About Wayne A. Schneider

I'm a Liberal, Libertarian, Atheist Humanist. I believe that though the world is a dangerous place, it can be made better if we stop dividing ourselves by how we're different from each other, and reach out to each other through what we have in common. And that is that we are all human beings on this planet. Please remember that.

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 25, 2015: Memorial Day and Its Disputed Origins

Featured

Under different circumstances, after different choices, it could have been me. It wasn’t, of course, or I wouldn’t be here to write this. And by accident or design, depending on what you wish to believe, I was never in the circumstances, probably as a result of some of my choices, where it ever might have been me. But there have been more than one million three hundred thousand United States service members who died while serving in our nation’s armed forces, more than half of them (counting both sides) in our own civil war. I have never seen the honor of serving my country under combat, so I was never in a situation where I could expect to be killed. I honestly can’t say how I would have behaved in combat, but I’ve always thought of myself as the kind of person who would sacrifice himself to make sure others survived a situation. Maybe we all do, I don’t know. But I do know that because of the sacrifices those million brave people made, I can enjoy the freedom and luxury of being able to sit in my own home writing this blog post, and you can enjoy the freedom and luxury of reading it. Our nation, by and large, doesn’t treat the brave men and women who serve to protect our country (simply by being the biggest bad-asses on the planet) well enough, and we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice even less than we should.

The true origins of the holiday we’ve come to know as Memorial Day are in some dispute, partly because there isn’t general agreement on what is meant by “first,” and also by “holiday.” Many of you reading this blog (because many of you are Liberals like me) know of the first official ceremony to honor the war dead, known then as Decoration Day, and that it was started by African Americans in May 1865 (the month following the Civil War’s end) and is recounted by Snopes here. But as the article indicates, there is no evidence that this ceremony, wonderful as it was, had any influence on the decision by Major General Logan to hold an annual holiday. I wanted to confirm that story before posting it here as the official start of Memorial Day, but I couldn’t find any mention of it on the History Channel website, the PBS website, or even the Department of Veterans Affairs website. I wonder why that is. The Charleston, South Carolina, ceremony was certainly the first observation of Decoration Day, and its purpose was largely similar to that of today’s Memorial Day (though it was restricted to remembering the Civil War dead.) But why it’s not credited with being the first Memorial Day is unknown. Instead, Congress declared that Waterloo, NY, was the site of the first Memorial Day observance (though other places claim the title, too.)

The important thing is not how it began but that it continue. You owe the freedom you still enjoy today to them. Remember them.

Here are some pictures my wife posted last year. Please enjoy a safe and happy holiday celebration. And if you see a veteran among the parade goers today, it wouldn’t hurt to stop and thank them for their service to our country. I promise you that inside it can really help make them feel their sacrifices are worthwhile.

World War I Memorial, Washington, DC

na-WWI-Memorial

World War II Memorials, Washington, DC
ww2memorialDC
ww2 marines-memorialpacific atlantic ww2

Korean War Memorials, Washington, DC
washington-dc-korean-war-veterans-memorialKorean-WarKorean War Memorial in the Snow 04

Vietnam War Memorials, Washington, DC
vietnam-memorial-three-soldiersvietnam-war-nurses-memorialvietnam-veterans-memorial-washington-dc-ilker-goksen

Tomb of the Unknown
an american soldier

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to spend time honoring the fallen close to you, or those who, as President Lincoln put it, gave the last full measure of devotion, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 18, 2015: Bryan Fischer Threatens Violence

There are some male opponents of same-sex marriage who desperately need for it to remain illegal lest they leave their wives and follow their hearts to find the man of their dreams and settle down to a life of happiness. I’m beginning to wonder if Bryan Fischer is one of them. The very idea that the Supreme Court might actually strike down all bans on marriage equality and declare it a constitutional right (thanks, in part, to Justice Antonin Scalia’s own opinions, in which he suggested the strategy to use for marriage equality proponents to win) has Fischer scared. Very scared. But what does he have to fear if his own marriage is solid and loving? In what way would the right of people (who have no interest in him) to marry each other affect him? Is he afraid that the last thing to stop him from leaving his wife to shack up with another man is a law making that relationship with that man illegal? What else makes sense? Unless he means the violence.

