This year’s G8 summit kicks off Monday at Northern Ireland’s posh Lough Erne resort. Agenda items include trade advancement, international action on tax evasion, and transparency standards. Further to that last item, the White House confirmed Friday that President Obama will discuss NSA surveillance with his G8 counterparts.
Following the summit, the President will head to Germany for talks with Angela Merkel, and will speak to an invitation-only crowd at the Brandenburg Gate, a venue he was denied permission to use in his Berlin visit during the 2008 campaign.
This week, the House of Representatives gets its grubby hands on the Farm Bill, hoping to scrap the shameful SNAP cuts approved in the Senate and replace them with shameful SNAP cuts five times worse. And on Tuesday, the House is expected to waste its time and the public’s money with a ridiculous bill called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, sponsored by the reliably pain-inducing Trent Franks (R-AZ). The bill seeks to ban abortions after 22 weeks, with a few grudging exceptions belatedly added by the House Rules Committee in a desperate attempt to make Franks and his fellow Republicans seem like rational adults.
Wednesday, a statue of Frederick Douglass donated by the District of Columbia will be unveiled at the Capitol Visitors Center. In return, a grateful Congress will continue to deny DC any meaningful political representation.
Monday marks the deadline for Democrats to file a motion with New Jersey’s Supreme Court opposing Governor Chris Christie’s plan for an October 16 special election to fill Frank Lautenberg’s Senate seat. The court agreed Friday to hear the case, which was previously decided in Christie’s favor by a lower court. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 6/17/13
ONE: Apocalypse Whenever
The Internet has really revolutionized insomnia. By 5:00 this morning I had already finished watching a Julian Lennon interview from 1999 and several videos of cats riding Roombas, before rashly moving on to footage of speeches from the NRA’s recent annual meeting in Houston.
The only thing rivaling the brimstone stink of the rhetoric at this year’s conclave was a Zombie Industries product being hawked there, a female target mannequin – christened “The Ex” – capable of bleeding when shot. Another one of the company’s range of charming models – “Bleeding Rocky Zombie” – had been removed from the company’s kiosk at the NRA’s request due to its resemblance to President Obama. “The Ex” was hastily renamed “Alexa” after the marketing geniuses at Zombie Industries finally decided there is such a thing as bad press after all.
The NRA’s rare circumspection over “Bleeding Rocky Zombie” was deeply overshadowed by the vicious, imbecilic sentiments of many of the convention’s speakers, starting with those of the organization’s executive vice president and perennial poster boy for vicious imbecility, irascible pipsqueak Wayne LaPierre.
After a warm introduction from everyone’s favorite America-hating felon, Oliver North, LaPierre manned the podium to talk about gun control pretty much the way people in the 1940s talked about the Axis powers:
We are in the midst of a once-in-a-generation fight for everything we care about. We have a chance to secure our freedom for a generation, or to lose it forever
… we will never surrender our guns, never!
… they’re coming after us with a vengeance, to destroy us, to destroy us and every ounce of our freedom.
LaPierre’s apocalyptic spew was echoed by speaker after speaker after speaker, with frenetic attempts to link any and all gun regulation measures to an undefined but existential threat to The Republic itself. Maybe the NRA was offering a free howitzer to the speaker who could ratchet up the nativist paranoia the highest. Chris Cox, executive director of the Institute for Legislative action, the NRA’s lobbying operation, certainly gave it his all, deftly sounding multiple dog whistles while the crowd bayed for more:
Make no mistake. We are in a culture war. Where we once faced hundreds of voices against us, there are now thousands attacking us every day, from Organizing for America to Code Pink to Occupy the NRA, Wall Street, and for that matter, Occupy Anything-but-a-Job.
Outgoing NRA president David Keene warned of the regulatory Ragnarok to come:
We all know that, as we meet here, our opponents are regrouping, and we know that they’ll be back. They’re as dedicated today as they have ever been to consigning you and me and all those who believe in the freedoms guaranteed us by this nation’s Founders to the outer darkness.
