a conversation

Reasonable Person: Another mass murder.
MAGA Person: Thoughts and prayers.
RP: There’s so much hate in the world.
MP: Amen. Lotsa hate.
RP: So much division, so much hostility.
MP: Buttloads of hostility.
RP: The nation hasn’t been this divided since the Civil War.
MP: Can’t argue with that.
RP: Something needs to be done.
MP: Absofuckinglutely.
RP: This has to stop.
MP: Got to.
RP: Something has to change.
MP: Yep.
RP: We don’t have to live like this.
MP: No, we don’t.
RP: You know what this country needs?
MP: I surely do. Trump.
RP: …?
MP: …!
RP: Trump?
MP: Yep. And more guns.
RP: But…
MP: And Jesus. In schools.
RP: I have to disagree.
MP: STOP SHOVING YOUR BELIEFS DOWN MY THROAT!
RP: …?
MP: This is why I carry a gun. To protect myself. DON’T MAKE ME SHOOT YOU!
RP: But…
MP: pew pew pew.
RP: [bleeds all over]
MP: I felt threatened.
MP: Stop bleeding on me.
MP: …
MP: Maybe I should run for the local school board.

paint over the second amendment

You know what? Fuck the Second Amendment. Oh, it was a perfectly fine amendment when it was written, but c’mon, it was written in 1789 (it was ratified a couple years later, in 1791). That was a long time ago. Things have changed. That’s the nature of things, isn’t it. They just change.

Look, the US Constitution has been amended 27 times. Why? Because things change. Because stuff that made sense at one point in time doesn’t necessarily make sense at another. Because even smart, reasonable, concerned people sometimes make a mistake or do something stupid. I mean, back in 1917 it must have seemed reasonable to amend the Constitution to prohibit the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors. But a decade and a half later, the American people thought “Lawdy, we fucked that up” and they had to repeal the entire 18th Amendment.

We can do that again, only with the Second Amendment. We could just repeal it. Or rewrite it so it’s not so fucking stupid. The 18th Amendment probably saved a bunch of lives by making it a lot more difficult to get drunk. But we’ve been able to find a somewhat reasonable balance between saving lives and being able to have a decent merlot with our supper.

We can do the same thing with guns. We really can. We can shitcan the 2nd Amendment. Hell, Thomas Jefferson (who knew a lot about writing Constitutions) kinda thought we could scrap the whole entire Constitution every couple of decades and cobble together a new and more timely one. You know, a Constitution that met modern needs. Seriously, Jefferson said, “The earth belongs always to the living generation.” Ain’t no reason for us to be locked into something written by folks 230 plus years ago.

Here’s what Jefferson wrote to James Madison in September of 1789:

[I]t may be proved that no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation. They may manage it then, & what proceeds from it, as they please, during their usufruct. They are masters too of their own persons, & consequently may govern them as they please. But persons & property make the sum of the objects of government. The constitution and the laws of their predecessors extinguished then in their natural course, with those who gave them being. This could preserve that being till it ceased to be itself, & no longer. Every constitution then, & every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, & not of right.

And yes, usufruct is an actual word. It refers to the temporary legal right to use and enjoy the fruits or profits of something belonging to another. It’s from the Latin usus (meaning ‘use’) and fructus (meaning ‘fruit’). Let’s say your daddy dies and leaves you everything, including the house you grew up in, BUT because your daddy is a complete asshole, he stipulates the woman he divorced your momma for can continue to live in the house as long as she wants. It’s legally your house now, but your asshole dad’s girlfriend still gets to enjoy it. If she wants to paint the walls red, she damned well can, even if you think it’s a bad idea. Usufruct.

What Jefferson is saying is that the next generation can enjoy the Constitution their parents left for them but they’re not locked into it forever. When your asshole dad’s girlfriend dies (yeah, this is a metaphor), you get control of the house and you can repaint the walls.

What Jefferson was saying is this: we can paint over the 2nd Amendment. We can and we should. Because the walls have been red way too long.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Five people were killed and at least 18 were wounded/injured last night during a drag show at Club Q in Colorado Springs. Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, the annual event honoring the memory of transgender people killed by acts of anti-transgender violence.

We shouldn’t have to live like this.

i don’t know what i’ll do tomorrow

The cat is dead.

