Impediments versus Inevitabilities

Are most conservatives Christians? Because many of them say that they are. I am not naïve in thinking all – what’s the number everyone is throwing around, 11 million – of the illegal immigrants in this country want to do right by others in seeking immigration. But, I do believe many if not a great many of them wish to. First off, people from both sides need to stop speaking of immigrants synonymously with Central or South Americans. Immigrants come from all over. When you consider in certain countries teenage girls having to move hours away from their families, from villages, to a factory in a big city so that they could make peanuts working twelve-hour-plus days, live in a veritable closet upstairs from the factory-floor, get minuscule breaks, and even go as far as having a supervisor close-pin their eyelids to their eyebrows so that they don’t fall asleep while stitching hems on jeans that we end up buying for $27, why would they want to readily escape this for a better life in some first-world haven? Granting asylum to everyone just as putting all immigrants currently here illegally on a line of buses that would comprise of most of California’s coast is not the answer if we are going to base the seekers upon amoral policies, or obviously if they themselves are amoral.

And when it comes to expressing religious perspective, the views of the Jeneane Garofalo’s on the left and the Phil Robertson’s on the right both piss me off. If you do right by yourself, and others, whether your morality stems from God, or not, it’s all good. This, for now, is the one and only right thing to believe.

It is perfectly valid for anyone to express any view, but it is not accurate to say when we speak about religion in this country, as well as abroad, that we are speaking in terms of moral relativism. Quite simply, rather, it is a fear from moral cohesion. …I read the Bible. A LOT of crazy stuff going on in the Old Testament (difficult to get through, in fact), which of course led to among other laws the creation of the fifteen – oy – ten! commandments. Just as many so-called Christians should not ignore a whole section between the Old Testament and the book of Revelations, they simply cannot cherry-pick what to believe in as good for business. Why aren’t there more chains like Hobby Lobby who remain closed on Sundays in recognition of Exodus 35:2, or who fight like they had and won to legally disallow providing birth control in their health care plans in interpretation of Exodus 20:13 (or, Exodus 23:7, Leviticus 24:17, and so forth)? Because, those other organizations choose to remain morally flexible.

Regardless, there is no apocalypse. We are not heading back to those pre-Ten Commandments days, because we all live according to the laws of a democracy. Freedom of religion certainly includes freedom from religion. Yet this all goes beyond so-called Christians ignoring the teachings of Christ. The governor of Indiana is now getting the hint on this, for instance, though naturally he also blames ‘the media’ in a flimsy attempt to safeguard his political aspirations. He actually signed into law what the governor of Arizona vetoed, and is also being tossed around in other states. I never heard of conversion therapy until just the other day, which several states legally allow therapists to practice. But whether it is a legal form of child abuse, discrimination, or murder like the wacko-lawyer in California is looking to propose indiscriminately against gays in that state, there is a simple solution here. Has any legal authority in the history of this country put to death someone for wearing a garment made of two different threads; a homeowner for planting a vegetable and a fruit side by side in their garden; for working on the day of the Sabbath? Either be willing to re-introduce these things because the Bible says so or stop discriminating against LGBTs.

Homophobia, at the bare minimum, is fundamentally not a bad thing to fess up to. So many kids these days have gay parents. Therefore, like all social phobias based on skin-color, gender, as well as religion and sexual orientation, they are all easily, fundamentally defined as just a lack of familiarization with someone different than you.

When it comes to seemingly every issue in this country, we live in a moral haze. It is making me cray. I cannot blame the mainstream-media for being shallow, when you consider the source of both candidates and incumbents who ‘debate’ for public office treating us like children. So, we go on laughing and crying in a nation afraid to debate actual ideas. With short attention-spans, we largely prefer to live moment-to-moment; prefer not wanting to upset advertisers, campaign-donors, whom we work for, or the general fear of becoming unjustly discriminated against in our delicate communities. We largely tend to keep shallowly entrenched in our extremes, with little regard towards a middle ground, as it becomes increasingly more difficultly and crazily about money over morals. I cannot help but not believe in this.

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A Nine Year-Old Boy in Texas Deserves a One-Year Supply of Ice Cream Sundaes

This story is one of those big bangs of lunacy, irony, and hilarity that deserves every picogram of mockery it has been getting

…Where to start. Poor Bart Simpson might have been long since burned at the stake by this school, but this is not intentionally satire. Neither the original act nor the outcome is based in reality.

Given the persistent stories of kids obtaining irresponsibly stored firearms, one would merit indefinitely suspending a child for bringing to school one and waving it around like a toy, or for repeated vandalism, swearing, or acting out aggressively against another student.

But this boy, who brought in said encyclopedic-book to share his fascination with the solar system with another teacher, which just so happens to include another section on human pregnancy, containing scientific diagrams, this boy…

nine year old

is a race-baiting, precociously pornographic terrorist?!

Nine year-olds have little if any sense of reality. Thankfully. This is the fruits of being nine. Most nine year-olds don’t know what terrorism is. Do we want to prompt one to inquire as to what actual terrorism looks like?!

I have known children under nine to have a marvelously better grasp of context when hearing playful intent of the words ‘make you disappear’ to another child, in this case, with a replica of a ring from a fantasy-fiction story (wherein, when slipped onto a finger can make a person invisible).

And these people/adults are educators.

According to the boy’s father, had his son discovered he had the power to make another boy disappear he would have immediately made him reappear.

“The Empire Strikes Back” came out when I was about nine or ten. I could not imagine going to school one Halloween, getting singled out for engaging in a pretend laser-gun fight with friends on the playground, and then suspended for terroristic [an actual word] activities. I don’t know if the system there allows for the father to be able to transfer his son to a different school. I mean, if it were my parents? My mother would have flipped her shit on this school!

