Cartoon: Mental Health Problems


Trump was on the ballot in Virginia. He lost.

TICKTOCK, TICKTOCK

TICKTOCK, TICKTOCK

My Dear Fellow Americans,

As we await the next mass shootings let’s put things in perspective and have the courage to call a spade a spade.

This never was and never shall be a gun control issue. How can the gun lobby which pours so much money into our economy be blamed? How can the advancement of technology and science with the refinement of weapons into more lethal, rapid firing assault kind be blamed? Whosoever does that is simply against the growth of our economy and advancement of our sciences.

If anything the Gun industry needs a pat on the back and be encouraged to keep coming up with the next level of deadlier and mass murdering weapons and keep them freely available so both the good and the bad guys can stay equally armed.

No wonder America leads the rest of the World and by some distance regarding these mass shootings for we are the most economically and scientifically advanced Nation of them all. Also, do not worry if they belittle us for they are envious of how efficient our killing prowess has become.

How can the lawmakers and the administration be blamed for their inaction in the face of these mass shootings? They have families to take care of, bread to put on the table, like the rest of us.

The second amendment is there for a reason and states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

We need to be ready and loaded with weapons as the Russian, North Korean or ISIS armies may show up anytime in our backyards, and our neighborly militias would then need to step up and defend our country against them.

Let us come to the real issue. This is a mental health issue. The blame lies with the mental health doctors and personnel. The fault lies with the field of medicine for not doing better in diagnosing and treating the mass shooter’s state of mind. The blame lies with the pharmaceutical industry for lacking behind in R&D and not coming up with medicines to cure these evil minds.

The top two causes of deaths in America are Heart disease and Cancer. Cardiologists and Oncologists should be blamed much more than the gun lobby.

We need to weaponize even more Americans for self-defense. Go back to the lawless wild west with gun-slinging cowboys and all. See it was lawless then for a reason. There was not enough firepower. Only some meek looking pistols and rifles. We can now all be armed with the modern assault weapons with hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Things can be much calmer, much better this time around. Let us scare away the next mass shooter. The anticipation of a tit for tat response is bound to dissuade them. After all, they do value their own precious lives for we always catch them alive after a hard chase.

Another solution to mass shootings lies in more of science as in replacing the futuristic mass shooters with robots and artificial intelligence or neutralizing their evil with implanting good chips. We can ask Hollywood to help us here, predict and identify such crimes before they happen.

The media needs to cool off too and stop overreacting to these mass shootings. All they are in for is sensationalism and round the clock coverage and we need laws to protect us from that.

For the countries which have stricter gun laws that have worked against mass shootings I just have one word. BORING.

Mass shootings usually happen to others. Chances that it would ever happen to you or me are minuscule. Even if it does, there is likely to be a good samaritan vigilante returning fire with fire. Just know, practice and remember when to duck. As long as the crazy mass shooter don’t get us, for the good bullets out of the good guns, even if they connect, are not likely to cause us any harm.

So as we all wait, fingers crossed, ticktock, ticktock, this ain’t that bad as it is made out to be.

Sincerely,

AA

This is a work of satire.

After Texas church rampage, ‘thoughts and prayers’ leave gun control side frustrated

WASHINGTON — The church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas, reopened a gun control debate that has raged for decades, erupting with fresh vigor with each new tragedy. Five weeks have passed between a rampage in Las Vegas left 58 people dead, and the arguments and battle lines were still echoing in Congress. But the history of… [Read more…]

Cartoons: Another Day, Another Massacre

More than 20 killed in shooting at Baptist church in Texas: officials

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas — More than 20 people were killed Sunday when a man walked into a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and started shooting, authorities told local news reporters. A commissioner of Wilson County, Albert Gamez Jr., told the Washington Post that at least 27 people were killed and more than 20 were injured… [Read more…]

PLEASE

PLEASE

Recently a patient of mine, a chronic heavy smoker, quit smoking. He says “Doc in the after visit summary it said, “Please quit smoking” and no one had ever asked me “Please” before.”
I am going to try this charm and see if I can get lucky again realizing that this one is a rather stiff ask.

I find myself somewhere between gloomy and more gloomy since the Vegas raining bullets massacre. Gloomy because I know the next one is going to happen and then another and more for we the people are unable to stop these. The next place in America this will happen and the number of casualties is as if playing a game of darts, blindfolded, or pulling out a lottery slip from a bucket full of all our names and towns in it.

Here are some statistics on mass shootings defined as 4 or more victims, excluding the shooter. America leads the rest of the World hands down and averages almost one mass shooting a day. Yes, nine out ten days on average. Semi-automatic firearms with high capacity magazines are the weapons of choice. More than half of the shooters are white males. Terrorists have killed only a small fraction of the total but make the most hoopla in the news.

You think this will never happen to you. Well, check with the survivors of Vegas and Orlando. Each time something like this happens everyone hopes that the perpetrator is not one of them. Terrorist is the buzzword if a Muslim does it. Evil is the word used if it is someone else.

The numbers keep going up, the idea of killing as many in as little time possible, as in a weird and ugly competition. Typically the hunting rifles and shotguns shoot up to four shells. That is all one needs for fair game. Revolvers hold six rounds. Those were the good old days.

Enter semi-automatic weapons with large capacity magazines. A bolt action hunting rifle needs to be actioned after firing each round. A semi-automatic weapon, in contrast, can keep shooting one at a time till there are bullets in the magazine which may be dozens. A fully automatic rifle fires in continuous rapid bursts, the kind of sounds heard in Vegas.

It turns out that a semi-automatic rifle can be turned into a fully automatic one rather easily and illegally with the addition of a bump stock. Even the NRA now wants these bump stocks regulated. Try regulating the semi-automatic weapons themselves, and you are out of luck. That ain’t happening, and there is nothing we can do about it except keep dying and keep on trying.

Three countries have successfully regulated against these mass killings. The United Kingdom after the tragedy of Dunblane, Australia after that of Port Arthur and Germany after the incident in Winnenden. Stricter gun laws, ban of rapid-fire weapons and Government buyback were some of the things that were done.

The argument to be armed to the teeth to protect against bad elements can mean that if tomorrow crooks show up with rocket launchers, we may also start selling them at Cabela’s. The argument that the bad actors are going to get them anyways can mean that we can make freely available crack cocaine, heroin, and other drugs. The argument that an armed vigilante is the best remedy to prevent such attack means that we would have to arm a lot more people for all places at all times.

Think it over for a second. These tactical, combat, large magazine guns are doing precisely what they are meant to do and are the weapons of choice for mass murderers for they are readily and freely available. Walmart made the call and stopped selling the semi-automatic weapons as an example of American corporate conscience. What about others?

The serial killers of the past had to work for their killings. Today it is far too easy for a or any mad person. There are only so many people who can be killed with a knife, a bolt action rifle or a revolver. It is these rapid-fire weapons with magazines holding dozens of bullets which have changed the landscape. The more the eggs, the bigger the omelet, the more the rounds that can be fired rapidly the bigger the carnage. How many more need to die before we can influence change?

The technology would only keep getting better with more sophisticated weaponry with more mass killing capability. We went to a full war in Iraq for protecting its people and neighbors from weapons of mass destruction and indiscriminate killing. Does raining bullets, 59 dead, over 500 injured qualify for mass destruction? Does a mass shooting almost every day in America feel like a war zone? This has to be a curse for seemingly there is not much we can do about this problem.

I am a hunter. I own strings and arrows and guns myself. I have friends who are the same, and we are all very passionate about our rights and the second amendment. So I am going to say it some different.

My dear gun loving American, this is in our hands, if we can come together as one and at the very least do away with the semi-automatic weapon.
Please.
If nothing else for the sake of our children.

Cartoon: the NRA and Las Vegas

OF RELATED INTEREST:
–NRA CEO says legislation regulating guns won’t prevent mass shooting. In rare interview, Wayne LaPierre decries effort to ‘politicize’ the Las Vegas shooting.
NRA moves to head off gun control fight in Congress
–Michigan Republicans who tweeted ‘prayers’ for Las Vegas have received money from the NRA
-The NRA thinks you’re stupid

Mike Peters is recognized as one of our nation’s most prominent cartoon artists for his outstanding work as both a political and comic strip cartoonist. His favorite expression “WHAT A HOOT” certainly sums up his outlook on his life and work which are inexorably entwined. Mike’s warm, easygoing and zany demeanor is evidence that his personality matches his creative talents. As so eloquently phrased by a colleague — “Mike is the Peter Pan of the cartooning world; he’s boyishly charming, good with a rapier and doesn’t spend a lot of time on the ground. And he doesn’t seem to want to grow up”.

The Comic Strip Mother Goose & Grimm appears in over 800 newspapers worldwide and consistently places in the top 10 most popular ratings. Licensees distribute Grimmy products all over the world, and the Grimmy TV show continues to air in several countries. Mother Goose & Grimm is included in the Toon Lagoon theme park at Universal Studios that opened in July 1999. This copyrighted cartoon is licensed to be run on TMV and is from his website.

The Las Vegas Shooting Reminds Us That These Actions are in Part Ideological

By Dale Schlundt

The horrific Las Vegas shooting will undoubtedly be recorded in the history textbooks as one of the most tragic events in early 21st century history. Any loss of life for any reason is tragic, regardless of the cause. Yet, the manner in which this occurred, the senselessness of it, and the apparent trend this type of killing has become leads us to question multiple aspects in our society. The most prevalent of these is, “should there be greater gun control?” However, while we can all agree on a certain amount of regulation, it may not be the right question.

Increased gun regulations, which may indeed decrease the loss of the life in these instances, will not halt all loss of life. Let us take an example to which we can all relate. If we banned semi-automatic weapons, those who would legally or illegally obtain other forms of guns would still hold the ability to commit such acts. If we adhere to the belief that one life is as important as many, regulation is simply not the answer.
Hence the next question, is this a fundamental problem that can be attributed to our culture or society? Let us take media coverage of such events for example. Every time these shootings occur the focus is on reporting the details of the event itself. This is not limited to the actual shooting, but the steps the shooter took to achieve the end. The type and number of guns, the timing, and a multitude of other meticulous details that led to what the shooter may have thought was success. In other words, these are directions for others to potentially follow. The individual, who for any reason, would be more apt to commit such atrocities has now been told how to do so with success.
Of course, the job of the media is to report and the American public has a right to know what has happened. Yet, what is not prevalent in the media as well as in many other forums following such events, is an advocacy of peace. Yes, we host politicians who state the immorality of it and that we should come together in the aftermath to support one another. How often do we host mental health experts with advice for those who feel an inexplicable need to commit such acts? How often do we highlight religious leaders who would speak to the joy of peace? Perhaps, more effective, when does the media seek out an individual who is willing to admit they could have been that person, once again for any reason, yet chose not to carry out such atrocities?
I often argue that human emotion and ideology are what many times moves individuals to action. Additionally, history has demonstrated the power of information and words, both spoken as well as written. While ratings are undoubtedly higher when discussing the detailed events, at times the media is feeding the wrong emotions and ideology. While one should not place the fault solely on the media, in any forum there must be a greater balance between discussing events and advocating peace. Perhaps when we truly begin to publically promote a culture of self-regulation in our society, we will see this horrific trend decline.

Dale Schlundt holds a Master’s Degree in Adult Education with a concentration in American History from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Dale has taught at Northwest Vista College, Our Lady of the Lake University, and is currently a faculty member at Palo Alto College. He is co-founder of Palo Alto College’s new program for individuals with intellectual disabilities, Project Access, and a co-chair for the Texas Regional Alignment Network.

Will the Trump that ‘Happened’ in Vegas Stay in Vegas?

When Trump visited Puerto Rico nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island (Remember, Puerto Rico is “an island surrounded by … big water”), he first stopped by one of the least affected and most affluent districts in San Juan’s suburbs where he told one homeowner who had lost a couple of windows, “That’s fantastic…we’re going to help you out. Have a good time.”

