Monday, April 29, 2019

Circular Firing Squad

Via the Washington Post:

National Rifle Association President Oliver North has been ousted amid internal strife and external pressure.

In a statement read at the NRA’s annual meeting in Indianapolis on Saturday, North said he would not seek a second term, citing confrontations with board members and donors over what they called exorbitant payments to a law firm, a lawsuit against the group’s longtime public relations firm and press reports about alleged financial mismanagement.

“There is a clear crisis,” North said in the letter, which was read by NRA Vice President Richard Childress. “It needs to be dealt with immediately and responsibly so the NRA can continue to focus on protecting our Second Amendment.”

The announcement by North, who said he created a committee to look into the organization’s finances, came a day after NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre issued his own letter to the NRA’s board claiming North had attempted to extort him.

According to that letter, North told LaPierre that he would send the board a letter alleging sexual harassment by a staff member, a “devastating account” of the NRA’s financial status and accusations of profligate spending on clothes and travel, unless La­Pierre resigned from his position and withdrew the NRA from a lawsuit it filed against Ackerman McQueen, the public relations firm it has used for decades.

“I believe the purpose of the letter was to humiliate me, discredit our Association, and raise appearances of impropriety that hurt our members and the Second Amendment,” LaPierre wrote in the letter, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. “I believe our board and devoted members will see this for what it is: a threat meant to intimidate and divide us. I choose to stand and fight, and hope to bring 5 million members with me.”

The NRA’s board will meet Monday to determine next steps. Tom King, a board member and president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, said he supports LaPierre.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of nuts who took an organization that once advocated for sensible gun control and stayed out of politics and turned it into a screaming mob of thugs with the finesse of a jackhammer and the sense of humor and tolerance of the Taliban.

And of course it all comes down to money.  It always does.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Fast Action

It took New Zealand less than a week to immediately ban the weapons used in the mosque massacres last Friday.

Even if it could pass constitutional muster — which it probably could since the 2nd Amendment talks about “well regulated” — nothing like the swiftness and surety of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s actions could happen here.  American politicians are too enamored of the money — or the threat of the lack of it — from lobbyists and PAC’s to do any more than offer thoughts and prayers.  And even those come at a cost.

So while the thoughtful and caring people of the world deal with problems like this with dispatch, we worry where our next electoral victory will come from.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

That Moment Of Silence

There will be a lot of commemorations today to mark the first anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  Our school administration will hold a moment of silence in the entryway to our building that houses the offices of the fourth-largest school district in the country, and I am very sure that there will be sincere and meaningful words spoken to honor the memories of the people who were killed and comfort the families of the lost.  And well there should be; to forget them and the moment is as much as crime as the assault itself.

But we should also remember that not a whole lot has been done to prevent something like that from happening again, because since that horrible day in February, a lot more people have been killed or wounded in mass shootings both in schools and other places. Legislation has been passed in Florida to harden the schools so a gunman will find it harder to get in, and I know for a fact that millions of dollars are being allocated to beef up security, hire more school police, and buy closed-circuit TV equipment to see them coming before they enter the schoolyard.

That’s fine; I’m sure the people of Florida are all in favor of having safe schools, although based on some of the plans I’ve read about, the school is going to look more like a prison than a place of learning.  And in all the dollars being allocated for new door locks, new CCTV systems, new ID card readers, and new school resource officers (that’s “police” in educational lingo), I haven’t seen anything put up to prevent anyone from arming themselves and going off.

I don’t mean gun control; that’s not going to happen as long as the gun-rights people hold the strings of power in Tallahassee and Washington, and repealing the Second Amendment isn’t going to happen at all.  (We Americans love our anachronisms: the Second Amendment is from a time when the country was 98% rural and we had no standing army.  It has survived, just as our 18th century system of weights and measures has, and defiantly so.  We’re not giving an inch.)  And even if we did, it would only increase the black market for guns and ammo.  Take a lesson from Prohibition.  What I mean is that nothing is being done to seek out and get help for people who might commit harm to themselves and others.

That sounds hard to do, and it is, but in nearly every case after the horror and the smoke is clearing, someone steps up and says they saw signs that the shooter was having problems, but, and they always say this, “I had no idea they’d go this far.”

Does that mean we should all be paranoid and freaked out every time someone on the train starts talking to themselves or accosts you for whatever reason is causing their outburst?  Common sense can distinguish between someone listening to music on a Bluetooth or someone presenting a danger to themselves and others.  And we’re spending a lot of money to paper public places with “SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING” posters.

I certainly do not have the answers, and I have yet to hear from anyone in or out of public office or in a position of authority come up with a way to stop a massacre before it happens.  But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.  So in the moments of silence that will be offered today, perhaps we should collectively seek out ways to end the torture, stop the carnage, and hold back the tears.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Time for my annual recap and predictions for this year and next.  Let’s look back at how I did a year ago.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.

I’ll give myself a B on that since it was pretty much that way a year ago and the gears of justice grind slowly but irresistibly.  No high-level members of the administration were indicted, but shame and scandal did bring down an impressive number of folks who had hard passes to the West Wing.

  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)

I’ll go with a C on that since I hit the nail on the head in the first sentence; I should have just left it there.  But no; I had it backwards: the House flipped but the GOP still has the Senate, and who knew that Paul Ryan would decide to quit?

  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.

I’ll take an A- on that since I got the timing wrong, but I think Brett Kavanaugh did a great job of flailing (“I like beer!”) before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The predator still got on the court, though, and we all hold RBG in the Light for at least another two years.

  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.

A+ Duh.

  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.

Another A+, but what did anyone expect?  Trump’s half-assed attempts to restrain trade with Cuba, along with Marco Rubio doing his yapping perrito act, only make it more ironic when it’s the administration’s policy to cozy up to dictators like Putin and the Saudis.  If Trump owned a hotel in Havana he’d be down there in a second sucking up to the regime with video to prove it.

  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.

I’ll take a B on this since I didn’t factor in tariffs and the trade war(s) he’s launched that led to wild uncertainty in the markets, not to mention Trump’s bashing of the Fed chair that he appointed and told him to do what he’s doing.

  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.

I get an A on this because it has and they are.

  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.

Sadly, a very predictable A on that.

  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)

I get a B on this because it was rather easy to spot and I’m already getting begging e-mails from Ms. Harris.

  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.

This was a great year for my playwriting with a lot of new friends and opportunities out there and more to come in 2019 (see below).

  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.

Yep.  I’ve already blocked them out.

Okay, on to the predictions.

  • Barring natural causes or intervention from an outside force, Trump will still be in office on December 31, 2019.  There is no way he will leave voluntarily and even with the House of Representatives in Democratic control and articles of impeachment being drafted they will not get to the Senate floor because the Republicans are either too afraid to rile up the base or they’re too enamored of their own grip on power to care about the government being headed by a poor imitation of a tin-pot banana republic authoritarian douche-canoe.
  • The Mueller Report will be released to Congress and even though it’s supposed to be classified it will be leaked with great fanfare and pundit predictions of the end of the Trump administration with calls for frog-marching him and his minions out of the West Wing.  Despite that, see above.
  • There will be no wall.  There never will be.  Immigration will still be a triggering issue as even more refugees die in U.S. custody.
  • There will be no meaningful changes to gun laws even if the NRA goes broke.  There will be more mass shootings, thoughts and prayers will be offered, and we’ll be told yet again that now is not the time to talk about it.
  • Obamacare will survive its latest challenge because the ruling by the judge in Texas declaring the entire law unconstitutional will be tossed and turned into a case study in law schools everywhere on the topic of exasperatingly stupid reasoning.
  • Roe vs. Wade will still stand.
  • With the Democrats in control of the House, the government will be in permanent gridlock even after they work out some sort of deal to end the current shutdown over the mythological wall.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will become the Willie Horton for the GOP base and blamed for everything from budget deficits to the toast falling butter-side down.
  • We will have a pretty good idea who the Democratic front-runner will be in 2020.  I think Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s chances are still good (she announced her exploratory committee as I was writing this), as are Sen. Kamala Harris’s, and don’t count out Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, but who knew that Beto O’Rourke, a charismatic loser in the Texas senate race, would raise a lot of hopes?  That said, fifteen years ago when I started this blog, Howard Dean looked like the guy who was going to beat George W. Bush.
  • The economy will continue with its wild gyrations, pretty much following the gyrations of the mood of Trump and his thumb-driven Twitter-fed economic exhortations.  The tax cuts and the tariffs will land on the backs of the people who provide the income to the government and the deficit will soon be out there beyond the Tesla in outer space.  But unlike that Martian-bound convertible, the economy will come crashing back to Earth (probably about the time I retire in August) and Trump will blame everyone else.
  • There will be a natural event that will convince even skeptics that climate change and sea level rise is real and happening.  Unfortunately, nothing will be done about it even if lots of lives are lost because [spoiler alert] nothing ever is done.
  • I’m going out on a limb here with foreign affairs predictions, but I have a feeling that Brexit will end up in the dustbin of history.
  • Personally, this will be a transition year.  My retirement from Miami-Dade County Public Schools occurs officially on August 31, 2019, and I’m already actively looking for something both meaningful and income-producing to do after that.  (E-mail me for a copy of my resume; nothing ventured, nothing sprained.)  My play “Can’t Live Without You” opens at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida, for a two-week run on March 30, and I’m planning on returning to the William Inge Theatre Festival for the 28th time, either with a play or most assuredly with a scholarly paper.  I have my bid in for a variety of other theatre events and productions; I think I’m getting the hang of this playwriting thing.
  • I will do this again next year.  I hope.  As Bobby says, “Hope is my greatest weakness.”

