Wednesday, May 28, 2014

You're Right, Guns Aren't The Problem, We Are.

We have a violence problem in America.

The favorite line of the NRA is and always has been "Guns don't kill people, people kill people". Which of course, is true, but there should be an addendum to that: If people kill people, why the fuck would you want to arm them to the teeth? The NRA position on that question would likely be something along the lines of "We live in a dangerous world, and there are a lot of bad guys with guns, and you need good guys with guns to stop them". There you go, the NRA has created both the problem, AND the solution, which creates a larger problem, and now requires a bigger, and better solution.

School shootings are actually a hallmark of America, and have been occurring for over two centuries! Even I didn't know this until I happened upon a chronological list on Wikipedia, which shows that the first recorded mass shooting was in the 1760's!

This new shooting that just happened was perpetrated by a spoiled white kid who, at 22, complained that he hadn't gotten laid yet. He blamed girls for not putting out with him, so decided to shoot up a sorority and kill as many people as he could. Other shooters have even stranger motives. All of them are killers, and all of them had easy access to guns. Heck, the new kid bought his legally, and even had the police check up on him, and nothing could be prevented.

Well, here's the thing. We COULD prevent this, if we were willing to actually have a REAL conversation on guns without NRA talking points, or hippy level naivete of ridding the world of all guns. First, let's examine the symptoms, causes, and some ways to reduce the violence.

Let's go back in time to the 1980's, when Ronald Reagan was president. Now a lot of people swept this under the rug long ago, after the GOP's beatification of Reagan into some sort of Marlboro-Man-esque political deity, but I digress. Let's look at what happened in the 1980's that actually brings us to where we are today. Namely, the mass release of mental patients.

You see, before Reagan began his reign of terror on the American political system, we had federally funded asylums for the seriously mentally ill. At one point in California's history, there were over 37,000 mentally ill patients under lock and key, kept off the streets and far away from guns or any weapons, where they received treatment if possible, and simple care if not.

Then along came Reagan, who reduced the population down to 22,000 people (a trend that has since continued rather sharply), based on some reactionary advice from doctors at the National Institute of Health, who had become alarmed that some inmates should not be held. This, coupled with ill-advised conservative policies and a party that wanted to be seen as not only frugal but responsible, ended with the asylum system all but being dismantled. This was just in California. Nationally, in 1959, there were over 559,000 individuals in state-run care facilities. That number by 1990 was 70,000 or less.

According to one doctor at the time: "Dr. Robert H. Felix, who was then director of the National Institute of Mental Health and a major figure in the shift to community centers, says now on reflection: ''Many of those patients who left the state hospitals never should have done so. We psychiatrists saw too much of the old snake pit, saw too many people who shouldn't have been there and we overreacted. The result is not what we intended, and perhaps we didn't ask the questions that should have been asked when developing a new concept, but psychiatrists are human, too, and we tried our damnedest.'' (NY Times Article, Oct 30 1984)

Since then, each year, over 30,000 Americans... 30,000 die each year due to gunfire, either intentional or unintentional. In our news media, we're often shown Mexico as an example of an out-of-control violent nation, where over 30,000 have died in the last 10 years. How on earth do we figure Mexico is anywhere CLOSE to as violent as us?

In a major way, this brings us where we are today. The lack of enforceable mental health laws like indefinite psychiatric holds, or committing another adult, combined with feverish NRA propaganda such as "The liberals want to take your guns", has had a two-fold effect. For one, those crazies who should be locked up are already paranoid enough, and are now rushing to the store to purchase firearms like they're going out of style. Nothing sells guns like good ol' paranoia and fear, and the NRA certainly loves to use these tools to market their product. Secondly, now that the USA has a record amount of personal firearms in circulation, the odds that such a crazed individual will have access to these firearms is off the charts. It's ridiculously easy for anyone, including people with minor criminal histories to get guns. Let's also not forget that all medical records are verboten when it comes to firearm background checks.

The NRA even lobbied in Georgia to allow guns in schools, playgrounds, churches, and fucking bars... The NRA wants guns everywhere so more people feel like they need guns. Someone's getting rich off of all this blood. And it ain't you!

And really, there is no good way to reverse this.

