Wordkill

DDWriting is easiest for me when it’s story-telling; when all of the elements of sentence structure, unity, coherence, tone, therapy, insight, and creative channels are balanced and stirred in like a good perlo or gumbo—a one-pot dish that bring its own satisfaction and holds its character and taste over time.

For others, it seems, writing is an easy path and aid to lying and mischief. When writing or using language, they are unaccountable to craft or subject (or self!). The gifts of sounding ideas to the eye, of recalling, describing and interpreting actions is used to cast a net of darkness. I call it the looking glass syndrome—writing which is only a mirror of images planted by the observing eye—that ignore what the eye really observed.

Is the yawing child sleep deprived or happily satiated? Is a government that will defund the nation’s entire organized healthcare system one that is providing for the common good or one pushing an ideological agenda—blind to human costs off the balance sheet? Why would any writer use their gifts to lie, mislead, and arrange words that, if followed, would bring death? Words that to the intimacy of a reader’s eye, bring in blame, bring what bullets bring; and murder by word.

After this week’s Navy Yard murders, and Newtown, and the Boston Marathon bombings, be reminded there are many ways to kill. The crack of the gun puts us on edge; we hear it in our deep invisible space. But on its heels is another weapon, the word—written and spoken.

The NRA is trying to murder you with words. Its litany of reasons wrapped in the flag when they explain why gun safety measures would not reduce gun crimes and murders in the country with the world’s highest statistics of these incidents,  these words will cause unmeasured deaths.

Buy a gun on Sunday, kill on Monday, read the press release on Tuesday, bury the dead shrouded in grief later in the week. But pass no legislation that alters even slightly the access to guns of those who can easily be denied open purchase, as three mentally ill shooters have done only days before their mass sprees.

The House, every time it votes to repeal Obamacare—with no alternative, thereby throwing the entire health system into last minute chaos, wasting millions of dollars in the reset—is voting for a bill that will put a statistical number of Americans at death’s door. They are electing death in their bid for reelection: a vote “yea” is an agreement to kill.

Recently, we have seen that the words of kids online have the power to kill. Cyber-bullying has the effect of throwing a child off in a way few understand. As an internet writer, I understand. It’s not the personal attacks that are the “push,” it’s to suddenly be immersed in a society that has no points of trust, only fear and pain at every turn, a feeling of being condemned by people who have surrounded you and left you no way out. Continue reading Wordkill

Take Five (The Anger Games edition)

ONE: Party Scooper?

Sarah Palin has managed to turn feigned anger into a pretty damned lucrative pseudo-career. Now on her second stint with Fox News and coming off a headlining appearance at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual “Road to Majority” shindig, Palin’s newest gambit is to imply that she might cut and run from the Republican Party. The GOP power structure would probably be relieved were this to happen, but only to a point. Palin’s enduring popularity with zero-information conservatives could be the catalyst for a significant number of traditionally reliable Republican voters bolting for weirder pastures.

Asked by a Twitter questioner whether she and rightwing radio loudmouth Mark Levin might “be willing to build a ‘Freedom Party’ if [the] GOP continues to ignore conservatives,” Palin got right down to some of that fancy pageant walkin’ that remains her only true aptitude:

“I love the name of that party — the ‘Freedom Party,’” Palin said. “And if the GOP continues to back away from the planks in our platform, from the principles that built this party of Lincoln and Reagan, then yeah, more and more of us are going to start saying, ‘You know, what’s wrong with being independent,’ kind of with that libertarian streak that much of us have.”

Yes, uh, much of them do. Putting aside the absurdity of her characterization of Republicans as the “party of Lincoln and Reagan” – which is like calling Chicago the “city of Studs Terkel and John Wayne Gacy” – I’m guessing she could no more name a plank in the party platform than she could name a newspaper back in 2008. Palin continued, in commendably fluent Palinese:

“In other words, we want government to back off and not infringe upon our rights. I think there will be a lot of us who start saying ‘GOP, if you abandon us, we have nowhere else to go except to become more independent and not enlisted in a one or the other private majority parties that rule in our nation, either a Democrat or a Republican.’ Remember these are private parties, and you know, no one forces us to be enlisted in either party.”

