YOU NO LONGER HAVE THE RIGHT TO DEFEND YOURSELF WITH A GUN!

Except no, that isn’t true. I came across a comic portrayal of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting today that seemed to suggest that it was true, among several other things. Here’s the comic, I know it would make ME feel smug and justified in gun ownership:

Does anyone else find it disturbing that in this guy's ideal world, Giffords still gets shot in the head? Who's the crazy person again?

There is this notion out there among many conservative gun-nuts that if everyone is allowed to own a gun, then nobody will successfully go on a shooting spree because the majority of upstanding citizens will carry guns around and when something goes down they will just pull out their guns and show the shooter what’s what. That argument assumes two things: 1) that the majority of upstanding citizens will actually choose to carry their firearm around with them in a paranoid and largely unnecessary manner, and 2) that your average citizen would be both willing and able to take down the shooter. One of the most ridiculous things about the “comic” that is the subject of this article is that the people in the crowd have every right and opportunity to buy a gun and carry it with them, just like on the day of the Giffords shooting. Also, cartoon illustrations are one thing, but what happens when the would-be rescuer misses and hits somebody else? Hell, police are specially trained to pick their targets and be aware of their line of fire and they still end up shooting two-year olds. But I digress.

The cartoon above is obviously a reference to the recent shooting of Gabrielle Giffords. It seems to suggest that were the Second Amendment to function unimpeded in America today, a whole crowd of men women and children would not have been sprayed with a Glock, because somebody could have just taken Loughner down. I won’t even bother confronting the assumption that somebody would have been able to retrieve their weapon and take aim before Loughner unloaded most of the bullets in his extended mag semi-automatic pistol (which, for those of you who don’t know, fires as fast as he can pull the trigger). What I will confront is the commonly held, commonly conservative belief that Americans’ constitutional right to own a firearm is being somehow infringed upon by the government or the Obama administration or by the Democratic party.

This guy wants your wallet? Better shoot his ass. Yeah, that's justice.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which was adopted along with the rest of the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791, reads as follows:

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.

First of all, the date. This amendment to the Constitution was added at a time in American history when magazine-loading firearms did not exist. There was no such thing as a shooting spree. People fired and then reloaded. Had our forefathers known the types of weapons that would be available in the future, I would wager that they would save us the trouble of imposing regulations by specifying the exact type of weapons to which they referred. Alas, hindsight is indeed 20/20.

Second of all, the purpose of this amendment as it reads is to preserve the security of the state through a well-regulated militia. Given that militias at the time were comprised of any and all American citizens who wished to join, this has been, and for good or bad will continue to be interpreted to mean that every member of society has a right to gun ownership by default.

The key word here is default. We are also afforded the right to vote by default. That right can be revoked if, for instance, we commit a felony. In addition, we have a right to vote in certain forums– believe it or not you can’t walk into Congress and throw your ballot in the hat. There are different types of voting just like there are different types of arms. Wouldn’t you agree that you don’t want a liberal commie/fascist/socialist like me having access to a nuclear bomb launcher? I mean it’s a form of armament. Do I have to be able to hold it or something? Slippery slope fellas.

Which brings me to my third point- the 2nd Amendment means that everyone has the right to own a gun. This provision has been reasonably interpreted to have certain limitations, much in the way we impose limits on freedom of speech by not allowing people to shout “FIRE” in a movie theater- it only makes sense. It also only makes sense that we put some kind of cap on the amount of power that we’re going to put into a single persons hand. Some of the weapons out there today won’t just kill a single person, they can kill a shopping mall/highschool classroom/college dorm/office building full of people. Hoping someone else is there with a gun does not make sense- it’s reckless and irrational.

It is only reasonable that we don’t put guns in the hands of the mentally disturbed, or those who are demonstrably prone to initiations of violence. We want people with such power to be able to exercise self-control and only use that power when it is absolutely necessary. Nonetheless, mentally disturbed persons are still able to obtain weapons in our current system. How do you think Loughner got his? He walked into a store and he bought it. And he bought a bunch of bullets for it. And he bought an extended magazine for it. At no point was the person who sold him the gun aware of his long, long history of mental illness and paranoid schizophrenia.

None of you have the urge to kill a bunch of people, right? Cool.

And who can read that poster? Anyone who knows how to read, like this cheery fellow:

"Maybe if I smile he'll throw in an extra box of bullets."

The argument that removing all restrictions on firearms will result in the majority of people suddenly locking and loading and thus balancing the equation is a massive oversimplification, one which is unsurprisingly made by those ignorant many who believe that the guv-ment is trying to disarm the entire population. They aren’t and it’s not going to happen. Would you be surprised to learn that most of the people that make these kinds of arguments support the conservative party? They sure are serving the kool-aid up strong these days.