We could revamp our mental illness laws to make it easier to contain the madness, but that's going to take a lot of money people don't feel like spending in lieu of NFL stadiums, road projects, or job creation. Not to mention herding the cats that make up Congress to actually pass a bill. We'd need to fully fund our asylums and bring back sanitariums. We'd need to hire qualified staff to run these places (they're not cheap either). So yeah, we could roll back the damage Reagan did, if that damage wasn't truly at the core of the GOP base right now. GOP are obsessed with the 1st Amendment (more over, obsessed with the right to say insane and offensive things, and get seriously butthurt when you disagree with them), and the 2nd Amendment, because clearly Obama's plan is to disarm everyone and unleash a cloud of poison gas to kill all people who aren't lock in step with his shadowy agenda (yes, this is sarcasm folks).

We do however love to criminalize things. Pretty much any thing that society disagrees with, we will put people in prison for it. From drugs, to sex, to debt, to profanity, to whatever pisses us off collectively, there is a sentence for it. But if you're crazy, you can kill someone and go to an institution, where, if you show progress, you'll someday be freed. We'll put a kid in jail for 15 years to life for having a joint in Texas, but a mass murderer can cop 'insanity' and likely never see a life sentence. That make much sense to you? Me either. But we can't actually criminalize being crazy. Crazy is often mistaken for free speech, political speech, or just plain ol' trolling. There's your 1st Amendment right there, and much like the 2nd, these are not going to be changed. There are many mentally ill patients in jail and prison, which could also tie into why we have such an increase in violent and insane crimes - the patients are literally running the asylums.

Crap.

What to do, oh, what to do?

Well, there are some sensible alternatives to draconian measures. Secure your weapon, for one . Nothing makes me personally more outraged than someone who can afford an AR-15, yet not the $200 safe to keep it in. Nothing makes me angrier than to hear that a careless adult left a pistol laying around, where a toddler gets it and shoots someone. This happens almost every week. The main argument against this is 'what if someone's in my house and I have only a split second to grab my gun and fire?' Well, that's one hell of a specific scenario to be worried about, I'd say, and if you have advanced knowledge of an impending home invasion, I'd say have a damn party. And really, if you're living in the kind of neighborhood where you're seriously worried about this, and you have kids, move. Nonviolence and avoidance is 100% more effective than standing your ground. Things can be replaced. Lives cannot.

Or how about a mandatory clean mental bill of health before you fill out a gun application? Oh, but that paperwork! Another Obama plot to know the insides of your brain! Fuck... I need a tin foil hat to keep out the mind probes! Paperwork is the tool of the devil (bureaucracy)! They're databasing us so they can put chips in our heads to track us, so if we rise up and fight for the South again, they can just flip that kill switch and BAM we're all dead! Yeah, sadly, this idea would never pass due to the sheer amount of fucking paranoia already spread by the NRA and Wayne LaPierre. Sigh.

OK then, America, how about 'smart guns', that only fire when you have a Bluetooth enabled watch that identifies you as the sole owner, thereby releasing the safety? Well the creator of these received numerous death threats from NRA blowhards who are 100% convinced that ANY gun-violence mitigation is an assault on their penis size 2nd Amendment rights. Guess technology is out of the question, eh guys?

I guess it's Americans themselves that are the problem...

This is not a problem in any other country but ours. We go to war over around 3,000 deaths on 9/11 and kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis in retribution, but we kill over 30,000 of our own each year with guns alone and do the opposite of something, we go full bore reversal of control laws. That doesn't even include all the other stupid shit we do to ourselves, like smoke cigarettes, our alcohol problems, our love of sun-tanning and skin cancer, polluting our water tables, killing the atmosphere with smog and carbon, and wiping out entire ecosystems to pump oil.

We are our own worst enemy, any way you slice it. From violence to bad diets, to our propensity to elect fucking complete idiots to public office, or our lust for juicy scandals, we really don't care about ourselves much, do we? Perhaps that's the actual problem. Americans have a huge lack of empathy for anyone outside their social circle. If it doesn't happen to you, after all, why should you give a shit? Because it can, it will, and it will keep happening until we actually begin to give a shit about each other. You might be one of the very lucky, as I have been, to go through life without a serious tragedy like this happening. But when I see it happen to others, I don't scoff and say "That could never happen to me". I imagine it was me, or someone I know. And that's empathy.

Start by helping the homeless. Treating the disturbed. Giving to charity. Feeding the hungry. Tackling inequality. Improving education. Improving access to medical care. Make housing affordable.

I give a shit about you. Let's start there, ok? I care about your right to live, be happy, be successful, and not be assaulted, shot at, badgered for your beliefs, or discriminated against. That's where we need to begin, but first you need to STOP LISTENING TO PUNDITS, POLITICIANS, AND PIG-FUCKERS FROM THE NRA. Start listening to your damn self, you know what's right and what isn't.