Darn right they don’t, Governor. I won’t get my hopes up that this is anything more than you pandering to your fans, but if your comments were at all sincere, I look forward to you and your acolytes fancy pageant walkin’ your splinter cell, and the GOP, straight to permanent electoral oblivion.

TWO: Through a Glass Snarkly

Barack Obama’s first term was barely underway when I experienced my first queasy twinges of disappointment. At first, it was nothing overt, nothing readily explicable; a strangely off-kilter statement here, an abrupt about-face there. Soon came the willful misrepresentations, blatant distortions, even bald-faced lies. Almost before I knew it, I found myself feeling more and more burned, betrayed, deceived. The sentiments gradually intensified over months and years, eventually becoming something resembling utter, exasperated disgust.

I’m not referring to the President’s policies and actions (even ones I oppose adamantly, such as Race to the Top, the escalation in Afghanistan, some woeful compromises on energy policy and the environment, and some pretty questionable appointments). I’m referring to the hypertensive squawking that now passes for “criticism” across a broad swath of the cyber-left, and what has devolved into a churlish and counterproductive reaction to this presidency.

The recurring clichés tell a lot of the story. He “lied” about closing Gitmo. He “lied” about ending George Bush’s wars. He “dragged his feet” on DADT and DOMA. He “rolled over” on even trying to implement a universal, single-payer health care system and then “shrugged” at the failure of the public option. He “bailed out” Wall Street and “ignored” Main Street. He “embraced” the use of drones and expanded it to new operational theaters. He “ramped up” persecution of altruistic medical marijuana operations and courageous whistleblowers alike. He brutally “suppressed” the Occupy movement. He “wasted” his “huge” majorities from 2009 to 2011 and got “nothing” accomplished. He eschewed using the “power” of the bully pulpit (while giving “nice” speeches). And now he is “revealed” to have taken the surveillance state to new heights of “intrusive” overreach and “Orwellian” excess.

Throughout the Bush years, I depended on a host of progressive pundits and bloggers to keep me informed, encouraged and emboldened. Some of the very same people now seem more interested in inciting a howling mob to stand in a perpetual downpour outside the gates of the citadel, declaring as one that this presidency and this President have been failures. For some, it seems as if Barack Obama was de-legitimized merely by winning office and actually having to govern.

At the heart of much of the “criticism” is a sense that the “critics” feel jilted somehow, that the duplicitous Barack Obama represented himself as FDR Redux, that he campaigned as a fire-breathing progressive, that he was supposed somehow to govern simply by asking himself what George Bush would have done on any issue and then immediately doing the diametrical opposite. I don’t doubt that some of this is genuine and heartfelt, but it’s still heavily underpinned by the fierce urgency of unreasonable expectations and an unhealthy ignorance of basic civics, not to mention an oddly selective critical faculty that takes nothing the government says at face value but will readily suspend skepticism over the latest inane Paulite bullshit, or worse.

Equally illuminating is the strident name-calling found at the larger nominally progressive discussion sites (one of which purports to exist in part to “elect more Democrats”). Expressing confidence in the Democratic Party and the President, or articulating any degree of comfort with the notion of incremental change and willingness to accept the frustrations of compromise and misstep is simply courting vituperation. The epithets this supposed heresy solicits, some dating all the way back to early 2009, have become more and more meaningless as they have become more and more venomous: DINO, DLCer, Third Wayer, Vichy Dem, sellout, apologist, propagandist, fanboi, Kool-Aid drinker, authoritarian, worshipper. It’s debate by tantrum.

Add to this an astonishing compulsion to play the victim. Rahm Emmanuel called me retarded! I’ve been hippie-punched! The Catfood Commission wants to kill my granny! Robert Gibbs dissed the Professional Left, and I’m a leftist so he obviously meant me! Obama said I’m all wee-weed up! Obama told me to eat my peas!

