Wednesday, November 08, 2017

No More Walk Of Shame

Dear Republicans,

Last November you got drunk and, thinking it would be kinda funny (and, naturally, not thinking about the consequences of your actions), went home with donald trump. It was fun at the time ... he charmed you, he made you feel special, he said all the things you wanted to hear. You vaguely remember thinking that this was The One, the guy who was going to fix all your problems and make everything that you didn't like fade into nonexistence.

Unfortunately, the honeymoon was cut short when you discovered that all of his promises, all of those wonderful things he told you, were nothing but lies intended to get you into bed. You realized that he never really cared for you, you were just another conquest ... and once he had reached that summit, he lost interest in you.

In January of this year the sun came up, and you began to regret your decision, knowing that, although trump is a smooth talker1, he was unlikely to follow through on anything he said. And thus commenced the nine-and-half-month-long Walk of Shame -- bedraggled hair, streaked mascara, shoes in your hands, wondering what in the world ever possessed you to make such a bad decision, and frantically calling your best friend to apologize for ditching them the night before.

On November 7, 2017 that inexplicable fascination with such an obvious dirtbag, that ill-advised union, was finally annulled. It took a lot of effort, and he kept trying to draw you back in, but you began to realize that there are two broad categories of people in this world: people like trump, to whom you are nothing but a number on a balance sheet, and people to whom you are truly valued as a person -- not for any material gain or based on what you can do for them, but simply based on your intrinsic worth as a human being.

Election Day 2017 on the surface is fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things: a couple of governor's races (New Jersey and Virginia), local elections in many states, the Virginia House of Delegates, etc. However, as an indicator of the future political tone in the United States, it's looking very strongly like you are beginning to realize that you made some really bad choices in 2016 and you might be thinking about a mea culpa.

Just so you know, I will always accept your apology. Look, I get it. I've been suckered before by snake oil salesmen. They're smooth. They're glib. They are oddly appealing in a way you can't quite identify. It happens to everybody. I am here to reassure you that I will always welcome you back with open arms. I will sympathize with the betrayal you must feel. I will commiserate with you about trump and everyone like him being a lying scumbag.

Above all, I will have your back when you decide to publicly acknowledge your mistake, and I will provide support and encouragement. I will help you in trying to repair the damage he has done to you by standing by you when you do speak out against him.

I am here for you.



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1Okay, he's an illiterate moron, but just roll with it for the sake of the analogy. Sheesh.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

It's Just Too Much

It's happened again.

Some white guy, presumably with some kind of axe to grind about something, decided the best way to deal with the situation was to open fire with high-powered weapons on a crowd. As a result, 26 are dead, 20 are injured, and this incident will go down in history as the deadliest single mass shooting in Texas history to date. And it has only been about a month since the last mass shooting, which was the single deadliest mass shooting in American history (for a while, anyway. That title previously was reserved for the Pulse nightclub shooting in which 49 people died. That had occurred just under 16 months prior. The way things are going, this gruesome milestone will probably only stand for another year or so at most, anyway).

We live in a country where there are enough guns in circulation to provide every man, woman, child, and more than a few dogs (but not cats. Can't trust those bastards with anything) with a firearm, and we would still have a shit ton of them left over (just in case, y'know). And despite horrifying attacks -- Mandalay Bay, in which nearly 600 people were injured or killed while being trapped in an open field with 20,000 of their closest friends, or Newtown, in which 20 five and six year olds and six of their teachers were brutally gunned down in an elementary school, or Charleston, where people in a bible study class welcomed a stranger in their midst who then turned on them and opened fire, and the list goes on for a depressingly long time -- not once have we even come close to addressing the issue at the heart of all this: guns, the American obsession with them, and the ludicrously easy access to them.

The right is already screeching about how guns laws won't work because "killers will just get them illegally", "it's not a gun problem, it's a mental health problem," "guns don't kill people, people kill people," "more people die in automobile accidents than by gunfire. Does that mean we outlaw cars?" and "it's a Constitutional right to own a gun" (it's not, but I'll touch on that in a bit). These are all bullshit arguments intended to deflect away from the real issue: too many guns, and it's too easy to get them. But let's break it down a bit.

"Killers will just get them illegally."
This is a favorite argument against gun control legislation: it won't be 100% effective. The problem with this line of "reasoning" (for lack of a better word) is that no legislation is 100% effective. For example, it is illegal to shoot people, yet people get shot. Does that mean we just say the hell with it and declare open season? If this thinking was applied to automotive design, no car would have seat belts because they are entirely ineffective against injury in a car that has been driven off of a 1,000 foot cliff (presumable by Wile E. Coyote).