Incidentally, the day news of this story became widely published, February 2, happened to be former Vice President Sauron’s — Cheney’s — birthday. The former sociologically based-in-the-middle-of-nowhere, neoconservative Congressman turned executive power-meets-paranoia vice-leader of the free world, to the much tragic woe of our world history, turned 74. Happy belated Birthday. (…Paranoid ass would probably approve of this school’s action.)

Let this child, and others like him, be nine, free from the amoral, neurotically absurd, and downright otherworldly imaginations in the mainstream-media. And, certain administrators for this elementary school ought to consider it better to reappear from a world far, far away into actual educating.

Money Talks, and where does ‘the Right Thing’ Walk?

I don’t agree with the headline that he ‘rips McConnell a new one’: http://www.addictinginfo.org/2015/02/20/obama-trashes-mcconnell/

…I wonder, when it comes to the issue of fiscal irresponsibility if Democrats and Republicans on the ground are mad at the same thing, but just choose to label it differently.  The labeling is of course a result of disinformation and misinformation, from the right-wing, to which I wish The White House and/or Democrats in Congress would put together some sort of widely publicized, ‘round-the-clock or just a daily effort to more concertedly, transparently inform the public regarding what they are actually trying to do for the middle-class.  Let me just clarify that our economic progress has been a credit to those beneath and between all of the ballyhoo from above, but it could have been improving at a faster pace.  And, I suppose this may still answer the question behind “genuine ideas”, as mentioned in here speech.  But I still wonder if both sides agree we are living in a corporatocracy (or, plutocracy), and both sides blame the government for allowing corporate money to continue to do its damage, and thus just label who is right and wrong differently.  The lack of civilized conversation between red and blue states of mind still foster this stitched-in-Cambodia blanket of runaway greed.

The GOP, in their continued attempts to label themselves as the GNP, are simply still a long ways worthy of our trust, in both message and spirit.  ‘How many more election losses is it going to take?’, can safely be the new Democratic campaign slogan.  We cannot have all-out Social Darwinism if, for one, many on the right still insist on living in the 1950s as far as many a social value.  As former Speaker of the House during Reagan’s tenure, Tip O’Neill said it, their economic policy is all theory and no practice.  It sounds lovely and just, all in the name of liberty.  In theory, we can all individually push to create our own opportunity, and create communities in order to foster any and all various fields of opportunity, without the help of ‘big’ government.  Everyone can do the right thing for one another, and compete fairly against one another, in theory.  But you gotta somehow share the wealth.  (And, for any who want to label this as preaching socialism, bear in mind of course how any ‘ism’ can work just fine so long as it is not corrupt.)

A Meaningful Discussion: A Left-to-Center Understanding of Guns in America

The gun-violence/control debate could be less complicated to discuss, overall, if it were not so undeniably interconnected with other big issues like education, the economy, healthcare, racism, immigration, the drug war, campaign-finance reform, to name a few. One thing is for certain, this discussion makes those pertaining to our ongoing fiscal controversies appear, well, shallow.

The history of our ‘dueling’ nature…young men in abject poverty conforming to gangs and/or desperation…our retro-ideological, inarticulately overlapping, time-and-patience-evaporating, posturing, and overreaching arguments towards responsibly revitalizing economic opportunity in this country…films, music, and video games sensationalizing violence…and a thus far extraordinarily understated re-emphasis on secured storage of firearms in the home, among the key mental health aspects largely, exclusively surrounding the recent rash of shooting rampages can keep law-abiding folks on both sides of the issue awake nights. But, whenever the national discussion is impelled by a horrible gun-incident the conversation reverts to default polemics, politicians prefer to altogether avoid the issue, and/or the whole conversation proceeds nowhere. Obviously, things need improving, just as ambition should be made of sterner stuff.

Every reasonable, responsible, law-abiding gun-owning and non-gun-owning citizen has the same goal: how to reasonably keep ourselves, as individuals, safer from violence. For, now—although, marginally—I am grateful more have decided to contribute to what is being dubbed along both sides of the aisle as ‘meaningful discussion’ […or, ‘action’, ‘conversation’] to de-escalate future scores of gun-violence.

 

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, since 1968, over 1,384,000 Americans have died from firearms. 1,309,000-plus Americans have died over our whole history of combat (http://www.militaryfactory.com/american_war_deaths.asp). Almost the same amount of Americans have died from firearms, than in wars, in about one-fifth the time. A study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that the gun-murder rate in the U.S. is almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest and most populous nations combined. Studies suggest that about 80% of gun-crimes in the U.S. are committed from guns which were acquired without any federal monitoring. …The preferred weapon of choice in mass-shootings (62 in the U.S. in the last 30 years; 7 in 2012, alone) is either the semi-automatic rifle with a high-capacity detachable magazine or a semi-automatic handgun, in the hands of the mentally unstable, which points again to the controversy of whether to seek to ban ‘military-designed’ firearms and high-capacity magazines as beyond that of a mental-health matter.

Since the ratification of the 2nd amendment, revolt and revolution had not only been stirring here but as well as in Europe, leading to our Revolutionary War, our 2nd Revolutionary War (of 1812), ‘manifest destiny’ and the Mexican-American War, and the Civil War. After WWII and the Korean War—and for that matter, on into Vietnam and the Persian Gulf—we made the decision to globally extend our interests. In the early to mid-fifties, we assisted in the overthrow of Iran, followed by Guatemala, followed by an embarrassingly unsuccessful attempt in Cuba, in 1961, and followed by what a considerably high percentage of polled Americans imagine (though I strongly hope against) to be a successful overthrow of our own, in 1963… Throw in our most recent double-whammy in both Iraq (despite the WMDs being in North Korea), and Afghanistan—where things are as yet stabilized, drone-might is not necessarily making right, and after hundreds of billions of dollars al Qaeda is spreading across North Africa, entering Syria, as well as maintaining in Pakistan. All the while, European countries’ economies are getting thinner. Department of Justice indictments against the big bankers responsible for the lending-crisis: 0. According to the D.o.J.’s assistant attorney general, Lanny Breuer, as to whether there was enough criminal intent to prove massive fraud in the selling of and investing in outrageously bad mortgages to the public, there is still “reasonable doubt”. (And as there always seems to be a moreover in cases like this—and not to mention, separate cases involving the big banks, UBS and HSBC—in a somewhat recent speech before the New York Bar Association Breuer made reference to “losing sleep at night over worrying about what a lawsuit might result in at a large financial institution”?) What does it matter how wealthy some people get, what kind of military do you expect to have leftover to defend you and us?