Keene’s successor, Jim Porter, kept it old school, treating his audience to the sort of seditious innuendo he knew they craved:
You know, last fall just before the elections, as community organizer-in-chief, President Obama demanded that his followers extract “revenge”. I can’t remember a president ever publicly using that word against fellow Americans.
Porter probably meant to say “exact” but it hardly matters since everything else out of his mouth was incorrect, much of it deliberately so:
[Obama]‘s now threatening Democratic senators who are friends of NRA. He will destroy them if he can… you know, Obama is meeting and plotting with the “who’s who” of the gun ban movement, scheming to create a gun control by bureaucracy.
Threatening, scheming, plotting… yes, that sure sounds like Barack Obama. And Porter brought some dog whistles of his own:
President Barack Obama is AWOL on virtually every critical threat facing this nation… but there’s one issue where Obama is not AWOL: gun control. But there’s something Obama will never, never understand: you, me, our friends, neighbors, coworkers, colleagues and family, and the larger family of patriots who know that the Second Amendment, the freedom of our Republic, trumps the Chicago political machine and its gun ban agenda every time.
Now, as basic frothing at the mouth goes, that’s not bad, but the NRA’s in-house cranks all lack a certain vim, a certain telegenic je ne sais quoi. For that, they turned to the inimitable Glenn Beck, who obliged in spades, oozing fake sincerity all over the floorboards of the stage for 100 white-knuckled minutes. Beck’s was a soliloquy equal parts hair-on-fire millenarian sermon and triumphalist Thousand-Year Reich chest-thumping. He seemed to draw inspiration from a smorgasbord of conflicting sources: the Bible, the Constitution, the Letter from Birmingham Jail, Atlas Shrugged, the Port Huron Statement, and perhaps even the cover of Sgt. Pepper:
Our right to keep and bear arms will not be infringed. We will follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ. We will follow the footsteps of Frederick Douglass, Winston Churchill, Thomas Paine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ben-Gurion, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Gandhi, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King. Hear me now. Hear me now. We shall overcome. Let us not talk any more about our cold, dead hands, but rather act, rather be the people who have a cause to use our hands…
Yes, because people who don’t have a cause to use their hands might as well not even have hands. Like, why are the most self-evident truths the ones most in need of repeating by visionaries like Glenn Beck? But what the hell are they all going to do with their hands? Beck had it covered:
… we will work together as Americans, not only to preserve our rights, but the rights of our children to be safe, our wives and our daughters to not be held at gunpoint, not be raped…
Possibly sensing that he was stepping on his own message with the “held at gunpoint” bit, he tacked vigorously toward the sublime:
We will not be the generation that loses mankind’s freedom. Instead, let us declare to one another that we, instead, will be the generation that historians look back to with awe and wonder, and say: How did they do it? They’ll look back for inspiration, that even in our darkest times, with the greatest reason for doubt and fear, we rose above it. We pushed the darkness back. We held the torch of liberty. We held it high for all men to see and aspire to…
And – bonus! – made damned sure that universal background checks would never spoil anybody’s Constitutionally enshrined firearm fun. Win-win! Keenly aware of the zealotry hanging moistly over the room, Beck shrewdly pitched his closing comments like unto a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal for his audience:
Jesus was a man of love. He was a man of peace. He was a man of forgiveness. But make no mistake; Jesus Christ was also immovable. The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, and we will win by strapping on the full armor of God. We shall stand firm with the belt of truth, with the breastplate of righteousness, with the shield of faith, with the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit. We will fight their tactics of fear, we will fight their tactics of darkness, we will fight their lies, and we will counter them with love, peace and equal justice for all mankind.
And as much ammo as they can hoard, I expect.
TWO: Nonsense and Sensibility
Beck’s unusual wardrobe tips weren’t the only practical advice on offer in Houston. There was also this, from the “Home Defense Concepts” seminar by Rob Pincus: Continue reading Take Five (Talking Second Amendment Blues edition)
ONE: And a Little Child Shall Impede Them
Tennessee Republican state senator Stacey Campfield describes himself on his blog as “just an average guy….with a real cool job.” The trouble is that Campfield seems to believe his job is to be an utter dick. Take for example his newest idea, noted here a couple of weeks back, a bill to slash TANF benefits by 30 percent for households with children performing unsatisfactorily in school.
