Monday, February 19, 2018

Gun Control

It is hard to know what to say. Were I to be standing in front of a classroom of students, what could I say to them?

“We adults apparently do not care about you or your future lives. We seem to care more about the presumed rights of adult males to own automatic weapons intended solely to kill enemy forces in wartime. Although those adult males will never in fact use those automatic weapons for that purpose, they seem to feel inadequate without their automatic weapons.  And we wouldn’t want them to feel inadequate, would we? So we are exchanging your rights to full lives to accommodate the needs of these inadequate males. Poor souls. You understand, don’t you?”

And then, I might have to leave the classroom very quickly, so as to avoid being hit by blackboard erasers, or to listen to the children screaming at me. What would they be yelling about? Well, I assume they might be pissed because I was acting like a total idiot, a true enfant terrible, like most of our Congress persons, at least the ones on the payroll of the NRA.
We know the President is a true idiot, because he acts like one 75% of the time, you know, when he isn’t actually sleeping.   Apparently, we can now also conclude that the Congress persons on the payroll of the NRA are also idiots – From Wiki,
Idiot is a word derived from the Greek ἰδιώτηςidiōtēs ("person lacking professional skill", "a private citizen", "individual"), from ἴδιοςidios ("private", "one's own").[1] In ancient Greece, people who were not capable of engaging in the public sphere were considered "idiotes. An idiot in Athenian democracy was someone who was characterized by self-centeredness and concerned almost exclusively with private—as opposed to public—affairs.[7] Idiocy was the natural state of ignorance into which all persons were born and its opposite, citizenship, was effected through formalized education.[7] In Athenian democracy, idiots were born and citizens were made through education”
Many of the postings on Facebook and other social media expressing the need for “gun control”, seem to evoke from the gunners in the land, the notion that we do not have a gun problem, because,
“Guns do not kill people. People kill people.”
One man even went on to describe how his gun could be placed on a table, and it would never operate on its own. Therefore, he asserted, gun control is not the issue, but rather, people control.
Yet, it we examine the globe, we can observe that, the United States is alone in the number and extent of mass shootings. In fact, all countries that have enacted serious gun control no longer have mass shootings.  Only in the US, are these shootings continuing and even increasing.  And it is not the case that Britain, or Australia, or Canada, et al, do not have at least some mentally unbalanced citizens. Folks with serious mental diseases seem to exist almost everywhere, but only in the US does that manifest itself in the form of multiple murders.  Often these atrocities take form within a school destroying our more vulnerable citizens, young students engaged in trying to learn to become citizens.   The mass shootings do not seem to occur with a crazed person armed with a single shot rifle, or pistol. No, that would be too difficult for the crazy person.  Instead, the weapon of choice seems to be that old standby, the AR-15.  The original AR-15 was manufactured by Colt and had a five round magazine. But Colt’s patent expired and other gun manufacturers began making AR-15 type semi-automatic rifles with some up to 30-round magazines.  The Orlando club shooting massacre was described as an AR-15 gun, but it was one of the many variants, the SIG Sauer MCX.
These weapons are often referred to as “assault” weapons. Why? Because that is their stated military purpose. See, they have no civilian purpose, certainly not hunting.  So, why the outcry against banning such obviously military style weapons?  All we can conclude is that their owners know no bounds to their view of the so-called Second Amendment rights to own guns. That amendment asserts:
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.
The arguments about this amendment have continued off and on for several centuries, and include arguments about the right of kings to disarm the citizens, especially citizens of a certain religious persuasion, in the days when Catholics and Protestants battled for control of the English land. It seems clear that a state militia was an important element in the early arguments about this right to bear arms, as was the right to hunt on their own lands.  Our Supreme Court decided that the individual right to bear arms was paramount and that the Second Amendment protected that right.
Still, arguments can and will continue over whether assault rifles can and should fall within this right, the Supreme Court notwithstanding. But it will take a serious Congressional debate, perhaps up to and including a debate about the need for a replacement Second Amendment. And that may not happen within my lifetime, mainly because we no longer have serious-minded persons within our Congress. 
The need for a Second Amendment debate seems clear, but it is and will continue to be impeded because our legislators are elected partly/perhaps mainly by virtue of private money from interests bent on protecting their own commercial interests.  In this case, the NRA, representing armaments manufacturers, has been able to convince (stress on “con”) its members to support their arguments that the government wants to take away their right to bear arms, any arms.  So, the NRA has multiple millions of dollars to essentially bribe Congress persons to avoid any and all serious debates on the issue of armaments control.  So, until such money is removed from the political system, this form of political bribery will continue and Congress persons will continue to be bought by private monied interests. So long as that exists, no serious gun control can occur. And as long as no serious gun control exists, continued mass shootings will continue in this country.  
We are and will be the laughing stock of the world in this respect. We are, simply, not serious people. And we will continue to value private commercial interests, over the lives of our children. Try explaining that to a classroom of students.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Taxes: The Glue of a Civilized Society

Taxes: Every quarter, we make out a check for the Feds and a check to the State of North Carolina for our quarterly income tax estimates. Then, of course, annually, we calculate our taxes due to each, and send in our tax filings for the year past.  Do we love this annual ritual? No, of course not. Do we think it is necessary, vital even? Of course we do. What’s not to hate about paying taxes? Well, for one, I regard taxes as a kind of glue of a civilized society.  It’s almost literally the thing that binds us together as civilized human beings.  What do we “buy” through our taxes? Well, things like roads and bridges, allowing us to move about in things called automobiles and trucks.  And then there’s those police forces that protect us from the ne’er-do-wells of the world.  Yes, we need quality policing to protect all of us.