Okay, your turn.  Meanwhile, I wish continued good health and a long life to all of you and hope you make it through 2019 none the worse for wear.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday Reading

A Small, Sure Sign of Hope — Jelani Cobb in The New Yorker on how Lucy McBath’s win in the Georgia 6th is a harbinger.

Three years ago, HBO aired a documentary called “3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets,” which examined the tortured aftermath of the death of Jordan Davis, a seventeen-year-old boy who was shot as he sat in an S.U.V. parked at a Florida gas station. At the start of the film, you see Lucy McBath, Davis’s mother, sitting at a table, depleted, telling how she came to name her son after the Biblical River Jordan. “I wanted to name him something that would symbolize the crossing over and a new beginning,” she says. Later, you see a more resolute McBath seated in a Senate hearing room with Sybrina Fulton—whose son Trayvon Martin was also shot to death at the age of seventeen—giving testimony about Stand Your Ground laws and their impact on her son’s death.

The two moments are as apt an encapsulation as you’ll find of the significance of McBath’s victory last week in the race for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, situated just north of Atlanta. McBath, a Democrat who ran on a platform of growing the economy, funding education, and addressing climate change, was inescapably wed in the public’s mind to the issue of gun reform. Her despair and her resolve are equal parts of her political identity. She narrowly defeated the Republican incumbent, Karen Handel, in a race that remained somewhat low-profile among the prognostications about which districts the Democrats might flip in the midterms. Last year, the Democrat Jon Ossoff gained national attention in his bid to win the seat, which opened after the Republican Tom Price left it for what turned out to be a short stint as the Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump Administration. Ossoff lost to Handel in a runoff, by less than four percentage points, with 48.1 per cent of the vote. A measure of the skepticism about McBath’s chances could be seen in the fact that, before last Tuesday, the race was being referred to in some quarters as the “Ossoff race without Ossoff.”

McBath’s victory reflects several trends: the inroads that Democrats are making in Republican suburban districts that Trump’s tax cuts and border-fearmongering were supposed to secure, the record number of women elected to public office in the face of the mainline misogyny that is a feature of the Trump era, and the fading ability of gun-rights appeals to safeguard Republican districts. It is also worth noting that nine new African-American candidates were elected to Congress in the midterms—all of them Democrats, five of them women—and that, once all the outstanding races are called, will likely bring the ranks of the Congressional Black Caucus to a record fifty-six members. All but two of them are in the House, and the majority of those members won election in majority-minority districts. The nine incoming representatives, however, were all elected in largely white districts—a fact that may complicate the calculations of the caucus and the voting behavior of its members. McBath will be the first African-American to represent her district.

There are other, subtler dynamics at play in the Georgia Sixth results. The fight over Georgia’s gubernatorial race, between the Democrat Stacey Abrams and the Republican Brian Kemp, who, until last week, served as Georgia’s secretary of state, focussed on Kemp’s record of voter-roll purges and voter suppression. Many elections come down to turnout; in Georgia, the question was how many potential voters would be turned away. Kemp, however, was just following a playbook pioneered by Handel, who preceded him as secretary of state, serving from 2007 to 2010. Early in the 2008 Presidential campaign, when it was optimistically suggested that Barack Obama’s candidacy might put Georgia in play for the Democrats, Handel engineered a purge in which some four thousand eligible voters were flagged for removal for being “non-citizens.” (At the time, I was teaching at Spelman College, and this happened to one of my students. It took, in part, the intervention of a local CNN station to get her registered; a panel of federal judges overturned Handel’s order.) The gerrymandered redistricting in the Republican-controlled state legislature was also intended to thwart Democrats.

In a sense, the race in Georgia’s Sixth District was a small-scale version of the governor’s race. McBath’s results—she won 50.5 per cent of the vote—are particularly notable, given that black voters make up roughly a third of the electorate in the state but only thirteen per cent in the district. Ossoff ran in 2017 on a platform that was similar to McBath’s on issues such as climate change, the economy, and Medicaid. Ossoff also campaigned against subsidies that made it easier for foreign airlines to compete in the United States, recognizing that Delta Air Lines is headquartered in Atlanta, and that voters employed at the nearby Hartsfield-Jackson airport were affected by the issue. (McBath worked for Delta for thirty years.) The 2017 race became the most expensive House contest ever, costing some fifty-five million dollars. McBath’s campaign spent $1.2 million, but she improved on Ossoff’s margin by more than two points.

There are a number of ways to look at this outcome. The district, despite its history as a home of G.O.P. stalwarts—it was Newt Gingrich’s seat for twenty years—was trending toward the Democrats. In 2000, George W. Bush beat Al Gore by thirty-six points there. In 2012, Mitt Romney’s margin of victory was twenty-three points. In 2016, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by just a single point. It is sixteen months further into the Trump era than when Ossoff ran, and it is entirely possible that the President has worn out the grace period that moderate voters were inclined to give him last year. But, crucially, McBath represents a movement. Her son was shot by a white man named Michael Dunn, following a dispute over playing loud music, on November 23, 2012. Trayvon Martin had been shot nine months earlier, as he walked, unarmed, through a gated community where he was staying. Both deaths occurred in Florida and became central to the debate over the so-called Stand Your Ground gun laws in that state. George Zimmerman was acquitted in Martin’s death; Dunn, in a second trial, was sentenced to life without parole. The film “3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets” follows McBath and her ex-husband, Ron Davis, as they pursued justice for their son over two trials. (They requested that the prosecutors not seek the death penalty.)

When I interviewed them after a screening of the film, at the Schomburg Center, in Harlem, McBath emphasized the extent to which she had channelled her sorrow over her son’s death into action with the groups Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. McBath served as the national spokesperson for both organizations and testified on the dangers of Stand Your Ground laws before the Florida, Georgia, and Nevada state legislatures. In 2016, McBath, with Sybrina Fulton and seven other women who had lost children, most of them to gun violence, appeared in support of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention, under the banner of the Mothers of the Movement. McBath’s campaign Web site carefully noted that she supports “2nd Amendment rights of Georgians,” but she also promised to “push for implementing background checks for all firearm purchases; raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21 years of age; working to defeat conceal carry reciprocity measures; and introducing legislation to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and other criminals.”

McBath was elected nine months after seventeen people were shot to death at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, and a little more than a week after eleven people were killed in the Tree of Life synagogue, in Pittsburgh, and two were murdered in a Kentucky supermarket. She was also elected almost exactly six years after her own son died. The plague of gun violence and the intransigence of the gun lobby in the face of it have often seemed like an unbreakable stalemate. McBath’s election is a small, sure sign of hope.

Speaking of Oz — Julia Baird in the New York Times on how hard it is to speak Australian.

SYDNEY, Australia — Running out of gas is one of the most foolish things you can do, but I was guilty of it several times when I was a lean-living university student. That changed, though, when Hugh Jackman was hired as the attendant at my local gas station. He was older than me, clean-cut and hot, an improbably nice star of local high school musicals who was known to date unassuming women. I tried not to stumble over my feet — or, say, into his arms — as he greeted me with a big grin when my Volkswagen Beetle sputtered in: “Jules!”

That year, I never ran out of gas.

Today, Mr. Jackman, the star of films like “Wolverine” and “Les Misérables,” is widely adored in Australia, even by those who never saw him behind a cash register. He holds a special place in Australian hearts because international success has not made him pretentious. Most crucially, his accent is still intact.

Australians have a strong, often irrational suspicion of people who leave the country, succeed and change. Even Paul Hogan, the comedian and actor who played that most iconic Australian caricature, Crocodile Dundee, belied his working-class image after he found global stardom and dumped his wife for his more glamorous — and American — co-star. Occasional grumbling is heard about the model Elle Macpherson or the singer Kylie Minogue, both of whom have acquired “global” accents.

By shifting accents, Australian expatriates are seen to be shifting class and status, indicating a sense of superiority to those who remain in Australia. The quickly acquired faux-British accent in particular has been associated with pretension, or a snootiness that reveals desperation to cover a humble antipodean past, to disown a sunburned, bikini-clad family. Part of our fight against a long-held cultural cringe has been the insistence that we do not need to erase our accents to, say, host a TV show or radio program.

The problem is, sometimes we do need to adapt the way we speak. When I moved to Manhattan in 2006 to work at a newsmagazine, my accent became a hurdle. “We are cursed by a common language,” my editor was fond of telling me, a line he ascribed to some British statesman, who doubtless looked down his pince-nez at his convict-descended cousins. After he told me that he could not understand 80 percent of what I was saying, I began to emphasize my R’s and slow my speech.

We Australians are used to people being rude about the way we talk. Winston Churchill was particularly cruel about our accent. He described it as “the most brutal maltreatment that has ever been inflicted on the mother-tongue of the great English-speaking nations.” At best it’s called cute; at worst it’s dismissed as incomprehensible.

