“Why?” is the wrong question. 1

To go a bit deeper into one aspect of the responses to the Connecticut mass murder yesterday: When something like this happens, the very first thing most people ask is usually “Why?” – and that’s the wrong question.

Why is irrelevant. It’s only useful in retrospect. There’s a different “why” for each one of these grotesque incidents, and there’s no way we can ever hope to anticipate every last one of them.

What we can do, the one thing that can make a real difference, is to change the easy access to the another aspect of such things, the how.

There are simply too damn many guns out there, and too many people who think that it’s the single most important part of life. Or they come up with some weak-sauce rationalization of defending themselves, or their property.

Unless you hunt to provide food, or you’re in law enforcement or the military, you have very little reason to own a firearm. If you feel you need to defend yourself badly enough to have to carry one on you regularly, maybe it’s time to ask yourself what you’re doing in such situations that often. Or look even deeper into yourself and see where so much fear is coming from.

If that guy’s mother had not LEGALLY purchased the three weapons he used, she and 20+ other people would be alive today. How safe does she feel right now?

Oh, that’s right. She can’t feel anything. She’s dead, killed with one of the guns she brought home.

Your first challenge, America, is to stop making it so easy for the deranged, and for the common criminal lowlife, to take the lives of others.

Everyone calls out for President Obama to call for more control measures. That’s fine, let’s see them get through Congress and pass a Supreme Court test when that bench has a “bend-over” majority for such right wing shibboleths as “Castle doctrines” and “Stand Your Ground” laws.

Was Trayvon Martin not also standing his ground when George Zimmerman murdered him? What’s the differential there?

Your second, harder challenge is to stop feeling that guns are the solution. If that’s your real worldview you have a problem.

That problem is fear.

Your fear of others. Your fear that you can’t quite cope with life without the ability to take someone else’s at a moment’s notice.

Grow up, America. It’s long past time.

 

Edited to add: I don’t owe you anything, least of all tolerating obnoxious commenters.  Get inflammatory and you’ll get gone.

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I am both, I am neither… 2

I’m Alan, and I don’t exist.

Oh, I’m corporeal enough.  I have a temperature, a pulse, a bit more weight than I did in my younger days, and hair that’s gone gray.

I’m just not a part of the system that’s there to catch most of us when we fall.  And thus, I’m not technically part of Romney’s deeply derided 47%.  You know, the ones that “don’t pay taxes” – except we do.  Payroll taxes are income tax, except no one who pays them that way gets to use foreign accounts and convoluted shelters to hide behind in order to skip sending in a check – they’re deducted every time that eagle flies.  Then  there’s sales taxes, property taxes, excise taxes, state and local taxes, all kinds of ways we contribute to running things, really, far beyond the return we get here in middle-to-bottom-land.  Especially here in the blue states.  Go look it up.

You know the type he’s talking about.  The ones that look for handouts.  Wish I was.  I’d love to lay about and drink beer all day and have everything seen to by Uncle Sugar.  Except they don’t.  Being broke sucks.  Try it sometime.

I am, believe it or not, part of his much-vaunted 53%.

As a freelancer/contractor/project worker I don’t have payroll taxes deducted.

So I pay income tax.

And I know what those taxes pay for. They pay for the roads I drive on, the sidewalks I walk down, the water system that keeps me hydrated and lets me cook my interesting pasta dishes, the police and fire departments that are there in the slim and terrible likelihood that I would need their services, and yes, assistance to those who may need it through no doing of their own.

It’s part of the admission charge to a civilized society.

And that word, right there – SOCIETY – is what the libertarian utopians choose to overlook in their staggeringly shortsighted focus only on the economy. We live in a society. An economy is a component of that, not a substitute for it.

So if you’re so utterly convinced that the poor, the sick, the blind, the elderly, and the infants have it so amazingly good, why aren’t you rushing to join them?  It’s amazing to me that someone can seriously believe that the rich folks are taking all the risk in society.

And Willard, if you’re going to cry about those nasty, smelly taxes so damn much, let’s see those returns.  Show us the truly awful percentages you’re paying so we can at least sympathize.

You know, sympathy.

You’d find it in the dictionary, somewhere between shit and syphilis.

The Object of the Game is to Win 10

You read that right.

The object of the game is to win.

Don’t get me wrong, in an election, that’s not the end, it’s the end of the beginning.