Last week, Campfield asked fellow legislators to hold the bill “for further study,” shortly after he was shown up by an eight-year-old girl. Aamira Fetuga confronted Campfield in the state Capitol and handed him a petition with 2,500 signatures in opposition to the legislation. Campfield’s immediate reaction, as expected, was to be a complete dick:
“How are you? Thanks for coming,” Campfield said, taking the petition. “I love it when people use children as props.”
And I love it when a politician who once proposed issuing death certificates for aborted fetuses lectures other people about props. Campfield quickly cut and ran from his pint-sized nemesis, or tried to:
He then set off on the three-minute walk to the Senate chamber. Rasheedat Fetuga, founder of child advocacy group Gideon’s Army, which organized the protest along with Clergy for Justice and Stand for Children, shouted after him that her daughter was not a prop and that he works for the people…
Well, Rasheedat was half right; her daughter is certainly not a prop. In fact, Aamira was a full participant, and seemed admirably self-possessed and engagingly direct:
“I’m worried about the lights being cut off,” she said.
“That won’t happen as long as you have a decent parent who can show up for two conferences,” Campfield replied.
He was referring to a provision in the bill stipulating that parents could avoid having their family’s benefits slashed by jumping through one of a number of possible hoops: “an eight-hour parenting class, meeting twice with teachers, enrolling a child in summer school or arranging tutoring.”
After taking refuge in the Senate chamber only to find that several Republican senators previously onside were now opposed, Campfield finally withdrew the bill. For now, anyway; a crucial element of Campfield’s comprehensive dickishness is his persistence. I offer as Exhibit A the fact that he has been introducing various iterations of his “Don’t Say Gay” bill for fully half a decade now.
For more context, check out Les Leopold’s horrifying new overview of what happened in Tennessee while civilization had its back turned and absolute dicks like Stacey Campfield were elected to positions of power.
Last word goes to the wholly unreconstructed dick himself, an exceedingly rare example of Campfield actually being correct about something:
“There’s always going to be detractors.”
TWO: Love and Marriage
A recent poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal finds that 53 percent of respondents support same-sex marriage. Among Democrats, it was favored by 73 percent of respondents, while 66 percent of Republicans continue to support discrimination.
So it wasn’t exactly shocking that the RNC, at its spring meeting in LA, decided to renew its official opposition to marriage equality, by supposedly unanimous voice vote:
Resolved, the Republican National Committee affirms its support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and as the optimum environment in which to raise healthy children for the future of America; and be it further
Resolved, the Republican National Committee implores the U. S. Supreme Court to uphold the sanctity of marriage in its rulings on California’s Proposition 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Now, a cynical observer just might think the Republican Party’s definitive reaffirmation of institutional bigotry is a response to the threat of reliable money spigots being turned off, but of course it could be simply a remarkable coincidence:
After the Republican National Committee hinted at new outreach to gay voters, and possibly changing its stance or at least its tone on gay-rights issues, 11 influential social-conservative groups aired their grievances in a letter addressed to [Reince] Priebus timed to coincide with the start of the RNC’s meeting…
“We respectfully warn GOP leadership that an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support…”
Even more suspiciously, the “unanimous” aspect of the resolution’s approval was cast into doubt by an unfortunately soft-spoken attendee:
… Robert Kabel, a gay committeeman from the District of Columbia who supports allowing same sex nuptials, didn’t speak up. At least not loud enough for anyone to hear him.
Immediately after the vote… Priebus declared that all 157 members present had supported the measure.
… Kabel insists he dissented.
“I voted against the resolution. I did, it just wasn’t very vocal,” Kabel said after the meeting. “It’s hard to hear in here.”
Others, however, made themselves heard loudly, one being Michigan’s Dave Agema, the resolution’s sponsor. Agema appeared on a Family Research Council radio show to expound on his views in more detail:
“What I’d like to have the homosexual community know is I don’t hate them,” he said. “As a matter of fact when Jesus caught a woman in the act of adultery when they brought her to him he said, ‘I don’t condemn you but go and sin no more.’ That ought to be the church’s goal here. We ought to be saying to these people, ‘Hey, we don’t agree with your lifestyle and we’ll help you get out of it, but we want you to know the facts of what’s going to happen to you if you stay in this lifestyle.’”
