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.

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.

news cycle

Herschel Walker: Abortion is bad, wicked, evil and I am against it totally.
Press: Didn’t you pay for your girlfriend to have an abortion?
Walker: That’s a lie. I did NOT pay for that woman’s abortion.
Press: Your ex-girlfriend says you did.
Walker: She’s a liar.
Press: We have the get well card you sent her.
Walker: Okay, I sent her a get well card. She was…you know, sick and all.
Press: We have a copy of the check you sent her to pay for the abortion.
Walker: That check was for medical supplies. Aspirin, hot water bottle, stuff like that.
Press: The memo line on the check says, ‘This is to pay for your abortion’.
Walker: It’s a forgery.
Press: We have video of you dropping her off at the abortion clinic.
Walker: I thought that was a Target. Anybody can make a mistake.
Press: In the audio of the video we can hear you saying, “Bye now, have a nice abortion!”
Walker: Fake news! Women lie!
GOP: We completely support Herschel Walker and are outraged by these scurrilous accusations. It just proves Democrats can’t be trusted.
Press: GOP says Dems can’t be trusted.

GOP: It’s possible Mr. Walker at one point in his otherwise exemplary life thought abortion might be okay under certain circumstances, but now he realizes he was wrong and all abortion is murder, so leave him alone.
Press: Exemplary life? He put a gun to his wife’s head and threatened to kill her.
GOP: A candidate’s domestic life isn’t the issue. The issue is pedophiles teaching CRT to grade school students.
Press: Walker used to play Russian roulette.
GOP: The Republican party cares about mental health rehabilitation. The past is the past.
Press: We’ve just received video of Herschel Walker paying to abort endangered baby eagles.
GOP: There’s no law against aborting baby eagles. Stick to the real issues that are important to American families. Inflation, the price of gas, trans girls winning medals in high school sports, Democrat crossdressers in girls bathrooms selling fetanyl.
Press: GOP says Dems killing teen girls.
Tucker Carlson: Are there are videos of Hunter Biden dressed in a frilly Lolita skirt taking bribes and cocaine from Chinese agents in the girl’s bathroom of a Catholic grade school? I’m just asking questions. Next up, Herschel Walker discusses how to arm yourself to protect your family from baby eagles.

blood in the streets

“If there’s a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information…there’ll be riots in the street.”

That was Senator Lindsey Olin Graham of South Carolina. But I’ve been seeing and hearing that sort of idiotic bullshit a lot lately–on the news and in real life. There was a guy at the gym last week–a living caricature of a Trump supporter; overweight and angry, loud and obnoxious–saying much the same thing. He said he was so angry he was “about ready to take up arms.” About ready. Not actually ready to take up arms, but just about ready.

Putting aside the fact that this guy would have probably collapsed in a puddle of his own urine if he’d had to run across the street, there’s the question of whom he’d take up arms against. In his rant, he mentioned Uncle Joe Biden, Antifa, the DeepStateFBI (yes, it was all one word) and communists. Maybe he meant to take up arms against all of them? Or maybe he thinks they’re all the same group? I don’t know. It was an unhinged, unfocused, unorganized rant.

Is this blood-in-the-streets scenario something we really need to fret about? Well, yes and no. I mean, the 1/6 insurrection is evidence that there are a lot of angry Trumpistas who are willing to use violence to get their way. So yeah, that’s a real concern.

But that anger had focus. Misdirected focus built on lies, true–but there was a focal point. The Capitol Building. Comrade Trump pointed them at the Capitol. It’s entirely possible (assuming Trump gets indicted–and I think he will–and goes to trial–and I’m not so sure about that) that a Trumpista mob would assault the courthouse.

He could riot for maybe half a street.

But as for widespread rioting in the streets? Naw, probably not. Sure, there’ll be pro-Trump protests and some of those will likely turn violent. But the problem with the sort of conspiratorial free-floating rage we see from so many Trumpistas is that it’s undirected. Like the fuckwit at the gym, they’re intensely angry at some vague, nebulous Biden/Antifa/DeepState/commie Bogeyman that doesn’t exist. It’s easy to sustain that sort of anger, but hard to sustain any sort of direct action against vapor. You can’t punch smoke.

But you can punch fascists. If holding Trump accountable for his crimes leads to violence in the streets, then so be it. I’d much rather it didn’t happen, but if it does then it does. It’s a price we may have to pay to resist fascism.