Fischer is pretending that what he fears is the civil unrest that a ruling in support of marriage equality would make inevitable.

“The Supreme Court can be slapped down through a deliberative and representative process,” he said, “rather than through chaos and civil unrest which I and a lot of other pro-family leaders fear is the alternative. If the Supreme Court continues to overreach and they aren’t checked, we are headed towards civil unrest, I don’t think there is any other way around it. If it’s not stopped and reversed, the tyrannical overreach of the Supreme Court, we are to have social dislocation and I believe we are going to have violence as a result. And that is simply because freedom is too deeply ingrained in the DNA of the American people to permit tyranny to continue unchecked forever. The solution: state legislatures rediscovering their constitutional authority under the Ninth and 10th Amendments. “

Tell us something, Bryan. Who would be committing these acts of chaos, these acts of civil unrest, these acts of violence? Would it be the people who support marriage equality? Or would it be the people like you and the other “pro-family leaders” who will be taking to the streets to spread chaos, be civilly unrestful, and commit acts of violence? I think we who support marriage equality are the ones who have something to fear from the people who oppose it, not the other way around. When we start hearing we might lose, we start taking action to elect Democratic Senators and Presidents who will make sure these socially deficient rulings are reversed. When your side starts hearing it might lose, you talk about taking to the streets and committing violence. Who are the real domestic terrorists in this scenario, the ones who want a peaceful remedy to our disagreements, or the ones who talk casually about violence?

Lastly, I think you States Rights’ advocates don’t seem to have gotten the memo yet. The Constitution is not the Articles of Confederation. You keep talking about how the States have the power to enact these same-sex marriage bans because the Constitution doesn’t give the federal government the right to regulate marriage. You frequently refer to the Tenth Amendment and how it means the States have the power over things the federal government doesn’t. But that’s only partly correct. First, you’re deliberately misinterpreting the Ninth Amendment as having something to do with States’ Rights. A plain reading of it proves it doesn’t. Here it is.

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

You have to read the Tenth Amendment in conjunction with the Ninth to understand why the People have rights even the states can’t take away.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

In all your States’ Rights talk, you leave out the rights reserved to the people, the ones who have specifically have rights not mentioned in the Constitution. And one of those rights reserved to the people is the right to marry the person of your choice. Not people, not pets, not some perversion I don’t wish to name, but person. One person. So stop the polygamy and polyandry claims, stop the bestiality claims, stop the perversion claims. Nobody has ever seriously argued that marriage should be between anything other than two, and only two, people. (Some nutjobs might have, but they are few in number and can safely be regarded as totally without public influence. In fact, if you never brought them up, we’d never hear about them.)

You also leave out the Fourteenth Amendment, one of the most important constitutional amendments in human history. Without the 14th, your 1st Amendment rights mean nothing. If you read the Bill of Rights carefully, it says nothing about the States not being allowed to infringe upon your right to freedom of religion, or free speech, or a free press, or free assembly, or the freedom to petition the government. The 14th Amendment does. It says:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

That means the rights you have as a federal citizen are now the rights you have as a citizen of your state. So your state can’t block your right to freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly or petitioning. What never ceases to amaze me, Bryan, is how you States’ Rights advocates get all up in arms about freedoms you claim the federal government is taking away from its citizens, but you are perfectly happy with your own state taking away those same freedoms. So why are you so opposed to the federal government saying the states can’t deny citizens within its borders their right to marry? What is it you’re so afraid will happen. Bryan? That you’ll run out into the streets to commit acts of violence against your fellow citizens, or that you’ll leave your wife for another man? I’ll support you 100% on the latter, but not on the former.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to make fun of Bryan Fischer’s paranoia, how my interpretations of the Constitution are off the mark, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 11, 2015: Glenn Beck Gets One Thing Right