"It's not a gun problem, it's a mental health problem."
Here's the thing, Sparky: it's both. The two aren't mutually exclusive. Someone who perpetrates a mass shooting is, by definition, at least a little off. However, this begs the question: why are we making it easier for these people to get guns? Granted, a background check alone would not have stopped the Vegas shooter, as I believe his criminal record over his entire life consisted of a single parking ticket or something like that, but the guy in Texas had been dishonorably discharged from the military for domestic abuse against his wife and child, and sensible regulations would have prevented his acquiring an AR-15 (the same weapon used in Newtown) in the first place.

"Guns don't kill people. People kill people."
While this may be linguistically correct, the reality is that the shooter in Texas would have done a lot less damage if he didn't have a gun. If he had charged into the building, shrieking and waving a scimitar, it's a safe bet he would have been tackled by some beefy ex-high-school jock and pummeled into submission before the 911 call was even finished.

"More people are killed by car accidents than by guns. Does that mean we outlaw cars?"
The sheer volume of stupid contained in this is just staggering. Yes, in absolute numbers, more people are killed in automobile accidents than by gunfire. However, the difference -- the key difference -- is that guns are designed to injure and kill, while cars are designed as transportation and only injure and kill when used improperly (driving under the influence, inattentiveness, obvious safety defects, that sort of thing). And, as it turns out, we have laws against the improper use of an automobile. Imagine that.

Right about now some right-winger will triumphantly crow "The Constitution does not protect my right to own an automobile. But ...

The Constitution protects my right to own a gun."
No, it doesn't. In Heller v. District of Columbia (2008), the Supreme Court struck down a Washington DC ordinance that prohibited individuals from keeping firearms in the home. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, pontificated at length about the meaning of the words "keep" and "bear" in the context of the Second Amendment, but not once did he mention ownership.

When it comes to property -- guns, lawnmowers, TV sets, a box of Lucky Charms -- there are three verbs to bear in mind: "keep," "bear," and "own." To "keep" an object in this context means "to have in your possession, to maintain physical control over the property." To "bear" an object means "to direct its use, or lack thereof." To "own" an object means "to have legal control over the property, and to have the legal ability to transfer title of the property to another entity." Scalia covered "keep" and "bear" in great detail, but not once did he touch on "own."

To give an example from my own life: in 2008, my then-14-year-old nephew called me asking about a drum set he was thinking about buying, wanting to know if the advertised price was a good deal. Since I had a drum set identical to what he was looking at sitting in my basement gathering dust, I offered to let him take it for no charge with the understanding that, if I ever asked for it back, it would be returned.

In this instance he "keeps" the drums in that they are in his possession, and he does the maintenance needed to keep them in good condition (he's doing an excellent job of that, too ... way to go, bud!). He "bears" the drums in that he is the one who plays them. However, they're still my goddam drums, and I have the right to sell them out from under him if I so choose (I won't do that, but that is purely my choice).

Based on this reasoning, Scalia did not protect the right of individuals to own a firearm, only to have and use them. Under Scalia's own logic, regulation of gun ownership is perfectly legitimate.

This notion that a Constitutional right to firearms is absolute when no other protected right in the Constitution has this property is just ludicrous. For example, the freedom of speech protected in the First Amendment is not absolute -- if it were, there would be no libel laws, truth-in-advertising laws, etc. The right of habeus corpus is not absolute; it has been suspended on multiple occasions. The right to vote is not absolute in that there are several restrictions: a voter must be a citizen, must be of a certain age, must not have a felony conviction, etc. Yet the National Rifle Association, aka the Evil Empire (a term that also applies to the New York Yankees, by the way) routinely uses the argument that the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms is absolute, and throws millions of dollars at members of Congress to try to keep it that way.

Look, let's face it. For the vast majority of people, owning a gun is a serious responsibility, one that is not to be taken lightly. These people view guns as weapons, things that are designed to cause harm, and treat the with the care and respect that is due such a powerful tool. However, there is a smaller group of people for whom guns are surrogates for their winkies, and who viewed "Die Hard" as a documentary. It is against this group of people that we have to protect ourselves.

The idea that the Constitution prevents us from regulating guns is, simply put, suicidal. Either we start enacting some real gun control legislation, or we may as well start digging the graves now.

I gotta lie down.

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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...