EDITORIAL NOTES: 1) I don’t advocate punching anybody, even if they’re fascists. But if you find yourself on the street and there’s a fascist in front of you doing or saying fascist stuff, DO NOT punch him (it’ll almost certainly be a guy) in the head; heads are mostly bone and you could hurt your hand. Punch him someplace soft. 2) When I described the Trumpista at the gym as being “overweight and angry” and said he’d likely collapse “in a puddle of his own urine if he’d had to run across the street,” it wasn’t to denigrate fat people. There are fat people who are in really good shape. I’m just describing those armchair warriors who sit around drinking cheap-ass beer and eating bags of Doritos and fantasize about being tough. I probably am denigrating cheap-ass beer, though. Sue me.

an inspiration?

At the end of Thursday’s hearing by the House Select Committee, Liz Cheney made a point of praising the women who testified before the committee. She named Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards and Georgia election workers Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman, as well as Sarah Matthews who had testified moments before. But Cheney singled out Cassidy Hutchinson for particular praise.

“She sat here alone, took the oath and testified before millions of Americans. She knew all along she would be attacked by President Trump, and by the 50, 60 and 70-year-old men who hide themselves behind executive privilege. But like our witnesses today, she has courage, and she did it anyway. Cassidy, Sarah and our other witnesses, including Officer Caroline Edwards, Shaye Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, are an inspiration to American women and to American girls.”

Yes. And no. And yes again. Yes, all of these women deserve praise for doing the right thing. But let’s look at the totality of their circumstances. The two Georgia election workers were just doing their job like tens of thousands of election workers in every precinct in the United States. It’s an important job, but not an especially demanding one; it took no courage for them to do the right thing. Their courage was tested afterwards, when they were vilified for having done their job properly. Partisan politics didn’t play a role in their jobs.

Officer Edwards at the fist barricade

Officer Edwards was doing her job as well, but on January 6th her job put her in direct physical danger. She was one of a handful of officers who were the first line of defense at the Capitol building. They were quickly overwhelmed; she was knocked down, knocked unconscious, suffered a traumatic brain injury–then after she regained consciousness, she went back to work and for several hours fought in close combat with rioters. That clearly took courage and dedication. Partisan politics didn’t play a role in her job.

Partisan politics is why Sarah Matthews and Cassidy Hutchinson had their jobs. They each made a deliberate choice to work in the Trump administration. They supported the Trump administration. They knew who Donald Trump was–how he behaved and how he treated others. They knew his history. And they chose to work for him They directly witnessed how he ran the White House, how he reached policy decisions, how frequently his staff quit or were fired, how he demanded loyalty without returning it. They knew Donald Trump and they willingly supported and represented him.

That makes them complicit in Trump’s behavior. They worked for him diligently for four years, during which they were willing to disregard or condone his bad behavior. It wasn’t until he actively urged an angry mob to engage in a violent insurrection in order to illegally retain power that they decided he’d gone too far.

It’s to their credit that they were willing to draw the line at sedition and insurrection. And it’s to their credit that they were willing to testify against Trump. That took courage, because Liz Cheney is right–they both knew how Trump and his supporters would treat them. Because they’d see him do it to others. Because they were okay with him doing it to others. It took courage for them to step up; but it doesn’t make them heroes.

Officer Edwards, unconscious.

So yes, the courage of these women should, as Cheney said, be “an inspiration to American women and to American girls.” But no, there’s nothing inspirational about being willing to work for corrupt, cruel people until their corruption and cruelty becomes intolerable. And yes, it’s better to draw the line too late than not draw it at all.

They were all just doing their jobs. Cassidy Hutchinson and Sarah Matthews aided a corrupt White House until the corruption became too much for them to accept. Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman simply processed ballots according to the rules, and were unfairly vilified for it. Officer Caroline Edwards helped provide security for the Capitol Building and protect the people inside.

You want inspiration for redemption, look at Hutchinson and Matthews. You want inspiration for honesty and integrity, look at Moss and Freeman. But if you want a hero, look at Officer Edwards.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Just a reminder that patriarchy is a social structure kept in place by ordinary folks. Pay attention to how people in power treat people with lesser power. Call out assholes, even if they’re people you generally agree with. Support decency, even if it comes from people you disagree with. And every chance you get, add a match to the fire that will burn the patriarchy to the ground.

it’s not going to stop them

A headline in my morning news feed:

Judge blocks Biden admin directives on transgender athletes, bathrooms

Judge Charles Atchley Jr., appointed to the Eastern District of Tennessee in the last weeks of the failed Trump administration, “temporarily blocked Biden administration directives allowing transgender workers and students to use bathrooms and locker rooms and join sports teams that correspond with their gender identity.”

Here’s what happened: twenty GOP-controlled states have passed laws allowing (or requiring) discrimination against trans students and workers. President Uncle Joe’s directives, in effect, said, “Hey, it’s your state, do what you think you have to. BUT if you do that, you’ll lose some federal funding.” The Attorneys General of those states said, “It’s not fair for you to deny us some of that sweet federal cash just because we think trans people are icky and want to punish them.” The Biden position is, “Dude, our cash, our rules.”