Glenn Beck, who can best be remembered from me opening this post with his name, has finally said something with which I completely agree: He has no credibility. After talking about (rush transcript) the Bubba Effect,

What I’m afraid of is the Bubba Effect. And I’ve talked about this for about six years. I said, there’s going to come a time when you’ll start to have riots on the streets. There’s going to come a time when you’ll have terrorists come and do something. And the — and the feds will come in or the government will come in, and they will try to quell it or they’ll try to arrest somebody. And the town will say, uh-uh. Nope! You, United States government, you knew about it. You’re part of the problem. And the Bubba Effect comes from the one idea that — a Muslim goes and shoots somebody. And then Bubba, who just doesn’t — is not really paying attention. Sees a Sikh some place who wears a turban. Not a Muslim, but he’s a Sikh. But Bubba sees him and is like, you people. And he’s all enraged and he shoots a Sikh. Now, what’s going to happen? The DOJ has to come in and try him for murder. But because that town just experienced some sort of, you know, 40 kids in an elementary school shot and they knew that the federal government kept the borders open and these guys came across the borders, they were here illegally, or they were from that mosque down the street that everybody knew was an extremist mosque, but they did nothing about it. That’s when the citizens grab their guns and say to the DOJ, get the hell out of here. What Bubba did was wrong, but we’ll take care of it. We don’t need you here.

While it can certainly be classified as a hate crime, the DOJ usually doesn’t need to step in and try Bubba for murder unless the state, who normally prosecutes homicides, fails to convict him. And let’s be real, Glenn, those 40 fictitious kids who got shot in a school were, in all likelihood if this happened in this country, killed by a deranged white American kid who had no religious or quasi-religious motivations whatsoever. So any connection to our borders is just the paranoia or the bigotry talking, and who says it can’t be both? Also, it’s important to know exactly how everybody “knew” that mosque was extremist. Did they ever set foot inside it, or talk to anyone who had? I’m sure they didn’t, but they’re going to “grab their guns” anyway. because there isn’t a social problem in the world that can’t be solved with a gun, is there, Glenn? Where do you come up with this shit, anyway?

Now, this is not my theory. This is the theory that I learned from the Special Forces command about eight years ago. This is about 2004, and I go to the east coast. I go, where is that? Is that in Virginia? Where was that? Special Forces command? Fort Bragg. I’m at Fort Bragg and I’m talking to the press, and I said, what is your number one concern? And they said the Bubba Effect. They said, that’s coming at some point in the future.

Okay, 2004 was eleven years ago, not eight, and Fort Bragg is in North Carolina, not Virginia, but other than that…

Imagine Hillary Clinton making a gaffe like that on the campaign trail. “Eleven is the new eight” will be the new “Fifty-seven states.” We’d never hear the end of it. “Is she planning to be president for eleven years?” Actually, I’d like to hear them say something like that because it would mean they were admitting defeat before the votes take place. Then some of the wheels on Glenn’s Crazy Train started to wobble a bit…

Now, that hadn’t even occurred to me. This is before we’re really having any kind of real hatred and animosity toward each another. It’s the Michael Moore, you know, Fahrenheit 911 stuff. But we can handle all of that. It just happened. The beginning. Stage one just happened here in Dallas this weekend. And here it is. These marchers, they come in, Moms Against Police Brutality, and marchers for I don’t know, free all the Mexicans. I don’t know. Something about the border.

It was at this point, I believe, that the Lithium wore off completely…

Let them come in. Let them take jobs, whatever. So they’re marching down the street. And these guys are connected. They’re connected to the Nation of Islam. They’re connected to Open Society. George Soros. They’re connected to the Tides Foundation. This is a front group. This is front group. Pure and simple. The police are there. These groups are marching. But there’s somebody in between. It’s the open carry people.

Nation of Islam? Open Society? George Soros? Tides Foundation? All connected? All connected to these protests in Baltimore over the police murdering someone in their custody? And we should have no fear because the open carry people are there?

