The 2nd…

“Did you hear?  There was a school shooting yesterday in Florida.”
“On Valentine’s Day?  That’s terrible!”
“Seventeen known dead.  And it’s the eighteenth school shooting so far this year!”
“Sheesh…  Well…thoughts and prayers.  What’s for dinner?”
“Chicken…”

I once re-wrote the Constitution of the United States in an effort to address some of the glaring oversights.  That’s a different essay but in the process of doing such a thing, one is inevitably confronted by the Second Amendment.  It’s a tough one.  Lots of controversy.  Lots of emotion.  I stared at it for quite some time.  I did some research.  I gave it much thought.  In the end, I left it just as it is.  I came to the conclusion that, intentional misinterpretations aside, the Second Amendment says what it means: “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.”

But here’s the thing: at the time the Constitution was being adopted, our idealistic, young(-ish) revolutionary founders had decided that the United States would NOT maintain a standing military.  The thinking was that a standing military would serve as an albatross around the neck of the national economy and, once such an entity existed, some useless idiot would feel compelled to use it.  (Quite prescient, those founders…)  Instead, went the fantasy, in case of an invasion, the citizen militia would serve as the first line of defense while a more formal army was raised and trained.

We didn’t even get through Washington’s presidency before we began to realize the impracticality of such an arrangement.  It took a few fits and starts but it wasn’t very long before we had a standing military, despite the original intention.  Obviously, this negated the need for the Second Amendment but nobody bothered to do anything about it.  The change in defense strategy had evolved over time and I imagine nobody saw a need.  After all, it was pretty well understood that the Second Amendment was intended to protect Americans.

But the further we descend into this “Bizarro America” we’re stuck in today, the more things get turned on their ears.  It was after that shit-stain in Las Vegas murdered 58 people and injured 851 by firing into a crowd of over 22,000 people at a concert that I had an…unexpected realization: the Second Amendment has been bastardized from a tool intended to protect Americans, into a weapon that prevents Americans from protecting themselves.  It is a logical response that when a given provision of the Constitution turns out to be doing more harm than good, as is the case with the Second Amendment today, that provision should be repealed.  Yes, I think we should repeal the Second Amendment.

Now, I want to be clear, here.  I’m not advocating mass gun confiscations.
“You just want to take my guns away!”
No, I don’t.  Read it again: ‘I’m not advocating mass gun confiscations.’  Mostly, I don’t care that people have guns.  I know that most people use them for target practice and competitions and other such non-lethal events.  I know that criminal shootings are carried out by less that one percent of gun owners.  I KNOW that 99% of gun owners are a-okay!

But I DO want to know who has guns and I can’t because of the Second Amendment.  I want to know how many guns a person has and what kind.  I can’t…because of the Second Amendment.  I want to know that people keeping such dangerous toys know how to use them by requiring classes, licenses, and insurance.  I can’t because of the Second Amendment.  I’d like to see serious, in-depth background checks done with every gun purchase, new or used, public or private.  I can’t because of the Second Amendment.  I’d like to see the ATF office that traces guns used in crimes be able to use computers to do their job rather than taking months and sometimes years to identify the owner of a given weapon.  I can’t…because of the Second Amendment.  I’d like to restrict mentally ill people and people on the terrorist watch list from acquiring guns but I can’t…because of the Second Amendment.

I’d like to see America take those steps in an effort to protect Americans.  But…the Second Amendment.  There are many non-intrusive, common-sense things Americans might do to protect themselves without having to don body armor before checking the mail.  But the fucking Second Amendment won’t allow them.  So you see?  The Second Amendment is preventing Americans from protecting themselves and no longer preserving their right to do so.

I’ll say it again.  I know that 99% of gun owners are responsible people.  But the few always ruin it for the many, right?  If, every time Americans try to take specific action against specific atrocities the Second Amendment is trotted out and used as a shield to protect the insanity, the Second Amendment is going to have to go.

