December 21, 2012

It isn't the guns. It is the stupid.

God knows I find Joe Scarborough annoying and never watch his show.  His occasional moments of lucidity don't make up for the rest.  And that also applies to his conversion to the gun control side.  But here, I was more listening to the Republican mouthpiece for the NRA, and have to say that Joe is more right here than the doofus.  And you can see the NRA speak here--1) talking about guns is "politicizing" a tragedy. 2) Whatever we say, we can never say that any particular "gun" is a problem.  The problem has to be something else--video games, movies.  His mom.

Meanwhile, here is a little sanity on the suggestion that all of these people are just mentally ill--or at least, mentally ill in any technical way.
But there is overwhelming epidemiological evidence that the vast majority of people with psychiatric disorders do not commit violent acts. Only about 4 percent of violence in the United States  can be attributed to people with mental illness.
Again, I am not saying that the only problem here is guns.  I am not convinced that anyone needs a Bushmaster AR 15 for any legitimate reason beyond just liking the gun.  Nor am I convinced that the Second Amendment was really meant to be a license for everyone to have as many guns as they want.  That "well regulated militia" part just seems to have disappeared.

But by all means, let's fund mental health treatment, and we should do that even if doing so doesn't stop any shootings.  We should do that because it is the right thing to do.  And we can talk about video games and films.  I am unsure their impact, but have no problem with that discussion.  But we also have to talk about angry white males and we have to talk about guns.

December 19, 2012

Does the NRA defend hunters?

Just read this (A Moderate NRA - The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Beast) and was reminded that my early years with the NRA (yes, I was a Junior Member) were all about hunting, and hunter's safety.  As this post suggests, an NRA devoted to that would be more moderate on a lot of environmental issues even if they were still pretty conservative on access to guns.

But they aren't.  I get the sense that the NRA is really only about defending the right to own guns that are about killing people.

And that is a shame.

More on this idea of privatizing security

From Alan Jacobs, via Ta-Nehisi Coates:  ('Order at Universal Gunpoint' - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic):

But what troubles me most about this suggestion -- and the general More Guns approach to social ills -- is the absolute abandonment of civil society it represents. It gives up on the rule of law in favor of a Hobbesian "war of every man against every man" in which we no longer have genuine neighbors, only potential enemies. You may trust your neighbor for now -- but you have high-powered recourse if he ever acts wrongly.
Whatever lack of open violence may be procured by this method is not peace or civil order, but rather a standoff, a Cold War maintained by the threat of mutually assured destruction. Moreover, the person who wishes to live this way, to maintain order at universal gunpoint, has an absolute trust in his own ability to use weapons wisely and well: he never for a moment asks whether he can be trusted with a gun. Of course he can! (But in literature we call this hubris.)
Is this really the best we can do? It might be if we lived in, say, the world described by Cormac McCarthy in The Road. But we don't. Our social order is flawed, but by no means bankrupt. Most of us live in peace and safety without the use of guns. It makes more sense to try to make that social order safer and safer, more and more genuinely peaceful, rather than descend voluntarily into a world governed by paranoia, in which one can only feel safe -- or, really, "safe" -- with cold steel strapped to one's ribcage.
As I have said, I think this is more about community than guns, per se.  As I posted on FB a few minutes ago, this is part and parcel of the anti-tax mantra that has nothing to do with job creation, but everything to do with disconnecting from the community and the social contract.  You want clean air?  Suck it up.  You want lighted streets?  Pull out your checkbook.  Same for maintained parks.

Of course, this breaks down if you are female and pregnant, and not ready to have a child.  You are not on your own there--sadly unless you want to keep the child.  But if you want safe schools?  Go buy a gun and prepared to shoot someone.  

December 18, 2012

On Gun control and community

Like many Americans, I have been thinking about this latest mass shooting.  Clearly the dynamic has changed since Friday, and some of that is probably good.  I am not completely sure why the 20 dead kids are that much more tragic than the 6 dead adults (excluding the shooter, of course, though that is also tragic).  Certainly no less tragic than the KC Chief player shooting the mother of his child and then himself to leave that child parentless.

