Dissonance, Paradox and baby killers

I have resisted either thinking or writing about this recent carnage in a Connecticut school where a disturbed young man decided to spray bullets from a high-capacity semi-automatic gun into a school full of children and teachers. There is no guarantee how long the media will cover this story given its short attention span and its careful monitoring of the “trending” news items. But I did want to clarify some self-righteous blather out there about gun control, second amendment, freedom and liberty. This is even among the so-called elite. Follow for example, this recent debate between Ta-Nehisi Coates (TNC) and Jeffrey Goldberg.

I cannot understand why Jeff Goldberg has convinced himself that he will stand up for some people to bear arms, even though he confesses that he is repulsed by the idea of shooting an unarmed animal, or for that matter discharging a weapon himself. He also informs us that he has never really lived or grown up around a lot of guns and generally is not a gun enthusiast. But he is keen to play moderator between the warring factions of gun-rights advocates and those who are calling for gun-control. What makes him qualified then to understand the need for others to bear arms or be a spokesman for them is unfathomable to me. His conviction is based around the sanctum sanctorum of the 2nd amendment which is anachronistic if not antideluvian in this day and age. On the other hand, I find Ta-Nehisi Coates’ arguments much more convincing and informed by personal experiences as recounted here when he says, “I grew up in a situation where violence was a fact of everyday life. Violence waited for you when you walked to school. Violence waited for you in class. Violence waited for you on the way. Violence waited for you on the way to football practice. Beatdowns at the bowling alleys. Shootings at the roller skating rinks.” So when he says he doesn’t really care for guns it would make sense, because he grew up around them. With his portly self, Jeff Goldberg instead looks like he grew up around a lot of “rugelach” and “challah”.

I recount all this because my young nephew who engages in some leisure writing has been engaged in this spat recently. He has convinced himself that he is a libertarian.  Anyway, like Jeff Goldberg, also not having grown up around any guns, his libertarian streak advocates for assault weapons and I’ll leave it there. This made me think about the general dissonance and paradoxical nature, and hypocrisy of the opinions in this area. Well, to be fair to Goldberg, even he looks askance at libertarians and their hands-off approach on gun control, when he says, “Yes, I know that some libertarian purists believe that the government should not have any role to play in the regulation of gun-ownership, per their reading of the 2nd Amendment. I just can’t go there, however.”

Dissonance and Paradox:

How is it that the very people who stand up for the rights of people to bear arms, will deny women the right to choose what to do with their own reproductive decisions?

How is it that this very people would consider any attempt or discussion of reforming a health care system which everyone agrees is crushing under its own weight as instituting “death panels”?

As TNC points out in that debate with Jeff Goldberg, the NRA was originally founded with the principal purpose of gun control and as described by UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, where, “in the 1920s and ’30s, the NRA was at the forefront of the gun control movement. The NRA helped draft and promote, in state after state, laws that restricted the ability of people to carry guns in public“. They were joined by the Ku Klux Klan in disarming freed blacks who bore arms so that they could protect themselves from the tyrannical oppression of a white majority government. However, today, NRA and gun-rights advocates typically trend with secessionists, survivalists, Confederacy nostalgia, and a lot of white supremacists. The perfectly coiffured Wayne Lapierre knows who his supporters are, and does not hesitate in spreading fear amongst them. The racist roots of gun ownership and gun control in this country are well documented by historians – “Slave possession of firearms was a necessity at times in a frontier society, yet laws continued to be passed in an attempt to prohibit slaves or free blacks from possessing firearms, except under very restrictively controlled conditions. Similarly, in the sixteenth century the colony of New Spain, terrified of black slave revolts, prohibited all blacks, free and slave, from carrying arms.


Don’t Be Back!

There are really few TV shows I watch anymore as I much prefer to stay away from the Simon-Cowellcade of  shows where Britney Spears gives young women advice (I know right, borrowing from my tween daughter’s language). While I confess to occasionally being attached to a drip of msnbc’s maddow-matthews juice, the only idiot box offerings I really enjoy and watch, and in that order, are ‘the daily show’ and 60 minutes. So you can understand my irascibility when on consecutive days this week both of these shows welcomed the pectoral hormonster that is Ahnold.


On 60 minutes, (I turned Off Daily Show before he could come on) Ms. Lesley Stahl confessed at the outset that the reason they booked the Austrianopithecus was because he was peddling a book that was being published by the CBS-owned company Simon & Schuster and this was being timed for the book release. Maybe next time they’ll book the Penn State Coach and ask him penetrating questions if he agreed to let SS publish his sordid tales.


Ms. Stahl is someone I like and therefore can only imagine either picked the short straw on this, or because she was too old and therefore was safe from Ahnold’s penchance to grab, squeeze, or grope. This must clearly be the reason why Lara Logan made the long trip to Afghanistan to talk to a Taliban terrorist instead.


