Moral Turpitude

19 06 2018

The news media in this country has been wringing their hands lately about the latest crisis-du-jour– the mind-bogglingly large numbers of people growing addicted to (and not-infrequently dying from) misuse of opium-based analgesics. While this technically includes opium, heroin, and morphine, these are not the primary pharmaceuticals singled out for that special ‘hushed-voice’ description. The media is usually speaking of percocet, oxcontin, and oxycodone- different flavors of codeine-based chemicals mixed with different levels of acetominophen to improve the level of pain relief.

Lots of media personalities with furrowed brow have opined on this or that aspect of the “opiod epidemic”, with most of the blame falling on several dozen so-called “pill mills”, which exist solely to feed the raging black-market demand for these pharmaceuticals by issuing prescriptions for absurd amounts of the drugs for just about any complain. When the local cops and Federal agencies shut these pill mills down, they re-form with “new management” a few miles away (often in a different county) to start the process all over again.

One would think this sort of problem would be an auspicious use of Federal and State law-enforcement funding and training, and one would hope such organized crime were the subject of intensive effort by every level of law enforcement. Sadly, this is NOT the focus of Federal and State law enforcement. Apparently, going after organized gangs who dispense dangerous drugs as if they were a new form of candy is just too hard. So the focus is on Your Doctor.

Your doctor, my doctor, and most of the other physicians practicing in the US are not involved in organized crime, they keep diligent records, have a regular practice in a hospital and/or office, and rarely have high-priced mob attorneys on speed-dial. They’re also not even vaguely the biggest source of misused opiods, but they are easy to get at. So the Feds and State law enforcement troopies have been making their lives Hell.

And then the Puritan shitweasels get involved.

If the “opiod crisis” was merely some people getting too many pain-killers, it would be just a law-enforcement issue. It can’t be just a law-enforcement issue for Puritan Shitweasels- it also has to be evidence of moral failure. If the opiod epidemic was caused by moral failures, then Puritans could feel ever-so-smug and righteous and holier-than-thou about the people falling victim to these drugs. If opiod addiction is proof of a lack of morals, then the Puritan Shitweasels can wash their hands of any responsibility for providing treatment or assistance.

And that is how the issue has been re-imaged here in the US. Everyone who uses pain-killing drugs has something morally wrong with them.

Here in the Shallow South, for example, your doctor can no longer prescribe a wide variety of analgesics. All such prescriptions must be controlled by state-approved “pain management” programs.

Let us say you were a 80% disabled veteran living in the Shallow South. The disabling condition which got you your medical discharge has left you in constant pain for fifteen years. During those fifteen years, you have been diligently avoiding prescriptions of codeine-based drugs because they lend themselves so easily to addiction and further depress your mental acuity to ‘drooling moron’ for far longer than the pan-killing effect. You and your doctor have settled on a drug which is far more expensive, is hard to grow addicted to , and doesn’t have the severe mental depressant effects of most codeine-based drugs. You’ve been taking this drug and have remained largely a productive citizen for more than a decade as a result.

But then, your doctor informs you he cannot prescribe this drug anymore because of the “opiod crisis”, and you will have to see a pain-management center in order to get your pain-killer. You may be of the opinion this was dumb, and you probably have a lot of company in that opinion, but you get yourself duly assigned to yet another doctor who knows NOTHING about your medical history. And then the stupidityness starts in earnest.

– All prescriptions for pain medicines MUST be issued by the pain management doctor, or you risk getting thrown out of the pain-management program. Even if you get hit by a truck and the ER doc gives you some painkillers, you cannot fill that prescription. You MUST take it to the pain-management doc who will then decided if you get it or not.

– Your prescriptions must all be filled only at one pharmacy of your choice. If that pharmacy (say, Rite-Aid) can’t fill the prescription, but another Rite-Aid a few miles away can do so, you risk getting thrown out of the program for “pharmacy shopping”.

– You must see the pain-management doc every 90 days, without fail, regardless of holidays, national emergencies, your pain-management doc quitting the practice, or any time you may spend in the hospital. Failure to comply gets you thrown out of the program.

– You must bring your pain meds with you to every appointment so they can be counted by hand to determine if you’re misusing the drugs. You also have to give a urine sample at every appointment to make sure you don’t have anything else in your system.

– You are prohibited from consuming alcohol in any form while you are in the program.

Let us further imagine you- the 80% disabled veteran above- are scheduled for some surgery in a last-ditch attempt at removing or reducing the pain. Prior to surgery, you duly let your pain management doc know the surgery is coming up and you will require post-operative pain treatment. Your pain management doc will issue a prescription for what HE thinks you will need, not the doctor doing the surgery. Let us assume you spend two days in post-op while the hospital tries to get a handle on your pain (on a logarithmic scale, where 1 is a paper-cut, and ten is you begging the doctors to remove your limb), and the surgeon prescribes an additional pain med to use in conjunction with the opiods already prescribed. Well, now, you’re right proper fucked.

