Guns

A Little Self-Disclosure

I didn’t make a new year’s resolution.  Not this year, nor any other year, with the exception of several years when I was young, heard about the practice and went along because that’s what I thought everyone did.  Within hours of making each one, though, I could no longer identify what the resolution had been.  Apparently, I was not particularly resolute in my resolutions and dropped the practice immediately as something unimportant to me.

Further, I have a lifetime of suffering from the debilitating condition, BSO Syndrome.  That’s “Bright, Shiny Objects.”  I’m easily distracted by something flashy, new or attractive.  It’s a bit like a puppy in the park chasing a leaf, then spotting another being blown by the wind and now chasing that one, then another.  Indeed, in that sense I am an advertiser’s dream target, watching the attractive visuals of the pharmaceutical product commercial and completely missing the voice-over disclosing in a soft, non-threatening tone that users of the product have suffered uncontrolled bleeding, blindness, insomnia, death and worse.

That doesn’t mean that I cannot concentrate and remain focused, although it does mean that I am unable to do so and play music in the background, because I would just wind up listening to the music.  So, I have had to find ways to stay focused and on track in order to produce the desired results.  That is critical, because some issues are so important that they require us to persist in remaining concentrated on them; otherwise, there will be dire consequences.

The Great Powerful People of America see themselves as rich and becoming richer and as controlling ever more of the world and they need to distract all of us from that reality in order for them to succeed.  So, they put before us all manner of distractions, like talking heads spouting idiotic, fatuous things to tweak our senses and infuriate us so that our passion is reactive to their sideshow, instead of remaining focused on the core issue of the Great Powerful People of America taking over our country.  They smile and shake our hands as they pick our pockets, and when someone at last has the sudden clarity that his pockets have been empty for the longest time, they smack him down and tell the world that they are doing the best thing for him, lest he become accustomed to having the opportunity for some change in the pocket of his jeans.

And they get away with all of that because they continually buy our politics and our government.

I am not alone in my BSO Syndrome.  We are a nation of distractables at a time when we face daunting challenges and an entrenched power base that does not want to relinquish its power with even the slightest of compromise.  That small base of enormously powerful people is holding nearly all the cards, even the life or death card.  Against that, what can one person do?

Read Gabby Giffords essay, offered on the anniversary of her having been shot in the head by a very well armed lunatic, and you’ll find out.  Something good is happening.  It takes determination, concentration and focus and the belief that one person can make a difference.  She is and she will.

I’m committed to fighting and changing the insane big money death grip on our country and, in consequence, help to restore our democracy.  There are many other worthy issues vying for my attention, but my BSO Syndrome isn’t powerful enough to distract me from this mother of all dysfunction in our government.

One person can make a difference.  I’m in.  How about you?

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Forehead Slapper

Water On Road During RainSome things are rather obvious, like the message on this highway sign.  And some things are just as obvious in The Constitution.

Here is the Second Amendment in its entirety:

“A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

Imagine the environment during the days when the Bill of Rights was being written.  We had just won our independence from the British through the efforts of an amateur army.  We had no standing army, nor the money to fund one if we needed it.  Furthermore, we were afraid we’d have to fight the British again (that happened).  Now reread the Second Amendment.

It is rather clear that the focus was on having men ready to fight a war (a militia) and that it was their job to fund their own equipment.  That is to say, the key point is not about stiff-arming an intrusive or abusive United States government; it is about national defense being handled by amateurs armed with their own muskets.

Times have changed and we now have a standing army.  There is no national defense reason for civilians to be ready to serve in a militia or to have their own muskets.  Billy Bob may think that the arsenal in his basement is his protection against an abusive government, but he’s going to have a really bad day when it’s learned that he’s been conspiring to do something nefarious to make his voice heard, like the bombing at the Boston Marathon or the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building in  Oklahoma City, both done by American terrorists.  The ATF guys and the FBI will arrive at his door with enormous firepower and his AR-15 and illegal Browning automatic rifle won’t be of much value to him.  So much for household defense by firearms against an abusive government.

That pesky “shall not infringe” business – does that mean that the government cannot place limits on the firearms a citizen may own?  No, we as a society have decided that it does not and we already have such limits.  You cannot legally own any automatic weapon.  You may not legally own field artillery or an M-1 tank or a fully armed F-18 or torpedoes or Hellfire missiles or an atomic bomb.  Yes, we decided long ago that the right of people to bear arms really can be limited.  And that’s a good thing.

