Tuesday, February 20, 2018

"I call b.s."

Emma Gonzalez of Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, gave a speech last Saturday:

We haven't already had a moment of silence in the House of Representatives, so I would like to have another one. Thank you.
Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving. But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it's time for victims to be the change that we need to see. Since the time of the Founding Fathers and since they added the Second Amendment to the Constitution, our guns have developed at a rate that leaves me dizzy. The guns have changed but our laws have not.

We certainly do not understand why it should be harder to make plans with friends on weekends than to buy an automatic or semi-automatic weapon. In Florida, to buy a gun you do not need a permit, you do not need a gun license, and once you buy it you do not need to register it. You do not need a permit to carry a concealed rifle or shotgun. You can buy as many guns as you want at one time.
I read something very powerful to me today. It was from the point of view of a teacher. And I quote: When adults tell me I have the right to own a gun, all I can hear is my right to own a gun outweighs your student's right to live. All I hear is mine, mine, mine, mine.
Instead of worrying about our AP Gov chapter 16 test, we have to be studying our notes to make sure that our arguments based on politics and political history are watertight. The students at this school have been having debates on guns for what feels like our entire lives. AP Gov had about three debates this year. Some discussions on the subject even occurred during the shooting while students were hiding in the closets. The people involved right now, those who were there, those posting, those tweeting, those doing interviews and talking to people, are being listened to for what feels like the very first time on this topic that has come up over 1,000 times in the past four years alone.
I found out today there's a website shootingtracker.com. Nothing in the title suggests that it is exclusively tracking the USA's shootings and yet does it need to address that? Because Australia had one mass shooting in 1999 in Port Arthur (and after the) massacre introduced gun safety, and it hasn't had one since. Japan has never had a mass shooting. Canada has had three and the UK had one and they both introduced gun control and yet here we are, with websites dedicated to reporting these tragedies so that they can be formulated into statistics for your convenience.
I watched an interview this morning and noticed that one of the questions was, do you think your children will have to go through other school shooter drills? And our response is that our neighbors will not have to go through other school shooter drills. When we've had our say with the government -- and maybe the adults have gotten used to saying 'it is what it is,' but if us students have learned anything, it's that if you don't study, you will fail. And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it's time to start doing something.
We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we're going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because, just as David said, we are going to be the last mass shooting. Just like Tinker v. Des Moines, we are going to change the law. That's going to be Marjory Stoneman Douglas in that textbook and it's going to be due to the tireless effort of the school board, the faculty members, the family members and most of all the students. The students who are dead, the students still in the hospital, the student now suffering PTSD, the students who had panic attacks during the vigil because the helicopters would not leave us alone, hovering over the school for 24 hours a day.
There is one tweet I would like to call attention to. So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities again and again. We did, time and time again. Since he was in middle school, it was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter. Those talking about how we should have not ostracized him, you didn't know this kid. OK, we did. We know that they are claiming mental health issues, and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue. He would not have harmed that many students with a knife.
And how about we stop blaming the victims for something that was the student's fault, the fault of the people who let him buy the guns in the first place, those at the gun shows, the people who encouraged him to buy accessories for his guns to make them fully automatic, the people who didn't take them away from him when they knew he expressed homicidal tendencies, and I am not talking about the FBI. I'm talking about the people he lived with. I'm talking about the neighbors who saw him outside holding guns.
If the President wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I'm going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association.
You want to know something? It doesn't matter, because I already know. Thirty million dollars. And divided by the number of gunshot victims in the United States in the one and one-half months in 2018 alone, that comes out to being $5,800. Is that how much these people are worth to you, Trump? If you don't do anything to prevent this from continuing to occur, that number of gunshot victims will go up and the number that they are worth will go down. And we will be worthless to you.
To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you.
Crowd chants, shame on you.
If your money was as threatened as us, would your first thought be, how is this going to reflect on my campaign? Which should I choose? Or would you choose us, and if you answered us, will you act like it for once? You know what would be a good way to act like it? I have an example of how to not act like it. In February of 2017, one year ago, President Trump repealed an Obama-era regulation that would have made it easier to block the sale of firearms to people with certain mental illnesses.
From the interactions that I had with the shooter before the shooting and from the information that I currently know about him, I don't really know if he was mentally ill. I wrote this before I heard what Delaney said. Delaney said he was diagnosed. I don't need a psychologist and I don't need to be a psychologist to know that repealing that regulation was a really dumb idea.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was the sole sponsor on this bill that stops the FBI from performing background checks on people adjudicated to be mentally ill and now he's stating for the record, 'Well, it's a shame the FBI isn't doing background checks on these mentally ill people.' Well, duh. You took that opportunity away last year.
The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS.Companies trying to make caricatures of the teenagers these days, saying that all we are self-involved and trend-obsessed and they hush us into submission when our message doesn't reach the ears of the nation, we are prepared to call BS. Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don't know what we're talking about, that we're too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.
If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.

