red flags, fear, & a wee bit of common sense

After the Santa Fe High School mass killing event…wait. Do you remember the Santa Fe mass killing? A year ago, in Texas? May 18, 2018? Ring a bell? Ten killed — eight students and two teachers — and thirteen wounded? Remember now? C’mon, it was the third-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. Comrade Trump said, “we are with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever.” Remember now? No?

Following the Santa Fe High School mass killing.

Okay, these things happen. They’re easy to forget. Anyway, after the Santa Fe shooting Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, created the Texas Safety Commission to look into ways to prevent that sort of tragedy from happening again. The TSC released its report and recommendations last month, two days before the El Paso Walmart massacre. Here’s what Gov. Abbott said at the time:

“In the aftermath of the horrific shooting in Santa Fe, we had discussions just like what we are having today. Those discussions weren’t just for show and for people to go off into the sunset and do nothing. They led to more than 20 laws being signed by me to make sure that the state of Texas was a better, safer place, including our schools for our children.”

Those laws to make Texas ‘a better, safer place’ weren’t common sense laws to increase firearm safety; they were mostly laws that loosened existing restrictions about where Texans could carry guns. There’d been some discussion about including a ‘red flag’ law — a law that allows police or family members to ask a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person considered to be a danger to others or themselves. But in the end, Gov. Abbott and the TSC decided a red flag law would put too many burdens on gun owners.

“I think we need to focus more on memorials before we start the politics.” Texas Gov. Greg Abott

Seventeen states have some sort of red flag law. Although these law are still fairly recent, research suggests red flag laws have, at a minimum, reduced suicide rates. There’s not enough data yet to comment on their effect on murder rates, but red flag laws have been used in at least 20 instances in which people were threatening to commit mass murders. Threatening to commit a mass murder doesn’t mean a person will actually attempt it, but common sense tells us seizing their firearms would certainly make any attempt a lot less likely.

There ARE a few — a very few — valid constitutional concerns about red flag laws. There are due process issues involved when you allow police to seize property from somebody who hasn’t actually committed a crime. But when the crime is murder and the property involved is a tool designed specifically to kill, I think we can allow a few narrow due process exceptions.

Gun rights advocates argue red flag laws give too much weight to the accuser. They fear angry women will use the laws to punish men by having their guns seized. They argue law-abiding gun owners could lose their weapons “because some woman was slighted by a comment taken out of context or jilted by a lover.” Others are afraid the laws would be used by liberals to confiscate the firearms of conservatives. Some even claim red flag laws are, in fact, the first step in a Deep State plan to disarm conservative ‘patriots’.

Most of these folks are idjits.

At the heel of the hunt, it always comes down to this: fear. Politicians fear the money and power of the NRA. They fear losing their status, their power, their ability to shape laws to their own ends. Gun rights advocates are also afraid. White fear of minorities, and fear of becoming a minority themselves. Male fear of women, of being humiliated by women, of not being able to control women. Fear of losing privilege. Fear of losing dominance. It’s all about fear. The ONLY reason for a civilian to carry a firearm is fear. The only reason for a political figures to promote or tolerate looser gun laws is fear.

Folks who don’t own guns are also afraid. Students are afraid they’ll be shot at school. Families are afraid they’ll be shot at church or at the mall. Parents are afraid their kids will be shot. Young adults are afraid they’ll be shot at bars or parties. We’ve actually reached the point where there are survivors of multiple mass shootings. Two brothers who were present during the Gilroy Garlic festival mass shooting had also attended the Las Vegas concert where 58 people were killed. Two other survivors of the Las Vegas massacre were present at the Thousand Oaks mass murder. One of them survived the second mass murder; the other didn’t.

Years ago, Frank Herbert wrote, I must not fear Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I think he was only partially right. Fear IS the mind-killer. But fear can be rational and appropriate; fear can clarify as well as cloud your judgment.