Nobody is trying to take your guns away. A concealed carry permit is not a difficult thing to obtain. Depending on the state, firearm regulations may seek to require psychological and criminal record screenings in order to obtain them. Such screenings are meant to detect people who show major red flags, such as a history of violence, psychotic episodes, etc. I think we can agree these are the people who should not have guns. Regulations also seek to reduce the potential for destruction that can rest in the hands of a would-be mass murderer, so that should they succeed in evading the screening process (which at this point is clearly not very difficult), the harm they cause will at least have a limit. Imagine if Loughner was allowed to purchase an even larger magazine, or a fully automatic version of the same handgun he used in the shooting– how many more children would have been shot before he had to reload and was taken down? No state has put in place a law or regulation that removes the right to own a firearm from innocent, upstanding citizens. It just isn’t the case. It would be flatly unconstitutional and would be overturned in a heartbeat.

Strawman argument, anyone?

I’ve fired a gun before. I know the rush that you feel with such a precise, powerful instrument in your hands. I understand the confidence and security that comes along with knowing that you can defend yourself against whatever comes your way. All I’m suggesting is that we slow down for a moment and try to look at the issue objectively. Undeserving people are killed every year by guns. That isn’t an accusation, it’s just an acknowledgement of reality. The more conscious people are of the dangers of firearms, and the responsibilities that need to be imposed upon those who wield them,  the better off society will be. I cannot make it clear enough: I do not argue for stronger gun regulations because I think the American public should be disarmed, I argue for stronger gun regulations because I perceive our current level of gun regulation to be pathetically inadequate. Innocent men, women and children die every year because of that inadequacy. I, like every other red-blooded American, want to avoid as many tragedies as possible on American soil. Don’t you?

If you haven’t figured it out already, I happen to support strong regulation of firearms. I think our system for screening and mandatory reporting is severely lacking. I think that there is absolutely no reason that civilians need to have access to assault rifles or fully automatic weapons. These types of weapons transcend self-defense and enter the realm of excessive danger and force. If somebody wants to argue about appropriate levels and types of regulation with me then I welcome them to do so (hit the comments section below, it it pleases you). I am more than willing to acknowledge first of all that this is a grey area and second of all that it can and should be argued by both sides. That is how meaningful compromises are reached- adversary and detail-oriented debate. We do not create a valuable discourse with oversimplified and ignorant comics such as the ones featured above. We create ideological stalemates and disinformation. We’re better than that America. We must make progress.

Painfully. Slow. Progress.

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Republicans Know How to Compromise, They Just Don’t Care To

We’ve watched the pathetic charade that is the “work” of the Republican rank and file for years now, and were a book to be made, the latest chapter would likely be called “Pointing Fingers and Doing Nothing”. Perhaps that’s what the whole book should be called, given the Republican history of scapegoating and stalemating. Ever since Barack Obama upset the conservative agenda by taking the White House in 2008 Republicans have done little more than fight to regain control. Once they have that control, even to the smallest extent, they have inevitably tipped their hand to reveal their true intentions.

We have seen time and time again that the conservative agenda is not in the interest of The People but that of Corporate America and Wall Street. They hit the campaign trail spouting everything their constituency wants to hear- that they care deeply about the American people, and that their actions are in the interest of the American people. But they don’t care, and their actions aren’t in anyone’s interest but their own. They have show us that time and time again.

They fought tooth and nail against The Affordable Care Act (which most of their constituents know only as “Obamacare”- try asking them to name the bill next time it comes up) despite the fact that its primary purpose was to allow Americans to receive health care that they desperately need.

They constantly resist worker unionization and collective bargaining, not because they think it is in the interest of the American people, but because it cuts into the bottom line of corporate profits.

They paint the teachers who educate our children as greedy socialists, while they support paying them a barely living wage and our rankings for education among the international community drop further and further behind the pack.

They preach jobs while supporting companies that ship them overseas.

They prioritize cutting taxes on the rich over spending money to feed our poor.

They ignore the fact that our society is less equal than Tunesia, while claiming that it’s “unfair” to allow earmarks that go towards scholarships and grants for college education.

I could go on and on, but the fact remains that Republicans have never once taken a stance on a major issue that was not in the interest of corporations or the wealthiest Americans (or a Christian religious agenda, but that’s a discussion for another day).

