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Trump in the Garden of Beasts

gty_kristallnacht_kb_131108_33x16_1600I have a hypothesis about why Donald Trump is saying outrageous, indefensible things. I think he’s worried about looking bad in the debates to come and that worry, combined with Hillary’s growing lead over him, makes it look very likely that he will lose in November. This is a guy who is used to winning. He wins and he wins and he wins. Losing is bad for his image.

Why would a rich, famous guy with a hot Eastern European wife put himself through all  of this if he can’t win? But bailing at this point would look weak. So, he’s going to have his own party pull the plug on him.

There are other possibilities of course. He could really mean what he says and he wants to fire up his base, who have guns. Lots of guns.

What concerns me is the tepid response from the media. The New York Times Editorial was the equivalent of the naughty step. Heidi Li Feldman, formerly of Heidi Li’s Potpourri, pointed me to a criticism in The Guardian of pre-WWII coverage of Germany by British newspapers that also was tepid about what was starting to become an alarming and unusual political movement complete with assassination attempts and thuggish behavior from the leader and his followers.

The danger here is that unless there is a strong public condemnation of this rhetoric and behavior, it’s only going to get worse because we will have acclimated ourselves to it. It will be, “Well, they’re always saying stupid things like that” or, “you should know what you’re getting into if you go to a Trump Rally” or, “Sure they sound like they’re going to aggressively patrol polling stations this fall but what are they going to do to stop people from voting?”. Before you know it, you have another Kristallnacht on your hands.

Now, I’m not saying that this will happen this year to this candidate and his enraged and armed followers. But we need to walk this back- now- because there is no brake on how many people can buy guns in this country. One or a couple or a posse could decide they’ve had enough of commie Hillary and her libtard voters. We know what happens next because we have a lot of history on film.

As much as I’d like to see Donald lose to Hillary by a YUGE margin, it’s safer for all of us if he’s forced out and some “reasonable” Republican got his followers to calm their tits already.

 

America makes rest of world nervous

We are a train wreck in progress. Some observations in the past couple of days:

1.) Donald Trump is like the ultimate blog troll before you figured out how to keep him from posting in your comments section.He camps out there with his other annoying droogs and writes inflammatory jackassery.

2.) “I am not politically correct” is just another way of saying “I don’t give a flying f^&* about anyone else’s feelings”. I used to think it was a response to Democratic operatives using accusations of racism to shut up critics of Obama and maybe it started out that way. But this has gone way beyond that. Now it’s just an excuse to use the worst bullying behavior.

3.) According to Republicans, “All Constitutional Amendments are equal except some are more equal than others.” I actually heard one on CNN say something to the effect that sure, we should have investigated the shooter more thoroughly to stop him from doing his worst but he was a native born American citizen and, therefore, his right to buy assault weapons could absolutely not be violated.

WTF, Republicans. Seriously. There is nothing sane or rational about this position. Ok, nevermind. Most of you still don’t believe in evolution or climate change either.

4.) It took 8 years but I am finally on Obama’s side. His righteous indignation yesterday was the correct response to Donald’s stupid self-aggrandizing belligerence. I only wish that he had been able to muster as much passion over the fate of the long term unemployed or the monumental greed and callousness of the bankers.

The bad thing is that we have to continue to witness this battle of the politicians in the wake of a tragedy. Unfortunately, it’s necessary. The Democrats can’t be cowed by an orange blowhard into looking passive. It’s a power dynamics thing.

 

 

Maybe not the most tasteful metaphor in light of the massacre in Orlando but still apt. You can’t meet overt aggression with passivity. Donald and his droogs will jump all over that.

Nice to see Hillary making the point about how we can’t take shampoo on a plane but anyone in American can buy an assault weapon. Can we get Bernie to join in?

We can’t all get along until we can make Donald STFU.

Politically Correct Fundamentalists

This is a presentation by Dr. Mary Anne Franks, legal expert on cyber civil rights at a recent Skepticon conference. For those of you not familiar with Skepticon, it’s a conference for free thinkers and skeptics, and some of their presentations are more topical than others with respect to politics.

In this presentation, Franks lays out how current political discourse works. If you’re new to how the news is shaped, this might be disturbing and revealing. But she’s just telling it like it is.

 

Now, I don’t want to be the kind of person who says the left does it too but we do. It’s one of the reasons why we got so turned off by the 2008 elections. We are still living with the fallout of that election. And here’s how it typically plays out.