Here’s a true thing: the vast majority of gun nuts (and by ‘gun nuts’ I mean those men who amass a sizable arsenal of firearms) aren’t a threat. Common sense tells us most of these folks aren’t the sort of nuts who’ll use those guns to commit mass murders. We don’t have to be afraid of them. But here’s another true thing: anybody who threatens violence is thinking about committing it, and if a person who threatens violence has weapons, it’s rational to fear he’ll follow through on the threat. It’s common sense to remove those weapons.

Again, it’s all about fear. Their fear and our fear. But it shouldn’t be about whose fear will win. It should be about common sense. Red flag laws are simply the application of common sense to a social danger. Common sense is a fear-killer. We don’t have to let anybody’s fear win.

 

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donald and dorian and will and grace

Hurricane Dorian is now being described as a ‘catastrophic’ category 5 event — though I think that’s redundant. I mean, any cat-5 hurricane that makes landfall is going to be catastrophic. But we’ve also got yet another mass shooting — in Texas again, because Texas is working its ass off to be the most firearm-friendly state in the Union. Five dead, more than twenty wounded. I think that makes the August mass murder butcher’s bill top the fifty corpse mark. Not a new record, but still. And there’s all manner of crazy political shit happening in Hong Kong and London, not to mention more kinetic events in Afghanistan and Yemen. Brazil is on literally on fire, and big chunks of Africa and Siberia are also burning.

And Comrade Trump, the President of These United States? What’s that maladjusted motherfucker focused on this morning?

I liked Debra Messing in that one show she did a few years ago. Frankie and Grace? You know, where she played a housemate with a gay guy, and there were hijinks? It was a good show. I’ve absolutely no idea what she’s doing now. Whatever it is, it’s got Trump annoyed. So instead of being POTUS, Trump is spending his morning focused on the apparent lack of respect he’s getting from a sit-com actor.

Not that he’d be doing his job if Debra Messing hadn’t annoyed him. He was supposed to be in Poland this week, to mark the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II. But he canceled, saying he needed to stay in the U.S. to monitor the hurricane situation. Complete and utter bullshit, of course. He could monitor it from Poland just as well. And in fact, he spent a big chunk of yesterday doing his monitoring from another of his own golf courses (his 212th golfing outing since he took office).

By the way, Comrade Trump is currently attempting to ‘transfer’ US$271 million from FEMA to ICE. That’s right, he’s trying to strongarm funds away from disaster relief during hurricane season and use that money to build more immigration detention facilities and (he hopes) to finally construct some of that wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for. But he’s letting his underlings handle that business, because dammit somebody has to deal with Debra Messing.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: It turns out Frankie and Grace is a sit-com about two women who live together after their husbands turn out to be gay. The sit-com about the woman who lives together with the gay guy is Will and Grace.

EDITORIAL COMMENT (Part 2): It turns out Frankie and Grace is actually Grace and Frankie.

weather report

Comrade Trump: I got it! I got it! Why don’t we nuke them?
White House Aide: Yes sir, we will. Who are ‘them’?
Trump: Hurricanes!
Aide: Hurricanes?
Trump: Nuke the shit out of them!
Aide: We’ll look into it, sir.

Aide: He wants to nuke hurricanes.
Other aide: What the fuck?
Aide: Yeah, I don’t know.
Other aide: Why does…wait, he…fuck me with a chainsaw.

Other aide: He wants to nuke hurricanes.
Journalist: What the fuck?
Other aide: Yeah, I don’t know. Don’t use my name.
Journalist: Okay. But how does he…I mean, why would…fuck me with a chainsaw.

“I got it! I got it! Nuke the shit out of ’em!”

