Monday, August 25, 2014

A Few Things ...

It's been a while since I did one of my "ten things" lists, and things have been really shitty and bleak in the world for the past few weeks, so I thought it would be appropriate to put some good energy out there. Here goes nothing ...

1. Sometimes it's good to put your mind in a dog's head space, where you don't give a damn who smells your farts, or whether you look stupid carrying an old sock in your mouth, or that it's rude to bury your face in your food, or whether or not it's "cool" to sprawl on your back and beg for a belly rub.

2. Speaking of which, a sleeping dog curled up against you is the best cure for insomnia.

3. If you go outside just after sunrise and close your eyes and breathe deeply, even though it's August and humid and kinda warm, you can smell a hint of autumn.

4. It's silly, because it's always bills, junk mail, or something from the IRS, but I still get a tiny bit of anticipatory excitement when the mail comes.

5. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter Gabby auditioned for "The Sound of Music", and I happened to be at the back of the theater when she started singing, and this startlingly full, rich sound came out of her, and I was simultaneously proud and a little sad ... proud because she is becoming a beautiful young woman, and sad because she will never again be the tiny little thing that falls asleep on my shoulder before I tuck her into bed.

6. Sleep = good.

7. I am actually running for governor of freaking Pennsylvania. Granted, it's a write-in campaign, and it's a million-to-one shot, but still ... who'd'a thunk it? (Oh, and tell all your friends and neighbors! Had to get a plug in there ...)

8. I was out mowing the lawn a while back, and I had shut off the mower to put more gas in it, and I heard a hawk scream overhead. It sounded just like in the movies. Way cool.

9. I will challenge anyone to put the Allman Brothers' "Jessica" on their car stereo, turn it up to "omigod that's freaking loud", and NOT get a speeding ticket by the second chorus.

10. Once thing that's happened as my 50th birthday approaches: in the past, when my friends would talk about some cool accomplishment of theirs, I would feel a twinge of jealousy that they were someplace in their life that I thought I should also be. Now, nothing but proud of them. And my life is pretty damned awesome, too.

And, just as a bonus for making it this far ...

11. A man's wealth is not measured by the things he possesses, but by the company he keeps. By that standard, with the friends I have, I am filthy rich, and Donald Trump can go jump.

So there 'tis, my List O' Random Stuff. And now, because it is almost midnight, I gotta lie down.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Grumpy Old Men

As both of you who read this blog regularly may have noticed, I tend to employ a certain degree of snark in my political elicitations and dissertations. And I use this approach to discuss matters of import, to foster debate, and to piss off people who are less than willing to hear opinions contrary to their own.
However, this time around, I have found something that I think everyone -- Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, mentally sound, Yankee fans -- can get behind, and that is this:
Getting old kinda sucks.
I'm beginning to know whereof I speak. I'm 50 years old in a few weeks, and when a man turns fifty he starts to take stock of things, to reflect on his life, and to realize that the body just doesn't do what it's supposed to any more.
So, in no particular order, I present this List Of What You Can Expect for all those who have not yet reached the half century mark.
1. Fashion becomes much more functional.
When they're in their twenties and thirties, guys will think nothing of strapping themselves into tight jeans and form-fitting shirts as a way of displaying their taut physiques to young females. This works because, in many cases, guys this age have roughly a half teaspoon of body fat.
By the time they hit 50, however, tight jeans and form-fitting shirts become a) incredibly unattractive, looking like a denim baggie full of curdled milk, and b) too much damned work. Guys this age are looking for comfort, and if that means baggy jeans and an ancient Aerosmith sweatshirt, then so be it.
2. Loafers
Some people say your tastes change and become more conservative as you age, and that you are trying to project an air of gravitas and responsibilty. When in reality loafers happen because you can no longer bend over to tie your damned shoes.
3. The bathroom.
Nowhere does aging make itself felt more to a guy than in the can. Where you used to be able to unleash a stream for twenty seconds that would drill a hole through a bridge abutment, it has now become an anemic dribble that lasts as long as the first part of "Stairway To Heaven", up to the guitar solo. And so you find yourself sitting down more often, partly because of this, partly because you now have this distended belly that makes aiming pretty much pure guesswork, but mostly just to take a load off (get it?).
4. Sex
There has been much written about maintaining a healthy libido into middle age and beyond, most of which is true. However, what nobody mentions is that as you age it's not the lack of desire or stimulation that puts on the brakes, it's just that you'd rather take a nap.
In fact, at this age, probably the sexiest thing you could say to a man is "Relax and watch the game. I'll take care of it," where "it" is the dog horking something up on the carpet or the toilet making strange gurgling noises or your teenage daughter stomping into her room, screaming about how she has to do EVERYTHING and her little brother does NOTHING.
5. Nightlife
Let's face it. By the time you turn 50, "nightlife" would be replaced by Nightline, if it wasn't for the fact that it's on so damned late and you end up falling asleep in the recliner in boxer shorts and a stained white t-shirt roughly two hours before it comes on.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are plenty of other aspects to aging that I will not be covering here because, quite frankly, they are too depressing, like the fact that hair stops growing where you want it, like your head, while simultaneously sprouting luxuriously from other areas, like your nostrils. Or the fact that you are emitting aromas much more frequently,  and publicly, than before. Or the fact that this doesn't bother you anywhere near as much as it should. I gotta lie down.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Why Don't Conservatives Understand Things?

Okay, so I came across thing called a "fair tax", being pushed by the somewhat uncreatively named This is a website maintained by a group called Americans for Fair Taxation. Among other things, they have a link to a current proposed bill, HR 25, which outlines the fair tax program. In this bill, the proposed tax rate is 23%.

However, this is an "inclusive" rate, which is a bit of accounting chicanery. Let me explain ...

Say you have an item that costs $100, and the sales tax is 23%, and we go with the assumption that this means the total is going to be $123. However, under the fair tax legislation, that $23 has already been paid ... the $100 is "tax included". This means that the item actually cost $77, and the $23 was added to pay the tax, bringing the total cost to $100.

This also means that the actual tax rate is 29.87 percent, not 23 percent as advertised. So, bullshit number one.

I'll admit, this "fair tax" sounds good in theory: people would pay taxes on their spending, not their income. However, there are two more huge problems with this.