Soon, our nation will reach the debt ceiling. Republican leaders could actually do the responsible thing and reach a compromise with Democrats before the 11th hour in order to solve the problem and avoid a media frenzy, but instead we hear about them storming out of meetings like 5-year olds throwing tantrums. I think that the ceiling is going to be raised. No- I know that the ceiling is going to be raised, because it has to be. What we are seeing (yet again) is that which is of true importance to Republican leadership- political posturing and blame-laying. The fact that they will keep resisting until the last minute and then reach a compromise merely demonstrates that they care only about getting sensational news coverage that they can try to spin in their favor to further influence their largely misinformed, Fox News-watching constituency.

Obama is president. He is not in control of the debt ceiling. Congress is in control of the debt ceiling. This issue does, however, have the potential to significantly effect many Americans if an agreement is not reached. A delay beyond the default date could result in millions of deserving, taxpaying Americans not receiving services that they need. The Republicans realize that since so many Americans don’t know who their state’s representatives are, or understand how the government works, or realize how their little strategy undermines their comprehension of the reality of the situation, they will blame Obama. And the Republicans will blame him too. That’s all they really want- to make Obama look bad so they stand a chance at reclaiming the presidency and getting another corporate-favoring puppet back in the White House. They want yet another another reckless Reaganesque presidency, and they’ll cling to trickle-down, “commonsense” (read: oversimplified) theories and rhetoric until they either get it or become irrelevant.

I say we make them irrelevant. I say we call bullshit, as a nation. Over the coming weeks, pay attention to what’s really going on. Pay attention to who is actually offering compromise (and by the way, when conservatives offer a “compromise” which totally negates the democrats terms terms of the bargain, that is not a compromise, it’s just more political posturing to allow more finger-pointing to get under way). Pay attention not just to who SAYS they’re acting in the interests of the American people, but to who really DOES SOMETHING in the interest of the American people. Talk is cheap, learn the facts.

We should remember that the American people’s interests are not those of letting large, private corporations make record profits while shipping jobs overseas, they’re those of helping people who need it in the way they need to be helped so that they can stand a chance at attaining the American dream. Don’t we want that dream to be accessible to all? Won’t that make it more accessible to you? When did we start to empathize with those who have already made it instead of those who are struggling to do so?

The Republican party thinks you’re stupid, America. I think they’re wrong. I think that we can one day come to see through their deceptive tactics, and in the end we will see progress.

Painfully. Slow. Progress.


True Patriots Support Atheists!

“I don’t know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”
– President George H. W. Bush

This 4th of July, Americans from all walks of life will come out to celebrate our nation’s independence, as they do every year. Unfortunately, a certain group of Americans, one of the most commonly and casually discriminated against, has met some serious resistance in their efforts to take part in the celebrations. Atheists, many of whom are veterans or active members of our military, have raised over 20,000 dollars as part of a campaign to display pro-atheist messages on plane-mounted banners over 27 locations today. Their campaign has been stalled, mainly due to private pilots’ unwillingness to participate in an activity (flying the banners) that may be perceived by many as anti-religious.

This isn’t an unfounded concern. One man, an atheist, reportedly told CNN that he “won’t fly it because [he] can’t wear a bulletproof vest.” I think this speaks to our nation’s state of mind as a whole, and gives atheists and humanists such as myself all the more reason to become even more vocal.The more we are perceived the more people will realize that we are perfectly normal human beings who have just as much of a right to express our views as anyone else. The more this is realized and embraced, the less likely private businesses will feel the need to discriminate against providing communication services (a banner communicating that atheists too are patriotic, for instance) to nonbelievers.

I am a patriot. I believe that there is great value in the responsiveness of the American democracy, the dynamism of American culture, and the breadth of American freedoms. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the men and women who have spoken, argued, fought, bled and died to make such a society possible.

On the other hand, I believe that it is the freedoms of those who are the least popular by which the true extent of American freedom should be gauged. I’m not talking about freedoms that have been guaranteed by our government or our constitution- these pilots are part of the private sector and it is surely their right to refuse service, particularly if they feel it is in the interest of their business. What I’m talking about is the American attitude that makes such a refusal in their interest in the first place.

We have long been a country that prides itself on its willingness to embrace notions of equality and freedom. I choose today to remind the American people that if we really want to aspire to such ideals, if as patriots we really want to uphold the visions of our nation’s founders and our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, it is first and foremost the responsibility of us citizens to embrace and embody them. At this point, no amount of legislative proselytizing or judicial decision-making can ensure our freedoms as effectively as we ensure them for ourselves.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
-Evelyn Beatrice Hall

As we celebrate the independence of our great nation with food and drink and fireworks, we should remember those ideals that unite us in celebration. We should, as we have, so many times throughout our history, put aside our petty disagreements and toast to not just our personal visions of the American dream, but to the diversity of perspectives on which our great democracy thrives. It is this push and pull that separates us from other nations of the world, many of which suffer from oppressions of majority despite democratic governmental systems. Our nation is a true melting pot and that is why we are capable of overcoming whatever obstacles to freedom and equality we are faced with!