This was before heading to Calvary Chapel where Trump creepily entertained the crowd by performing as a carnival barker distributing some packages of “Arroz Rico” and then basketball-tossing rolls of paper towels into the gathered crowd.

We won’t dwell on some of the other cringeworthy comments, insults and gaffes the clown-in-chief made, lobbed and committed during his four-hour visit.

Clay Jones describes them in his inimitable way here.

Suffice to quote The Atlantic:

If the Puerto Rico visit sought to reverse the impression that Trump has not taken Maria seriously and does not feel empathy for its victims, Tuesday’s briefing did not help the cause.

Less than 24 hours later, however, when meeting with survivors of and first responders to the Las Vegas shooting massacre, Trump appeared to have undergone a miraculous metamorphosis — at least outwardly.

Reading stiltedly and awkwardly from a script prepared by others, Trump finally seemed to become what the nation has been craving for during the past eight months: a consoler-in-chief, a uniter-in-chief.

The nation will soon know whether this was all a temporary transformation, an aberration, because in the days and weeks to come Trump will be asked to show real compassion, real empathy, real leadership on issues such as the one that brought him to Las Vegas in the first place.

If not, “[h]e is certain to have plenty more opportunities to practice his response to shootings during his time in office,” The Atlantic gloomily predicts.

Or, will it be, as my friend the poet writes, “From Puerto Rico to ‘The Strip,’ Just another Trump Ego Trip?

Hey, look at me: I’m showing empathy!
Despite you Puerto Ricans being ungrateful and lazy slobs: I’ve done a “fantastic” job
Hey, it wasn’t a big deal: your two hurricanes didn’t match Katrina by its death toll
Remember “Heck of a job Brownie”: my guys did better: all is fine: so here, catch some kitchen rolls

My well-oiled administration and I were well ahead of the situation
But why the rush? You didn’t vote to make me President of this nation
Puerto Rico assistance will put the budget “a little out of whack”
Maybe (just kidding) I’ll take money from loyal Texans and Floridians back

I have to think of my fame: if there are problems: others are to blame
Why after a few insults from my county club: you gave me the snub?
My empathy doesn’t come free: none for you if you didn’t vote for me
So don’t bother me: I’m off to “The Strip” to continue my ego trip!

On Las Vegas just let me say: I’ll be there for the victims to pray
And you can be sure: I’ll continue my support for our great N.R.A.
I’ll preach extreme vetting: a great wall: to keep immigrants away
And “good guys” should have guns in every house: to keep terrorists at bay

Obama took some of our sacred Second Amendment rights away
He signed an order to restrict guns from the feeble of mind
Well I cancelled that right away: I wanted to keep mine
The “no-fly” listed can’t fly: but a gun they can buy: why?

Loose and unenforced USA gun laws separate us from the saner rest
While pro-N.R.A. Trump does nothing except beat his chest
Why not silencers? That’ll fool the police: and you could shoot in peace
Semi-automatic guns galore: that even hunters can’t use any more

It’s legal to buy semi-automatic rifles and modify them to fire automatically
To anyone who has any sanity: this an example of total insanity
Yet nothing is done: the “base” must be pleased: as they pay: to support the N.R.A.
Meanwhile, Trump and Republicans say they’ll look at gun control “some day”

Lead image: Credit Prayitno

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post

Proposed Gun Legislation That Is Reasonable

No blogger is correct in every case. Regarding gun control, I am happily incorrect about something. In my blog post Las Vegas Shooting and Gun Control, I state the following:

“New gun legislation might be worthy of consideration as long as it meets two conditions:
1) It doesn’t violate the Second Amendment.
2) It would actually do some significant good.

I don’t know of any proposed gun legislation that meets both of those conditions.”

As it turns out, there is proposed gun legislation that meets both of those conditions.

From The Hill: “Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) plans to introduce bipartisan legislation to ban a device used by the Las Vegas shooter that makes semi-automatic weapons fire more rapidly. Legislation to ban bump stocks has gathered bipartisan support rapidly over the past few days in the wake of the shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday.”

Regarding bump stocks, Politico quotes Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) as saying, “Automatic weapons are illegal. If that facilitates that, to me it would be subject to the same ban. If that actually gets on the Senate floor, I’d vote for it.”

From CBS News: “Senator James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, told CBSN anchor Elaine Quijano that he may be open to the possibility of regulating ‘bump stocks,’ which are devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to mimic the firing rate of automatic weapons.”

The Washington Examiner reports, “Newt Gingrich said Wednesday that it would be ‘common sense’ for Congress to consider gun control legislation that makes rapid-fire gun modifications illegal, allowing laws to ‘catch up’ with technology.”

Regarding bump stocks, USA Today reports, “Manufacturers tout the stocks, some of which sell for less than $200, as offering a simple and affordable alternative to automatic weapons without the hassle of a rigorous background check and other restrictions.”

Reasonable Conservatives and Republicans can see the the justification of banning bump stocks.

Granted, not all Conservatives and Republicans are reasonable. Then again, neither are all Liberals and Democrats.

Anyway, I am mistaken in my previous post, and I am glad to be mistaken. As I said before, no blogger is correct in every case. Show me a blogger who says that he is correct in every case, and I will show you a blogger who is delusional at best.

“Worst Shooting in USA”? Try Sand Creek Massacre, over 100 Dead. 3 Survived.

Imagine soldiers coming back from an attack on a peaceful village of Cheyenne and Arapahoe, with women’s genitalia, men’s testicles, babys’ scalps hanging from their standards. The attack was led by Maj. John Chivington, a brash man of conceit.

What does one call such a man who rides up in sneak attack and slaughters peaceful people? Call it Evil? Sick evil? Demented? Hatred-larded? Brain and heart dead?

Maybe there are no names for those who murder innocents.

What kind of men were those who unleashed bullets and fire on a peaceful village encampment of Native people, murdering 80 women and children, ripping the foetuses out of pregnant women? [“There was one little child, probably three years old, just big enough to walk through the sand. The Indians had gone ahead, and this little child was behind, following after them. The little fellow was perfectly naked, traveling in the sand. I saw one man get off his horse at a distance of about seventy-five yards and draw up his rifle and fire. He missed the child. Another man came up and said, ‘let me try the son of a b-. I can hit him.’ He got down off his horse, kneeled down, and fired at the little child, but he missed him. A third man came up, and made a similar remark, and fired, and the little fellow dropped.
— Major Anthony, New York Tribune, 1879”]

Is there a name for such a man, for such men?

What do we call the mass murder by firearms of an estimated 500 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968, led by Lt. Calley in the Charlie Company assault on My Lai? 500 murdered. All at once.

Battle fatigued men, meaning enraged, grief stricken, having lost 40 members in 3 months it was claimed? Killing and killing and killing unarmed women and children. That is the remedy for sorrow and anger? Dead little ones, old white haired elders sprawled with gaping wounds, teens and adult women and men trying to protect their children, all shot to death with firearms.

Yes, we have heard all the stories of children carrying hand grenades and hurling them at GIs. William Thomas Allison, a professor of Military History at Georgia Southern University, wrote, “By midmorning, members of Charlie Company had killed hundreds of civilians and raped or assaulted countless women and young girls. They encountered no enemy fire and found no weapons in My Lai…”


Terrified women and children in My Lai, picture taken just before their murders by Charlie Company seconds later. Woman adjusting her blouse for she has just been sexually assaulted by a member of Charlie Company, according to later testimony

Is it different between Sand Creek, My Lai and No Gun Ri in Korea in 1960 where 150+ South Korean refugees, unarmed and innocent, were murdered, 55 injured many of whom died within days …orders issued to fire on South Korean civilians in front-line areas, orders discovered decades later in declassified military archives after the murders of civilian refugees fleeing was denied, denied, denied by US government.

Among those issuing the orders to murder fleeing refugees was 1st Cavalry Division commander Maj. Gen. Hobart R. Gay, who deemed Koreans left in the war zone to be “enemy agents,” according to U.S. war correspondent O.H.P. King and U.S. diplomat Harold Joyce Noble.

The Maj Gen.’deemed’ it. No intel, no proof. He ‘deemed’ the murders just ought be: 41 percent were children under 15, and 70 percent were women, children or men over age 61.

What does one call this man who gives orders to fire on civilians fleeing for their lives?


South Korean refugees fleeing for their lives, only to run into the guns of Maj. Gen. Gay’s army and his order to shoot to kill any left in the war zone…those burdened with illness, trying to carry their children and enough food, the halt, the babies, the mothers and fathers, the elders…

What does one call the massacre of blacks trying to gain their freedom throughout the 1800s, or the massacre of entire ranchos of Mexicans in order to take their lands, or the massacres of native people in order to take the black hills for its gold?

Are these different than people attending a music festival when a man sicker than a dog smuggles half his deadly arsenal into a hotel room on the 32nd floor in order to shoot to kill as many souls as possible.

Isn’t the ground zero factor that the people are innocent, what they did three days ago or ten years ago, irrelevant. They were just being. And a person of no mind and no heart, cut then down. Whether it be the braggert Chivington at Sand Creek, or Charley Company, or Lt. Maj. Gay’s command to murder… they were all innocents who were raped, shot to death, defaced and desecrated… they were innocent. Surly that counts for something still.

Sure. War is hell. Blah and more blah that attempts pitifully to side step responsibility for harming the unarmed, shooting them in the back, in the head, in the gut, breaking their legs and arms with bullets.

Why those in the USA, who are African Americans, Mexicans, Native American who were slaughtered en masse are not counted as ‘the worst massacre in US history,’ I do not know, and it saddens me that once again MSM leads the way in tilting history, in this case, giving out inaccurate information about ‘worst’ etc.

But what I do know is that in the US, at Sand Creek, two regiment captains refused to follow Chivington’s orders to fall upon the native people with gunfire. Also same at My Lai in Vietnam, several men refused to participate. Same at No Gun Ri in Korea; some few refused orders.

What do we call those who refused to murder? For they are the opposite of the ones who slaughter. Perhaps we should study the ones who refuse to murder, instead of endlessly trying to speculate, often way off point, the murderer.

Maybe we ought study those ordered to join in slaughters of innocents, but refused… Yes, let us study them in order to know exactly WHAT is missing in the one who unleashes without pause, a massacre of the innocents.

I’m completely for it.

CODA
the image behind the headline here, is of one of the three souls who survived Sand Creek massacre. She is Mochi- Southern Cheyenne Nation.

Cartoon and Column: It happened again in Vegas

The lieutenant governor of Nevada said yesterday was a great day for America. It was a great day for us because we all came together. Strangers helped strangers. Blood drives are over capacity. Go-Fund-Me’s are raising millions of dollars. The president slowly read through a prepared script and momentarily didn’t sound like an insane douche bag. We are giving each other thoughts and prayers. What a great day. What a crock of horse shit.

How about we stop having these great days when we all have to come together and give thoughts and prayers? Why can’t we have horrible days, like they do in Japan, Sweden, England, Canada, Australia, and everywhere else on the planet where they don’t have to constantly be coming together to give each other thoughts and prayers because this shit doesn’t happen anywhere else at the rate it happens in America.

And the thing is, Las Vegas isn’t anymore dangerous than any other place in the nation. That means, it can be dangerous at any given moment. How about it stop being potentially life-threatening to go to an outdoor concert, or a movie theater, or a university, or a gay nightclub, or an elementary school, or a church, etc?

We don’t know the shooter’s motives yet because he’s not brown with a beard. We don’t know what restrictions to place on us other than ignoring our gun laws. Did the guy suffer from a health crisis? Was he mentally unstable? Did he have gambling debts? Did his girlfriend just dump him? Did he really hate that Big Green Tractor song? Do we ban bad health, gambling, girlfriends, and crappy, corny, gag-inducing country songs or just all songs about tractors? Because we’re not going to touch our gun laws.