Trying to follow the byzantine set of rules for pain management, you call the pain management folks to tell them you have a new prescription in addition to the original one. You get transferred to the ‘prescription line’ which has been set up for re-fills only, and has no provisions for a new prescription. You get told they’ll get back to you in five business days. You make multiple calls to pain management, trying to break through to someone with a functioning brain. Finally, in despair, you grab your hospital discharge paperwork and the prescription from your surgeon and have your wife drive you down to the pain-management clinic just two days after discharge in order to explain in baby-talk to the clinic staff that you can’t really wait for five fucking days.

Finally, you’re back home in bed, with your wife at the local pharmacy getting your newly-approved meds, and the phone rings. It’s the pain-management clinic telling you they’ve decided NOT to approve your surgeon’s prescription.

Current status: Vexed

Current music: The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether by Alan Parsons Project

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Another Bloody Anniversary

4 04 2018

Fifty years ago, humanity continued in its endless quest to purge its ranks of anyone who tries to make the world a better place. A man was murdered in cold blood by another person for the crime of wanting everyone to be nice to everyone else. This was no crime of passion. The killer laid in wait for his target, and shot him from a distance. Coldly. Without remorse. Without shame or regret.

The victim was Dr. Martin Luther King. He was murdered for the sin of insisting on equality for everyone. A white person was so offended at the prospect of treating humans equally- regardless of skin color or religion or political inclination or wealth- that he murdered a man who was publicly shaming the country for not doing so.

Let that sink in. Someone in this country decided to kill because the he did not like what the victim had to say.

If that doesn’t make you simultaneously furious, frightened, and sad, you need to immediately apply for a clue chit. It is the twenty-first fucking century. Humans have been supposedly “civilized” for roughly ten thousand years by now, yet we’re still resorting to violence to silence those we disagree with.

For those not paying attention, here’s a short primer on the use of deadly force. Ready?

Deadly force must only be used to defend yourself or another person from violence.

Pretty simple, isn’t it? No complicated rules of engagement here. It’s very fucking simple. Violence is a shitty way to solve problems, not least because violence almost always creates more problems whenever it is used. If you or another person are not faced with violence in the immediate near-term, violence is wrong. Kill only when it is the only way to protect yourself or another person from violence.

Dr. King was not offering violence- even rhetorically. He and those who followed him allowed their opposition to beat and imprison them without resorting to violence, even though resorting to violence would have been justified (in my opinion, using the rule promulgated here). Turning the other cheek to those who are literally baying for your life’s blood takes a level of self-confidence and courage which beggars belief. I am certain I do not have the guts to remain non-violent when confronted by violence, yet Dr. King and those who followed him did just that.

Those who opposed Dr. King and his message offered violence in response to the idea everyone should be treated equally. They were willing to kill to prevent Dr. King from publicly calling for equal treatment under the law.

In case you haven’t figured it out, here’s a little bit of information for you: liberty and equality are not diminished by being shared. Like love, sharing equality, tolerance, and liberty creates more. Treating other people equally does not take equality away from you, any more than loving someone reduces the amount of love in the world.

Equality is not a zero-sum game.

How hard is it to treat everyone equally? Apparently a lot of people in this country think it’s just too difficult, and they’re willing to kill anyone who thinks different.

That last word up there is the major factor in the opposition to liberty and equality. “Different”. Someone who isn’t exactly like you and your family is “different”, and therefore scary. This pathological terror of “different” is fucking stupid on just about every level, and invariably results in violence against the “other”- however “other” is defined.

Worship a different god? Wear different clothes? Worship the same god but on a different day? Speak a different language? Worship the same god on the same day but while wearing different clothing? What about worshiping the same god on the same day in the same way wearing the same clothes but using a different language? OHMYGOD, you’re different! Eeeeeeeek! Flee! Flee for your lives!

Let us examine these scary differences, shall we? Genetically, every single human on the planet is almost indistinguishable from every other human. To illustrate this idea, I call your attention to the fact humans are genetically 97% identical to chimpanzees. Any given Kalahari Bushman and the Great Green Dipshit of the KKK are 99.97% identical.

Yet the supposedly “civilized” leader of the KKK is willing to kill over a minute .03% genetic difference between his DNA and the man from Africa.

Why? What is so fucking special about those protein combinations in that random .03% genetic variation? There is no innate superiority built into those tiny fractions of differences, despite what many supposedly “superior” people like to tell themselves.

chin

If your personal sense of self-worth is based solely on feeling superior to other people, you’re the one with problems- not the “other” people. And let’s not forget they’re people, shall we?

