Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February 23, 2015
The opening of the 114th Congress and the beginning of the race for the 2016 GOP nomination brought several quotations to mind, for example: "A Conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy."[35]  Think of McConnell claiming Republican credit for the economic upturn, GOP claims that the Keystone pipeline will create jobs or energy independence (while voting against requiring American steel and against banning the export of the oil), or various Republican politicians expressing concern for the poor.
"Conservative" in the quote refers to the British political party, but it’s perfectly applicable to the current Republican Party, which so describes itself. Whether Republicans (at least in their present incarnation), are in fact conservative in any meaningful sense is another question. Often their attitude is one of fierce, irrational resistance to change, as if change would somehow turn America into something foreign, as if we would lose our identity. However, the threat-to-America cry mostly is mere blather; any real conservative knows, as Jacques Barzun put it, that "identity is compatible with change."[36]  Garry Wills, citing Cardinal Newman, put it more affirmatively, defining conservatism as "continuity within development" and "identity within change."[37]  We can progress and still be ourselves.
As an example of irrational resistance to change, consider the right’s attitude toward potential climate disaster. We must take action, and soon, but they refuse to face facts. When the seas rise, they will stand at the shore like King Canute, forbidding the tide to come in.
Sometimes the right does indeed want to change, but usually toward the past. Wills disapproved of the use of "reactionary" as a way of distinguishing true conservatism from its aberrations. However, his quibble was semantic: everything reacts. I think that "reactionary" still is a useful term, but we must distinguish between positive and negative uses of the past, and reserve the term for the latter. We should return to past practices if doing so will make help people live better lives: if, in effect, we are recapturing a sensible moment, whether progressive, conservative or politically neutral. An example would be the return to public management of public functions, as was the case before the rush to privatize, a bizarre example of which is the privatization of prisons. As an example of a destructive return to the past, consider proposals for abolition of the Federal Reserve System and the income tax.    
Another quote captures the attitude on the right toward liberals, more specifically toward Mr. Obama: "Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds."[38]  Accusations of treason and talk of impeachment, even of jail, ramped up once the election was safely over and Republican politicians needn’t worry about offending Democrats so badly that they might — what a concept — vote. Giuliani and friends now question whether the President the people elected twice loves America and whether he is a Christian, thereby showing their patriotism and Christian charity.


35. Benjamin Disraeli: The Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, p. 251
36. From Dawn to Decadence, p. xviii  