A lot of this is grandstanding, theatrical ego-tripping; start with, say, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West and you can draw a direct line right to the oh-so-aggrieved message board bloviators who insist in the face of any and all evidence to the contrary that Obama is worse than Bush, to a frenetic chorus of hurrahs. The new frontier of perpetual outrage is limitless; anyone can stake a claim.

And then there’s race. The last thing in the world I want to believe is that any sincere liberal would have a problem with the President’s skin color, but comments from some quarters about his supposed passivity and ineptitude don’t sound very different to me from accusations of shiftlessness. There’s a rank ugliness about some of this that’s hard to fathom if it’s anything other than racism.

These things aren’t universal, of course. There are still rational voices on the left side of the Internet, and I count myself very grateful to be aligned with some of them right here on this site. Those voices don’t shy away from honest criticism where honest criticism is due. As well, only a fool would believe that the Obama Administration hasn’t mishandled and misjudged the progressive cyber-community on more than one occasion. But the potential impact of the digital grassroots has been blunted mostly by the shocking willingness of so many to wallow in disinformation and histrionics. The promise of a synergy between elected power and a vigorous leftosphere leveraging technology for information sharing and activism is lost in a miasma of all-caps paranoia and misdirected anger. A community organizer can’t organize a community that refuses to be organized. Continue reading Take Five (The Anger Games edition)

Stormy Monday, 6/17/13

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

Take Five (Talking Second Amendment Blues edition)

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)

Take Five (Conduct Unbecoming edition)

ONE: Wings of Desire

The least surprising recent gun news was the shameful failure of expanded background checks legislation in the Senate. Least surprising because, after all, 42 of the 45 naysayers have been recipients of gun lobby largesse; the other three, evidently, are just dolts. A few other recent firearms stories, by contrast, were a little harder to anticipate.

If you’re ever in Memphis and thinking you could kill for some Jack Pirtle’s chicken wings, just don’t bring along an assault rifle. Antonius Hart Sr. and his creatively named son Antonius Hart Jr. made that mistake recently, and not only are they facing criminal charges, but they didn’t even get their wings.

After receiving the wrong order on their first visit to a Pirtle’s drive-thru, they returned for their wings but stubbornly insisted on getting some free chicken as compensation for being inconvenienced. When this demand was refused, Hart père allegedly brandished an AK-47. Jack Pirtle’s staff then called the cops, who arrested the Harts and confiscated the rifle and 24 rounds of ammunition.

In a gun incident with less obvious motivation, Seattle police were called to the Northgate Mall recently after security reported a man fondling a shotgun in the parking lot:

The man, who wore a cowboy hat, a white shirt and khaki pants, walked to his Ford Explorer with the shotgun and put it in the vehicle, police spokeswoman Renee Witt said. He then lingered outside the vehicle smoking a cigarette and at times handled the gun in the Explorer, police said…

“We’re now looking into whether he had a legitimate reason for having the shotgun – maybe he was transporting it,” Witt said.

Well, maybe. Or maybe it was transporting him, if you catch my drift, but it’s also possible that the man’s peculiar behavior was inspired by the Northgate Mall itself. A recent consumer review on Yelp suggests that it might be the shopping center of broken dreams:

This mall has nothing interesting, honestly. Everything seems run down and depressing which for some reason stresses me out.

So I normally have a few drinks before shopping and that helps take the edge off, but once the alcohol wears off I die…

In further malls’n'guns news, a woman waiting for a parking space on Thursday at a mall in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park had the bad fortune to cross paths with an armed jackass in a hurry:

Investigators said a woman decided to stop and wait for a person to leave a particular parking space when a man driving a car behind her grew impatient and started honking and yelling obscenities.

Authorities said the woman didn’t budge and the man in the car behind her drove up to her side of the vehicle, pulled a gun and started waving it at her, threatening to kill her if she didn’t move.

Background checks? We don’t need no stinkin’ background checks…

TWO: Say What?

