Another mass shooting, another horrified blog post? But this time I learned a new phrase: bump stock.

My Senator, Dianne Feinstein, is introducing a bill to outlaw gun bump stocks: those tricksy devices that make a semi-automatic fire continually, like an automatic.

The thing is, she introduced this bill once before, in 2013. My original plan was to list all the Senators that voted it down. But I learned that the first bill never even got a vote.  The strong, presumably Republican opposition kept it from the floor.

Now we have a new bill, and at least 30 Senators are backing it. And of course, a few scumbags are saying, “Now is not the time to discuss gun legislation.”

Seriously? Who paid you to say that?

Had the bill passed in 2013, it might not have stopped the massacre in Las Vegas. But without bump stocks, fewer people would have been shot.

As I understand it, the only reason for a bump stock is to make a semi-automatic firearm fire like an automatic. Bullets spray as long as you hold the trigger down. What legitimate reason is there for a citizen to have that capability? Which is exactly why automatics were outlawed in the 1980s.

This idea that we must, to satisfy the 2nd Amendment, allow any and all guns and accessories to be sold is stupid. Reagan banned automatic weapons; bazookas and rocket launchers are illegal. It’s time to move the bar a bit higher. Maybe a lot higher.

If you want to read more about the fine lines dividing assault rifles, semi-automatic and automatics, here’s a piece from Politifact written after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.

UPDATE: Now the NRA wants to examine the bump stock issue. I can take that two ways:

  1. The NRA officers read my post and agreed with me, which I deem unlikely.
  2. The idea of banning bump stocks is so self-obvious that it’s become the bone that will be thrown to us. “There, you got bump stocks banned. Now go away and let us play with our guns.”

Clearly, we should demand more. 

So…I’m reading a lot about “Antifa” which is short for Anti Fascist. I first heard about them in the news reports from Charlottesville a few weeks ago … OK, if I’m being honest, I heard about them on tweets. People were tweeting and the term was trending, so I looked it up.

But … wait. Anti-fascist describes all of us, right? I mean, since World War 2, when Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany defined fascism to the world, has any American been pro-fascist? (Except for the neo-Nazis/) Seriously? Fascists are the bad guys!

We all know that. Why are we suddenly referring to Antifa as if that were bad? As if they were extremists?

I mean, yeah, I extremely hate fascists. I hate Nazi-ism too. And I’m not too crazy about sociopaths, if you want to know the truth. Those are pretty mainstream dislikes, though. When did Antifa get nicknamed and become ominous?

Accoridng to this piece in the Atlantic, it seems that Antifa’s made their presences known around the time Donald J. Trump began running for President. He used  rhetoric and slogans that sounded racist and misogynistic, and it made many love him and others hate him.

The left, whether you refer to them as Democrats, liberals, or progressives, has traditionally veered toward non-violent opposition. Look at Civil Rights protests for many examples. So we cringe and post and march in protest over much of the right-wing rhetoric.

But now, the Antifa movement (which considers itself far-left and counts many anarchists as members) seems to be taking a cue from their ideological opposites. They are comfortable making outrageous claims, calling names, demonizing conservatives, and getting violent. Their rationale seems to be that if a doctrine or philosophy is repugnant enough, they are justified in shutting it down and pummeling its proponents. Free speech be damned!

This puts liberals in a really weird position. Berkeley, a bastion of free speech and expression, cancelled a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos  rather than risk violent confrontations threatened by the Antifa movement. But if you support the Constitution, free speech is guaranteed. Even free speech from loathsome jerks. If Milo Yiannopoulos , the speaker, were threatening or inciting violence, that would be a reason to rescind any invitation to speak. But to bow to threats from from hyped-up insurgents seems spineless.

How can I be in a position of defending a jerk like Milo Yiannopoulos  from left wing nut jobs that feel entitled to punch and kick those they disagree with? The Atlantic article, which is chilling, says “antifascists have granted themselves the authority to decide which Americans may publicly assemble and which may not.”

Do we live in a society where the biggest bullies win? Geez, I hope not. A nation run by thugs is not an answer to the world’s problems.

Sucker punching a Nazi is still sucker punching. This idea of threatening violence, then following through on those threats, grabbing your opponents and beating them up, creating fear and chaos to manipulate a crowd … those ideas were raised to an art form by the brownshirts and German Nazis 80 years ago. How disgustingly ironic that the tactics are being employed to victimize neo-Nazi’s and white supremacists now.

And white supremacists get to be the defenders of free speech in this upside down thinking!

There is no sensible rationale for this. Using violence and fear to get your way is not admirable, and the end does not justify the means. Where does one draw lines? Can we beat up only card-carrying Nazi’s and Klan members? How about those we strongly suspect? Can we beat up their families, their enablers? How about everyone in the area that doesn’t support us? Can we beat up them? Because we’re right, so all who oppose us are in the wrong.

It’s a bad strategy that goes nowhere good.

Are any of these part of most political actions, lately?