The issue of pro-atheistic banners is sure to rub people of many religions the wrong way, much in the same way religious banners would likely rub atheists the wrong way. If a religious group wants to raise money and fly their own banners they are obviously welcome to do so. Can you imagine the total shit-storm that would commence were a pilot to refuse to fly a banner that proclaimed that Christianity is patriotic?

To reiterate a point that was recently relayed to me by my wife, it is by challenging our perspectives that we create the opportunity to either reform or reaffirm them. We should always seek to challenge our perspectives so that in the end they are well-considered and can serve as a reliable basis for decision-making throughout life. As I see it, even though only 17 of the 85 pilots asked to fly patriotic atheist banners today will actually be flying, that’s 17 more than have ever been flown on any previous 4th of July. I consider that to be a sign of great progress for a society in which a significant portion of the population holds views like this. Thus,I count it as a win not only for Atheism, but for America and American progress.

Painfully. Slow. Progress.


Glenn Beck is a Propagandist: Video by Media Matters

Glenn Beck, the Fox “News” personality that we’ve all either grown to love or hate, is finally leaving the network (although there are many rumors that he will be getting his own TV channel, the programming of which many assume will consist mainly of cartoons voiced by Beck himself). His last show aired yesterday, due mainly to his failing ratings and advertiser boycotts. His has been a special kind of television programming, one that represents one of the most extensive attempts at propagandization to ever be affected upon the American people.

I, personally, am not persuaded by his repetitious buzzwords and “this isn’t a conspiracy theory” conspiracy theories, but I know that there are many Americans out there who are. Isn’t it ironic that we teach our children about the propaganda techniques employed throughout history and yet a significant portion of our own population blindly follows what even ex-Nazis recognize as propaganda? Well I think we’re smarter than that, we’re better than that here in the U.S.

I think there is always going to be a certain portion of the population, an increasing minority, that are convinced by such meaningless games of association. Nonetheless, the fact remains that we are not part of some sick reiteration of history, no matter how much Glenn might want us to believe so. This is our generation and we’re going to do it our way. With the increasing prevalence of the Internet in society today, we have never had more of a capacity to debunk such shallow, biased claims as his. Ironically, I think one of the reasons that Glenn’s ratings have gone downhill over the last year is that many of his viewers are actually taking his advice- they’re “doing their own homework.”

Media Matters, (just another Soros front, to be sure) recently released a compilation of clips from Glenn’s show to commemorate it’s ending. I think the video illustrates the shameless use of buzzwords, random use of associations to Fascists, Socialists, Nazis (and many other ideologies that are in fact at odds with each other, but all have negative associations in the minds of the American people), his emotional argumentation, and his appeals to self-authority. Near the end, the video devolves into Beck making a bunch of silly faces, and then a clipped-together scene of him apologizing for his own show. I find that to be only fitting given that Beck has always been a fan of taking things out of context. The video follows. Try not to laugh.

Painfully. Slow. Progress.


The Transportation “Security” Administration is a Fucking Joke

One of the most go-to answers for why U.S. citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights are violated is that it is in the interest of national security. For those who don’t know, the Fourth Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Apparently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has interpreted this provision of our Constitution to mean that it is acceptable for them to force a 95 year old woman, with cancer, in a wheelchair, to remove her adult diaper in order to pass through security.  I may be alone, but I happen to be of the opinion that if the terrorists are putting explosives in this woman’s Depends, we might as well just let it lie- they’ve won.

But on a more serious note, this situation clearly illustrates the extent of the discretion that we have not only permitted, but encouraged to be placed in the hands of the TSA. The TSA has stood behind the actions of its officers, saying that in regard to this incident, they “acted professionally and according to proper procedure.” Not only have our representatives gone along with such actions in the past, to a large extent they have applauded them. Hell, who could possibly come out against National Security?

“National Security” is doublespeak. It’s a clever little term used to make it sting a bit less when our rights are infringed upon. We don’t really increase the security of the country by letting the TSA violate our constitutional rights. We have seen time and time again that we are fighting an illusive, intelligent enemy. If we make people start taking their shoes off, they put the bombs in their underwear. If we install machines that sniff for explosives, they bring the ingredients and make the bombs in the bathrooms. If we restrict liquids, they set off bombs in baggage claim.  We seem to only think reactively about security, while our enemy thinks only proactively. This is stupid, on our part.