The former state representative from West Michigan entered the national debate on gay marriage two weeks ago by sharing an article on Facebook titled “Everyone Should Know These Statistics on Homosexuality,” which began with a warning to parents that their children could be “indoctrinated” at public schools.
Agema repeated that claim on Wednesday, saying that school kids are already being conditioned to accept homosexuality and that “the next thing that will occur is your kids will come home and say, ‘I think this is a good thing and I think I want to be one.’”
Yet when it comes to ludicrous views about homosexuality, Agema is a callow hobbyist compared with Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, who recently treated his radio audience to this sarcastic tirade:
“We’re getting to the point where these homofascists are going to force us to wear on our sleeves some kind of identifying marker so people will know who the racists and the homophobes and the bigots are, and can stay away from them.”
The very same day, a different but equally appalling take was offered up by the reflexively offensive Bill Donohue, loosely hinged president of the Catholic League, in a television appearance on Current:
“This idea of two men getting married is the most bizarre idea in human history,” Donohue told host John Fugelsang, adding that the purpose of marriage is a “duty” to procreate.
“The whole purpose of marriage is to have a family,” he said. “It’s not about making people happy. It’s not about love.”
I’m beginning to understand why Donohue’s marriage ended in divorce. Continue reading Take Five (Mouths of Babes edition)
After the President rolled out a 244-page budget last week that I’m told consists solely of the words “chained CPI,” I doubt the coming week will offer up comparable oddities, but I’ve been wrong before.
At least a little oddly, it seems the Senate might produce some bipartisan gun legislation yet. Illinois’ Mark Kirk and Maine’s Susan Collins have signaled support for the Toomey/Manchin compromise bill expanding background checks to internet and gun show purchases, albeit with a “personal transfer” exemption that rolls out a plush red carpet for the tragic headlines of tomorrow. Debate on the bill will move ahead after a filibuster was averted by a 68-31 vote on Thursday. While this all sounds encouraging, any Senate gun bill will likely be shot dead by the House.
The full Senate might also be presented with a proposal that would provide a defined path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who entered the United States on or before December 31, 2011 (and renewed fear of deportation for those who arrived a day or more later). A new guest worker program for farm workers has reportedly attained bipartisan consensus in the eight-senator group trying to hammer out a comprehensive immigration bill. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 4/15/13
Senate bills on immigration reform and gun control originally anticipated this week will likely be delayed. The former is being drafted by a “bipartisan” group of eight senators, who apparently have yet to reach agreement on a guest-worker program, among other details. Despite optimistic noises from New York’s Charles Schumer, an anonymous “member of the business community” quoted by the Washington Post claims the eight have “substantial disagreements on almost all the major parts.”
As to gun legislation, “Senate staffers say a bipartisan agreement has yet to be reached on universal background checks.” The NRA has, um, targeted various lawmakers for heavy lobbying efforts, including Virginia’s Mark Warner. Also lobbying this week are the President, who will speak on gun control at the University of Hartford on Monday, Vice President Biden, who hosts a gathering of law enforcement officials at the White House on Tuesday, and Michelle Obama, who will address the subject of gun violence at a Wednesday appearance in Chicago.
Wednesday sees the unveiling of President Obama’s considerably overdue budget proposal, which will reportedly call for the adoption of chained CPI in exchange for closing some tax loopholes. The budget is also expected to include a proposal for reforming federal employees’ retirement benefits, supposedly saving $35 billion by upping employee pension contributions for newer workers.
No word yet on whether the President’s budget will include new Obamacare provisions to cover all the hair that’s been set on fire as rumors have circulated for weeks. Senator Lindsey Graham has already offered up tentative praise, which is never a good sign. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 4/8/13
ONE: Boom Shakalaka
Baseball is back, and so is a freshly redoubled effort on the part of the Texas Rangers to kill their fans. With food.