Thursday, May 22, 2014

Stop The War On Vets



It's starting to come to light just how horrible the VA system is, and how completely backwards the USA's attitude towards the military is. Who's to blame? Who's at fault? Why hasn't this system had any attention or fixes since Vietnam? This isn't a new problem at all. From mental health to physical health, the VA is supposed to be the go-to place for vets to get the care they need, earned, and deserve, yet never seem to truly get.

Many people are under the false assumption that the GOP is the 'pro-military party'. From lofty rhetoric about 'bravery, sacrifice, and duty', to the mantra that the GOP 'support our troops', it's easy to believe that, until you look at the actual funding bills that have (or have not) passed, and the records of both parties - rhetoric aside. But no, they are not 'pro-military', they are 'pro war' because war makes them massive amounts of money. Or at least they think it does.

While it is true that the GOP does vote consistently for military equipment (needed or unneeded), this money does NOT in fact go to the military. If anything, it takes money AWAY from the DoD. What do I mean? Well, if you vote for a bill that says the USA is purchasing another fleet of 100 M1-A1 Abrams tanks, a private company named Abrams makes those tanks, then sells them to the military/government. This money does not go to soldier pay, or for military social services. It goes to a CEO. Since the GOP refuse to cut back on so-called 'military spending' (read: private corporate welfare) for equipment we don't need or want (we are already WELL equipped, and over stocked for vehicles and planes), they are only helping their rich friends make more money.

And why is it that nearly every GOP administration since WWI has dragged us into a war? Again, rich pals in the weapons business. They don't vote to fund the VA, they don't vote to end wars and bring our troops home, and they certainly don't vote for peace. John McCain, who was captured and tortured, should be the first candidate to have a more pacifist attitude, having seen and experienced some of the most horrible things in warfare. Yet since Obama has been president he's called for flat out war with Iran, North Korea, Syria, Lebanon, and even Russia. Why? Because lobbyists! That's why!

During George W Bush's 'presidency' (yes, I have not forgotten that he was appointed president by the Supreme Court and his dad's appointees, not elected), Dick Cheney, the former CEO of Halliburton pushed Bush into a needless war in Iraq that had nothing to do with 9/11 or al-Qaeda, and his old company broke record profits. Northrup-Grumman, Lockheed, Abrams, and Blackwater all came out like bandits.

As the Ferengi on Star Trek say "War is good for business". And the GOP is certainly 'Pro business'. 

The Democrats aren't keen to go to war. War is the last resort when all else - ALL ELSE - fails. They would rather see our vets come home to a victorious country, and get the services they were promised. But they can't pass those reforms with an opposing GOP party that refuses to vote on literally anything. They have passed maybe one or two bills the entire time Obama was in office, and every fucking time, they slip a poison pill in the bills. If the Democrats want to pass a VA spending bill? The GOP will attach approval of the Keystone Pipeline. Want to increase funding for military veteran jobs placement? GOP wants to defund 'Obamacare'. 

It is ridiculous that the GOP dares to call itself 'pro-military', yet consistently fucks them over in order to anger the president. They're basically unpatriotic traitors for doing this. It is insubordinate, detrimental to national security (because who the fuck wants to volunteer for the military if we all know they can't hold up their end of the bargain in terms of pay and benefits??), and it is just evil. These troops have America in their hearts, and they are putting their lives on the line because they believe in this country, only to have everything they've been promised fucked up by greedy and petty politicians. But it is more important to dole out corporate welfare to Northrup-Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Abrams than it is to help a guy who lost his fucking arm in battle, or someone who now suffers from PTSD.

It's plain sick that the GOP is fine sending people off to endless wars while they line their pockets with favors from lobbyists, campaign contributions from CEO's of private defense companies, all while giving the middle finger to the actual boots on the ground - the people that serve. 

Something fundamental has to change in the Republican party. They need to grow a damn heart. They need to look vets in the eyes and finally say "I will help you". They need to say they're willing to keep them off the streets, get the mental help they need, and get the medical care they EARNED. They need to stop playing chicken with President Obama and pass a fucking spending bill that doesn't just help their buddies in the industry. But then again, that's asking an awful lot. 