Bismarck’s NBC affiliate KFYR (“Your News Leader”) proudly presented their new co-anchor the weekend before last, and then they fired him. AJ Clemente, thinking that his Evening Report debut wasn’t yet underway, uttered the words “fuckin’ shit” into a live mic. Clemente and co-anchor Van Tieu then went into this awkward back-and-forth:

TIEU: Good evening. I’m Van Tieu. You may have seen our newest – AJ on – in [inaudible] North Dakota news, and he’ll be joining the weekend news team as my co-anchor. Tell us a little bit about yourself, AJ.

CLEMENTE: Um… thanks, Van. I’m very excited. I graduated from West Virginia University, and I’m used to, um, you know, from being from the in – East Coast.

Clemente was canned the following day. Especially in view of his Cooperstown-ready surname, it’s a damn shame he doesn’t have a lifetime batting average of .286 with 403 home runs and 1,337 RBIs; he’d probably still have a job. Boston Red Sox DH David Ortiz, who actually owns these impressive stats, had this to say to a sold-out crowd during a televised ceremony before the first ballgame at Fenway following the Marathon bombing:

We want to thank you, Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, the whole police department for the great job that they did this past week. This is our fucking city, and nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong. Thank you.

A couple of hours later, FCC chair Julius Genachowski tweeted:

David Ortiz spoke from the heart at today’s Red Sox game. I stand with Big Papi and the people of Boston.

That and the $14.5 million Ortiz is making this season will be a great comfort to the slugger, no doubt. If you really want to see something wrong done right, leave it to Republicans. Steve Kush is the executive director and Bob Cornelius the former executive director of the Bernalillo County Republican Party in New Mexico, and they really dislike women who want to see a higher minimum wage. Cornelius and Kush attended a hearing on the topic and had some choice social media comments about a couple of female members of the activist group Working America. As one member of the group spoke, Kush tweeted:

Nice hat Working America chick but damn you are a radical bitch

Before moving on to Facebook to comment on Working America’s executive director:

Uh oh another Working America chick…nice boots…I know she makes more than min wage

Cornelius soon chimed in:

Maybe she uses those shoes to walk Central [Avenue]…even in this economy she can exchange bumper cables for boots

Kush then posted:

… she was hot enough to almost make me register democrat

After being suspended indefinitely without pay, Kush has expressed remorse for what he calls an “ill-fated attempt at humor.”

THREE: Many Crappy Returns

Ever notice how washed-up Republican politicians never seem to go away? No matter the magnitude of their defeats and disgraces, no matter the fervid desire of the general public never to hear or see them again, no matter the outrageousness or flat-out irrelevance of their opinions, they just will not go away. Exhibit A? Joe Walsh.

The former Congressman, a lazy and stupid man, made headlines in March when he informed a rally full of rapt Teabaggers that Americans are lazy and stupid. Now America’s highest-profile deadbeat dad is using the Boston Marathon bombing as a springboard to more headlines, as he calls for, essentially, a law enforcement jihad:

“We’re at war, and this country got a stark reminder last week again that we’re at war,” Walsh said to host Martin Bashir during an appearance on MSNBC. “And not only should we take a pause, Martin, when it comes to immigration, we need to begin profiling who our enemy is in this war: young Muslim men.”

Walsh has repeatedly hinted at another run for office, but with any luck voters will begin profiling white, middle-aged, Islamophobic scofflaw candidates and stop the little buttmunch before the sleeper cell of his political aspirations can be activated.

Todd Akin, the rank misogynist whom Walsh was quick to defend, has also been trying to get a foot back in the door of relevance. In an interview with KSDK in St. Louis, he responded ominously to a question about returning to politics:

“It’s one of those things that depends on the circumstances really.  I don’t rule anything out. I consider it a bright new future and I’m interested to see what the possibilities are.”

Personally, I’m hoping that the body politic has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. Continue reading Take Five (Conduct Unbecoming edition)

Take Five (Mouths of Babes 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)

Stormy Monday, 4/15/13

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

Stormy Monday, 4/8/13

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

Take Five (Let's Play Two edition)

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)

Working Rules

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