It is also an obvious thing, a real forehead slapper.  The trick is getting gun stalwarts past the arrested development stage, during which they chant ceaselessly, “You can’t tell ME what to do.”  Well, yeah, we can.

So, get over your testosterone rush, “cold, dead hands” rant rifle-thumper, and recognize that there really is water on the road when it rains, and we can and should place limits on the firearms any of us may own.  Those limits help our six-year-olds to make it to age seven.

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Pogo

Pogo 2As the heat subsides from the immediacy of the Boston Marathon bombings and shootings, our national dialogue naturally turns to more contemplative issues, like preventing such attacks in the future.  Concurrently, we continue to wade in the morass of Sandy Hook and our elected leaders blather ineffectively over action to prevent more gun massacres.  The connective tissue between those seemingly different situations is angry people acting out violently to, in their minds, right a wrong or to make a statement and be heard or because some mental illness led them to kill.

Setting aside mental illness as a motivator, what we have are people who do horrific things, yet those very same things seem sensible – even mandatory – to them.  The popular saying is that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

It is never popular to suggest that we have a part in what goes on elsewhere.  We’re more comfortable pointing fingers at the crazy, violent people.  But what if there are things we can do so that we don’t spawn so many people who see violence as their only option?

Here’s Human Being 101 on this: every one of us has a fight or flight response ready to be triggered instantly.  It’s located in the so-called reptile brain, the oldest component inside our skulls, and its operation isn’t ruled by notions of consequences, fairness or reason; indeed, it isn’t ruled by conscious thought at all.  It is survival level stuff as practiced by alligators and it works really well for – guess what? – survival.  It isn’t good for much more than that and that’s the problem when we humans feel threatened or wronged.

Impulses from the reptile brain flood our system ten times faster than thoughtful deliberation and we go primitive quicker than the snap of fingers.  This is the kind of stuff that is handy for recruiting members for militias, for white supremacists and for al Qaeda.  All those recruiters need to do is to smear “others” as threatening what the recruited hold dear, like their loved ones, their country, loyalty, right over wrong – you can make up your own list – and the sign-up is easy.  All that fierce reptilian stuff feels good, because when it’s engaged we feel powerful.  That’s especially useful for manipulating those who have felt disempowered, ignored or bullied.  Violence feels to them like strength and, perhaps, like it is their only remedy.

Next thing you know the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City is blown up, 6-year-old children are blasted apart by 10 bullets each in Newtown, CT and Americans are blown up at the Boston Marathon.

We have an unlimited supply of people exhorting us to primitive, violent redress to every conflict.  Their chest thumping and their simplistic solutions appeal to our desire for quick resolution and to make us feel safe.   Indeed, our war drum beating legislators seem to believe that most problems should be resolved through military means.

For every Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. insisting that we be non-violent in dealing with our grievances, there are hundreds of others rattling sabres.  Humankind has always been short of peacemakers.  Actually, it is a hazardous profession, as those folks have a way of becoming prematurely dead, thanks to ever-present violent people who feel threatened.

Just get that clobbering other people will not convince them not to attack us.  That applies to the Muslim world, the various places where we expend ordnance in order to prove to ourselves that we’re Number 1, as well as to our neighbors across town who may be somehow different from you and me.  Come to think of it, I’m not too sure of you.

That last was, of course, tongue-in-cheek.  It is meant as a placeholder for all the ways we “other” people who seem, well, other.  We can succumb to fearing whoever might appear to be different or we can get past that.  John Lennon said it well:

“If you want money for people with minds that hate,

“All I can tell you is brother you’ll have to wait.”

We have to figure out that we cannot dominate and kill our way to security and comfort because that just leads to the next generation of people who want to attack us.  Nothing is going to get much better until we figure that out.  Pogo said it best:  “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

The way we have been is not who we have to continue to be.  Perhaps – just perhaps – we can find remedies to our individual and collective challenges.  We’ll all need to do our part in that.

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Best Thing That Could Have Happened

Crazy guy with AR-15Sure, it was very simple and would have made only marginal improvement in violence reduction.  Of course, we can characterize it as something that would have been nearly pointless.  Still, the bill went down in defeat and it’s the best thing that could have happened.