Wouldn’t you like to believe, as my Mom said in the previous post, that our leaders cared about us? That we could trust them to do the right thing? Liberal or conservative? Because, when confronted with facts and thoughtful analysis rather than fear-mongering and insane threats, what’s right is usually not all that obscure.

Here’s a quote from the latest column by Paul Krugman:

On climate change, influential conservatives have for years clung to what is basically a crazy conspiracy theory — that the overwhelming scientific consensus that the earth is warming due to greenhouse-gas emissions is a hoax, somehow coordinated by thousands of researchers around the world. And at this point this is effectively the mainstream Republican position.

Do G.O.P. leaders really think this conspiracy theory is true? The answer, surely, is that they don’t care.

The title of the piece is “Making Ignorance Great Again.”

The last sentence inspired me to blog: The answer, surely, is that they don’t care.

I believe Krugman’s right, that they don’t care.  So how on earth did we get to a point where our elected leaders do not care about the future we hand over to their children and grandchildren?

Not caring about the future and doing only what pays benefits in the present and the next election cycle has become all that matters. That is a heinous attitude for our leaders to adopt; almost as heinous as dismissing all who disagree by calling them names. (What an awful behavior to have to defend. Sometimes I really feel sorry for Trump adherents.)

And again, how did we get here?

My opinion: The economic excesses of the 1980s played a big part. We became tolerant of avarice, and sat by as big companies gobbled up small ones. Reagan deregulated; safeguards that had been enacted during the Depression were either done away with, or undermined by underfunding. (Sleepwalking Through History by Haynes Johnson described it well.) Dividends and the bottom line justified everything, and still does.

Ironically, everyone now looks to Reagan as a paragon of decency. I’m not saying he was or was not. But he was convinced that removing rules and oversight would free businesses to soar, ignoring historical lessons that he should have known well, since he experienced them in the Depression.

Businesses that invest people’s money need rules. Otherwise, money isn’t real to them. The people whose life savings are invested disappear. All that exists is a big pile of money to play with–whoppee! Make it rain!

Reagan and some (not all) other Republicans, then and now, admired Ayn Rand and pointed to her philosophy as something to be championed. Hey, I loved Atlas Shrugged too! But it’s science fiction. Please remember that. Rand engaged in world-building to play out a scary future. Using her theories as an economic model makes as much sense as searching for an addictive spice that will turn the whites of your eyes blue, and building an empire on that.

Well, I’m getting side-tracked. The point is that Paul Krugman nailed it, once again. Here’s one more paragraph:

But does any of it matter? The president, backed by his party, is talking nonsense, destroying American credibility day by day. But hey, stocks are up, so what’s the problem?

My mother would have turned 100 this year. She went to high school during the Depression, and was a young wife during World War 2. She had to raise smartass kids during the 1960s; that must have been toughest of all..

Like so many families, we were affected by the news and the polarization of side back then. She was “My country, right or wrong,” I was “Nix on Nixon” and “Never trust anyone over 30.”

We managed, both of us, to survive and learn.

So years later, I was at Mom’s house when Richard Nixon was mentioned on the news for something, a few years before his death in 1994. “I can never forgive that man!”

Her outburst took me by surprise. “Why, what has he done now?”

“It’s what he did!” She didn’t look at me. She focused her eyes on the TV screen, even though the news had moved on and the sound was muted.”You will never know – young people will never know –  what it’s like to trust your president.

“When Roosevelt had to send men to war, we knew he was doing the right thing. We knew he was doing what he had to, to protect our country. You trusted the president to do that. You will never know what it means to trust the president like that.

“Nixon ruined it all.”

I knew she was right then, and 25 years later, experience has validated her point. No one has trusted a president since Nixon, have they? Well, maybe Reagan. I am consistently amazed at the reverence in which Ronald Reagan is held. I feel that way about Obama, so there’s two … out of eight.  The other six we mostly judged dishonest, inept, or dumb, often suspected of being crooked themselves or the hand puppet of more sinister power brokers.

And now, gravitas and decorum and whatever was left of respect for the presidency, is gone. The Oval Office is home to a circus barker, and that’s the nicest term I can apply. It’s too nice, actually; it doesn’t convey the bullying, the selfishness, the total disregard for truth, ethics, and appearance. There is no presentation of the current occupant as a protector or a judicious, wise leader. He’s the president, right? Means he’s king of the hill, has the most marbles, and can do what he wants, even call names like a 12-year-old. And I think that’s all it means to him.

 

Once upon a time, there was a young man who believed strongly in law and order. When he saw injustice, he wanted to right it – by force if necessary. Men must behave rightly. The innocent must be protected.

This man went to law school, and then got into politics. Soon he was the state Attorney General. As such, he focused on putting certain gangsters out of business. Since they were a threat to the innocent, he had no problem using illegal means like wire taps on their phones to get evidence against the bad guys. Our hero just made sure his name stayed off of any orders about that.

