sometimes accidents happen

At some point in your life, you’ve almost certainly had a bad neighbor. The guy in the next apartment who plays Motörhead through the Ages at full volume — every night. Or the fastidious neighbor who starts to mow the lawn at seven o’clock in the goddamn morning on a Sunday. Or the lady next door who owns half a dozen yappy little dogs that shit all over your yard. Or the family across the hall whose laissez-faire approach to garbage day is an open invitation to Buick-sized cockroaches.

But I’m going to guess that unless you live in Collier County, Florida — or more specifically, the city of Naples — or even more specifically, the suburb of Golden Gate Estates — your bad neighbor wasn’t all that bad. Because your neighbor wasn’t Herold Lanham. This is Herold Lanham:

Herold Lanham - dedicated to improving his skill.

Herold Lanham – dedicated to improving his skill.

Herold likes his guns. He likes shooting his guns. He likes shooting them in his backyard, where he’s set up a practice shooting range, with a three-foot berm to stop the bullets. He really likes shooting his guns — but he’s not very good at it. Herold was trying to get better at shooting his guns when he fired a round into the home of his neighbors, the Ledesma family. They, very reasonably, notified the police.

The police probably told Herold to be more careful.

Herold wasn’t discouraged by his astonishingly shitty marksmanship. No sir, practice, that’s what he needed. Practice and persistence. Gutta cavat lapidem non vi, sed sæpe cadendo, as they say in Collier County — the drop hollows out the stone not by strength, but by constant falling. He just needed to keep at it.

And he did. Herold soon returned to his backyard gun range. And hey, he shot the Ledesma house again. And put a round into the living room of the Zuferri family. The police were called again. They probably told him to be more careful. Again.

This unfortunate turn of events would cause most people to ask “Is target shooting right for me? Should I perhaps consider some other form of outdoor exercise? I hear badminton is fun.” But Herold Lanham is NOT most people. Was he disheartened? Was he dismayed by a few errant rounds? No sir, not at all.

More practice. Earnest practice. By perseverance the snail reached the ark, as they say in Collier County. Numquam dedite — never surrender. Quitters never win and winners never quit. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. And all that.

Herold was determined. Resolute, even. Dedicated to improving his skill. He plucked up his courage, picked up his gun, and returned once again to his backyard target range. Where he shot 14-year-old Deborah Ledesma, who had the misfortune to be…well, in her home. The round shattered a window, sending fragments of glass in the young woman’s face, and lodged in her left hand, breaking a few bones and rupturing a tendon.

Deborah Ledesma, 14. Accidents sometimes happen.

Deborah Ledesma, 14. Accidents sometimes happen.

The police were called again, along with an ambulance. This time Herold was arrested and charged with discharging a firearm in public. But hey, this is Florida, where it’s perfectly legal to shoot guns in the privacy of your own back yard.

That’s right. Section 790.15 of the Florida Statutes says you can’t “discharge a firearm in any public place“, but a backyard is NOT a public place. It says you can’t discharge a firearm “on the right-of-way of any paved public road, highway, or street” but a backyard shooting range isn’t a road. It says you can’t discharge a firearm “over the right-of-way of any paved public road, highway, or street or over any occupied premises“, but there wasn’t any road between the backyard of the Lanham house and the backyard of the Ledesma house. And hey, Herold’s shot didn’t pass OVER any occupied premises. It smacked right into them. The law also states you can’t discharge a firearm on private property if it’s done “recklessly or negligently.” But our boy Herold, he’d built a three-foot berm to stop the bullets. He wasn’t being reckless; there was plenty of reck involved. As for negligence, he’d built a three-foot berm to stop bullets. What more could they expect?

So that charge had to be dropped. Instead, Herold was charged with shooting a missile into a building, and he was released on bond. His attorney acknowledges that the incident was unfortunate.

“There’s no doubt this was a tragedy. But I’m sorry, sometimes accidents happen, and that doesn’t mean somebody’s committed a crime simply because there’s a tragic outcome.”

By the way, in Florida there are no zoning requirements or building codes when it comes to adding a backyard firing range. Anybody can do it, and they can do it in any way they choose. Had Lanham wanted to build an addition to his home, or install a swimming pool, he’d have to have the plans approved and meet construction codes.

And that, my friends, is why the Second Amendment is the best amendment. Because accidents sometimes happen, and you can’t be held responsible for an accident. If it involves a firearm.

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bernie deserves better

I have SO MANY friends — fellow Bernie supporters — telling me the New York primary was stolen. No, wait — STOLEN!!!. There, that’s it. The primary was STOLEN!!! because it was a closed primary, and registered Independents couldn’t vote in it, and nobody told them they had to switch their registration six months before the primary, and it’s Hillary’s fault because she’s the Establishment Candidate ™, and the New York Democratic Party set the rules to help Establishment Candidate ™, and it’s just not fair to Bernie, and so democracy is dead!