So, a white person was so upset a black person was asking for his fellow Americans to treat everyone equally, this white person felt he just had to shut the black person up. With a gun.

John Lewis

With that bullet, the white man did more than murder an innocent man in cold blood. He also shot a hole through all pretensions of equality and civilization in America.

It has been fifty fucking years. I’m having a hard time believing we’ve made any progress at all. Hatred of “other” is out there in the open for all to see. Millions of Americans are happy to fuck over their fellow Americans based on ephemera such as skin color or religion or politics. Millions of Americans are perfectly fine with other Americans being beaten, imprisoned, or killed based on similar minuscule differences.

This is not right, or just, or even American. Equality is the promise of America, but too many supposed Americans don’t want to live up to that promise.

Time to start acting like Americans are supposed to act. Hell, time to start acting like fucking adults. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We cannot tolerate those who hate and act on that hatred. If for no other reason than sheer self-interest, we must put this antiquated ideas back in the garbage can where they belong.

Remember- if you get to cause harm to other people for their differences, then you will find yourself on the receiving end of this same attitude when someone decides YOU are “different”.

 

Current status: Disillusioned

Current music: Mrs. Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel





Countdown

27 03 2018

I doubt there are many still watching these pages. I’ve been away for a couple of years. Not physically- I’m still comfortably ensconced in the Shallow South, amusing myself by lambasting the herds of morons and Jethros surrounding me. But I stopped posting here after the last election.

Those who know me probably get it, but those whose only exposure to me comes through these electronic missives might not understand. After all, the election of the Tangerine Twatwaffle should have provided me with ample fuel for rants. This is, of course, true. But I’ve been unable to properly express my horror and loathing at what is happening to my country.

Actually, scratch that. I could very easily express my feelings on the subject, but who wants to read several thousand swear words joined by just barely enough non-invective to make complete sentences?

In lieu of posting here, I’ve been schmoozing with my Feline Overlords, spending time at the shooting range, writing a few short stories and working on two novels, editing a weekly newsletter for a fictional investment company, trying to lose weight, and managing to keep a legitimate income stream coming in to keep a roof over head and the bill collectors at bay.

And trying very, very hard to control my visceral reaction to the madness engulfing us- both here in the States and all over the world.

In the words of a famous mariner and philosopher, “I’s had all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more!”

The US has gotten by for a bit over two centuries by adhering to loads of unstated and un-legislated rules of behavior. The Founders of this country fucked up very badly by believing the People would never allow themselves to fall under the sway of a shrieking shitgibbon with delusions of competence. They also never dreamed Congress would be controlled by creatures who refuse to rein in the orange-colored manbaby at the head of the government because they’re busy trying to score short-term political and economic gains at the expense of rationality, long-term catastrophes, and even the continued viability of the country as constituted.

Political parties are a convenient means of semi-controlling the chaos made manifest which is the true state of politics in any vaguely democratic government. Like all conveniences, there are some deleterious side effects as a consequence of that convenience. George Washington even warned us in his farewell address to the nation:

The Founders never imagined their descendants would intellectually and morally devolve so far  as to place their party’s interests above the country. To be fair, and to prevent accusations suggesting I am deifying the Founders, they also (with a few notable exceptions) could never have imagined a black man being elected President, women having the right to vote, or the staggering complexity of the modern world. They were not gods- merely men. Men who were products of their time and possessed of beliefs and behaviors which would be considered outright barbarism today.

But they assumed those who would follow in their footsteps would be at least moderately interested in doing what is right for the United States of America. The Founders assumed (wrongly, as we now know) the Americans who succeeded them would better their own conditions by working to better the conditions of all their fellow Americans.

This may never have been true, although it is one of the core unstated beliefs of the American Experiment, but at least the faded trappings of this ideal has largely been adhered since the Constitution was ratified and adopted.

No more. Those currently in power seem to be concerned only with looting the country for the benefit of themselves and their wealthy friends. The Congress which should act as a check on the power of the Executive is instead cooperating with the excesses of the Presidency- even in the face of strong evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors”- because the current occupant of the White House happens to have the right capital letter after his name. In the interest of short-term political expediency, those who are running the country are insulting and antagonizing our allies and friends. They are willfully destroying the elaborate network of trade agreements and alliances which are to a great extent responsible for America’s current prosperity. They actively encourage anti-intellectualism and happily sow internal discord among the populace in order to obfuscate their pillaging of America’s resources for their private gain.

And a significant number of Americans are cheering them on.

The United States of America is wealthy and prosperous because of hard work, an appreciation of the value of education, a welcoming attitude towards immigrants, long-term funding of scientific research, careful cultivation of trading partners and allies, access to vast resources within its borders, and not a small amount of good fortune. Those currently in power and their benighted followers are cheerfully trying to get rid of all of those assets and rely on luck.