So now here are just citizens with long arms. They have a right to have the long arms. When asked by a reporter friend, what are you guys doing here? Well, we’re kind of the buffer between these guys and the police. What do you mean you’re the buffer between these guys and the police? Well, we know how the police reacted, listen to this, we know how the police reacted in Baltimore, and we want to make sure that, A, if there was any police brutality, we could kind of buffer that zone. If they start to push the cops, that we could be in between them so that the cops couldn’t really respond — so no bad stuff is going to happen. And if somebody starts looting our city, we’ll stop it. Because the police are going to be told like they were in Baltimore to stand down.

I’ll be candid with you. I didn’t follow the Baltimore stories really closely, as I try to avoid getting sucked into watching TV 24/7, so I don’t know if there were open carry enthusiasts standing guard to prevent looting or not, but I do know that the Crips, Bloods, and Black Guerrilla Family gangs called a truce to come together to do their own business protection. Glenn forgot to mention them.

Bubba Effect. There it is. That’s stage one. Nothing happened. So those guys went home. But now let me ask you something: If Bubba, who is carrying a long arm, they see somebody throwing mazel tov cocktails and they stop it, how many people in our community will say, no, no, no, wait a minute. You were told to stand down. These guys were burning our city down. They’re just neighbors in our neighborhood that are trying to stop these guys from burning our neighborhood down? A lot.

Good thing it wasn’t Molotov cocktails, because those things are really dangerous. I’m not sure that speculating about what might have happened is helpful when half the scenario you’re describing may have happened in your mind.

We’re being set up, guys. We are absolutely being set up. And I don’t know — this is what I pray every night. I don’t know how to do this, Lord. I don’t know what you want. I don’t know — I don’t know what you want. I can’t wake up any — oh, if I had the voice of an angel. I can’t wake anybody else up. They’ve smeared me. I’ve helped them smear me. I don’t have any credibility. Nobody is listening. I can tell you what’s coming. I’ve told you every step of the way. I know what’s coming next. [Boldface mine.]

Finally, Glenn Beck has said something with which I agree 100%. He has no credibility. How could he? He’s a self-described “rodeo clown.” Right Wing Watch has more about this recent beck meltdown.

Glenn wants you to be prepared. To be prepared for the day when he, and the voices of leaders like him, are silenced by the government.

How shall we prepare for the day when you are silenced by the government, Glenn? I’m thinking some weed should be involved.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about, ridicule, denigrate, or otherwise demean Glenn Beck, or even me, for that matter, or anything else you wish to talk about.

The Watering Hole, May 4th, 2015: How The Right is Getting Baltimore Wrong

I don’t expect American Conservatives to have any empathy toward the people of Baltimore who have been victims of a system hell-bent and determined to keep them oppressed. That would require the ability to put themselves in the place of the people of Baltimore and imagine what it would be like to experience the things they experience all the time. And they are simply incapable of doing that. But that hasn’t stopped them from offering their own views on why things are the way they are in Baltimore. And to further distract you from the underlying causes of the civil unrest (the police killing unarmed black people), they want to talk about how attractive the Baltimore State Attorney is.

Conservatives seem to have no problem being openly sexist. Recall Rich Lowry’s sexual fantasies about Sarah Palin and her winking. And now Tucker Carlson’s virtual toilet paper, The Daily Caller, has continued the tradition of conservative sexism with a post praising State Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s physique calling her, among other things, a “smokeshow.” (They have a link to the original. I’d rather not give him a click from here.) Really, Tucker? This is your idea of serious journalism? Given your publicly known policy about news stories which contradict Fox News Channel, can we presume that this is how they feel about Mrs. Mosby? After all, we know you won’t let the story run if it contradicts your real employer. So if they don’t also think she’s a “smokeshow,” you wouldn’t be running a “story” saying she is.