(Crowd chants) Throw them out.

Transcription via CNN. Right wing sources are already attacking the students who are making an effort to address the absurdity of United States gun regulations in various ways. It's pretty disgusting, but unsurprising in a world where the general media gave Wayne LaPierre an open mic after Sandy Hook to, I suppose, discover "balance." Still, this eloquence should be memorialized as often as possible!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Preet Tweet

Thank you Baby Jesus, we've finally seen the last of the interminable month of January. I think it was the cold but the politics certainly contributed significantly. We get a 7-day forecast app on the teevee, and at the moment the freezing rain predicted for (akkk) Super Bowl Sunday has vanished into merely cloudy and not quite freezing. We get a 17 low tomorrow night. After that (at the moment) it's 50s and a few 60s for highs, 30s for lows. Many will laugh. I too have been to Calgary in February, and experienced “ice fog.”

This “Trump Era” is the misanthropic age. They ran on an amorphous pay-back, and in the weird sense that the Electoral College confers on them, they “won.” Jimmy Kimmel did a striking piece on some folks who are all for deporting even the “dreamers” the other night. This was early before the Stormy Daniels segment. That was pretty boring. The real tension was kind of “meta.” Could she break her agreement in such a way that Trump's lawyers could sue her, given that such a suit would surely imply the truth of the affair. And how strong would Franklin Graham's “blessing” be in such a case?

But the misanthropic segment was much better, because it explained, or at least illustrated, the wrecking ball power of misanthropy when harnessed to more governmental forces. Our nearly Ambassador to South Korea warned of the dangers of the so-called “bloody nose” strategy towards North Korea, which among other horrors put at risk the lives of many thousands of Americans residing in South Korea (and never mind the millions of South Koreans). This is serious. Cha was reportedly asked, before being dropped as Ambassador nominate, if he could handle the evacuation of all Americans living in South Korea.

Meanwhile, Kimmel had created a perfect situation to make a point. He had a smallish group of folks who said that no matter the particular circumstances, anyone who was here “illegally” should be forthwith deported. Kimmel presented his human case. A young mother who'd been brought here at age 2, working in nursing and living with a soldier born and raised in Kansas. The mother would be deported, removed from her child and family. The couple would be sundered. Amazingly (to me), there were no dissenters. A middle-aged black woman offered her reasoning: “I didn't have health insurance and lost my eye. Why should this woman be treated any better?” There is apparently a deep lake of this undifferentiated bitterness in the American psyche. Read it an weep.

Preet Bharara
✔ @PreetBharara
My mom is an immigrant
My dad is an immigrant
I am an immigrant
My mother's 6 brothers came to America too
It is a deeply interdependent family
All successful
All tax-paying (one is an accountant!)
All proud & contributing Americans
Call it #ChainMigration
Or call it America
11:21 PM - Jan 30, 2018

There is a lot of bad news. I don't think they'll close down the entire "liberal" side of the media like they closed down Dan Rather. For that matter, they didn't even put Dan Rather in jail. In this sense we are not yet a fascist country.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Warrior Myth

We've been totally socked in here for a week with North Dakota temperatures and ice on the uphill side of the drive way. I'm going to the store in a few minutes, first time out since the snow. It's been an interesting week for news and sports, with the remarkable Michael Wolff book exploding into the news about the same moment as the NFL Wildcard Week and last night the College Championship in Division I, between two SEC teams who were ranked in the top five for the whole season, and provided a great ending to the drama that is the football season, even ending in overtime, which is as complex an idea at the college level as the NASCAR system of choosing a season champion. Every fall I try to avert my eyes, but, dammit, football is an engaging sport when it's well played and well coached.