I can hardly believe I wrote those words. But they’re true and there it is. My morning companion, my afternoon nap buddy, my evening pest, is dead. I know there are people who object to that term and I understand, but it’s necessary for me. The only way I can accept her absence is to acknowledge the fact that she’s dead. Nothing else would prevent her from being here with me. No rainbow bridge could stop her.

I’ve written about the cat before (here and here). I’ve always referred to her as “the cat.” She had an actual name, Abby, though I’m not sure I’ve ever used it. I really don’t know why. I always told folks I didn’t use her name because it seemed presumptuous for a human to attach a human name to an independent non-human being. I’d tell folks I didn’t use her name because I respected her autonomy. There’s probably some truth in that. I’m not sure how much.

I’d say she was an odd cat, but that’s true of every cat I’ve known. She was a small, stubborn, commanding creature. She liked things a certain way; she liked predictable ritual behavior. Every morning we’d check the perimeter, which basically amounted to the two of us standing at the back door and looking out at the yard; some mornings she’d stand or sit on my foot as I stood there. It was just a few moments, but we did it every morning. 

We did something similar every evening. I’d got in the habit of retiring to the basement at some point between eight-thirty and nine PM, where I’d write or watch television. She adapted to that and every single evening she’d come striding into the living room around that time, and she’d make it clear I needed to pet and feed her, and get my ass downstairs. She’d sit and stare at me if I didn’t follow the ritual. If I resisted, she’d move a bit closer and keep staring. The cat ran a tight ship. 

I don’t know what I’ll do tomorrow. 

Like most cats, she napped a lot. In the summer she liked to nap in the hostas; she’d bury herself amongst the leaves and act as if she was invisible. In the colder months she liked to nap in a patch of sunlight. Or on my lap. I say she ‘liked’ it, but the truth was she was insistent. She wanted me to sit a certain way, with one leg tucked under the other. If I sat wrong, she’d fuss and fidget until I sat properly. She made me her nap monkey; she decided when and how the napping was to be done, and I just tipped my hat and went along.

She’ll never nap on my lap again. 

She wasn’t a talkative cat; she communicated mostly by staring at you. Sometimes, if you failed to notice her staring, she’d rear up and gently tap your arm. “Hey, pay attention to me.” I never thought of myself as the sort of person who talked to animals, but I surely became one. I talked to the cat often. I never talked ‘baby talk’ to her. Not once. We had adult conversations. She had a peculiar purr–it was more of a stuttering rhythmic grunt than a traditional purr. And she was stingy with it; she didn’t purr much. But when she did–when she was really contented and happy–it was the most wonderful sound.

I’ll never hear that sound again.

I’ll never hear that sound again. She’ll never nap on my lap again. She’ll never send me downstairs to work again. We’ll never check the perimeter again. I miss her so much.

I’m not prepared to miss her. I was prepared for her to die; we knew it was coming and having too much experience with death, I was ready for it. But I wasn’t ready…I’m still not ready…for how much I miss her.

I don’t know what I’ll do tomorrow.

election day

I have no idea what’s going to happen today. Neither do you.

Maybe it’ll be a quiet day. Maybe voters will line up, take their turn in the voting booth, greet each other like good citizens, then patiently wait to see the results of the election. Maybe everybody will accept those results. Maybe. But probably not.

Maybe we’ll get to see the blue wave we’ve heard so much about. Maybe Democratic voters will turn out in such massive numbers that despite the monstrous gerrymandered voting districts, Democrats will retain control of both houses of Congress. Maybe some of the worst GOP assholes will be handed their hats and told to go home. Maybe. Maybe not.

Maybe Republicans are right. Maybe voters are so afraid of imaginary enemies–of Antifa and BLM, of caravans of infected drug-toting immigrant rapists from South and Central America, of gay teachers brainwashing white hetero Christian students into becoming trans furries who drink soy lattes while using the litterbox–that they’ll vote for authoritarian leaders who’ll protect them from…something. Maybe. I hope not, but maybe.

Maybe there’ll be violence at polling sites. Long lines, political hatred, the easy availability of firearms, the loosening of restrictions limiting who can own and carry a gun and where they can legally carry them–all those things contribute to the probability of mayhem. And if schools and churches and supermarkets are vulnerable to mass shooting incidents (I fucking hate the term ‘incidents’ to describe these), will anybody be surprised to hear about one at a polling site? Maybe blood will be shed today. Maybe. Again, I hope not. But only an idiot would dismiss the possibility.