But given that it is so hard to mimic, perhaps we should be proud of its uniqueness.

What Americans — and, to a lesser extent, the British — fail to recognize is that as much as they mock us, they are almost constitutionally incapable of imitating the Australian accent, no matter how often they repeat “G’day, mate!” Even the great Meryl Streep failed to capture it when she portrayed Lindy Chamberlain in the 1988 movie “Evil Angels,” about a woman whose baby is killed in the Australian outback. The line remains famous for its melodrama — “The dingo’s got my bay-bee!” — but in Australia it’s also famous as a reminder that even Hollywood’s greatest stars cannot master our way of speaking.

Foreign media’s inability to capture how Australians really talk has been back in the news recently, thanks to the new season of the American sitcom “The Good Place,” part of which takes place in Sydney. On social media and in newspapers, Australians are baffled — if not outraged — by hearing American actors mock and mangle the way we speak. This has revived a long-held resentment about the fact that we so often appear as caricatures, fools or comic figures onscreen, with failed attempts to capture our accents that make us seem like bigger idiots.

Why are we so hard to imitate? Maybe part of it is that there’s something deeply laid back about the Australian accent. One theory suggests that this is because of our habitat: Given the swarms of flies buzzing around the outback, the legend goes, we developed a pattern of speech that would involve only opening our mouths slightly for fear of letting in insects. That’s probably not true, but we can conduct entire conversations while barely moving our lips.

In recent years, another startling theory emerged: Drunken convicts are to blame. Dean Frenkel, a lecturer in public speaking and communications at Victoria University in Melbourne, wrote in 2015: “Our forefathers regularly got drunk together and through their frequent interactions unknowingly added an alcoholic slur to our national speech patterns. For the past two centuries, from generation to generation, drunken Aussie-speak continues to be taught by sober parents to their children.” A horde of linguists dismissed this, but the theory, predictably, got coverage around the world — it’s what people want to think about Australia.

Professor Frenkel is right that our speech is lazy. He thinks we use only two-thirds of our articulator muscles. We replace T with D (“impordant”) and drop I’s (Austraya) or make them into oi’s (roight!). But we also add vowels in surprising places (future becomes fee-yu-cha).

But the people best placed to mock Australian accents are Australians. Self-parody is a national sport. On Twitter, we lampoon our country by calling it #Straya. We shorten “Good on you” to “onya” and we stretch out the greeting “mate” to “maaaaaaaate,” the length depending on the depth of affection and time of day. These kinds of joyous subtleties are lost on outsiders, though. And that’s what American television and movie producers need to understand. Next time, hire Australian actors to do Australian accents. Like, say, my mate Wolverine.

Doonesbury — Phoning it in.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Does It Really Matter?

Another mass shooting, another day of endless video loops from helicopters and long shots of police cars and emergency vehicles lined up, and another ceaseless round of people on cable TV trying to come up with new ways of saying they have no new information but here’s the same clip over again.

This time it’s the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Maryland.  This time it’s five journalists dead at the hands of a man with a shotgun.  This time he’s alive and in custody, and this time the authorities are telling us that he had a grudge against the paper: he lost a defamation suit against it in 2015.

Without diminishing the horrific act itself and the loss of life, let me ask a simple question: does it really matter what the shooter’s motive was?  Does knowing why he did it somehow lessen the pain or amplify it?  We’re always asking “Why?” but the answer, even if we know it, doesn’t make any difference to the dead, and in comparison to the result, it often seems trivial or even insulting to the memories of the lost to wonder why.  The result is endless speculation and, like the live TV coverage, an endless loop of non-information.

But in this time of polarization, of meaningless attempts to control the madness of guns and death through legislation or “thoughts and prayers,” there is one simple reason why a man with a gun can walk into a newspaper office, or a mall, or a school, or a movie theatre, or a church, or a church basement, and in less time than it takes to write it, kill or wound people and scar the rest of us: Because he can.  What more do you really need to know than that?

Monday, May 21, 2018

Never Too Many

According to the defenders of the faith, it’s not the guns that cause the shootings in schools and other places.  It’s too many abortions, too many video games, too many gay people, too many doors, too much Ritalin, and too many soap suds clogging your machine.

But it’s never too many guns.  No, that’s not the problem.  In fact, according to them, we need more guns, not fewer.  Guns for teachers, guns for school police, guns for the crossing guards, guns for the lunch ladies.  So until the smell of cordite and cosmoline overtakes pencil shavings and gym socks, schools will never be safe.

It’s not that we have too many guns in this country.  It’s that we have too many gun nuts.

Friday, May 18, 2018

“What Do You Say Now?”

Via NBC.

One thousand, two hundred miles away from the mass shooting unfolding at Santa Fe High School in Texas, students in Parkland, Florida, were struggling to process the footage they watched Friday.

In teacher Jeff Foster’s AP Government class, what was supposed to be a celebration of the seniors last day at school quickly turned into a painful reminder of their own horrific experiences.

“When I was watching the news on my computer, I made the conscious decision to put it on the big screen and plug in the audio,” Foster told NBC News after the Texas shooting. “Everybody stopped what they were doing and watched it.

“The students all seemed to be in disbelief and angry. Watching them, you could see, looking into the kids’ eyes, you could see them remembering when they had cameras in their own faces three months ago.”

[…]

“You go from saying, ‘We won’t let this happen ever again,’ and then this happens,” said Foster, whose 11-year-old and 6-year-old daughters reluctantly came to visit his school on Friday for the first time since the Feb. 14 mass shooting and were jarred by what they were seeing on the television news.

“What do you say now?”

You don’t say “my thoughts and prayers are with you” because that doesn’t mean anything.  You don’t say “now is not the time to talk about gun control” because now is exactly the time.  You don’t say “arm the teachers” because that’s stupid and impractical beyond repair.

I don’t know what to say.  Do you?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Gun For Hire

Naming Oliver North as the president of the NRA is basically like naming Keith Richards as the head of Pfizer.

Charlie Pierce:

The jokes, they write themselves. A trade association for the arms industry now will be headed by the most famous arms-trafficker in American history. An organization that wears patriotism as though it were the masque of the Red Death will be headed by a guy who sold missiles to one of the world’s leading sponsors of terrorism. An organization that claims to represent the best in American values will now be headed by a guy who sold out a beloved conservative icon so he could keep his felonious hindquarters out of jail, and who was roundly condemned by that icon’s iconic wife.

If it wasn’t for George H.W. Bush, he’d be making gravel at Leavenworth and telling his fellow inmates that selling missiles to Iran was just what America needed.

Now you know why I spend my off-hours writing fiction.  I’m doing my level best not to find a reason to drink again.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sunday Reading

Beyond Parkland — Elaine Godfrey in The Atlantic on the students marching yesterday to raise awareness of gun violence beyond the mass shootings.

Hundreds of thousands of people rallied in Washington, D.C. on Saturday to express outrage at recent mass shootings in American schools, and to push Congress to enact stricter gun laws. But for many students in the U.S.—and especially students of color—gun violence at school isn’t the only problem. Rather, it’s the violence they face regularly in their homes and yards, in their neighborhoods and communities.

There hasn’t yet been a worldwide march focused on that kind of violence—so they made this one their own.

“I came all the way from Chicago to help change the violence that’s going on with school shootings,” said 16-year-old Kaiseona Lockhart. “And to let everyone know that there’s violence in Chicago.” Lockhart, who lives in Englewood, on Chicago’s south side, recently lost an uncle to gun violence. She’s part of a violence-prevention youth group affiliated with St. Sabina Church. “They trying to put us against each other. They’re trying to say that mass shootings and shootings, they don’t connect, but in reality, they both happen by a gun. We both want to change that.”

In the past month, the gun-control movement has found its voice in a ragtag group of eloquent, Twitter-savvy teenagers from suburban Florida. They survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this past Valentine’s Day that killed 17 of their peers and teachers and have since appeared on countless cable-news segments and magazine covers calling for stricter gun legislation.

Each of the recent mass shootings in the U.S. have followed a similar pattern—after the killings, there’s a nationwide pang of sadness, a hot flash of anger; but then, after several days of thoughts and prayer and Facebook debates, the conversation dies down. This one, though, seems to have had more staying power. That has a lot to do with the Parkland students themselves. “They’re photogenic and they’re loved by the media. They have a real message,” said David Hemenway, an economist and a professor of health policy at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, in an interview on Friday. “They were born in the Columbine-era, so their whole lives…they have to be trained to protect themselves against mass-killings. It’s crazy.”

But mass shootings, we know by now, are only a small fraction of total gun deaths in the United States. Roughly 1,077 people have been killed in mass shootings since 1966—176 of them children and teenagers. In 2017 alone, Chicago had nearly 3,000 shooting incidents, and 3,457 shooting victims. Between 2006 and 2015, more than 14,500 people were shot in Philadelphia, a rate of one shooting every six hours. About 20 percent of firearm homicides occur in the country’s 25 largest cities. And within cities, the Centers for Disease Control found that black Americans are, on average, eight times more likely to be killed by guns than white Americans.