Our Second Amendment is really important. If you listen to conservatives, it means we should have access to anything that has been built to kill people. Did the founding fathers want us to have nuclear weapons or mustard gas, or does it stop at semi-automatic weapons with magazines capable of holding up to 30 bullets?

I stayed out of the online debates today, but I read a few. One of my conservative f—tard friend’s first priorities was to defend guns. He said they weren’t built to kill, they were built for sportsmen and defending your family. That’s some more bullshit. When was the last time you read about a guy needing an Uzi to defend his family from a burglary or to stop a holdup at a Starbucks? Why is it a violation of your freedom to restrict the amount of ammunition one has, or the number of semi-automatic rifles one owns. Would it violate your freedom if we stop selling semi-automatic rifles that can easily be made into automatic weapons with a $50 converting kit and a YouTube video? Why do innocent people have to do die because you have to compensate for your tiny penis?

We don’t change our gun laws. We even made it easier for mentally unstable people and sketchy people on the no-fly list to buy guns. And, we have thoughts and prayers. Each time this happens we give thoughts and prayers. And when it happens again, we give more thoughts and prayers, and we do it the next time and the next time. I’m starting to think thoughts and prayers aren’t enough.

I’ve already seen a few cartoons on this. The conservative cartoonists (and there are several) didn’t touch the gun subject. They had Uncle Sam hugging, or Hell was waiting for the bad guy. Bad guys don’t go to Hell. Bad guys rent corner suites on the 32nd floor overlooking an outdoor concert and bring Hell to everyone else. The bad guy has over 23 semi-automatic weapons in his hotel suite because they’re easy to purchase in America, and he had 19 more at home. When the rare shooting does occur in another nation, you don’t hear of the bad guy owning 42 fucking guns.

Am I the only one this sounds ridiculous to? Forty-two guns. Our freedom mandates someone can own 42 guns? I don’t think I own 42 of anything. Hell, I only have five guitars, six if you count the one sitting busted in a guitar case.

Do we even mark this as an act of terrorism? If the guy was brown you can bet your ass Donald Trump would have tweeted out it was definitely terrorism. But in this case, the guy was old, rich, white, angry and born in the good ole U.S. of A. In fact, he sounds like he fits Donald Trump’s demographic. Maybe we should deport old, fat, rich, angry, American-born white guys.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president’s spokesgoon, said, “now is not the time to discuss gun control.” Right about the point that we can talk about gun control there comes another incident making it the time not to talk about gun control. But, we can thoughts and prayers the shit out of it.

I gave up on this nation ever doing anything about the mass distribution of guns when we decided we can live with 20 children being gunned down in an elementary school. It’s easier to live with dead babies than with restrictions on our guns, or worse yet…gun lobbies not handing checks to Republicans. But, we can give those children thoughts and prayers. If you’re accepting money from the NRA or defending the rampant mass distribution and easy access to weapons only designed to kill human beings, there is no amount of thoughts and prayers that will wipe the blood from your hands.

Personally, I’d rather be forced to listen to that Big Green Tractor song than hear one more person say “thoughts and prayers.”

Clay Jones can be reached at clayjonz@gmail.com

The Worst Mass Shooting… Until the Next One

Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch

By John L. Micek

On one level, the horror perpetrated Sunday night by lone wolf gunman Stephen Paddock, who indiscriminately sprayed gunfire across a country music festival in Las Vegas, defies belief.

Before he took his own life, as a police SWAT team barged into his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, the 64-year-old Paddock murdered 59 people, and wounded more than 500, in what’s now being described as the worst mass shooting in modern American history.

The plain facts of the incident stagger our senses, begging us to ask ourselves what could possess one man to open fire on a crowd of revelers in a town known for its unfettered joy and commitment to hedonism.

At the same time, the way the shooting unfolded, our reaction to it, and the pantomime of responses that followed are tragic reminder that, as a country, we’ve become all too used to hideous acts of violence in our midst.

First there’s the shooting itself – an unparalleled act of terror, that sends screaming people fleeing in every direction, the wounded fall, the dead scattered on the ground.

The police close in. Sometimes, if they’re lucky, they catch the shooter. More often than not, the shooter turns the gun on himself – and it’s nearly always a him. Or he perishes in an exchange of gunfire with police.

Suicide by cop. Or just suicide. It never changes.

Eyewitnesses offer their accounts. Relatives express their horror, shock and outrage. We fumble for answers, piecing together the banal details of the shooter’s life.

He’s a loner, we learn. Isolated, we’re told. He was filled with hate or unredressed grievance. Inevitably, someone says, he was always so quiet, that there was no hint of the explosive violence lurking just below the surface.

“We know nothing. If you told me an asteroid fell it would mean the same to me. There’s absolutely no sense, no reason he did this,” Paddock’s brother, Eric Paddock, said, according to The Washington Post. “He’s just a guy who played video poker and took cruises and ate burritos at Taco Bell. There’s no political affiliation that we know of. There’s no religious affiliation that we know of.”

On cable, anchors talk, pundits and experts offer their theories. Some politicians call for new laws. Other say no law on Earth would have prevented the shooter from carrying out their hideous errand.

“I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath,” Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said during a briefing Monday. And since police believe Paddock was the sole shooter, “I don’t know how this could have been prevented.”

If there was anything different about Sunday’s shooting – apart from its mind-numbing scale – it was the trade of one president for another, Barack Obama for Donald Trump.

But apart from that, it was the same sad script. The same predictable dance.

It’s almost as if, as a nation, we have become so used to such spasms of violence that we have become numb to them.

Calls for action fall on deaf ears. They echo, then disappear.Critics of gun-control clamor “Don’t politicize it.” Instead, they offer the empty bromide of “thoughts and prayers.”

Finally, the shooting enters an ever-growing catalogue of tragedy: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, the Pulse nightclub shooting, San Bernardino, Fort Hood, Aurora, Colorado.

It’s the same drama. And we all know our roles. And every time, we all lose a little piece of our soul as a nation.

The worst mass shooting in modern American history … until the next one.

—–‘

© Copyright 2017 John L. Micek, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

An award-winning political journalist, Micek is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at jmicek@pennlive.com.
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Las Vegas and the Nature of Evil



By Daniel Sherman

In 1966 Charles Whitman, a highly intelligent man and decorated Marine and Eagle Scout, climbed the University of Texas Tower and opened fire randomly, killing 13 and wounding 32. He knew something was wrong when he wrote prior:

“I don’t really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I can’t recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts.”

As per his request in a suicide note, an autopsy was performed and doctors discovered a glioblastoma the size of a nickel that was compressing his amygdala, a part of the brain that regulates emotions such as fear and aggression.

In the absence of any other explanation (some sort of violent political or religious ideology), and in the presence of information about the tumor, I think it would be a tough case indeed to argue that Charles Witman was an evil man.

Definitions of evil vary as widely as the kaleidoscope of religious and philosophical traditions around the world, but for our purposes I propose a few basic elements required for an action or person to be truly evil.

First of all, evil is cunning, intelligent, charismatic, and plotting. The fictional character of Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost was the most beautiful of all the angels: powerful, persuasive, he gets all the best lines. Otherwise he wouldn’t be worth fearing. Evil is capable: plenty of anti-semitic cranks were on tap in the 1930’s and Hitler’s ideas were no different than any of them, but his rhetorical and propagandistic ability vaulted him to the ranks of truly evil and not just bigoted.

Second, evil understands exactly what it is doing, more clearly than anyone else. It is purposeful in the extreme. Evil plays the long game, shape-shifting to accomodate any opportunity. Evil nods to charity, trumpets goodness everywhere it goes, wraps itself in flags and symbols and whichever vestment will get it further down a sinister path.

Third, evil is entirely self-interested, it does not ultimately care about ideology or principles, it is about engorging the evil-doer’s arrogance and desire for mastery over others to its own end.

By this measure ISIS qualifies in spades. The North Korean regime is thoroughly, innately evil in its treatment of its own citizens. Rickey Ray Rector, a condemned man so mentally disabled that he saved the pecan pie from his last meal “for later”, was not evil. Bill Clinton, a man of prodigious talents and abilities, put him to death for political advantage, an act I’d submit is fairly described as “evil”.

Today we come to Stephan Paddock, the shooter in Las Vegas about whom we know practically nothing, except that after calm and careful consideration our president has decided committed “an act of pure evil”.

There are some acts that are so heinous that the very fact of having committed them seem to lean towards a presumption of insanity. They may not meet a legal definition of insanity, which is a high bar indeed, but in practical, everyday, scientifically-informed terms, it’s nearly impossible to imagine that a single man wakes up one day and freely and willfully chooses to enact a massacre and kill himself for no apparent reason. This is, on its very face, behavior so deviant that it cannot enter into the norm of “choice”. Whether it was a brain tumor or a psychotic episode, or a spiraling suicidal depressive state, whatever it was that sent Stephan Paddock to the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, I don’t believe it was a set of soberly considered choices in the service of a program of evil.

Facts will unfold, perhaps some allegiance to a cause or personal grievance will come out. It doesn’t matter. By virtue of the fact of what was done and its total senselessness, the actor of this massacre, like Adam Lanza from Sandy Hook or James Holmes from Aurora, is most likely a profoundly disturbed individual in the grip of a psychiatric condition about which we can only speculate. “Evil” people don’t act this way. People disabled of normal thinking and brain activity do. The Paddock tragedy is no more “evil” that any of the recent hurricanes, a blind force of nature sowing human suffering everywhere.

Yet the fact that a sick individual can so easily get his hands on weapons ideal for mass killing is indeed the result of evil. The utterly berserk situation of a modern “liberal democracy” such as the United States allowing the dissemination of military-grade weaponry to the public is the result of true evil. In the teeth of the majority of Americans who favor common-sense gun control laws, it takes vulpine political will, rhetorical skill, dedication to the long game, the hijacking of noble impulses, and a willingness to do anything whatsoever to aggrandize oneself.

Meet Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, a group that… fun fact… used to have fairly enlightened ideals regarding gun ownership. Here’s one of LaPierre’s predecessors Karl Frederick, NRA President in 1934 testifying to Congress:

“I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I seldom carry one. … I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”

Fast-forward to contemporary times, and we have LaPierre dissembling with finely crafted, silver-tongued finesse. He bides his time after Newtown, waiting until national sentiment has cooled just a bit but not too much, and delivers this aphoristic jewel:

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

As if nothing could be done to prevent the bad guy from getting a gun in the first place.

Or witness the sneaky slight-of-hand here:

“But since when did the gun automatically become a bad word? A gun in the hands of a secret service agent protecting our president isn’t a bad word.”

Sure, the words “dynamite” and “polonium” are not bad words, in fact dynamite and polonium have their uses but you can’t walk into Walmart and get a kilo of each.

Or we have the chutzpah winner, a tirade that best describes the NRA but is launched against a diversionary opponent:

“There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people through vicious and violent video games.”

This one takes the cake. It takes the cake, the candles, the party hats, the table cloth, the whole goddamn birthday party. Golly gee willikers, a whole industry that is callous, corrupt, and corrupting? Stowing violence against its own people?

Can’t imagine where one of those industries could be found. It must require a crafty dulcet-toned leader, someone who is not clinically insane, in fact politically savvy and capable of executing a long term patient strategy. Someone with native intelligence and wits, wherewithal and vision, and long-term goals that are utterly to ones own selfish ends. Those are the true components of evil.

Inveighing against Stephan Paddock is a complete waste of time and energy. I don’t think I’m extending myself too far to suppose he was profoundly disturbed and ill in ways we can barely fathom. But every society, in every time and place, unfortunately will have a certain small percentage of such afflicted individuals. The fact that ours, exceptionally and unusually, offers a bath of homicidal instruments so easily available, is in fact the result of evil itself.