Luck, for those not paying attention, comes in three flavors- blind, dumb, and bad. You don’t get to chose which variety shows up. You’re stuck with whichever one it happens to be. I prefer to make my own luck, or at least manage my resources sufficiently to stave off the most disastrous consequences of ill fortune. The current situation is not something over which I have any actual control- but WE do.

We (the People) can do something about the ongoing evisceration of American influence and prosperity. We can add our voices to the voices of others speaking out against a government seemingly determined to auction the country and its people off to the highest bidders. We can litigate against the policies and iniquities of those who see themselves as our rulers instead of our servants, support those who initiate litigation, and serve on juries as a result of government impropriety. We can vote against those who are more interested in personal profit and aggrandizement than in doing the jobs we hired them to do. We can run for office ourselves, or support those who do run for office in opposition to the reprehensible and obnoxious creatures currently infesting governments across the country.

But that all means you can no longer sit back and remain passive. You have to step out of your comfortable little bubble and pay fucking attention. The clock is ticking,and every minute the odious scavengers rooting at the trough of the public treasury destroy another small bit of what makes America what it is. They villains in this scenario are calculating they’ll finish extracting every last centavo of value from the country and bug out with the loot before the average American wakes up to the fact he or she is literally being robbed. Tick, tick, tick.

The only way they can get away with it is if WE let them.

 

Current music: The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether by Alan Parsons Project





Resting On Our Laurels

20 07 2016

Forty-seven years ago, a small spacecraft from Earth set down on the surface of the moon. There were two humans onboard, with a third remaining in orbit. Everyone on Earth- or at least those who had access to global information- looked up into the sky at that moment in awe. For a brief moment in time, everyone on Earth connected to international news looked skyward and said, “D-a-a-a-a-amn!”

Since that day, almost a half-century ago, ten more humans travelled from Earth to visit our nearest neighbor in space. They conducted some scientific tests and collected a lot of samples.Then, they all came back home. By any standards, the Apollo program was an amazing technical achievement. Never mind the fact that it would never have happened if not for political and military posturing by earth’s two most powerful nations, it was a truly amazing feat of engineering and science.

Since December in 1972, when Apollo-17 departed, no one has gone back.Think on that for a moment: the high-water mark of manned spaceflight ended forty-four years ago.What happened? Why did we stop?

The late Carl Sagan also wondered about this. He wrote an article in 1989 saying, among other things, “The Moon is no longer unattainable. A dozen humans, all Americans, made those odd skipping motions they called ‘moonwalks’ on the crunchy, cratered, ancient gray lava- beginning on that July day in 1969. But since 1972, no one from any nation has ventured there. Indeed, none of us has gone anywhere since the glory days of Apollo except into low Earth orbit- like a toddler who takes a few tentative steps outward and then, breathless, retreats to the safety of his mother’s skirts.

Once upon a time, we soared into the solar system. For a few years. Then we hurried back. Why? What happened?

For one shining moment, humanity looked out at the vastness of space and knew that the stars were in our future. Then we turned our backs on the stars and went home. Despite the fact that semi-literate children in countries without regular electrical service now walk around with pocket radios with more computing power than any of the Apollo spacecraft, we’ve never gone farther than low-Earth orbit.

Apollo cost the US about $25 Billion at the time. Adjusting for inflation, that runs to a bit over $100 Billion today. One hundred billion dollars today is only about 16% of the US Defense budget (roughly $600 Billion), or a hair under 3% of the entire US budget ($3.54 Trillion).

By the way, do you know how much of the current US budget goes to NASA? $18.5 Billion. Basically one half of one percent (0.52%) of the US budget is used to fund NASA. That’s for everything at NASA- toilet paper, administrator salaries, office supplies, and space.

To put all the data into words: NASA has been achieving amazing science and developing mind-blowing technology, putting robot spacecraft into orbit around planets, moons, asteroids, and comets and dropping robot scouts onto the surface of Mars on a budget consisting of the spare change Uncle Sam found under the couch cushions.

Those robots are doing some outstanding work. For some exploration, they’re actually preferable to humans. But the robots just aren’t as adaptable as a Mark One, Mod Zero educated plains ape. For one example, the Opportunity rover has been on Mars since 2004, and has travelled a bit more than 26 miles in those twelve years. On Earth, humans routinely run that distance in a few hours.

Humans are far more versatile and adaptable than our robots. But they require a lot of very heavy equipment and infrastructure to get them to the exploration site and keep them in working order long enough to get some science done. This is a significant downside to manned spaceflight, but something we can fix. It just takes time and effort-which means money.