Black Lives Matter and other groups have been advocating for stricter gun laws similar to those the marchers are demanding for years. But one of the reasons the march has gotten so much attention has to do with where mass shootings typically take place. “The massacre gives the opportunity to do something about this,” Hemenway said, adding, “I think the power structure is mostly white, and when white people are killed, it gets a little more attention.”

Jamin Cash, a 15-year-old at Parkway Center City Middle College in Philadelphia, told me he thinks the attention mass shootings receives is frustrating. “Not to sound insensitive, but it’s unfair that we have to go through this every day, and then something that happens just once [in] a while gets so much attention,” he said, sighing. “But we came.” Cash and several others from his school came to the march clad in matching white t-shirts with the words “Parkway for Parkland” emblazoned on the front above a red heart. On the back of the shirts were the results of a survey his teacher, Maureen Boland, had given to him and his 120 classmates. “56% have witnessed a shooting,” one line read. “60% have lost a blood relative to gun violence. 63% regularly worry about their safety because of guns.”

Cash told me that he’s actually been shot at more than once in his neighborhood. His classmate, Courtney Daniels, another 15 year old, said she recently had a close family friend fatally shot. “I’m hoping people notice that we need to be heard too, that we’re going through the same struggles those Parkland students went through,” Daniels told me. “Youth in general, not just those kids.”

In just one month since the Parkland shooting, the gun control movement has made some small gains: The Florida state legislature passed new firearm regulations, and the federal spending bill signed by President Trump on Friday contains modest steps toward tightening the nation’s gun laws, including the Fix NICS Act, which  strengthens the background-check system for gun purchases. Part of the package also includes a report clarifying that the CDC can conduct research on gun violence reversing a 22-year-old prohibition.

The March for Our Lives organizers, though, are pushing for bigger changes. They want elected officials to pass a federal ban the sale of so-called “assault weapons” like the AR-15s used in recent mass shootings in Parkland and Las Vegas, and prohibit the sale of high-capacity magazines. While legislation like that might have prevented some mass shootings, those two proposals wouldn’t necessarily be top priority for reducing gun violence in urban areas, like Chicago or Philadelphia. After all, Cook County already has a ban assault weapons; semi-automatic handguns are the kind of weapon most commonly used in shootings.

The final item on the march organizers’ petition, though, could potentially reduce gun violence substantially. The organizers want legislators to require anyone purchasing a gun privately—through an individual exchange or a gunshow—to undergo a background check. Because so many guns are purchased privately by individuals and brought into Chicago from places with more lax gun laws like Indiana, experts say universal background checks could actually make a difference in reducing gun violence in cities. “This is an opportunity to get laws which can help everybody,” Hemenway said. “This is not, ‘Oh, let’s just try to protect white kids in white high schools and white areas.’ No, this provides the opportunity to really do something, to try to reduce gun trafficking.”

I watched the march on a jumbotron with Cash, Daniels, and the students from Philly under a cluster of magnolia trees near the rally site. One of the students, another ninth-grader named Brandon Palmer, had told me earlier about how his mother was recently held at gunpoint at the local bank where she works. “In our neighborhoods, this is our daily life,” he explained, his white Parkway for Parkland t-shirt tied around his head like Rambo. Palmer told me he was angry that it took a shooting like Parkland to get people energized about gun violence.

But when I asked if he was excited to be there, his face broke into a grin. “I feel like this is gonna be in the history books in the next couple years,” he said. “The future generations are gonna be learning about this.”

The Tragedy of Hubert Humphrey — Michael Brenes in The New York Times on what America would look like if Humphrey had won in 1968.

On Feb. 17, 1965, Vice President Hubert Humphrey sent President Lyndon B. Johnson a memorandum stating the United States must begin an exit strategy in Vietnam: “It is always hard to cut losses. But the Johnson administration is in a stronger position to do so now that any administration in this century.” Johnson had trounced Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election — and thus, no longer had to prove he was tough on Communism — and the conflict had not developed into a full-blown war. “Nineteen sixty-five is the year of minimum political risk,” Humphrey wrote.

Humphrey gave Johnson the opportunity to change the course of history: By pulling out of Vietnam, he could have avoided opposition from his own party and seeing his vision for the Great Society jeopardized by a foreign war and his aspirations for nuclear disarmament between the Soviet Union and the United States thwarted.

Johnson ignored Humphrey’s advice. In fact, he was described as infuriated with the vice president; the day after receiving the memo, Johnson told his national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, that Humphrey should “stay out of the peacekeeping and negotiating field” on Vietnam.

The president went further, and more or less banned him from the Oval Office for the remainder of 1965. Humphrey lost his responsibilities in the administration on civil rights — the subject that elevated him to the Senate in 1948, when he told the Democrats at their national convention they needed to “get out of the shadow of states’ rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.”

Humphrey, who had long been the most prominent and productive liberal in the Senate — and the Democrat (other than Johnson) most responsible for the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, seemingly vanished from the public eye overnight, In August 1965, the comedian and musician Tom Lehrer sang to a raucous audience, “Whatever Became of You, Hubert?”:

Whatever became of you, Hubert?
We miss you, so tell us, please:
Are you sad? Are you cross?
Are you gathering moss
While you wait for the boss to sneeze?

Vietnam destined Humphrey to a miserable four years as Johnson’s vice president. For his dissent against the war (his “disloyalty”), Humphrey suffered the brunt of Johnson’s unpredictable wrath. Humphrey’s advisers felt Johnson’s intimidating, dismissive treatment was the reason Humphrey reversed his position on Vietnam a year later: why he defended the war as a necessary fight against Communism that provided jobs, hope and prosperity to suffering Vietnamese. It was his only way back into his boss’s good graces.

Humphrey’s support for the war condemned him in history as a supporting player in the tragedy of Vietnam. The war alienated Humphrey from liberals, civil rights activists and young Americans — the same people who, for decades, had loved Humphrey for his support of racial justice, full employment and the labor movement — and ultimately cost him the presidency in 1968. Voters thought Humphrey meant continued war, while Richard Nixon promised “an honorable end to the war in Vietnam.”

But given what we now know the history of the Vietnam War after 1968, Hubert Humphrey — both his life and political career — deserves re-examination. Humphrey forces us to consider the history that might have been: the possibility of ending the Vietnam War before 1973, an expansion of the Great Society in the 1970s, a different America. Without Vietnam (and his being Johnson’s vice president), Humphrey might have won in 1968. The country — and the world — would be drastically different.

Hubert Humphrey arrived in the Senate in 1949 as a liberal in an illiberal institution. Southerners held the reins of power in Congress, and they hated Humphrey for his opposition to Jim Crow segregation and “that speech” at the Democratic National Convention.

While he was determined in his quest for social justice, his legislation often stalled in committee. He gravitated toward the one man who could help him: Lyndon Johnson. By 1954, Johnson needed Humphrey too — Johnson had become Senate majority leader and wanted liberals to fall behind his leadership; Johnson concluded Humphrey was the brightest and most pragmatic of them. It was a devil’s bargain: Johnson helped Humphrey with his relationships with Southerners, and Humphrey vowed to keep the liberals in line.

The partnership between Johnson and Humphrey was as close as that of two antagonists could be. When Johnson became president in November 1963, Humphrey ensured that the Civil Rights Act overcame the Senate filibuster the following summer. Johnson recognized Humphrey’s talents as a legislator and orator (“There are so many ways I envy you,” Johnson said in 1951), and chose Humphrey as his vice president in 1964 — but not before asking Humphrey for his backing (“unswerving loyalty,” as Humphrey recalled) on all his decisions. When Mississippi civil rights activists tried to force the Democratic Party to recognize them over the state’s official, segregationist delegation at the 1964 national convention, it was Humphrey who, on Johnson’s orders, made them back down.

Once in office, Humphrey tried to keep his commitment to Johnson, but on Vietnam his convictions conflicted with his promises. Humphrey had been suspicious of American involvement in Vietnam since the mid-1950s, but became more incredulous of the war’s success after meeting with the veteran intelligence officer Edward Lansdale in 1964, who argued that a political solution to the war was possible. Humphrey sent several memos to Johnson in 1964 implying Johnson should pull back on the conflict, and that he meet with Lansdale. Johnson dismissed each one.

Then, on Feb. 7, 1965, American forces were attacked at Pleiku and nine Americans were killed. Bundy, the national security adviser, sent panicked cables to Johnson demanding the United States retaliate. When Johnson asked Humphrey his thoughts on bombing North Vietnam, Humphrey responded, “Mr. President, I don’t think we should.” Johnson ordered the bombing anyway. Then Humphrey wrote his Feb. 17 memo, and his fate was sealed for 1965.

But Johnson gave Humphrey one last chance to prove his loyalty, sending him to South Vietnam in February 1966 (almost one year to the date of his memo). On that trip, after meeting with Gen. William Westmoreland, American and Vietnamese soldiers, and South Vietnamese civilians, Humphrey convinced himself of the truth he wanted to believe: Vietnam was winnable; it was a war for democracy; it represented a global mission for peace and prosperity.

Humphrey’s adviser Thomas Hughes recalled that Humphrey returned from Vietnam “saying things that were crazy” about the virtues of the war. In a meeting of the National Security Council in June 1966, Humphrey said, “I have come around reluctantly to accepting the wider bombing program.”

