A collection of rambling posts about gaming, running, and politics. (and, in 2009, photography.)

Friday, December 14, 2012

This is all bullshit

I'm going to write about something that you already have an opinion on.  I'm going to hope that my compelling argument will sway you to my viewpoint and that you'll better understand my perspective   Maybe I'll change your mind!

Nah.  That's not going to happen.

You've already made your mind up, and if today's events didn't change your mind, then this stupid fucking blog post certainly won't.

America loves guns.  We make a fucking ton of them.  And its easy to get one.  And then you're on your own!  I sure hope you're not a fucking lunatic who wants to shoot my baby girl at her school!  Hot dog!

So why am I even bothering to type some nonsense here?   Well I'm glad you asked.  Its because I am sick to fucking death of this argument.  Its because I want to scream at how completely insane this is.  Its because I'm furious at every friend and relative of mine who insists that guns are not to blame, and if anything, we should make them easier to possess.

When the fellow shot up the theater in Aurora, I sat down and took the time to write a well reasoned post, complete with references and facts and stuff.  I'm not going to do that right now.  I'm too emotional.  I have a kid who attends school.  This could have been my family.

To those of you who continue to shriek "guns don't kill people!"  I simply say this:  fuck you.  I know, its  harsh.  But this is an emotional subject.  20 kids just died, 11 days before Christmas.  Thanks to an asshole with a gun.  I know that most of you gun owners are responsible people who would never shoot up a theater or a classroom.  But that's no fucking excuse.  You cannot justify to me the need for you to keep your gun, while a dick head used his gun to kill 20 children.   Fuck your right to keep a gun.  What do you need it for? To feel safe?  To feel powerful?  To feel manly, or in control?  I wonder how many parents at that school had a gun in their closet or bedroom, or even in their car or on their hip.  Didn't help much did it?  That's because a lunatic had little difficulty in getting his hands on an assault rifle and at least two handguns.

I could go on at length, but I don't feel like it.

I'll say it again,  fuck you and your guns.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Government Meddling (or 'How will the CEOs feed their families?')

Government meddling in business is nothing new.  We are all aware of recent news, mandating that employers provide healthcare coverage to employees that meet specific criteria.  Let’s take a look back at how the government has meddled in business in the past.

In 1916 the National Child Labor Committee successfully worked with Congress to pass the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act, also known as Wick’s Bill.  This statute prohibited the sale in interstate commerce of goods produced by factories that employed children under fourteen, mines that employed children under sixteen, and any facility where children under sixteen worked at night or more than eight hours daily.

The outcry was immediate, and in 1918 the US Supreme Court ruled the Act unconstitutional in Hammer v. Dagenhart.

And then all was well in the world of commerce and capitalism.

Until 1933.

Under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, Congress passed the National Industrial Recovery Act.  One of the provisions of this act established a national minimum wage of $0.25 per hour, a 40 hour workweek, and enacted regulations for working conditions. 

Big business did not take this lying down though, and in 1935 the Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional in Schechter Poultry Corp v. United States.

Once again, the invisible hand was allowed to regulate things, and government was told No! when it comes to deciding what is right and good for capitalism.

But FDR wasn’t finished.  In 1938 the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, which brought back a national minimum wage of $0.25 per hour ($3.77 in 2007 dollars), a 40 hour work week, allowance for overtime paid at 1.5 times the normal rate of pay, and prohibited children under 16 from working.

But business did not consider the matter to be settled.  In 1946 the case of Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. reached the Supreme Court.  Employees were not being paid for their time preparing their workplaces (walking to their station, turning on equipment, donning special clothing, and so on).  The Supreme Court upheld the Act, forcing employers to pay their employees “portal to portal”.

And now here we are in 2012.  Once again, government is dictating how employers treat their employees.  And some employers are doing the only thing they can do: reducing employee hours to dodge the requirement, or simply passing the increased cost on to their customers.