It was excruciating to watch as Ms. Stahl walked around town (yeah really) with Ahnold as he showed off how in his twenties he was already buying store-fronts and shooting growth hormones and steroids trying to make it big.


Despite this I don’t have much sympathy for Lesley Stahl and the person most deserving of pity was not on TV Sunday night, the soon-to-be Ex-Mrs. Pituitary, Maria Shriver. That the daughter of no-less a hero than Eunice Kennedy, founder of Special Olympics and the honorable Sargent Shriver, son of Maryland, founder of Peace Corps, would take to the exaggerated bosom of this dim-witted opportunist will remain the eternal tragedy. The only consolation was that neither Eunice nor Sargent had to be subjected to this travesty as thankfully both passed away recently.


Ahnold, who confused taking out the trash with taking the laundry lady, dusts off his latest transgression and proudly parades his horrible persona of a human. This lands him in the august company of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. I wish him a speedy passage into the great beyond.

Mitt full of dough…

Note: Koch Brothers (David and Charles Koch – owners of several petroleum based industries) alone are contributing $400 million to Romney campaign, and Sheldon Adelson (the Casino owner) has already pledged $100 million to Romney campaign. In addition the third Koch brother is promising several more millions. You have to THINK why these two groups alone are willing to put down over a half a billion dollars to DEFEAT Obama.

Just THINK !




Carpooling ?

This random article on the NYT about the use of social media to identify carpoolers reminded me of my graduate school days. I used to go to the Student Community Center and check out the Ride Board and see if anyone was going somewhere interesting and I could ride along. I rode from Lexington, KY to Philadelphia, PA one time like that. I had to share the cost of gasoline, and even pump gas at the gas station. It overflowed one time because and my fellow rider was a little peeved about that and proceeded to give me little talk about the risk of fire bla bla.

But honestly, this social media to identify riders is a little dicey. So careful kids. $35 to get from City A to City B, but what if you are the creepy guy’s next victim.


Eyes on the Prize

Some of my readers know that I am into running races and I was traveling to a race at 5.30 am one morning with two other runners from my running club. We had arranged to carpool as we had a 40 mile distance to travel. I didn’t know these club-mates at all except that I had seen these two guys at our training workouts – twice a week – where we usually had tight schedules so never had any time to socialize. One of them was this tall African American gentleman who I found very interesting. He is in his early 50s and despite his long frame kept up with us in our speed workouts, long runs etc. He explained to us during our long drive that he was the first person in his family to work out and it was because he had seen so many of his relatives succumb to diabetes, and other metabolic disorders. But the other thing he was talking about was his work. He was a lawyer/social worker who works in the area of criminal justice, and was explaining to us the inequality of justice. Anyway, here is an eloquent presentation of the problem:

If you are wondering why Koch Brothers (they just decided to add another 9 million to defeat President Obama and elect Romney, after the Affordable Care Act was upheld) and the other bankrollers for Romney really hate the ‘Obamacare’, part of the reason is this as explained in this NYT article:

“Regardless of whether the required payment for those who choose not to buy health insurance is or is not a tax, the health care program is about to raise taxes on high-income Americans, which could cause some of them to sell stocks before the year is out.  The second health care bill passed by Congress in 2010, devised in part to fix errors in the first law and in part to pay for it, raised the Medicare payroll tax rate by 0.9 percentage points, to 3.8 percent, effective in 2013, for taxpayers with total incomes of more than $200,000, or $250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly.  The law also extended that tax to income on investments, including capital gains, interest, dividends, annuities and royalties, but only for such high-income taxpayers.

For people whose incomes are that high, the effective tax rate on dividends and long-term capital gains will rise to 18.8 percent from the current level of 15 percent, said Robert N. Gordon, president of Twenty-First Securities, a brokerage firm.”

Update (7/2/2012) – After I wrote my blog on this topic –  on June 29, 2012 – Ezra Klein has a nice bit about this in Wonkblog.

Taxing the Kochs.

The Affordable Care Act

Over the long history of the United States there have been many significant and crucial deliberations and decisions by the highest court of the land, and for what it’s worth this latest decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act will also take its rightful place.

This will be important for multiple reasons; foremost being that if the Act had been ruled unconstitutional in its entirety, it would have for certain overruled the actions of a democratically elected majority – law passed with a majority of representatives from the House of Representatives and at least 60 elected members (out of a 100) in the US Senate. It is therefore curious that the same right-wing republicans that constantly bemoan judicial activism did not see the dissonance of what they were wanting – essentially legislating from the bench. If a 5-4 majority had overthrown a law authored by an overwhelming majority of the elected representatives, it would have damaged the reputation of the august body. I feel that this is a principal reason that Chief Justice Roberts (appointed to the bench by the redoubtable 43rd President W) saw to parse the legality of the issue carefully.