Journalist: Mr. President, there are reports you’ve suggested nuking hurricanes. Your response?
Comrade Trump: I never said that! Fake news!
Journalist: Sir, you…
Trump: Excuse me. Obama had eight years, never did anything about hurricanes! Nothing! His hurricane policy was a total disaster!
Journalist: But Mr. Presi…
Trump: Excuse me. Nothing! Democrats love hurricanes! And open borders and crime! The Trump administration has done more for hurricanes than almost anybody, I can tell you that! By the way, you think it’s a coincidence that every hurricane is coming from south of the border? We’re building wall! New wall!
Journalist: Are you saying a border wall would…
Trump: Excuse me. Excuse me. Nobody knows more about hurricanes than I do! Nobody! Obama was weak! A disaster. I didn’t say nuke! I never said nuke! I could do nuke if I wanted, but I don’t want nuke! But I could! I inherited the hurricane situation from Obama! There were hurricanes before Trump! Long before! But I’m not saying nuke! I never said that! You’re fake news!
Journalist: Thank you Mr. President.

Journalist: Today President Trump stated he was instituting a ‘no-nuke’ policy regarding hurricanes, separating himself from previous administration policies.
Other journalist: It’s a complicated situation. Democrats have so far failed to come up with a hurricane proposal that’s acceptable to the president.
Journalist: Both sides need to work together to come up with a solution.
Other Journalist: Hurricanes shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

People of the World: What the fuck?

shrieking rage and frustration

Every morning it’s the same damned thing. Get up, check the perimeter, feed the cat, make coffee, read the news, try to decide if Comrade Trump is driven more by an undifferentiated infantile need to be the center of attention or by a massively corrupt desire to feed his own self interests. Or if he’s just completely fucking nuts.

It’s dark and cloudy out this morning. Looks like a storm is coming. I should leave soon and try to get a walk in before it hits.

The news this morning is largely about Comrade Trump being pissed off. He’s pissed off at U.S. Jews who didn’t/won’t vote for him, accusing them of being either stupid or traitorous (although it’s unclear whether he believe they’re betraying him, the U.S., or Israel). He’s also wildly pissed at Denmark, not just because they won’t/can’t sell him Greenland, but also because the Danish government mocked his desire to buy an autonomous state and its entire population.

On the other hand, Comrade Trump is pleased as punch (tangent — where the hell does that expression come from? Pleased as punch?) with a conspiracy theorist who said — and I swear I am NOT making this up — that he’s “the greatest President for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world, not just America, he is the best President for Israel in the history of the world…and the Jewish people in Israel love him….like he’s the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God.”

You guys, I actually don’t know how to respond to shit like this. I mean, sure, I’ll mock it and make fun of him, but Jesus suffering fuck, I just want to step out onto the deck and shriek my rage and frustration at…at I don’t know who or what. It’s almost enough to make me want to believe in god or gods so I’ve got something to shriek at.

I mean, how the FUCK did this guy ever get elected? (And yes, yes, yes, I know the answer to that, but how the FUCK did this guy ever get elected?) He’s an absolutely horrible human being. He’s corrupt, he’s cheap, he’s got no integrity, he lies about anything for no reason, he’s delusional, he’s gauche, he’d be amoral if he understood what morals are. He doesn’t read, he doesn’t listen to music, he knows nothing about art. He’s got no conscience, no respect for anything, no empathy, no patriotism, no compassion, no courage, no principles, no honor. He’s got no friends.

Let me say that again. HE’S GOT NO FRIENDS. Comrade Trump is arguably one of the most powerful people on the planet, but nobody cares enough about him as a person to tell him he’s got toilet paper stuck on his shoe.

Fuck. It’s raining now. It’s gone really dark outside. There’s thunder. I can see lightning in the distance. Fuck fuck fuck. I won’t be taking the walk I really need to take in order to calm the fuck down.

I don’t know…maybe this is the perfect time to step out onto the deck and shriek my rage and frustration. If you’ll just excuse me for a moment…

in regard to punching nazis

Two things: 1) If you’re a Nazi, a neo-Nazi, or any flavor of white nationalist shouting white nationalist bullshit, be prepared to suffer the consequences; 2) if you punch a Nazi, be prepared to suffer the consequences.