Some regard healthcare coverage as a basic employee right, similar to a safe and harassment free workplace, or to a minimum wage.  Others see healthcare more as a luxury.  For a low wage or minimum wage worker, it must be reassuring to know that if they are injured or become ill, not only are they likely to miss out on work and pay at their job, they could even be fired.  That on top of massive medical bills well beyond their ability to pay, on account of their low wage job, and lack of healthcare coverage.  For someone working to support a family, it must be reassuring to know that the job creators, the people at the very top of the capitalism food chain, are not taking a hit in their pocket book.  For a CEO with a luxury mansion and a private fleet of automobiles, suffering any loss in profits is absolutely devastating.  I mean, how would they support their family?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


When something bad happens, we react. It’s perfectly normal. Often we change something in an attempt to get different results. This applies on a micro and macro scale, and it has both positive and negative repercussions. The TSA and airport body scanners are a great example. So are seat belts, parachutes, metal detectors, stop signs and Kevlar vests.

But not so with gun massacres.

Well, a few people mention gun control laws and such, but they're quickly shouted down. Coverage of the Denver theater shooting was filled with talking heads preemptively explaining how it was too early to discuss gun control, or how discussing gun control would "politicize" the tragedy.

Gun culture is deeply ingrained in America. I'd wager that the majority of the voting public could tell you what the Second Amendment is about. How about the Third? (Protection from quartering of troops) Seventh? (Civil trial by jury) It’s interesting to note that while Americans steadfastly defend the Second Amendment, the Fourth is nearly forgotten, and looking rather ragged lately.

The Second Amendment to the US Constitution reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed 

So what’s this mean? Seriously – what does this mean? I’d love to sit down every adult and have them write down what this does and does not cover. Because no one really agrees. It’s ambiguous. And more than 200 years old.

And this is why we have a gun control debate - actually, this is why we have almost zero gun control debate in America. Well, that and the lobbying power of the NRA. Many on the pro-gun side of this debate see it as rather black and white. We either do or do not allow guns. Or at least, that’s the message that we hear. We’re told that it’s a slippery slope, that gun laws only hurt legal gun owners, that guns are how we keep the state honest.

I’ve been on both sides of the gun debate. I empathize with gun owners, and I don’t genuinely propose eliminating guns. (Because c’mon, I’m trying to have a serious conversation here. Can you imagine how this would go: “Guns are now illegal in America. Please turn your firearms in at your local police station. Thank you.” Oh man, the hilarity that would ensue.)

The problem here is that the right is not even willing to discuss the issue. Every proposal, no matter how moderate, gets slapped down. You need look no further than the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that was allowed to expire, and the right seems perfectly happy that it’s dead. With it out of the way, the voting public is free to purchase 100 round magazines for their assault rifles.

Some on the right want to make guns even easier to get. It’s the idea that an armed civilization is a polite civilization. That’s great on paper. It’s a noble idea. Until you throw booze into the equation. Or domestic violence. Or road rage. Or bullying. Or all of the other things that happen, and would continue to happen, if you armed every voting American citizen. All made worse by the level of experience and training that armed citizen has. I have a friend who spends hours and hours at the gun range every week. I also know gun owners who haven’t visited a gun range in years. The idea of them picking up a firearms and trying to use it to defend my life or the lives of my loved ones is fucking terrifying. “You just point at bad guys and pull the trigger, right?” of course it’s that easy. Bad guys don’t shoot back, it’s always well-lit, and people don’t run through the line of fire. And besides, good people with guns never make mistakes and shoot someone by accident, or by mistaken identity – or by just plain missing their target.

So here I am yelling into the void. Despite numerous recent instances of law abiding American citizens picking up their legal firearm and using to massacre innocent people, no one is willing to have a serious conversation about how prevent this from happening next time.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Guns, guns guns!

America has a love affair with guns.  Who can blame us?  Our nation was founded on armed insurrection.  The second amendment to our constitution is regarding armaments.  We love our guns.

But they keep killing us.

On July 20, 2012, James Holmes killed 12 and wounded 58 others in Denver.  He was carrying an assault rifle (with a 100 round drum), a shotgun, and at least one pistol, and had recently purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition.  The youngest to die was a 6 year old girl.

On January 8, 2011, Jarred Lee Loughner killed 6 people and wounded 13 in Tuscon.  His youngest victim was 9 years old.

On April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded 23 others at Virginia Tech.

On October 2, 2006, Charles Roberts killed 5 and wounded 5 more, all children, in Pennsylvania.

In 2010, out of 12,996 murders in the US, 8,775 were committed by a firearm.