But that aside, one thing I really like is that the conversation in certain circles is really honest and thoughtful.  Some liberals and progressives are genuinely asking about gun control and not just assuming that it is automatically going to help.  Josh Marshall asked about studies that purport to show lower violence in states with more restriction (can't find the link, sorry).  James Fallows and Jeffrey Goldberg are engaging with the idea that gun control may not be able to do what we want.  Talking points published this informed discussion (I think posted this the other day) on the changing nature of the gun culture, and that Fallows link also lists some reader responses trying to educate the non-gun public on the perils of restricting scary looking guns (as evidently the assault weapon ban did) rather than anything meaningful.

There has been more than our share of stupidity.  Mike Huckabee and James Dobson have both claimed that we are witnessing the result of moral decline, and Megan McCardle evidently (I didn't read the entire thing) suggested that we teach our kids to rush gunmen.  Ugh.  Tennessee and Michigan both moved to allow teachers to arm themselves in classrooms.  Double ugh.

But around the periphery of this discussion, I think, is a discussion about community.  I think it is completely reasonable to suggest that gun restrictions are no more helpful to society than our war on drugs--though I am not sure I completely agree.  But there are absolutely legitimate 2nd amendment issues at play here--regardless of what liberals believe.  I get that.  But the suggestion that teachers need to arm themselves struck a chord about community, or the lack there of.

Consider it this way.  On one hand, we are being told by conservatives that gun restrictions won't work and should not be used--but many of those same conservatives are also pushing to reduce elements of our community fabric.  Less money for cops and firemen--and of course less money for public health and mental health facilities.  In that context, telling the teacher to arm themselves sounds more like outsourcing than some Rambo approach to teaching.  It sounds, to my ear, as conservatives saying, "we won't pay for those things that might help, and we absolutely won't give up our right to purchase whatever crazy gun or bullet we want--but we will tell you that you are on your own and you better provide your own security."

Perfectly reasonable, as many of my conservative friends have said, to suggest that gun control simply won't make us safer.  But less reasonable to then ignore that Republicans are purposefully cutting programs that might make us more safe and which have nothing to do with guns.  Mental health professionals have told me that assistance for families dealing with mental illness is often one of the first budget cuts.  Putting more cops on the street is unthinkable in a context where raising taxes just a few percentage points is harder than getting authorization to invade a country.  And think about all of those health clinics that have closed over the past two decades.  Not saying that all of those in place would make us immune from school shootings, but those are policies that have a track record of helping communities be safer.

Focusing on the guns misses that broader connection, I think.  Part of our battle here is between conservatives who really don't want a broader "we are all in this together" and liberals who, however misguided on banning handguns (for example), who believe that that individual right is running straight into a crowd of innocent people.

December 16, 2012

More guns? Really?

Well, here we are again.  Another mass shooting.  Another discussion where people on the right say that "it isn't the right time to talk about gun violence or control," and another time where we decide to discuss only the issues of mental health treatment.  And I get that part, especially, and think that we need to devote far more resources to mental health and general health treatment.

But the right has already said that we need more guns in the mix.  Michigan just authorized more guns, and Nevada wants to add more.  Oklahoma authorized more legalized carry and on the talk shows, idiots like Louis Gohmert said that all of this would be better if the Principal had a gun in her office.  (Protection Or Peril? Gun Possession Of Questionable Value In An Assault, Study Finds).

A), as I posted on Facebook, I am tired of any discussion that includes the NRA.  They revealed themselves to be irresponsible when they defended everything from cop killer bullets to guns that could evade x-ray, and then catapulted the anti-government movement with the "jack booted thug" name for the ATF.  They aren't the voice of reasonable and responsible gun owners.  They may have been at one time, but no longer.

B) Mental illness may be a big factor here, but we need to stop assuming that because some white kid goes shooting that it is mental illness and not some other factor of privilege and resentment.  Easier, I guess, to believe that only mentally ill people would do this kind of evil thing, but we know from history that sane people can do amazingly awful things.