Once you blow through that smokescreen (I see what I did there), there’s the Republicans to tell you why the people of Baltimore are rioting. Suffice to say it has nothing to do with why the people of Baltimore are rioting. First there was Speaker John Boehner telling NBC’s Chuck Todd that Liberal policies were to blame, and Chuck Todd accepting it as fact. Boehner then went on to tell Chuckles that Obamacare was really, really bad, and he proved it by telling some lies, which Chucky swallowed faster than a Wisconsin Republican on Koch. When NBC is ready to repeat its excellence in true political journalism, Chuck Todd will be starting a new job at Fox News Channel.

Speaking of Wisconsin Republicans who “fill up” on Koch, Rep Paul Ryan was on Face The CBS-Viewing Nation to put forth the ridiculous idea that the problems in Baltimore are because money hasn’t been spent wisely, so it should be cut even more. Ryan can’t seem to understand that Ayn Rand was, to put it kindly, a very disturbed woman. Her theories on Objectivism were only suitable for academic thought experiment, not for application on a national scale. It’s already failing in Wisconsin, where Scott Walker is watching his presidential aspirations go down Grover Norquist’s bathtub drain. Libertarianism does not work for governing a nation of more than one person. There is no benefit to society for cutting the taxes on rich people, no matter how many times 1980 Libertarian Party Vice Presidential Nominee David Koch tells his Republican stooges to say it. It’s very simple to understand. The economy only works when money flows through it. The dollar you give your deli owner for your coffee goes to paying his vendors for the deli supplies he needs to operate. Those people use that money, in part, to pay their employees who spend that money at other businesses, and so on and so on. The money works best when it is moving, not standing still (or doing little moving) in some rich person’s bank account or trust fund for their grandchildren. When you reduce a middle class person’s taxes a little bit, they’ll spend that extra twenty bucks a week. When you cut a rich person’s taxes twenty thousand dollars per week, they’re not going to spend it all over the place at his local businesses. That money is not going to circulate nearly as much, so it is not going to help the economy as much as it would if the tax cut was for the middle class person. But you also need for the government to have money, especially during a recession. The government-spent money is injected into a local economy and boosts it, just as your deli owner got when you bought your coffee. Only now there are a bunch of construction workers stopping in for their sandwiches and coffees, and now the deli owner has to hire someone to keep up with the extra business. But that doesn’t happen on a Conservative Libertarian budget.

Republican Conservatives do not want to face the fact that cops in Baltimore are abusing their authority and unjustifiably killing people, and so they’ll do anything they can to stop you from making them see it.

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 27, 2015: See Our Best (Again)

With the help of my wife, Jane, I wrote this song parody almost four years ago, and I find that it still applies today. This time the Republicans are trotting out a different cast of characters, some of whom haven’t made their presidential aspirations official for legal and technical reasons (such as they don’t really intend to run for president, like Donald Trump), to beg and plead the Koch Brothers to give them money so they can attack Hillary Clinton, who recently announced that she will accept the nomination of the Democratic Party to complete either Bill Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s third term. Or maybe she’s going to finally finish the work of the president she did once work for, Richard Nixon. This time around, Sheldon Adelson (Billionaire – Israel) will play a major role in the elections, but don’t think for a moment that just because he’s not one of the Koch Brothers that he must be good. He isn’t. He has pretty much made it clear he wants a President of the United States who will put the interests of a foreign nation (in this case, Israel) ahead of the interests of the United States and its citizens, especially those who do not agree with Israel’s policies and human rights abuses. Why he thinks Marco Rubio is that person is beyond me.