2013 is the sophomore year for the Boomstick, a two-foot hot dog smothered in onions, nacho cheese, chili and jalapenos, all heaped on a 22-inch potato bun. The Boomstick, named for the bat of outfielder Nelson Cruz, will set you back $26 at Rangers Ballpark.
These and other food items at the stadium are served up by Delaware North, a company I saluted previously for donating 8,000 pounds of food to Charlotte-area food banks and charities last September, food originally prepared for the President’s nomination acceptance speech at Bank of America Stadium before the event was moved to TWC Arena. The Boomstick generated half a million in sales last season, and this year the dog even gets its own merchandise line, along with some comparably heavy-duty menu companions:
The Boomstick will be joined by the “Totally Rossome” Boomstick ($32), named after Rangers relief pitcher Robbie Ross, which is smothered with smoked brisket, fresh pico, sour cream and Doritos chips. Also on the menu is a whopping 24-ounce bacon burger ($26), a 24-inch sausage ($26), a 24-inch pretzel ($13) and a 24-inch quesadilla ($26) covered with brisket and served on a bed of nacho cheese Doritos.
Last July, in honor of National Hot Dog Month, Delaware North made the gargantuan wiener available for a limited time at six other MLB stadiums. Marketed as the Giant Slugger, it wowed fans of the Padres, White Sox, Cardinals, Twins, Reds and Brewers. Fortunately, the Kansas City Royals (whose food services are provided by The Bigelow Companies) have no equivalent product; they’re having a hard enough time with ordinary hot dogs. The Missouri Court of Appeals recently overturned a frankfurter-related lower court verdict involving the club:
The Kansas City Royals must face a lawsuit from a fan who was hit in the eye by a hot dog thrown by the team mascot, a Missouri appeals court ruled.
John C. Coomer went to a Royals baseball game in September 2009 with his father. After the third inning, the team’s crown-topped lion mascot, “Sluggerrr,” came out for the Hot Dog Launch.
Twenty to 30 hot dogs are thrown to fans or launched from an air gun in the spectacle.
Coomer testified that he while he was looking at the scoreboard, a hot dog hit him in the face, knocking off his hat.
Two days later, Coomer was diagnosed with a detached retina. He underwent surgery for that and again for a cataract, and now has an artificial lens in that eye. He sued the team for negligence and battery in 2010.
Yet whatever the hazards, fans’ love affair with the tube steak looks to remain ardent, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council:
… baseball fans will consume [an estimated] 20,421,361 hot dogs over the course of the 2013 season. That’s enough hot dogs to round the bases 28,113 times. It’s also enough to feed all 56,000 fans at Dodger Stadium, Major League Baseball’s largest stadium, for 361 straight home games.
TWO: Gun Shysters
Turning from guns that fire hot dogs to ones that fire bullets, Colorado has been ground zero in the renewed struggle for meaningful gun control. While recent measures passed there are actually pretty feeble, they’ve been sufficient to provoke both gun-huggers and companies that exist to cater to them into some dismayingly childish behavior:
Michael Bane, a producer for The Outdoor Channel, announced he will no longer film his four shows in Colorado, and hunters are joining the protests. It’s reportedly a small number, but growing.
Somehow, against all odds, I believe Colorado will survive Bane taking his creepy, paranoid shows elsewhere, and – bonus! – animals left alone by boycotting hunters will survive too. Democrats, on the other hand, might want to keep their eyes open and their heads down if Dudley Brown, head honcho of a group called Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, is anywhere nearby:
Brown complains that universal background checks are just a step toward identifying gun owners so the government can seize their weapons, and he calls the 15-round limit on ammunition magazines arbitrary. He’s promising political payback in next year’s election that could cost Colorado Democrats their majorities.
