.I. Joe”, “Pound Puppies”, “Family Game Night”, “Clue”, and the like. Your basic 30-minute product commercials.

I took a look at the shows that my daughter watches on the channel, where they’re made, and their focus, and found this:

Continue reading Discover… The Power of Stuff!

Stop with the branches; get to the root of the evil!

This is a must-see video where Lawrence Lessig gets to the heart of the problem with our current government and what must be done to return or republic to something resembling a truly representational democracy (whether that’s a good or bad thing is a different topic).

(It starts looking like a video all about youth obesity, but keep watching — that’s just setup for the real discussion. He also spends a minute perpetuating the myth that high fructose corn syrup is somehow magically worse than sugar despite their being nutritionally and chemically the same and broken down and used by the body in the same way, but that’s also not the focus of this video.)

(Update: Quick addendum. I previously mentioned that high fructose corn syrup was chemically identical and metabolized identically to sugar. I was wrong. They are indeed different.
However, as this recent science blog points out in its refutation of the highly biased, inappropriate, and premature suggestion made in a study regarding HFCSs and possible pancreatic cancer connection, the end result between HFCS and table sugar is negligible at best.
Also, this science blog also points out the chemical and metabolic differences between HFCS and refined sugar, but likewise establishes that HFCS is not a significant factor (no more than table sugar) in obesity. It’s an easy to blame scapegoat that distracts from the fact that obesity and diabetes come from too many calories and too little exercise. Period.)

BP is THAT kind of neighbor


Roger Ebert once again reminds us he’s a journalist who happens to excel at reviewing movies. He wrote a recent article,”BP’s tree fell on my lawn,” in which he details exactly all the ways in which BP was negligent and irresponsible. But perhaps even worse, how they gamed the system to look victimized. How they got members of Congress to apologize to them. How they’re using police to hide the damage they’ve caused us. How much power and control they have over the situation to obfuscate and avoid responsibility.

Ebert makes the analogy:

“A big tree blew over over on our property. That was an act of God. Parts of it landed on my neighbor’s property. Another act of God. It was my responsibility to pay for its removal. If I’m going to go around growing trees, I have to pay if they get blown over. You can be sure my neighbor will pay if one of his trees blows this way. And if my neighbor could prove that I was trying to cut the tree down (for fuel, let’s say) and it fell the wrong way, he’d have grounds for a lawsuit. Especially if it fell on his house and he could no longer live there.
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BP had a very big tree that blew down in the Gulf. It was not looking after it properly. It ignored or evaded safety regulations. It possibly bore criminal responsibility. The tree fell on my property. BP should have to pay to remove that tree, right? What if it enlisted cops to prevent me from even walking over and taking photos of what they were doing on my property? What if they issued statements saying it wasn’t such a large tree, and my property would soon recover? What if it landed on my house, and BP said it wasn’t much of a house in the first place?”

Continue reading BP is THAT kind of neighbor

Swords into Tax Shares

(yeah, I’ve never claimed to be a blog title expert.)

kitty water balloonPeter Schiff wrote an article titled, “Why Not Another World War.” It’s actually an interesting article in which he explains how we all agree that World War II ended The Great Depression and sparked the greatest American economic trend, so why not have another? This Gulf War is too small to do the same thing again. Except, war sucks and has this annoying tendency to be deadly and break things — so let’s make it a great World Water Balloon War!

Go ahead and read the article; it’s short and entertaining. But, then at the end of it he takes a sharp turn into La-La Land.

After laying a good case for describing the World War as the biggest socialized employment program, evah, (major props to Schiff on this — most right-leaners usually berate the New Deal as being evil socialism and shout that it was the war that saved the country… and then conveniently ignore the fact that how the war saved the country was by creating government jobs for millions and spending truckloads of taxes on government programs known as weapons manufacturing), he explains how his proposed Fun War of the same scope of government spending wouldn’t work because the government couldn’t afford such a project like it did 70 years ago: We’re already too taxed and there’s no savings.

“Current tax burdens are now much higher than they were before the War, so raising taxes today would be much more difficult.”

(Keep that in mind for a moment.)

Continue reading Swords into Tax Shares

Franklin & Marx, Beck & taxes.

Marx and FranklinComing up in this post: Glenn Beck and his perversion of history, logic, and data. Stay tuned.

There’s a hilarious video I can no longer find of a British comedy show sketch. Four stereotypical young anarchists come into a messy flat, and one of them passes out copies of Marx and Engles’ Capital. He says something like “OK, if we’re going to proper revolutionaries, we need to actually read this book, yeah?” “Yeah!” And with great, revolutionary gusto, they all open their copies and the leader starts reading: “The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as ‘an immense accumulation of commodities,’ its unit being a single commodity. Our investigation must therefore begin with the analysis of a commodity….” As he reads he starts getting more despondent and the others start looking distracted. After a few weighty sentences, he finally slams the book and says, “Ah bugger this. Let’s go kill someone!” “Yeah!” And off they go.