Daniel Sherman is an entrepreneur and writer who divides his time between Chicago and Italy. He is currently developing a book on ethics for adolescents, Good Enough.

Sadly, the carnage will continue

October 3, 2017

WASHINGTON — We will never know why. We already know how, but we don’t care about that. And we know, beyond the slightest doubt, that it will happen again.

There can be no rational motive for mass murder, which means that asking why Stephen Paddock turned the Las Vegas Strip into a killing zone is ultimately a futile exercise. He may have had nominal or imagined reasons for his homicidal anger. But nothing can really explain the decision to spray thousands of concert-goers with automatic weapons fire, killing at least 58 and injuring hundreds more.

The attack wasn’t terrorism, authorities quickly said, as if this assessment somehow lessened the horror. Would someone please explain to me how that works? Are friends and family members of the dead supposed to feel one way if the murderer yells “God is great” in Arabic, and another way if he doesn’t? What if the killer were to say those same words in English?

Investigators and reporters will now sift through Paddock’s life for signs of chronic mental illness or sudden psychological deterioration. But what will that search tell us except the obvious? (BEG ITAL)Of course(END ITAL) Paddock was disturbed. Who in his right mind mows down innocent strangers at a country music festival?

But of the many people who are not in their right minds, which ones are violent enough to commit such a heinous act? There is no reliable way to tell. An announcement like “I’m about to explode” is hardly ever followed by actual detonation.

What we do know about Paddock, 64, is that he lived in the nearby town of Mesquite and often came to the Strip to gamble and attend country music shows. We also know, according to Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, that Paddock brought more than 10 firearms to his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

So the “how” of this tragedy is simple: Our nation is flooded with guns, and the constitutionally protected right to “keep and bear arms” — established in the age of single-shot blunderbusses and muskets — has been deemed to include military-style semiautomatic assault rifles and other high-powered weapons.

Sound from cellphone videos taken during the Las Vegas massacre clearly indicates that Paddock was using a fully automatic rifle — meaning that squeezing and holding the trigger unleashed a long, continuous burst of gunfire. Such machine guns were supposedly outlawed in 1986, but there are two huge loopholes: In some states, it is legal to buy and sell machine guns that were made before 1986; and internet merchants sell kits that convert semiautomatic rifles into fully automatic killing machines.

No deer hunter or target-shooting enthusiast needs a weapon intended for war zones — a weapon designed and optimized for use by soldiers against enemy combatants. But if the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre of 6-year-olds and 7-year-olds didn’t even lead to universal background checks for gun purchasers, let alone a ban on assault weapons, I don’t see why anyone should believe things will be different this time around.

The Supreme Court has stated explicitly that reasonable gun-control measures are permissible under the Constitution. But can you imagine this Congress and this president doing the right thing? Neither can I. We’ll need a different Congress and a different president to make progress.

But even if I could snap my fingers and change the law, there would still be an estimated 300 million guns in the United States — roughly one per person. Which means that the quotidian carnage would continue.

Assume Sunday was an average day. If the Las Vegas killings had not happened, nearly 100 people around the country would have been killed by firearms. About two-thirds of those deaths would have been suicides; nearly all the rest, homicides — about 12,000 a year. We have become emotionally and intellectually numb to this appalling toll.

A mass shooting or a terrorist rampage, on the other hand, rivets the nation. Television networks shift into continuous “breaking news” coverage. Newspapers rush to profile the shooter, then the victims. The president makes a statement expressing the nation’s grief. Gun-rights advocates pre-emptively declare that this is not the time to talk about gun control, accusing anyone who does of politicizing tragedy. Gun-control proponents ask: If not now, then when? Everyone agrees we should do something about mental health, but we end up doing nothing. A long series of sad funerals ends the ritual.

We go back to our routines as if there won’t be a next time. But there will. And we all know it.

Eugene Robinson’s email address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com.(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

Shooting: The Obligatory Job is Sacrificed to PeeCee

It’s not what you think:

Well, here it is, as predictable as an eclipse and just as malevolent:

CBS Legal Exec: No Sympathy For Vegas ‘Because Country Music Fans Often Are Republican’
Will Ricciardella / The Daily Caller

A top legal executive at CBS, Hayley Geftman-Gold, said she “is not even sympathetic” for the victims of the shooting at a country music festival at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas Sunday night.

In a tweet. And was fired. Score one for the Revenge of the 101st Chairborne.

O, Absalom. THIS festival of Right Wing Hate is now atop Memeorandum as I write this. In other words, it is the TOP CONCERN of the blogosphere (increasingly dominated by the giant News Korporations that the blogosphere originally counterbalanced, you will note.)

[Read more…]

Why Gun Control Laws Work Elsewhere But Inevitably Are DOA In The USA


MEMORIAL TO MASS SHOOTING VICTIMS IN DUNBLANE, SCOTLAND

(PORTIONS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN JANUARY 2016)

Australia, the United Kingdom and United States are all relatively prosperous English-speaking lands with diverse populations and long histories of fidelity to the rule of law. Why then did Australia and the U.K. pass strict gun control laws following mass shootings that have been hugely effective while the U.S. has been incapable of effecting even modest controls despite a carnage that grows larger by the year?

The short answer is that while Aussie and British politicians have many of the shortcomings and foibles of their Yankee peers, they are more likely to put aside their fealty to the special interests who bankroll them when there is a national crisis that demands action.

The longer answer will be deeply depressing to anyone seeking to stanch the epidemic of gun violence in America, including mass shootings like the Las Vegas, Orlando and San Bernardino massacres that occur with numbing if shocking regularity.

U.S. politicians cling to their special interests no matter the severity of a crisis, Republicans and the National Rifle Association being the most odiferous current example. U.S. conservatives, almost to a man and woman, oppose any comprehensive controls on guns even in the midst of the current crisis, while Congress has effectively immunized gun manufacturers against personal injury lawsuits.

Australia and the U.K. were not saturated with guns even before strict gun control laws, while there are a mind boggling 300 million of them in the U.S. (A record 2 million guns were purchased in December 2012 following President Obama’s reelection and the Sandy Hook shootings. Natch.) This makes confiscation and buyback schemes ineffective, and combined with gun ownership being a long cherished American right, the lockstep opposition and loyalties of conservatives make dealing effectively with gun violence pretty much impossible.

Just how bad are things?

In Australia and the U.K., only about one in a million people die from gun homicides each year, while in the U.S. about 31 in a million succumb. For American men 15 to 29, gun homicides are the third leading cause of death, after accidents and suicides. The Paris terror attacks in November 2015 killed 130 people, nearly as many as die from gun homicides in all of France, which has strict gun laws, in a year. (The rate of gun violence in drug war-ravaged Mexico is the highest in the world, about 122 people in a million, while some countries in the Middle East have higher rates than the U.S.)

Although conservative governments were in power when strict gun control laws were passed in Australia and the U.K. and conservative Republicans have effectively blocked efforts to deal with the U.S. gun epidemic, it was Jerry Brown who in 2013 vetoed a bill intended to eliminate loopholes in a California law that allowed Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik to easily obtain the two semiautomatic assault rifles used in the San Bernardino massacre in December 2015.

Brown, a Democrat and perhaps the most liberal of governors, said the benefits would not outweigh the cost to gun owners’ rights, so conservatives, let alone Republicans, are not entirely to blame.

MEANWHILE, DOWN UNDER . . .

The reaction was swift after a deranged 28-year-old man with an AR-15 carbine massacred 35 people in the Tasmanian port town of Port Arthur in April 1996.

A new law — the National Firearms Agreement — was quickly enacted. It prohibited automatic and semiautomatic assault rifles and pump shotguns, tightened licensing rules, established a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases, created a national gun registry and instituted a buyback program that removed more than 20 percent of firearms from public circulation. There have been no mass killings in Australia since.

Total intentional gun deaths fell by half in the decade after the 1996 restrictions even as Australia’s population grew nearly 14 percent. Meanwhile, the rate of gun suicides per 100,000 people dropped 65 percent from 1995 to 2006, and the rate of gun homicides fell 59 percent.

. . . AND ACROSS THE POND

The British government was spurred to ban private ownership of automatic weapons and handguns when 16 children were killed in a school gym in Dunblane, Scotland in March 1996 by a 43-year-old man brandishing four handguns.

Although guns were not a major problem in Scotland before the shooting, the laws enacted afterward have increasingly helped the police to fight crime.

In Scotland, a nation of 5.3 million people, the weapon of choice for criminals is the knife, while guns are used by farmers and hunters. Of the 60 or so homicides homicides in the country in 2015, only one or two were by shooting. Few police officers are armed, and the last time an officer was killed on duty through criminal violence was June 1994. He was stabbed to death.

WHAT’S A NATION TO DO?

The profound perversity of our violence-glamorizing and gun-sick culture, as well as the way gun manufacturers, dealers and the NRA have played politicians and the system for immense, blood-soaked profits becomes ragingly obvious when viewed from an historic perspective.

Yes, the Second Amendment is peculiarly worded. But there can be no question whatsoever that when the Founding Fathers wrote

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed

that they did so in the context of a young republic that was still recovering from the aftershocks of the Revolutionary War, had no standing army and relied on citizens to grab their trusty flintlocks from over their fireplaces and muster in the town square if there was a threat to civil order, whether from Indians, rum runners or the British.

People have been interpreting the Constitution to their own political and ideological benefit in the intervening 232 years. But there also was no question whatsoever that the Founders could not have anticipated and would be horrified that the day would come when there would be 300 million guns carried concealed in shoulder holsters and belts, stowed in car trunks, arrayed on pickup truck rifle racks, and displayed in cabinets and over fireplaces, in a long mature republic that allows — and a sick subculture that encourages — the purchase, possession and carrying of unlimited numbers of those weapons whose sole purpose is to kill and maim.

A consequence of obdurate congressional Republicans is that the gun control fight has shifted to the state level, where Nevada, 17 other states and District of Columbia now have the universal background checks that Congress won’t touch, but the reality is that this will do little to stem the gun violence epidemic.

Just ask the grieving families and friends of the Las Vegas victims.

Las Vegas Shooting: 50 Dead, Worst Mass Shooting in U.S. history.

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Tragedy in Las Vegas: the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The shooter, 64-year old Stephen Paddock, apparently kept his finger on the trigger as automatic gunfire rained down on the crowd below in what police call a “lone wolf” attack. He was located and killed by police in a hotel room 32 floors up:

CNN:

At least 50 people were killed in a mass shooting overnight on the Las Vegas Strip, police said, the deadliest in modern US history.

A hailstorm of bullets and the subsequent stampede left more than 200 people injured, officials said. The crowd was watching a concert by country music superstar Jason Aldean, Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said Monday morning.
The gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, was firing from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel, Lombardo said. Paddock was eventually killed by police.

The sheriff also said authorities think they have found Marilou Danley, the woman believed to be traveling with the suspect.
“We’re confident but not 100% sure we’ve located the female person of interest,” the sheriff said.

The massacre started around 10:08 p.m. Sunday (1:08 a.m. ET Monday) at the Route 91 Harvest festival, Lombardo said.
Police don’t believe there are any more shooters. “Right now, we believe it’s a sole actor, a lone-wolf-type actor,” the sheriff said.
Two Las Vegas police officers are being treated at a local hospital for injuries they sustained during the shooting, Lombardo said. One is in critical condition, and the other sustained minor injuries.
In addition, the sheriff stated that there were off-duty officers attending the concert who may have died. The identities of those officers have not been released.
“Pray for Las Vegas,” the city’s mayor, Carolyn Goodman, tweeted. “Thank you to all our first responders out there now.”
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said on Twitter that a “tragic & heinous act of violence has shaken the #Nevada family” and offered prayers to all those affected by “this act of cowardice.”