For those who don’t seem to “get it,” let me try to explain why this is bad. The disastrous, and totally insane Citizens United decision made it perfectly legal to Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 20, 2015: Sixteen Years And Not Much Better

It wasn’t the first, and many of us knew then that it wasn’t going to be the last. Unfortunately, we were right. There were more. Plenty more. Too many more. Way, way too many more. And the children. So many, many children. Even after the nation was shocked that a score of little kids would fall victim, still we did little or nothing. Sixteen years ago, on April 20, 1999, two Colorado high school students committed one of the worst gun massacres in American history. The guns they used were bought from gun dealer shows where no background checks were performed (even though they were straw purchases), because no names were taken. One of the guns had been banned from manufacture five years before, but the loose gun laws in our country made it possible, even likely one might believe, that it would end up in the hands of someone who planned to shoot the thirty-six rounds it could hold at other people. A year later, more than 800 pieces of some form of gun control legislation were introduced across the country. Only about ten percent passed. People rightfully asked what it would take to do something about gun violence, but nobody seemed to want to link gun violence to guns. Even after somebody killed more than thirty people on a college campus, even after a nine-year-old girl was killed and a United States Representative suffered a critical, life-threatening head wound, even after twenty small children and seven adults were gunned down by a deranged young man, America still refuses to admit it has a gun problem.

I don’t want to add up all the innocent people who have died at the hands of mass murderers with guns. The number would be too depressing because it’s way more than zero. I don’t know what the financial impact has been on the communities and people who were victims of these mass shootings. I doubt anyone can because the NRA, through its friends in Congress (most of them Republicans, but not all), has managed to make it a crime for the government to compile that kind of information. Congress won’t allow the government to conduct any studies on gun violence, thus giving them the chance to dispute any statistic anyone throws at them as being from a biased source with an agenda, as if that alone disqualifies anything factual that might be said. Yes, everyone who takes the time to inform his or her Congressman about something has an agenda, otherwise they wouldn’t be taking the time to do what they’re doing. That doesn’t mean that each and every one of them isn’t proposing something worthwhile, because many are. But when an organization originally created to teach gun safety and proper shooting procedures has become warped and distorted into an organization that lobbies on behalf of gun manufacturers, not on behalf of its estimated 3.4 million members (about 1% of the country), one can easily wonder just what the “original intent” of the Second Amendment (more on that later) has to do with what’s going on. The NRA spends millions of dollars defending the alleged individual right to bear arms (it is not settled law yet), yet refuses to allow sensible precautions that might help prevent another mass killing. Polling suggests the vast majority of average NRA members support the use of background checks at gun shows, to prevent the sale of guns to people who wouldn’t otherwise pass one, yet the NRA leadership ignores that and cries that background checks would lead to gun owner databases (which are not a bad idea), which would lead to mass confiscations of guns (never in a million years in this country), which would lead to Tyranny, which the Second Amendment was written to prevent. No, it wasn’t.

Prior to 1977, nobody was ever arguing that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual right to carry a gun for personal protection. That only began to happen when the National Rifle Association was taken over by extremists who argued that 200 years of legal and constitutional precedent were wrong. A large part of their ultimate success in deceiving people into believing this was the misuse of various quotes form Founding Fathers, including Patrick Henry’s “That every man be armed.” In its proper context (see link), it was actually a call to limit gun ownership, not expand it. It is true, regardless of who said it, that the NRA has perpetrated a massive fraud on the American People by claiming the Second Amendment is about the individual right to possess guns. It’s simply not true, regardless of Supreme Court decisions which wrongly claim it is. The Second Amendment was justified to support the use of state militias to defend the nation against invasion and rebellion, and to authorize Slave Posses to capture runaway slaves. President George Washington used the authority of the Second Amendment to put down the Whiskey Rebellion, so that should dispel the myth that its primary purpose (which is the gun enthusiasts’ main argument) is false. And since Slavery was outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment, the idea that guns should be allowed to capture runaway slaves is now null and void. Despite the Constitutional limitations on such a thing, the fact remains we have a standing army, even though we’re supposed to be re-authorizing its existence every two years. (How they could legally make me sign a contract to enlist in the Air Force for four years still escapes me.) So we no longer rely on State militias to defend the nation from invasion or rebellion in the same way the Colonists did in the 18th century. Yes, they are called out in emergencies, which can include rebellion, but they aren’t quite used the same way the Founders intended. They tend to get used to suppress exercise of First Amendment rights. The point is, maybe it’s time to rethink how we interpret the Second Amendment in 21st Century America. There’s no reason to lock ourselves into living and thinking like 18th century colonialists. The Constitution is meant to be a framework for our evolving country and its government, not a shackle to the past. Things that were issues and concerns back then don’t necessarily apply to today, which means the same justification used back then don’t necessarily apply today, either. Where citizens might have patrolled streets back them to catch purported thieves, now we have police patrols to whom we’ve granted the authority to use guns and capture criminals. Nobody seriously expects a private citizen to pull out a gun and stop a criminal (and none ever has.) The arguments people come up with to justify carrying around a gun get weaker and weaker. Most of the time the only danger that exists is in their own minds, which is why I hate the idea that one can use that as a justification to kill. “I thought my life was in danger.” From what? “From something it turns out I imagined.” Well, if you were never in actual danger, then you can;t justify using actual deadly force to defend yourself, can you? After all, what was going to kill or harm you? Nothing but your own imagination. Does it make any sense to say it’s okay to claim you were defending yourself against something you imagined when you killed someone?