New York primary

New York primary

I declare, I’m increasingly embarrassed by my fellow Bernie supporters. They’re right that the New York Democratic primary rules are fucked up and need to be changed, but in order to change them — well, it requires a bit of work. First, you have to be a Democrat. This is pretty basic. Registered Independents or Republicans don’t have much say in how Democrats set up their primaries or caucuses. Second, after you register as a Democrat, you have to attend a lot of meetings and listen to a lot of arguments. That takes time and a certain amount of commitment.

It’s important for Bernie supporters to understand the current rules for the NY primary were established about a century ago, when things moved more slowly and there were more political parties and ‘party-crashing’ was more common and sometimes included actual violence. The rules weren’t implemented just to obstruct Bernie.

Just as important, Bernie supporters need to understand that Bernie has benefited from closed events. Most of Bernie’s victories have been in caucus states, and caucuses are always closed. Always. Registered Democrats only, thank you very much. Registered Independents and Republicans, sorry guys — you’re just not welcome. Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, Nebraska, Washington, Maine, Alaska, Hawaii — all Bernie victories, and all closed caucuses.

And hey,let’s face it, caucuses are the least democratic way to select a candidate. Primaries are much more fair and representative. Caucuses actually discourage voters, because they’re so time-consuming. You’re a nurse working second shift at the hospital? Sorry, caucuses are generally held in the evening, so you don’t get to vote. You have a couple of young kids and can’t afford a baby-sitter? Sorry, unless you want to deal with young kids who are forced to sit in a crowded room for two to three hours with no distraction, you don’t get to vote.

It’s disingenuous for Bernie supporters to complain about New York’s closed primary when so much of his momentum has come from closed events. It sounds like whining. It IS whining.

bernie yet again

While we’re at it, let’s look at those open primaries — the ones where Independents (and lawdy, even Republicans) could vote. The fact is, Hillary has won more of those primaries than Bernie. Yes, most of them were in the South — and a lot of Bernie supporters dismiss them for that reason. As if Southern Democrats aren’t real Democrats. As if winning in a poor, under-educated, racially diverse state is somehow not as worthy as winning in a more economically sound, whiter, better educated state. As if Hillary’s victory in, say, conservative Mississippi is less valid than Bernie’s victory in conservative Kansas.

And that’s why — as a Bernie supporter, as somebody who caucused for Bernie in the first (closed) caucus, where Bernie got his first victory —  I’m writing this. I support Bernie, but I’m just not willing to be hypocritical about it. I won’t complain about closed primary losses while I celebrate closed caucus victories. I won’t whine about registered Independents being unable to influence the choices of a political party they haven’t joined. I won’t attribute Bernie’s losses to conspiracies, and I won’t make excuses for why Bernie isn’t winning.

Here’s the thing: Bernie may not be winning the 2016 nomination, but he might be winning the future of the Democratic party. And that’s just as important — in fact, probably more important — in the long-term.

I say Bernie ‘might’ be winning the future, because my impression is that a lot of his supporters — the ones who are concocting conspiracy theories to explain why he’s not doing better — will abandon politics if Bernie doesn’t get the nomination. And if that happens, then the rules for primaries will stay fucked up for the foreseeable future. Worse, any hope we have to radically change the way politics are handled in the U.S. will fade.

Bernie’s campaign was never about Bernie. It’s always been about change. Change for the better. And there won’t be any change for the better in the future if we lie to ourselves about the present.

 

got to — this america, man

There are two kinds of people. You know this. There are people who’ve seen The Wire and there are those poor, innocent, unfortunate motherfuckers who haven’t. Sometimes it’s impossible to communicate with those folks.

So this morning I get this text from a friend of mine. She’s been living in NYC for some time. Late nineties, something like that. And she’s unhappy and discouraged on account of Bernie got thumped in the New York primary. But she sort of expected that. Doesn’t like it, but she’s not really surprised that Hillary won. She texted me this:

hillarys always had the dem machine behind her

And I replied:

You come at the Queen, you best not miss.

But she didn’t get the reference. Now, I’m not saying Hillary is Omar Little. What I’m saying is she’s been around the block more than a few times and no matter how many times she’s been wounded, she just keeps on coming back. The woman is tough. I’m a Bernie man, but I’m thinking he’s come at Hillary with too little, too late. I’m about half expecting to see Hillary wearing a t-shirt that says The Cheese Stands Alone.

But here’s what’s weird — what really has my friend distressed is Trump. Trump’s success has her surprised. It makes no sense to her. She knows Trump is a dick and completely unqualified, but she just doesn’t understand how Republicans keep voting for him. She sent this text block:

hes not even a republican

not politically.

why do they even let him run

the republicans i mean

And I texted back:

Got to — this America, man

Again, she didn’t get the reference. Let’s face it, texting isn’t what you’d call a nuanced communication medium, even for folks who’re familiar with The Wire. I could have texted:

Trump is Snot Boogie before he got himself shot.