First, it is very regressive, and would hit the poor the hardest. Let's consider someone making $7.25 an hour, the current minimum wage. They do not get to take home that entire amount, because the federal income tax is but a small part of what is withheld. State and local taxes, Medicare, and Social Security taxes are still being withheld.

This means that, in Pennsylvania (where I live), a minimum wage employee working full time grosses $290 a week. From that is deducted $17.98 for Social Security, $8.90 for Pennsylvania income tax, $4.21 for Medicare, $2.90 for local income tax, $0.06 for local services tax, and $0.20 for Pennsylvania unemployment tax. This brings the grand total of deductions to $36.25, leaving $253.75 a week in take-home pay.

And, yes. Pennsylvania's taxation system is dumber than a box of hammers.

Assuming this money all gets spent just on the necessities, this means $46.25 of each paycheck will go toward this "fair tax", leaving $207.50 a week (or $10,790.00 per year) for food, housing, and transportation.

Interestingly, under the current income tax, the amount withheld for federal income tax is $17.08 (just under 5.9 percent)... which, if I'm not mistaken, is a lot less than $46.25. This also leaves a net of $241.57 per week, or $12,561.64 per year.

This is a difference of $1,771.64 per year. This also does not take into account the fact that this minimum wage worker will get most, if not all, of the $888.16 withheld for federal income tax BACK.

So, bullshit number two.

Second, it would suppress economic activity. If people are only taxed on their spending, then the people with the most resources would elect not to spend ... as a way to legally avoid taxation. Any spending they did would be overseas or through international intermediaries, and such activity would be exempted from taxation by virtue of it being outside of US jurisdiction.

Investment -- in new businesses, in expanding existing businesses, in the stock market -- would plummet to near zero, since taxation on investment is now front-loaded ... and I know of very few investments (aka none) that offer an over 20 percent annual return.

And this completes the bullshit trifecta.

This thing pops up every now and again, whenever some conservative talking head gets a wild hair and thinks he or she has found the "cure" for the creeping socialism of that illegitimate Kenyan Muslim interloper Obama, and it bounces around the internet for a while until people finally realize that hey, this is a really stupid idea and let's drop it. Then it lies dormant for a while, like the flu, before mutating and bursting forth in another vomitous display of dumbassery.

Not surprisingly, the people who stand to gain the most from this? People making over $200,000 a year.

It is also interesting to point out that William Gale of the Brookings Institution did his own analysis of this proposal, but he took into account the fact that about 15 percent of people were going to cheat (to be fair, I have a hard time seeing how they could do it ... but, then again, I don't understand the appeal of "American Idol" either). What he found was that, in order to remain revenue-neutral (that is, to replace the current system of taxation dolllar for dollar), the exclusive tax rate would have to be around 39.3 percent.

Is the current tax system inefficient? Very probably. Is it complicated? Yes, insanely so.

However, it seems to be a common assumption among conservative thinkers that "complicated = bad", and simplification is always the answer. While I am a firm believer that simple is often better, I will not go so far as to say "always". There are times when the complexity is needed ... say, when you are trying to devise a tax code that expects a contribution from everyone, based on a realistic expectation of that person's ability to pay ... instead of coming up with some cockamamie idea like "well, shit. Just charge everyone sales tax on everything and be done with it."

It is important to note that the only spending that is exempted is for education. Everything else -- food, gasoline (which already carries a 22 percent exclusive tax that would not be repealed), interest on loans, credit cards, mortgages, housing -- would be subject to this tax. This means that, not only are you paying $69,000 in sales tax on a house that costs $300,000, you're also paying sales tax on the interest you're paying on the loan you took out, in part, to cover the original sales tax.

Sounds like double taxation to me.

My opinion? This entire thing should be chucked into the Potomac River and be allowed to settle to the bottom, so it can become encased in muck and eventually fossilized, so that some archeologist in the distant future can find it, look it over, and say to his or her colleagues, "Can you believe these assholes were running things?" I gotta lie down.

Monday, July 28, 2014

What A Bargain!

I just got a bill today for a pair of crutches and a compression boot from when I tore my Achilles tendon. Not an unusual occurrence, as far as these types of things go, except for a few little nuggets of joy.

First, this happened in December of 2012, a couple of days before Christmas.

Second, the first time I got the bill, I was told by UMR, the insurance company, that it was a mistake and that they would take care of it. This was in June of 2013.

Today I called them again to let them know that something had not gone as planned. I was told that not only did they not take care of it, they would not take care of it because my ex-wife's company (from whom I was getting the insurance at the time) was no longer a client.

And it gets better.

I tried, as calmly as possible, to explain that this was an error on their part, and that there was no statute of limitations on this. It was very patiently explained to me that I had in-network and out-of-network benefits, and even though the emergency room was in-network, the medical supply company that provided these things to the hospital in the first place was out-of-network, and I should have researched this before getting care.

I pointed out that, at the time, it was 20 degrees and after midnight, and further that I had torn my Achilles tendon and literally had to crawl across the parking lot from the car to the ER, and that I didn't think this was a reasonable expectation for me to engage in comparison shopping at that particular juncture.

She apologized for the confusion, and asked if there was anything else she could help me with. As if she had helped at all in the first place.

This is but one example of this thinking. According to UMR, the hospital was in-network. However, the company that provided the crutches and compression boot to the hospital was out-of-network, and if I wanted to get these things paid in-network I should have either gone to a different hospital or specified a different medical supply house. In this case, instead of the insurance company taking responsibility for "it's an emergency, it's late at night on a weekend, there's really no opportunity to check these things out thoroughly under these circumstances", it turns out that, before I hauled myself to the ER in the middle of the night, unable to walk and in an unbelievable amount of pain, I should have made a few calls to area hospitals to see who provides their medical supplies, so that I could intelligently purchase my health care on the open market, as God intended.

On another instance, my son sprouted an angry red rash over most of his body. It came on rather quickly, and it was about 8:30 on a Sunday morning, and he was experiencing what medical professionals call "discomfort", and what normal people call "itchy and painful and making a seven year old cry". So, like any concerned parent, I took him to the emergency room. The docs looked at him, said it was obviously an allergic reaction to something but darned if they know what it is, took a couple of blood samples and sent us home with instructions to rub cortisone cream on the affected areas and let them know if things didn't improve in a couple of days (they did, thankfully).