We have a serious problem with gun violence in this country, and it’s long past time we admit it’s largely connected to our serious problems with guns and the fact, yes, I repeat, fact, that they are dangerous. It defies all logic and common sense to say guns are not dangerous, especially loaded ones. The same Justice who wrote the infamous Heller decision had previously written that laws adding years to a prison sentence for using a gun were constitutional, even when the gun in question was not being used as a gun but as a bludgeon. If guns weren’t dangerous, why would we make sure every soldier sent into battle carried at least one? If guns weren’t dangerous, why would trigger locks even be necessary? If guns wren’t dangerous, why are so many children killing other children with them? It is totally stupid to say a loaded gun isn’t dangerous. It’s dangerous for the same general reason it’s dangerous for a country unfriendly to you to have a nuclear weapon that can be carried by missiles that can reach you. It would allow them to kill or harm you from a safe distance, and before you can do anything to stop them. If I’m standing across the room from you, I can kill or harm you without needing to put myself in close proximity to you, thus giving you the chance to kill or harm me (or take my dangerous gun away and kill me with it.) Yes, you can cite all the cherry-picked statistics you want about how more people are beaten to death with bats than are killed by high-powered rifles, if you want to ignore the use of handguns (which were designed for one, and only one, purpose – to kill people.) But there is one indisputable fact that cannot be ignored, but which all too often is: In every single instance of gun violence in this country’s history, the one common element to all gun deaths, regardless of who, if anyone, was pulling the trigger, has been a gun. So maybe that’s where you have to begin.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss guns, gun control, lying NRA bastards, or any other topic you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 13, 2015: Guess Their Home Planets

Ben Carson is afraid. That’s not unusual for a Conservative, since fear is the primary thing that motivates them to action of any kind. But in Carson’s case’s case that fear is not warranted by anything happening on this planet. Carson is among the many conservatives who believe that all manner of terrorists will cross our border with Mexico with the express purpose of killing them, and only them, on account of we on the Left being their bestest buddies in the world. Courtesy of our friends at Right Wing Watch, at the recent NRA annual circle jerk meeting

Likely GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson told the NRA’s annual meeting today that Americans need guns more than ever since the southern border has been exposed to infiltration from “radical extremist Islamic terrorists” whom President Obama doesn’t intend to fight.

“When they get here,” Carson said, “we need to be able to fight them, particularly if we have an administration that won’t fight them, we need to be able to fight them ourselves.”

He added that guns are necessary for people to “defend themselves against an overly aggressive government that wanted to exact tyranny in this country.”