I don’t know what’s going to happen today. I don’t know what’s going to happen today partly because I don’t quite recognize the nation we’ve become.

I don’t know what’s going to happen today, but I know this: I voted. I voted for the nation I hope still exists. I voted for the nation I want us to become.

Maybe it’ll happen. Maybe not.

If you haven’t voted yet, go vote now. Vote for your lives.

the intersection of rigged, crooked, and evil

I want to be optimistic about the mid-term elections. And I kinda sorta am, because I know there are more Democrats than Republicans.

But I also know that having a majority of voters isn’t enough anymore. I know Republicans have wildly gerrymandered Congressional districts to give themselves an advantage, I know Republicans have pretty much decided in advance NOT to accept any result other than a victory, I know Republicans are doing everything they can get away with (and they can get away with a LOT) to make it more difficult for Democratic voters to vote, and I know the news media is generally unwilling to report that a LOT of Republican candidates are flat out lying. I know that Republicans maintain a media advantage. I know there’s a massive double standard for reporting on Democrats and Republicans.

Here’s an example: yesterday Comrade Trump (on his Twitter-facsimile) wrote this:

Our Country is Rigged, Crooked, and Evil.

And not a single major news source reported it. Imagine if a Democrat had said that. Imagine if Nancy Pelosi or Joe Biden or Barack Obama had said “Our country is evil.” Every Republican would be screaming in outrage, every news agency would make it a major story, every evening news broadcast would cover it and it would be endlessly repeated in every GOP political advert in every state. Any Democrat who said that would be vilified, and rightly so. But Trump can say it and all it elicits is a shrug. Because that’s what we expect from MAGA assholes.

(Tangent: to create an image to illustrate this, I typed Trump’s line into the ‘detailed description’ box of DALL-E2 to see what it would generate. What it generated was this: “It looks like this request may not follow our content policy.” Even artificial intelligence is offended by the line. I had to modify Trump’s words to make the description more palatable to the AI, which then generated the following image.)

“Our cities are rigged, crooked, and in ruins.”

I don’t believe our country is generally rigged, crooked, and evil. I DO believe many of the systems of the US are rigged against the poor and minorities. I also believe capitalism is inherently crooked. I’m not sure I believe in the concept of evil, though I’ve seen enough awful, horrible things that I can’t deny the possibility that it exists.

But if there is an intersection of rigged, crooked, and evil, it’s manifested in MAGA and the MAGA vision of America.

I want to be optimistic. I want to be convinced that enough Americans believe in democracy to vote to save it. I want to be confident that representative democracy is strong enough to stand up to MAGA. I really, really, really want to be optimistic.

But I’m just not. I’m not optimistic, but I’m hopeful. And I’m afraid of being hopeful.

motive is a mystery

News Media: Bizarre hammer assault on Speaker Pelosi’s husband.
Suspect: I was after Nancy.
News Media: Law enforcement has offered no motive for the attack.
Suspect: I wanted to kill Nancy.
News Media: Police silent on Pelosi attacker’s intentions.
Suspect: Really, I just wanted to kill Nancy. I guess she wasn’t there.
News Media: Did divisive political rhetoric play a part in attack?
Suspect: Everybody on FOX says Nancy is a monster, so I wanted to kill her. You know…with a hammer.
News Media: Pelosi needed brain surgery after hammer attack.
GOP: CA should relax gun laws so Pelosi could have defended himself from hammer-wielding attacker. Dems not tough on crime.
Suspect: I would have used a gun, but this is California and I can’t buy one.
FOX News: Lots of people injured in hammer attacks in CA. Why lib media focused on this one minor assault? Pelosi didn’t even die.
News Media: Unconfirmed report: Pelosi attacker said to be dressed in his underwear.
Suspect: I’m a hammer killer, not a pervert. Fully dressed. In camo.
Elon Musk: An obscure news source that once claimed Hilary Clinton was dead and replaced by a body double says the attack MAY have some kinky gay thing going on.
GOP: After recent DUI arrest, Paul Pelosi engaged in extramarital gay hammer sex party.
News Media: Uh, well, okay, maybe?
Suspect: Look, all I wanted to do was kill Nancy then go monitor voting drop boxes like any other normal patriotic American. I’m a victim of cancel culture.