So, given our exploits, and what we are still very capable of, we are not very far beyond our covetous and aggressive nature. Might it very well be far from ironic or impractical, then, to assuage citizens from believing they should one day go without being able to purchase—albeit, hopefully, more carefully and universally monitored—semi-automatic firearms for the purpose of home-protection, as a means to (goodness forbid) defend against a threat of tyranny? Perhaps this particular notion may not entirely stem from a powerful lobby’s ever-fluctuating, bottom-line, after all (even though only around 4% of the nation’s licensed gun-owners are members of the N.R.A.).

Why do some of us voters, every two to four years, campaign and argue vigilantly on behalf of those seeking to best represent our ideals and values—at times going against our better judgment in legitimately scrutinizing their sincerity and ambition, or not so much voting for one person but against the other—while much of our past still has a great deal to atone for?

I think about my nieces and nephews, that little girl at the elementary school with 10 or 11 bullets in her, the young teacher at the same school who sacrificed her life in defending her students and the part of the argument around whether to prohibit beyond the date of a bill’s possible enactment anyone from being able to purchase a semi-automatic firearm that can accept a detachable magazine of more than ten rounds—however, continue to allow for anyone who may already own such a firearm to legally keep and use it—begins anew.

 

Let’s face it, the recurring controversy around guns largely centers around one aspect: semi-automatic rifles. The perception problem with the most popular of them all, the AR-15, for example, is it looks like a machine gun. But it isn’t. By itself, it can only fire a single shot at a time, less than a second at a time, with each pull of a trigger. They are equipped to be of better quality and more convenient than say a bolt-action rifle, which requires considerable more manual action between shots.

Fully automatic rifles, which are and have largely been prohibited for civilian use, are actual machine guns. They have been outlawed since 1934, in accordance with The National Firearms Act, for civilians to own without special permission from the U.S. Treasury.

To become a registered owner of a fully automatic, a complete FBI background investigation is conducted, checking for any criminal history or tendencies toward violence, and an application must be submitted to the ATF including two sets of fingerprints, a recent photo, a sworn affidavit that transfer of the NFA firearm is of ‘reasonable necessity’, and that sale to and possession of the weapon by the applicant would be consistent with public safety. The application form also requires the signature of a chief law enforcement officer with jurisdiction in the applicant’s residence. And since the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act in May of 1986, ownership of newly manufactured machine guns has been prohibited to civilians. Machine guns which were manufactured prior to the Act’s passage are regulated under the National Firearms Act, but those manufactured after the ban cannot ordinarily be sold to or owned by civilians. (They also cost about the same as a new car.)

However, regarding semi-automatic rifles, here’s the hitch: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/how-make-your-gun-shoot-fully-automatic-one-easy-step. The Slide Fire Solutions bump fire stock is still for sale and, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, still legal. The bump-fire stock entirely changes the semi-automatic to a fully automatic, with increased accuracy at about one-tenth the price.

Preventing and prohibiting the manufacture and/or sale of this (which Senator Feinstein’s newly proposed bill does seek), and not the semi-automatic rifle itself, would only be consistent with the full-auto ban.

 

But still, I myself still do not own nor have ever felt compelled to own a gun—which I take as a good sign. I am actually a vegetarian for animal rights reasons, to show how far I have had to come in analyzing this issue. I also happen to prefer other, more creative means of tension-release, than, say, the instantaneous appeal of extending one of our more powerful phallic symbols, squeezing a finger, and feeling that resolute bang at a gun-range. (Hence, I suppose, this is one reason why pink guns are now being manufactured.) My sister and brother-in-law are Catholic Workers—pacifist activists who have little problem with intervening in conflict resolution, and who live a life of voluntary poverty, working in solidarity with the poor. For several years they have lived in a three-story apartment-house in an abjectly poor, inner-city neighborhood.

Would it be valid to consider either of us as ‘crazy’ for not owning a licensed firearm, for self-defense purposes? Not at all.

But I can acknowledge that carrying oneself in such ways can only protect so much. For one, any a more mentally stable, licensed gun-owner could be capable of losing their cool and fatally overreacting in an instant. Any person then ought to have the right to likewise protect, minus the compulsion to try to be a media-hero. (Although the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, which exists in about 24 states, is too open-ended to interpret as ‘defense’).

But as mentioned, studies suggest roughly 80% of those who have used a firearm in a crime had acquired the weapon without any federal monitoring, and you can obviously be certain a criminal will not willingly relinquish such guns. An estimated half-million of guns used in crimes are reportedly stolen from the home every year because they are not securely stored. So, for the time being, and for a good while hereafter, we have the overarching, undeniable, and unfortunate truth that there are still millions—plural—of illegally owned guns in the U.S. And also for the time being, with that said, an equally compelling truth that is easy for non-gun owners to overlook is how the presence of the second amendment serves as a major protectorate.

 

In May of 1999, in front of Congress—as well as in December 2012 episode of “Meet the Press”—Wayne Lapierre advocated on behalf of universal background checks. But, lately, not so much, instead advocating what would a criminal care about a background check? Did he mean to word this as what would a potential criminal as yet having to fear a background check care? The solution is obviously not for Americans to buy more guns, for who is to say which potential owners would be potential criminals?