C) We have to be able to talk about reducing some access to mass killing machines.  This TPM reader talks about the slide from the NRA defending hunting rights to the gun culture of today--which is paranoid, about hoarding guns, and actually sells the idea that you should buy a gun to protect yourself because a Black president is dangerous to you.  That people can easily buy Kevlar vests, clips that hold unbelievable amount of rounds, and bullets that are far more dangerous--and do so with ease--should bother all of us.  Including gun owners.

D) And my most amazing anger is reserved for idiots like Mike Huckabee, who famously already blamed this last shooting on "removing God from the classroom."  Hey, fuckwad, if your God can be removed from the classroom by a bureaucrat or elderly justice, what kind of God is he or she?  Or is he or she the kid of God who pouts because his privilege has been revoked, and so decides to let 20 children die in a fit of spite?  Unbelievable stupidity, and Mike Huckabee is still talked about as a GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE!  Jesus Christ.  Surely Christians can think some of this through.

I am tired of guns, and I am really tired of people who seem to worship guns.

December 11, 2012

Workers march on the Michigan capitol

Smitty sent me these images from this morning's protest.  Votes matter.  Especially when you vote for Republicans who would rather protect the rich than anything else.  

The attack on workers continues in Michigan

It would be funny if it weren't so serious.  The national republican party justified voting against the UN Treaty on the rights of the Disabled because several of them suggested that the Senate should not ratify treaties during the lame duck session.  In Michigan, state Republicans decided that the lame duck was a perfect time to gut the unions that have built the middle class.  Our friend Smitty has more on this, and I just found this Youtube of a very angry Democratic senator speaking very eloquently about the people who will be harmed by this bill.

Conservatives have won over the last 30 years in their attacks on unions.  It started with Reagan taking on the air traffic controllers union and has culminated in this most recent attack on public sector unions.  I am constantly amazed to hear most of my conservative friends bash unions as corrupt and encouraging laziness instead of hard work.  But not one of them has explained how lower wages will actually help our economy.  We have seen wages stagnate at the lower middle class and working class level for the last 30 years.  Lower wages have not stopped outsourcing.  They have not made us more competitive, nor reduced poverty.

These moves have simply made the rich richer.  They have made the worker less safe (about which my Republican friends seem to care little), and they have served to whittle down benefits and pensions.  Contract, as it turns out, is only unassailable when it is about executive bonuses, not about teacher pensions.  Conservatives have appealed to some kind of resentment culture, and appealed effectively.  My conservative friends resent the idea that a laborers might make a good wage doing unremarkable, or unglamorous work.  Teachers, nurses, auto-workers, firefighters, bureaucrats--all of them should not make too much money.  God forbid they make a wage that allows them to purchase goods and services and contribute to the broader economy.

No, as the Walmart model shows us, better that the worker be paid so little that he or she has to rely on food stamps and Medicaid for food and healthcare.  And better, savagely, to then lobby to reduce both programs.

There is a vein of cruelty in the conservative mind that I think most conservatives are afraid to acknowledge.  Cruelty toward pregnant women, gays, and minorities--and as Michigan and Wisconsin demonstrate, toward people who work for a living.

December 7, 2012

Senate Republicans block treaty on the disabled--led by the religious right

Good example of everything that is wrong with the religious right's approach to knowledge and policy.  (Why the US just rejected a treaty based on its own laws - Quartz).  Religious conservatives objected to this treaty (based on the ADA) because many feared it would infringe on homeschoolers and/or encourage abortions of disabled fetuses.  I honestly don't understand how one could legitimately fear either, and neither did most adults in the room.

This is a good example of religious conservatives pushing fringe and conspiracy theories and a great example of how far to the right the GOP has moved in the last 16 years.  On the floor for the vote, was former Senator and Presidential candidate Bob Dole.  Dole is in ill health and left the hospital to try and lobby for this ratification vote--after all he worked this treaty for years.  But for 38 Republicans, Bob Dole was part of the establishment who would surrender American sovereignty to the evil UN.  We often joke that Ronald Reagan could not get elected in this context, but the party may be shifting so far to the right that even George W. Bush may have trouble with the base today.

Either way it is sad for both people of faith and for our public policy.