We are totally getting our money’s worth out of the Space program using robots, but manned spaceflight could be accomplishing so much more. All it takes is money and the will to use it. We have the money. Hell, trim 5% off the military budget and give it to NASA. That’s roughly $30 Billion dollars more for space exploration, and the military obviously doesn’t need it- the US spends more on our military than the next dozen countries combined. Almost forty percent of all military spending on Earth goes to the US military.

Granted that we need our military to be the best in the world, even by American standards this is overkill. Let us put some of that cash to use out in space, instead. Let us also note that I am not NASA’s friend. Too many scientists and engineers are being sidelined by paper-pushers and politically-connected bozos. But they are the best game in town, so we (the US) has to use NASA, or nothing.

It’s been 44 years since the last humans left the moon. We have been resting on our laurels for far too long. Humans from the United States once walked on the moon. Sooner or later, more humans will be exploring and exploiting the solar system. If we don’t get off our collective asses, we can be fairly certain those people exploring and exploiting the system will not be speaking English.

 

Current status: Pissed off

Current music: The Future Soon by Jonathan Coulton





Wrapped in the Flag and Carrying a Cross.

18 06 2016

That headline is from a quote by Sinclair Lewis which seems more and more to be chillingly prescient. Here’s another quote appropriate to the topic at hand:

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”- George Santayana

You may be curious about where I’m going with these quotes. I’m going to post a link to a news article here that will make my meaning crystal clear:

http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/14/politics/newt-gingrich-house-un-american-activities-committee/

Is everyone all through vomiting at the idea? Good. Let us continue.

For those who may have been living in a cave for the past few decades, there is an election approaching. This country has been mired in an election campaign for what seems like six or seven squintillion years. A campaign where the presumed nominee of one of the two major political parties has been openly espousing fascist ideology and overt racism to throngs of cheering supporters. Those same supporters who appear to be just fine with physically attacking anyone who vaguely hints at disagreement with their Leader or anyone with a less than lilly white skin tone. Supporters who have openly warned they would resort to violence if their Leader doesn’t win.

That’s bad enough, but now we have a retired politician from that same major political party saying- on camera- to a news organization that the country needs to return to the halcyon days of yesteryear in the form of the House Un-American Activities Commission. If you aren’t familiar with HUAC, go look it up. I’ll wait.

Here’s a bit of background for those unwilling to learn from history. In the 1950’s, a US Congressman names Joseph McCarthy claimed that he was in possession of a list of communists who had “infiltrated” the US government. He gleefully exploited public fear over the “Red Menace” (OMFG- the eebil rooshians are gonna come pollute our precious bodily fluids!) to establish the House Un-American Activities Commission in order to search out these communist infiltrators, wherever they might be- presumably including under your bed.

And so, the witch hunt was on. American citizens were accused to being communists or communist sympathizers, and the resulting public furor meant most of them lost their jobs and couldn’t get hired anywhere else. People were exhorted to inform on their friends, neighbors, and relatives if there was even a vague hint of “un-American activities”. Fear and prejudice and panic ensued, resulting in the director of the FBI investigating thousands of government employees to determine if they were sufficiently loyal to the United States- essentially based upon whether or not J Edgar Hoover agreed with their politics. Actors, writers, journalists, and publishers joined government workers in the endless search for the evil commies.

Please note that there was no burden of proof involved. Merely being accused was enough to destroy someone’s life and livelihood, and even successfully avoiding getting convicted in court wasn’t enough to undo the damage caused by being denounced.

This is what “the smartest man in the GOP” has publicly called for. On camera.

Never mind that HUAC was a cynically successful ploy by a small number of senior government officials and congressmen to gather more power for themselves. All these few people had to do was continually warn everyone they were in danger from godless communism and should therefore allow the power of the US government to be turned upon US citizens without check or hindrance. And the American people fell for it.

And a large number of Americans are being led down the same path to Hell today by their Leader.

Ooga booga! The evil moose limbs are coming to kill your children. Only we can protect you from this existential threat, but you gotta let us throw out that pesky Constitution in order to keep you safe. We pinky swear these powers will only be used against “them“. Them. The “others“. The people who don’t worship your god the same way you do. The people possessed of insufficiently white skin pigmentation. People who speak other languages. People who disagree with you politically. “Them“.

Shockingly, this message of xenophobia and bigotry is finding eager listeners among people who aren’t willing to use their brains much. Thinking is hard, and so is remembering lessons learned from long ago. Sure, it turns out that locking up tens of thousands of Americans who happened to be descended from Nipponese immigrants was stupid, expensive, wrong, and totally ineffective. Never mind that. This time is different, because … uh … because reasons.