And seriously people, what makes you think the terrorists share our fixation with airplanes? There is no limit to the number of places where Americans gather en masse that are considered just as viable of targets. The Fort Hood and Pentagon shootings have proven that. All a terrorist has to do is get a visa and come to America (assuming they’re not already an American resident/citizen) and not bring any weapons with them on the trip (whatever they might bring is already here anyway). Lucky for them we have yet to create a Department of Thought Crime, though we seem to be getting closer to doing so every day.

Over the last ten years, I have heard little other than praise for the lengths to which the TSA has gone to protect our safety, and yet the whole time I find myself curious as to how exactly they have been able to gauge their great successes. We don’t hear about people who are stopped at these TSA checkpoints who were actually trying to get a bomb or a weapon onboard a plane. What we do hear about is people who have gotten through security, and then are taken down by passengers on the plane. In fact, so far, the two most proven counter-terrorist devices on airliners are passenger reaction and lockable cockpit doors.

Why do we even bother with intrusive security when anybody who cares to can gain access to “secure” areas of an airport. I’ll tell you why. It’s a show. The whole thing is an attempt to prove to the American people that the government is capable of defending against a threat that cannot really be defended against. Unfortunately, the threat against which our government purports to protect us is as difficult to pin down as mustard gas, and in our attempts to resist it we only increase our exposure. That’s not to mention that when we increase security, and particularly when we allow such security to encroach upon our freedoms as Americans, the terrorists win.

What do you think they’re trying to do when they blow up a building, or hijack an airplane? Do you really think that their ultimate goal is to kill a hundred, even a few thousand of the over 300 million American people? Would you consider that an effective way to topple an empire such as ours? They are trying to destroy our nation by eroding and eventually eliminating the freedoms that we stand for. Like the soviets during the cold war, they realize that the most effective strategy is one that causes us to fear and suspect each other. Their methods are terroristic because they know that they stand no chance of defeating us in physical warfare. When we succumb to their reverse-psychological terror tactics, and restrict our right to live free from unreasonable searches, we are in essence telling them that what they are doing is working.

So what to do? Get mad! Nothing is going to change while you’re sitting on your ass reading my incoherent ramblings. The TSA isn’t going to just give up the power that has been vested in it. Your congressmen aren’t going to say anything that might suggest that they’re opposed to an agency that falls into the “National Security” category unless they think their jobs are on the line over it. Stop buying into the idea that “National Security” is such a bulletproof excuse for anything. Talk to people about these issues, and talk particularly loudly about them in airports. If you’re feeling ballsy, tell the TSA exactly how you feel. We do supposedly have a freedom of speech in this country, and if the Westboro church is allowed to say what they want you should be able to as well.

If you loudly vocalize your dissent the TSA might detain you, or search you more thoroughly, but if you don’t do anything wrong they can’t do anything to you other than that. If they do something that harms you physically, mentally, or financially, sue them. If they detain you for speaking out, tell people how unreasonable that is. It will only give credence to the fact that theirs is not an administration of security, but one of the illusion of power and control. Their power is what we give them. Their control is what we allow. Think of it like this- if speaking out does nothing else, it will at least get them to think twice before messing with your grandma’s adult diapers. At this point, I count that as a win.

Painfully. Slow. Progress.


Rebuild the Dream!

Get motivated, get involved, and together we can Rebuild the Dream! Learn more about the movement at http://www.rebuildthedream.com/


The Nanny State is Evil! And Then We Woke Up.

It’s your own damned fault that you’re poor! You haven’t worked hard enough! You should reap what you sow! The Nanny State is destroying America’s economy! I shouldn’t have to pay for my neighbor’s well-being! It’s socialism! All of these arguments and more will be knocked down in today’s edition of… The Nanny State is Evil! And Then We Woke Up.

Many of those who deplore U.S. entitlement programs maintain the perspective that because they worked hard and were able to succeed, everyone else is able to so long as they work hard enough. Hell, who can blame them, that’s the God-damned American Dream. Unfortunately, it’s also a logical fallacy. Just because you went out and worked hard and were able to get and keep a job, get medical benefits, save for retirement, etc., doesn’t mean that hard work was the only reason that things worked out. There are many Americans out there who are extremely driven individuals, some of whom likely work much harder than you or I on a daily basis, and yet because of a slew of other major factors (including sheer luck) they will never manage to breach the poverty line.