But I have to disagree with Senator Durbin in declaring Lapierre had completely missed the point behind the idea of universal background checks, during his most recent argument in front of Congress. He purposely missed the point. This recent line of thinking of his, and not of most gun-owners, either reflects paranoid-delusion or drunk-with-power salesmanship. I think it is more a case of the latter. Funnily enough, when it applies to winning an election or to economic policy, over 50% can considered a “mandate”, but when polls indicate over 90% of the public supports universal background checks, word is this proposal is “likely to happen”. …Backwards logic?

The amount of illegally owned guns is certainly where the personal traverses with the political, in everyone. As many know, the so-called “straw purchaser” technique is a popular method by which guns fall into illegal hands. Criminals purchase firearms by enlisting an aforementioned type of individual, as yet lacking in a criminal background, to travel to certain states to purchase firearms from gun shops. The criminals then safely travel the interstate to transport these guns back into states which happen to have stricter state-laws, mark up the price of the gun(s), and privately resell them to anyone.

There also of course exists the so-called “gun-show loophole”. As of the “Summary of Federal Law” by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence from their website, http://smartgunlaws.org/private-sales-policy-summary/, updated in August 2012:

“Five states (California, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island) and the District of Columbia require universal background checks on some or all firearm purchasers, including purchases from unlicensed sellers. In California, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia, universal background checks are required for transfers of all classes of firearms; Maryland’s law applies only to handguns and assault weapons; the Connecticut and Pennsylvania laws are limited to handguns. Delaware, Nevada and Oregon have laws allowing voluntary background checks by unlicensed sellers.”

Thus, there just seems an obvious solution to drastically lessen gun crimes, in the future: make every firearm dealer in the country a federally licensed firearm-dealer. This would also include outlawing the private sale a gun to your neighbor (I don’t care how well you think you know him/her) and cracking down on anyone hanging in or around a gun store looking to sell in case a person claims to ‘need’ a gun right away. Federal law could also extend to what California does: prohibiting gun ownership for people convicted of any kind of violent crime, drug offenses, alcohol abuse and juvenile offenses while underage.

How the idea of making every firearm dealer a federally licensed dealer went unchecked for so long is positively beyond me.

Let the idea for a gun-registry pass if the ultimate goal behind universal background checks is to prevent people with criminal backgrounds or mental instability to be able to buy a gun, anywhere, and to thus assure all federally licensed dealers with the proper funding and resources to conduct checks through the NICS system. (On a side-note, I wish mainstream media pundits would also be impelled to immediately defer to the psychological elements behind why a tyrant is why he is, or why an unstable person who shoots multiple people is why he is, instead of sensationally ramping up the rhetoric of either as ‘crazy’ or ‘evil’.) If gun-owners as so-called patriots wish to believe there one day could be a military coup in this country, and then imagine themselves serving as the last line of defense against tyranny, then let them believe that. I don’t believe such a coup could ever possibly, remotely get off the ground, in this country.

 

So how then do we further help abate the fear induced by the millions of illegally owned guns still currently out there?

For one, targets for a large or small act of gun-violence do often seem to be ‘unsuspecting’. Doing away with signs outside of an establishment indicating guns are not permitted would be an obvious plus. But what if federal legislation were to be suggested for a responsible and licensed private citizen to be permitted to carry a concealed handgun, anywhere, apart from federal establishments currently secured under restriction? The suggestion itself can in a way sound exactly like: just hire more police. And it does sound more cost-effective than implementing walk-through metal detectors in any public establishment (one of which could cost around $3500-4000).

If one is compelled to own a gun, s/he is expected to bring with this responsibility the mental, emotional, and physical preparation to be able to use it in an instance of self-defense. This expectation, of course, is not always a given. The annual number of revoked Carrying a Concealed Weapon permits—for which there are several types, and are all regulated on a state-level under four possible policies: Unrestricted (which I am currently not wild about), Shall-Issue, May-Issue, and No-Issue—are always small, and often on the grounds of DUI, unlawful carry, and aggravated assault. Of course, next to preventive, common sense there is still no threat of close bodily harm which a good can of mace or pepper-spray, or even a small, blunt object along with alert thinking to call and/or run for safety or help, still could not ward off.

Typical conceal carry requirements under a ‘Shall-Issue’ jurisdiction indicate that a granting authority literally shall issue a permit if certain permit requirements are met, as opposed to where an authority decides it ‘May Issue’ a permit, at their discretion. Thirty-seven states are currently Shall-Issue; eight are May-Issue, 4 are Unrestricted, and only Illinois (although some counties ironically have an Unrestricted policy, as the state will be required by a recent court-order to establish a better policy by May of 2013) and D.C. are the current no-issue jurisdictions, which forbid open and concealed carry for private citizens.

Allowing to conceal and carry in certain restricted yet more randomly unsuspecting targets of desperation or bigotry—hospitals and places of worship, respectively—vary from state to state. Despite popular opinion, recent mass-shootings, at their foundation, are not entirely mental health-based. There are dual elements at their core (the other I will get to, very shortly). The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act under The Federal Gun Free School Zones Act grants exceptions to current and honorably retired law enforcement officers to carry a weapon within a thousand feet of a school zone, per any state that happens to disallow certain conceal carry permit-holders to legally carry a firearm anywhere in public (except, as mentioned, in all federal buildings).

Schools are generally now in fact very secure. Nevertheless, implementing safety plans as a means to significantly decrease the impact of a future incident, in advance, certainly could not hurt.