Oh, and then we have one of the biggies—public education—that system republicans of the Trump stripe really hate.  Public education literally educates the vast bulk of our population. Yes, I know, the Trumpies, people like Betsy Devos have never attended a public school in their fortunate lives. But, as a result, Betsy missed something important, vital even. She missed out on an understanding of who Americans really are. Yes, in addition to learning the ABCs, and the 1,2,3’s, Betsy missed out on associating with real people, the ones who constitute America. She missed meeting and understanding what makes the vast middle class tick.  Because it is the public education system that created the middle class and it is the middle class that created America.  But Betsy doesn’t know that. She thinks it’s all the private forces in education that made us what we are. She’s wrong. But Betsy, apparently dumb as a pet rock, wants to slowly destroy our public education system and channel all that public money into private, even for-profit schools.  Again. Betsy is wrong, but we all know that.

Then we have health care. We really do seem all steamed up about health care. Heaven forfend that people should have access to quality health care. They might actually remain healthy and live long lives. And wouldn’t that be terrible?  We seem to be the only vaguely civilized nation on earth that fails to guarantee our entire population with access to quality health care.  Yeah, Trump loves those white Norwegians. He welcomes them to migrate to America. But Norwegians just laugh at this proclamation. Why would they do that, they ask? They have a profoundly better system of government that makes their lives profoundly better than they might have here. For one thing, they all have guaranteed health care. So, they laugh at his dumb idea.  

And as they laugh, Trump looks at ways to reduce the Federal commitments to providing even our elderly with quality health care. See, he can buy his own health care, so he doesn’t need Federal systems, like Medicare and Medicaid.

And within that vast arena called health care, we have or used to have an array of programs intended to enhance our systems.  Programs intended to assure a more effective distribution of health care practitioners around the country. Programs intended to deliver the numbers and quality of the many different kinds of health care practitioners needed by our population.  And within that vast arena are also programs intended to carry out research—research on human ailments at NIH, research on drugs at FDA, research on new and better ways to deliver health care.  But our bozo president doesn’t understand any of that, because he can’t read.  So, it’s no use giving him copies of reports on any of these programs, because he won’t understand any of those reports.

So, apparently, mainly because he doesn’t understand anything, he wants to zero fund a whole host of programs and agencies.  We all know, the five-time draft dodger loves his military and, especially his generals and his tanks and planes. So, he wants to give them a lot of money. But all dictators everywhere first and foremost love their military. It’s how they remain in power, or so they reckon.  It’s why he wants his parade, so his military can pass by and salute him—honor him he thinks.  He fails to understand that the Nazi’s he salutes and speaks favorably about, are the very ones our military fought to defeat, and that our military people actually despise Nazi’s and others of their ilk.  Although Trump has managed to surround himself with some generals who never knew a bad wife-beater, most generals frown on such things.  But Trump doers love blowing up things, so he wants even more money, our public tax money, for the toys used to blow things up.

But on the agencies that don’t specialize in blowing things up, our President wants to eliminate their funding. Not just, marginally reduce their funding, but eliminate it altogether.  I guess his budget choices should come as no surprise to any of us. He has been routinely appointing folks to head these agencies who seem to fundamentally disagree with the basic premise of the agency.  So, he places in charge of public education, someone who has zero experience of public education and who actively opposes public education. He puts in charge of EPA someone who does not understand climate change and who thinks the polluting industries (the Koch brothers come to mind here) are just fine and dandy for America.  Similarly, because he finds all Federal regulations burdensome, he puts people in charge of those regulations who are fundamentally opposed to their purposes.  Even St. Ronald of Reagan didn’t do that for heaven’s sake.

And then he pretends to sponsor a vast array of infrastructure development ideas, to improve our crumbling infrastructure, you know, bridges falling down, roads falling apart, and rail systems crumbling. But then he tosses out another of his wishful thinking proposals, like his Mexico Wall that Mexico will pay for. In this instance, he wants the infrastructure all restored by tossing a minor amount of Federal money at it, but then the States and locales, like Mexico, will really finance the bulk of it.

Oh, and never forget his disdain for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and its agents like the National Public Radio. Because Trump has been bought by Murdoch and the Faux News Network, he thinks PBS and all those folks are out to get him, because they try really hard to practice even-handed journalism, and he really cannot stand such broadcasting.  See, "even-handed" does not mean slavish fawning over the Drumpf, and he can't stand that. So, zero-funding it is.