But he is also among the delusional right wingers who feel Obama hasn’t done anything to fight terrorists who exploit a perverted version of Islam as a justification to kill innocent people, primarily those who are non-Muslim. Apparently these right-wingers are so caught up in their own bubble of mis-information that they didn’t notice all the complaining from the Left about Obama’s drone strike program and how it keeps killing innocent people. Obama, along with several other countries in the Mid-East, has been attacking these guys. He just isn’t committing huge numbers of ground troops to the operation like the right wing wants. And that’s because in the Conservative universe, military power is the only kind of strength anyone respects (because it’s the only kind of power they respect.) There are many planets where right-wingers like this can be found, but in Dr. Ben Carson’s case, that planet would likely be Sigma Draconis VI. This is the home planet of the woman who boarded the Enterprise and removed Spock’s brain while leaving his body alive and functioning. This was possible because of a powerful computer capable of giving someone temporary knowledge beyond their normal intellectual abilities, but whose effects are sadly temporary. The result is when the effects of the intelligence enhancements wear off, the person is left being so stupid they don’t even understand what a brain is, let alone how to successfully remove one. This is clearly what happened to Dr. Carson after he left his home planet and the effects of the machine that gave him the ability to be a brilliant pediatric neurosurgeon wore off.

Donald Trump is also afraid, but the only thing that frightens him is the thought that people may one day see just how irrelevant, meaningless, and buffoonish he really is. Trump, who understands nothing of nuclear power, foreign diplomacy, or when to keep one’s mouth shut, badmouthed the recent framework for a deal negotiated with Iran by Secretary of State Kerry and five other nations. And, naturally, since the historic framework for a deal did not involve bombing Iran’s current nuclear facilities, the right wing thinks it’s a totally bad deal. It’s not even a final deal yet, just the framework for a deal that will keep Iran from being able to enrich the kind of uranium that can be used to make a nuclear weapon. And right now, this negotiations for this framework have been the only thing stopping the Iranians from making that bomb. But Trump thinks it’s a terrible deal.

“The deal is terrible, this deal is going to lead to nuclear all over the place and everyone’s going to want to have it and it’s a disaster for Israel, I can tell you, it’s a disaster for this country.”

And we should listen to Trump because he wrote (what he claims is, and what may be, but which I don’t care if it is) the top-selling business book, “The Art of The Deal.” And as everyone in the Conservative Universe knows, Capitalism and International Diplomacy are interchangeable. If you’re good at one you must automatically be good at the other. Herbert Hoover was a Capitalist, and his economic policies led to the Great Depression. George W. Bush was an MBA from Harvard, but that didn’t mean he was the smartest person in the room when it came to foreign policy. Even his Secretary of State, who was supposed to be an expert on the Soviet Union, failed to see its impending collapse. These people know nothing about running a government, let alone how to negotiate with people from another culture. The Conservative Universe has many right wingers who don’t know what they’re taking about, but the Donald Trumps of Earth orginally came from Iota Geminorum IV. This is the home planet of the tribbles, small furry creatures whose purrs have a calming effect on humans. The pelt of one has been resting on Trump’s head for many decades.

As a country, we need to stop listening to people like this. I’m not suggesting they be silenced, just ignored. Many people say there’s no difference between the two major political parties. That is completely false. That doesn’t mean that one works for the benefit of the top 1% and the large multi-national corporations and the other doesn’t. But one party doesn’t have nearly as many crazy people holding crazy viewpoints that they think the rest of us are crazy for not heeding. And it is also not true that Liberalism and Conservatism are just two sides of the same coin. It’s more like two sides of the same circle – the inside and the outside. Conservatism is rooted in Selfishness, in looking out for oneself over the needs of strangers, in asking “What’s in this for me?” of anything new, and in preserving the status quo as much as possible. Like the inside of a circle, there’s a core set of not-always-well-defined principles intended to keep things from changing too much. Liberalism, on the other hand, is rooted in Altruism, in looking out for all of us rather than just some of us, in asking, “How does this benefit the most of us?” of anything new, and in changing things that don’t work for everybody. The two philosophies are in no way equal, so when trying to find solutions that would benefit the nation as a whole, why would anyone believe Conservatives have the best ideas? That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Conservatives don’t care about you. So stop voting for them.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Ben Carson, brain surgery, Donald Trump, Tribbles as fashion accessories, or anything else you wish to discuss. Just don’t vote for any Conservatives.