 

An extremely important and decidedly overlooked attribute from any and all updated discussion on guns is one that does not call for new regulatory intervention at all. In any mass-shooting or gun-crime exists the potential shooter’s empowered knowledge of easy access to a gun. Now, when it comes to secured storage of guns in the home, the majority of gun-owners are deeply responsible. However, still, a great many annual gun-deaths and gun-crimes in the U.S. stem from folks who are to some greater or lesser degree tragically blind in believing their gun(s) could fall into immature, irresponsible, depressed, mentally unstable, or criminal hands. (Half of all teen suicides, for one, are by the gun.) Steel-safes with a key-coded locking system cost anywhere from only $25 to upwards around $230, depending on the size and amount of guns being stored, along with the ammunition. A small price to pay for safety.

Keeping tabs on more irresponsible gun-owners would realistically be more the responsibility of those who have an interest in guns. Rest assured, non-gun-owners could find tactful ways to address it as well. But as an altogether savory incentive, the prospect of less shooting incidents will come with less shouts for regulatory gun-control.

 

As for the final and herein most prevalent aspect, there is certainly a recurring pattern to mass-shootings. They involve a male; young and/or unmarried; socially frustrated and/or possibly abused in some way, possibly into substance abuse, and/or mentally and emotionally unstable. As information regarding the recent incident at Newtown is still being analyzed, the young man responsible in this case was a mentally/emotionally unstable resident of a legally qualified gun-owner.

Violence in mental illness is rare, and thoughtfully seeking as well as maintaining faith in proper courses of action for schooling and/or treatment, is obviously a very delicate matter for the family involved. Measures in the Affordable Care Act will allow access to care and treatment of the mentally challenged to be easier, as well as for the rash of violent cases involving combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder back home, all victims of domestic abuse, random street-violence, and bullying.

It is now perfectly essential to improve the accuracy and availability of information in order to get every state to adhere to the law already in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (or, NICS), prohibiting the violently/mentally unstable from being able to buy a gun. Every state must be able to have the financial resources available to report dangerously, mentally imbalanced people to the NICS.

The very first thing which tends to come to my mind upon hearing of a shooting incident is the missed warning-signs. There always has to be some. Within hours after Newtown, I could not help but think back on something I had read regarding the Virginia Tech incident. Here was a case where the future shooter, among other ignored signs, was in a college English class seriously scaring the crap out of his fellow students with his writings. The professor took this upon herself to consult with the Dean. …Proper thing to do. However, the professor was then instructed to dismiss the matter as not too serious and to then privately tutor the student back in his dorm-room?! She followed through, but not without deciding to set up a code-word with an assistant standing outside the dorm-room in case she was to suddenly feel threatened. The assistant would then immediately call for help. Although, eventually, as we all well know the student ended up killing 32 on campus, injuring several more, had sparked a national incident, and then took his own life.

There is a recall to do our best to listen for, be cognizant of, recognize, acknowledge, and utilize whatever our powers of peaceful persuasion to intervene and mediate more obvious warning signs. It is always heart-rendering to hear examples of obvious bullying in schools still treated by any and all of the powers-that-be as some matter-of-course; as something a teen or pre-teen needs to somehow endure on his/her own. Considering not all teens are extroverted, gregarious, nor for that matter perhaps properly guided enough, this is ridiculous.

It takes a number of things to go wrong for a plane to go down, or for a nuclear meltdown to occur, and thus multiple precautions have been put in place to prevent these things from occurring. So, I don’t think it is too much to ask to have the same approach when it comes to observing and initiating more amicable threat assessments. Over 120 school shooting and/or bombing threats have been stopped across the country by some form of intervention since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School (http://www.reporternews.com/news/2012/dec/18/many-school-shootings-prevented-according-list/).

The Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness sums up quite nicely the whole matter of gun-violence in the final paragraph of his following August, 2012 post: http://blog.nami.org/2012/08/gun-laws-and-mental-health.html.

 

Finally, and just very briefly, a New York Times op-ed published the day after 2012 Election Day (appropriately titled, maybe, “We Need a Little Fear”), included an alarming stat: in 1960, 5% of American children were born to single mothers; as of 2010, that percentage grew to over 40%. Of course, most single mothers are not necessarily single by choice. Some are because of irreconcilable differences with a former spouse or partner. And many cases involve the father-to-be deciding to split upon hearing news of the pregnancy. Then, the anti-abortion/pro-choice woman—oftentimes, of low-income—is left to decide whether to have the child and possibly piece together a support-system. I don’t wish to get into that debate because the ultimate decision should be left up to her. I only dare, frankly mention this particular scenario because raising a possibly male child without a father, on a small income, takes more energy. And with the help of family, friends, and a community—and/or the option to find a more palatable place to live, if available—is not always a given. Love, love, love, communicate with, and guide that child to no end, should she decide to have him or her.

 

If there is a middle ground on reducing gun-violence it is responsible control through reasonable means of protection. (Slide action stocks: unreasonable.) The ultimate social and political goal would be to significantly pacify the threat of violence, in general, as well as come to a better understanding of ourselves. The usual catalyst of a mass-shooting is primarily related to a call for easier access to mental health care and support in every way. And the best annihilator of any gun-crime is all-around, damn-near impossible access to any firearm.

I have never liked the idea ingrained in our culture of a singular hero. And whether we ought to do less with the word or think upon anyone who plays a helpful role as one would be of the same difference. But this issue, among others, is in need of serious, practical re-examination, and requires a group-effort.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvWokFcD22E

Less is Better

I am so tired of living amongst shallow people, with shallow wants and needs or hopes and dreams; who in one way or another fall somewhere along the ideological spectrum on any given thing, yet seem afraid to think or express too deeply out of fear of what their better natures might uncover.  …At least it certainly feels this way, for the most part.

For it to become too common-place for both chambers of Congress to consistently average an approval-rating roughly in the teens reflects upon the citizenry as much as it does Congress.  The next person ‘hates’ polarized politics just as much as you — all the more reason then to break the status-quo by writing, calling, or in some way better contributing to any given national conversation.