UMR, in their infinite wisdom, said that diagnosis codes indicated that it wasn't a true emergency, and therefore they would not pay the claim because, under the terms of the policy, non-emergencies were to be taken to walk-in clinics such as UrgentCare instead of the ER. When I tried to point out how ludicrous it was that I had to decide where I was going to take my son based on a diagnosis code, when the whole point of taking him anywhere is to get the goddam diagnosis in the first place. Basically it becomes a sadistic game show in which I was an unwilling contestant being forced to choose door #1 or door #2, with my child's health in the balance.

Now, this post isn't just to bitch about UMR (the third party administrator of the health plan), although they have given plenty of reason to do so (and not just in these instances). I actually want to address something that I see as a larger problem in American society that seems to have taken root over the past fifteen years or so.

More and more I see the onus of virtually every action -- whether it has to do with health care, environmental regulations, safety regulations, financial regulations -- being placed on the average American. It's as if corporations and governmental institutions have discovered a butterfly effect of blame, a sort "six degrees of separation", only instead of Kevin Bacon, it's "six degrees of separation from it's your own damned fault, loser".

Consider my Achilles tendon: the position of UMR is that the claim was not paid because should have a) not only memorized all the finer points of the health plan, but also the relationships between this health plan, the dozen or so hospitals in the area, and myriad support companies (medical device houses, laboratories, etc.), or 2) had all this documentation on my person at all times so that, in the event something happened, I could make "an informed choice".

Sadly, this "Up Yours, American Citizen" butterfly effect was legitimized by the Supreme Court in the beginning of July, 2014. First there was the Hobby Lobby decision in the end of June, which said that, not only are corporations people, but they can be self-righteous, overbearing, uptight, meddling prigs as well (I might be paraphrasing just a wee bit). Hobby Lobby was told they could submit EBSA Form 700, which states that providing contraceptive coverage goes against their belief system. This coverage would then be provided to their employees at no cost to Hobby Lobby through government subsidies provided directly to the insurance companies.

Okay, fine. I don't like it, because it opened the door to all sorts of discrimination be wrapped up in the mantle of "religious belief" (and institutionalized religion has a demonstrated history of tolerance, fairness, and openness, right?), but it seems like an okay compromise ... for now. But then John Roberts and Friends went too far.

A few days later, the Supremes handed down an opinion in the case of Wheaton College v. Sylvia Burwell. This little nugget of joy validated Wheaton's position that completing EBSA Form 700 was in itself an undue burden to their religious freedom, because they would then be complicit in someone else providing contraception coverage that Wheaton didn't believe in.

I can only assume that, at that point, Wheaton College collapsed onto a fainting couch, fanning itself delicately while calling for a glass of iced tea.

This is only the beginning. Pretty soon, corporations will master the art of following the chains of causation back to the average American, who will be forced to purchase health insurance, auto insurance, homeowner's insurance, life insurance, death insurance, bicycle insurance, skateboard insurance, twisting-your-ankle-on-a-gravel-driveway insurance, catastrophic appliance failure insurance, not-so-catastrophic-but-really-annoying appliance malfunction insurance, insurance insurance (to cover you in case your insurance lapses because you couldn't pay the premiums), none of which will actually pay out anything if you make a claim because they will instead be able to follow some chain of cause-and-effect to a point where you failed to do something, or did something wrong, or went to the wrong place, or went at the wrong time, or didn't sign the form correctly, or you did sign it correctly but you used the wrong color ink, or you used the right color ink, but the wrong brand, and use this minor error as a hook on which to hang the denial of the claim.

And the Supreme Court will uphold it. Then the Democrats will denounce it, which will cause Darrell Issa to hold another hearing on Benghazi or the IRS or Michelle Obama's bare shoulders or some idiot thing, and the Fox News talking Beanie Babies will start shrieking about how the Democrats are trying to cover something up, and the MSNBC talking Beanie Babies will start barking that the Fox News people are a bunch of mouth-breathing, slack-jawed yokels, and Fox News will respond with allegations that everyone at MSNBC is a Marxist and a Muslim and an atheist (and yes, I know you can't be a Muslim and an atheist at the same time ... tell that to the right-wing yahoo that started yelling at me on Facebook), then Wolf Blitzer will walk into some 3D simulation of Samuel Alito's colon and start pointing out polyps with a laser pointer. I gotta lie down.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Winkies, Hoo-hahs, and An Org Chart

Okay, so a friend of mine on facebook recently posted something about the difference between "normal" and "normative" with regard to sexuality, which raised the question of what these terms actually mean. So I thought I'd take a stab at clearing things up, even though I have no freakin' idea what I'm talking about1.

"Normal" can actually be defined as "that which deviates least from the norm", or the statistical mean. In this case, identifying as heterosexual males and females represents the statistical mean, simply because the majority of the world's population does so. It is by no means a value statement.

"Normative", on the other hand, IS a value statement, indicating that which is closest to an "acceptable" identification. "Acceptable" is, of course, open to interpretation.

Now that we've settled that, on to MY questions.

I'm a straight guy, have been all my life. I am also very supportive of LGBT rights, including marriage equality. Always have been (back in the 80s I was in a discussion about gay rights and some guy shouted accusingly "What, are you gay?" To which I replied, "Well, certainly not for you". That was fun to watch.).

However, I am now very confused by the profusion of labels being bandied about. For instance, recently it morphed from "LGBT" to LGBTQ". I'm assuming the "Q" stands for "queer", correct? But what does "queer" mean in this context?

Also, the idea of "identifying as trans" is a new one to me. For the vast majority of human history, you had a winkie or a hoo-hah, and those were pretty much your only options. In recent decades, it became possible to change this surgically, although I don't know all the finer points (and I'm quite proud of myself for refraining from referring to the "ins and outs" of all this ... now is not the time for bad puns).

However, now there's a whole new proliferation of terms: cisgender, transgender, transsexual ... I can't keep track any more. And apparently, it is no longer limited to the winkies and hoo-hahs, for someone can identify as female but dress as a male and still possess a winkie, and still be attracted to females, but consider themselves a lesbian, they're just a butch lesbian, even if that isn't the correct term, and there are other people who dress as women and present as women and date men but still possess masculine sexual organs even though they have boobies and great hair and impeccable fashion sense, and there are people who were born female but have had the surgery to become male so they have winkies but genetically they are still female and identify as ... as ... uh ...