Let’s start with what it was and what it was not.  The vote was not on whether to close the so-called “gun show loophole” and require background checks for all sales of firearms.  It was not a vote on whether to create a national registry of gun owners.  It was not a vote on the Second Amendment.  It was a vote on whether to override a Republican filibuster that was preventing even a discussion of the proposed background checks bill.  The gun thumpers won and the rest of us lost.

That’s “lost,” as in putting something ahead of protecting our children.  That’s “lost,” as in cowardice replacing courage.  That’s “lost,” as in willfully refusing to do the job one was hired to do and even lying about it.

The lying is a big piece of what gets under our skin, because it violates our sense of right and wrong.  Sometimes it’s covert, like Wayne LaPierre and his National Rifle Association forcing a watering down of the bill, then lobbying against it, saying that it’s too wimpy to accomplish anything.  Slimy, sneaky stuff like that.

Sometimes the lying is overt, like saying that the bill would create a federal registry of gun owners, which they claim is the next step toward taking guns away from citizens.  Ignore for the moment the good sense of knowing who has which guns.  Focus on this simple fact:  the proposed bill imposes a $15,000 fine on anyone attempting to create such a registry.  That means that all the fools telling us that the bill would create a gun registry were either willfully ignorant or they were lying to us.  How does that feel under your skin?

The 46 senators who voted against defeating the filibuster (same as blocking the bill from a vote) had their reasons.  Perhaps some are true believers in the unintented-by-the-Framers meaning of the Second Amendment.  Maybe they imagine that Second Amendment actually has something to do with anything other than the brand new United States of America needing an army in 1776 and not having the resources to equip it.  Perhaps they get some kind of proud, testosterone rush and a swelling in their chests of patriotic fervor just by thinking about their right to own a semi-automatic Bushmaster assault rifle.  Or maybe it was something else.

Maybe it was their share of the $25 million that the NRA spent on campaign contributions in 2012 and their fear that a challenger would get that money in the next election cycle.  Maybe it was the direct and indirect money they benefited from due to the generosity of Colt Industries and the rest of those in the private citizen killing business.  Maybe they figured that they’d get primaried by a screwball even more Neanderthal than they are, so they did what they did for “the greater good.”

All that rationalizing comes down to this:  Those 46 senators decided that their careers are more important than the lives of our American children.  They see their financial well-being following their senatorial days, as they shift to become highly paid lobbyists, as being more important than the 3.5 Americans who are killed by gun violence every hour of every day of every year.

And now you know.  Now the 90% of Americans who want our communities to be safer know.  And now we have the leverage to do something about it.

There will be a general election in just over 18 months.  That is when we get to tell our legislators exactly how we feel about their cowardice, their self-centered focus and their contempt for the American people.

That is when we get to elect people who will scrap the pitiful bill that was just rejected and replace it with a bill that has a hope of beginning to reduce American gun violence.  We can enact legislation that will require background checks on all transfers of firearms, even those between Grandpa and grandchild, because one of those grandchildren might be like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of Columbine infamy.  We can enact legislation that denies assault weaponry to child killers in Newtown, CT.  We can eliminate 33-round clips and 100-round drums of ammunition that were so deadly in a movie theatre in Aurora, CO.  And we can even do something positive to help our mentally ill citizens.

Here’s how Gabby Giffords puts it:

“Mark my words:  if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s.  To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way.”

That is why this cowardly filibuster override failure is the best thing that could have happened.

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Common Wisdom

We all know that the country is center-right.  Perhaps it’s there as a result of a pendulum swing from the socially farther left pendulum of the 60’s and the politicians and pundits now like to tell us we’re center-right almost as throw-away line.  Or maybe people just keep saying that and have done so for such a long time that we’ve come to believe it, but repetition doesn’t make the claim accurate.  Take a look at just a few issues before us.

Jobs – About 306 million of we 307 million Americans want the government to take energetic action to ramp up the economy and create jobs.  The noise from the far right is the only thing that is making it seem like there is huge opposition to that.  As a nation, we are left of center now on jobs.

Voting rights – Americans believe overwhelmingly that all of us over the age of 18, with the possible exception of convicted felons, should vote.  That’s pretty much smack dab in the center, not center-right.  On the other hand, there are Republican strategists who have openly stated that the only people they want to vote are those who will vote Republican.

