Archive for August 2015

Scott Walker

I just listened to Meet the Press interview Scott Walker.  Here is my conclusion:  If you believe what he says, you should vote for him and we will fix everything.  If you fact check what he says, which Meet the Press did not do, you would think he is grossly unqualified for any office.  He is living in La La Land.  So it’s your choice.  If you too are in La La Land, you may find that your assumptions and beliefs when put into action in the real world will produce results that will horrify you.  Be careful what you wish for especially if your beliefs are firmly grounded in fantasy land.

Immigration

My local paper (Sacramento Bee) indicated that Chinese and Indian immigrants now out number Hispanics immigrants  coming into this country, legal or undocumented.  I don’t remember any of those people on our Southern border so why again do we need a wall?  Oh, and even more basic, what again is the problem?  Most are over staying work or tourist visas for China and India, and those coming in from Mexico fill jobs most of you won’t do.  So what again is the problem?  Europe is having problems convincing people to have babies (also Japan) because they are losing populations.  We, on the other hand, still have a growing population due to immigration.  Why again is this a problem?  Be careful what you wish for.

Whose Rights

Alison Parker’s father was speaking to the press today beseeching them to stay on this story so we can do something about these senseless killings.  One reporter pointed out that even with stringent background checks, Vester Flanagan would have been able to legally get a gun.  He indicated that maybe we just need to make small steps at first, but there must be a way to detect troubled individuals and he would work to find a way.

The only thing wrong with Mr. Parker’s analysis is that he is not digging deep enough and examining our basic assumption about guns.  Up until the Roberts’ court decision in 2008 (In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision that held the amendment protects an individual right to possess and carry firearms.) Government had the right to control fire arms.  In this very bad reading of the Constitution, the Supreme Court made it a natural right of individuals (not part of a well regulated militia).

Thus from that point on, it is up to the government to show why an individual should not have a fire arm instead of it being the individual’s responsibility to show a need for, and responsible use of a fire arm.  So we have weighted the system toward the nut.  Reality somewhere in here has to say we are on the wrong track.  With our country the only one that has the easy access to guns, we are by far more deadly than other countries; the South is the most violent region in the United States; more guns tend to mean more homicide; and states with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence (Washington Post).  This data screams out for a change in the way we see gun ownership.

Until we recognize that the general welfare requires a change in attitude and law about the right to own a gun, nothing will change.  Until we give up the belief that we need guns to protect us from big bad government when in fact our weapons are the real problem, we are going nowhere.  That would be the fundamental change that would save untold  lives, but so far,  it is the third rail of politics so the mayhem   continues.  Good luck Mr. Parker.  I will support you no matter what we can actually get done. I know what it feels like to lose a daughter.

A Disturbing Analogy

Today in the Daily Beast was an article about Vester Flanagan’s filthy appartment that might reflect on his deteriorating mental state.  Here is what we know:  His career was not going anywhere and worse, it was deteriorating.  As things did not work out, he was combative and blaming racial prejudice or professional jealousy for his problems.  It got worse and his final stop at WDBJ-TV was where his career basically ended.  He even tried the courts and lost.  Seeing those at the station as ruining him because he was black, and gay, he decided to wreck the whole system by taking his revenge on two innocent and decent employees.

I think I have that about right. Okay now for the disturbing analogy, the right wing of the Republican Party.  Things haven’t worked out for them.  White people are losing their majority.  They are starting to see themselves losing ground economically and they are blaming others.  Their economic philosophy has proved to be a bust. They elected the Tea Party to “take back their country” and all they achieved was to make government totally dysfunctional.  So immigrants are taking their jobs, stealing their government benefits, with terrorist, criminals, and rapists at the border, just waiting to come in.  

So in an act of desperation and to lash out, along comes Donald Trump channeling their paranoia and hate.  He offers them no way forward, just to get rid of all the stupid people.  It’s the Vester Flanagan solution at the ballot box.  Scary isn’t it?

Some Friday Musings

Republican strategists slay me.  Generally speaking they have sold their soul and are now equivocating.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

When they talk of Bernie Sanders, then he is an “avowed Socialist”.  They make it sound like he is an avowed  communist or an avowed terrorist.  Since many on the right don’t know the difference, they all sound the same, and really scary.  And of course Senator Sanders is a social democrat who would see a more equitable distribution of wealth much like they have in Europe.  Capitalism is fine as long as it is reigned in so the profits are more equitably shared.  His proposals are quite modest and intuitive since our economy is screaming for more buying power for the middle class, but we will never get to that discussion because once you are an “avowed socialist”, you needn’t go any further and our media seems to ignore him.

But my other favorite is how Republican strategists now handle the Donald phenomena.  Remember at first they were claiming that they had a deep bench of presidential candidates with lots of management experience which has now been belied by their attempt to out Trump Trump, and their latest utterances on the falling markets.  Now that the reality of the Donald is out there, xenophobia, racism, nativism, without a realistic policy to do anything other than I am smart, I am rich, everyone in Washington is stupid, I will take care of it, they have to deal with him.  They have to deal with the fact that he did not fade and he has substantial support.