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CBS News:

A shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip killed at least 50 people and wounded more than 200 others late Sunday, Clark County Sheriff Joeseph Lombardo said.

It was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

He said the man authorities think was the sole gunman was killed by police on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino across Las Vegas Boulevard from the Route 91 Harvest Festival, a country music festival.

“We believe it’s a solo actor. A lone wolf,” Lombardo said.

He said the gunman is an area resident.

Law enforcement sources told CBS News a search warrant has been issued for the home of the shooter, identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada.

Two law enforcement sources told CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton that at this point, it doesn’t appear the shooting was an act of terrorism. The suspect was known to police in Mesquite and had a criminal history, the sources said.

Lombardo said authorities believe they had found a traveling companion of the deceased gunman they were seeking, who Lombardo identified as Marilou Danley, 62. Law enforcement sources tell Milton that Danley was Paddock’s wife.

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Partisan guns are silenced by a real one

WASHINGTON — There was an eerie silence in the House chamber when the gavel fell to open Wednesday morning’s session.

This was supposed to be the time for “morning-hour” speeches, those short partisan jabs and one-liners. But not a single lawmaker was on the floor, the brown-leather benches and speakers’ tables all empty. Without even the invocation or the pledge, the speaker pro tempore immediately declared the chamber in recess.

The partisan guns had been silenced by a real one. Not three hours earlier, a would-be assassin critically wounded Steve Scalise, the House majority whip, and injured four others on a baseball field before falling to police bullets. In an instant, members of Congress were transformed from Democrats and Republicans into Americans — and humans. Reminded suddenly of their own mortality, they remembered, too, that their opponents are people.

Democrats at their baseball practice — the two teams were preparing separately Wednesday morning for Thursday night’s Congressional Baseball Game — gathered in their dugout upon hearing the news and bowed their heads in prayer for their Republican colleagues.

When the House reconvened at noon, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., looked stunned as he walked onto the House floor, still wearing his cap, jersey, baseball pants and muddy cleats. Spotting Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, manager of the Democrats’ team, he called out “Hey, Coach!” — and the two embraced.

“We are united in our anguish,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told the House, now nearly full. “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” Democrats and Republicans alike rose in the first of four standing ovations for the speaker.

The Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, rose to say that “I pray for all of you,” and “I pray for Donald Trump, that his presidency will be successful.” The gunman, she said, caused “an injury in the family.”

Ryan’s words echoed those of his predecessor, John Boehner, six years ago when then-Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot in the head: “An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve.” Back then, members of Congress paid tribute to Giffords for eight hours on the House floor, and both sides pledged to temper their rhetoric as they waited for Giffords to return.

She never returned to Congress, but the sniping did, and, with the rise of President Trump, it got dramatically worse. Undoubtedly, business-as-usual will return this time, too. Even on Wednesday, there were hints of a breakdown in the comity. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., taking a distinctly different tack from Ryan, proclaimed repeatedly before the cameras that the shooter was “targeting Republicans.” Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., took a swipe at the “no holds barred” firearm laws in Virginia, where the shooting occurred, and he reminded reporters that responsible rhetoric “starts at the top.”

True, but the shooting is a reminder to those of us who have warned of Trump’s incitements to violence that there are deranged people of all ideologies who can be inflamed by angry rhetoric. Sen. Bernie Sanders, for whose presidential campaign the shooter had volunteered, rightly went to the Senate floor to denounce violence.

For the moment, there was at least a tacit recognition that the toxic tone had to change. Trump’s statement on the shooting was downright presidential. GOP lawmakers called off the day’s votes and most hearings, including one on legislation that would relax long-standing controls on gun silencers.

Instead, lawmakers gathered in the Capitol Visitor Center during the late morning for a members-only briefing. It was a solemn processional: Only a few stopped to talk to some of the 200 journalists lining the hallway, the rest silently filing in to learn more about the attempt to kill their colleagues.

The lawmakers moved next to the House floor, where Father Pat Conroy, the chaplain, prayed that “Republicans and Democrats be mindful of the rare companionship they share.”

Ryan, in perhaps his best speech, continued the homily: “I ask each of you to join me,” he said, “to show the country, to show the world that we are one house, the people’s house, united in our humanity.”

Pelosi followed him with confirmation that the baseball game would be played Thursday, as scheduled. “We’ll root for our team,” she said, but “we will use this occasion as one that brings us together.”

There is something magical about the national pastime uniting our leaders — and something tragic that it takes the bullets of a madman to remind them that their opponents aren’t their enemies.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

No Place to Hide

National politics has driven me crazy. A two-party wreck- I simply can’t turn away. Hearings on parade: Sessions, Comey, Rogers, Coats, Klapper, Yates, Sessions again. Nunes is in, then he’s out, then he’s in again. Mueller’s in, Mueller’s out. Bharara’s in, Bharara’s out.

Rachel Maddow needs a vacation, I mean more than her week on the disabled list. Spoiler: Fox is not fair and balanced anymore. The punditocracy has lost its collective mind. The front pages of the Post and the Times are wall-to-wall politics, and no two stories cover the same topic. It’s like election fatigue but even worse. With the election, there was a deadline. The only solid deadline for this chaos is …2020?

Fortunately, there is escapism, which we need desperately. With the NBA and NHL seasons just ended, I prepared for the languorous summer of our other national pastime: Baseball. No sooner than I’ve exhaled, what do I see? Congress has taken over baseball too! It’s not enough that they don’t do their Constitutional work. They’re out “practicing” for the annual Congressional baseball game, henceforth to be known as the Midterm Classic. It’s admirable that Members can find a place where they can enjoy friendly competition for a good cause. Why not IN Congress? Surfing the news this morning, I see a picture of a baseball field – with X’s and O’s and dotted lines: the shooter was on the third base line and Rep. Scalise was by the first-base dugout, and….AAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!

We as a nation abhor the violent attack on Rep. Scalise, the Capitol Guard and others. If this tragedy stirs a true commonality of purpose among the political nihilists, then perhaps there is a silver lining. Why does it take a politician being attacked to jolt these twits out of their indifference? Newtown was not atrocity enough? Maybe that meme is right: Strip Congress of its healthcare if you want to see the elephants perform. In the meantime, Members of the House and Senate, keep your mitts off baseball!

Gun Violence is the National Pastime


RJ Matson, CagleCartoons.com

Do Not Politicize The Virginia Shooting

Already people on both sides of the political fence are trying to make political points out of the tragic shooting in Virginia. This echoes what happened after the Gabby Giffords shooting in Arizona.

To all who would try to do this I say STOP.

There can be no political gain out of something like this.

This is not a political act, it is the act of a most likely mentally unbalanced person. While they may have had some twisted motive based somehow in politics that does not mean it should in any way be used to broad brush any political faction, party or candidate.

Senator Sanders has, to his credit, condemned the shooting in the strongest terms. While I may not agree with him on all of the issues the idea he, or any member of Congress, would support these kinds of acts is ludicrous.

Yes, there are some hateful comments out in the blogosphere but that does not mean we should respond to them or try to counter them.

These events are said to bring people together.

Well let us come together to make clear that we will not allow anyone to turn this into some sort of propaganda.

The Betsy DeVos Hearing: ‘Those Potential Grizzlies’

I watched some of the Senate confirmation hearings for several of president-elect Trump’s proposed cabinet members.

Reflecting on yesterday’s hearings, the president-elect’s close aide Kellyanne Conway “blasted Democrats for ‘trying to embarrass’ the incoming administration’s Cabinet nominees,” according to The Hill.

Following yesterday’s hearing of Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education — billionaire Betsy DeVos — Conway said, “This idea of humiliating and trying to embarrass qualified men and women who just wish to serve this nation is reprehensible,”

Charles P. Pierce at Esquire, however, has quite a different take in his “The Betsy DeVos Hearing Was an Insult to Democracy.” Sub-title, “Who are the real grizzlies?” (More about the grizzlies later.)

“It was not a hearing,” Pierce says. Rather:

It was the mere burlesque of a hearing, rendered meaningless by a preposterously accelerated process that rendered all questioning perfunctory and that left all cheap evasions hanging in the air of the committee room the way cigarette smoke used to canopy the proceedings back in the day. You would not hire a gardener through the process by which Betsy DeVos likely is going to become the Secretary of Education. A public school system wouldn’t hire her to work the cafeteria line at lunch. It was appalling. It was unnerving. It was a grotesque of how an evolved democracy should operate. It was business as usual these days and it likely isn’t going to matter a damn.

Pierce provides several examples of why he feels that “DeVos doesn’t know enough about education policy to feed to your guppies.”

Such as Senator Franken’s exchange with DeVos on the distinction in education between proficiency and growth, which the education “expert” totally flunked and on which Pierce at one point comments, “At this point, the nominee was further at sea than Magellan ever was.”

Getting back on course, Pierce highlights the exchange between “rookie” senator Maggie Hassan from New Hampshire and DeVos where Hassan “doggedly pursued a $5 million donation made by a foundation ostensibly run by DeVos’ mother to Focus on the Family, the anti-gay extremist chop-shop that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a hate group.”

There are several other interesting exchanges and “dodges” on IRS returns (“a clerical error”); on DeVos’ personal or professional experience with federal student loans; on the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. On the latter, according to Pierce:

[Senator Maggie] Hassan, who has a son with cerebral palsy who went through the public school system in her town, produced a very impressive “I am not buying an ounce of this crapola” face and Tim Kaine, a senator who achieved some prominence last summer, pinned DeVos to the wall

Read more on the Kaine-DeVos exchange here.

There was one incredible exchange, which this author — a satire lover — would have classified as “life imitating satire” and one about which I intended to write an entire (satire) piece.

However, the underlying issue is so delicate that I’ll refrain for now and will just quote the author of the Esquire piece:


But the piece de resistance, now famous in song and story and on YouTube, came when Christopher Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, tried to get a straight answer on whether or not DeVos was in favor of firearms in the public schools. She tried the looking-forward-to-working-with-you dodge. Ultimately, she moved on to leaving-things-to-the-states. Hilarity ensued.

Murphy: Do you think guns have any place in or around schools?

DeVos: That is best left to locales and states to decide. If the underlying question…

Murphy: You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?

DeVos: I will refer back to Senator [Mike] Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.

Pierce concludes by summarizing his introductory paragraph as follows:

It was low, insulting burlesque and a revolting dumbshow of the arrogance of monied ignorance. I think we’re all going to have to get used to that kind of thing.

CODA: I am 99 percent sure that the inimitable satirist Andy Borowitz will have more to say about “the grizzlies.” If anyone can satirize this in a fitting manner, Borowitz can. This piece will then be updated.

Lead image: Denali National Park and Preserve

Cartoon: Loud boom boom

Loud Boom Boom
by Clay Jones

The Republican nimrods in Washington aren’t content with repealing Obamacare, moving the American Embassy in Israel just to piss off Muslims, handing HUD over to a guy they wouldn’t give their car keys to, and stripping ethics out of Congress. Now they want to make it easier to purchase silencers for guns. All future mass shootings will now sound like your neighbor’s Prius.

Not only do Republicans and the friendly monsters at the NRA fight and scramble to make access to firearms as easy as possible for murderers and rednecks with small weenies, now they want to make it easier for them to be sneaky about it.

What’s the deal with gun nuts anyway? They have to have the largest firearms with the most firepower that can shoot the most rounds at the fastest speed possible so they can overcompensate for their dinky manhood, yet they’re too loud for them?

You want to be obnoxious yet be quiet about it? You don’t see bikers going to a Harley Davidson shop and ask if they make quiet models? Bikes, like guns are made so people can be assholes. Don’t be a total wimp about it, Nancy Pants.

I am aware silencers aren’t as quiet as they’re depicted in movies. They don’t actually make a low sharp little “pyew pyew pyew” sound. There’s still a bang but it’s muffled, like a car with a muffler. In fact, the same guy who invented car mufflers invented the silencer. See? I research.