But here’s the thing: bigots can hold power and punish trans folks, but it’s not going to stop them. I mean, just think about how much courage and determination it takes for trans people to identify themselves as trans. City, county, and state governments pass laws that are specifically and deliberately cruel to trans kids–and they still stand up and say, “I’m Spartacus!” Bigots and assholes physically attack and murder trans folks–and they still stand up and say, “I’m Spartacus!”

Do these judges and attorneys general really think trans kids will stop being trans just because the government puts an end to inclusive bathrooms? They’ve been beaten and publicly humiliated and murdered and disowned by their parents–and NONE of that has stopped them from being trans because that’s who they fucking are.

A couple of days ago on the news, there was one of those classic ‘hero citizen’ reports. Guy spots a house on fire, alerts the people inside, gashes his arm breaking a window to rescue a child. Everybody cheers this guy, because he’s a genuine hero.

Trans folks–and especially trans kids–run into a burning house every damned day just by living their lives. They risk their lives every damned day just by going out in public. They are quietly heroic every damned day.

Ain’t no judge or attorney general going to stop them.

more about assholes and libraries

In my last post, I wrote about assholes and Carnegie libraries. I didn’t expect this to be a theme. But this is the United States in 2022, and Comrade Trump has turned the Republican Party into a smug nationwide collective of aggressively stupid, hate-fueled, authoritarian bullies.

So, there’s a Carnegie library in the small Iowa town of Vinton, population of about 5000. Dedicated in 1908, it’s one of the smallest Carnegie libraries in the US. It operated to the benefit of the community for over a century.

That pretty much ended last week, when the library was closed. Why?

Because of assholes.

It began in May of 2020 when, Virginia Holsten, the Director of the Vinton Public Library for 35 years, resigned. She was replaced by Janette McMahon, who’d been a librarian in both Iowa and Wyoming.

You may remember that 2020 was an election year. Some library patrons complained about books written by Kamala Harris (who, by the way, had visited the Vinton Library and read from her children’s book) and Dr. Jill Biden being on display. They also complained that there weren’t enough books about Comrade Donald Trump. McMahon explained the rigorous process by which books are selected for the library. She said, “I can’t buy what doesn’t exist, and there weren’t quality books about Trump. We pay attention to reviews and publishers and our collection needs as a whole. We don’t just say what looks good on Amazon.”

Library patrons who objected to the Biden and Harris books began checking them out, then refusing to return them. In effect, they stole the books.

Eventually the attacks against the library became personal attacks against McMahon. She resigned.

In November 2021, Renee Greenlee was hired as Director. She had a long, respected career as a librarian in Iowa. She was one of the librarians given the 2022 I Love My Librarian award, which is bestowed by the American Library Association. Only ten librarians in the country win the award each year.

Vinton library patrons objected to the fact that she hired some LGBTQ staff and that there were book dealing with LGBTQ topics on display in the library. At a library board meeting, one of the patrons read a statement, saying:

It appears that there is a slow, quiet agenda moving into our local library culture through the staff hiring decisions and the books that have crept in our children’s section of the library. I don’t believe the library is representing our town well with hiring a majority of staff who are openly a part of the LGBTQ community.

Another said,

We would like to see more balance in the offerings of books for children. For each book promoting the LGBTQ lifestyle, there should be a book on display that discusses how God created and designed people as either male or female from birth, for life.

Greenlee reported that of the 5,779 children’s materials the library holds, only three books had a subject heading of ‘LGBT’, only two books had a heading of ‘Gay’ and only two books referenced ‘transgender’ issues. In addition, there were 173 books in the library collection that were based on Christian life.

Following the next library board meeting, which was apparently a repetition of the previous one, Greenlee resigned. The interim Director, a gay man, resigned shortly afterward, leaving the Vinton Public Library without any full-time staff.

This is NOT to say that Vinton, Iowa is a town full of assholes. It’s to say that the people of Vinton allowed their local assholes to disrupt a public service that’s been supporting their community for over a century. They’ve turned a lovely gift–a Carnegie library–into an open, festering wound of resentment and hate.

This is happening all over the United States. It happens because the assholes show up while decent people stay home and watch television. In small towns throughout the nation, a minority of bitter, ignorant, self-righteous religious bigots terrified of imaginary enemies have begun to impose their mean-spirited agenda on the rest of us.

And we’ve let them do it. We can’t expect them to be better. We have to DO better ourselves.

willfully and deliberately stupid

I don’t know if you’ve read any of the SCOTUS decisions from the last few weeks. I mean actually read them, not just read news reports or blog posts about them. I suspect most folks haven’t. Can’t blame anybody for that; it takes time to churn through these decisions (the Bruen decision is 135 pages long, for fuck’s sake) and big chunks of them (while certainly/probably important) are mind-numbingly boring.