Here are just SOME of the bills the GOP has filibustered, just to spite Obama. (from http://pleasecutthecrap.com/reposted-375-bills-passed-by-dem-house-blocked-by-sen-filibuster-111th-congress-if-only/)

H.R. 466 – Wounded Veteran Job Security Act – This bill would actually provide job security for veterans who are receiving medical treatment for injuries suffered while fighting in defense of their country. It would prohibit employers from terminating employees who miss work while receiving treatment for a service-related disability. Filibustered because of Obamacare.

H.R. 549 — National Bombing Prevention Act – This is the language used by the CRS to describe the bill: “Amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish within the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Protective Security Coordination Division of the Office of Infrastructure Protection an Office for Bombing Prevention to enhance and coordinate U.S. efforts to deter, detect, prevent, protect against, and respond to terrorist explosive attacks in the United States.” I don’t know about you, but taking whatever measures are necessary to prevent terrorist bombings would seem to me to be pretty important. Their blockage of this bill certainly indicates that they simply don’t really care about this country’s security. (By the way, they have also blocked H.R. 553 – Reducing Over-Classification Act, which is designed to make the Department of Homeland Security more efficient and responsive, which would save taxpayers a lot of money and make us safer over the long haul. Both filibustered because of Obamacare.

H.R. 1168 — Veterans Retraining Act – This bill would provide for assistance to help veterans who are currently unemployed with their expenses while retraining for the current job market. Again, filibustered because of Obamacare.

H.R. 1171 – Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization –  This bill would reauthorize programs in support of homeless veterans, to assist them with job training, counseling, and placement services through the Department of Veterans Affairs through 2014.Filibustered because of Obamacare.

They have also blocked H.R. 1172 — Requiring List on VA Website of Organizations Providing Scholarships for Veterans which does nothing more than direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to include information about scholarships for veterans. Filibustered because of Obamacare.

H.R. 1293 — Disabled Veterans Home Improvement and Structural Alteration Grant Increase Act of 2009 – There is no reason to be against this bill. This would increase the amount paid by the VA to disabled veterans for necessary home structural improvements from $4,100 to $6,800 for those who are more than 50% disabled, and from  $1,200 to $2,000 who are less than 50%, disabled. This means, if a veteran lost the use of his legs in service of his country, the country will pay for the wheelchair ramp so that he can live at home. Yet, Republicans, who have been admonishing everyone to love the troops without question, are denying them the ability to do so. By the way, the last time this ceiling was lifted was in 1992. If Republican presidents are going to start unnecessary wars, is it too much to ask to support those who actually put their bodies on the line? There isn’t even a fiscal reason for being against this bill, as the total cost of this bill, according to CBO estimates, would be a “whopping” $20 million. That’s about a quarter (25 cents) per family of four. But again, Obamacare.

H.R. 1511 – Torture Victims Relief Reauthorization Act – This bill designates appropriations for fiscal years 2010-2011 to assist domestic treatment centers for torture victims, including training of health care providers. Once again, what do Republicans have against helping those who need it? This is about making sure people who come here as torture victims have a shot at the American Dream, just like the rest of us. Filibustered again, becasue of Obamacare.

H.R. 1803 — Veterans Business  Center Act –  This bill would set up a Veterans Business Center program within the Small Business Administration, which would specialize in such programs as grants for service-disabled veterans, help them develop business plans and secure business opportunities. In other words, folks, it would create jobs and offer opportunities those who have fought in defense of our country.  Filibustered why? OBAMACARE!

H.R. 2611 – Authorizing the Securing the Cities Initiative of the Department of Homeland Security – Exactly what it says. You know, if Republicans really don’t want another terrorist attack, they sure have a funny way of showing it… OBAMACARE!

H.R. 2868 – Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009, Drinking Water System Security Act of 2009 and Wastewater Treatment Works Security Act of 2009 – This bill would  enhance security at chemical plants, wastewater treatment plants and drinking water facilities, to guard against terrorism. Filibustered because Obamacare!

So I ask you, what DOES the GOP do for the military other than whisper sweet nothings into their ear? It's pretty obvious who is pro-military to me. The GOP hate the Democrats, and hate Obama SO MUCH that they are willing to just fuck everyone over to show how much they hate them. Seriously. This is the kind of petty ass shit you'd expect from a sociopath, not a goddamn patriot. 

So you know, whatever. I know there are a lot of people out there who will say "TL;DR", or flatly disagree with my position here, but I am having a very hard time finding anything positive the GOP has done for our troops, other than 'thanking them for their service', which is hollow, and meaningless to a person who lost both legs and got a shredded face who now lives in constant pain, and fear, and uncertainty.

Voting season is coming. Do your homework on your candidates to see who REALLY supports our troops.