Winning an election means we get to implement policies. Losing (even “losing pure”) means we get to sit on the sidelines and watch the other guys implement theirs. And if we liked their policies more, why are we on our side?

If you don’t understand that, maybe politics isn’t for you. Maybe another hobby would suit you better. Stamp collecting? Model railroading? Birdwatching? Really – if you don’t get this, leave it to those of us that do.

There is no such thing as “making a statement” by coming in second in electoral politics. That’s called losing, and we’re far too used to it, because our side, the Dems if you will, have viewed principled losses as somehow ennobling.

They’re not. They hurt us, and they hurt America. Internalize that now. Then prepare to act on it, because November is important.

We have to do whatever we can to undo the disaster fostered in part by Democrats sitting on their hands in 2010 to “teach Obama a lesson” of whatever sort.

Never, ever, do that again.

Down-ballot elections are even more important, both Congressional and state legislative races make huge differences in people’s lives, and giving things over to the Republicans out of some sort of pique is not just foolish, it’s destructive – to you, me, our families, and this society. Ask the good folks in Wisconsin, Ohio, or Michigan about what happens when Republicans turn out and Democrats stay home. They’ll have stories, I suspect.

November matters.

And the object of the game is to win.

Anderson Cooper’s disclosure is not news – and that’s a positive! 2

CNN’s Anderson Cooper recently disclosed, to Andrew Sullivan, that he is in fact gay.

While this surprised few people, it also passed close to unremarked.

This is a good turn of events.  We’re seeing something that is a personal matter being treated as such, and not as headline-generating shock value.

People are who they are.  That has never changed, and it never will.  That such a disclosure doesn’t matter nearly as much as it would have even two or three years ago shows that while we still have some distance left ahead of us, we’re growing up as a society.

That’s it for now – all the news that, thankfully, isn’t, really.

To the “working people” in America: 2

I can not, even for a moment, understand why you’d even consider voting for Romney in November.

OK, maybe you’re a racist.  It happens, and we do know the Republicans are far better at catering to racists than are the Democrats.  It wasn’t always that way, to be sure, though since the Strom Thurmond “Dixiecrat” days, that’s how it is, and in presidential politics, it goes back to Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”, Reagan opening his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and Lee Atwater’s openly racist Willie Horton appeals on behalf of Bush the Elder, also, notably, the father of the single worst president in US history.  I can see why it appeals to you then, repellent as the ideology may be to most people.

Or maybe you’re an anti-gay bigot.  We’re fighting, then, because I have gay family members and I do take that sort of thing personally.  Again, they’re far more inclined to pander to that particular prejudice, so I understand.  Go forth and hate, secure in the knowledge that you’re a dying breed, and you’ll soon be irrelevant.

Maybe you’re mad at women and don’t want them to have health care because to you that says “abortion” and you just know that’s bad.  Think about this: Can any woman you ask (and you’d better, if this is your reason) honestly claim that to be a casual decision?  It’s likely the very last, worst option, and for all that, one that can’t be precluded just because you don’t like it.  You’re not going to have the kid, you don’t get to make the call.  And what is it with hating women’s health care anyway?  Didn’t you have a mother?  Do you have a wife, a sister, a daughter?  Won’t their lives be drastically better if their concerns are seen to?

Or you don’t like that nasty “Obamacare” thing.  How dare they try to give health care to all Americans, no matter who?  Try this once: Substitute a Canadian area code for yours, call the number, and ask them if they’d like to give up national health and pay our exorbitant American rates, just to be denied coverage by a private insurer when they need it.  (When they stop laughing, I’m sure they’ll have a bit of advice for you on that one.)

Maybe somehow, you’ve bought into the Grover Norquistian anti-tax nonsense.  Ask yourself this, then: If we’re in debt (and we are) then we have to pay it off, don’t we?  If you’re in personal debt, do you think decreasing your income is a worthwhile option?  Would any corporate CEO ever survive claiming that because times were hard, they had to reduce their revenues?  If those make sense to you, go right ahead.  Understand this, though, as you do.  Government spending on things like roads, bridges, education, and the like is not waste.  It is an investment, in the future for all of us, including the businesses you patronize and work for.  They benefit by it, they know it, some of them just hope you don’t realize it.  And the money made, and then spent, by those working on these things generates further ecnonomic activity, which helps all of us.  Economists call that a “multiplier” and it’s real.