Actually, there is a reason why dumb white people are buying into this line of thinking. There’s a reason why they have so much trouble articulating the source of their ignorant fear, and that reason is demographics. It turns out that white people will soon be less than half of the population. Oh, the horror! Rather than learning to treat other people equally, these dim-as-five-feet-up-a-pig’s-ass yokels are willing to destroy the very thing that made this country great: our non-homogenous society.

Every group of immigrants has made America richer. They bring in new ideas, new foods and drink, new attitudes, new beliefs, and America gets better and stronger from adopting the globe-spanning range of new stuff brought here by immigrants. And every single one of those immigrant groups is treated like shit by the descendants of previous immigrants. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the Irish being vilified by descendants of English and Dutch immigrants.When Italians began arriving on our shores, the descendants of those Irish immigrants who been the subject of bigotry treated the Italians the same way. Asians, Africans, and Jews have been perennial victims of American xenophobia, along with anyone from any cultural background who doesn’t belong to the right religious group. They’re different, and therefore suspicious- if not outright evil.

Here’s a clue chit for the small-minded bigots among us: Different does not equal evil. Stranger does not mean enemy. Those “foreigners” you’re wetting your panties about aren’t foreigners anymore- they’re Americans. What are you imbeciles afraid of?

I want you

WITCH HUNT by Rush

The night is black
Without a moon
The air is thick and still
The vigilantes gather on
The lonely torch lit hill

Features distorted in the flickering light
The faces are twisted and grotesque
Silent and stern in the sweltering night
The mob moves like demons possessed
Quiet in conscience, calm in their right
Confident their ways are best

The righteous rise
With burning eyes
Of hatred and ill-will
Madmen fed on fear and lies
To beat and burn and kill

They say there are strangers who threaten us
In our immigrants and infidels
They say there is strangeness too dangerous
In our theaters and bookstore shelves
That those who know what’s best for us
Must rise and save us from ourselves

Quick to judge
Quick to anger
Slow to understand
Ignorance and prejudice
And fear walk hand in hand…

Current status: Appalled

Current music: We Belong by Pat Benatar





Blatherings and Rantings of Dotards

23 12 2015

Oh, yeah. It just keeps getting better every four years. And, by “better“, I mean much, much worse.

It’s bad enough that our political processes have been essentially hijacked by a duopoly run by thieves, liars, and similar offal. But it seems one half of this duopoly is desperate to try and turn back the demographic clock by appealing to the base fears and prejudices of their sole remaining constituency- scared old white people. These people are simple folk. Farmers. The common clay of the new West.

You know- morons.

In their desperation at the prospect of losing control of the levers of power, this political party has descended into nationalism, xenophobia, racism, and overt fascism. Oh my dog! Horrible brown people are infiltrating this country to sully your precious bodily fluids, sodomize your sons, sell your wives and daughters into slavery, and drive down your property values! Boogah! Boogah!

Scary, isn’t it? No, not the nonsense regularly oozing from the sense-organ clusters atop the perambulating mounds of excrement that this party has put forth as contenders for the Presidency. That’s almost to be expected. What is truly frightening are the mindless herds of wannabe Brown Shirts bleating and screaming is support of such nonsense- no matter how vile, fascistic, and profoundly un-American it may be.

In their defense, I suppose one could say that little more could be expected from the panty-wetting and firmly anti-intellectual crowd being pandered to so successfully, but the fact that there appear to be tens of thousands of these mule-headed imbeciles who are willing to stop fucking their kinfolk and/or farm animals long enough to go to political rallies ought to give any rational person pause.

For FSM’s sake, at work the other day I overheard two African-American men speak admiringly of two of the more reprehensible would-be Presidents. Two candidates whose public pronouncements and rhetoric say they would relegate African-American citizens to (at best) third-class citizenship. But these two men- who are not particularly thick-witted on other issues- were speaking at length about actually voting for one of the aforementioned walking stacks of horseshit.

Therein lies the problem. Far too many people are willing to vote against their own best interests solely because they’ve allowed themselves to become frightened of the “other“. The outsider. The foreigner. The immigrant. The non-christian. Anyone who is different.

They say there are strangers who threaten us
In our immigrants and infidels
They say there is strangeness too dangerous
In our theaters and bookstore shelves
That those who know what’s best for us
Must rise and save us from ourselves

Guess what? We are all different, in one way or another. Traveling down this road leads to pogroms, mass-murder, and eventual Balkanization. Sooner or later, those to whom we have given power to save us from the “other“, will determine that we are too different to be allowed to live.

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all. – H.L. Mencken

Out of sheer self-defense, we (the People) must utterly reject these demands that we divest ourselves of our innate decency as Americans and piss ourselves in terror while the Wise Ones in charge “protect” us from the “other”. Every one of those calling loudly for such un-American ideals as preventing people of a certain ideology or a certain religion or a certain skin color from entering the country- even if they are American citizens- must be run out of town on a rail. These people are willing to destroy the very thing that makes the United States of America so successful just so they can gain a tiny amount of short-term political advantage.