“So what?” You may ask. “I got mine and they can get theirs.” And to some extent this is true, there are many people out there who will. Every now and then though, things go wrong. Companies go under and renig on pensions. There are thousands of instances of financial abuse (especially of the elderly) in our country, and such cases often go unresolved because the people no longer have any money to hire a lawyer. Some people are born with mental or physical handicaps. Some people are not intelligent enough to learn to read. People who can’t afford a kid get pregnant (and remember, most conservatives are against abortion). Some people will never be able to afford to go to college, and will only be able to get jobs that hire high school diplomas and pay accordingly. Some people get involved in gangs as a means for survival, and end up on the wrong side of a prison wall, later emerging into a society that significantly stigmatizes any kind of criminal record.  There are hundreds of different cancers, most of which your insurance probably won’t pay to treat long-term, and none of them are cheap to treat. That’s not to mention that with the current state of our health care system, we are all just one major accident away from having to declare bankruptcy.

America’s entitlement programs are in place to address these kinds of injustices. One of the failings of capitalism is that at its core it is a socially Darwinistic enterprise. Our society’s way of acknowledging and addressing that failing is through democratically socialist entitlement programs (not to be confused with socialism). A sufficient percentage of red-blooded Americans did in fact vote to put those programs into play. The people who voted for those programs were acknowledging the ailments of a capitalistic society with no safety nets, and were reacting to the innate human desire to address them (see: The Golden Rule).

It is our modern disconnection with the practical realities of the world, combined with the self-centered perspectives that are the result of our evolutionary nature, that have driven a large percentage of the American population to take the opportunities that they have had in life for granted. The result is that there are people fervently advocating policy changes that will leave some of our country’s most vulnerable and needy in the lurch.

Yes, there will be fraud. Yes, there will be people who try to take advantage of the system. Yes, there will be people who spend their entitlement benefits on crack cocaine. But we have ways of addressing these issues. We can improve these systems to more carefully monitor their beneficiaries. We can (and do) impose drug testing and provide treatment for addictions. We can and do fight back against fraud and prosecute fraudsters. Fraud will always exist, as in any similar system, but it is not an excuse for cutting funding to the program as a whole. Cutting funding results in the punishment of all beneficiaries, rather than those who have defrauded the system. Additionally, it reduces the resources that are needed to police and prosecute violators. It’s a clumsy and broad stroke for but a few pencil-thin problems, and I’m sick of that kind of bullheaded thinking. I’m especially sick of the lazy thinking that says the solution is to get rid of entitlements altogether.

One of my fellow law students was telling me that he considers any form of taxation to constitute a confiscation of personal property (he’s a big libertarian, so this was rather unsurprising). He went on to say that because he acknowledged that the state does collect taxes, it should only be justified in collecting taxes that result in a benefit being conferred upon him. What does that imply about his opinions on wheelchair ramps? Well one might reason that a wheelchair ramp is something that we can all get behind, because were we to one day be bound to a wheelchair, we would suddenly find them to be massively helpful.

The example of the wheelchair ramp is ripe for analogy. In this analogy, the wheelchair ramp is our safety net of entitlement programs. The chance of becoming wheelchair bound is the chance that you may not have enough money to feed your kids, or the chance that your pension will go belly up, or etc. There comes a time where we must put aside shortsighted and irrational notions that we are invulnerable to the inevitable chaos of the world we live in and admit that in creating a safety net for others, we create one for ourselves. If you want to talk about taking responsibility for your future, and your children’s future, then I can see no sounder path.

One of the most common tactics being proposed by conservative representatives today is that in order to help the economy, we should cut spending on entitlement programs that millions currently rely on, such as Medicare. They offer this as a means to reduce the deficit and stave off our country’s growing national debt. While I would agree that we can and should “trim the fat” on government spending, I think the last place we need to do it is in the social services department. Conservatives know that the democrats in Congress will not go along with such a cold-hearted proposal, so that makes it clear that the true Republican intention is to create a stalemate so as to make Obama look like he can’t get anything done. Mission fucking accomplished.

A more practical and reasonable solution overall would be to raise taxes on the rich, particularly given that the top 1% of our population now possesses over 70% of the nation’s wealth. In addition, we should close tax loopholes being exploited by large corporations, and even just enforce the current corporate tax rates. It does not make sense that our Congress is considering cutting Medicare benefits while simultaneously GE paid no taxes whatsoever last year and in fact received a refund. It’s a travesty, and it’s morally indefensible.

Now I can understand where some of my libertarian and conservative colleagues come from when they advocate against socially democratic programs and policies. These attitudes stem from an ideological adhesion to the principles of personal property and an idolization of the free market economy. What I don’t understand is how they can ignore the results. Our country has been running that course for some time now, and where has it gotten us?