But if you do take the time to read the most important decisions, I think you’ll discover a theme running through them. And that theme is this: the conservative majority is being willfully and deliberately stupid.

I’m just going to focus on the Bruen decision (and the concurring opinions) because we just went through a long holiday weekend that delivered sixteen mass shootings. The issue in Bruen was a New York law stating an individual who wanted to carry a concealed firearm outside their home had to prove they had a “proper cause” for doing so. In other words, you had to have a good reason for going strapped in public.

In essence, SCOTUS said, pffft, you don’t need no stinking reason, this is America, bitches.

The Court’s majority decision begins by noting that “this Court has long cautioned that the English common law “is not to be taken in all respects to be that of America.” It then (and I am NOT making this up) it spends pages explaining how common law back in Merry Olde England allowed folks to carry guns.

[W]hatever place handguns had in English society during the Tudor and Stuart reigns, by the time we reach the 18th century—and near the founding—they had gained a fairly secure footing in English culture.

You may be asking, “Greg, old sock, when were these Tudor and Stuarts reigning in England? And why should we give a shit?” I’m glad you asked (and stop calling me ‘old sock’). The Tudors and Stuarts were big hats in England from 1485 to 1714. A long fucking time ago. That means we’re talking about flintlock pistols—big honking single shot handguns weighing a couple of pounds, with an effective combat range of about 20 feet, that took a trained soldier at least 30 seconds to reload. Why should we give a shit? No idea. I confess, if I see a guy walking into Starbucks with a flintlock pistol strapped to his belt, I’m not going to get too concerned.

Flintlock pistol

The SCOTUS decision sporadically repeats its finding from Heller decision: “[T]he Second Amendment protects only the carrying of weapons that are those ‘in common use at the time.’” To say flintlock pistols were in common use at the time is bullshit, mainly because most folks didn’t have any need to tote a pistol around (and besides, those things were expensive). But it’s true that IF folks carried a pistol back then, it was a flintlock. Does that constitute ‘common use’? I don’t think so. The Court then goes on to say:

Whatever the likelihood that handguns were considered “dangerous and unusual” during the colonial period, they are indisputably in “common use” for self-defense today.

Dude, they’re in common use today because y’all allowed them to be in common use. It’s like saying colonial era folks never kept their dogs on a leash, then arguing that leash laws aren’t justified in cities now because unleashed dogs were common back then. Willfully and deliberately stupid.

The Court notes that historically, there weren’t a lot of laws in the US restricting the carrying of guns. Not until we passed an amendment restricting firearms.

Only after the ratification of the Second Amendment in 1791 did public-carry restrictions proliferate.

Maybe that’s because the 2nd Amendment specifically mentions that well-regulated militia? Once you link keeping and bearing arms to the militia, state and local lawmakers are going to base laws on that. Right?

The Court, in its review of the history of firearm restrictions, also notes there was an “uptick in gun regulation during the late-19th century—principally in the Western Territories.” You know why there was an uptick in the Old West? Because that’s where cowboys carried guns and got in gunfights. Cowboys had a need for handguns when they were out rounding up cattle and stuff. There were snakes and predators that threatened the cattle and understandably pissed-off native Americans. But when those cowboys rode into Dodge, the sheriff made them take off their guns to stop drunken cowboys from fucking shooting each other. This is NOT hard to understand.

The notion that states and cities have limited power to regulate firearms because the US doesn’t have a history or tradition of regulating firearms is massively stupid. We didn’t have a history or tradition of cowboys riding riotously through a town, shooting at random until cowboys started riding riotously through towns, shooting at random. You don’t need laws preventing folks from doing shit UNTIL THEY START DOING SHIT.

What we DO have now is a history and tradition of mass shootings and mass murder. We are contributing to that history and tradition every goddamn day. As I noted earlier, we had sixteen mass shootings from July 1 through July 4. Four days. Sixteen mass shootings. Eighteen dead, 105 wounded. In four days.

In his concurring opinion, Justice Alito scolds the three Justices who dissented from the majority opinion. He wrote:

[T]he dissent seemingly thinks that the ubiquity of guns and our country’s high level of gun violence provide reasons for sustaining the New York law, the dissent appears not to understand that it is these very facts that cause law-abiding citizens to feel the need to carry a gun for self-defense.

Alito is being willfully and deliberately stupid. The ubiquity of guns and the high level of gun violence ARE EXACTLY the reason for sustaining a law that requires people to demonstrate an actual need to carry a firearm.

Again, it’s like claiming I need to walk around with my dog unleashed to protect me from all those goddamned unleashed dogs out there.