Seriously, that’s a very basic Boolean social algebraic equation. Being a visible Nazi plus shouting racist bullshit equals a high probability of getting punched. Punching a Nazi plus the presence of law enforcement equals getting arrested.

Here’s an example being played out in the court system right now. Back in June of 2016 (that’s right — 2016) the Traditionalist Worker Party (a white nationalist group) and the Golden State Skinheads held a rally in Sacramento. Counter-protesters, including members of the anti-fascist group By Any Means Necessary, also showed up in opposition. The police, in the form of the California Highway Patrol, also showed up.

Before the rally was scheduled to begin, TWP member Nigel Walker, waving a white nationalist flag on a long wooden pole, approached some of the counter-protesters taunting them and encouraging them to come at him. There it is: visible Nazi plus shouting racist bullshit, which equals…? Right. Getting punched. There was a scuffle, during which the flag was ripped from the flagpole, which Walker then used as a weapon. Following that scuffle, Walker moved to an area with a law enforcement presence.

Walker was then approached by BAMN member Yvette Felarca, who deliberately bumped into him, and punched him at least twice in the stomach. There it is again: punching a Nazi plus the presence of the police equals…? Right. Getting arrested. CHP intervened and Felarca was arrested.

Felarca punching Walker.

This is math, people. If you’re a public Nazi, don’t be surprised if you get punched. If you punch a Nazi in public, don’t be surprised if you get arrested. If you’re not willing to get punched, don’t be a public Nazi. If you’re not willing to get arrested, don’t punch a Nazi in public. This is really fucking simple.

Right now Felarca is facing charges for punching Walker. She’s claiming “standing up to fascism is not a crime.” And she’s right — there’s nothing criminal about standing up to fascism. Punching somebody, however, is generally criminal.

Let me be clear. I DO NOT endorse punching Nazis, either in public or in private. On the other hand, I don’t condemn punching Nazis either. Nazis are totally punch-worthy. I’m of the opinion that if there’s a Nazi present and you’re willing to be arrested, then go ahead and punch him. Just don’t complain about getting arrested if you do it. And if you’re a Nazi, don’t complain about getting punched.

EDITORIAL NOTE: The criminal case against Felarca seems awfully weak. She’s charged with felony assault, which is probably just the State overcharging her to encourage her to plea to a lesser offence — a common prosecutorial tactic. She has an affirmative provocation defense, and there’s evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and bias against the anti-fascists. But the merits of the case itself are separate from the inescapable social algebra of Nazi-punching.

endorsements

A couple of days ago, Robert Kabel and Jill Homan (chairman and vice chairwoman of Log Cabin Republicans) published an editorial in the Washington Post with this headline:

Trump met his commitments to LGBTQ Americans. He has our endorsement.

I swear, I am not making that up. I mean, sure, they’re Log Cabin Republicans, but Jesus suffering fuck, c’mon. Comrade Trump has met his commitments to LGBTQ Americans? Maybe Trump isn’t as homophobic as he is racist and misogynistic, but that’s a pretty low bar. I mean, the guy has spent nearly three years undermining every LGBTQ protection that somebody on his staff has pointed out to him.

Kabel and Homan argue that Comrade Trump has “mov[ed] past the culture wars that dominated the 1990s and early 2000s…by removing gay rights as a wedge issue from the old Republican playbook.” That sentence would be more accurate if they’d put a period after ‘rights’.

Cancer patients endorse RoundUp. “Our weed-free lawns are the envy of our neighbors!”

They say Trump “has committed to end the spread of HIV/AIDS in 10 years.” And that’s true. He has committed to that. He’s also committed to making Mexico pay for a border wall and to starting a Space Force. Trump’s commitments are as phony as his promises. The reality is that in June of 2017, six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS resigned in protest of Trump’s health policies, saying he “has no strategy to address the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and—most concerning—pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV.” After they resigned, Trump shit-canned all the remaining members of the Council. The new Chair of the Council is an advocate of abstinence-only sex education programs, who rejects the use of condoms as a method to prevent the spread of HIV and other STDs. Seriously.