I want you

We can do this. We (the People) can metaphorically run these bags of manure masquerading as humans out of town by the modest expenditure of the time it takes to show up and vote. While you’re thinking about that, here’s another line of verse to remind you of what the United States of America is supposed to be all about:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Current status: Appalled

Current music: Brandenburg Concerto #5 by J.S. bach





Hype and Hysteria

28 01 2013

I’ve been quiet for a while now, trying very hard to stay out of the storm of nonsense in the media about gun control. For reasons that presumably make sense to the media, only the most strident, idiotic, and unpleasant people on either side of the argument are permitted any airtime. This leaves the average citizen convinced that anyone discussing the issue is a rabid fanatic. Part of the problem is the fact that the two factions trying to discuss gun control aren’t speaking the same language. The lack of understanding by both sides tends to convince each group that the other is dealing dishonestly. Accordingly, I will begin with a basic glossary.

Automatic Weapon– Any weapon which fires continuously as long as the trigger is pulled.

Semi-Automatic Weapon– Also known as an “auto-loading weapon”, this weapon only fires once with each pull of the trigger. The recoil (or expanding gases from the cartridge discharging) ejects the casing of the cartridge which just fired. A spring forces the bolt back into position, loading another cartridge into the firing chamber in the process.

Magazine– The device which holds cartridges in the weapon. A detachable magazine is a magazine which can be removed from the weapon.

Clip– A device used to group cartridges together until inserted into a weapon’s magazine. Several common firearms use clips to load cartridges into non-detachable magazines, including the SKS and M-1 Garand.

Cartridges– Also called “rounds”, this is the most common type of ammunition in use. A metal cylinder holds a primer and a chemical propellant sealed behind a projectile called a “bullet”.

Assault Rifle– Contrary to popular opinion, there is a precise definition for this term. An Assault Rifle is a fully-automatic weapon which fires a light or medium-caliber cartridge and has a detachable magazine.

Battle Rifle– A large-caliber rifle which may be designed to accept either magazines or clips.

Caliber– The designation of the weapon’s bore diameter in either fractions of an inch (.223, .308. .45, etc) or in millimeters (5.56 mm, 7.62 mm, 9 mm, etc). Note that many firearms share the same bore diameter, but the cartridge casing may be much longer. Hence the intermediate cartridge 7.62 x 39 mm (commonly used in many rifles, including the AK-47) is not the same as the large cartridge 7.62 x 51 mm (also known as the .308, and commonly used in many rifles- including battle rifles and hunting rifles).

Assault Weapon– An artificial term for any semi-automatic firearm which superficially resembles a military firearm. This term is easy to confuse with Assault Rifle, despite their differences. To qualify as an “assault weapon”, various cosmetic accessories are all that are required to convert a “normal” firearm into an “assault weapon”.

Gun Show Loophole– A misnomer describing a design flaw in the national instant background check system. Any private citizen may sell a firearm to any other private citizen without requiring a background check (which is required whenever a firearm is purchased from a licensed firearms dealer). This was due to the way the instant background check system was set up, and private citizens were deliberately excluded from using the system by design.

High-Capacity Magazine– Another made-up term whose meaning depends on which side you ask. For firearms owners and enthusiasts, high-capacity magazines are those which hold cartridges in excess of the magazine the weapon was designed for. For those opposed to civilian firearms ownership, high-capacity means any magazine which holds more than some arbitrary number of cartridges ranging from 3 to 10.

Concealed Carry– In most states, citizens who wish to carry a concealed weapon must apply for a license to do so. Details vary by jurisdiction, but an extensive criminal and mental background investigation is common. Applicants are often required to take mandatory training in firearms safety before being issued a license.

Open Carry– The opposite of concealed carry. Wearing a firearm openly, for all to see. This is legal in some states, although a license may be required.

All clear now? Everybody speaking the same language at last? Now, let us discuss gun control.

The sheer hysteria generated whenever the words “gun control” are uttered is almost staggering. Those in favor of unrestricted firearms ownership immediately begin snarling nonsense about “cold dead fingers”, while those in favor of complete civilian disarmament start referring to the size of gun owners’ genitalia. There could be a middle ground, but the extremists on either side are drowning out everyone who might be willing to find one. People on one side are shrieking that “we have to do something!” while people on the other side feel like they’re being punished when they haven’t done anything wrong.