By rejecting the Commerce Clause argument in upholding the mandate and instead associating it with the Congress’ power to levy tax (the less argued point by the Administration), the Chief preserved his conservative credentials, and yet did not soil his reputation, or legitimacy to be on the court for the next 25 years. If I were an optimist I would even venture that this may be a turning point in the Roberts’ Court, which instead of being determined by the bullying of Nino Scalia and his posse comprising of Scalito and Thomas, may after all look at the legality of issues and judge based on the merits of the case. That would be asking a bit much, but I’ll bask in this current ray of hope.

The Chief also provided ammunition to his benefactors by including in his judgement this line, “…We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enactthe challenged provisions.” Precisely Chief. The Nation’s elected leaders, a President elected by an overwhelming majority and the legislative branch likewise did design and legislate this policy. May it also be known that this policy was, without a single exception, rejected by the Republicans in the House of Representatives. Decades from now when they discuss this Affordable Care Act as another significant milestone in American History, may it be remembered that a minority of narrow-minded and rejectionists did not partake in their chance to make history.

Mitt’s catchin’ up

He’s comin’
He’s catchin’ up
the good hair gansta
pin-striped pimpsta
the king’o wallstreeta

Willard mittington
worth a quarter billion
if ur poor
u better not bitch
for he’s definitely
for the richie rich
i have a vision
for an american creation
will require conception
between mittington and jamie dimon
unless u have an objection
for u know
guy-guy action

Teachable moment?

Eager fans of the sport of high impact politics had much to celebrate (or crow) last night after results of the to-recall-or-not-to-recall election in the great state of Wisconsin were tabulated. It says a lot about what politics and the democratic process has become in the US more recently when the entire country (at least the pol-geeks) was awaiting the results of a referendum in an obscure state that otherwise is never talked about unless the topic is football or dairy products. On the other hand, it was made not-obscure by the huge infusion of cash and celebrities, which puzzles me.

Governor Scott Walker, for better or worse, was democratically elected (next time show up, if you are not happy with the result). Further, he set out to do the things that he promised during his campaign – which some characterize as anti-collective-bargaining or Union-busting, and others have characterized as bringing accountability to public workers. Either way, he did not sneak into the Governor’s mansion in the dark of the night and set out to enact a secret plan that no one had heard of. The people of Wisconsin had spoken (speak up next time, if you are not happy with the result), and this is what they got. Now granted, that one cannot be fully aware what an elected representative will or will not do unless they are sworn into Office, but that’s the risk with democracy. Your genius is my idiot and vice-versa.

So what is the  teachable moment here, since I indicated there is one by the title of this screed? No sensible person can argue with the fact that Unions and collective bargaining have played yeoman service in ensuring a safe and fair workplace. Unions have been in existence since 1935 when the National Labor Relations Act was passed. Its role is to safeguard employees’ rights, ensure safe work conditions and negotiate for the employees through collective bargaining.

But in trying to recall a democratically elected governor, who clearly endangered the existence of Unions and the ability of Wisconsin public workers to bargain collectively, was an over-reach and should not have been attempted. A close approximation of this is the attempt by the Republican Congress in trying to impeach President Clinton. Of course, that is why the irony in this recent recall campaign was not lost on some of us. The Democratic Party threw in its lot with the Unions on this fight and made the Wisconsin recall a litmus test of Conservative v/s Democractic party priniciples (Us v/s Them), and further President Clinton himself was the main act on the days leading to the recall election. If there was any consolation, President Obama kept a safe distance from this rabble-rouser. Either he had an instinct on how this was going to go or, and I hope this is the true reason, felt that this was not a fight we should be having.

The media and the talking-mouths they employ constantly say how the country is becoming more politicized than ever before. I can see that a case could be made for that, but there is also the glaring fact that the number of people showing up at the polls is but a fraction of the eligible population – so only some people in this country are getting very politicized. In general most people, for better or worse, are generally happy or disaffected with their lot or could not be bothered to show up. The fact is that while economists, rightly or wrongly, are predicting doomsday scenarios with the country’s debt situation etc., it has not begun to affect enough people or even if it has they are not being informed properly or have not chosen to learn the truth and how to better their situation.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Alexis Madrigal writes in The Atlantic about how the Department of Defense comes to the rescue of NASA. The kicker is this: “This is the state of our military-industrial-scientific complex in miniature: The military has so much money that it has two extra telescopes better than anything civilians have; meanwhile, NASA will need eight years to find enough change in the couches at Cape Canaveral to turn these gifts into something they can use. Anyone else find anything wrong with this state of affairs?”

I might add, that at the same time as the DOD has stumbled upon a couple of un-used mega-telescopes, our States are running out of money and having to fire school teachers, fire-fighters and civil workers. Who knows what else lie in those labyrinths and bunkers?