Or you hate unions.  Lord knows, they’re evil – looking out for the concerns of working people just like you, bleeding and dying to get you weekends and overtime.  Maybe they’re not getting paid too much, maybe you’re not being paid enough.  Want help with that?  Romney’d just as soon outsource your job to China and laugh at you as you are marched out the front door.  That’s what he and his other vulture capitalists do.  They get richer out of throwing you out of work so some guy in China or Indonesia can do your job for a dollar a day.

If, after all this, you’re still thinking of voting for Romney, just do this instead.  Glue feathers all over yourself, get a beak and glue it to your face, and vote for Colonel Sanders.  It makes just as much sense.

A Gentle Reminder to “Progressive” Democrats 2

We have an election coming up this November.

President Obama is seeking a second term, every Representative and one-third of the Senate is up for election, and there are many state campaigns being waged as well.

Now that the basic facts are out of the way, here’s the reminder: Grow up.

This contest is not between President Obama and some abstract concept of perfection in the Oval Office.  It’s between President Obama and a shape-shifting, job-killing, pathological liar named Willard Romney.

Now is not the time for whining about how you didn’t get everything you wanted in January 2009.  Neither did I.  The difference is, I didn’t expect it.

Now is not the time for sitting on your hands to “teach President Obama a lesson” like you did in 2010.

How’d that work out?

Want to ask the folks in Wisconsin about that one?  Michigan, maybe?  Florida, where noted healthcare fraudster turned Governor Rick Scott’s voter suppression efforts have only just been sidetracked by a Federal judge?

We’re on the mend, to the extent that we can get anything at all through the single most obstructionist Congress in living memory.  Sit this one out and you’ll create a monster – a Congress (and possibly Senate) giving Willard Romney everything he wants.  And all he wants, to quote Southside Johnny, is everything.  Everything of yours, that is.  Your job.  Your house.  Your car, what’s left of your pension plan, maybe even your dog, to strap to the roof of Air Force One.

That can’t happen.  America can’t survive that.

Occupy tells us nothing can be fixed.  Everything’s too corrupt to be remedied, they say.

Really?  And sitting in a park or plaza banging on a drum will fix that how, exactly?  Waving signs and chanting solves what problems?  Having no leader or defined goals doesn’t mean you’re a new kind of movement, it just means you’re a crowd milling around wondering what to do next.

Here’s a hint: Vote.  If you’re not registered, register.  If you are, go help someone else get registered.  The regulations are more onerous now, thanks to 2010’s tantrums, but it still can be done.

Here’s why: No movement that accomplished its goals was ever leaderless, and no movement that accomplished its goals ever secured them in the streets and parks.  Not civil rights, not gay rights, not at all.  They secured them in courtrooms and legislative chambers, and that’s where these battles will be won or lost.  It takes time, it’s frustrating, it’s not instant gratification.

It’s still worth doing.

I’ve sat across a table from a very good attorney who’s secured the freedom of people confined in Guantanamo.  Can fauxgressive/Cato libertarian Glenn Greenwald, for all his bleats of concern for civil liberties, claim even one?  Of course not – he’s a clicktivist only, preferring to sit back in comfort in Brazil and pen his screeds from a distance where he doesn’t even have any real skin in the game.

Don’t be that guy.

Don’t be a do-nothing whiner.

Don’t be a clicktivist.

Call people, work to make things better, even if it’s not as fast as you like, and get votes out in November, we need Congress back and we need President Obama back in Washington.

Thank you, Mr. President. 2

President Obama took a giant step forward for Americans of every description when he affirmed his support for marriage equality.

As someone with gay family members, I definitely appreciate that.  They’re now equal in his eyes, though sadly, not yet in the eyes of the law.

That will change.

Yes, our system sometimes moves too slowly.  Now is one of those times, though moving it is, and in the right direction.

I’m not worried, as some say they are, about a possible political cost.  Anyone who won’t vote for President Obama because of this would in all probability not have voted for him anyway.

I am worried about the few on the left who are commenting that it wasn’t an assertive enough affirmation.

Really?

That’s like getting something you’ve always wanted and complaining about the choice of wrapping paper.  Bad form doesn’t even come close to describing it.

Undoing DOMA is still working its way through the courts, and once it does, along with the overturning of California’s Prop 8, the dam will burst.  Equal protection – the proper grounds on which to attack these discriminatory laws and state amendments – will win out.

It’s the right thing to do.  And it will be done.

Republican Racism 2

(repurposed from a Facebook post)

There have been repeated Facebook postings (and deletions) of a certain, highly racist, anti-President Obama sticker on a car of late.

