Friday, September 7, 2018

Response to Nuts

(See: Just Above Sunset: Nuts)

What the hell is Carl Bernstein thinking?

"Congressional hearings"? Really? Maybe he also thinks we should make Devin Nunes the Chairman?

One problem is, everybody seems to think we’re headed for a “constitutional crisis”, rather than our already being in one! A constitutional crisis could be defined as a very serious problem of governing for which our Constitution offers no remedy, which is where we are right now!

They keep suggesting our "constitutional remedy" is impeachment, but if so, why aren’t we trying that? For very practical reasons:
(1) the Republicans running congress really don’t want to get rid of a president who, to their surprise, is pretty much delivering on the Republican agenda, and especially don't want to do it over some wishy-washy claims that he’s “unfit”; and...
(2) because to many of us Democrats, myself included, there are few scarier two words in the English language than “President Pence”.
Same for that 25th Amendment thing, which has the added disadvantage of never having ever been tried, so we have no real clue on how to go about it.

The solution? Not a lot of options right now.

In the meantime, all we can do is leave the “Anonymous” crowd alone and let them try to protect the country in whatever way they can to keep the president from blowing up the world until a better plan comes along, simply because the rest of us can't think of how to do that, and stop talking about how “unconstitutional” that is, since, if the constitution doesn’t like it, the constitution should offer up its own solutions — and real solutions, not just theoretical ones like impeachment or the 25th Amendment.

The gridlock we’re in is exactly why the founders didn’t want us messing around with political parties in the first place. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find any good way to avoid "factions", as they called them, they just took a chance that, when problems like this would pop up, future Americans would muster the intelligence and mutual good will to solve them. In other words, they trusted us.

Silly founders!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Response to Needless Cruelty as Policy

(See: Just Above Sunset: Needless Cruelty as Policy)

What I find frustrating about all of this kidnapping of children business is that, if you or I did it, there would be legal consequences, as there would, and ought to be, for anyone who does this — unless, apparently, if you work for the government.

But Adam Serwer brings up an interesting point:
People who would do this to children would do anything to anyone.
And not just to any old “anyone”, maybe even to their own children!

This leads us to the question of whether we shouldn’t take the children away from anyone who, for instance, institutes a public policy that kidnaps children away from immigrants as a way of scaring them away from even thinking of coming across our borders.

For example, I wonder if the DC Department of Children and Protective Services, or whatever it’s called there, is exploring the thought that Baron Trump might be in danger, and, given the fact that the father of that family put in force a program to permanently separate children from their parents, whether the boy ought to be removed from the toxic family environment in the White House.

And what happens if the government were to lose track of him? No worries! The president can always call the ACLU for help in finding him.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll find him somewhere in the slums of El Salvador.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Response to The Killer Elite

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Killer Elite)

This all seems so complicated that nobody seems to be able to find a way to explain it. The White House, in many more words, claims they’re only enforcing existing law, and the really stupid thing is, they’re mostly right.

In a nutshell:

If you are arrested anywhere in America, and you have young kids, they take your kids away, and that’s all they’re talking about doing here.

The only difference with Jeff Sessions’ new “Zero Tolerance” policy is, before they enacted it, border officials could use their discretion to not arrest you — after all, the “crime” of illegally crossing the border is only a misdemeanor, not a felony, and doesn’t really require detention anyway. Under the old policy of exercising discretion in making arrests, families didn’t get separated; under the Trump policy of guaranteed arrests, they do.

It’s that simple.

Forget about asking some judge somewhere to grant an exception on how long we can hold some kid — to “keep the family together” — since that just takes us back to square one. Instead of kids locked in a cage, crying for their daddies and mommies, we’ll see kids in cages along with their families, and for how long? Probably until Donald Trump can dream up something else to entertain us with.

One might suspect that Trump benefits from all the confusion he is creating, since if everyone understood how truly simple the whole thing is, he couldn't blame it on the Democrats.

But something else all this Trump-generated confusion achieves is non-stop discussion of it on Cable TV and right-wing radio, which not only reminds his base that he’s at least trying to be the heartless bastard he’d always promised he’d be, but now we're hearing reports today that all that audio of crying children has made it down across the border, and it seems that the northern movement of parents and children has now begun to slow, which is exactly what the Trump crowd has been hoping for all along.

A bunch of us, including me, keep saying this guy is stupid. Can we all be that wrong?

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Response to The Case for Extreme Worry

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Case for Extreme Worry)

Madeleine Albright did a great job of summing up our Trump dilemma, but in my opinion, that Thomas B. Edsall guy? Not so much.

I don’t see all those people who prefer social stability as being Trump voters. In fact, because the “elite” have had their way for so long, with peace and tranquility being the norm, I see the Trumpists as being those who don’t like stability — in fact, Trump supporters are the ones calling for a reshuffle of the deck.

But, in fact, it wasn’t until I clicked on that Edsall link and noticed that chart halfway through the article that I realized what he was trying to get at: The Trumpists apparently see the world order that existed before all the elitists smarty-pants' took over as the baseline that we elitists fucked up; they see themselves as trying the restore the world to the way it was before, making America “Great Again!”