In the 2010 election many states voted far right legislators into office and they have enacted laws they have fraudulently proclaimed are to protect us from a blight of voting fraud.  The thing is that voting fraud almost never happens – not even in Chicago.  These laws serve solely as an obstacle to voting for young people, the elderly, the poor and those in minorities who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.  Let’s see, righty R’s preventing D’s from voting.  Hmmm.

Immigration – Most of us believe that if people do something wrong that they should bear the consequences.  And most of us believe that children of illegal immigrants, born in this country and who have broken no laws should not bear those consequences.  Righties don’t want to pass the Dream Act and they are completely out of step with the majority of Americans.  The R’s continue to oppose it because they’re afraid they’ll get “primaried” in the next election by a fanatic on the lunatic right fringe.  That keeps them disconnected from everyone but the aforementioned lunatic right fringe.

This issue is complex, but as a nation we’re pretty much in the center.

Taxes on the wealthy – Depending on the week and the poll, anywhere between 62 – 80% of Americans favor increased taxes on the rich.  Only the righties who signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes, along with some already wealthy people are opposed to that.  That is to say, the country is center-left on this issue.

Contraception – Do you really need an explanation about this?  Even 98% of Catholic women have used some form of birth control and only some fundamentalist righties have a problem with it.  It’s just that a few of them have very loud voices.  We Americans are far left in favor of contraception.

Women’s choice – The majority of Americans continue to be pro-choice, although by a smaller margin now than in past decades.  In part that’s because of the loss of institutional memory of how things used to be before Roe v. Wade.  It wasn’t pretty.  We are center-left on this.

Global warming – It’s not just all the environmental scientists; most Americans believe that the Earth is getting warmer and that mankind’s activities like burning fossil fuels is contributing to it.  The only question is why anyone denies that.  To find the answer, follow the money.  It’s way on the right.  (Ref: “And another thing” below)

Social Security & Medicare – These are the two most popular programs ever created by the federal government and America is far left on them.  Only the righties want to abolish or privatize them.

Note to budget hawk absolutist righties: We made a contract with the American people, who pre-paid for these services and we must keep our word.  I know you’ll understand that.

Education – The righties want to abolish the Department of Education at both the federal and state levels.  They are starving schools of funds, so teachers, administrators and janitors are being laid off.  School maintenance and improvement projects are being halted and the disparity between the education of our poor children and the rich kids who get to go to elite schools continues to widen.  Our children are suffering, their future becomes bleaker every day we fail them and we are putting the future of America in peril.

Americans don’t like this.  They want their children to be educated and think public education is a very good thing.  The righties are completely out of sync with America on this.  This country is way left on education.

Healthcare – Most Americans want the government to do more to fix it.  All that is standing in the way is the resistance borne of the hundreds of billions of dollars being collected every year by the medical insurance companies, big pharma, big hospitals and a few others.  We’ve tried letting the market fix this.  That has resulted in our having the most expensive healthcare in the world, while at the same time we’re getting just middling results.  Only the far righties with megaphones attached to their faces think that continuing to let the free market work is the solution.  We want affordable healthcare and are at least center-left on this issue.

The list can go on until sunrise.  Those saying that we are a center-right nation have either bought into the Big Lie or think they will benefit by making you believe it.

It turns out that the common wisdom isn’t so common, nor is it so very wise after all.

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And another thing .  .  .

Have you seen the TV commercials with the pleasant looking blonde lady in a black pants suit talking about American energy?  She tells us how plentiful it is and all we have to do is go get it.  As an example, she walks across a map of the lower 48 and tells us about, ”  .  .  . tapping Canadian oil sands for U.S. consumers.”  Sounds great.

Except the plan for the Canadian oil sands crude is to transport that heaviest, dirtiest crude oil with the greatest global warming footprint via the XL Pipeline to our gulf coast for exporting to other nations.  I need for them to explain once again how that stuff is for U.S. consumers because I’m not seeing how exporting it makes it for us.

One last comment: That ad and the others like it are sponsored by the American Petroleum Industry, the promotional organization of Big Oil.  Just so you know.

“We move through life like a man in a rowboat, looking back even as we move forward.” – William Landay

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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