Even though they’re not technically silent, and officially they’re called “suppressors,” and they still “bang,” they’re still a lot quieter than guns without muzzles. Someone could easily fire more rounds in a noisy environment like an airport, night club, Congress, before people are aware there’s another national tragedy occurring. Silencers can also be effective in confusing people as to where the shots are coming from (here’s a clue: Look for the angry white guy).

It’s a dumb idea to make it easier for the public to purchase silencers. It’s bad enough idiots in Texas can’t go to Starbucks without an AK strapped to their back. Gun advocates are claiming it’s a safety issue to protect their hearing. There’s two other ways to protect your hearing from guns. One is to purchase earmuffs. How freaking inconvenient is that? It’s gotta be a lot cheaper than purchasing a silencer. Another way to protect your hearing is to stop shooting guns. Stop going to a gun range. That’s like going to a Nascar event and complaining the cars are loud. Surprise! It’s noisy. Next thing you’re going to do is complain that fish taste fishy.

All the self-styled Rambos and Dirty Harrys out there need to get a grip on something other than a Glock. Their new toys and overcompensation shouldn’t take away the liberty of people to survive.

You wanna silence something? Try Trump’s mouth.

That is if they can make a muzzle large enough.

via Claytoonz.com

That’s The Way It Is

shutterstock_272183825No matter how much centrist and left-wing American citizens lament the fact that Donald Trump is America’s new president, that’s the way it is. And it ain’t gonna change. Demonstrations may release some pent-up anger at the results of the election, but they are not going to accomplish anything.

The people who are in the streets demonstrating would have had a much more profound effect on the governing of America if they had been more active prior to Election Day, working to get voters to support Hillary. Amazingly, a majority of white women, 53 percent, voted for Donald Trump, dismissing all evidence of his misogyny and sexual predation. Or perhaps they were simply ignorant of his comments and unaware of what he had previously done. Or maybe they just didn’t care.

In addition large numbers of Hispanics voted for Trump, the latest figures suggesting it was as high as nearly 30 percent. Though many more voted for Hillary, it was not enough to carry her over the finish line. Again, one must ask what were the Hispanic voters thinking. Weren’t they aware of Trump’s racist comments against Hispanics and his threats to build a wall at the Mexican border and deport all undocumented immigrants? Or maybe they just weren’t paying attention to what Trump was saying or didn’t believe him. How could so many Hispanics have supported Trump?

And the African-Americans did not come out and vote in the numbers that were necessary to provide Hillary with the backing she needed, in spite of the exhortations from Obama. Were they just being lazy, didn’t care enough, or didn’t really like Hillary. Trump’s racist comments and his support from white supremacists and the KKK should have been enough to motivate them, but obviously it was not enough get them to go out and vote for Hillary.

The polls showed that young people favored Hillary by significant margins but they too didn’t vote in large enough numbers to make a difference. Now, many of the Millennials are demonstrating because they’re unhappy that Trump was elected. But if they had moved their asses earlier and pushed their friends and associates to vote, perhaps Hillary would be in the White House now and others would be out demonstrating. They still should be organizing if they want to win future elections.

Hillary won the popular vote but in America’s arcane system of presidential elections, she did not carry the Electoral College and that was what really counted. In fact, the total percentage of voters who participated in this presidential election was lower than the previous two, with an estimated 57 percent of registered voters going to the polls compared to 58.6 percent in 2012 and 61.6 percent in 2008. It is amazing to realize that less than one third of American citizens who were eligible to vote picked the leader who will guide the nation over the next four years. And they have also chosen a Republican Senate and House and a majority of GOP governors and legislatures. The Supreme Court will also wind up controlled by Republican conservatives.

This means that every branch of government at a federal and state level in the United States will be dominated by Republicans who did not even attain a majority of the popular vote and have the support of less than a third of the total registered voters in the nation. Somehow, this does not ring true as democracy in action.

It is unclear how much of Trump’s victory came about because of political ignorance and people not understanding what they were voting for, how much was simply anti-Hillary, and how much was because American believed in the promises that Trump was making even though they seemed to be unattainable to analysts. The anger at the establishment and the elites by poor and middle-class whites was real enough and that may have been the decisive factor that gave Trump his victory.

Resurrecting Democracy

www.robertlevinebooks.com
Photo by Shutterstock

Can America Ever Get Back to Being America Again?

shutterstock_128345045Can America ever get back to being America again? Given the animus and hatred that has surfaced during this election campaign, this is not a frivolous question? The answer depends to a great degree on your previous vision of what America was and what your expectations are about what the future will bring when the election is over.

The anger and vituperation that we have seen every day on the Internet and television and heard on the radio over the last year did not just suddenly arise. It has been building for decades, constructed out of partisan lies and exaggerations believed by an uninformed electorate, whose civic and political knowledge comes from an echo chamber of sources, particularly talk radio and alternative media. But it has been magnified by the Trump campaign, willing to pursue victory by enhancing the nation’s divisions, demonizing opponents, and voicing conspiracy theories with no basis in fact. This has stoked his supporters’ fury against those who oppose their supposed savior in any way, and raises the possibility of violence if Trump loses the election.

According to mental health professionals, this election has produced more stress and anxiety than any recent past contests, likely because citizens view it and the candidates in such stark blacks and whites. Will the anger and stress just dissipate after the election is over? The anticipation and uncertainty will be gone, but whichever candidate wins, the White House will be occupied by a person that nearly half the country despises. How will this president get his or her opponents to accept his or her legitimacy and work with this person who has been declared the victor by our electoral system?

Since Bill Clinton’s presidency, the political rancor and partisanship between the parties (and their supporters) has been growing and is now overwhelming, the attempt to impeach Clinton perhaps the point of no return. However, George W. Bush’s justification for the war in Iraq and his failure to find weapons of mass destruction generated passionate antagonism among the opponents of the war and itself increased partisanship.

And Obama’s presidency has been marked by conservative hostility to him personally, with a large percentage of Republicans still unwilling to acknowledge his American heritage and Christianity, believing he is secretly a Muslim and that his actions are meant to destroy the nation. They cite Obamacare and his executive orders to improve the environment and cut global warming as examples of his duplicity. There is also the Republican Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell’s comment about his most important job being to assure that Obama was a one-term president, rather than cooperating with him on legislation for the good of the nation.

The refusal of the Senate to confirm Obama’s moderate nominee Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court is another illustration of the extreme partisanship that exists, even though previously Garland appeared quite acceptable to Senate Republicans. And the obstructionism will not stop if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency. At least three Republican senators have already said that they will not confirm any of Clinton’s nominees to the Supreme Court before she has even mentioned any names. How can government function when the executive and legislative branches cannot work together because of hostility and partisanship? This was not the way democracy was envisioned when the Founding Fathers designed the structure of the government.

Thus, it is unlikely that America will change after this election is decided. America will continue to be the America it has been for the last several decades, which does not present a pretty picture to the world and is distressing to our youth. In fact, America is likely to become even worse in the short run. How does all the venom, hatred, misogyny, and racism that emerged during the campaign get put back into the bottle and tightly corked? That is not likely to happen. It will continue to spew out and splatter the citizens of this nation, engendering even more hostility and antagonism between political opponents and various groups.

The changing demographics and the emergence of new roles for women will eventually transform America but much pain and violence is likely to precede this evolution. Uneducated white men are threatened by the transformation and saw Trump as their standard-bearer. If he loses…..We can hope for peace and good will but the anger and feelings by some that their needs are being ignored and they are being left behind by government policies does not bode well for a tranquil transition and resolution of differences.

Resurrecting Democracy

www.robertlevinebooks.com

Photo by Shutterstock

Ugly, Ugly, Ugly

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This whole campaign has been the tawdriest and dirtiest in American history and the last debate followed the same trajectory. Trump tried to deflect his remarks about sexual abuse of women and the women who have come forward with stories of unwanted attention by The Donald. Hillary tried to minimize her email carelessness and the effects of the Wikileaks dump, which really didn’t have any damning information though Trump tried to make it seem that way.

However, the issue that Trump has focused on recently has been his take that the election is rigged by Hillary and the liberal media, though he has produced no evidence to validate his claims. The danger of course is how his base will respond to these claims and the way it could delegitimize a Hillary victory. The most surprising element of tonight’s debate was Trump’s refusal to agree to accept the results of the election if Hillary wins. He said he would evaluate everything that happened before considering whether or not to accept the results.

This denigration of the American electoral process by a presidential candidate goes to the very heart of American democracy. His refusal to accept his loss would delegitimize a victory by Hillary Clinton and would make American democracy the laughingstock of the world. America could no longer talk to other nations about their abuse of human rights or dictatorial regimes that disregarded the will of the people in elections. America’s foreign policy goals would have to be abandoned and American diplomats would have to make excuses for our electoral process and any attempts to support democracy in other parts of the world.

Even more dangerous, however, would be the large number of Trump supporters who would also refuse to accept the results of the election which they felt had been rigged, following the line of their leader. This could cause violence and even rebellion in parts of the country and an unwillingness to obey the laws of the federal government and the new Supreme Court. Trump was playing with fire and didn’t care about the destruction he might ignite for American democracy. As it has always been, it was all about Trump.

Resurrecting Democracy

www.robertlevinebooks.com

Trump, Taxes, and Other Thoughts

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Does a man who does not pay his fair share of federal taxes deserve to be president? Does he even deserve to be running for president? Can a man who looks down on those who pay their taxes as suckers and losers represent the country fairly or will he do what he can to enhance his own wealth and assets. Can he connect with ordinary citizens? His history suggests selfishness, self-involvement, narcissism, and behavior bordering on the edge of illegality. He has used the tax codes and the bankruptcy laws to major advantage, often disdainful of his investors, contractors, and small businessmen, whom he forced to take losses when he declared bankruptcy to keep himself afloat.

His “success” as a businessman started with money given to him by his father who subsequently had to bail him out when his ventures went awry. (Who would bail him out if he became president and got into trouble?) Trump’s great business ventures that he has been touting include Trump Airlines that failed, Trump University that scammed money from poor people and failed, the Trump Institute that did the same thing and failed, and the five Trump bankruptcies in his casino business that failed. And he lost nearly a billion dollars in one year. Is this really the great business guru who is capable of righting the American ship of state, or is he more likely to sink it.

Trump is also “a know it all,” unwilling to take advice from consultants or people who are really knowledgeable in different fields. After all, he has had no political experience and should be willing to listen to those who are experts. Yet, he failed to prepare for his first debate with Hillary though his advisors told him it was important and necessary. He believed he could manage the debate “off the cuff” as he has done with so many of his rallies. Thus, the polls and political scientists have shown that Trump lost the first debate, though it is unclear whether that was the result of his lack of preparation. (Trump has told all his associates to say that he won the debate as he does not want his supporters to believe that he lost.)

There is also his secret plan for defeating ISIS which he doesn’t want to reveal for fear of alerting them. He has said that he knows more about how to knock out ISIS than America’s generals, though he has no military experience at all. (He was able to dodge the draft during the Vietnam War, so maybe that gives him some knowledge of military strategy?) Would he listen to the generals if he was elected president, or would he just tell them what to do? He has suggested that torture of terrorist suspects would be fine as would killing their families. These actions would fall into the category of war crimes, though that would not appear to deter him. Perhaps the generals and other officers would not obey him if he ordered war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Would he agree to no first use of nuclear weapons? It’s not clear from what he has said so far, though he did wonder why we had them in the first place if we didn’t intend to use them. (Obviously, he never heard of MAD- Mutual Assured Deterrence.) His admiration for Putin and other dictators who violated human rights gives Americans a clue as to what type of president Trump would be. And his ideas of deporting 12 million undocumented immigrants is a fantasy, as the economy would tank and it would cost the nation hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars to do. His wall at the border that Mexico would pay for is another absurd concept of his that will never come to pass.