So in fact, the rolls have been switched! It is all of us “open-minded” people who are now experiencing fear, anger, and feeling “left behind” and helpless! 

Maybe the true confusion can be seen more clearly in an item listed on the WaPo rundown in my mailbox this morning:
Folks in the Midwest have Trump all figured out
They realize that Trump’s hype and bluster are the tools of a huckster salesman. 
By David Von Drehle  •  Read more »
Okay, but if they see him as a “huckster", as I myself do, then why are they still backing him?

Actually, I think I get it. Not being “elitists”, like me, they don’t see pure salesmanship as suspicious! To them, hucksterism is just a regular part of their daily life, while in the world we live in — the pre-post-truth world of the perpetual "Never-Trumpers" — it’s an insult to call someone a “huckster salesman”.

And ever shall that be! If you’re thinking of taking the respect for truth away from me, you’ll have to have to pry it out of my cold, dead brain!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Response to This Infinitely Improbable Presidency

(See: Just Above Sunset: This Infinitely Improbably Presidency)

l’m now remembering that I was one of those who urged thinking, the best thing to do is just allow Trump to be Trump, sure that the American people wouldn’t allow him to succeed. What was I thinking!
This is dire, and Gabriel Sherman reported that Trump is also considering creating a new West Wing structure without a chief of staff, one that would instead have four co-equal principals reporting directly to him...
And the world will finally realize what’s up, and will know it’s time to worry after he names these four co-equal principals "Death", "Famine", "War", and "Pestilence", after the Four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

It’s amazing how unpredictably tedious it turned out to be to watch Evil triumph on Earth, with nothing for the rest of us to do but sit and watch it happen.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Response to That Conspiracy to Destroy Our Freedom

(See: Just Above Sunset:That Conspiracy to Destroy Our Freedom)

"We should also expect the argument that Thomas Hobbes started long ago to continue. The idea of community, where people take public action for the public good, is a joke. Life’s not like that. We need a massive authoritarian state – a leviathan – with a single authoritarian head who will slap people around to keep them in line, who cannot be questioned.

And of course the whole concept of community is a conspiracy to destroy our freedom, which we really don’t have under a single authoritarian head who cannot be questioned anyway. But everyone has a gun, so that’s fine. A perpetual armed standoff is freedom too.”

Okay, Alan, I think you're misrepresenting Thomas Hobbes’ views on this issue. In truth, he’s actually on our side, not Trump’s.

Leaving the whole question of a "massive authoritarian state" aside for a second, Hobbes is not “anti-community”. In fact, his quote — in its full version — says that, WITHOUT community, it’s a case of every man for himself, where everyone is essentially the enemy of everyone else, a society in which "there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no Culture of the Earth; … no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death”, with the kicker of his argument being, "And the life of man solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.”

I’m with Hobbes, not Trump. I see no real advantage to living a life of continual fear and danger of violent death.

In the case of guns, this would mean a world of allowing the bad guy who is carrying an instrument of murder the same constitutional right to carry it as the good guy with that same right, so nobody would have the right to take that weapon away from him until AFTER he shoots somebody with it. Meanwhile, until he does, we are all doomed to live in "continuall feare”.

Also, I’m not sure how much emphasis Hobbes places on the “Leviathan” being "a single authoritarian head who will slap people around to keep them in line", like a king. I think he uses the word "Leviathan" to mean a thing of nature, something bigger and more powerful than you and me, but not necessarily an ill-intentioned thing — something like a whale, since one definition of "Leviathan" is "a very large aquatic creature, especially a whale", if you happen to think of whales as not wanting to hurt us.

This is at that same link:
For by Art is created that great Leviathan called a Common-Wealth or State, (in latine Civitas) which is but an Artificiall Man; though of greater stature and strength than the Naturall, for whose protection and defence it was intended
I gather Hobbes would have us think of our government as an invention of nature, the purpose of which is to protect us from harm. I don't think Trump or the NRA would agree, but in their defense, Hobbes was, like, an actual world-famous philosopher who actually thought about stuff, and those other two aren't.

Here he is again:
The office of the sovereign, be it a monarch or an assembly, consisteth in the end for which he was trusted with the sovereign power, namely the procuration of the safety of the people, to which he is obliged by the law of nature.
So Hobbes seems to believe that his great “Leviathan” can be called either a “Common-Wealth”, “State”, “Monarch” or “Assembly”, but whatever, the purpose of it is the “protection and defense” of its constituent people.

The fact that he comes right out and says this seems to indicate he doesn’t believe a civilization is an “every-man-for-himself” community, in which good men (with guns) and bad men (with guns) get to enjoy shooting each other to death, while the rest of us are forced to watch.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Response to Staying In Your Lane

So you say we should outlaw “assault weapons”? Reduce the size of ammo “magazines"? Maybe instead of more gun regulation, we should all be jibber-jabbering about keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally unbalanced!  How about raising the age for buying firearms? Think that’ll work?