“I liken it to the proverbial hunting season,” Brown says. “We tell gun owners, ‘There’s a time to hunt deer. And the next election is the time to hunt Democrats.’ “
Meanwhile, the management team of Magpul Industries (makers of 30-round magazines, buttstocks, shotgun accessories, semi-rigid iPhone cases offering “basic protection in the field,” and other assorted items no free society should be without) are about to pull their operations out of the state, their corporate feelings having been hurt by Colorado’s insistence on background checks and a ban on magazines holding more than 15 rounds:
Magpul employs 200 people directly, ranging from basic assembly workers to product designers and other professionals specializing in weapons-related components…
Like any successful mid-sized business, Magpul nurtures many other businesses, or did until it decided to throw its little corporate tantrum:
As much as possible, the company tries to contract with Colorado vendors, who represent about 90 percent of its supply chain… Those suppliers received about $46 million last year from Magpul, with the company projecting that number to reach $85 million for 2013…
Personally, I project that the company’s projection is marinated in bullcrap, but there’s no doubt that the disappearance of $46 million in revenues to Magpul suppliers is going to hurt.
Texas, Alabama, West Virginia and Alaska are already courting Magpul. Another company, HiViz Shooting Systems, makers of “light-gathering sights, recoil pads and accessories,” announced that it too is cutting and running from the imminent danger of a little more civilization encroaching on Colorado:
“We cannot in clear conscience support with our taxes a state that has proven through recent legislation a willingness to infringe upon the constitutional rights of our consumer base,” HiViz President and CEO Phillip Howe said in a news release.
As of this writing, I’m still trying to find the Constitution’s guarantee of unrestricted access to recoil pads and light-gathering sights, never mind all the goddamned guns. Maybe I should ask Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, a “Democrat” who:
…hinted on Tuesday that he would oppose a Democratic initiative to expand background checks to all gun purchases, but reiterated his support for an NRA-backed measure that would permit individuals deemed mentally ill or incompetent to purchase firearms more freely.
Why, you ask?
“You know, I’m a Second Amendment guy, everybody knows that…”
Sure thing. I’m a Second Amendment guy too, Senator. I’ve always believed that a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state. Continue reading Take Five (Let’s Play Two edition)
By its nature, a rule produces a reaction which can go in either direction, toward compliance or resistance. The NRA, by its nature, resists all gun rules. It consistently demands extreme freedoms (yes, even freedoms can be extreme!) to own and buy and sell the most dangerous weapons of death available to American citizens. Its strategy to resist rules and regulations has been to wrap guns in the flag, and leverage its ideology with cash from supporters and gun manufacturers. So in the NRA view, guns are no longer thought of a commercial product. They are extensions of the Constitution. The constitutional protections afforded ownership, in the NRA view, should be extended to the marketplace. Background checks, equipment limits, and other rules are seen as interfering with the end result of ownership. In the NRA world, not only is ownership constitutionally protected, the marketplace should be unregulated.
Is a constitutional right abridged if a marketplace connected to that right is regulated? Is the right to own a gun mirrored in the right to buy and sell? More importantly, doesn’t the Constitution protect citizens in a way that they can be free from the intentional and unintentional dangers associated with the use of guns? Does the government have the right under the Constitution to pass laws that make me, you, and others less likely to die, singularly and en masse, at the hands of an instrument that others see as the source of the defense of life and freedom? Should the risk associated with guns be greater for some than for others? Is that risk mitigated or increased if we all own guns?
Of course, cars kill people, too. Society has inherent risks. Yet a study released last May by the Washington-based Violence Policy Center found gun deaths actually exceeded car deaths in ten states in 2009. Bloomberg News reported this will be true as a national statistic by 2015! As the numbers of cars on streets and roads increased, public policy, focused on safety (seat belts, enforcement of driving under the influence laws at the local level, improved safety equipment by auto makers, child seats) have saved lives. Deaths from auto fatalities diminished by 22 percent in just five years, from 2005 to 2010. Dramatic proof of the good use of public policy!
But can parallel effective public policy be crafted to save lives when tied to the one instrument whose ownership involves not only fun, sports and collecting, but also involves a latent but inherent right to kill, even if in the name of public and personal safety and the Constitution?
Research is one way of looking at these questions to determine the impact of policy on gun violence deaths and injuries. Gun violence ranges from suicide (52 percent of all suicides) to mass spree killings, growing more common and commanding public attention. Best estimates (probably slightly understated) say 87 people die per day from gun violence. (I have also seen dramatically larger estimates. Whatever the number, a problem, by fact and comparison exists.) Can policy reduce this number?