The sketch pointed out what most people, especially people who live in the U.S., have no clue about:

Continue reading Franklin & Marx, Beck & taxes.

Hawaii’s Gov. is a blatant and shameless hypocrite

Hawaii’s Republican Governor Linda Lingle is a giant [insert pejorative of choice here]. She recently vetoed a state bill that would grant equal rights to gays via civil unions, that straights get to enjoy through marriage.

Note that this bill was passed in both the state’s House and Senate when she says:

“It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude be made by one individual or a small group of elected officials.”

This person obviously has now idea how a representative government works. The entire role of the legislature is to represent the people.

Although, her hypocrisy isn’t surprising, as a Republican: they’re more than happy to use the power of government when it serves their desires, then turn around and pose as populists and claim government is evil when it’s tasked to actually serve the people and protect liberty and civil rights.

I wonder how much of a populist she would be about putting decisions of such magnitude as war and war funding to a popular vote. Think she’d whistle the same tune?

It’s one thing to put issues of taxes and such to popular vote, but you do not have a popular vote in regards to civil rights and liberties! It’s the role of government, the single governors and the small groups of elected officials, to protect the rights of the minority against the tyranny of the majority!

Again, not surprising. She stated herself that she always has and always will fight against gay marriage. She, like most ideologues, can’t see the irony that her very act of intentionally vetoing the bill that the congress passed is itself putting a single person in charge of making a monumental decision that affects many.

“Why Being Liberal Really Is Better Than Being Conservative”

Greta Christina has a fascinating article over on AlterNet:
Why Being Liberal Really Is Better Than Being Conservative
(Liberals and conservatives don’t just disagree about specific issues — we disagree about core ethical values. Can a case be made that liberal values really are better?)”

“When asked a series of questions about different ethical situations, self-described liberals strongly tend to prioritize fairness and harm as the most important of these core values — while self-described conservatives are more likely to prioritize authority, loyalty and purity.”…

In the past (mostly on Facebook) I’ve proclaimed that the conservative value-system is inherently a selfish, xenophobic, authoritarian one that has tried to stop all historic efforts to better humanity with social justice and equality. Greta is a lot nicer than I am and makes a case for the necessity for standard conservative values.

However, I think her arguments that liberal (I prefer “progressive”) values (that’s values, not people) are inherently better to be the best argument I’ve heard made.

What good are unions?

Oh my! It’s hard to argue with that cartoon! Look how evil and scary unions are.
Are you an American who believes unions are organized extortion, protecting the lazy and demanding luxuries like Bon-Bons for workers?
Please take 30 minutes of your day to listen to the 1st half of this Small World podcast for the interview with Cory Doctorow. They mainly discuss his new YA novel, but they also talk about unions and workers organizing. I think it’s well worth the listen!

Then, after you listen, give this and this a read for some of the evils of organized labor.

“Are the Ten Commandments really the basis for our laws?”

Continuing my theme of simply reposting others’ blogs: “Bad Astronomer” Phil Plait has an entertaining recent post: “Are the Ten Commandments really the basis for our laws?”

I’ve blogged on the topic a few times, including: “Religious Government Possible? No, and…Yes!”, and specifically on the different versions of the (not actually ten) Ten Coomsndments found in the one Bible, in “Amending the Commandments”.

But Phil’s article is much better written and entertaining. 🙂

Laboring upside down.

upside down laborMarxist criticism of the capitalist system says that it’s rife with contradictions. I want to spend a few minutes discussing what I see is one of the biggest, overarching contradictions at the very foundations of capitalism. In short: capitalism has forced us to live in a world in which humans, (who presumedly control society, economy, and business), are expendable chattel.

See, here’s the situation: Under capitalism you are an owner of capital (the richest 1 to 5% of the population), you are a laborer, or you are unemployed. Now, most people in the world are part of the labor class. (This includes those who own their own businesses. Unless you actually own production factories, airlines, a media conglomerate, a bank, you are not a capitalist. You are a laborer.) But here’s the switcheroony: labor costs is the most despised, inconvenient, troublesome cost to those who own and run businesses. All this piles of money handed out to the necessary evil of workers. Business owners (including the bourgeoisie who own small businesses), work and work (ironically) to minimize labor costs–cut benefits, lower pay, decrease the number of employees costing the company money.

Seeing the problem here? The grand majority of human beings in the world are the enemy of business (so long as they’re labor and not consumers). Business grudgingly pays labor, as little as it can get away with, in order to give the masses the means to buy the commodities and services capitalism produces at obscene rates and worthlessness. The majority of the world’s population is the enemy of the very socio-economic base that they live under and serve.