America is comprised of some of the most self-righteous people in the world. We constantly parade about claiming to be number 1 in every respect, despite the fact that we are rarely in the top ten in any regard (if you don’t believe me, go search for statistics on our world rankings in health care, education, teacher salaries, life expectancy, corruption, or democracy- they aren’t difficult to find). We’re overweight, we drive massive cars that produce massive amounts of pollution and CO2, and we endorse retributive systems of crime and punishment despite evidence that systems of crime and rehabilitation are not only less costly but more effective. I could go on, but I’ll save it for another day.

When faced with all of these realities, we, as a nation, simply shake our heads and cling to our previously held beliefs. As with religion, these beliefs are not based on logic or evidence, they are based on what we have been told by similarly deluded individuals as well as how we already believe the world to be. What we believe frequently has little or no bearing on reality. If we can comprehend this simple lesson, perhaps one day we can leave behind our nation’s propaganda and self-denial, and begin to truly progress.

Painfully. Slow. Progress.


Want to Vote? Pay Up.

Ohio House Bill 194 (HB 194/SB 148) contains provisions that require voters to produce state-issued identification in order to vote. State-issued IDs cost money. The bill contains no provisions that change that. Courts across the United States (including the Supreme Court in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections) have ruled time and time again that it is unlawful to require people to have to pay any kind of fee whatsoever in order to gain access to the polls. Although many of us consider the cost of obtaining an ID to be trivial, there are people out there who do not. This means that this bill has the potential to offhandedly disenfranchise an unknown number of U.S. citizens. In my opinion, one is too many.

The provisions in question were amended into HB 194 on June 21st, and no comment period was allowed. When a piece of legislation is proposed, it is normally considered appropriate that those who will be affected by its provisions be given an opportunity to present their concerns to the legislature in some way. The reason this is considered appropriate is that it allows the legislature to at least have the opportunity to understand the full implications of the laws that it is putting into effect. This makes perfect sense- perspectives vary, and full disclosure can only lead to more well-informed decisions.

The Ohio legislature’s justification for adding the provisions is that requiring state-issued ID will serve to resist voter fraud. On its face, this seems reasonable. The only problem is that absolutely no evidence has been offered that might suggest that voter fraud is even an issue in Ohio. Generally speaking, if the legislature is going to put something into law, shouldn’t there be a well-supported reason, instead of a vague and conclusory one? Shouldn’t this especially be the case when provisions have the potential to result in disenfranchisement? Apparently the Ohio legislature doesn’t think so.

Why might the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature support a bill that disenfranchises the poor? Well, the poor tend to vote for people on the left because they tend to support social programs that benefit or protect the poor. If people on the right can stop people on the left from voting, then that’s that many fewer votes conservative candidates will have to generate in order to win elections. How very democratic of Ohio Republicans. Just as an observation, I haven’t heard of any voter disenfranchisement schemes coming from the left.

Be that as it may, we’ll find out what the Ohio judiciary thinks about the situation soon enough, because the ACLU is filing suit on behalf of Ohio voters. What a bunch of liberal-commie scum.

Painfully. Slow. Progress.


Anti-Illegal Immigration is Killing America

We all know someone who is anti- illegal immigration. Their attitudes range from those who want illegal immigrants out because they’re stealing American jobs, to those who want illegal immigrants out simply because they’re illegal. On their face, these arguments seem reasonable. In practice, these arguments are not at all reasonable.

Take, for instance, Georgia’s new immigration law that goes into effect on July 1st. This law will require that all employers verify that their employees have legal statuses in order to continue to employ them. If an illegal is discovered, the law gives police the authority to turn illegals over to federal authorities, who will undoubtedly deport them. Problem solved, right?

Wrong. Illegal immigrants, upon learning of the new legislation, have begun to flee Georgia in the thousands. Farmers in Georgia, who have come to rely on illegals as the bulk of their workforce, have been left holding the shit end of the stick. They are left with hardly anyone willing to take the place of the fleeing workers, and even those who are willing to perform the menial, backbreaking labor that illegals were responsible for are unwilling to do so at the pitiful wages that the farmers are offering. That’s not to mention that if you employ American citizens, they’re subject to American employment law, like minimum wage. Farmers have gotten used to avoiding these laws by hiring illegals (that includes food giants like Monsanto).