Perhaps it's a lesson the the human trait that captures us all: denial. One way or the other, we all practice denial, over and over. Denial is the sort-of answer to another feature of being human: seeing the future. The cats and dogs, pigs and cattle, do not see the future. They live bravely. Bravery is in some ways easier when practiced in ignorance. The rubber is hitting the road when it comes to dangerous and permanent brain injuries and the game of football. The denial skills are also being honed.

On Sunday the Carolina Panther quarterback Cam Newton, an incredibly athletic and talented quarterback, was hit in the head on a forceful tackle near the end of the game. He was for a time unable to stand, and then had to return to his knees as he tried to make his way to the sidelines. Once on the bench, he was evaluated and deemed still able to play. In the interim the Panther backup make a rather pathetic effort to run one play. It was obvious that if Newton could not return the Panthers would almost certainly lose. In the end they lost anyway.

I watch the sports talk shows. Michael Wilbon, on his half hour with Tony Kornheiser, argued that the NFL could not allow an injury situation such as Newton's to determine the outcome of the game. The problem was that the athletes were basically warriors. If they could stand and make their way back to the field, that's what they would do. That's what they wanted to do. As is actually known as a fact, most athletes will lie to doctors, telling them that they are ok and capable of returning to play, even when the facts are different, or even if as is the case with brain injuries, a person cannot actually know, at the time of the injury, whether they can or should return to the fray.

So here's a story: https://thinkprogress.org/ncaa-concussion-lawsuit-c0e543a0636c/

There was another game during the Wildcard weekend, Buffalo versus Jacksonville. Both teams were inept. Very close to the end, the Buffalo quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, was knocked out on the field. After several minutes he was assisted to the sidelines, and did not return. The Bills lost.

The only remarks I have heard about this game was that it was the worst of the four games. Neither quarterback was capable, neither could complete many passes, neither team could score. The final score was Jacksonville's one touchdown, the winning score. Taylor never completed a touchdown all day. No one that I heard ever even reported on Taylor's injuries. Perhaps since he was inept, the injuries didn't matter enough to make the news.

There used to be a sociological thesis that we developed sports to help avoid war.

Have you noticed how many ads involve actors with prosthetic legs since the advent of the wars in Iraq and Afganistan. It's almost like there's this fresh new group of Americans who have this neat, unique feature, a prosthetic leg. It might even help them run better.

Maybe Wilbon should be more consistent. So what if you have a broken leg. Get the fuck out there, soldier.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Oh Lana Get Up

This will likely be the last post of 2017. It's Wednesday the 27th, and we finished up Christmas last night with a cold drive home from Greensboro, much like a lot of drives home after the family gatherings of other years. We put off the actual family Christmas until the day after official Christmas (not Old Christmas, on the 6th of January, commemorated in old fiddle tunes from old fiddlers like Tommy Jarrell and French Carpenter). Libby and I found this plan delightful because it meant we had a nice Christmas day all to ourselves. Admittedly, Libby busted her chops all day cooking for yesterday, while I mostly stayed out of the way in the back room, watching football games and keeping the fire in the stove going. With little thanks to me, then, a number of delicious dishes got prepared, and yesterday we trundled off, out of the winter woods and up to Greensboro using the back road route we've grown fond of, with almost zero traffic all the way, and we were only a relatively little late, and kept that from being itself a stress, and we all had a great Christmas feast, the table smaller this year as the Old Vet left us last June, and some of the young-uns now have more important things to do, this being still, as ever, life.

As December proceeded we received a small pile of Christmas Cards from old friends who maintain that tradition better than we've managed. My oldest friend signed his Christmas letter with “let's hope 2018 is better.” I think there might have been a question mark in there too. That's a hell of a note, but it sure rings true. The closing chord of this renewal of American fascism was a major F with a flatted 5th. We told all our “friends” and “allies” that we were taking names and would long remember their disloyalty at the UN, when they voted to reject the idea that Jerusalem was henceforth going to be the capital of Israel. This theme, the authoritarian theme, has been one constant of the whole year. The distinguished lawyer Sally Yates of the Justice Department had warned the fresh new administration of General Flynn's vulnerabilities and was fired for her troubles. (She'd also warned that the so-called Travel Ban was so flawed as to be unconstitutional—in both warnings she was proved correct.) You'd think that warning decision-makers of impending errors would be seen as profoundly loyal. If you sit and watch an impending train wreck, and say nothing, isn't that just a passive-aggressive disloyalty?