Now, Continue reading Laboring upside down.

The Corporate States of America.

corporate states of americaI have in the past, for several years now, used the terms “corporatocracy” and “oligarchy” in describing the form of government we have here in the United States of America. I’ve used these terms because ever since the Founding Fathers made it so that the New World aristocracy–the white, land owning men–controlled government, we’ve had an oligarchy in effect. And since robber barons in the late 19th, early 20th centuries bought legislation to favor their companies and limit competition, we’ve had a growing corporatocracy.

Well, sadly, I no longer have the joy of saying that with a hint of hyperbole. With the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, wherein the majority judges eliminated regulations that have been put in place preventing corporations (and unions, sure) from buying off elections, we now truly have a corporatocracy. From this moment on, multinational corporations which may have their money in the Camen Islands or Dubai, and major labor forces in China and Mexico, can spend as much money as they want to support the legislators they want and the laws they want.

Supporters of this move say it’s a free speech issue (which, after all, that’s how SCOTUS couched it). So, what this means then, is that money, wealth, now equals free speech. So, let me ask you now that wealth is the same as free speech: do you feel that your amount of speech (real or potential) is as free and equal as that of Haliburton’s? Or KBR’s? Or Phizer?

The best way to put the implications of all this is to let Keith Olbermann spell it out. And don’t worry, this isn’t just a bleeding-heart liberal warning, he points out exactly how this cuts the throats of conservatives and right-wingers alike:

(If you can’t see the embedded video, go here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/34985508#34985508 )

This truly is the beginning of the nightmare scifi scenarios of corporate-owned-reality of Philip K. Dick and William Gibson. There’s a reason Thomas Jefferson said the following:

“I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

He saw even then that the interests of the nascent capitalist, for-profit corporation, lay not in democracy and liberty, but in market dominance and crushing the interests of free markets and free speech and individual choice. Corporations don’t want competition and free markets, they want the advantage against anyone and anything that will stop their drive for profit.

Sure, some corporations are non-profits, or little guys, or special interest groups. But let me ask you this as well: do you think any non-profit or special interest or local home-grown corp will have a sliver’s of a chance buying laws and legislators against multinational, billions of dollars a year in profit, mega corps? Our government in just a few election cycles, will effectively be run by the richest, dynastic multinational corporations which will seek to destroy anything resembling dissent.

After all, they’re already trying tooth and nail to control government in their favor–think now that they can bring the full power of capital gains to bear they’ll stop? Take for example AT&T’s democracy-riddled and free market tactics (sarcasm) of buying charities to support elimination of ‘net neutrality, and a glance at this list of legal cases the Electronic Frontier Foundation is involved in shows a long list of corporations fighting not for truth, justice, and the American way, but to crush competition, stifle free speech of we the people, and twist government regulations to serve their private interests.

This new development simply paves the way for them to just buy all the legislators they want.

Larry Lessig, a Harvard Law professor, has this brief message regarding the implications of this court decision and what can, maybe, be done to fight it:

Lessig on Citizens United: Sign Up to Learn More

Another site attempting to fix this very broken situation, is:

Move to Amend: A Project of the Campaign to Legalize Democracy

We think it can’t end, this great American experiment. I’m sure that’s what the citizens of all the great, fallen empires have thought. We, you and I, have grown up in this “land of the free and home of the brave,” and we can’t possibly imagine it coming to an end. But it can. One day, most certainly, it will. What we’re witnessing this last week is possibly the beginning of the end: the end of (pseudo) democracy and the rise of corporate ownership of life.

When you think about it, it’s been heading that way since J. P. Morgan first bought legislation to favor the United States Steel Corporation. Corporations have been controlling which presidents get to the primaries and the debates. They’ve been buying legislators with lobbying money (a fraction of the money they can now spend on campaigns). Really, when you get right to it, being a true corporatocracy overtly and in the open is really a more honest, forthright way of being what we already are at the very base. All we need now is a new branding to Corporate States of America and a new, fresh logo!

Addendum: A BoingBoing commenter has a great reply to people who still hold that this decision is somehow a win for free speech:

Shareholders are the owners of corporations, and shareholders each have a single vote as citizens (those that are citizens.)

The sum representation of a corporation in America is equal to the portion of its capital that is owned by americans. That is honestly a very fair system already.

What corporations wanted in this ruling is not fair representation, but rather an advantage, which is what businesses crave. Advantage over competition.

In this case, the competition is popular opinion. Corporations want to compete against governance in a 1-person, 1-vote system and are essentially attempting to make their shareholders have more clout than people who do not hold shares.

To not recognize that this philosophy is at odds with egalitarian democracy is a serious crime against your own best interests. You may attempt to see how you yourself could benefit from this if you are a businessperson, but remember that there will always be another, larger company who does not have your best interests in mind and who will gain even more from this than you do. They will not take mercy upon you the way a functional democratic government can be made to.