For two years, Humphrey seemed to genuinely believe that Vietnam was a necessary war, that it represented a fight against global poverty and Communist tyranny. Humphrey convinced Johnson he believed this, that he had changed, and was welcomed back into Johnson’s good graces. (After Humphrey encouraged Johnson’s staff members to send the president his speeches supporting the war, Humphrey was admitted to the president’s luncheons on Vietnam.)

But as he promoted the war to the American people (his main task after 1966), Humphrey was increasingly taunted by the antiwar movement. When Humphrey emerged as the Democratic candidate in 1968 — after the assassination of Robert Kennedy and the upheaval at the Democratic National Convention — “Dump the Hump” became a common motto. Signs with slogans such as “Killer of Babies” and “Humphrey’s Johnson’s War Salesman” regularly greeted him on the campaign trail.

The protests agonized Humphrey. “All I had ever been as a liberal spokesman seemed lost, all that I had accomplished in significant programs was ignored. I felt robbed of my personal history,” he recalled.

On Sept. 30, 1968, Humphrey had enough of Johnson and his war, and in a speech in Salt Lake City he demanded a halt to the bombing. Humphrey called Johnson to warn him of the speech hours before. Johnson reacted coldly: “I take it you are not asking for my advice. You’re going to give the speech anyway.” Johnson then shunned Humphrey for the remainder of 1968 — indeed, the question remains whether Johnson favored Richard Nixon over Humphrey in the election, and whether Johnson’s hatred of Humphrey led to his loss.

But what if Humphrey had not been Johnson’s vice president — what if Humphrey remained in the Senate? What if Eugene McCarthy received the vice-presidential nomination in 1964 as he wanted? McCarthy would have become Humphrey: forced to defend America’s policy in Vietnam, and painted as a patsy for Johnson’s War. Humphrey would be the skeptic on Vietnam, and eventual vociferous critic — but also more palatable to the party establishment than McCarthy ever was. Divisions within the party would be united under a Humphrey candidacy in 1968, the wounds Vietnam opened among “New Democrats” healed by a Cold War liberal.

Humphrey could have won in 1968 under these circumstances. Would Humphrey have faced the same pressure as Nixon to end the war with “peace through honor?” Most likely, and certainly during his first term. But Humphrey would have immediately searched for a political solution to the war — for the conflict to end peacefully, and without further military commitment. Needless to say, he also would have continued to expand the Great Society, and not begin its long demolition, as Nixon did.

For these reasons, Humphrey represents the possibilities for a different history for the United States after 1968, particularly for Democrats looking today to rebuild their party and understand the mistakes of the past. Vietnam turned America’s leading liberal into a personification of liberalism’s failures. This is the tragedy of Hubert Humphrey and his Vietnam War — one that shapes Americans today.

Banned From Forbes: Why White Evangelicalism Is So Cruel — By Chris Ladd.

*This was originally posted to Forbes on Sunday, Mar 11. Forbes took it down today. This is the explanation I received from the editor. Here is the original article in full:

Robert Jeffress, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and an avid supporter of Donald Trump, earned headlines this week for his defense of the president’s adultery with a porn star. Regarding the affair and subsequent financial payments, Jeffress explained, “Even if it’s true, it doesn’t matter.”

Such a casual attitude toward adultery and prostitution might seem odd from a guy who blamed 9/11 on America’s sinfulness. However, seen through the lens of white evangelicals’ real priorities, Jeffress’ disinterest in Trump’s sordid lifestyle makes sense. Religion is inseparable from culture, and culture is inseparable from history. Modern, white evangelicalism emerged from the interplay between race and religion in the slave states. What today we call “evangelical Christianity,” is the product of centuries of conditioning, in which religious practices were adapted to nurture a slave economy. The calloused insensitivity of modern white evangelicals was shaped by the economic and cultural priorities that forged their theology over centuries.

Many Christian movements take the title “evangelical,” including many African-American denominations. However, evangelicalism today has been coopted as a preferred description for Christians who were looking to shed an older, largely discredited title: Fundamentalist. A quick glance at a map showing concentrations of adherents and weekly church attendance reveals the evangelical movement’s center of gravity in the Old South. And among those evangelical churches, one denomination remains by far the leader in membership, theological pull, and political influence.

There is still today a Southern Baptist Church. More than a century and a half after the Civil War, and decades after the Methodists and Presbyterians reunited with their Yankee neighbors, America’s most powerful evangelical denomination remains defined, right down to the name over the door, by an 1845 split over slavery.

Southern denominations faced enormous social and political pressure from plantation owners. Public expressions of dissent on the subject of slavery in the South were not merely outlawed, they were a death sentence. Baptist ministers who rejected slavery, like South Carolina’s William Henry Brisbane, were forced to flee to the North. Otherwise, they would end up like Methodist minister Anthony Bewley, who was lynched in Texas in 1860, his bones left exposed at local store to be played with by children. Whiteness offered protection from many of the South’s cruelties, but that protection stopped at the subject of race. No one who dared speak truth to power on the subject of slavery, or later Jim Crow, could expect protection.

Generation after generation, Southern pastors adapted their theology to thrive under a terrorist state. Principled critics were exiled or murdered, leaving voices of dissent few and scattered. Southern Christianity evolved in strange directions under ever-increasing isolation. Preachers learned to tailor their message to protect themselves. If all you knew about Christianity came from a close reading of the New Testament, you’d expect that Christians would be hostile to wealth, emphatic in protection of justice, sympathetic to the point of personal pain toward the sick, persecuted and the migrant, and almost socialist in their economic practices. None of these consistent Christian themes served the interests of slave owners, so pastors could either abandon them, obscure them, or flee.

What developed in the South was a theology carefully tailored to meet the needs of a slave state. Biblical emphasis on social justice was rendered miraculously invisible. A book constructed around the central metaphor of slaves finding their freedom was reinterpreted. Messages which might have questioned the inherent superiority of the white race, constrained the authority of property owners, or inspired some interest in the poor or less fortunate could not be taught from a pulpit. Any Christian suggestion of social justice was carefully and safely relegated to “the sweet by and by” where all would be made right at no cost to white worshippers. In the forge of slavery and Jim Crow, a Christian message of courage, love, compassion, and service to others was burned away.

Stripped of its compassion and integrity, little remained of the Christian message. What survived was a perverse emphasis on sexual purity as the sole expression of righteousness, along with a creepy obsession with the unquestionable sexual authority of white men. In a culture where race defined one’s claim to basic humanity, women took on a special religious interest. Christianity’s historic emphasis on sexual purity as a form of ascetic self-denial was transformed into an obsession with women and sex. For Southerners, righteousness had little meaning beyond sex, and sexual mores had far less importance for men than for women. Guarding women’s sexual purity meant guarding the purity of the white race. There was no higher moral demand.

Changes brought by the Civil War only heightened the need to protect white racial superiority. Churches were the lynchpin of Jim Crow. By the time the Civil Rights movement gained force in the South, Dallas’ First Baptist Church, where Jeffress is the pastor today, was a bulwark of segregation and white supremacy. As the wider culture nationally has struggled to free itself from the burdens of racism, white evangelicals have fought this development while the violence escalated. What happened to ministers who resisted slavery happened again to those who resisted segregation. White Episcopal Seminary student, Jonathan Daniels, went to Alabama in 1965 to support voting rights protests. After being released from jail, he was murdered by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, who was acquitted by a jury. Dozens of white activists joined the innumerable black Americans murdered fighting for civil rights in the 60’s, but very few of them were Southern.

White Evangelical Christians opposed desegregation tooth and nail. Where pressed, they made cheap, cosmetic compromises, like Billy Graham’s concession to allow black worshipers at his crusades. Graham never made any difficult statements on race, never appeared on stage with his “black friend” Martin Luther King after 1957, and he never marched with King. When King delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech,” Graham responded with this passive-aggressive gem of Southern theology, “Only when Christ comes again will the little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little black children.” For white Southern evangelicals, justice and compassion belong only to the dead.

Churches like First Baptist in Dallas did not become stalwart defenders of segregation by accident. Like the wider white evangelical movement, it was then and remains today an obstacle to Christian notions of social justice thanks to a long, dismal heritage. There is no changing the white evangelical movement without a wholesale reconsideration of their theology. No sign of such a reckoning is apparent.

Those waiting to see the bottom of white evangelical cruelty have little source of optimism. Men like Pastor Jeffress can dismiss Trump’s racist abuses as easily as they dismiss his fondness for porn stars. When asked about Trump’s treatment of immigrants, Jeffress shared these comments:

Solving DACA without strengthening borders ignores the teachings of the Bible. In fact, Christians who support open borders, or blanket amnesty, are cherry-picking Scriptures to suit their own agendas.

For those unfamiliar with Christian scriptures, it might helpful to point out what Jesus reportedly said about this subject, and about the wider question of our compassion for the poor and the suffering:

Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.

What did Jesus say about abortion, the favorite subject of Jeffress and the rest of the evangelical movement? Nothing. What does the Bible say about abortion, a practice as old as civilization? Nothing. Not one word. The Bible’s exhortations to compassion for immigrants and the poor stretch long enough to comprise a sizeable book of their own, but no matter. White evangelicals will not let their political ambitions be constrained by something as pliable as scripture.