I'm just so confused. And, in an effort to give the benefit of the doubt, this may be the problem that many in the conservative community have with all this. It's not that winkies are pairing up with winkies or hoo-hahs with hoo-hahs per se. It's just that, instead of the two genders they were raised to know about and be (semi) comfortable with, there are now 2, 3, 4 ... carry the two ... oh, I don't know, something like 57 different genders out there. And once you start adding in the various ways these genders can pair up with each other, it starts becoming this maddening, seething pile of squirming relationships, kinda like ten pounds of spaghetti in a washing machine.

It's the organizational chart from hell. So what I would like you to do, my legions of imaginary readers, is to lay it all out for me. What do all these terms mean, how do they relate to each other, and do any of them apply to me, and if so, how? I expect complete sentences, elegant prose, and I want it all in ninety seconds. I gotta lie down.

1Not that this has ever stopped me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Justice Tempered With Mercy

Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier are my daughters. They are yours too.
Morgan and Anissa are the two twelve year old girls who, a while back, stabbed their friend nineteen times and left her to die in the woods. This was done so that they could “become proxies for Slenderman”, an internet horror meme. Apparently the two thought they were going to live in Slenderman’s mansion in the Wisconsin woods, and the only way to get there was to kill someone.
The details of the crime were pored over, discussed, dissected, and analyzed ad infinitum for a few days until the next big headline made the news. I’m not going to go into the details ... chances are you already know about them, and if you don’t there are plenty of outlets in the media (some more reliable than others) from which you can get this information.
I want to talk about the fact that these are children. Huffington Post has pictures of them being led into court in jailhouse garb and shackles, two smallish girls who are dwarfed by the deputies surrounding them. These are kids. Their faces still have that rounded look that comes from the fact that they are still carrying some baby fat and their skulls have not yet reached their adult dimensions. If you saw a picture of them smiling, their two front teeth would look like they are too big for their mouths. Their elbows still have childlike dimples.
That’s not to say the crime they committed isn’t heinous. It is. It’s absolutely terrifying to think of what the (as yet unnamed) victim endured as she was stabbed nineteen times, then crawled to the nearest road, desperately trying to get help. But I have to wonder what the circumstances that led to this are.
Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier are my daughters. I say this because I have a daughter who is only slightly younger than they are. My daughter is a lovely, wonderful person, who demonstrates incredible empathy for those around her. However, she is still a child, and therefore is liable to believe in things that aren't true and to take things too literally. I don’t think she would ever do anything like this, but I could easily see her wearing the same expression on her face as Morgan and Anissa -- an expression of disbelief, shock, and fear. Disbelief that their plan didn't go as expected, shock that they got caught, and fear stemming from the realization that this is real, and the punishment is not going to be the loss of a cell phone for a week and not being allowed to go to the school dance on Friday night.
Make no mistake. These two girls have committed a horrible, tragic crime. They are currently being charged as adults, and each face up to 65 years in prison. But let’s think about this for a moment.
If they are found guilty and given the maximum sentence, with no parole, this means that they will not see the light of day until they in their late 70s. They will have never held a job, driven a car, voted, bought groceries, paid a bill, had a checking account, signed a lease ... all the mundane aspects of adult life we all take for granted will be completely new and alien.
And they will be senior citizens with no means of support. They will have no savings. They will not be eligible for Social Security because they will not have any salary history whatsoever.
They will have never dealt with society as adults -- they will have entered the prison system as children, not fully formed, and their maturation will be dictated by that harsh, unforgiving environment.
I am all for the sentence being proportional to the crime. But I am also fully supportive of the notion of our criminal justice system being primarily rehabilitative instead of punitive, especially in the case of two who are so young and malleable. Morgan and Anissa are young enough to learn, to become aware of the magnitude of what they have done, and to fully contributing members of society. They can learn from this experience, and more importantly, they can impart this wisdom to other pre-teens.
When an adult perpetrates an act like this, it’s not unreasonable to assume that he or she is hardened to the world, that the act was pathological. Eliot Rodger’s murder spree stemmed from the narcissism that came from viewing women as property that was his due, and his ire was directed not only at the women who spurned him (even if they had never met), but also at the men who supposedly “took” them from him. Rodger, had he survived, maybe could have been rehabilitated to the point of being able to function, but I suspect his misogynistic views were hard as rock and would not have changed one bit ... if anything, time in prison would only have cemented them even further into his psyche.
Morgan and Anissa, however, are still plastic. Nothing is cemented in their psyches yet, simply because their psyches are still works in progress; they are active construction zones. Whereas Rodger’s psyche may have had a road crew here and there, patching a pothole or two, these two girls have entire swaths of psychological real estate undergoing development. Bridges are being built, roads are being laid down, entire cities of emotional maturity are still in the planning stages.
Should they be prosecuted for their crimes? Absolutely. Should they be made to serve penalties? Most definitely. But should they be tried as adults? Absolutely not, because they are NOT. They are children. Not in the legal sense of the word in that they are under eighteen, but in the sense that they have not yet reached physical, intellectual, and emotional maturity. I mean, they probably still have baby teeth. The physical apparatus of their brains have not yet finished growing and forming. For the prosecutor to insist on trying them as adults is nothing more than vindictiveness, little more than an attempt at revenge, with no thought given as to the likelihood that these two young girls can be rehabilitated, and can go on to live full and productive lines, and to make further amends for their crime by teaching others the harsh lessons they have learned from this experience, perhaps to avoid a future incident such as this.
I would not presume to speak for any of the parents involved in this case, having never faced anything like this (the closest I have come was taking my daughter to the emergency room after she suffered an allergic reaction to a guinea pig when she was three years old). I can only dimly imagine what the victim’s parents must be feeling at this moment.
While I do not for an instant condone what these two girls have done, I cannot give up hope that they will someday be able to grow, and learn, and mature, and ideally make amends to all who have been hurt by their actions. They are young enough to still have a chance.
Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier are my daughters. They are yours as well..

Monday, July 14, 2014

Middle-Aged Creepy Guy vs. Teenage Girl: She Won

I was killing time at wor -- I mean, doing productive research one day, and I came across a YouTube video about a girl named Kathryn who is 14 years old and building her own car, a 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT. While I think this is a wonderful story, and I sent a link to my 11 year old daughter as an example of how she shouldn’t let preconceived notions of gender appropriateness get in the way of anything she wants to do, the one that really impressed me was another link I found as a result.