The Mistake of Youth Matters: A Diary of the 2012 Presidential Campaign

This might sound radical, in light of a continued culture of personal wealth, but regardless of all its intents and purposes not every person measures personal growth in the context of money.

Not every person is born with the same opportunity (this should go without saying), or taught with the same set of ambitions. Not every person is interested in learning the ins and outs of the stock-market. Not every person is wired to seek the kind of career which traditionally pays very well. Not every person aspires to maintain any sort of power or prestige to establish or strengthen a personal or family legacy through wealth.

“If you are young and not liberal, then you have no heart, but if you are old and not conservative, then you have no brain,” a quotable luminary said. Many times, it feels. Or, in short, ‘liberals’ have hearts and ’conservatives’ have brains. I say and write such things as this because of a yearning to feel equal in every possible way. I do not seek it for myself but for a conventional wisdom. I don’t look to government for help (although, greater promotion of the arts would be nice, and would cost nothing). One can only gauge his or her expectations to the other at hand. Our livelihood is a constant discussion between the heart and mind.

The fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats—which many people do not know, and defining them might significantly help or interest an undecided, unmotivated, or misinformed voter, in the midst of any campaign or debate—comes down to who is considered more or less trustworthy: the federal government or the extent of a deregulated financial system.

I once overheard a gentleman leaving an expensive restaurant comment on then Presidential candidate John McCain as not being a “true” Republican. A Democrat believes in regulations that strictly apply to the general well-being of the nation. An actual true, fiscally conservative Republican likes the idea of less regulation and generally less federal involvement. As far as how every issue in some way comes down to its financial expense, Republicans believe in individual liberty over legislating commonality; letting you decide what is best to do with your income. That always has a very nice ring to it (as well as a homey way of painting Democrats as conversely untrustworthy).

Naturally—and, important to note—both sides come with their share of both good and bad contradictions regarding how these principles affect a wide range of social issues. But, non-ideologues (including myself) continue to have difficulty trusting Republicans in power; difficulty, trusting corporate lobbyists who seem to envy the concept of power by finding equal or greater power in abusing it.

A bank’s primary purpose used to be to serve the people. The culture here has changed dramatically. In all fairness, which set of ideals has continuously proven responsible for interpreting the concept of lower tax rates among the very highest percentage of income-earners into the idolatry (a word which always spells certain doom) of wealth, contributing to a hole in federal revenue due to a lack of enough jobs created to help regenerate taxable income, and thus an increase in the national debt? Which campaigns with decided reluctance to specify a deregulating—palpably ‘trickle-down’—economic policy not unlike their past aspiring or elected executive predecessors, and continues to pigeonhole blue-collar voters into looking daft and naïve while broad-stroking the corresponding other as lazy and irresponsible?

Late in the 2008 Presidential campaign, around the time news broke of the economic crash, I felt the Republican Party was suffering from an identity crisis. Over the past 32 years, the mistruths and consequences along the surface of national election races have spread even wider and the stakes elevated even higher. Any political discussion comes with an examination of personal identity, for no one ought to be above self-doubt.

And what has made this 2012 campaign very interesting—and at times hot-tempered—is how different these two personalities are, in terms of professional responsibility. One is contemplative, soul-searching, and tries to imagine what the best decision would be to balance progress. The other: super-charged, singularly locked-in, yet self-marketed to where nobody on the planet can tell for certain which way he leans on almost anything; most importantly, fiscally—towards the center or once again out to the right?

Several amongst the wealthy on up to the super wealthy insist we at least maintain their current personal income tax-rates. But never talked about really in-depth is the issue of registered as well as unregistered lobbyists getting laws (many of which they tend to write themselves, but for the sake of here discussion) passed to create loopholes in order to pay less than their required personal or corporate tax rate (the latter, which I agree with both 2012 candidates is too high) even throughout our longest period of war, and stack their representative’s campaign chests in order to secure a variety of business interests. (Thank you, unregistered A.L.E.C., among many of your other inspired pieces of legislation; including, Stand Your Ground). Both sides are guilty of this, although Republicans in fact much more so. And it is worth mentioning how every two to four years Democratic organizations request donations to fend off Republican lawyers seeking to discourage registered voters, in “urban” areas, in court, beyond Election Day. Meanwhile, newer Republicans in the Tea Party accuse the President of never compromising. From the article, “The Tea Party Pork Binge”, Newsweek, Oct. 30, 2011: “The stack of spending-request letters between these GOP members [including several by Representative Eric Cantor] and federal agencies stands more than a foot tall, and disheartens some of the activists who sent Republicans to Washington in the last election.” But the President did compromise on the size of the economic stimulus package and then on the Bush tax cuts. I listened to criticisms as to how both compromises would not break us enough out of recession and knew the President would be labeled as the failure, in a fight for re-election, over the economy.

No wonder so many can easily tune out politics.

The root of all evil and freedom without responsibility. President Truman’s proverbial ‘buck’ has taken the size, speed, and shape of subatomic particles smashing into one another in order to recreate the Big Bang. Close to a billion dollars each will have been raised over the course of this Presidential campaign to ironically decide who can best manage our economy. We are not mutes, even though its’ ‘speech’ is distending beyond sight and sound.