One would think that his comments against the disabled, fat shaming of women, racist remarks, and denigration of Hispanics would be enough to lose him the votes of all of these groups. And though it is true Hillary has a majority of these sectors, there are still significant numbers of people in these groups who intend to vote for him. The race is much too close, even though Hillary is far from the ideal candidate. At least she is rational, qualified, and generally in control of herself, unlike “The Donald.” It should have been Hillary by a landslide, but it appears that many Americans have been seduced by Trump’s cons, populist and nationalist slogans. Hopefully, they’ll come to their senses by Election Day.

Resurrecting Democracy

www.robertlevinebooks.com

Cartoon: DonkeyHotey/Flickr

Testing Democracy

shutterstock_4026964The polls have tightened and the presidential election in the last few weeks has seemed like a toss-up. Trump blusters, lies, and exaggerates at every opportunity and his supporters rally to his side, not seeming to care. No answers to problems offered, just mottos. Insults and mottos from a possible president. Is this what democracy has degenerated into in this age of information overload, where people cannot differentiate between hyperbole and real solutions? Where knowledge and experience is no longer valued by voters. Where soundbites and slogans are favored over policy prescriptions.

The debate pitted a master entertainer against a policy wonk politician. A reality show celebrity against reality itself. An autocrat against a democrat. A woman against a man. A bully against an advocate for children. An insulter against the insultee. A predator of women against a woman who’s been victimized. A fat gasbag of a narcissist against a woman primed to take him down. Was she successful?

Trump generally maintained his composure throughout the debate, though he frequently interrupted Hillary and the moderator Lester Holt. There were no major attempts at bullying, though his facial expressions often showed his displeasure for what was being said, with a smirking and head shaking as Hillary spoke. Again, Trump’s ideas were put forth in general terms, rather than being specific about what he was going to do. As expected, he refused to reveal his “secret plan” to defeat ISIS which one wonders is a plan at all. But I forgot that he said he knows more about defeating ISIS than the generals fighting them (though this was not claimed last night).

Also as anticipated Trump still has refused to release his taxes, declaring that they were being audited. This was in spite of the fact that the IRS said this is no reason he cannot release them while they were still under review. Since this has been the custom of presidential candidates for the last forty years, it is obvious that he has something he is hiding; most likely that he is not paying any taxes, though he claims not paying taxes is merely being a good businessman. (Is this the kind of leader America needs?) He may also not be as rich as he claims and may have done deals with nefarious figures. (But we’ll never know with his taxes under lock and key.) Trump also wants to cut taxes mainly on the wealthy, anticipating that the benefits would trickle down to the middle class and that new jobs would be created. Most economists doubt that this would work, but Trump probably knows more than the economists as well.

Hillary also performed as expected, giving more detail on the ideas she had that she would like to see as laws. Higher taxes on the rich to cut student loan debt and mortgage debt, pay for college, and create more jobs. When Trump said that she didn’t “look presidential” and challenged her stamina to be president, Hillary came back with a quick repartee that mentioned her travel as Secretary of State and her testimony before the Benghazi committee.

Hillary was usually seen as smiling and upbeat, while Trump seemed negative. At the finish, he pushed his slogan of Making America Great Again, believing that it was no longer great and he was the guy to right the ship. I haven’t seen the data from the fact checkers yet, but it seemed to me that Trump came out with more whoppers than Hillary, particularly in denying his early support for the Iraq War. And why is he so secretive about his plans and his taxes which must be seen as a negative for him. There was also not enough explanation about Trump’s admiration for Putin and other dictators, why he asked for Hillary’s emails to be hacked by the Russians, and about how he was going to build his great wall.

My take is that Hillary won the debate but was not overwhelming. But her knowledge and preparation shows that she would make a far better president than Trump in spite of all her warts. Trump remains a narcissistic, unhinged, off-the-cuff candidate whose spontaneous declarations are often damaging. I’m for Hillary.

Resurrecting Democracy

www.robertlevinebooks.com

Photo by Shutterstock

Two types of gun laws: one for blacks and one for whites

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WASHINGTON — If you are a black man in America, exercising your constitutional right to keep and bear arms can be fatal. You might think the National Rifle Association and its amen chorus would be outraged, but apparently they believe Second Amendment rights are for whites only.

In reaching that conclusion I am accepting, for the sake of argument, the account given by the Charlotte, North Carolina, police of how they came to fatally shoot Keith Lamont Scott on Tuesday. Scott’s killing prompted two nights of violent protests that led Gov. Pat McCrory to declare a state of emergency. On Friday, police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shot and killed Terence Crutcher — an unarmed black man — and the two incidents gave tragic new impetus to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Scott’s relatives claim he was unarmed as well. But let’s assume that police are telling the truth and he had a handgun. What reason was there for officers to confront him?

North Carolina, after all, is an open-carry state. A citizen has the right to walk around armed if he or she chooses to do so. The mere fact that someone has a firearm is no reason for police to take action.

This is crazy, in my humble opinion. I believe that we should try to save some of the 30,000-plus lives lost each year to gun violence by enacting sensible firearms restrictions — and that the more people who walk around packing heat like Wild West desperados, the more deaths we will inevitably have to mourn. In its wisdom, however, the state of North Carolina disagrees.

We should continue to lobby for tighter gun laws and hope that someday the voices of reason are heard. But at the same time, we should demand that current laws be enforced fairly even if we don’t like them. Scott’s death is the second recent police slaying to suggest that laws permitting people to carry handguns apparently do not apply to African-Americans.

In July, police killed a black man named Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, after pulling him over for a traffic stop. When officers approached the car, Castile told them he was licensed to carry a handgun. I can only assume that Castile made this declaration so that the officers would not be surprised upon seeing the gun. But rather than assure them that he was a law-abiding citizen exercising his constitutional right, Castile’s announcement had the opposite effect.

The horror that ensued was live-streamed on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds. Her cellphone video and calm, composed narration were chilling, especially to those of us who frequently commit the offense of driving while black. One of the officers shot Castile several times, and Reynolds watched as he slumped next to her, his life bleeding away.

Did Castile reach for the gun? Reynolds maintains he was merely reaching for his wallet to get his driver’s license, as the officer had ordered. But we have seen many times, including in the recent Crutcher case, that [BEG ITAL]any[END ITAL] perceived sudden movement by a black man under arrest, even if he is not known to have a weapon, can be seen by police as a deadly threat. Disclosure of the gun, meant to avert potential tragedy, seems to have invited it.

Afterward, it was confirmed that Castile did indeed have a legal permit to carry a gun. He was not guilty of any crime. He was just 32 — and, incredibly, had in his brief life been stopped a total of 52 times for nickel-and-dime traffic violations.

That qualifies as harassment. I know many black men who have been pulled over for some trumped-up excuse and felt threatened by police. This has happened to me.

In the Scott case, according to a Charlotte police department statement, officers said they went to a neighborhood looking for someone else and saw Scott “inside a vehicle in the apartment complex. The subject exited the vehicle armed with a handgun. Officers observed the subject get back into the vehicle at which time they began to approach the subject.”

If all they saw was a man with a gun who got out of a car and back in, what illegal activity did they observe? Why did they “approach the subject” instead of going about their business? Did they have any reason to suspect it was an illegal gun? Are all men carrying guns believed to be carrying guns illegally, or just black men?

Our gun laws should be changed. Until then, however, they must be enforced equally. Does the NRA disagree?

Eugene Robinson’s email address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com. (c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

What we know about the Charlotte NC shooting

On Tuesday afternoon, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Brentley Vinson shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, 43, in University City, a subdivision of Charlotte, NC, about a mile from the University of North Carolina campus.

According to the police statement, Vinson was at The Village at College Downs complex on Old Concord Road “searching for someone who had an outstanding warrant.” That someone was not Scott.

Police claim that Scott had a firearm and “posed an imminent deadly threat.”

North Carolina is an open carry state.

Family members told various local news organizations that Scott was waiting to pick up his son after school and was reading a book, not carrying a gun. A man identified as Scott’s son said that Vinson was not in uniform.


According to The Root:

An eyewitness told the victim’s daughter that a Taser was used on her father, then he was shot at least three times.

 
Was he or was he not armed? And does that even matter in an open carry state?


Family members say Scott was not armed, that he was scared of guns. Police say that they recovered a gun at the scene.

A Department of Justice analysis of the Philadelphia police department last year revealed this about implicit bias, biases that are unconscious, and the perception of threats:

The officer believed that the person was armed and it turned out not to be the case. And these failures were more likely to occur when the subject was black [even if the officers were themselves black or Latino].

 

The evening was marked by clashes between police in riot gear and demonstrators.


This is a police department that has been marked by violence.

Scott is the sixth civilian killed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police in the past year. The population of Charlotte: 793,000.

Three years ago, former Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., police officer Randall Kerrick, 27, was charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of 24-year-old former Floridan A&M football player Jonathan Ferrell. Last summer, a jury deadlocked (8-4) and the judge declared a mis-trial.

And that was that, even though North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said “Kerrick did not follow his training during his encounter with Ferrell.” Kerrick received $113,000 in back pay from the city as well as more than $50,000 in attorney fees.

Kerrick shot Ferrell 10 times in the Bradfield Farms neighborhood after Ferrell had wrecked his car. The city settled with Ferrell’s family for $2.25 million.

The Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed Trump for president. The national police union represents 330,000 members. Clinton did not seek an endorsement from the union.

Gun Control #2

shutterstock_102492452Why has America developed a gun culture unlike any other developed nation? Why are gun homicides, suicides, and mass killings so prevalent in the United States? Is this what the Founding Fathers envisioned when they penned the Second Amendment?

Gun manufacturers have encouraged gun ownership, seeing it as a way to harvest a huge financial windfall. Together with the NRA, which the gun manufacturers help fund, they have lobbied Congress along with state legislatures to expand the gun laws in every way possible. Because of this, many deranged and dangerous individuals have been able to obtain guns without difficulty, leading to individual killings and mass murders. Incredibly, Donald Trump in his campaign raised the question of whether gun owners alone would be able to stop Hillary Clinton and her nominees for the Supreme Court, seeming to suggest the possibility of assassination of his opponent. He subsequently said he was joking though that was unclear at the time he said it.

In Australia in 1996, a mass shooting occurred in the state of Tasmania, where 35 people were killed and 19 wounded with the use of an assault weapon. There was an uproar by Australians over the killings which led opposing political parties to craft and pass comprehensive legislation regulating weapons sales and usage, known as the National Firearms Agreement, or NFA. In the 17 years prior to the NFA, there had been 13 mass shootings (5 or more people). There have been none in the 20 years since the law was put into effect. The law banned semiautomatic weapons and large capacity magazines (LCMs) and arranged for buybacks. There was mandated licensing of all firearms owners and registration of the weapons. A genuine need had to be shown to own a firearm, there had to be no convictions for violent offenses, and the person had to demonstrate good moral character and pass a gun safety test. Also put into place was a 28 day waiting period before a gun could be purchased.

Per capita gun deaths were much lower in Australia than in the United States to begin with, and they have continued to be low since the law was enacted. Suggestive evidence also exists (but not proof) that there was significant overall reductions in homicides and suicides in Australia. Since the United States ban on semi-automatic weapons and large capacity magazines was rescinded in 2004, there has been a surge in the purchase of these guns and magazines. And the number of mass shootings per month with assault weapons or pistols with LCMs has increased more than threefold in the last 12 years. The Australian experience as well as American statistics calls for a permanent ban on assault weapons and LCMs in the United States with money allotted for buyback of those in private hands. For handguns and hunting rifles, smart technology could be employed to prevent these weapons from being used by anyone except the original owner. The technology includes biometric sensors with personal recognition of thumbprints or fingerprints before the weapon can be fired, special safeties with built-in combination locks, and similar mechanisms.