Rachel Parent is 14 years old, and is the founder of Kids Right to Know, an activist group that is promoting mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food. She has been speaking publicly on this, which brought her to the attention of Kevin O’Leary, co-host of CBC News Network’s “The Lang and O’Leary Exchange”. She was invited to appear on the show to discuss the topic, which (in my opinion) she did quite eloquently.

Check out the video for yourself. It’s okay, I’ll wait.

Got it?

It’s obvious after watching this clip that Rachel Parent came to Kevin O’Leary’s attention in much the same way that a wounded wildebeest comes to the attention of a hyena. It’s also obvious that, in this case, the hyena needed glasses and ended up face to face with -- well, something much more intimidating than a wounded wildebeest.

Okay, so at one point Mr. O’Leary accuses Miss Parent of being a “shill” for environmental groups. The funny thing is, she deflects that almost effortlessly, and exposes O’Leary as a shill for Big Ag companies like Monsanto and ADM (Archer Daniels Midland). The rest of the segment comes across not as an interview, but an interrogation being conducted by a partisan judge.

Let me tell you what I saw, and you let me know if I’m nuts.

O’Leary and his co-host, Amanda Lang, are obviously not impartial, but for some reason pretend they are.
“The Lang and O’Leary Exchange” is, first and foremost, a business-friendly talk show. That’s fine. There are scads of these things all over the airwaves, and there’s obviously an audience for them. However, for the love o’ Mike, stop pretending they are “impartial”. They are not. They seem to think that, by using an even, reasonable tone, they can make whoever they are trying to belittle seem crazy in comparison.

It was obvious that O’Leary was trying to rattle Parent, trying to get her to collapse into schoolgirl hysterics and scream “Why are you so mean?” before running off the set, sobbing. It was a bit funny to see him getting a bit annoyed when this failed to happen. And it was even funnier when, the more it didn’t happen, the more irritated he became.

Public Relations Lesson #1: Kids Always Win.
Look, it doesn’t matter how right your position is, and how whacked out theirs is. If you are going up against a well-dressed, well-spoken 14 year old girl, for chrissake don’t go on the attack. If you want to have a debate on the topic at hand, do so, but do it respectfully and with a full understanding that beating up a kid on camera, with the exception of the “Scary Movie” franchise, never turns out well for the person doing the beating.

O’Leary made the mistake of going on the attack. So, even if his position made all the sense in the world (which it doesn’t, but more on that little nugget in a bit), by the time it became obvious he was simply pummeling this poor girl nobody gave a damn what he thought. They only saw a creepy, middle-aged bald guy in a suit trying to make a sweet young thing cry.

Suppressing Information = Bad.
Look, Miss Parent’s views on continued experimentation with GMOs might be considered extreme by some. And I’m sure that there will be a day when it will become absolutely necessary to genetically modify pretty much everything we eat in order to feed the 10.8 billion people expected to be wandering around this ball of mud by the end of the century[1]. However, her main focus, of which she reminded O’Leary at least five times during the segment, is that she wanted mandatory labeling so people could make up their own minds.

At one point, Lang chimed in to point out that virtually all corn in the United States is genetically modified, and if she (Lang) stopped eating GM corn she would have to pretty much stop eating all corn products altogether. Parent replied that yes, this was pretty much true, but shouldn’t that decision be left up to the consumer? The hosts weren’t interested in this, preferring instead to worry about the bottom line of Big Ag companies.

Which brings me to my issues with GMOs.

First, I am not against testing of genetically modified organisms. I am not doctrinally opposed to using GMOs in our food supply. I am very much pro-science, and if we can genetically modify food crops in a manner that makes them safe for consumption (which includes long-term safety) while simultaneously placing fewer demands on environmental resources, then by all means, bon appetit.

However, as Rachel Parent pointed out a number of times in the interview, testing is often performed by the very companies who stand to benefit financially from approval of these GMOs. As a result, testing is rudimentary at best (“Subject did not immediately burst into flame after consumption; therefore we deem the product safe for market”).

Science is wonderful. It gave us penicillin, satellites, and “The Big Bang Theory”. It is only through the pioneering work of such luminaries as Newton, Tesla, Einstein and Edison that we are able to shoot a video of a cat eating spaghetti in Pasadena and be able to view it in Helsinki in a matter of seconds (science also gave us nuclear weapons and Joan Rivers, so it’s a double-edged sword).
A cat eating spaghetti. You think I make this stuff up?
If we want to start seriously exploring using GMOs in our food supply, then we need to do so in an intelligent manner. We also need to change the motive behind the modifications being made.

Currently, it’s all about yield. “We need a higher yield.” “We gotta increase the yield.” “Can I have more yield?” “I’d like my Kung Pao chicken to come with a side of higher yield rice, please.” The motivation is to make these crops more profitable for Monsanto, ADM, and other demon-spawned -- I mean, agricultural companies[2].

Instead, we need to focus on things like:
  • Resistance to crop diseases.
  • Increased nutritional value.
  • Longer shelf-life without additives.
  • Drought resistance.
  • Making these crops available in the developing world.

Look, the United Nations says that we’re going to have over 10 billion people wandering around by the end of the century. That is a crap ton of people to feed. This, combined with the effects of man-made climate change[3] (which includes water scarcity, another issue entirely), will make it even more difficult to use purely “natural” crops to sustain human life on this planet.

I say we put Monsanto’s scientists to good use, and see if we can get them to create GMPs, or Genetically Modified Politicians. We give them the specs -- say, resistance to corruption, or the ability to ward off lobbyists -- and in a couple of years, presto! A government that actually has to go out of its way to look like a box full of stupid, instead of the seething tub of dumbassery we currently enjoy. I gotta lie down.

[1]Source: "World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision"(XLS). Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. June 2013. It should be pointed out that this estimate is actually middle-of-the-road; estimates for the population in 2100 range from 3.2 billion (evidently there’s going to be a massive die-off, or something) to over 24 billion. Of course, your mileage may vary. Return to story

[2]I know some mouth-breathing geek out there is going to point out that a big focus is pesticide control but, as is usual with something that goes against my main thesis, I don’t give a shit. Return to story

[3]Still don’t think it’s real? Stay tuned to this channel ... Return to story

Friday, July 11, 2014

Political Discourse and a Big Shovel

So I was reading an old issue of Time magazine. I had just finished yet another article about scandals involving lobbyists who take money from one group and funnel it to politicians (keeping a nice chunk for themselves, of course) all in the name of making the lobbyists rich. I began reading one of the featured articles on Abraham Lincoln. I was immediately struck by something that Doris Kearns Goodwin pointed out.