World War II brought new threats. The Attorney General helped craft the order that interred the Japanese, in order to protect the innocent. On a national stage, he argued forcefully for it and saw it passed. Thousands of American citizens and non-citizens lost nearly everything they owned and were imprisoned in desolate locations for the duration of the war.

Soon the man was governor. Then a Republican president tapped him for the Supreme Court. Not just that; the president wanted him to lead the court!

Yes, boys and girls, that is how Earl Warren became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

And what did this protective, harsh man do, once on the court? You know the answer.

He struck down segregation in schools.

He told the police they could no longer hold and question suspects without letting them talk to an attorney.

President Eisenhower liked to say that he’d only made two mistakes while in the Oval Office, and both of them were sitting on the Supreme Court.

I’m not sure how Earl Warren viewed his path in life, from conservative icon to liberal hero, because I have not read his autobiography. I tried once; he is not an engaging writer. Verbose, but dull. I’ll try again, one of these days.

I know how I view the transition he made. Once on the court, he realized he had to make decisions for everyone, not just the people he wanted to protect. He had to interpret the Constitution and accept that it applied to all, even if he didn’t like it.

I can’t express how much I admire Earl Warren’s courage. It’s easy to fight for justice for those you love. Warren learned to fight for justice for everyone, whether he loved them or despised them. His goodness, at peril for so long, caught up to him.

Foreign influences on our elections?

dimensions-travelerForget the Russians! The bigger worry is … did time travelers from the future interfere in our voting process?

Politics and science fiction do, occasionally, intersect, but you have to be quick to catch that.

First, the background:

For liberals and Democrats like me, the last couple of months have been filled with dread. Not because the other guys won; that happens regularly. After nearly 45 years of voting, I’ve learn to live with disappointment. Most of us do not doubt the patriotism or righteous intentions of the other party’s candidates, even though we rabidly disagree on many issues.

This time is different. To me, this is a train wreck, a bad joke that seemed impossible to manifest, a nightmare from which we can’t awake.

I have friends and family members who are Republicans, and who could not bring themselves to vote for Trump. And I know at least one who did. Let me say up front that I still love you; I just think you’ve been taken in by a dangerous cad who will treat you badly and discard you.

But he’s been sworn in! The dangerous cad has taken over the family manse and fortune!

We now live with him as President. Dread is done because the future is here.

Second, the SF spin:

Were time travelers from the future hiding in the crowds on January 20, there to prevent the inauguration? A Pacific Standard piece described that and I love that idea. I read elsewhere: “New research has shown that every ten minutes someone claiming to be from the future sent back to save humanity is admitted to a hospital somewhere in the US.”

And of course, there’s this video from Steven Colbert and Scott Bakula, doing Quantum Leap on a young Donald:

This time travel idea was broached as early as last March, but the UK has put a new spin on it: Donald Trump himself is “a thrill-junkie time traveller” (sic) (it’s British), here to save us from nuclear war, according to several papers. The quoted phrase is from the Daily Star.

Or maybe Hillary Clinton was the time traveler! That from a Tweet by Jomny Sun, who said future people forgot about sexism when they selected her and sent her back. You can imagine how well that went over.

My theory:

If there were time travelers involved, they were there to ensure that Trump took office.

Why?

Think of Donald Trump as medicine. Horrible, vile-tasting medicine, or like chemo that will save you if it doesn’t kill you first.

Women's_March_Washington,_DC_USA_33suffragettes-marching-on-pennsylvania-avenue-washington-dc-march-3rd-AE43DPI can imagine Many Good Things coming from his presidency.

We’ve seen one already: the Women’s March. A million strong, marching in every major city. One conservative asked me, “What good did that do?”

Fortunately, I can point to several marches that lit fires and changed the world. The Los Angeles Times just wrote about the Suffrage movement marches and President Woodrow Wilson, 100 years ago. And there are many others; Selma, for instance.

Unless a time traveler stops by to enlighten me (and you’ll be the first to hear) the good done by Sunday’s march will not be known for years, till we can point back to it and say, “That’s when it started.”

From my liberal standpoint, I can think of other Good Things that may happen during a Trump presidency:

  • Republicans lose control of Congress and their most extreme representatives and doctrines are rejected.
  • Climate change speeds up, scares us badly, and that spurs us to take decisive action, And it will take scares. We are appallingly lazy about clinging to our conveniences and one-use plastics, myself included.
  • The economy gets mucked up, pushing us to re-examine rules set in place back in the 1930s, and adding a few more.
  • The wealth of the 1% becomes a target. Instead of being coddled and obeyed, the super-rich are taxed and forced to pony up their share to improve our society, infrastructure, and economy. Good: Greed is not fulfilling; it is the exact opposite.

A final point, aimed at those clever, Ayn Rand-loving entrepreneurs that thought Trump was winking and speaking (in code) directly to them: Maybe we’ll all learn that sexist, racist, bullying speech isn’t something to be cheered, tolerated, or winked at. It may actually be a clue that the person speaking is, by golly, a sexist, a racist, and a bully.