Seriously? The answer is no, of course not. It hasn’t worked so far, so what makes us think those measures will work in the future?

So many of us who don’t like guns have compromised over the years, saying, okay, people should be allowed to hunt with guns, so sure, maybe we can just fine-tune the rules of gun ownership, or maybe improve the government record-keeping, so we can keep guns away from dangerous "gunmen".

But you know what? Too many people who own guns don’t believe in compromise, don’t like the idea of the government keeping records of who owns what sort of weapon that can kill our children someday, and because of that, we have several mass shootings every year and, unlike most countries in the world, thousands and thousands of gun deaths, including suicides that could be prevented.

They don’t do any of that crap in Japan! If you want to own a gun in Japan, you can only get a shotgun or air rifle — no pistols, certainly no semi-automatic "assault rifles" like an AR-15 — and you have to take a written and shooting test and score no lower than 95%.

And if they award you a shooting license, it’s only for three years. And when you die, your survivors have to turn the firearms back in.

That’s why there were only six gun deaths in Japan in 2014; that same year, there were 33,599 gun deaths in the U.S.

Yeah, I know. A country in which hardly anybody gets shot to death? That’s un-American! So maybe what we need to do is become an “un-American” country, where people don’t die in all these school-shootings, because there won’t be any!

The only way to keep guns out of the hands of someone who shouldn’t own one is to keep them out of everybody’s hands, like they do in some other countries. So maybe we should try that, since whatever we’re doing obviously isn’t working.

Have you ever noticed that, after every mass shooting, we all discuss solutions that don't pertain to the most recent massacre? After Parkland, there’s talk about not selling guns to someone with mental problems or a criminal background, neither of which would have helped in Florida, since he had no record of either.

But the only real way to keep someone with a criminal record or a mental disorder from buying guns is to prevent everyone, even someone with a clean record, from buying guns.

I think what we really need now is to think the unthinkable:

Repeal the 2nd Amendment!

We really don’t need it anymore anyway, since it was only cooked up by the founders as a way of making up for the fact that we were creating a country that was planning on having no military.

It’s true! You rarely hear it, but one thing American colonists really didn’t like about Britain  a mistake they swore they wouldn’t repeat when they created their own country  was Britain maintained a “standing army”. The thinking was, if you had an army, you'd want to use it, and then you'd find yourself in all sorts of useless mischief.

So we were actually planning to go without! We figured the “Minute Man” concept worked just fine during the Revolution, so we were going to give the “well-regulated militias" idea a shot.

We tried that in the War of 1812. It didn’t work so well, so we changed our minds. Now we have a full-time military and no longer require everyone to bring muskets to the battlefield.

But you say you need a gun to defend yourself from a government invasion of your town? Hey, if you can’t trust America, maybe you should move to a country you trust more.

You say you need a gun for small game hunting? Sorry, you’ll just need to go buy your food at the Piggly-Wiggly like the rest of us.

If we let you own a gun, that means we have to also allow Nikolas Whatsisname to buy one, so he can go kill and wound people in South Florida.

Allowing you your hunting hobby is not worth even one of those lives, much less all 17 of them, nor one of the lives of someone shot in a home invasion, or workplace in which some disgruntled employee comes back to shoot everyone after being fired, or the ex-wife shot by her ex-husband, or even the person who is temporarily depressed and decides to buy a gun to end it all before he can come to his senses.

By the way, it's not just the murders, suicides, and accidents that come from little kids finding where you hide your guns, but guns are also used in so-called "lesser" offenses, such as robberies and rapes. Without the help of a gun, many of these crimes would go away.

You want the constitutional right to own a gun so you can defend yourself and your family? From what? From some “bad guy” who, by the way, has the same constitutional right to own a gun that you do?

If neither of you had a constitutional right to own a gun, then we can take it away from the “bad guy”, and then you won’t need yours! We'll be just like all those other countries that don’t have their citizens shooting each other to death on a daily basis.

Every attempt to get weapons under control, despite the overwhelming support from most  of America, is countered by the NRA, a trade group that protects manufacturers’ rights to sell what, in the old west, were referred to as "widow makers".

So maybe somebody should start a list, like Grover Norquist’s anti-raise-taxes pledge, that says, “I will not vote for any candidate who refuses to sign a pledge not to take any campaign contributions from the NRA.” If you don't promise to not take money from the NRA, voters will either vote for your opponent or vote for nobody at all.

And after that whittles down the number of elected officials beholden to the gun lobby, maybe what we need to do is pass a law that says, “If the government can’t reduce annual gun deaths in this country to near-zero by such-and-such a date, then we automatically begin the process of repealing the Second Amendment.”

At first, for a limited time, we buy guns back. After that expires, we won’t punish you if you voluntarily surrender your weapons (but nor will we pay you.) And if we later catch you with guns you never turned over voluntarily, we punish you.

All confiscated guns should be totally destroyed, so they don’t end up in someone else’s hands.

I give up. No more playing around. We need to start thinking the unthinkable, and doing what we should have done a long time ago:

Repeal the 2nd Amendment.