The cold truth of global warming.

Frozen Trees by Andrea L. Etzel

Over the couple frigid weeks I’ve seen more than a few comments on the Intertubes mocking “global warming” because of the unusually cold weather. A few on Facebook, some on Twitter, a few blogs, and even a Web comic I follow made a snarky global warming mock.

If the mockery is meant as an ironic joke, I tee-hee right along with it. 🙂 But I suspect that most, if not maybe all, of the comments I’ve seen have been meant as a sincere dig at the idea of global warming. (Interestingly, nearly every one has been by someone who appears to hold a “conservative” worldview. I have suspicions why, but for this post I’m only going to focus on science, not socio-politics.) And, naturally, when you have a concept called “global warming” and yet you’re in weather that freezes skin within minutes, it’s only natural to play with the apparent contradiction. But I think it’s important to understand why this is not a contradiction at all.

The most important thing to remember, (whether it’s in this case or other topics that involve complex trends, theories, or processes), is to not confuse a data point with the trend. That is: the particular weather in a particular area on a particular day, with the overall average climate for the entire planet over the course of decades. See the huge difference in these two things? The weather for, say, southwest Missouri, or even the entire middle America, for two weeks in 2010 is just one tiny data point in a trend for an entire planet over the course of 100 years. An extremely cold patch of weather does not disprove the concept of “global warming” (which is a subset of “global climate change”) any more than a very hot patch proves global warming! An unusually hot summer is also just a data point in the trend and should not be examined independently when a much larger trend is being investigated.

Another thing to note is that “global warming” is, while not exactly a misnomer as the globe is warming on average, misunderstood. As the globe warms up, glaciers and ice caps significantly melt, that actually cools down some areas of the ocean and changes the salinity and significant weather-affecting ocean currents. This can have an ironic result of colder averages for some areas. But more importantly, as average global temps increase, this causes more atmospheric humidity which has an effect of (and this is very important) colder and harsher winters in some areas (including ice storms in the U.S. Ozarks regions), stronger and longer storm periods (like tornado season in the U.S. Ozarks regions), and longer and stronger hurricanes on average. It’s easy to just focus on the term “global warming” and not realize that the implications of the concept are more complex and even counter-intuitive.

Some material to consider:

http://www.skeptic.com/the_magazine/featured_articles/v14n01_human_induced_climate_change.html

(…Note especially the last paragraph.)

http://www.skepticalscience.com/How-do-we-know-global-warming-is-still-happening.html

http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/science/global-warming-faq.html

Those are a little technical, these kind of simplify it down a bit and discuss the impact:

http://www.climatecentral.org/library/faqs/how_do_we_know_it_is_not_a_natural_cycle

http://m.discovermagazine.com/2009/jun/30-state-of-the-climate-and-science

I hope this helps somewhat in understanding what is meant by “global warming.” This is a perfect example of the metaphor “missing the forest for the trees.” Sometimes it’s hard to understand “the forest” when your experience is based on encountering single tree after single tree.

Remember, remember the 5th of November. Maybe.

In honor of Guy Fawkes Day this Nov. 5th (Wiki link)* are a couple of links for light reading:

A recent musing of mine on anarchy and democracy: link

An excellent (and scary-sad) collection from Classically Liberal of examples of police state abuse and misconduct.

* Like most things in postmodern culture, this topic is well filled with contradictions. Guy Fawkes, for example, was not truly an anarchist (as far as I can tell). He, along with his cohorts, were simply p.o.ed that Catholics were being descriminated by the Protestant British government and decided to get rid of it, hoping to establish a Catholic-friendly one. (*sigh* what, religious violence again!?)

Guy Fawkes ironically became a symbol of later anrchistic movements despite his basically being just a religious terrorist.

Guy Fawkes was also appropriated by the British cultural hegemony as a symbol of celebrating the God-protected and ordained rule of proper British royalty. (Much like how Hitler propagandized his surviving the Valkyrie assassination attempt as a sign that God protected his divinely ordained Third Reich. [I may have just Godwined myself, but it just goes to show that anyone and everyone can and does invoke God’s favor when things go well for them.])

And now there’s this Anonymous group appropriating Guy Fawkes to protest Scientology. Interestingly, as this is a quasi-religious fight, this may actually be a more “appropriate” use of Guy’s image… if not for the fact that what they’re really doing is using the image created by the film “V for Vendetta”. They’ve taken an image crafted for entertainment consumption, based on a hyperreality of an appropriated image, of a man whose purpose has been fictionalized by one group and celebrated for it’s failure by another group for ideological justification…

Ow. Jean Baudrillard is probably laughing in his grave over this a-historical postmodern pastiche! (I think I see a scholarly paper in this!)