So the other day, one strategist was asked a direct question of how is the party handling this race to the bottom, this appeal to racist xenophobia without any realistic approach to anything.  Let the dancing begin.  And now ladies and gentlemen is the best dodge I have heard in years:  “He is touching a deep dissatisfaction with Washington and politics as usual,  They are unhappy with the established party and are looking for a candidate that seems genuine.”

The trouble with that answer is that what the Donald is touching and they are cheering is racism, xenophobia, nativism, and most importantly anti intellectualism.  There is no there there, and he is leading an ugly mob looking to blame everything they don’t like on someone else (Vester Flanagan anyone?).  It is denial of choice of the mainstream Republicans.  Somehow it is okay, and they will not distance themselves from it because there is obviously support for the Donald.  The voters are telling us something important.  Really?  Support for hate, vulgarity, rudeness and stupidity?  Now you know how far the Republican Party has fallen trying to hang on to yesterday and gain power.

And that my friends is what conservatism is.  I just started reading Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind, and here is how he describes conservatism:

For that is what conservatism is: a meditation on—and theoretical rendition of—the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.

That is what is going on here and the Donald, enabled by the rest of the sorry bunch of Republicans, is appealing to the base instincts of the human animal to hold on to power and to keep things the way they were perceived to be when they were in charge.  Ever since the “Southern Strategy” it has been clear that Republicans have no moral foundations other than maintaining their own power base.  What they believe is malleable to that end.  Scary isn’t it.

Real leadership would fight these base instincts, but Republicans have a real problem here.  They are wrong on most issues and to maintain power they have to deny reality.  To do that, well, we need boggy men in the form of stupid managers, swarming brown skin barbarians, crafty Chinese business men, and lets not forget those Asian anchor babies.  That is where the Republican Party has gone and while you can argue that it is only 15-20 percent of the voter base, they control everything the Republicans do, and that my friends is what the Republican Party is today.

Everyone Has Had a Vester

If you have been a manager and you supervise people, sooner or later you will run into a Vester (Vester Lee Flanagan).  That would be the one person who really is not performing and when you try to help them, they blame everyone around them.  A few come around, but most have deeper problems that will not allow them to either see the problem is them, or that they are simply not suited for the job.  They spew blame and stew in paranoia .

But Vester was a special problem because he was a minority.  Everyone (supervisors especially) walk around on egg shells around minorities who are not performing well.  Some of it is well intentioned.  Maybe we really don’t understand and we just need to work with them more.  But the elephant in the room is a discrimination complaint and how HR (Human Relations) is set up to complicate everyone’s life in an investigation.  I am not saying that this is not necessary, in many cases it is and does expose discrimination.  But the whole system leans over backwards to make sure justice is done and along the way puts the onus on the supervisor.

So the Vesters usually get the benefit of the doubt and to remove them is a long process.  Sadly in many organizations, the taint of an EEO (Equal Employment Complaint) is not worth it, and the employee will get shuffled somewhere laterally where the ticking time bomb ticks.  It would appear that WDBJ-TV, where he worked, did all they could, and not only suffered the EEO investigation, but a civil court claim.  Good for them.  

But one thing in this whole affair struck me.  As I understand it, he had similar problems previously, yet WDJB-TV indicated that when they hired him, he had good references.  If that is true, someone ducked their responsibility to properly inform WDJB-TV of his problems.  I wonder if that was because they were trying to avoid further problems with Vester.  If that is the case, well we have a problem Huston.  In this case it cost lives.

Thoughts About Gun Violence From the Past

When I was a teenager, I was addicted to Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novels.  One written in 1955, Tunnel in the Sky, had an interesting thought that comes back to me as I look at the more and more guns society we live in.  The basic plot describes a group of students teleported to an uninhabited planet on a survival test, who soon realise they are stranded there.  As Wikipedia tells us:

Rod Walker is a high school student who dreams of becoming a professional colonist. The final test of his Advanced Survival class is to stay alive on an unfamiliar planet for between two and ten days. Students may team up and equip themselves with whatever gear they can carry, but are otherwise completely on their own. They are told only that the challenges are neither insurmountable nor unreasonable. On test day, each student walks through the Ramsbotham portal and finds him or herself alone on a strange planet, though reasonably close to the pickup point. Rod, acting on his older sister’s advice, takes hunting knives and basic survival gear rather than high-tech weaponry, on the grounds that the latter could make him over-confident. 

 

As the plot unfolds, Rod, with only hunting knives takes a very cautious approach to exploring and surviving on the planet.  It is not long before he comes across the dead bodies of those who brought high-tech weaponry and over estimated their capabilities.  Now the lesson here is obvious.  The more guns we have the more likely we are to be over-confident and allow ourselves to be too aggressive in situations where we should back off.  Apparently not enough people have read the novel and got the lesson.