So, with monetary policy (the relationship between the price at which money can be borrowed and the total supply of money) a non-spark, how much of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was in fact wasteful, not enough, or weakened—perhaps, understandably—by gun-shy thriftiness on our part? Maybe, a little of all three. The recession later revealed to be much worse than any unemployment projections at the time it was written up. Many small-business owners who traditionally voted Republican have decided to once again this year vote Democrat. The incumbent’s American Jobs Act, which had Republican provisions in it, the Bring Jobs Home Act, the Payroll Tax Cut Renewal, the Veterans Jobs Corps Bill—about 20 recent reasonable proposals, to date, were all brushed aside by the Congress of the past two years. A healthcare plan which largely resembles his opponent’s signature legislation while governor of Massachusetts and hugely contributed to his decision to run for President, the first time around, this time: awful idea; plan to repeal…most of it. Recent claims, such as, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term”, by the current Republican Senate leader a couple of years ago during a speech at the Heritage Foundation, in among other more conservative organizations; the infamous Taxpayer Protection Pledge by (conservative lobbyist) Grover Norquist, as signed by 95% of Congressional Republicans; Republican insiders (including former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich) at a private dinner on the night of the President’s inauguration having mapped a strategy to “show unyielding opposition to the president’s economic policies” (Robert Draper, Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives), altogether, make for a very simple, political priority. Jobs = President looking politically good or filibuster and block debate on every such legislative proposal the White House has presented over the past two years to hopefully keep the whole outlook symbolically the President’s fault while their candidate virtually makes it the case of his entire campaign. Visit youtube for “Obama on GOP’s Refusal to Vote on American Jobs Act” in Mesquite, Texas, October 4, 2011, for his take.

Despite very false claims that regulations quadrupled in the past four years and the size of government has doubled, as a result of our fiscal domestic and foreign policy over the first eight years of this century having so presumptuously veered us from ‘a danger of paying off the national debt too quickly’ (to paraphrase former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan) deeply back into the red, the hard-bitten reality remains that a properly monitored and regulated federal government work to help revitalize every other sector of ownership. One reason cities tend to vote Democrat is because people see first-hand poorer neighborhoods that go untouched by private investors and entrepreneurs. It is naturally unrealistic to expect communities of investors to then re-build these neighborhoods all by themselves. All I wish to suggest here is instead of consistently being a culturally right-of-center country, how about being center-of-center? Then, we can argue whether we are ‘maximizing government’.

I was as surprised that a more hands-on approach towards working with Congress was not initially asserted—or apparently even nudged along to the new President by more established Democrats in Washington. And I am annoyed at myself for giving too much benefit of the doubt towards things in general looking to even out again, over the past four years. This President has, and has in various ways indicated a second-term agenda focused on among other things creating new jobs, tax cuts for middle-class families, and balanced deficit reduction. Also, any reasonable person knows for certain the President will continue to lean towards the center. Yet, in his case, it is much more a question of how; of style igniting substance in order for both sides to work together.

At this point in our country’s development, at this stage of a campaign, when circumstances are this pivotal, I don’t know how anyone can defend an idea based upon the (ever-shifting) appearance of patriotism. Although the Republican candidate proved to be more prepared and engaged during the first Presidential debate, he ‘won’ by appearing moderate. (Senator Marco Rubio’s stating that the millions of dollars Democrats had spent trying to paint the candidate as an out-of-touch rich guy having been wiped away in one night was not a point very well argued.) Then, after he had ‘lost’ the third debate on foreign policy, immediately according to one conservative yet fair analyst he had managed to succeed at appearing Presidential.

Beyond appearances, here is the one and only gamble concerning a vote based largely around job-creation and the economy—as well as repeating history, in more ways than one: the Republican candidate proposes to reduce everyone’s income tax-rate by 20%. But to offset or neutralize this sudden lack of hundreds of billions in federal revenue he must specify which loopholes and deductions he wishes to lower or close, currently benefitting the upper-crust. Morally, this gaping lack of specificity should have been of daily, primary focus throughout this campaign—the “backbone” the Republican candidate alluded to having during the third debate, if it were not the preference against alienating voters who could always simply fact-check things themselves, accompanied by a mainstream media’s more often than necessary shallow and congenial coverage of the campaign. (So much for ‘Afflicting the comfortable…’) What the candidate explained during the second debate about everybody in the middle-class getting the “I’ll pick a number” $25,000 worth of pick-and-choose personal deductions and credits still would not add up. Either he is extremely confident enough jobs will be created to help fill the hole, yet the overall concrete implications still leaves economists, tax experts, businesses, and every middle or lower income person legitimately anxious. Even if right-of-center tax-policy experts leaned any likely set of sacrifices from the current federal tax-code as favorably as possible towards lessening the potential burden on the middle-class, less taxed income would still be going to the federal government and to a greater or lesser extent every income below $200,000 will likely see their taxes raised so to meet the expressed 20% promise. The numbers do not—in fact, and not in appearance—remotely add up.

“‘It’s not as if the entire philosophical approach he’s pursuing is doomed,’ said Alan D. Viard, a tax expert at the right-of-center American Enterprise Institute. ‘But he’s going to need to cut rates significantly less than 20 percent if he wants to honor his other goals.’” “‘Everything is on the table,’ R. Glenn Hubbard, a top economic adviser to the campaign, said in an interview, declining to elaborate any further.” Both excerpts are explained in better-detail in the New York Times article, “Romney’s Tax Plan Leaves Key Variables Blank”, September 9, 2012. R. Glenn Hubbard, by the way, was an economic advisor to then President George W. Bush. He also declined to elaborate further, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=zlIoeTObmEk&feature=endscreen

But now appears the young, high-profile, reputable deficit-hawk from the Wisconsin 1st district agreeing to be the candidate’s running-mate. However among many of his ideological contradictions, how can the current Chairperson of the House Budget Committee who signed off on cutting $331 million in diplomatic security from the 2012 White House budget suddenly agree to promote $2 trillion in increased military spending, over an approximate ten year-period, the amount of which the military is not in fact requesting? (And what sort of ideas might the two have with my portion?)

So, the unbiased and updated math, as far as mid-October: minus-20% tax-rate cut, plus [blank] tax-code adjustment, equals trust that they will create 12 million new jobs.

Whoever does become President obviously must be more hands-on involved with a Congress whose approval-rating over a year ago was 9%. Their rating has averaged roughly in the teens, in every poll, over the past two years. One would think a rating of around 40% would be cause for immediate alarm.