Take one middle class person who has a contract position and no benefits who is required to buy health insurance from the exchange only to find that the options are very expensive, he doesn’t get a subsidy, the deductible makes this policy almost worthless and a monthly drain on his wallet and substantially impacts his quality of life with little discernible benefit. The ACA was set up specifically to be painful, thanks to Republican demands that people have “skin in the game”. It’s also pretty clear that Obama did not ask for the world up front but came to the table and opened by giving the right almost everything it wanted. STARTED that way. We saw it. Don’t try to sugar coat this Paul Krugman. Fixing this is going to be very, very difficult and many people will spend much of their income on a limited ACA policy in the meantime to their detriments.

Here’s how the left deals with this. And when I say left, I mean my own side. I hate to keep saying that but I am closer to Bernie Sanders on this than Hillary Clinton at this point in time. In my humble opinion, we should scrap the whole thing except for the provisions for people with pre-existing conditions, children up to age 26 and mental illness and start over. We might still end up with private insurance but the way the ACA is currently structured, this is not working for anyone.

But here’s the way these conversations usually go. Let’s listen in:

Average Obamacare policy holder: “I don’t like Obamacare. It’s too expensive, too limited and I could go broke before I see any benefit from it.”

Average Lefty: “You’re a racist Tea Party person”

Well, that went well.

When Fox News loving Trump supporters complain about political correctness, there might be a soupçon of legitimacy about the complaint.

There’s more of course. At some point in time, we need to talk about women.

Go there, Digby.

You are very close. All you need is the F word to put it all together and add a dash of second amendment.

That ought to keep you up at night.

David Brooks’ world: Let all the worms that lurk in the mud hatch out

Ashley Moser, age 25

The shooting in Aurora, Colorado and its aftereffects, appear to be a culmination of all of the ways we Americans have let each other down in the past 30 years.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

Ashley Moser: If there was a poster child for everything that has gone wrong in America since Richard Nixon resigned, Ashley would have to be it.

Ashley is 25 years old.  Her father died recently from leukemia.  His illness wiped out the family’s financial resources.  He died penniless.  Ashley is a single mother, it’s unclear if she is divorced or ever married.  But the “little Depression” has been hard on families who struggle to make ends meet and are broken up by distance when one parent has to make a living in another location and can’t take the whole family.  It’s a common situation these days and marriage is no safeguard against it.  She was living with her parents but times got tough and when her father died, she had to move in with her aunt.

She’s a student.  She is also unemployed.  She had applied to and was accepted into a nursing program.  She was living on student loans.  LOANS, not grants.  She had a six year old daughter who she took to the movie with her.  Been there, done that, waiting with the kid for the latest book in the Harry Potter series at the local bookstore at 12am, surrounded by a store full of Hermione Grangers and Draco Malfoys.  Veronica Moser-Sullivan, aged 6, was the youngest victim.  She died at the scene.

Ashley was shot in the neck and the abdomen and is in critical condition.  Her doctors say she will suffer some paralysis but may have the use of her hands.  There’s a bullet in her head that hasn’t been removed yet. She is pregnant.

Because she is unemployed and uninsured, she is on medicaid. If she weren’t horribly injured at the moment and didn’t have the nation’s sympathy, it’s likely that she’d be shamed by these very same people who would be calling her a deadbeat leech on the American taxpayer.  She’d be treated with more dignity and respect in Norway but she had the misfortune to not be Norwegian during these last critical years of her life. That’s where single motherhood is no big deal, children are valued and she wouldn’t be struggling to live on student loans while she got her life together and was able to contribute to society, which should be the *only* definition of success, other than good parenthood, that gets admiration and respect.

It is unclear what her prospects, medical expenses or living arrangements will be once she is released from the hospital, if she is released. But whatever they are, it is likely that her future wages will be garnished to pay back her student loans.  Otherwise, it would be irresponsible to let this kind of moral hazard stand and wouldn’t be teaching Ashley a valuable lesson.

Her relatives had to tell her about her daughter on Saturday night.  She didn’t take it well and screamed that she wanted to die.

In all likelihood, if she *does* look like she is about to die, some Christian group will petition the state for guardianship of her unborn baby, intending to keep her on life support until the delivery.  Or, she may he on the brink of death without an abortion and they may interfere at that point.  Or, because she is on Medicaid, she will have to pay for a lifesaving and possibly much more expensive high risk abortion herself.  If it’s a “partial birth abortion”, there might not be any way to do it in the state of Colorado.  The scenarios that play out here sound like an updated version of Stephen King’s Misery crossed with Never Let Me Go.  Her family should have kept this information out of the media but it’s too late now.  The cat’s out of the bag and the evangelicals are no doubt already winding up for the prayer circle of all prayer circles, sending her messages about how her lifelong paralysis happened for a reason and god wanted Veronica for his newest angel but it’s a miracle that god has blessed her with a precious replacement!  As if children are swappable objects.  If it were up to me, I would leave life and death decisions up to Ashley and her doctors.  Maybe we should ask Michael Schiavo how that kind of thing works out.