And I’ll tell you this: the gun rights crowd is going to have to give a little on this because if they insist on making this an absolute, all-or-none battle, I suspect the vast majority of Americans are going to side with “none, then…”

Hope…

In 2004, the at-the-time Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, started issuing marriage licenses to interested parties in the gay community.  One can imagine the elation of those affected.  It was a bold move that was instantly lauded, applauded, and embraced by every segment of society…

Ha, ha…I’m kidding of course.  A certain segment of our society lost their collective minds.  Protests were staged, names were called, fights were had.  Then…laws were made.  What started off as a high-flying moment for the LGBT community seemed to have come to a crashing end.  But passing laws was an overstep by the “H8ers,” as they had come to be known.  Laws moved the issue from opinion, stereotype, and conjecture to a matter of, well, law.  It’s still true in this once-great nation that laws can’t discriminate.  In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that states could not bar gays from getting married.  These days, gays are allowed to marry and divorce right along with everyone else.  The world hasn’t ended.

In a larger way, the entire country finds itself in a similar situation.  In 2008, the country “elected” a black man as President.  One can remember the elation of most of those affected.  It was a bold move that was instantly lauded, applauded, and embraced by every segment of our society.

Okay, no.  A certain segment lost their collective minds.  Protests were staged, names were called, fights were had and then…Trump.  I mean, talk about some brutal push-back.  The “Tea-baggers”, as they’ve come to be known, complained that Obama had too little experience to be President.  So they “pushed back” by supporting an individual with zero experience.  Aside from enriching himself through his office, nothing seems quite so important to our current POTUS as undoing everything “Obama”, becoming the “Anti-Obama”, if you will…

As President, Obama was thoughtful and articulate.  Trump appears to know somewhere between two- and three-hundred words.  Obama was attacked as the “teleprompter President.”  Trump squints at the thing, “reads” like it’s an I-Can-Read book, and STILL mispronounces several words per speech, perhaps to re-assure his “base” that he really is NOT part of the “intellectual elite” (code talk for “smart people.”)  The Obama administration made rules protecting the environment.  Trump allows coal companies to push mining waste into rivers and streams.

Trump supports off-shore drilling and just about every other 19th century power source – again, the exact opposite of Obama, who was trying to move the U.S. into 21st century power sources.  Obama was young, athletic, and dignified.  Trump?  Well, let’s just go with “the opposite.”  What started off as a high-flying moment for America seems to have come to a crashing end…

But I’ll tell you this: the “H8ers” exposed the very worst of humanity when it came to tolerance and equality.  Once the majority of the nation got a good view of what that looked like, we rejected their backwards, wrongheaded position.  The gays won.  In the same way, the Tea-baggers have shown us the ugliest portrayal, the darkest corners of ourselves and in every meaningful way, Donald J. Trump epitomizes the very worst of us.  We, the people, are getting a very good view of what that looks like.  I’m hopeful that the majority will reject the Tea-bagger’s backward, wrongheaded viewpoint, just like we did with the “H8ers.”  Perhaps, America can still win…

Market Movements…

Did you hear?  The stock market crashed…then recovered…then crashed again…then recovered some more.  Down, up, down, up – some fairly wild swings in some fairly short periods of time.  Profit taking?  An inevitable “correction?”  Did the stock market take such a rough ride because of the jobs reports that showed modest growth in real wages?  Maybe.  Real wage gains was one of the myriad suggestions out there.  I hope that one is wrong, though.  It’s not a good sign – the suggestion that the market might crash if workers start to get more fair wages.  It DOES, however, support my contention that the “Dow” reflects only the happiness of CEOs and has nothing to do with the state of the economy so…victory lap?

I can’t pretend I’ve heard each and every one of the possible explanations out there but the one I DIDN’T hear was this: 45’s policies are starting to take effect.  For reasons I can’t explain, FAR too many Americans don’t seem to realize that the first year of a President’s term – any President – plays out under the LAST year of the previous President’s budget.  So all of this “good” economic news that’s been playing out over the last year has REALLY been the “end” of the Obama administration.