In the debate over policy, let’s not forget women are on the front lines. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says 58 percent of domestic violence homicides committed against women involve a male intimate acquaintance using a gun.
An older study by two Harvard professors found the US has the highest rate of domestic violence gun murders—82 percent of total murders of an aggregate of 25 high-income nations, while having only 32 percent of the aggregate female population. Every study, every statistic indicates that women are at risk from gun deaths in situations of domestic violence and that the risk is not lessened by gun ownership by women in the household.
In fact, for women the home is the most dangerous source of gun violence and murder against women. Guns of all types are statistically more likely to be used to kill women in their households than to prevent crime or personal attacks (self-defense). Continue reading Working Rules
ONE: California Knows How to Party
Since I’ll probably find out soon enough, the precise nature of eternal damnation isn’t something I spend much time wondering about. I’m inclined to think it’ll resemble being stuck in an elevator with an endless loop of Adele songs blaring from unseen speakers, but for all I know it could be even worse. One thing I’m sure of is that sharing this mortal coil with the rabid right is an excellent warm-up for it.
Let’s begin with Harmeet Dhillon, clearly a young woman on the rise. A founding partner of the San Francisco “boutique business law” firm Dhillon & Smith LLP, the Indian-born graduate of Dartmouth and the University of Virginia is an accomplished, respected member of her profession. Unfortunately, she’s also a Republican.
After an unsuccessful 2012 run for a California state senate seat, she has just become vice-chair of the California Republican Party, the first woman ever to hold the position. But Dhillon is also a devout Sikh, so her ascension to the post was marred by her party’s famous disinclination to rid itself of racists and other assorted scum.
Enter Vera Eyzedooren, president of the San Bernardino County Federation of Republican Women. Desperate to short-circuit Dhillon’s vice-chair bid, Eyzedooren took to Facebook with this little punctuation-challenged screed:
I was told by one of Harmeets friends that because of her religion her loyalty is to the Muslim religion. So she will defend a muslim beheading 2 men without any hesitation. The person who told me that on Facebook private message, erased it. But I copied the screen and saved it in case. She is not Republican….
Eyzedooren then linked to a blog reposting of an Examiner.com piece entitled: “Muslim who beheaded two men arraigned in New Jersey.”
The Facebook page where she posted this (“AlwaysRightUSA”!) now returns a “link you followed may be broken, or the page may have been removed” message, but the San Bernardino County Federation of Republican Women site still features this uplifting message from Eyzedooren herself:
Our goals are to promote an informed public through political education, communications and use persuasive tools on issues that matter to us the most, registering Republicans, and spreading the word of Republican values and principles.
I think you can safely consider the word spread and the public informed now, ma’am. Thanks much.
TWO: He Said, She Said
That wasn’t the only foul odor emanating from the California GOP spring convention. Celeste Greig, a high-profile attendee who heads the California Republican Assembly, a volunteer organization, was asked the other day to comment on Todd Akin’s offensive musings on rape and pregnancy from last August. Greig was happy to oblige, first by decrying Akin:
“That was an insensitive remark… I’m sure he regretted it. He should have come back and apologized.”
And then by, essentially, agreeing with him:
“Granted, the percentage of pregnancies due to rape is small because it’s an act of violence, because the body is traumatized.”
And then by more or less admitting that she doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about:
“I don’t know what percentage of pregnancies are due to the violence of rape. Because of the trauma the body goes through, I don’t know what percentage of pregnancy results from the act.”
Greig’s organization proudly notes on its website:
President Ronald Reagan called the California Republican Assembly, “the conscience of the Republican Party.”
I never thought I’d say this, but I have to agree with Reagan.
THREE: Ignoble Gases
California Republicans don’t have a monopoly on stupid, of course. Up the coast, there’s Ed Orcutt, a representative who is the ranking Republican on Washington’s State Transportation Committee. Orcutt is bucking the GOP’s beloved no-tax ideology and expressing willingness to support a Democratic proposal that consumers who spend more than $500 on a bicycle in the state be subject to a new $25 tax. Orcutt explained his position in an e-mail to Dale Carlson, a Tacoma bicycle store owner:
… you claim that it is environmentally friendly to ride a bike. But if I am not mistaken, a cyclists [sic] has an increased heart rate and respiration. That means that the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider. Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride.