And his republican colleagues and partners don’t break out in laughter at his proposals.  There are a few republicans who find his proposals absurd, but their voices seem drowned out by the chorus of approval from the Paul Ryan crowd and the 30 odd percent in the land who still approve this absurdist, masquerading as our president.  Republicans have now shifted from being conservative to being anarchists, like Paul Ryan.  They really don’t want any government, except for the shoot’m-up variety.

And so that glue that binds us together as a civilized society becomes slowly but surely undone.  And, at the same rate, our nation gradually becomes less civilized.

There is no hope for any of this, save one—VOTING. Yes, this insanity called the Trump Federal Government, is reversible, but only if rational people get out to vote. Regardless of the Republican efforts to devise ways to deny people the right to vote, it is still possible to get out, get registered, and VOTE. I would say, Vote Out the Rascals. But these people are not rascals. They are dangerous, ignorant tyrants. The entire Republican Party has gone off the rails of sanity.  They no longer deserve the support of ordinary, thinking Americans.  

So, consider our future, Americans. And do your duty as patriotic citizens. Restore our democracy.  

Bring back thoughtfulness. 

Reintroduce the Enlightenment. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Growing Funny

Retirement Home Calendar

The Contilia  Retirement Group in Essen, Germany, made what is  probably the best calendar ever with a few of their seniors.

According  to German press, 5000 calendars were printed.  And they were given out to  residents of the Senior Centre, along with relatives and staff.

The calendar models were interviewed about the project and said it was a ton of fun to dress up as their favorite actors.

The  shoot was done with professional stylists and photographers to make sure everything looked as cool as possible.

The  oldest senior involved with the calendar was 98 years OLD!


James  Bond
Wilhelm Buiting, 89


Breakfast  at Tiffany's
Marianne Brunsbach, 86

Erna Rütt, 86, and Alfred Kelbch, 81


Erwin J von der Heiden, 80

Mary  Poppins
Erna Schenk, 78

The  Seven Year Itch
Ingeborg Giolbass, 84, and Erich Endlein, 88


Blues  Brothers
Lothar Wischnewski, 76 and Margarete Schmidt, 77


Martha Bajohr, 77


Joanna Trachenberg, 81 and Horst Krischat, 78


Saturday Night Fever
Irmgard Alt, 79 and Siegfried Gallasch, 87


Dirty  Dancing
Johann Liedtke, 92 and Marianne Pape, 79


Easy  Rider
Walter Loeser, 98 and Kurt Neuhaus, 90


'Growing old' is Mandatory,
'Growing up' is Optional!!
If you haven't grown up by the time you are FIFTY

Well then you don't have to!!!!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Stealing Lives

We have been watching another of our host of British mysteries, this one, The Fall. It is all about a sadist who murders young women. In the afterworld, where I actually think, I have been thinking about what someone is doing when they take another person’s life, especially a young person. What are we, after all, but a body of human experience potential? Someone who is, say, 30, has stored within 50, 60, even 70 years of potential experiences, many pleasant, even beautiful ones.  So, taking that person’s life is robbing them of those experiences. At one level, the act of murder is an act of the moment. It arguably gives the perpetrator a moment of pleasure at the act. But, it is really stealing a lifetime of experiences from the person so deprived. But the perpetrator doesn’t even think of the act in those terms—as taking away years of experiences in exchange for a single moment of . . .  of what . . . pleasure?

And then I thought, but what about acts we commit that alter a person’s life in some unpleasant way? We decide to define the world into castes, in which some folks are at the top and some are at the bottom—the throw-aways of our world. What are we doing by such an act? Well, we are forcing the folks so defined as the bottom-dwellers to a lifetime of misery, instead of a lifetime of happiness.  See we actually know that, but we mostly don’t think of our acts in such terms—stealing a person’s lifetime of happy experiences so that we can live better today. That is the actual price of our chosen path.
Similarly, when we embarked on a campaign to enslave people, we were stealing from those people their future lives, some of which would be filled with happy experiences. We stole their lives, much as if we had just killed them.

And then, today, when we smugly deride whole groups of people labeling them as desirable or undesirable, because of the color of their skin, or because they believe in a god different than our God, or because they are of a different gender, we are changing their lives in ways we cannot even predict, but ways likely to be less happy, and more stressful. So, again, we are stealing from those people, something we actually do not own, but can control—the future experiences of those other people.

But do we commit such acts of theft knowing the grotesque effects of the acts we are committing? Not likely. Mainly, we choose not to think, because thinking is difficult, and involves making choices we may not be comfortable making.

Life is but a balancing act. Life requires us to think so as to maintain a balance between good and harm. Some, perhaps many, folks prefer not to think overly much, because thinking requires mental agility, and acting on rote convictions is often more convincing and, just, easier.
So, acts of racism, or bigotry, or misogyny, or simple cruelty can become our preferred lifestyle—thereby defining our own lifetime of experiences.

Kindness could arguably also become a lifestyle. Kindness is less certain than emotional violence (racism), but it might actually spread, because an act of kindness could become contagious. Others might also begin to choose kindness rather than violence, but only those who actually think about life and the consequences of our individual acts.

Would it not be a better world, if we all tried to eliminate hate and inserted kindness instead?

Wow, what a concept . . . kindness instead of hate. What a wonderful world it might be . . .