Ultimately, we are all in various ways responsible for not being as better off than we wished by now. And we are, although slowly but surely, collectively better off. We need more honest, mature debate, in general, in order for change to come to as well as from above Congress.

A couple of ideas… There would be much fewer fireworks along the campaign-trail by keeping the other factually in check—more often and far less costly than singularly stumping and advertising, and repeated returns to swing-states, by virtue of thoroughly debating substance. The risk of alienating voters has proven not nearly as distressing as leaders alienating each other.

Second, speaking to what continues to be the main problem every time we assemble like this—gridlock—as it does not seem the following suggestion is really being pursued throughout either chamber right now, might I suggest leaders reaching across the aisle in terms of the old-fashioned gesture of inviting a co-worker over for dinner. Personal aspiration unconsciously, profoundly, and subjectively reflects personal experience. In this country alone, tens of millions are capable of interconnecting on various messaging and internet platforms. Add the Citizens United decision to the universal appeal of celebrity created by reality t-v, to the birth of 24/7 cable-networks and a new wave of individual radio-commentary programs created during the 1990s, and a bent towards disinformation has almost supernaturally compounded. In conjunction with the White House and Congress, we altogether live and communicate in an increasingly depersonalizing and intense time of scrutiny. Some things which reflect the nature of elected leaders’ ‘opposing’ visions desperately need to be illuminated but only confided in a non-political setting. No cameras or media-alerts to inhibit any public whiff of a power-struggle or ‘political stunt’—just a breaking of bread between intelligent public servants to amicably deconstruct one another’s vision.

No person likes having their convictions shunned, snubbed, scorned, or depersonalized—and the grudge can be lasting, thus making the inclination for conservative constituents and poor people alike to feel these effects only worse for everyone. I want to believe every aspiring or elected public servant to have decent intentions.

What is acceptable philosophy for a few is obviously not mathematically possible for all. According to a report by the impartial Economic Policy Institute (“CEO pay and the top 1%”, May 2, 2012), “Using an alternative measure of CEO compensation that includes the value of stock options exercised in a given year, CEOs earned 20.1 times more than typical workers in 1965, 383.4 times more in 2000, and 231.0 times more in 2011.” These U.S. ratios are still ridiculously above those of other developed nations. Meanwhile, the average worker’s salary—adjusted for inflation—has risen barely if at all since 1979.

Hard to imagine that about fifty years ago the middle-class made up about 90% of the American public, the compensation-ratio was much more reasonable, and America prided itself more on fairness. And, to quote James Madison: “No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” It always pauses my breath to think, staring at what he later estimated to be 1-and-3 or even odds at potential armageddon, with two post-WWII military superpowers not helping by pushing each other’s buttons (for lack of a better term) in an accelerating, fate-riddled storm of fear, loathing, high anxiety, and suspicions of weakness on his part over a particularly intense thirteen days, the Commander-in-Chief held to the will of good men. And the sun came up the next day. The strains of war’s profound and in many ways unpayable debts need to be foreseen, prevented, and resolved far less expensively than as of late. Certainly we can apply a sense of fiscal responsibility to a jobs bill for veterans relative to our two unpaid wars.

Conventional wisdom, and the fact that life’s ideas can only regenerate themselves in a forward process shows that if one extreme pushes one way then the other will push back. And so on and so on… This is called, simply put, reactionary thinking—a persistent problem with youth. We still like to tout ourselves as a young country in every practical way. We are very idealistic but do not know how to properly explain ourselves, get impatient with trying, and secretly wish we could all live like we were in our twenties. For as much as we are obsessed with youth, we are obsessed with remedying the past.

Nothing is more crucial to a community’s enrichment than greater liberty and wherewithal to bounce ideas off of like-minded others in healthy, furtive, and organized settings; to organize, build, and/or invest in brighter outlets rather than blindly churn along in the cynical cogs of personal, philosophical, and/or professional isolation. We all develop a sort of multi-layered cynicism over time—which doesn’t age as we age—invariably shaped by our respective family legacies. And by respecting/delving into these legacies to advance our individual futures it is obviously important to not advance the cynicism. Then, opportunity creates itself, for nothing less would be expected.

Empowered minds shape the conversation and very easily shift the concentration of power. People who claim to dislike politics ought to be more involved for this very reason. The strange homogeny of neoconservative economic practice and fiscal conservative poetry has more than significantly reshaped our political discussion. But shifting the conversation to something sane again, and keeping it there, is—although slowly but surely—happening.

Think.

Outside of yourselves.

Before reacting.

The more we all know, the less expensive things will continue to be. This is the so-called Information Age, with technology continually striving to make things more accessible for everyone. So, try to seek it responsibly—especially during an election-year.

But as I alluded to earlier and pervasively throughout, in a Presidential campaign centered predominantly in terms of jobs and money; its impossibly interconnected nuances, what sacrifices will have to be made as for whether a more faith-based or more pragmatic vision gets elected, and how every person campaigning is in some way influenced by the overall billions donated—spurned by the desperate disinformation, knucklehead distractions, and genuine sins of omission, a still relatively well-informed person can still end up feeling like a stranger uncomfortable to intervene with a couple arguing over: money. …It was only natural. But, here is where we rely on knowledge of the fundamental differences, how they have been applied in recent history as well as how they have been reflected in this campaign, as to who will more likely acknowledge and confront the other related matters: campaign-finance reform, climate change, equal pay, crumbling schools, gun-control, foreign policy, among pertinent others depending upon who you ask.

Perhaps to some I sound more socialist than capitalist, or more liberal than conservative. But such labels are irrelevant. Generally, unattainable perfection plus a desire to atone through possession equals any a self-destructive corruptibility. There is plenty of money to go around yet what helps make this world go ‘round requires a collective growing-up. If ever asked to label myself, the term practical progressive is really just a misnomer for a person looking to both personally and socially catch up with all things humane.