But if she didn’t get the other references, she’d never get that one. The thing is, Snot Boogie wasn’t always Snot Boogie, just like Trump wasn’t always Trump. At some point in his life Omar Isaiah Betts (a totally different Omar, by the way; must have been a popular name in Baltimore) got tagged with the name Snot and so he became Snot. Donald Trump was just another spoiled, arrogant, privileged, stupid-ass rich kid, but at some point in his life he sloughed off his first name and he became Trump. Not a person, a brand.

Snot Boogie shot craps; Trump shot real estate. Two different games. When Snot got greedy and took the money, he’d get chased down and beat up. But “ain’t nobody go past that.” Until they did. Trump, when he’d get chased down, he’d file for bankruptcy. Snot gets his ass kicked; Trump gets to start over.

But here’s the thing. Politics ain’t real estate. The rules are different. More like craps. You got the money, you get to play. The more money you got, the longer you can stay in the game. Trump, he’s still playing real estate craps. He still thinks if he loses, he’ll get to start over. Stupid motherfucker. Most players who run for president, when they lose they end up like Snot Boogie. Dead. Metaphorically and politically dead, most of them. Remember Jon Huntsman? No, I didn’t think so. He was the Governor of Utah, ran for president just four years ago; now he’s Snot Boogied. What about John Edwards? Former senator, did pretty well in the 2008 campaign. Now he’s dead at Mistah Kurtz. Fred Thompson? He was running second in the GOP in 2008. He was dead as bricks, even before he literally died. A few candidates survive, wounded, but hardly any ever come back from losing.

And that brings us back to Snot. What happened to him was inevitable. What’ll happen to Trump — that’s pretty much inevitable too. He’ll probably get the nomination, Trump. If he does, he’ll meet the same metaphorical fate as poor Snot Boogie. After the general election, he’ll be face down on the street. And if he doesn’t get the nomination? He’ll end up face down on the convention floor.

My friend, she doesn’t understand how the Republican Party could let Trump get in the game. He got in the same way Snot got in. You got the coin, you get a chance to roll the dice. What happens after that, who the hell knows. But they got to let you play.

You know this if you’ve seen The Wire. This America, man.

 

us

I understand the passion of the ‘Bernie Or Bust’ crowd. They’re like folks who’ve recently given up smoking or eating meat. They realize this New Way is better than the Old Way. Seriously better — and better for everybody, not just themselves.The New Way is clearly better and they want everybody to know it and embrace it.

Stop wrecking your lungs and the lungs of everybody around you. Stop eating meat and end the unsustainable and cruel practices of industrial meat production. Stop electing politicians who represent the interests of billionaires and corporations instead of the interests of the public. Just stop doing that shit.

BERNIE OR BUST

But here’s the thing the Bernie Or Bust folks need to understand. Bernie can’t break up the big banks. He can’t make college education free. He can’t end income inequality, or reform campaign finance, or extinguish racism. Assuming he’s elected President of These United States (a consummation devoutly to be wished), Bernie can’t do any of that. He’d like to, but he just can’t. Not unless there’s a radical change in Congress — and friends, even if the Republican party continues to shit the bed and Democrats pick up an unexpected number of Congressional seats, it won’t be a radical enough change to allow President Sanders to do what he’d like to do.

Hell, Democrats were in the majority in the Senate when President Obama was elected, and Congress prevented him from closing the prisons in Guantanamo. You think they’re going to let Bernie break up the big banks? No fucking way.

bernie or bust again

So what can Bernie do if/when he’s elected president? He can make a start. Hell, even if he loses the nomination, he’s already made a start by mobilizing so many people. But it’ll be up to us — to the folks who believe in what Bernie believes — to do the grunt work of changing government. And we change government by voting. Not just in presidential primaries and caucuses, and not just in presidential election years, but voting in every goddamn election in every goddamn year. Vote in local elections, vote in state-wide elections, vote in off-year congressional elections, vote and work hard to get good people elected at every level of government.

You ‘Bernie or Bust’ folks tell me you support Bernie Sanders. Great. Then you need to actually support him. and what he believes. Here’s a True Thing: If you seriously make this claim:

bernie or Bust3

then you can’t truly believe in this:

bernie not me us.

Not me — us. It’s not about Bernie as an individual. It’s about what Bernie believes. If you truly want to see Bernie’s vision of These United States come to fruition, then model yourself after Bernie. That man has been busting his ass for half a century to make this country fair and just for ordinary people.

You really want to support Bernie? Then think about what Bernie would actually want you to do. Work hard to get him the nomination. If we fail, then work hard to get Hillary elected. If we fail at that, then keep working and work harder. Work hard to elect people in your hometown, in your county, in your state.

It’s not about Bernie; it’s about us. If you think it’s just about Bernie, then you haven’t been paying attention. If you think it’s just about electing Bernie as a leader, then you haven’t been listening. He’s not just asking for us to follow him; he’s also asking us to shoulder our share of the burden. He’s making promises, but he’s expecting us to help him fulfill them.

Not me — us.