I don’t need to see it again, though I do feel it’s been useful in that it points out a very real problem underlying much, though admittedly not all, of the Republican opposition to the President: RACISM.

And I can’t help but believe that since we do not see many explicit public disavowals or condemnations of such things from Republican candidates or party leadership, that they really don’t mind the expression of such racist sentiments by members and supporters of their party. In fact, I suspect they find them a useful rallying point to some extent.

Sincere opposition on principle I can understand, even though I disagree with it. Opposition underpinned by racism, or reinforced by racist expression, has no place in America.

So how about it, Republican candidates and leaders? Do you have the courage to publicly disavow and condemn these things? Do you have the courage to demand that your supporters stop such things?

Glenn Greenwald – now worse than ever! Reply

Salon’s pet Libertarian, Glenn Greenwald, has made even more of an ass of himself than before.

I know, I know, it hardly seems possible.   Facts have a nasty way of trashing suppositions, though, and this time he did.

Greenwald went so far as to claim that supporters of President Obama would literally excuse him for committing forcible rape, even against a nun.

Yes, you read that right.

Let’s leave aside for the moment that this first requires us to believe that President Obama would do something so heinous.  The suspension of disbelief that alone requires, straining credulity as it does, has to be left alone for the moment to carry Greenwald’s latest burst of insanity just a bit further.

I can safely presume everyone reading this had a mother.  I know I did.  I have a sister, and there is a woman in my life I love very deeply.

To presume that I can leave those aside and rationalize a hypothetical crime of violence even against an abstracted nun in order to continue to support President Obama is a contortion of imagination that defies…well, imagination.

Greenwald’s loathsome nonsense has been annoying and offensive before.  This, though, is an affront to every norm of civilized discourse, and it’s time for him to go.

I’ve written Salon’s management insisting they publicly fire him.  I know it won’t happen, they like the page views his libertarian fanbois bring them far too much to let something so inconvenient as using images of forcible rape as discussion fodder dissuade them from publishing his repellent screeds.

I have only one more message for Greenwald:

We Live in a Society, Not an Economy 2

This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this:  most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time.  Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy. 

–Douglas Adams

 

We have a problem, and calling Houston won’t help.

Everywhere today we hear all manner of talk about what we must do for the sake of the economy.

With fingers left over to make change, I can count how many times I hear what we must do for the sake of our society.

Now, in the bloggular equivalent of a TV series “clip show”, let’s look at something I wrote a while ago…

We live in a society.  An economy is just a component of that society, and those who confuse the two shortchange not only this society, they also shortchange themselves.

Our fundamental mistake is that we confuse the part with the whole.

Not even close.

How can we justify starving children?  How can we rationalize someone, even Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign adviser, dying of a lack of health care?  How can we excuse, even briefly, the notion that in a country that is so wealthy, we must maltreat and marginalize some people so that the most well-off can have even more?

In that same essay, I put it thus:

Or we can set about reclaiming the concept of a public good, redefining ourselves in terms of a society rather than simply an economy, and relegating all religious discussion to its rightful place in the private sphere. 

Something to work for, don’t you think? 

What if that goal was even such a simple notion as that there is no good reason for anyone to have to go to bed hungry, or to not have a bed to go hungry to, or even a roof overhead?  That there is no good reason for a child to grow to adulthood unschooled?  That everyone having basic health care is a huge social positive in many more ways than there are room to list here? 

Note here, and note well, readers, that I am not for one moment claiming that everyone has the same innate abilities and that there is some moral failing at the root of the shortfalls in the lives of the less fortunate.  I do claim that wisdom and true self-interest (as opposed to the Ayn Rand counterfeit so many “Libertarians” claim) brings with it the realization that we all benefit when no one among us is hungry, or uneducated, or ill, or unhoused.

Anything else is immoral.

So, what are we to do about this?

I’ll explore these questions at my usual slow-writing pace.  For now, it’s time to leave you with one more quote from that earlier piece:

There are two main possible directions for the future.  One is to continue along the increasing corporatization of America, until we begin to resemble something akin to an electronicized feudal state, where ownership of most of the economy is concentrated in the hands of a very few, with the great numbers of people having almost no say or stake in anything.  This is the Libertarians’ ideal, of course, though many of their adherents are foolish enough to believe that they’ll be on the ownership side of the fence.

That won’t happen, of course.  Cannon fodder remains outside.  Always has, always will.