I'd stop right there, but the pro-gun crowd will quickly point out a few things.  For one, I have neglected to include any cases of people defending themselves with guns.  It happens.  There's the case of Samuel Williams, who drove off two robbers.  But there's also the case of Zimmerman and Martin, or the case of Raul Rodriguez, or Andrew Scott or even David James.  In each of these situations, someone was shot and killed during a "defense" situation, and in each of these cases, it was completely preventable.  Guns do sometimes save lives.  But far more frequently they are used to murder, rape, rob or intimidate.  In 2006, there were almost 400,000 gun crimes.  

The pro-gun crowd answers each gun related tragedy by some shaking of the head, a few tales about how if more of us were armed, this kind of thing could be prevented, and preemptive declarations that gun control laws won't do a thing about it, yet this is full of conjecture and muddled truth.  The NRA would seemingly like to see every "law abiding" citizen armed.  "That will prevent gun violence", they say.  Sure - if every bank customer was packing heat, someone might be less likely to try robbing the bank.  Yet this handy answer ignores a great deal.  How useful is a handgun in the hands of a relatively untrained user?  A hero stops the bank robber in his tracks.  It's tough to call him a hero though if one of his bullets catches another customer in the crossfire.  And besides, this ignores that the US is already considered the most heavily armed society on the planet.  So if having so many guns makes us so safe, why do I keep reading about murder/suicides, and children being slaughtered by people with guns?

The pro-gun crowd points out that gun control laws will only keep guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens.  "Criminals don't follow laws!" they cry.  And sure enough, as much as 80% of firearms in the hands of criminals come from "family, friends, a street buy, or an illegal source", but this quick statistic deserves more scrutiny.  Unless criminals are robbing the Smith & Wesson factory, these firearms are being legally purchased at some point in time.  According to the Bureau of Justice, 40% of these guns come from family or friends, 40% from illegal street purchases, and almost 10% from straw buys.  So its true that gun control laws will not stop someone from purchasing a gun on the black market.  But what if gun control laws could prevent that gun from ever reaching the black market?    In 2010, a staggering 5.4 million firearms were manufactured in the US.  As I said, the black market, and criminals, get their guns from somewhere.  Some are stolen - almost 75,000 over a three year period.  But that leaves a remarkable disparity.  If 5.4 million firearms were manufactured in one year alone, and 75,000 were stolen over three years... that means that there are a whole lot of legally owned guns out there.

What's the difference in a criminal and a legal gun owner?  One crime.  Until early on July 20th, James Holmes was a law abiding citizen and a legal gun owner.  Then he shot 70 people.

The pro-gun crowd plays a zero sum game.  They accuse the left of trying to take their guns away.  They claim that any restrictions on gun purchase and ownership will "let the bad guys win!".  But its all smoke and mirrors.  And it doesn't make any sense.  I simply cannot comprehend how you can nod your head at the death of a 6 year old in a movie theater, shot by a fellow with an assault rifle and a 100 round magazine, and not think that maybe there's a problem.  The Federal Assault Weapons Ban specifically prohibited high capacity magazines, exactly like the one used in the Denver massacre.  Let me say that more clearly: He was able to buy a 100 round magazine because we let a gun control law expire.  Now tell me that gun control laws have no bearing.

I have a serious question:  How many kids have to get killed by guns before we change the laws?  Seriously, 100?  1,000?  10,000?  How many kids have to eat a bullet to convince you that we have a problem?

Gun society in America puts so much emphasis on having nearly unrestricted access to firearms that this is simply intractable, and to be honest, no light-weight gun laws will fix this problem.  While gun laws can limit the type of firearms and accessories purchased, or block purchases for people with mental illness or criminal history, or even put in place mandatory training or long waiting periods, no law will change the number of guns available to Americans, short of something drastic that makes gun owners quiver in anger and fear.

Every time someone is victimized by gun crime, the pro-gun crowd will write it off as a fluke.  Either it was just a criminal, so "Gee, there's nothing we can do about that", or its a pity that there weren't more gun owners nearby who could have solved the problem right away (James Holmes was dressed head to toe in body armor, it is unlikely that anyone with a pistol would have been able to stop him).

The pro-gun crowd needs to do a little navel gazing.  Sure, sometimes guns are used by bad people to murder people they don't know, or to commit other crimes.  Other times they are used on a spouse.  Or discovered by a curious 3 year old.

Something needs to change.