News Media: Sources say Pelosi lured hammer suspect with offers of twisted gay sex.
Suspect: Wait, what? No.
News Media: GOP claims prosecution of Pelosi hammer attacker is politically motivated.
Suspect: I’m announcing my candidacy for Gov. of Cali, which I’ll win unless the votes are tampered with.
GOP: Vote for us, we’ll hammer Biden and his gay socialist agenda!

EDITORIAL NOTE: Today, 10-31-22, the FBI released an eight page affidavit “for the limited purpose of securing a criminal complaint and arrest warrant” for the asshole who assaulted Paul Pelosi with a hammer. It includes statements made by David DePape outlining his motives for breaking into the Pelosi hom. You can read the affidavit here.

Will this end the wild speculation by Republicans and other conspiracy theory fuckwits?

Nope.

a regular intruder drill

“We thought it was just a regular intruder drill. But when we started hearing sirens outside and the teachers started to even get scared, then we knew that this wasn’t just a regular drill and it was real.”

A regular intruder drill. Three people, including the shooter, are dead. But students thought it was just one of their regular intruder drills. At least eight people have been transported to local hospitals. So, NOT just a regular intruder drill.

The fact that a high school in St. Louis, Missouri even HAS regular intruder drills is an indictment of US politics. It’s an indictment of the Republican Party. It’s an indictment of American gun culture. But given the horrific reality that there have been at least 545 mass shootings THIS YEAR in the US, then yeah, regular intruder drills are probably needed. Because the GOP is sure as fuck not going to let anybody do anything about the guns.

The GOP and the NRA will argue we need to arm teachers. The St. Louis school had SEVEN security officers INSIDE the school, but some 20-year-old asshole still managed to wander in toting some sort of long gun (and will anybody be surprised if we learn it was some AR-15 variant?). But hey, most of the 545 mass shootings this year DID NOT take place at schools. Maybe we also need to arm cashiers at the supermarkets. Maybe we need to arm receptionists and the kid who puts your burrito together and the person who passes the collection plate at church. Because guns make us safe?

Following the shooting, the mayor, Tishaura Jones, texted “Help us, Jesus.” Jesus ain’t gonna help us. You might as well call on Thor to help us. Prayer doesn’t do shit to stop a bullet. But you can be assured the GOP will be calling for thoughts and prayers, and holding out their hands for the NRA to donate to their campaigns.

You know what would help? Making it harder to buy guns. That would help. Making it illegal to wander around the streets openly carrying a rifle or shotgun, that would help. Open carry of long guns in public is completely unregulated in Missouri. This shooter would have been legally able to walk right up the school doors openly toting his gun, and that would be just fine with the GOP. That’s just fucking crazy, right there.

Even if the US Congress passed some minimal firearm legislation (which, hey, they did), it wouldn’t help. Why? Because in 2021 the Missouri GOP passed what they called the Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA). This specifically prohibits state and local law enforcement officials from enforcing federal gun policies. Hell, SAPA even punishes state and local police officers for trying to enforce federal gun laws.

In fact, more than 1,200 jurisdictions (state, county, municipal) in 37 states have adopted some form of resolution or law restricting local law enforcement from enforcing federal laws IF they feel those laws violate the Second Amendment. Want to guess which political party pushed for that?

Republicans are simply willing to sacrifice children to protect the gun lobby’s shaky interpretation of an amendment written 230 years ago. An amendment written at a time when there were no police and no standing army in the US. A time when there was open conflict between settlers and the native peoples whose territory they were intruding upon. A time when the most common firearms were muskets capable of firing a single round (maybe three rounds per minute) and with a maximum accuracy range of around 50 yards.

If the St. Louis shooter had an AR-15 variant, even without any training, he could easily fire at least 30 rounds per minute, probably closer to 60, with a lot more accuracy. The Second Amendment, as it was written in 1791, simply doesn’t address modern killing tech.