As we careen into this hoped-for better year, the President's party practices loyalty the fresh new way, and searches for some sort of “purge” of the Justice Department and the FBI. The best or at least most realistic opinion of this week before New Year's Day 2018 comes from Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

The Republican Party is all-in in Trump. It’s not that they’re too lazy to investigate Trump’s various malfeasance; it’s just that they don’t care.
Discussing impeachment scenarios, or any other removal method that requires Senate supermajorities, is fundamentally a waste of time. And even if Democrats take over the House in 2018, a futile impeachment vote is probably counterproductive.
It’s critically important for Dems to take over Congress in 2018. But the value is 1)the ability to conduct investigations, 2)the ability to stop Republicans from passing investigation, and (as pertains to the Senate) stopping judicial and egregious executive branch nominations.
There is one way Trump can be removed from office while he’s alive: the ballot box.
Investigations into Trump are valuable not because there’s any chance of making Republican legislators turn against him, but because they may make him less popular.
Investigations are almost certainly a better method of making Trump less popular than impeachment proceedings.


This is what we find. The great wheels still turn of course. Steve Bannon imagines he's found the key to the Mayan Calendar in an obscure Latin text, and finds himself full tilt for Roy Moore. It is certainly possible, and perhaps even likely, that majorities of voters are slowly coming to perceive the truth of this new world we've “elected”--if by “elected” you mean whatever it is that happened at the end of 2016, all that complexity and fog we still can't entirely perceive and have hired expensive lawyers to sort out: Russian meddling, powerful and never-ceasing Republican propaganda on the airwaves and in incessant speeches by the candidate Trump, who seemed to be doing nightly half-hour fire-side rants on every teevee channel we paid too much for; and of course the underlying Electoral College, an invention by the propertied from two centuries back to make sure as they could that laborers and women and people of color would not “steal” the government from the people who so rightfully owned it, having stolen it from the people who were already here on the continent.

People who looked at the situation even a century ago were always concerned that a great and effective authoritarian demagogue would rise, and win, using the underlying tide of racism and misogyny that they could easily perceive just beneath the placid surface and the perfect temperature for a refreshing paddle. This stuff had always been there, will apparently always be there. Wise people warned America not to open this Pandora's box. Wise people said, “Look, there are clear historical examples of what people will do and believe. Germany. Italy. Rowanda. People, humans, do this.” Apparently, as other wise people have also warned, the mere scent of power is aphrodisiac, and the apparently cooler heads are in fact just more diplomatic. See, e.g., Mr. Romney's notable “47%” of 2012, and his pathetic dinner with the newly-elected Trump, which only yielded Trumpean contempt in further measure, as was easily predicted far in advance.

We, we because we are still a kind of democracy and must own our democratic choices until which time as they are so flawed by realities that we all have to admit that democracy has died, must in the meantime admit that we have elected Caligula. He resonates with millions. Many of those will deny to the end that they benefit daily from white privilege, and even argue that there is no such thing. Make America Great Again. “Again.” As subtle as Mussolini. Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson.

I watched the unfolding of Watergate on a little black and white teevee that sat on a table at the foot end of my bed. We were also building a band that year, so we got to see some of the politics from the stage, with the sound off. Nixon's resignation, as I recall, happened the night of a gig. A couple of years later, at perhaps the height of our success and riding a kind of hit off-Broadway cowboy comedy with its own brand of denied white privilege, I walked down the Manhattan afternoon reading headlines of the very end of Vietnam. Oh Lana Turner we love you get up.

We, the same people that just elected Caligula, learned absolutely nothing, but instead lived in a romantic fantasy of something that never was. As the decades passed, as we lived our lives thinking something or other had been learned, that that resounding anthem from the early '70s, “we won't get fooled again!” actually was a small step forward, other forces were more effectively at work. We may still not recognize how significant a cadre of retired professional soldiers spent sixteen years and counting could yet become, dreaming of “agains” and the practical mechanisms of automated assault weapons fire. Now they have their spokesman, slouching from Bethlehem and speaking of purges.

Happy New Year's muthafuckers. It may be just a bag of steel holes, as Warren Oates said back in '69 when Vietnam was actually still going on.