It seems that Abe had no problem appointing people to his cabinet who disagreed with him. Actually seemed to relish the thought. He apparently also had no problem with the following phrases:

1. I'm sorry.
2. I was wrong/mistaken.
3. Thank you.

Whaddaya know about that? Compare this to modern politics:

1. I'm sorry. Only uttered when the polls indicate that this is the politically expedient course of action. Otherwise it's an admission of error, which is a sign of weakness, which means that someone like Karl Rove (who once appeared in an episode of "American Dad" in his true guise as the Angel of Death) is free to perform whatever hatchet job is necessary upon the person issuing the apology, rendering him or her politically sterile for the next 3,000 years.

2. I was wrong/mistaken. This has been replaced with a "blame the rest of the world" approach; basically this means taking the position that I was NOT wrong, I was as correct as I could be given the facts at my disposal, which were flawed, and anyway who's to say I wasn't right after all once the correct information came to light, and you can't prove anything and I never said that to begin with, and even if I did it wasn't under oath, and I was speaking metaphorically, and after all the question wasn't framed correctly, and in the final analysis can anybody really say that have a true understanding of what reality IS anyway?

3. Thank you. This is actually used quite frequently, but is usually costs the recipient at least $5,000 a plate.

So I'm proposing that this midterm election people actually take notice. Don't pay attention to the frantic screeching from the religious right about whatever pet issue they decide to glom onto for this election cycle. Dismiss without prejudice the bleatings about how safe fracking is, and if your water catches fire you should just consider it to be a free source of heat. Ignore all the breast beating rhetoric about how someone's opponent was caught in a cheap motel with a Batman Halloween mask, a pair of barbecue tongs and an underage gorilla.

Instead, focus on things of actual import to the future health and well-being of the United States and her citizens. Things like:

The right of women to make their own birth control decisions.
The Hobby Lobby decision and its aftermath has made it pretty clear where conservatives stand. First they said corporations are people, and could therefore make donations to political campaigns, and that any limitation on these donations was an infringement of the First Amendment rights of the corporation. Then they said that corporations, being people and all, have a First Amendment right to practice their religious beliefs, and that anything that causes them to run counter to those beliefs -- let's say, oh, I don't know, providing health insurance with a contraceptive plan to women -- is unconstitutional, but only in the cases where the contraceptive is an abortifacient. This was followed almost immediately by a directive to the lower courts that hey, we were only kidding, we actually mean all contraceptives, and now you have to rehear all of those cases.

The latest development is that the Supreme Court is citing this bizarre religious butterfly effect, where if a corporation has to fill out a form that allows the insurance company to provide contraceptive care to women, this means they are implicitly condoning the use of contraceptives, which, as was pointed out before, violates the First Amendment rights of the corporation.

I suppose that, in the next go-round, the Supreme Court will hold that any company that makes pens that the officers of a corporation use to sign the form to allow insurance companies to be reimbursed by the government for providing contraceptive care outside of the health plan offered by the corporation will be exempt as well, because this will violate THAT corporation's freedom of religious expression.

The right to not get shot in the face while shopping.
So the gun nuts have staged "peaceful demonstrations" at Chipotle and Target. These peaceful demonstrations consisted of a bunch of people walking into a place of business, armed to the teeth, and wondering why the hell everyone was so nervous all of a sudden. It got to the point that the following press release was sent out:
From San Angelo Live, San Angelo, TX, 4/25/2014: "Saturday, April 26, The Tom Green County Chapter of the Open Carry Texas Organization will be participating in an event in San Angelo so as to inform the public about the Open Carry Law in the State of Texas. The San Angelo Police Department is well aware of the event and would like the citizens of San Angelo to know that this is a peaceful demonstration and that there is no need to be alarmed." (emphasis added)
Okay, a general rule of thumb is, if you are staging a demonstration, and the friggin' police department has to warn the population that you are not going to kill them, then you're doing it wrong.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Texas, a man shoots and kills his ex-sister-in-law and her entire family (save for one survivor). Sadly, this is no longer viewed as something out of the ordinary. The NRA hasn't weighed in on this one yet, and if they have the same amount of common sense as a bag of gravel, they won't.

The right to earn a living wage.
The far right has gotten their bloomers in a bunch again, this time over the minimum wage. Apparently, if you work a full time job and still are below the poverty line, then it's your own damned fault for not being born wealthy in the first place.

Originally, if I'm not mistaken, the minimum wage was intended to be a floor from which people could spring upward, and a way to guarantee that anyone who wanted to work would be able to support themselves. The problem is that, thanks to various ideological and political conditions in both of the major parties over the past seven decades or so when it was first enacted, it has never really lived up to that promise.

Currently, the federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 an hour. If you work full time, 40 hours a week, and you take no time off at all (or get paid time off and holi-- I'm sorry, I couldn't finish that sentence with a straight face), you will have an annual income of $15,080 before taxes. The poverty line for a single adult in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia is $11,670 (Alaska and Hawaii are handled separately, presumably because of their remoteness from the rest of the country).

So far, so good. Comparatively speaking, anyway. It's not great, but it should be enough to get by. In some places. Provided you live somewhere you can actually afford that's close to enough to where you work that you can either walk or take public transportation. So this pretty much rules out everywhere except Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Now let's say this single adult has a baby but the father goes AWOL. She's now a single mother, supporting both herself and the screaming poop factory on this crappy $7.25 an hour. However, just by virtue of procreating, the poverty line has moved above her income, to $15,730 a year.

Now, conservatives would point out that maybe she shouldn't have had the kid in the first place. And maintaining that the child was unintended, and they should be glad the mother didn't choose an abortion, and maybe if they hadn't stuck their big honkers in and made it so freakin' difficult for women to get birth control covered under their insurance, she wouldn't be in this position, is completely lost on them. Now, according to right wing wisdom (which is, in and of itself, an oxymoron), she is one of the "takers" and deserves to be degraded, belittled, and humiliated at every turn for daring to suckle off the generous government teat.


The point of all this is this: there's a midterm election in a few months, and it's time people stopped being so goddam lazy and just pushing the button next to the name they've heard of before, or that has a "D" or an "R" (depending on your affiliation) next to it, or just not voting at all.