The mass murderer, James Holmes, is apparently a very disturbed individual.  He’s not unlike many other disturbed mass murderers.  Friends and family notice that there is a personality change or he starts to behave strangely but there’s not a whole lot of things parents can do.  After all, the kid is an adult now.  The owner of a gun club says that Holmes left messages on his company’s voice mail and that his voice made him very uneasy.  He thanks god he didn’t have to deal with him, probably because guns are big business in America and it would have been hard to turn him away.

Not much is known about whether or not Holmes was treated for any psychological problems. It’s hard to know when science geeks have crossed the line mentally.  Many a time I have heard, “You know, so and so is acting really weird. He gives me the willies.  If anyone here were to go postal, it would be him.”  “Yeah, but he’s great in the lab! Fricking brilliant. His boss would be lost without him.” (True story about a gun “enthusiast” I used to work with many years ago.) His University probably has a counseling office but in America these days, it’s almost unheard of to commit people.  We usually just let them fall to their natural level, as David Brooks might say, and let them live on the streets. Holmes will probably get better mental health care now that he’s in prison or at the facility for the criminally insane.  For sure, he should never be free again, but will he be turned over to an institution run by a for profit company?

Graduate students are used to working conditions that are unusual.  I’ve heard it said that they have a lot of flexibility in their work.  They can work any 80 hours of the week they want.  It’s unclear if his work schedule contributed to his mental state but we should consider that Wall Street traders and analysts Holmes’ age work about 80 hours a week without a break for a couple of years and they nearly blew up the world, so, you know, there’s that.  His stipend, no matter how much the media makes of it, was probably less than minimum wage for the hours he would have been expected to work and was not enough to live on in the Denver area.  I’ve had a kid who worked in Denver as a chef for a couple of years.  They didn’t pay her enough.  She had to move.  She loves Denver.  Denver wages?  Ehhhhh, not so much.

Holmes ended up in Denver at graduate school because after earning a master’s in Neuroscience in 2010, he couldn’t find a job.  That’s not really all that unusual for scientists these days, including yours truly and everyone I’ve ever worked with.  A master’s is plenty sufficient for anything industrial research could throw at him but without experience, even young, cheap labor can’t find work.  Neither can older, experienced labor.  I find that a lot of employers want experienced labor, they just don’t want to pay for it.  So, Holmes had to go back to graduate school.  He probably would have been better off learning plumbing or joining the navy.  At least the military will help you pay your student loans.

This is not to say that I feel any kind of compassion for James Holmes the mass murderer.  But I do feel sorry for colleagues of James Holmes who are in a similar economic situation through the actions of a bunch of financiers on Wall Street who thought mergers and acquisitions of research companies in the last two decades was a sweet way to make loads of money and big bonuses.  Too bad it ruined research.

Holmes was able to order many rounds of ammunition online.  He also ordered an urban assault vest.  Unlike buying birth control, there is no conscience rule that would allow someone who is using common sense to stop a graduate student like James Holmes from buying combat equipment.  No one was allowed to say, “Where are you headed, buddy? Afghanistan?  Iraq?  Because I don’t think you need any of that stuff in Aurora.  Whatever you’re planning, I’m agin’ it.  No sale for you.”

Let’s think about that for a second.  It is harder for Ashley Moser to buy Plan B in the very same places where James Holmes could buy his own arsenal.  Enough weaponry to mow down a theater?  As long as you have a credit card, not a problem. No questions asked.   A couple of pills of early intervention to prevent a mistake?  Everyone you don’t know has an opinion and a hoop you must jump through.  Sure, the conscience rule executive order has been modified but whose going enforce it?  In a couple of years, Sasha and Malia will be able to buy their own Glocks but long after they’ve given up bubble gum, they will still have problems locating a pharmacist who will sell Plan B to them from behind the counter.

And because this is an election year and we must not piss off the young, white males in western states who might vote, Barack Obama sees no reason why he should develop any policies to address the issue of unfettered access to guns.  He also sees no need to promote an assault weapons ban that Bill Clinton put in place during his terms but went out of fashion during the Bush years.