It seems quite possible to me that one of the problems is that the GOP can’t seem to get it’s financial house in order.  They’ve been trying to come up with their own budget and, so far, we’ve measured not one but two “government shutdowns” as the GOP careens between “cruel” and “not cruel enough” for the various “Republican” factions.  When they DID finally come up with…something…it added over one TRILLION dollars to THIS YEAR’S deficit.  Talk about “fiscal responsibility…”

But, in addition to the jobs report on the Friday the crash “started”, another event took place on the subsequent Monday: Janet Yellen was replaced as Fed Chair by a Trump pick, Jerome Powell.  Okay, “Trump pick” isn’t exactly right.  Powell was already on the Board and he was put there by Obama.  But Yellen was doing a good job as the Chairperson and it is described as “highly unusual” for a competent Chair to NOT be recommended for a second term.  Replacing Yellen with Powell introduced uncertainty and one of the things the markets hate beyond any other is uncertainty.

So, why the change?  Acknowledging that Trump and I haven’t spoken on the subject, I’d have to submit that, perhaps, the driving factor was Powell’s known aversion to “regulatory burdens.”  He was once a partner in the Carlyle Group – a Washington based private equity firm.  OF COURSE he wants to reduce “regulatory burdens.”  How the hell can banks game the system and rip off their customers if regulations prevent them from doing so?  And, sure, that will help usher in new instabilities as the economy returns to the boom and bust days of old…

I’ll tell you this: “Uncertainty” and “instability” are words regularly associated with this maladministration.  Sadly, they’re also the very intangibles investment markets try to avoid at all costs.  Perhaps Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride has only just begun…

Parade THIS…

So…President Tiny Hands wants a grand military parade.  I guess he wants to see what a big missile looks like.  Apparently, he’s been quite impressed by Kim’s missile and now Macron’s.  Somebody should explain it to him.  Parades don’t change anything.  Sorry, Tiny, but if you want your “missile” to look bigger, your stomach is going to have to be smaller…

I wonder if he’ll show up wearing one of those stupid-looking pseudo-uniforms, covered from shoulder to shoes with medals and ribbons and declare himself the newest, greatest, highest rank in the military: ‘Field Marshall Von Admiral General’.  Dumb-ass.  You’re already the highest rank in the American military: the civilian Commander-in-Chief.  He could have known this already, of course, but when he had the chance to get up close and personal with military hardware, he sought deferments, instead…

I guess the entire disgusting affair will be “sold” as an opportunity to support our troops.  But, don’t we already support our troops?  I mean, sure, we do nothing to help them re-adjust to civilian life when they come back, we let them suffer in homelessness, and we fail to provide adequate health care for the injuries they sustain securing our nation’s oil…but we have those little magnets on the back of our cars…

Politicians are always on about how there’s no money for this, that, or the other thing and yet taxpayers are going to cough up a bit more so Tiny can pretend he’s a “real dictator”?  I’ll tell you this: I think we, the people, are already paying more than enough for displays of American military hardware around the globe.  If Tiny wants a parade, he should pay for it out of his own pocket…

Well, Of Course They Do…

I saw this item in the Guardian.  It’s an article about a study done to determine who shares the most “Fake News.”  It was done by Oxford University.  (I know…experts…pffft…)  You’ll never guess who, among us, consumes and redistributes the most “Fake News.”  I don’t want to steal the article’s thunder so…

 

“Low-quality, extremist, sensationalist and conspiratorial news published in the US was overwhelmingly consumed and shared by rightwing social network users, according to a new study from the University of Oxford.

The study, from the university’s “computational propaganda project”, looked at the most significant sources of “junk news” shared in the three months leading up to Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address this January, and tried to find out who was sharing them and why.

“On Twitter, a network of Trump supporters consumes the largest volume of junk news, and junk news is the largest proportion of news links they share,” the researchers concluded. On Facebook, the skew was even greater. There, “extreme hard right pages – distinct from Republican pages – share more junk news than all the other audiences put together.”

The research involved monitoring a core group of around 13,500 politically-active US Twitter users, and a separate group of 48,000 public Facebook pages, to find the external websites that they were sharing.”

I know, no surprises…at least not to anybody who’s been involved in the political discussion over, say, the last forty years or so.  (Subversive disinformation has been called ‘propaganda’ FAR longer than it’s been called ‘Fake News.’)