Let us start with some facts. There are roughly 300 million firearms owned by civilians in this country. The number of civilians owning firearms is estimated to be roughly 60 million, indicating that each firearms owner owns an average of five weapons (this is far from the case, but the minority who own dozens of firearms skew the average number high). There are approximately 10 million civilians licensed to carry concealed firearms in the US (note that some states have no licensing requirement for concealed carry, and this may skew the average low). In 2010, there were approximately 8,000 murders committed using firearms (roughly 6,000 by pistol, 350 by rifle, and 1,900 by “unreported type”). Two-thirds of all deaths caused by firearms (approximately 20,000 per year) are suicides. The FBI data shows that citizens with concealed carry licenses are less likely to commit a crime than almost any other group in the country- specifically including police officers.

If we’re going to talk about gun control, where do we start? By far the most common firearm used to commit murder is the pistol. Should we make all pistols illegal? Should we, the People, prohibit the manufacture, sale, and distribution of a product involved in the deaths of 6,000 people a year? If you answer “YES” to that question, does this answer hold for any such product, or are firearms somehow a special case? If pistols are the type of firearm used in most murders, why is the loudest hue and cry about so-called “assault weapons”?

Speaking of “assault weapons”, why is this firearm okay:

Mini-14

but this firearm:

Evil Mini-14

a tool of the devil?

For those of you playing at home, they are the same rifle. The first one is the standard Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle. It is a semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine. The second image is also a Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle, but it has a bunch of accessories that make it look scary. Those accessories have no effect on how the weapon operates or how deadly it is, no matter what Senator Feinstein’s opinion may be. The pistol grip and collapsible stock make the weapon more comfortable to hold, and the attachment points on the fore-end are to enable easy attachment of accessories like a scope or light.

Here’s another pop quiz. Which of the following firearms is the most powerful?

AR15 Garand

They are both semi-automatic rifles, by the way. Far too many people have been nattering away about how the scary “assault weapon” (the first picture, obviously- the evil AR-15) is just too powerful to be owned by civilians. The AR-15 fires a .223 caliber cartridge. The “normal” appearing rifle beneath it is the M-1 Garand, which fires a 30-06 cartridge. For those of you unfamiliar with firearms, the Garand has more than twice the energy per shot than the AR-15. No one is talking about banning the M-1 Garand. In fact, the US Government has a long-standing program wherein the Government will provide ordinary citizens with a Garand if they join the Civilian Marksmanship Program.

Okay, fine. You must talk about dealing with the scourge of “assault weapons”. I have a couple of suggestions for gun control measures.

Suggestion 1– Since everyone seems to be terrified of the scary black guns, why not make ’em pink? Start a government program to prohibit the sale of any civilian version of military weapons unless the weapon is permanently neon pink. Anyone who so desires may trade in their existing scary black gun for a brand new neon pink one. The government would have to subsidize the trade-ins, of course, similar to the “cash for clunkers” program for old cars. The manufacturer could either destroy the traded-in scary black guns in return for tax credits, make them permanently pink to comply with the law and re-sell ’em, or ship them overseas.

The beauty of this scheme is the fact that everyone wins, and everyone will hate it. The folks opposed to civilian firearms ownership will be happier because there will be fewer scary black guns on the streets, but they won’t like the fact that there will still be firearms in civilian hands. Rational firearms enthusiasts won’t care much about the color if the weapons still function properly, so they can still enjoy their shooting sports. The pin-heads who seem to think they need a gun to be macho won’t touch a pink gun, so there will be even fewer of them in circulation (and the ones in circulation won’t be in the hands of weak-minded idiots). We could stimulate manufacturing and possibly ease the unemployment rate with one program.

Suggestion 2– Citizens can only own firearms equivalent to what law enforcement is permitted. Any weapon the cops can have, ordinary citizens can have. I’ve written before about the increasing militarization of civilian law enforcement. Get fully-automatic weapons out of the hands of civilian law enforcement- they have no need for them. The military needs full-auto weapons, because their job is supporting the government’s decision by force. This frequently involves full-scale combat against unfriendly strangers armed with automatic weapons. The police are supposed to enforce the law. Period. 40% of police vehicles in the US are supposedly equipped with AR-15 rifles. If true, removing identical weapons from ordinary civilians means the police aren’t being held to the same standards. This tends to encourage abuses of authority, and we already have too much of that.

Suggestion 3– Make the instant background check system as close to free as possible and require all firearms purchases to go through the check -even for private parties. Require a nation-wide 3-day waiting period before taking possession of a handgun, with the exception of those with concealed weapons licenses. Require all states to meet minimum standards for issuing concealed weapons licenses, and make every state treat a concealed carry license with the same deference accorded to driver’s licenses.

There you have it. Three solid suggestions for reducing the odds of another spree killing, while still allowing citizens to own and bear arms. Any one of the suggestions should also work whether or not any other is also implemented, and they should all pass Constitutional muster with the Nine Worthies.

Current status: Irked

Current Music: Fame by David Bowie