Environmentalists endorse napalm. “Really, it’s a chance to start over!”

Kabel and Homan claim Trump has pushed “an initiative to end the criminalization of homosexuality”. Somehow they overlook his affection for Saudi Arabia, which publicly beheaded five men accused of homosexuality in April. One of them apparently had his head pinned to a pole in a public square. How’s that initiative working out?

Bears endorse forest fires. “They keep our forests clear of those pesky campers!”

They refer to Richard Grenell, the openly gay US ambassador to Germany, describing him as “one of many LGBTQ appointees whom Trump has tapped to…serve America’s people and the government with honor and distinction.” But they ignore the fact that Comrade Trump also initiated a policy of denying visas to the unmarried, same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations officials.

Hitchhikers endorse serial killers. “Those guys really know how to keep us on our toes!”

Kabel and Homen conclude by saying, “To be treated equally, fairly and justly under the law is our goal, and we know that ‘Inclusion Wins’ is a mantra we share with the president.” Inclusion? By the most divisive president in US history? To be treated equally, fairly, and justly by an administration that just proposed a change to federal rules that would make it easier for private employers who do business with the federal government to fire employees for their sexual orientation or gender identity?

Let’s not forget that a year or so after his election, Comrade Trump found himself discussing gay rights with a legal scholar. According to The New Yorker, Trump nodded to his vice president and said, as a joke, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!” Even as a joke, it tells you everything you need to know about the Trump administration’s views of LGBTQ issues.

Librarians endorse dog-earing. “Bookmarks are for pussies!”

I shouldn’t be surprised that Log Cabin Republicans endorse Trump. They’re more Republican than Log Cabin. And, sadly, the Republican party under Trump leadership is barely recognizable as a political party. It’s become more of a cult, abandoning most of its principles in the hope of retaining power.

Of course, they endorsed Comrade Trump for re-election.

i’m probably wrong, but…

Crime, boy, I don’t know.

I mean, c’mon. Here’s Comrade Trump, who I should remind you is the actual President of the United States, casually suggesting that a former president, Bill Clinton, was somehow responsible for having accused pedophile Jeffery Epstein murdered while he was in the custody of the United States Department of Justice. He doesn’t offer any evidence of that. He just tosses the accusation out there. Bill Clinton had Epstein killed. And he says it like it’s, you know, a bad thing.

And at the same time, here’s Comrade Trump brushing off actual evidence that Mohammad Bin Salman had Washington Post reporter Jamal Kashoggi tortured, murdered, and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, like it’s no big deal. So I’m just a tad confused here.

Murder, boy, I don’t know. You’d think if Donald Trump was okay with the murder of a respected, award-winning journalist who was a resident of the United States, then he’d probably be okay — maybe even moderately pleased — by the murder of a convicted pedophile rapist who lived part time on a private sex island. But apparently not. I just don’t know how to explain that.

I don’t want to cast aspersions or anything, but I’m beginning to wonder if Comrade Trump is being entirely consistent here. It sort of almost kinda sounds like he has a different murder standard for folks he likes. Maybe — and I’m probably entirely wrong here — but maybe he’d have been more positive about Epstein’s ‘suicide wink wink’ if he thought bin Salman (or his boy Kim Jong Un) had been behind it?

It’s beginning to sound like Trump is more interested in conspiracy theories involving his political enemies than in actual conspiracies involving his buddies. But naw, that can’t be right. Can it?

EDITORIAL NOTE: There’s a 99.95% chance that all the conspiracy theories about Epstein’s death are bullshit. Negligence and incompetence are a much more likely explanation. Though not as entertaining.