Now we have already pushed a huge percentage of our food production off of American soil and South of the border. It turns out people in South America will work for a lot less, and private corporations (who, believe me, have much more interest in making money than they do in the good of the American people) have already started taking advantage of that.  This means that even if we assume that every state in the U.S. were to some how miraculously follow suit and pass anti-immigration laws like Georgia’s, we would only be pushing the work further away from home, and putting even more money into corporate coffers instead of America’s stifled economy.

Maybe instead of treating the symptom we should treat the cause. If the American legislature were to make a law that required that all persons, regardless of proof of citizen ship, be subject to American wage and working condition regulations, and have access to legal recourse in the even that those rights are violated, then we could see some change. If farmers had to pay these workers a fair wage, and basically treat them like they would treat an American worker or even a legal immigrant, farmers would have no incentive to continue to hire illegals. Their incentive would be to hire the best workers, and if the American workforce is so capable and motivated that it wants those jobs, they can go and get them.

Now some of you may be thinking that by guaranteeing a better wage to illegals, we would be encouraging more and more illegals to come across the border from Mexico. That is in fact incorrect. The reason that illegals are currently flooding across the border is that we have an abundance of low-level jobs available, and although the pay is a pittance it is a fortune compared to what they could earn at home. They come knowing that these jobs are going to be available, because Americans are unwilling to work for such low wages. If the wages are made equal, like I suggest they should be, then that labor vacuum will be sealed and the practically guaranteed availability of work for illegals will disappear. Immigration problem solved.

It is these kind of well-thought out strategies that treat the real cause of our problems. Those Americans who think that we can solve the problem by treating the symptom are just wrong. It seems counter-intuitive, but it is in fact logically sound. This is why our forefathers put so much value on equality and the maintenance of a free market. Right now, well, the free market is a FARCE, and I think deep down we all know it.

Painfully. Slow. Progress.


It’s Only War When Real People Get Killed

We are at war with Libya. We are using our Air Force to drop bombs on Libyan soil. We are using unmanned drones to drop bombs on Libyan soil. We are  launching Tomahawk missiles at Libyan soil. Libyan civilians are being killed, in the thousands, by our bombs, on Libyan soil. If we came close enough that Libyan forces could do us harm, they would. We are at war with Libya.

Unfortunately, President Obama disagrees with me (this does not happen very often). He contends that our engagements in Libya are not war, they’re… they’re… well they’re not war. He says since U.S. forces aren’t in jeopardy, it doesn’t count (Unilateral war isn’t war? Good one). That pretty much sums up what he’s told us so far.

Why doesn’t Obama want to call our engagements in Libya war? Because if these are acts of war, he would be required by both the Constitution and the War Powers Act of 1973 to seek congressional approval to continue. He doesn’t think he would get that approval, so he’s avoiding seeking it.

Now there is something to be said for that. I think we can all agree that Libya was just a few steps away from full-on genocide when coalition forces first intervened. On the other hand, NATO forces responded and are in fact still overseeing operations in Libya. Just because we can get involved, doesn’t mean we should. We are in the midst of an economic stall, one that is only worsened by political divisiveness and stalemates.

Also, given the massive sums of money that we’ve spent on wars over the last ten years alone, and the number of innocent civilians we’ve slaughtered in the process (whoever calls them “surgical airstrikes” can operate on someone else), it doesn’t seem so unreasonable that the American people have a say in where we get involved. Congress, as representatives of the people, needs to have the opportunity to speak on their behalf. My guess is that at this point in time, given the state of the economy, their answer to the question of whether we should be involved might be a resounding “HELL NO!” Then again, given the fact that as a NATO ally we are at least partially obligated to offer assistance, they might vote to have our military act in a strictly support role.

But I speculate. The point is this- the reason the Constitution and the War Powers Act require the approval of the legislative branch is to keep the decision of whether our country starts or engages in armed conflicts with other countries in the hands of many, as opposed to the hands of just one. These provisions are what solidify our country as a democracy, rather than some sort of military dictatorship. When I hear that Obama is ordering airstrikes in Libya without congressional approval because he was somehow able to finagle out of the definition of “war”, it feels extremely undemocratic to me, not to mention that it smacks of total bullshit.

I, like Obama, do believe that the U.S. can be a force for good in the world. However, I think if we are going to exercise our power internationally then it needs to be in a carefully regulated and well-thought out manner, preferably a democratic one. Simply manufacturing and taking advantage of a loophole is not well- thought out. In this instance, it opens the door to attack anyone on a whim, so long as we’re careful not to come into firing distance of those we want to attack. By that reasoning, we could send a stealth bomber to drop another nuke on Hiroshima, and it wouldn’t be a problem, because that is not an act of war. Yeah, that makes sense. Wait. No.

Painfully. Slow. Progress.