Why is the religious right obsessed with subjects like abortion while unmoved by the plight of immigrants, minorities, the poor, the uninsured, and those slaughtered in pointless gun violence? No white man has ever been denied an abortion. Few if any white men are affected by the deportation of migrants. White men are not kept from attending college by laws persecuting Dreamers. White evangelical Christianity has a bottomless well of compassion for the interests of straight white men, and not a drop to be spared for anyone else at their expense. The cruelty of white evangelical churches in politics, and in their treatment of their own gay or minority parishioners, is no accident. It is an institution born in slavery, tuned to serve the needs of Jim Crow, and entirely unwilling to confront either of those realities.

Men like Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy group, are trying to reform the Southern Baptist church in increments, much like Billy Graham before him. His statements on subjects like the Confederate Flag and sexual harassment are bold, but only relative to previous church proclamations. He’s still about three decades behind the rest of American culture in recognition of the basic human rights of the country’s non-white, non-male citizens. Resistance he is facing from evangelicals will continue so long as the theology informing white evangelical religion remains unconsidered and unchallenged.

While white evangelical religion remains dedicated to its roots, it will perpetuate its heritage. What this religious heritage produced in the 2016 election, when white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump by a record margin, is the truest expression of its moral character.

You will know a tree by its fruit.

Doonesbury — Appointment TV.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Walking Out To Step Up

TaMara and Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice have recaps of yesterday’s school kids walking out for seventeen minutes to honor the memory of those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and to demand changes to gun laws at the state and federal level.

What struck me the most about this movement is that this is well-disciplined and deadly serious on the part of the participants.  This is not a lark to them or a chance to cut school.  They realize what’s at stake: not just their lives but the future of the country.  Many of them are old enough to vote now and a lot more of them will be old enough to vote in 2020.

There have been student marches and protests before; I participated in them when I was their age: against the war in Vietnam, against segregation, for civil rights.  But those were distant and abstract causes; Vietnam was a place that few of us could find on a map, and civil rights didn’t divide my white upper-middle class suburban life.  What we were trying to change was an entire culture: no more war, no more racism.  It was noble, it was overarching, and of course it was never going to be fully realized.

These students, these young adults, have a more specific goal in mind and are much more focused.  They don’t want to change the world; they just want to make it safer.  That’s not too much to ask.  We didn’t do it for them, so now they’re stepping up.  And it might just work this time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Seventeen Minutes

High school students across America are planning to walk out of school today at 10 a.m. for seventeen minutes to mark the one-month anniversary of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and to demand changes in gun laws.

Some school districts may take action against the students; some may encourage them.  The ACLU has a primer on the rights and consequences for students for taking such action.  So noted, but a number of schools in Miami-Dade County are planning to participate.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sunday Reading

He’ll Believe It When He Sees It — Charles P. Pierce on Trump’s trip to Pyongyang.

Personally, I won’t believe it until he gets off the plane in Pyongyang. But, if the president*’s visit to North Korea actually comes off, my fondest hope is that they don’t throw him a huge parade with all the trimmings, because, in that case, he might sell them Rhode Island. From CNN:

The talks would be the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader and will take place by May, according to South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, who delivered the invitation to Trump after a visit by his delegation to Pyongyang earlier this week. Chung said Kim had offered to put Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program on the table. The White House said Trump had agreed to the encounter. “He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. Trump’s decision, after a year in which the two have repeatedly traded insults, is a remarkable breakthrough. It brings the North Korean regime close to its long-desired aim of recognition on the international stage, and offers Trump the tantalizing prospect of a historic diplomatic victory. But the consequences of such a high-stakes gamble remain hard to predict.

Someone smarter than me is going to have to explain how bringing the world’s most paranoid and dangerous one-man show closer to any of its long-desired aims is an historic diplomatic victory. Inviting Kim Jong-un and his country into the international community of nations without some whopping-big concessions on his part doesn’t sound altogether like winning. Apparently, one of the keys to getting Kim to move is to get sockless with him over dinner.

During the visit, Kim reportedly joked over dinners of Korean hotpot and cold noodles. At one meeting, he said previous missile tests had caused Moon to schedule early morning national security meetings. “I decided today (to freeze the tests) so he will not lose sleep anymore,” he said, according to a South Korean presidential official. Kim and the officials shared several bottles of wine, liquor made of ginseng and Pyongyang soju, the official said. “The bottles kept coming,” said another administrative source who had official knowledge of the meeting.

(An aside: during my brief time in South Korea in 1988, I had an encounter with soju, a kind of high-intensity Korean poitin. If these cats were drinking soju by the bottle, it’s a wonder that they all didn’t get up on the tables and dance 60-odd years of hostility away.)

Of course, we have taken a ride on this Tilt-A-Whirl before. Remember the Agreed Framework? That was the deal struck between the Clinton Administration and North Korea back in 1994, by which Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, agreed to freeze his nuclear program in exchange for being allowed to build two nuclear reactors capable only of providing power. The United States also agreed to sell North Korea some fuel oil. There was a picture of then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright toasting the deal with Kim that sent the heads of many conservative commentators to spinning.

That deal began to come a’cropper in 1998, when North Korea fired off a missile test. (They also copped to developing a uranium-enrichment program.) The Clinton Administration decided to pursue negotiations for further agreements under the Agreed Framework. Then, the Supreme Court installed George W. Bush in the White House and everything went to hell. Bush appointed noted Death Eater John Bolton as his arms-control czar and, as armscontrol.org points out, Bolton had his own plans for dealing with North Korea.

Rather than confront the North Koreans and demand they halt their efforts to create a uranium enrichment capability, the intelligence findings gave those in the Bush administration who opposed the Agreed Framework a reason to abandon it. John Bolton, then- undersecretary of state for arms control and international security under President Bush, later wrote that “this was the hammer I had been looking for to shatter the Agreed Framework.” At the behest of the Bush administration, KEDO announced Nov. 21, 2003 that it would suspend construction of the two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea for one year beginning Dec. 1. The suspension came in response to Pyongyang’s failure to meet “the conditions necessary for continuing” the project, according to the KEDO announcement.

KEDO further stated that the project’s future “will be assessed and decided by [its] Executive Board before the expiration of the suspension period.” But a Department of State spokesperson said several days earlier that there is “no future for the project.”

It is here where I point out that Bolton is under active consideration to replace General H. R. McMaster as the president*’s National Security Adviser. Nobody else wants the job, but almost anybody up to and including Zombie Cordell Hull would be a better choice. This also makes clear another perilous element to this sudden diplomatic coup—to wit: nobody knows anything, as the Voice of America points out.

Aaron David Miller, a senior analyst at the Wilson Center, has advised a number of Republican and Democratic secretaries of state. Miller told VOA he believes if this recent offer of direct talks does represent a transformative change in North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s position, then it is too valuable an opportunity to waste, and the U.S. should test it — first through discreet dialogue before any structured negotiations take place. Asked who in the Trump administration could prepare and conduct sensitive, complicated and grueling direct talks with North Korea, Miller drew a blank. “Right now, it is hard to identify any single individual or team of individuals that has both the negotiating experience and knowledge of the history, the cultural and political sensitivity, and knowledge of how the North Koreans behave and how they see the world,” he said. He added: “In this republic, you might have to reach for people who have had experience and who are part of another administration. This administration may not be willing to do that.”

So far, it seems to have been the South Koreans who’ve done most of the heavy-lifting, and most of the heavy elbow-bending, to bring us to this point. As I said, I’ll believe this when I see it, but, if the president* does make the trip, oh, what a parade they’re going to throw him. Look out, Providence.

Back To Reality — Emily Witt in The New Yorker on the MSD students’ return to partisanship.

Three weeks after a former student had shot seventeen pupils and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and three days after classes had resumed, the campus was settling into a routine again. A few patrol cars and a small squadron of sheriffs on motorcycles were all that remained of the police presence. The sign-waving supporters outside were gone, and the farm animals trained in emotional support had returned to their paddocks. By the time the school bell rang on Friday, at 7:40 A.M., the one television crew on site was breaking down its tripod. Outside the school fences were piles of rotting flowers, Teddy bears, deflated Mylar balloons, and pinwheels spinning in the sun. What had begun as an emergency was settling into finality.

In the days leading up to the Stoneman Douglas students’ return to school, the movement for gun control they had started had grown far beyond the city, out in the world. The teen-age activists had tolerated expressions of empathy from daytime talk-show hosts (Dr. Phil and Ellen DeGeneres) and lame jokes from the nighttime ones (Jordan Klepper and Bill Maher). John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, George and Amal Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, and other celebrities had made large donations for the upcoming march on Washington. As bereaved parents gave furious speeches at the Florida statehouse, where the legislature was considering a school-safety bill, a delegation of Stoneman Douglas students travelled to Washington, D.C. They met with the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, and the Florida congressional delegation, all of whom afterward posted photos on social media of themselves engaged in thoughtful conversation at conference tables. The students posted photos of themselves with Congressman John Lewis, of Georgia, the civil-rights leader, and with the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.