In fairness to Orcutt, he soon issued a retraction:
… let me apologize for the carbon emissions line of an e-mail which has caused so much concern within the bicycle community. It was over the top and I admit is not one which should enter into the conversation regarding bicycles.
Although I have always recognized that bicycling emits less carbon than cars, I see I did a poor job of indicating that within my e-mail. My point was that by not driving a car, a cyclist was not necessarily having a zero-carbon footprint. In looking back, it was not a point worthy of even mentioning so, again, I apologize – both for bringing it up and for the wording of the e-mail.
Hmm. Orcutt better watch that contrition thing; I’d bet money that it contravenes one or more planks in the official Republican platform. Another Republican state representative, Jim Sacia of Illinois, is in no such danger. Sacia is miffed because Chicago’s daunting level of gun violence might prompt firearms control measures that would also affect – gasp! – non-Chicago Illinoisans. Continue reading Take Five (Fresh Hell edition)
My father was an alcoholic. For years, the members of my family pretended it wasn’t so. We pretended that dad was just dad. He had a lot of good points about him – generous to a fault, reaching out to others who had less than he did (a lesson he and my mother instilled in me that is still alive and active to this day, long after they have both passed away). My father finally admitted he was an alcoholic, and my mother and I finally admitted we were co-dependents, and we started attending AlAnon meetings. A number of years after that, after more pain and anger and confusion and downright craziness, I admitted I still had problems, and started attending ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) meetings.
One of the common themes of AA, AlAnon, and ACOA (as well as NarcAnon and other similar groups) is that at some point, we all hit rock bottom. That we realize that, as much as we have denied our problem, lied about our problem, ignored our problem, and tried to imagine our problem(s) out of existence, they are still there. And we have a choice. We can continue on that path, and continue to watch our lives fall apart while pretending they aren’t, or we can choose to wake up and we can choose to change.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, many of us are asking why. We are asking how. We are asking why and how this could have happened. And, in chorus with this, some of us are asking why now? Why didn’t the Aurora shootings, the Virginia Tech shootings, the Sikh shootings, the Columbine shootings, the Thurston High School shootings matter? Well, I think they did. But, like the alcoholic or drug addict and his/her family, we hadn’t hit bottom yet. It didn’t hurt enough yet for enough of us that we said, “Enough!” Like the family of an alcoholic or drug addict, we could excuse Aurora or Virginia Tech or the other shootings as something awful, but as “not us.” We could say, “Oh my! How horrible, what happened to those people!” Because really, it didn’t hit home.
In my own experience, we excused many of the things my father did. “It was just this time.” “It was a fluke.” “It’s not going to happen again.” Someone on the outside could say, “Hey, folks, are you kidding me?” But unless we, those directly involved, could hear that, those on the outside could just as well be whistling in the wind. We could continue to ignore it.
But when my dad crashed the family car into a telephone pole, and then shortly after, got arrested for drunk driving and I got called to bail him out of jail, well, it woke me up. A bit. After that, my dad started attending AA meetings and my mom started attending AlAnon meetings. Then she brought me with her. Over the years, along with AlAnon, I attended ACOA meetings and also found a therapist who specialized in treating family members of alcoholics and drug addicts. It took some time, after I hit bottom (bottom being I tried to kill myself), but I have grown since then. I have shaken loose from that which I knew, that which blinded me, that which held me prisoner.
And I deeply believe that that process has everything to do with where we are with the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Was Virginia Tech awful? Yes, it was. Was the Aurora shooting horrible? Absolutely? Was Columbine? No doubt about it. Was Thurston High School? Yes, it was, and doubly so because my daughter’s step-sister was enrolled in that school at the time, so it was personal for us. So why wasn’t there the type of outcry that there has been since Sandy Hook Elementary School? Why have we allowed the stories to fade from view, from concern, when it seems like we are not so willing to do that after Sandy Hook? Continue reading Hitting Rock Bottom