What happened in St. Louis today wasn’t a regular intruder drill. Sadly, it was just a regular school shooting, around the 40th school shooting this year (we average about one a week–and let me just say that again, this year we averaged about one school shooting every fucking week). Unless a couple more people die, it’s not even a mass murder.

It’s just another day in America.

warranted

This question/comment was made by a senior economist employed by a major economic policy center:

Seems if we had an attorney general who respected the law, he would send the FBI to ALL of Trump’s residences and tear them apart to look for every damn missing document, just like would happen with a drug lord. What happened to no one being above the law?

Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. And it shouldn’t–not to Trump, not to a drug lord. It’s not gonna happen because we DO have an Attorney General who respects the law. It’s not gonna happen because it’s fucking illegal.

I’ve heard similar questions/comments by other folks. Some of those folks are boneheads, some are smart folks, educated folks, folks who follow the news. I blame television. On television, all a detective has to do is say to some flunky, “I know in my gut that this guy did the crime. I just need to find the evidence. Get me a warrant to search his house!” and hey bingo, the detective gets a warrant.

That just ain’t how it works. Law enforcement–and I’m talking about everybody from the FBI down to officers from your local Mayberry police department–can’t just act on a hunch or a gut feeling. This is pretty basic stuff, and it’s right out of the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution.

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.

No warrants shall issue. What the hell is a warrant, anyway? The term comes from the Old French ‘garant‘ out of the Frankish ‘warand‘ meaning ‘pledge.’ It’s also the root term for ‘guarantee’ and ‘guard’ and ‘warden’. It means a pledge or guarantee that the information written down has been attested or given under oath.

If the State wants to search a place, they first have to swear an oath that they’ve got a legit reason to do that. There’s a process to this search warrant business, and that process always, without fail, begins with the question, Hey, did somebody break the law here? Is it illegal for Comrade Ex-President Donald J. Trump to stuff classified documents down his pants and take them to Trump Tower or one of his many golf resorts? The answer, of course, is yep. Totally illegal. But you have to be specific; you have to be able to point to an actual criminal statute and be able to say to a judge, “That law right here, that’s the law we believe Trump broke IF he walked away with those documents.

Step two is another question: Did Trump do that? Did he stuff documents down his pants and walk away? This is where shit gets complicated. Obviously, you can’t prove Trump did that without evidence and you can’t get the evidence to show he did that without searching for it. But you can’t search for it until you can convince a judge that (okay, here’s some legal-sounding language) you have sufficient credible information to establish that Trump probably did that.

The judge will expect you to lay out what that information is, how you got that information, why you believe the information is credible, and your qualifications to justify your belief in the credibility of that information. So you tell the judge, “The Archives reports that Trump was supposed to give them all his shit after he left office, but there’s shit they KNOW exists and they don’t have it, so probably Trump does. The Archives haven’t ever lied to us before and we’re seriously experienced and skeptical FBI agents, and we trust them, so there.”

So yeah, you’ve shown that a crime was probably committed and Trump probably committed it. Now comes Step three: finding the damned evidence. Now you have to convince a judge that you’ve got good reason to believe the evidence of that specific crime exists and can be found in these specific locations. In the Mar-a-Lago search, the FBI told the judge, “We got us some witnesses who saw Comrade Donald J. Trump stuff like TWO truckloads of boxes labeled Classified Shit down his pants at the White House, and witnesses who saw those same boxes unloaded from his pants at Mar-a-Lago, and we’ve even got witnesses who saw those boxes in Trump’s basement and in his goddamned office, if you can believe it, where all sorts of loopy people go wandering through.”

The FBI had all that for Mar-a-Lago. So they were able to convince a judge to issue a search warrant and do the search. They apparently don’t have everything they need to get a warrant for Trump Tower or any of Trump’s other golf resorts. Not yet. But we know they’re talking to folks with information about those locations. So they’re working on it.

Why is this search and seizure business so complicated? To protect innocent people. To keep the agents of the State from wandering through anybody’s home or place of business on the off chance that maybe they’ll find something illegal. It’s to stop them from just walking into YOUR home or your office, opening YOUR drawers, snooping through YOUR closets, rummaging around in YOUR kitchen, or trolling through YOUR private stuff on YOUR computer.

The irony, of course, is that if Comrade Trump were ever to have power again, that sleazy motherfucker absolutely WOULD want to be able to do that.