Emma González, one of the student leaders, hadn’t joined the delegation to Washington, but had stayed at home to work on recruitment for the March for Our Lives, to be held on March 24th, in Washington. The afternoon of her third day back at school found her in the gymnasium of the recreation center at Pine Trails Park, preparing for an information session. Since her return to school, González had dedicated herself to selling the march to her fellow-students. This meant sharing Never Again’s platform about gun control, while also being sensitive to a wide range of political viewpoints. At a meeting the previous day, some students expressed worry that the march’s message was too partisan.

“These are my opinions,” González said to Jeffrey Foster, her A.P. Government teacher, who was there to answer questions from parents. “I’m, like, you can say whatever you want about whatever topic, I’m not telling you what to say there, but make sure the message is cohesive. Here’s how I feel, and here is what goes through my head. You don’t have to listen to me on this, but if you want to help this is a really important way to help.”

The gym had been stocked with pizzas, boxes of tissues, and coolers of drinks. Students arrived, many of them accompanied by their parents, and took their seats. González checked to make sure that bottles of water and paper plates had been put out. She wore a maroon sundress and pink sneakers. Less than two weeks before, I had watched as she sat at a picnic table and chose a Twitter handle. Now she had more than a million followers on Twitter—more, as many pointed out, than the N.R.A. But all of this had happened outside of school. I asked how it was to be back.

“It’s pretty good,” she said. “And if news developments happen in the day—like today, when we found out about the shooting, my friend got upset, and I was immediately able to talk to her. I didn’t have to drive over to her house or run over there, like, she walked down the hallway and we were able to talk to each other. That’s nice. And the support dogs—have you heard about the support dogs?”

The shooting that day had happened at Central Michigan University, where a nineteen-year-old named James Eric Davis, Jr., had killed his parents, who had arrived to pick him up for spring break. For González and the other students, the news of yet another act of gun violence on a campus had renewed their sense of purpose but also their feeling of powerlessness.

“It feels like we’re not getting anything done,” González said. “The wheels of bureaucracy turn so slowly that, no matter what we say and how many people we get to sign petitions, we can’t vote anybody out until midterm elections, which are so far away.” As February gave way to March, two points were proved about the gun-control debate: first, that cynicism about it was not unfounded; second, that, even as the students advocated, the violence would not stop.

To insure that students would be comfortable asking questions, the media were not allowed to remain in the gym for the lecture, so, as González dimmed the lights and began her presentation, I stepped outside. Near the entrance of the rec center, Ryan Deitsch and Delaney Tarr, who had been among the students who went to Washington, D.C., earlier in the week, sat at a table. Never Again had developed a platform, the main tenets of which Tarr read out to me from a yellow notebook with the words “Anything Is Possible!” embossed on the cover in gold.

“Of course, the assault-weapons ban is the most difficult, and that’s the longest-term thing,” she said, flipping pages until she found her list. “But now what we’re really getting into is universal background checks. That would also entail closing the gun-show loopholes, closing straw purchases, and instilling the red-flag system. We also want to get rid of high-capacity magazines, and we want to raise the age from eighteen to twenty-one.” In Washington, particularly when talking to pro-gun politicians, the students focussed their arguments on narrower problems: the law that forbids the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives from creating a searchable database; the Dickey Amendment, which prevents research that advocates or promotes gun control; bump stocks, which allow a semiautomatic weapon to fire at a rapid clip. The students became increasingly adept at identifying political obfuscation: the congressman who might discuss “extensive background checks” rather than universal ones; the congresswoman who brings up mental illness to change the subject from gun control. With Senator Charles Schumer, of New York, they discussed the flaws of the background-check system, and how to improve the original assault-weapons ban, from 1994, which Schumer co-authored, and which the students think could be more effective with the addition of a gun-buy-back program.

I asked what it was like to go back to school. “Boring,” Deitsch said. “It’s been coloring and Play-Doh.” Classrooms had been supplied with games and something called “kinetic sand” to ease the students’ reëentry. “When you sit down with the Speaker of the House and then you’re told to just play with a lump of clay, it’s not really stimulating.”

The Speaker of the House, it turned out, had given the students some pushback on their critique of the Dickey Amendment, and a hallway encounter with Congressman Darrell Issa, of California, had turned downright contentious. The Democrats had been more amenable, but, after speaking to them, the movement added another message. “We also wanted to tell them, ‘Listen, we’re so grateful for the help and everything, but we’re not your pawns,’ ” Chris Grady, a Stoneman Douglas senior who went on the trip, said later, after the meeting in the gymnasium. “Make no mistake about it: we’re our own movement.”

The following evening, the second annual Obama Roosevelt Legacy Dinner, advertised as one of the “premier events for the Broward County Democratic Party,” was held at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel, in Fort Lauderdale. Valets waved attendees into parking lots that overlooked a marina filled with gleaming white yachts. The dinner, tickets to which cost a hundred and seventy-five dollars or more, had been planned long in advance of the shooting, but the agenda had shifted. Bowls of ribbons in Stoneman Douglas colors were available for guests to pin to suit lapels and sequinned cardigans. The crowd was friendly, mostly over the age of forty, and clad in sensible shoes. The yachts outside likely belonged to other people; Mar-a-Lago was a county away. Several Stoneman Douglas students had come to the fund-raiser, too, although not, they emphasized, to endorse a particular candidate. If anything, it was the politicians who wanted their photos taken with the students. In their cocktail-hour soapbox speeches, the Democratic candidates for Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial race emphasized their records and sentiments on gun control. Afterward, a host encouraged guests to proceed to dinner in a “blue wave.”

The national anthem was sung and the Pledge of Allegiance recited, and then the ceremony began. The focus of the night was the violent act that had happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and what to do about it, as if the students had woken the politicians from a long enchanted slumber. There were only perfunctory mentions of health care, climate change, or the tax cut that Republicans had passed earlier that year. There was no mention of the resignations and allegations plaguing the Trump Administration, which had shared the headlines with the shooting and its aftermath for the past two weeks.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke of “the three-legged stool on which future generations can build and thrive: faith, hope, and courage.” Congressman Ted Deutch, at whose behest the students had visited Washington, said “Never again can we fail to take action.” Philip Levine, a candidate for governor, referred to to the students in attendance as “a new greatest generation right here.” Cynthia Busch, the county chairwoman, said that the Broward County e-mail list had tripled in the last week.

“No more deals, no more compromises,” she promised. “We are here to fight.”

The keynote speaker was Congressman Joseph Kennedy III, of Massachusetts. Kennedy is a ginger who speaks in the short staccato bursts of his great-uncle and grandfather. At thirty-seven, he has been tapped by the Party as a rising star, not only because of his dynastic connections and his relative youth but because of his ability to speak about important things without sounding phony. Earlier in the year, he was selected to give the Democratic Party’s response to Trump’s State of the Union address. Now he issued a statement on an issue that, thanks to the relentless activism of the students, was going to be decisive in the midterm elections.

Kennedy began with acknowledgments and a joke about his family’s love of Florida. (“From what I can tell, President Kennedy didn’t get that winter tan ice fishing on Cape Cod.”) But he soon moved on to the heart of the matter.

“Our children wake up every morning in a country where nearly a hundred lives will be lost to guns by the time they go to bed, and they hear a Republican Party say that that is the price of freedom,” he said.

Kennedy recalled other instances of youth activism in American history: the mill girls of Lowell in the mid-nineteenth century; the Little Rock nine, in 1957; the children who marched for civil rights in the “children’s crusade” and were arrested in Birmingham, in 1963; the four students killed by the National Guard at Kent State, in 1970. “From Stonewall to Selma to Seneca Falls, America’s youth forces us to confront where we have fallen short,” he said.

He concluded with a promise that this time the adults would try harder. “Broward, have no doubt: our nation will follow you,” he said. “We will be better than we were in Little Rock, and in Birmingham, and in Kent. We will not force our kids to march alone. We will not tell them to do our government’s job.”

Was the government doing its job? In Florida, the state legislature passed a bill—which now awaits the signature of the Florida governor, Rick Scott—raising the age at which a person can buy an assault rifle to twenty-one. It also allotted sixty-seven million dollars to train and arm teachers, despite opposition from students and lawmakers who predicted that the policy would put more children, particularly African-American students, at risk. (There was also the opposition of Florida state representative Elizabeth Porter, who asked, “Do we allow the children to tell us that we should pass a law that says no homework?”) In the U.S. Senate, Jeff Flake, a Republican, and Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, co-sponsored another bill raising age limits. The President expressed support for the idea, saying at a meeting with lawmakers that “It doesn’t make sense that I have to wait until I’m twenty-one to get a handgun but I can get this weapon at eighteen.” I thought back to what Ryan Deitsch, the Never Again activist, had told me while sitting in the Pine Trails Park rec center the day before: “Until the politicians vote and pass something, all of their words mean nothing. As soon as they’re shot down, it just means that everything we talked about, everything we did in Washington, everything we did in Tallahassee amounts to nothing. And we choose to refuse that reality.”

Time For A Change — Jess Bidgood in the New York Times notes that Florida isn’t the only place where they’re looking at going to the Atlantic Time Zone.