729 out of every 730 days, you have absolutely no say in what happens in Congress. However, there's one day every two years during which members of Congress live in fear ... of you. They have pollsters, political scientists, lobbyists, get-out-the-vote organizations, armies of volunteers, millions of dollars to spend on TV, radio, and internet advertising ... but, no matter how hard they try, they cannot absolutely, with 100% certainty, predict the what you will do.

This year the conventional wisdom is that the Republicans are going to keep the House of Representatives, possibly gaining even more of a majority, and that the Democrats have a less than 50% chance of retaining the majority in the Senate. You think things are bad now? Just wait until you have both houses of Congress dominated by these right-wing assholes. You will see legislation placing further restrictions on a woman's right to choose, providing even bigger breaks for the 1% ... in short, you're gonna be screwed over even worse than you already are.

I say we teach these jokers a lesson they won't soon forget. Vote liberal. The more liberal, the better. If you can find a Wiccan running for Congress, or a gay polygamist Muslim, or even (but this might be a stretch) a true progressive, then vote for them.

And, to everyone in Kentucky, will you please vote for Alison Lundergan Grimes for Senate, and get ol' Turkey Neck outta there? That guy is really pissing me off. I gotta lie down.

Enough, Already. Just ... Enough.

On July 9, 2014, Ron Lee Haskell shot and killed four of his ex-wife’s sister’s five children, along with their parents. A fifth child, their fifteen year old daughter, was critically wounded, shot in the head, but was able to ID the shooter to the police and warn them that Haskell was on his way to kill her grandparents.
Ron Lee Haskell

This is so many kinds of fucked up I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start with this fifteen year old girl.

Imagine that your aunt was married to this guy, see, and the relationship ended, and your parents went to Colorado to pick her up and bring her back to Texas where she would, presumably, be safe from an abusive spouse. Your uncle then shows up at the house a year later, several months after the divorce has been finalized, ties you and your siblings up and has you lie face down on the floor, then does the same to your parents when they get home. He then calmly, methodically, shoots each of you in the back of the head. They are all dead, but you, somehow, have managed to survive. He leaves, you call the police and tell them that he is on his way to kill your grandparents. You are then taken to the hospital, where you are listed in critical condition with a bullet wound to the head.

Okay, so Cassidy Stay is pretty much your textbook definition of a hero. The media are going to LOVE her. She saved the lives of her grandparents, for chrissake, after her uncle shot her in the head and killed her entire family. It’s a pretty safe bet that, once she gets out of the hospital (and likely before then) she will be inundated with interview requests, invitations to appear on morning talk shows, daytime talk shows, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, 60 Minutes, Letterman, Fallon, Conan ...

Here’s hoping that whatever adults this poor girl has left in her life are smart enough to put her needs ahead of “the public’s right to know what happened”, or whatever nonsense producers might throw at her. Yes, there is a journalistic imperative to get as much information as possible, and to disseminate it, but the modern media have become so cutthroat and bleeding edge, and the need to beat your competitor to the story, even if it is only by a few seconds, has become so ingrained, that compassion and perspective often get lost in the shuffle.

Look, I want know what happened as much as the next person. However, my desire to know is outweighed by my hope that this girl gets the help she will need to deal with seeing her entire family slaughtered in front of her eyes.

Which brings me around to my favorite topic of late: guns.

I know there are people out there who may read this who are gun rights supporters. I’m well aware that the vast majority of gun rights supporters are rational, reasonable people who would never even consider something as brutal as the crime that took place in Houston yesterday.

However, it is a common thread among the gun rights crowd that gun control will not work, because criminals will get guns anyway, and if you take the guns away from the good guys then there’s going to be a massive slaughter and life will look like a Tarentino movie.

I disagree, and I started doing some research to find data to support my position. After all, I am a liberal, and I don’t like guns, and I fail to see the rational need to have a weapon capable of absolutely vaporizing a duck and trying to claim it’s for hunting, and I DEFINITELY don’t see a reason to bring something like that to Chipotle, especially if you’re a fat guy wearing basketball shorts.

That's just wrong.
What I found instead was far more disturbing.

Apparently, people have less to fear from a bad guy with a gun than they do themselves. According to the Centers for Disease Control, from 1999 to 2010 (the last year for which there are openly published data) the majority of firearms-related deaths came from suicides. Of the 364,483 gun deaths in this country during that time, 140,875 (a shade over 57%) of them were the result of suicides. And apparently 2010 was the worst year, with over 61% of the total firearms-related deaths being self-inflicted[1].

In contrast, there were 140,875 homicides committed with a firearms during that time, or 38.65% of all gun deaths.

Think about this for a second, and see if you spot the irony. Gun rights advocates are very vocal about the need for guns to protect themselves against the “bad guys with guns”, and it turns out that the bad guys with guns are, more often than not ... drum roll, please ... themselves.

Conversely, a favorite argument of the left is that we need stricter gun regulations to prevents deaths by accidental discharge. However, the statistics show that this is actually not that big a problem. For the same period (1999 to 2010), there were 8,339 deaths labeled as “Unintentional” by the CDC, or 2.29% of all gun deaths -- and 0.000236% of the population as a whole.

I do not intend to discount these deaths in any way. They are tragic, and could have easily been avoided if it wasn’t for the NRA and their ilk. However, it would be a mistake to use accidental death as a rallying cry, because gun rights advocates and other members of the far right will simply trivialize the number, as evidenced by this passage from

"According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), gang homicides accounted for roughly 8,900 of 11,100 gun murders in both 2010 and 2011. That means that there were just 2,200 non gang-related firearm murders in both years in a country of over 300 million people and 250 million guns."

Where to begin.

What the right THINKS all the fuss is about ...
First, I don’t know if this 8,900 number is correct. I was unable to find anything in the CDC data set I was looking at that broke out the data according to whether the death was gang-related or not. However, an absence of data is not the same as confirmation, so I’m going to have to let that one go and take it at face value.
... and what it's actually about.
However, in the context of the larger issue, whether or not it’s gang-related is kind of irrelevant. They are still people, and they are still getting killed. Yes, gang activity contributes to the flow of illegal firearms. Yes, if gangs were brought under control, there would fewer incidents of gun violence. I get all that. The conservative viewpoint is that we need to beef up enforcement against the gangs. Lock ‘em up, and that will serve as a deterrent. However, seeing as that has worked so well, and as much as I am tempted to go off on a tangent about this, that will have to be reserved for a future rant. Moving right along ...