37. Confessions of a Conservative, p. 64

38. Henry Adams: Oxford Dictionary of Thematic Quotations, p. 296

Saturday, February 7, 2015

February 7, 2015
Joni Ernst is the new darling of the right in part because she packs a gun. She brags that she takes her "beautiful little Smith & Wesson . . . virtually everywhere." Following the line of the NRA, which endorsed her, she "strongly disagrees" with the proposition that "[m]ore restrictive gun control laws are needed now to protect public safety."[10]  Positions like that are a menace.
I assume that Senator Ernst no longer wears overalls, so her darling firearm must be in her purse. She may think that a handbag is a safe location, but that’s hardly true if children are around. A few days ago, a three-year old reached into mom’s purse, pulled out her gun and shot both parents. Mom is eight months pregnant; a two-year old sister also was in the room. [11]  On December 31, a two-year old found a gun in his mother’s purse while they were at a Walmart; it went off and killed her.[12]
Children often are the victims of gun possession. In November, a three-year-old boy was shot in the face by a four-year-old neighbor, apparently with a gun owned by the victim’s parents. Each parent accused the other of negligence: mother claimed that father had left a gun in a night stand and in a car with children; dad accused mom of leaving a handgun in her purse. Both said they were responsible gun owners.[13]  In August, a four-year-old girl was shot in the foot by her two-year-old brother, who found a gun under a couch.[14]  The same month, a three-year-old girl was accidentally shot by a five-year-old boy.[15]  Last March, a five-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself with a gun he found somewhere in his home.[16] 
It isn’t just toddlers who accidently fire guns. Men shoot girlfriends,[17] wives,[18] daughters,[19] sons [20] and brothers.[21]  Women also sometimes accidentally shoot others [22] or themselves.[23]
It isn’t even safe to be at home, innocently weaponless. A man "handling a rifle" accidentally shot his upstairs neighbor through the apartment ceiling.[24]  A teenager who was playing with a gun accidentally fired a shot through a wall into a neighbor's home. [25]
The gun lobby doesn’t want restrictions at gun shows because, you know, people there are familiar with firearms. On January 13, 2013, at the Dixie Gun and Knife Show in Raleigh, North Carolina, a shotgun accidentally discharged and wounded three people. Two other gun shows that day, in Ohio and Indiana, produced one wounding each. It was the inaugural "Gun Appreciation Day."[26]
Gun nuts advocate and often succeed in passing open carry laws. The daffy excuse is that an armed citizenry can protect against bad guys; what they do is endanger everyone else. Take the case of a man, on a public sidewalk, whose gun went off, killing a woman walking on the opposite side of the street.[27]
Training and experience will cure that, surely. However, a man teaching a friend, in his garage, how to clean his gun, accidentally discharged the gun, first striking a twelve-year-old girl in a car passing by, and then, "distressed by the inadvertent shot," fired again, striking himself in the left thigh.[28]  All right, let’s suppose the teacher wasn’t really trained; people should go to firearms-training classes. A Florida man accidentally shot himself in the leg after leaving a firearms safety class.[29]  A man in Virginia let off a shot while in class, wounding himself in a hand and his wife in a leg.[30]  Perhaps they weren’t good students. An instructor in Ohio fired a bullet that bounced off a desk and into the right arm of a student. Apparently he didn’t know that the gun was loaded.[31]  A firearms instructor for a Texas police department shot himself in the hand while teaching family members how to handle a gun.[32] 
These are not isolated incidents.
Police, by necessity, must have firearms, or at least we assume so. However, as shown by the previous item, even police personnel are involved in accidental shootings. In January, an off-duty police officer in Mississippi accidentally shot his roommate in the head while showing off a new revolver.[33]  Last March, a Pennsylvania state trooper fired his gun while taking it apart for cleaning, killing his pregnant wife.[34]  Both off-duty accidents and the overuse of guns on duty demonstrate that they are not entirely safe in police hands either. Better training and more rigorous selection procedures would help, and so would the demilitarization of police departments, both as to equipment and tactics; serving a warrant does not require a swat team. Officers who cannot handle difficult situations without shooting to kill should be retired. 
Keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and other obviously irresponsible people would be a step forward, but the number and variety of accidents demonstrates that not many people can be trusted with firearms. The more guns there are, the more likely that irresponsible people will have them. Unfortunately, the United States has more guns per capita than any other country. Possession of guns, or at least of handguns, should be drastically limited. 
However, that won’t happen soon. The country is in the grip of an insane gun culture, which must be relegated to history’s dust bin. All of the excuses for allowing everyone to be armed — suspicion and hatred of government, the illusion of self-defense, our supposed pistol-packing past, a peculiar definition of "liberty" — must be exposed for what they are: fantasies which are dangerous to civilized life. Unless and until that happens, we’ll continue to shoot each other and allow our children to do so.


http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/3-year-old-shoots-dad-and-pregnant- mother?akid=12746.268890.qGu1rh&rd=1&src=newsletter1031268&t=3      

12. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/12/30/woman-shot-with-own-gun/21062089/

16. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/boy-accidental-shooting-death

17. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/man-fatally-shoots-girlfriend

18. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/man-shoots-wife-face-accidentally

19. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/virginia-father-accidentally-shoots-daughter

20. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/mta-officer-accidentally-shoots-son

21. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/accidental-shooting-brother-walking-dead

22. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/tiffany-segule-fayetteville-nc-shooting

23. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/elementary-teacher-accidentally-shoots-leg-at-school ; http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/23/us/ferguson-woman-kills-herself/index.html

24. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/man-accidentally-shoots-neighbor-through-apartment-ceiling

25. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/accidental-shooting-neighbor-home

26. http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jan/19/nation/la-na-nn-gun-appreciation-day-five-injured-at-three-different-gun-shows-20130119

27. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/georgia-man-charged-after-shooting-self-killing-texas-woman


29. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/man-shoots-self-after-leg-gun-safety-class

30.http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/04/24/11370496-gun-safety-class- backfires-man-shoots-self-and-wife?lite  

31. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/08/13/ohio-instructor-shoots-student-in-gun-safety-class/

32. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/texas-firearms-instructor-shooting  

33. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/police-officer-accidental-shooting-revolver-brandon-mississippi

34. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/police-say-state-trooper-accidentally-shot-pregnant-wife

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