State legislation banning the sale or possession of assault rifles or large capacity magazines has been upheld repeatedly by the Supreme Court, as have taxes on guns and ammunition. Courts have also ruled in favor of state laws that ban the carrying of concealed weapons. These actions reinforce the fact that sensible gun laws do not conflict with Second Amendment rights. Some states have background checks, waiting periods, and so forth before guns can be purchased. However, these state laws mean little when gang members, criminals or terrorists can travel to other states without restrictive laws to freely buy their weapons of choice. These patchwork state laws must be replaced by stringent federal legislation similar to Australia’s to reduce mass killings, homicides, and suicides. Penalties should also be increased when any crime is committed with a gun, and gun manufacturers should be held liable when weapons are sold to the mentally ill, criminals or terrorists.

A Connecticut State Superior Court judge in April 2016 allowed a lawsuit against Bushmaster Firearms, the maker of the weapon used in the Newtown school massacres to go forward. In addition to damages, parents of the Sandy Hook children who were murdered at school would like to see assault weapons which were designed for the military removed from the civilian market. However, given the federal legislation that protected gun manufacturers, this suit will likely be thrown out at a higher court level.

Though crime rates have been falling for several decades (aside from Chicago), urban streets and parks can be made much safer by sensible gun reform. Citizens of all political persuasions want stricter gun laws. Will Congress answer their call or will it remain captive to the NRA and the lobbyists of the gun makers?

Resurrecting Democracy

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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Gun Control #1

shutterstock_102492452There are over 30,000 gun deaths in the United States annually, with more than 406,000 people killed by guns from 2001 to 2013. More Americans have been killed by guns in the past decade than were killed in World War Two. In 2014, there were 8,124 homicides by guns, an average of 27 people daily. These include gang violence and mass killings, but most are individual killings, often in family situations. Gun homicides in the U.S. are about 31 per million people compared to 1 per million in England and Poland, and 2 per million in Germany and the Netherlands. In Japan, gun homicides occur at a rate of 1 per 10 million. (There are also over 21,000 suicides by firearms annually in the U.S.) According to a Rasmussen Poll, two thirds of gun owners say they feel safer with a gun in their homes, though the opposite is actually true. Accidental shootings, domestic arguments that get out of hand, and suicides are all more likely to occur in homes with guns.

Though mass shootings are what generate publicity and public outcrys, the horrendous statistics above do not seem to make any difference to the NRA or the Republicans in Congress who have blocked all types of gun reform. Though Donald Trump has been in the pocket of the NRA during the presidential campaign in 2016, Hillary Clinton has backed a number of sensible changes in the gun laws. These include background checks for all purchasers including those at gun shows, prohibiting guns to those on the no-fly lists and domestic abusers, and removing the gun industry’s protection against civil damage suits. However, Clinton does not go far enough as all assault weapons should also be permanently banned along with extended ammunition clips and hollow point bullets. There is no reason why these weapons of war should be allowed in a civilian society. They only make mass killings, such as Newtown, Virginia Tech, Charleston, and Orlando more feasible.

In Florida, physicians are not even allowed to discuss firearms safety with patients. Florida passed a specific law in 2011 that prohibits physicians from asking about gun ownership and entering that information into the patient’s medical record unless the doctor feels in good faith that it is relevant to safety or the patient’s medical care. In many states, people can carry weapons openly in schools, churches, bars, and other public spaces. Law enforcement is generally opposed to the liberalization of gun laws, seeing them as exposing the police to more danger and making it more difficult for them to do their jobs effectively.

It is only over the last fifty years that the widespread ownership of guns has soared in America. The president of the NRA in testifying before Congress in 1934 stated- “I do not believe in the promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.” In fact, the NRA supported the National Firearms Act which was passed in 1934 and is still in effect. This law required registration of all machine guns, short-barreled rifles, silencers, missiles, mortars, hand grenades, and other weapons considered particularly dangerous. There is a national database of the owners of these armaments, with their fingerprints and photographs. Owners must pass an FBI background check, be validated by the ATF, and pay a $200 tax. Weapons stolen or missing must be reported immediately.

Interestingly, the number of crimes committed by the owners of these weapons is miniscule, so it is a gun control law that works. But only 4 million of the more than 300 million weapons in circulation in the U.S. are registered under this law. Ronald Reagan as Governor of California in 1967 said that he did not see a reason for citizens to carry weapons in the streets. However, as people became more concerned about crime and personal safety, and then about terrorism, gun ownership escalated. What Americans don’t seem to understand is that the more people who have guns, the less safe they all will be.

Most Americans want reform measures enacted regarding gun possession and ownership. The NRA and the gun industry lobby have been blocking restrictions on state and federal levels by terrorizing members of state legislatures and Congress, threatening to withhold money and support. Our politicians need to stand up to the lobby and pass reasonable laws that will limit gun ownership by mentally disturbed individuals, criminals, gang members, terrorists, domestic abusers, and so forth. Don’t hold your breath.

Resurrecting Democracy

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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Is Government the Enemy?

shutterstock_4026964Too many Americans see government as an enemy and blame it for society’s ills and their own problems. They refuse to acknowledge responsibility for their station in life, having dropped out of school, perhaps had a dependency on drugs or alcohol, or neglected hard work to build careers. Their fear of immigrants is because the latter are willing to struggle and strive in order to succeed, even taking jobs that citizens find demeaning.

Since America’s birth as a sovereign nation, there have been citizens who have opposed the power of the federal government, and seen the laws and regulations of the government as unjust ways of restricting their freedom. Jefferson and the Republicans/ Democrats were wary of the federal government and favored states’ rights over centralized government power. But they understood that a strong government was necessary for defense, to collect taxes, and provide money for projects that benefited multiple states. Indeed, Jefferson as president arranged the Louisiana Purchase through the federal government in 1803, more than doubling the size of the young nation.

The federal government was seen as the enemy by the Confederate states that fought the Civil War against the Union. Some of its citizens have maintained a feeling of enmity to this day, with Southerners the leading opponents of government initiatives. Right-wing conservatives who want to shrink the federal government, also view it as an enemy instead of a friend that can provide benefits to their states and their constituents. Their ideology of smaller government does not make sense in this age of globalization, when the central government alone has the power and the ability to do so many necessary things to help citizens.

Education is subsidized and monitored by the federal government from K-12 to universities, to help pay for it and to be certain requirements are being met. The nation’s infrastructure is built mainly with funds from the federal government. Highways, railways and mass transit, airports, transmission lines, and broadband are all dependent on the federal government. The social safety net, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment compensation, and so forth are all financed by the federal government. Research and development at the NIH, DARPA, universities and many corporations, are supported by the federal government. The federal government provides protection for the nation through America’s armed forces, the CIA, NSA, and so forth, against foreign aggression and terrorist activities. The FBI, TSA, DEA and other federal agencies also protect us from domestic terrorism and crime. Diplomatic relations with other nations are handled by the federal government as well, along with mutual security pacts like NATO, and various trade agreements.

Notwithstanding the role that the federal government plays in citizen’s lives, there are numerous groups and individuals who see the government as an enemy and want it to be less intrusive, smaller and less powerful. Anti-tax organizations like the Club for Growth and pro-gun groups like the NRA fall into this category, and talk radio personalities reinforce their ideas. Many businesses don’t like the rules and regulations laid down by government agencies that enhance safety but eat into their profits. And besides the right-wingers who are active politically, there are independent white supremacy groups and militias who meet regularly and rail against the government. Some of them have hatched conspiracy theories about what the government intends to do in the future and stand ready to fight. Many of the people in these groups are afraid that the government at some point is going to take their guns, their fears heightened by NRA propaganda and the Trump campaign. There are also individuals opposed to federal ownership of land in the West and want it transferred to state and local governments and perhaps sold to private interests. The Snowden revelations heightened the concerns of conspiracy theorists and those worried about privacy, seeing the federal government as a behemoth that controls everything.

Aside from these longstanding government opponents, there has been a wave of populism engulfing all Western countries including the United States, its proponents viewing establishment figures, the banks, immigrants, and the government as enemies. Antipathy to government rallies the masses to populism. Many of these populists are uneducated, unemployed or underemployed and have recently slipped from the middle class. They are angry at the government and the establishment because they feel that not enough has been done to help them to prosper, while the banks have been bailed out and immigrants have been taking their jobs; at least those that have not been shipped abroad. These people do not understand that automation has reduced the need for workers in manufacturing plants, even as production in the United States has increased.

Though many groups and individuals view the federal government as an enemy, their lenses are clouded and they are not cognizant of what the government actually does for them, the ways that it is on their side and can help them. The government needs to educate the populace through advertisements and infomercials to show opponents how the government works for them and what programs are available that might transform their lives. Paranoid anti-government groups and individuals will always be around, with early education in civics and constant reinforcement in school perhaps the best way to counteract this fringe. Education about government will not come from home or their peers.

Resurrecting Democracy

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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Cartoon: Second amendment people

cjones08102016 (1)

Second amendment people
by Clay Jones

Trump committed a faux pas and did not mean to say “2nd Amendment people” could stop Hillary Clinton from appointing a Supreme Court justice after she’s elected president. He meant to say “titties.”

Trump has hinted to his gun toting supporters that they can shoot Hillary Clinton if she wins the election. Remember when we thought it was ridiculous when he started a debate talking about his penis? Maybe someone should shoot that. They make really tiny guns, don’t they?

Trump claims Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment and at a rally in North Carolina Tuesday he said “By the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.” With the outrage of calling for the death of his political opponent everyone has glossed over the lie that Clinton wants to take everyone’s guns away.

How many times has Trump made a statement that his supporters had to explain away, and then a day later Trump attempts to correct the record without apologizing? He wasn’t talking about periods when he said Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her whatever,” he didn’t call Carly Fiorina and Heidi Cruz ugly, he didn’t mock a disabled reporter, he’s never encouraged support from white supremacists, and he’s never called for his supporters to beat up protesters.

Trump’s supporters hate Hillary Clinton and believe the narrative she’s a liar. They say they love Trump because he speaks the truth but he’s really not serious when he makes outrageous comments. Seriously, why do these people have access to guns?

Trump supporters are making excuses for Trump’s dog whistle to shoot Hillary. It’s weird they will distort, take out of context and give new meanings to Clinton’s statement “what difference does it make” and then try to say Trump doesn’t mean “shoot Hillary” when he says “Second Amendment People” can do something about Hillary.

Words matter.

A few years ago Democratic U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head by Jared Lee Loughner after Sarah Palin published a bulls eye on her district. 14 other people were injured and six more were killed.

Last year an anti-abortion activists group released a bunch of videos manipulated to look like Planned Parenthood was selling the body parts from dead babies. One of their fans who probably had a subscription to their newsletter, Robert Lewis Dear, took it upon himself to shoot up a clinic in Colorado Springs, killing three people and injuring nine more, and later in court he claimed he was “a warrior for the babies.”

In 1994 president Bill Clinton’s approval ratings were plummeting and the Republicans seized the momentum with an anti-government platform, retook the House and Senate, and convinced their supporters the government was clamping down on them. The fever swelled until April, 1995 when Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City killing 169 people and injuring 680 more.

Words matter.

They especially matter when you’re talking to a base of uneducated people who are very misinformed, love conspiracy theories, and are more prone to act than think. Who do you think follows and supports Donald Trump? Trump has already hosted a convention where his speakers were yelling for Hillary Clinton to go to prison. Remember, Trump says he loves the uneducated.

Trump has said the system is rigged, and that the election is manipulated if he doesn’t win. Now he’s saying if he loses his supporters should shoot Clinton. This is a dog whistle that everyone can hear. I hope the Secret Service and FBI hears it because we don’t know what kind of dogs Trump has out there.

Via Claytoons.com