I wonder if Ashley Moser knows this.  I hear Obama has been visiting the victims.  There’s an outpouring of support for Ashley right now, including a fundraiser.  But in a couple of months, America will forget about Ashley and she’ll have to navigate the social welfare system on her own.  For what it’s worth, I think a fundraiser should never be necessary for Ashley or others like her.  She, and all of the other Ashleys and Alexes, deserves a nation’s support, not charity or pity or insensitive moralizing.  She needed her country to be behind her in the last couple of years.  We’d better not fail her in the years to come.

So, there you go.

Worms everywhere.

Update: Katiebird says there is a second family that will be ruined by this shooting through no fault of their own.  Caleb Medley was shot in the eye and is in a medically induced coma.  His medical bills are expected to top $2 million, which is $2 million *less* than what David Brooks paid for his new house.  Caleb’s wife is on a separate floor of the hospital ready to give birth.

Of course, according to David Brooks, if the Medley’s end up broke, disabled and must remain deliberately impoverished in order to qualify for the bare modicum of subsistence medical care that Medicaid provides, at least we can console ourselves that the nation didn’t “commit sociology” to rescue any Americans who were collateral damage of a disturbed guy who just happened to use an easily available gun on their bodies.

If buying a gun in Texas were as easy as getting an abortion

Imagine the legislation…

The buyer would have to go to an approved gun dispensary.  The dimensions of the dispensary would be strictly regulated and the dispensary might end up in a seedy part of town in an unmarked building.  The gun dispensary owner would not be allowed to advertise. Because the regulations would be difficult to meet, there would be less than a handful of dispensaries legally licensed to sell firearms.  A person from Amarillo might have to drive to Galveston to get one.

The free speech rights of anti-gun protestors would be protected.  Prospective gun buyers would not be shielded from protestors petitioning or discouraging the buyer from purchasing a gun as long as the protestors do not approach within a certain number of feet from the buyer and refrain from touching the buyer.

It would be illegal for anyone to refer the buyer to a gun dispensary. However, it would not be illegal for an anti-gun organization to masquerade as a gun dispensary for the purposes of shaming the prospective buyer or talking him or her out of buying a gun.  No exceptions to this advice rule would be made for hunters or other people who may have a specific use for guns that does not include the potential for shooting people.

The gun dispensary owner would need to provide proof of education in the types and uses of firearms.  A degree from an accredited university would be the only proof accepted.  He or she would need to be licensed for each type of firearm.  An assault weapons ban might mean that the buyer would have to travel to one of the few places in the country that sells them to get one.

Prospective buyers would be required to undergo mandatory counseling on the use and effect of firearms.  The buyer would not be able to opt out of this counseling.  If the buyer still wants to buy a gun after the counseling, he or she would need to sign a form certifying that they are aware of the dangers of the use of firearms and that using them may cause lifelong emotional damage and sexual impotence to the user.

During the counseling session, the seller will show the buyer photographs of gun shot victims.  The victims will be shown with their heads blown off and their bellies eviscerated.  The emotional anguish of gunshot victims’ families will also be shown in visual and auditory form.  No compensatory images of poor hunters feeding their families will be permitted.  The audio and video portion of the presentation must be intrusive enough to be unavoidable to the prospective buyer.

After the presentation, the gun seller will read the consent form to the buyer again and ask the buyer to affirm that they are aware of all of the dangers associated with the purchase of a gun.  The seller will also be required to discuss alternatives to firearms, such as compound bows, boomerangs, snares and vegetarianism.  There will be an emphasis on vegetarianism to ensure that the teachings of certain religions are promoted with the acquiescence of the state.  Adherence to Hindu or other plant based religions would not be necessary for the buyer, only recognition and understanding of the deep ethical philosophy behind religious vegetarianism.

No exceptions would be made to save the health or life of the buyer.  Medical reasons for hunting, such as a prescribed Caveman Diet to prevent intestinal inflammation of a debilitating nature due to celiac disease, or the existence of a restraining order from a abusive spouse, would not be acceptable excuses for failing to attend the mandatory counseling session or meeting all of the other requirements before obtaining the gun.

There will be a mandatory 72 hour waiting period to give the buyer an opportunity to change his or her mind.

It would be illegal for the counseling to take place over the phone or the internet.

After the waiting period is complete, the buyer would be required to return to the gun dispensary for the mandatory rectal examination of the prostate with an ultrasound device.  The purpose of this examination is to determine the state of the prostate prior to gun purchase and to assure that the buyer understands the risk to his sexual health.  A similar examination will be made of a woman’s rectum for no good reason but if she is engaged in buying a gun, she has already given her consent to an anal probe.

After this examination, the gun buyer would be allowed to purchase the gun and go on his or her merry way, provided walking is still possible.

The above regulations would not be considered intrusive or burdensome to your 2nd amendment right to bear arms.

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