Guns, Guns, and More Guns

In the aftermath of the killing of the two journalist yesterday in Roanoke Virginia, I listened to the father of  Alison Parker, the female journalist who was shot down, make a pledge to fight for more sanity about our gun laws.  It is heart wrenching, yet futile.  If Sandy Hook could not move Republicans* to do anything, even background checks, nothing will.  He made a plea that said while he believed in the 2nd Amendment, we should be able to keep the guns out of the hands of unstable people.

I think he makes a critical mistake in agreeing with the 2nd Amendment as interpreted by the Roberts’ Court.  It is an extreme departure from earlier rulings, saying that it guarantees an individual’s right to bear arms.  That is not what it says at all if you take it in its historical context.  Here is what earlier courts have ruled:

In United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that, “The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence” and limited the applicability of the Second Amendment to the federal government. In United States v. Miller (1939), the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government and the states could limit any weapon types not having a “reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia”.

In the twenty-first century, the amendment has been subjected to renewed academic inquiry and judicial interest.[11] In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision that held the amendment protects an individual right to possess and carry firearms.

Our problem is quite simple, too many guns.  The United States is the only country who has this free access to weapons and this type of gun violence.  It is not a coincidence.  In the train incident in France, the fact that a guy had a gun meant he had bad intention.  In America we have open carry laws.  The data is overwhelming.  Where there are more guns, there are more violent gun incidents.

Probably as a start, all guns need to be registered and controlled.  Background checks should be required and we should be limiting firepower by outlawing some weapons and high magazine capacity.  It is a no-brainer, but we have a wild west mentality that thinks only our guns will protect us from the bad guys.

None of this would probably have helped the father of Alison Parker, but it would have save the kids at Sandy Hook and countless others.  I have several guns, one, a .45 issued to my Dad during WWII, and a 30-30 in case I have a coyote, mountain lion, or bear problem (I live in the forest).  I would gladly give them up and take my chances if it would save one life.  Shouldn’t the rest of us?

*It was Republicans primarily who block any action (using the filibuster) to pass gun control legislation after Sandy Hook.

The New Normal

No, I am not talking about global warming.  I am talking about Donald Trump and racist, xenophobic, nativism.  I watched today (when the press gave us a break for the drivel* called reporting in the Virginia slaying), as the Donald did a caricature of a Japanese speaker and it was deplorable.  I look at his crowds and they are mostly fat white people.  They are not horrified by this stereotyping, but energized by it.  That is the new normal.  It’s okay to be an ignorant racist.

The new normal is to just shrug and say well it seems to be working for him, instead of loudly condemning him for it and pointing our his racist stereotyping.  The new normal is to repeat what he says and not fact check it.  The new normal for the Donald crowd is to define this as truth against political correctness, when it is anything but.  The new normal is to define rudeness as the new, telling the truth.  I wonder when we are going to name that and turn our back on this embarrassment?

The problem is that that “deep and experienced field” of Republican candidates are quivering cowards who want to use the Donald’s base when and if he falters so they won’t call him out.  Not because he is a racist, but because it won’t play well in the primary.  But the rest of us, including the media should call him out.  Because if we let it stand, it really does become the new accepted normal.

Oh, and one more thing.  Most of us progressives have noted for years that conservatives have no values.  They define conservatism to fit their need for power.  What is conservative about running up massive debts (Bush).  What is conservative about using government to control women’s bodies?  What is conservative that wants more government surveillance?  But Paul Krugman may have nailed it with this:

Conservative religiosity, conservative faith in markets, were never about living a godly life or letting the invisible hand promote entrepreneurship. Instead, it was all as Corey Robin describes it: 

“Conservatism is a reactionary movement, a defense of power and privilege against democratic challenges from below, particularly in the private spheres of the family and the workplace.”

It’s really about who’s boss, and making sure that the man in charge stays boss. Trump is admired for putting women and workers in their place, and it doesn’t matter if he covets his neighbor’s wife or demands trade wars.

The point is that Trump isn’t a diversion, he’s a revelation, bringing the real motivations of the movement out into the open.

I think that about explains it.  But it doesn’t explain why we tolerate it.

*Note:  Drivel because on the average 34 people die of gun violence a day, many black, but two white “journalist” get killed and it is 24/7, the most important story on TV.  What about the other 32?  Don’t they count?

Squirrel!

Well, I see that there was a tragic shooting in Virgina that killed two people this morning.  Happens all over the country all of the time*, but I guess because it involves an on-air reporter/camera man we get 24/7 coverage of it.  Did the rest of the world stop?  Anybody know what the markets are doing? Has China made any more moves? It is amazing that the stuff that may actually affect our lives gets immediately pushed off the screen for the stuff that absolutely won’t, but if it bleeds, it leads. Wait! Did the Donald say something even more outrageous?

Oh and in the me generation where we can now film our jumping out of planes and extreme rides, we can now film our shootings too.

*Note:  There have been 8,479 deaths so far this year (not including the 3 above (shooter too).  That’s almost 36 a day.  So again, while tragic, why is this event more news worthy than all the others.  Could it be we have film at noon?  A ratings bonanza, but tells us nothing about ourselves that ignoring the other 34 a day does.