DAMARISCOTTA, Me. — Several years ago, the owner of a sandwich shop on the main drag here grew so tired of turning the clocks back in the fall — and witnessing the early sunsets that followed — that he simply decided not to. That year, he kept his shop on daylight saving time all winter.

“We have such short days,” said Sumner Fernald Richards III, the owner. “It was very nice to get out in the afternoon and still have an hour or two of daylight.”

Changing the clocks brings grumbles around the country, and especially here, in the nation’s Easternmost region, where “falling back” in the wintertime means sunsets as early as 4 p.m. and sometimes earlier. But as the clocks once again were nudged ahead to daylight saving time in many parts of the nation over the weekend, foes of turning the clocks back in the first place saw a glimmer of hope in New England.

Efforts to alter time zones pop up around the country like spring tulips every year, and rarely get very far. But some in New England are trying a different tack this time: They want, in essence, to stay on daylight saving time throughout the year, and think that a concurrent regional approach could be the key. If multiple New England states make the jump at the same time, the thinking goes, it just might happen — even if that means taking the unusual step of splitting from the time zone of the rest of the East Coast, including New York City.

“We are a distinct region of the country,” said Tom Emswiler, a health care administrator in Boston who is part of a dedicated smattering of New Englanders pushing for the change. “If New York wants to join us on permanent Atlantic time: Come in, the water’s fine.”

The efforts to join Atlantic Standard Time would mean that, for about four months out of the year, some New England states would be an hour ahead of the rest of the Eastern time zone. Last year, Massachusetts created a commission to study the question. The states have not coordinated, but in New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine, proposals have been filed that could open the possibility for such a change, at the very least, if their powerful neighbor — home to Boston, an economic driver — does.

“Our markets and our businesses would be operating ahead of New York; I don’t know how they’d like that,” State Senator Eileen M. Donoghue of Massachusetts said. She is chairwoman of the state’s commission, which has a major public hearing this week.

The idea, the senator said, requires much more study and perhaps, down the line, will merit a summit meeting of the interested states.

“When you look at the geography, we certainly line up more with the Atlantic time zone,” Ms. Donoghue said. Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and parts of Canada including Nova Scotia are on Atlantic Standard Time now.

Experts say the plan seems unlikely to come to fruition. Even if state legislatures passed these bills — and, so far, only New Hampshire’s House has — it would require either a regulatory action by the federal Department of Transportation, or an act of Congress. The governors of Massachusetts and Rhode Island have expressed reservations about making such a break.

But the debate has renewed musings about why, exactly, this part of the country is part of a time zone that may better serve cities to its west, and whether the region ought to boldly step away from its neighbors — maybe even on principle.

“Why do we essentially torture ourselves — in the spring in particular — and keep changing the clocks and messing everybody up?” asked Donna Bailey, a Democratic state representative from Saco, Me., who filed a bill on the matter this year. Under the current form of the bill, she said, Maine would have a referendum on the issue if both Massachusetts and New Hampshire made the switch.

“If we do it on a regional basis,” Ms. Bailey added, “you carve out a niche for yourself, that you don’t have to be so dependent on New York City.”

Any such switch would create a special complication for Connecticut since the northern part of the state is closely tied to Massachusetts, while many residents of the southern section commute to New York City.

The most frequently cited argument against a change is its effect on schoolchildren, who would most likely board buses in the dark on winter mornings. Proponents counter that the whole state of Maine, as well as communities including Boston, are considering pushing school start times back, too.

Plus, opponents say, such a change could create confusion for businesses and chaos for passengers taking Amtrak trains from New York to Boston and trying to figure out what time it is. Broadcast schedules — and with them, teams like the Patriots and the Bruins — could be affected as well.

“Once you start toying with the clocks, there are repercussions that people don’t bear in mind,” said Michael Downing, the author of “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time.”

Time was kept locally in the United States until 1883, when railroad companies established the time zones. Daylight saving time began in Europe during World War I as an effort to save energy. It was adopted by the United States in 1918 but repealed the following year after strident objections from farmers, who preferred having more light in the morning, not in the evening.

But more cosmopolitan and some Eastern areas, like New York City and the state of Massachusetts, decided to keep it, opening up an inconsistent approach to timekeeping until Congress split the difference in 1966 and set the rule as six months of standard time and six months of daylight saving time. It is now observed between the middle of March and the beginning of November — except in Arizona and Hawaii, which have opted out.

If nothing else, the bills have sparked renewed rumination on time and light here in New England, and many people have their reasons for considering a change.

“Definitely it would mean a longer day of business,” said Lynn Archer, a chef who owns two restaurants in Rockland, Me., and groaned the other day as the harbor there glowed pink during an early evening sunset.

But the idea has left others — including the editorial board of The Bangor Daily News — aghast, saying it would isolate the state and hurt business. Plus, many Mainers are used to things as they are.

“You’re tough New Englanders, it’s just like — yeah, it’s cold and dark,” said Susan D’Amore, of Washington, Me. “So?”

Doonesbury — Job applicant.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Florida Steps Up

From the Miami Herald:

Three weeks after the Parkland murders, an emotionally raw House gave final passage Wednesday to Florida’s first gun restrictions in three decades and approved $400 million for mental health and school safety.

The vote by a deeply divided House was 67-50 after a debate that lasted nearly eight hours. . Once the bill passed, lawmakers saluted and waved to the visitors’ gallery and Andy Pollack, whose daughter Meadow died in the massacre.

The gun and school safety bill (SB 7026), which earlier cleared the Senate on a precarious 20-18 vote, goes to Gov. Rick Scott, who said he will consult with Parkland families but declined to say whether he will sign or veto it.

“When a bill makes it to my desk, I’ll do what they don’t seem to be doing in Washington,” Scott said. “I’m going to review the bill line by line, and the group that I’m going to be talking to, the group that I care the most about because it impacted them so much, is the families.”

Scott restated his opposition to arming school personnel but did not say whether he will sign the bill or veto it.

All 17 grieving Parkland families signed a letter calling for passage of the legislation.

“More needs to be done and it’s important for the country to unite in the same way the 17 families united in support of this bill,” Pollack said after the vote. “I’m a father and I’m on a mission. I’m on a mission to ensure that I’m the last dad to ever make a statement of this kind.”

Pollack asked supporters to join him on the web site RememberMeadow.com.

Scott reiterated his opposition to arming school personnel, but did not say whether he will sign the bill or veto it.

“I’ve been clear. I don’t think we ought to be arming teachers,” Scott said.

Under the legislation, anyone buying a firearm from a licensed dealer must be at least 21 years old and wait three days before obtaining a weapon, and Florida would have the first statewide program that allows trained school personnel, except those who exclusively teach, to carry guns.

After so many failed attempts, so many “thoughts and prayers” and whiffing at real gun control, this is progress.  No, it’s not everything — c’mon, ban the damn semi-automatic weapons already — but in this state and with the power of the NRA aimed at the backs of every state elected official who supports the bill, it’s a good start.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

One Small Step

Via the BBC:

Florida lawmakers have voted to enact new gun control measures, weeks after one of the worst school shootings in US history took place in the state.

The Senate narrowly passed a bill that would raise the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21 and require a three-day waiting period for most weapons.

Senators voted 20-18 in favour, after an amendment removed a provision to arm classroom teachers.

The law now requires approval from the House of Representatives and governor.

Given the state’s propensity for fetishizing anything to do with guns, not to mention the basic ownership of Tallahassee by the NRA, this is progress.

Monday, March 5, 2018

They Might Have A Chance

David Hogg and Cameron Kasky, founders of Never Again MSD, on Real Time with Bill Maher.

I admire them for more than just their compelling drive to make something happen. Their vision goes beyond just getting bills passed and people elected; they’ve sparked a visceral response that might actually get some things done. Maybe not today — the Florida legislature is deeply embedded with NRA cronies and deeply in debt to them — but soon, hopefully before more guns take more lives.

And speaking as one of those in the generation that fucked it up, thank you for your gracious acceptance of our apology. We too had dreams of a better world when we were seventeen. I hope yours turn out better.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Officer Fudd

Via TPM:

Imagine if every school campus in the United States had its own volunteer security officer: a former police officer or military veteran equipped with an assault rifle.

That’s the dream of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.

In the wake of the February 14 massacre at a Parkland, Florida high school, Rhodes is calling on members of his far-right anti-government militia group to serve as unpaid and unaccountable armed school guards — whether teachers and students like the idea or not.

One Indiana Oath Keeper has already deployed to a local school, even though the school district says there’s no need for him to be there.

Rhodes wants the military and police veterans who make up Oath Keepers’ membership to volunteer for unpaid, rotating shifts at schools of all levels, and colleges, throughout the country. He and two other representatives of the fringe militia community will hold a webinar Monday night where they plan to encourage Oath Keepers to station themselves at schools “to protect the children against mass murder, and to help train the teachers and staff.”

“I think it’s essential,” Rhodes told TPM in a Monday phone call. “It’s part of our responsibility to do what we can.”

If they tried that at any Miami-Dade County public school, they would be under arrest.  But first the arresting officer would have to get over his fit of the giggles for Mirandizing some fool in an Elmer Fudd hat and a Rascal scooter.

Monday, February 26, 2018