The thing that struck me about the conservative editorial mentioned above is that the author managed to whittle the number of homicides that, I don’t know, really matter, or something, down to 2,200 ... and then completely failed to mention anything substantive about this statistic, preferring instead to complain about how gun laws were incorrectly targeted.

I suppose it makes sense for gun nuts to complain about someone else’s aim.

Anyway, getting back to the conservative point that we don’t need more gun regulations, we need to get rid of the gangs. First off, it’s not an either/or proposition. They are two completely separate issues, that need to be tackled individually.

Second, and more importantly, there is the issue of people like Ron Lee Haskell being able to get pretty much whatever he wanted that would increase his killing power. He had already run afoul of the law and had a restraining order against him, and there was a history of domestic violence, so how in the hell did he get a gun to begin with? I mean, one look at this guy’s record would be all it took for a gun seller to be able to say, “Y’know, I wouldn't trust this guy with a burnt out match”.
Assuming, of course, that anyone bothered to look in the first place. After all, if he had purchased the gun in Colorado before July 1, 2013, there would not have even been a cursory background check. In Colorado (where Haskell had been living with his wife and four children prior to the split and moving to California), a state law requiring a background check at the gun purchaser's expense did not take effect until July 1, 2013; prior to that, I think you could get an AR15 out of a vending machine[2].

Thirdly, a favorite tactic of the gun rights people is to dismiss any proposed gun control legislation, no matter how minor or reasonable, by proving that it will not be absolutely, perfectly, 100% effective in all situations. This ain’t exactly setting the bar very high, considering that there has been no legislation in the history of the world that has been effective in 100% of the cases. A perfect example is the case of a gun manufacturer that created an electronic trigger lock that would only allow the gun to be fired if it was within a few inches of a special watch to which it was digitally paired.


The uproar that resulted from this was astounding. A gun dealer in Maryland started offering these things for sale, and within hours was receiving death threats from gun nuts who were claiming that this violated their Second Amendment rights. It got so bad, he was forced to pull them from his shelves out of fear for his safety.

I got into a debate with a guy on this one recently, and he actually tried to make the case that a digital trigger lock like this was a bad idea because, if the hand with the watch got blown off and the watch was damaged or destroyed as a result, you wouldn't be able to fire the gun with the other hand. To which I replied, a) what the fuck are you doing in a situation where your hand is going to be blown off in the first place, and 2) if that does happen, you've got more important things to do with your free hand, like applying a goddam tourniquet so you don't bleed to death.

This is the level of discourse I have come to expect from the gun rights crowd.
Anyway, once you look at the actual numbers, and you see that of the average of 30,374 gun deaths per year, 29,107, or 95.83%, are intentionally inflicted -- either on another person, or on one’s self[3]. This screams for some kind of regulation, if for nothing else to prevent the majority of gun deaths from suicide.

Look, it’s low-hanging fruit. It’s not like you have to worry about drive-by suicides ... they don’t work that way. Suicide is rarely an impulsive act, and by removing access to firearms we will possibly save thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost to depression or overwhelming circumstances. Granted, if people genuinely want to kill themselves, they’ll find a way to do it. That doesn't mean we make it easier for them.

So it all comes back to gun rights advocates refusing to compromise, even a little. A digital trigger lock that is automatically deactivated by wearing a watch is too restrictive of Second Amendment rights, apparently, and in order to ensure that everybody can take part in the crossfire we just have to accept some murdered children as the cost of doing business, I guess. I gotta lie down.
The entire chart is show below, as is a link to the CDC website ... for independent verification, and so on.

Legal Intervention

% of deaths
% of pop.
% of deaths
% of pop.
% of deaths
% of pop.
% of deaths
% of pop.
% of deaths
% of pop.
All intents
% of population

Notes, Addenda and Assorted Stuff

[1]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2010 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released 2012. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2010, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at on Jul 11, 2014 8:53:53 AM.
The following ICD-10 Codes were used to filter the CDC data set:
  • U01.4 (Terrorism involving firearms)
  • W32 (Handgun discharge)
  • W33 (Rifle, shotgun and larger firearm discharge)
  • W34 (Discharge from other and unspecified firearms)
  • X72 (Intentional self-harm by handgun discharge)
  • X73 (Intentional self-harm by rifle, shotgun and larger firearm discharge)
  • X74 (Intentional self-harm by other and unspecified firearm discharge)
  • X93 (Assault by handgun discharge)
  • X94 (Assault by rifle, shotgun and larger firearm discharge)
  • X95 (Assault by other and unspecified firearm discharge)
  • Y22 (Handgun discharge, undetermined intent)
  • Y23 (Rifle, shotgun and larger firearm discharge, undetermined intent)
  • Y24 (Other and unspecified firearm discharge, undetermined intent)
  • Y35.0 (Legal intervention involving firearm discharge)
Population figures for 2010 are April 1 Census counts. The population figures for years 2001 - 2009, other than the infant age groups, are bridged-race estimates of the July 1 resident population, from the revised intercensal county-level 2000 - 2009 series released by NCHS on October 26, 2012. Population figures for 2000 are April 1 Census counts. Population figures for 1999 are from the 1990-1999 intercensal series of July 1 estimates. Note: Rates and population figures for years 2001 - 2009 differ slightly from previously published reports, due to use of the population estimates which were available at the time of release.
Don't worry, all the data for the chart is there. However, I'm still new at this Blogger thing, so formatting the table ... well, it didn't work out as well as I had hoped, and quite frankly I got tired of messing with it. Return to story
[2]Just in case some right-winger gets his or her panties in a twist and accuses me of spreading misinformation, I will state categorically that, to the best of my knowledge, you could never buy an AR15 out of a vending machine in Colorado. However, you could get one free from Pep Boys if you bought a complete set of tires with the road hazard warranty. Return to story

[3]This does not count gun deaths resulting from law enforcement activity ... this is actually a minute percentage, just a hair over 1%, of all gun deaths per year. It also does not include gun deaths that are classified as “Undetermined” ... again, a tiny amount, 0.81% a year. Return to story

Come At Me, Bro

So the latest stunt from Ron DeSantis and the Floriduh GOP -- and that's all they are is stunts -- is SB 1316, a particularly odious and...