I’ll tell you this: the affected group, those who SHOULD review, reflect, and reconsider their sources, will simply declare the study ‘Fake News’ and move on to the next story about the AWESOME accomplishments of Trump…

The Nunes Memo…

By now, I presume we’ve all had a chance to take a look at the so-called “Nunes Memo.”  On Friday, February 2, 2018, Devin Nunes (R, of course) “released” this bit of creative writing.  It’s based loosely – VERY loosely – on actual events…in the same way Godzilla attacking Tokyo could be viewed as a “documentary.”  After all, Tokyo is a real place so, perhaps the attack was “based on actual events.”  The memo hadn’t even gotten out of the chute before Nunes was forced to admit he hadn’t even read the underlying intelligence.  Of course, he didn’t need to.  The intent of his writing assignment was to undermine the FBI in the service of his overlord.

Nunes has done this before.  He’s actually had to step away from this very same investigation over his own unethical behavior before.  Now he’s back – and the first thing he does is produce this memo – best suited for cleaning up after a bowel movement.  Trump is pretending the memo is “proof” that the investigation is a witch hunt.  Most of the Fox “News”-level thinkers accept this.  Some are even out in social media trying to convince people that the smoking gun of conspiracy has been found, personal credibility be damned…

Thinking people want to know why there’s so much effort to deflect an investigation that, we’re assured, will produce nothing…especially since it has already produced something; two convictions.  I, personally, want to know why the Trump team doesn’t seem to understand that the more they lie the guiltier they look.

Honest men don’t lie to prove their honesty…

Both Nunes and Trump are known, proven, serial liars.  The known, proven, serial liars are the “source” for the notion that the FBI might be lying.  But I’ll tell you this:  If I have to choose between the Nunes/Trump axis, one lying from the safety of his congressional perch and the other lying on Fox “News” and Twitter or Mueller, gaining actual convictions in actual courts, I’m going with the FBI…

 

This and That…

Did you watch the Pro Bowl?  No?  Apparently, neither did anybody else.  I had to go searching to find any information about the game.  (Because I certainly didn’t watch it!)  Like every corporation in this once-great nation, the NFL has destroyed it’s product.  And I don’t care what the bigots think, it has nothing to do with Colin Kaepernick’s objection to cops killing people of color.  It’s saturation.  Not just the number of games.  Commercials.  OMG, the commercials.  They rolled out a new tool this season in which the game, itself, is relegated to a small corner of the screen while an ad runs in a larger window.

I know a guy who lives, now, in a foreign country.  He’s back for a visit and he was pleased he had the opportunity to catch the Championship games since it had been so long since he’d been able to watch American football.  He called it “unwatchable.”  He noted the broadcast has become three and a half hours of commercials, occasionally interrupted by a football play…

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Weasel Words.  That’s my name for those phrases that come up when a person wants to try to weasel out of some predicament during a discussion or debate.  In today’s hysteria-driven America, the most common Weasel Words are ‘Fake News…’

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Why would anybody be surprised to find out that Trump cheated on Melania?  The actual news would be if Trump had a wife he didn’t cheat on…

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Alexander Hamilton had an advantage when he designed our nation’s economic system: other economic systems.  He looked around, copied ideas that worked, and rejected ideas that didn’t.  That’s the way I think we, the people should handle things after the next, pending revolution.  Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater, as the saying goes.  Let’s use what was good in our Constitution and fix the things that weren’t.  First up on my suggestion list?  Salaries.

Nobody should be allowed to set their own salary.  EVERYBODY thinks they’re worth top dollar, even those who aren’t worth a dime.  Consider: this country was created and established by people making eight dollars a day.  Today’s Congress is the highest paid in history and I’ve never seen a more useless group of sorry excuses.  So much for the pretense that if you want the best people you’ve got to pay higher rates.  I propose a change to the Constitution in which the salaries of members of Congress are tied directly to the fortunes of their constituents.  If they can’t screw the people without screwing themselves, they’re less likely to screw the people.  LESS likely…

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The Northern California fires are still “happening” – they just aren’t burning anymore.  The fallout continues, unabated.  Toxins are polluting the water and, as the cleanup continues, the air.  The housing situation was…untenable before the fires.  Now?  It’s virtually impossible to find affordable housing.  Anybody who wants or needs to move won’t be moving across town.  They’re fleeing across the state or across the country, forced out of the only place they’ve known as home by circumstances far beyond their control.  I guess I know how the Dreamers feel…