Category Archives: Uncategorized

More guns equals more gun deaths

And lax legislation and elected representatives who run their elections using money from the gun industry make sure there are PLENTY of guns to go around. People who are running for office who have pro NRA positions and/or take gun money should be drummed out of politics.

The rate of gun ownership in a state predicts the rate of gun deaths in that state.

This works across countries as well.

Once again. Politicians who have voted in favor of NRA policies need to go.

Photo above from TIME

Considering Candidates Post Las Vegas Massacre: Rule Out Tim Walz

A man who was not even known as a gun collector amassed an arsenal that all experts agree included illegal fully automatic weapons. He carried out an act of carnage, alone and using only those weapons, that exceeded in casualty count almost every military battle fought in recent decades by American troops, and that equaled or surpassed all but a very small number of terrorist attacks.

He shot five hundred people.

He shot these people, killing nearly 60 of them, with guns he was able to get because he lives in America. In America, the Second Amendment has protected gun ownership for so long and so irrationally that, even though the worst killing machines are sort of, kinda, a little, illegal, you can still get them.

Guns are the only toys protected by a Constitutional amendment. Gun ownership is a deadly pasttime that is protected by Congress. Even though the CDC and other government agencies, and the concomitant experts, believe that guns are a major public health risk, Congress has legislated against the distribution of research funds one might use to study this problem. And, generally, Congress has been the lapdog of the National Rifle Association, which is a lobbyist organization representing gun and ammo manufacturers disguised as an interest group supporting guns as toys for men and women, but mostly men, across the country.

Why Tim Walz Is Not Viable as a DFL Gubernatorial Candidate

First, let me say that I would normally argue that it is too early to make strong statements against a fellow DFLer (Democratic Party) who is running for office. But what happened last night in Las Vegas has changed all that, and I have to speak out, and strongly so. I am very unhappy about this situation. Here’s the story.

As I was poking around to find out how various members of Congress and future candidates for re-election had voted on guns, in pursuit of writing about Las Vegas. I was shocked and deeply disturbed to find that Congressman Tim Walz, who currently represents Minnesota’s 1st District and is now running for the Democratic Party’s endorsement for Governor, is one of those questionable members of Congress. I had seen Walz speak at a recent forum. Members of a gun-control group were there and they asked the first questions. They asked about various bills and they asked about silencers, an issue that has come up recently in the Minnesota legislature.

I was utterly confused by Congressman Walz’s response to these questions. At no point did he lay down a position. He seemed to take more than one position at a time. He mentioned he was a veteran and a hunter several times, but he also mentioned that we have to be sensible about guns. But he wasn’t able to articulate a position that I could understand, and I’ve been following and writing about gun issues for years. I left that forum not knowing what his position on guns was, but feeling like I had been somehow conned. In fact, I felt like I needed a shower after that set of answers, and I honestly can’t explain exactly why. I did check my wallet on the way out the door, though.

Anyway, I have now looked into it. Walz is, essentially, a Republican when it comes to guns. He supports conceal carry. He supported a bill that allowed the registration and position of weapons that are normally illegal, by a privileged group. He supported the ban by Congress of the Washington DC law that included sensible trigger lock provisions, disallowed semiautomatic weapons, and provided for stricter registration He opposed legislation what would limit access to guns by people with questionable mental competence. And, I think he said, silencers should be legal, but again, I’m not sure.

Walz was actually a co-sponser of HR420, the Veterans Heritage Firearms act. This basically allowed veterans or people related to veterans (i.e., a LOT of people) to keep and register firearms that would normally be illegal, as long as they had stolen the gun off a dead enemy. Or otherwise acquired it while “overseas.”

The act of Congress disallowing Washington DC to regulate its own guns was HR 1399 was also co-Sponsored by Walz. Congress allowed DC to continued to disallow sawed off shotguns, but not semiautomatic weapons.

The mental competence law that Walz supported was HR2547. This bill “Prohibits, in any case arising out of the administration of laws and benefits by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, considering any person who is mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent, or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness from being considered adjudicated as a mental defective for purposes of the right to receive or transport firearms without the order or finding of a judge, magistrate, or other judicial authority of competent jurisdiction that such person is a danger to himself or herself or others.”

It seems like Walz is especially concerned with protecting and even expanding beyond normal the gun ownership rights of veterans with mental disabilities, which by definition includes a subset of individuals who really should not be walking around with guns that are not even legal for other people to have.

The other Democratic candidates for Minnesota Governor have very different positions. Walz stands out like a sore thumb among his colleagues. Rebecca Otto wants a science based approach. She noted in a statement following the Las Vegas massacre that Congress has essentially illegalized scientific research on guns and gun safety. Clearly, we have made huge strides in automobile safety, and people generally have the right to drive cars, and far far fewer people are killed because of driving today than would otherwise have been possible without sensible science-based policy. We did not need a Constitutional Amendment protecting driving to make this happen. In fact, the Second Amendment damages our nation’s ability to be sensible about gun laws.

Here is, in part, Otto’s statement:

What we are doing with gun safety laws is not working. We must study gun violence as a public health issue just as we did motor vehicle safety and our work to reduce motor vehicle deaths. We need to steep our policies in evidence, not rhetoric. Let’s collect the evidence and let our scientists study the issue.

The NRA has its place, but not at the expense of so many lives. The NRA and their gun lobby stranglehold on D.C. is a perfect example of the Politics of unfettered greed. Time to end the Politics of Greed & return to the Politics of the common good.

Here’s the thing: Even Walz can be seen as advocating a sensible approach, if you stand in the back of the room, plug one ear, and kinda squint while he is talking about guns. But he has never voted for sensible change, and when he tries to advocate a mainstream progressive policy, his tongue gets stuck on his trigger and thing go badly. He is pushing himself as a progressive left of center who won’t move to the right, but he’s been far right on guns all along.

Sorry, Tim.

Reading the Special Election Tea Leaves

There are special elections all the time, mostly at the state level. The news is full of the Moore vs. Strange race, which isn’t just strange because Strange is in it. You all know about that. But what you may not know about is the interesting victory, also yesterday, of Kari Lerner in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire politics are above-average complex at the state level, so I won’t dwell on context. But this is a New Hampshire state house race in a district normally held by Republicans. Lerner is a centrist Democrat. She won 39 votes, and a third party candidate, a Libertarian, won by 41. So, one could say that the right wing won by one vote but split the ticket. Nonetheless, a Republican house seat flipped Democratic.

The pattern has been similar in races at the state and national level across the country. There is some number, which I suspect is predicted by some other number, by which Democrats do better, even if they don’t win. So, for example, in a district where Republicans usually win 66-34, and where Trump got 65% of the vote, the special election will still have the Republican winning but in a close race, like 52-48. In the case of this New Hampshire district, Trump did get 65% of the vote, so it is pretty deep red, and the race came out virtually even (with the Democrat happening to win).

At some point we will have to start to dissect this dynamic and predict the color of states and federal districts over the next two years. Yess, my precious spreadsheet, we wills do thisss…..

But first I think we need more data.

Rebecca Otto’s Clean Energy Plan for Minnesota

Earlier today, Minnesota Gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto released her energy transition plan. It an ambitious plan that puts together several elements widely considered necessary to make any such plan work, then puts them on steroids to make it work faster. To my knowledge, this is the first major plan to be proposed since the recent dual revelations that a) the world is going to have to act faster than we had previously assumed* and b) the US Federal government will not be helping.

Here’s the elevator speech version: Minnesota residents get around five thousand dollars cash (over several years), monetary incentives to upgrade all their energy using devices from furnaces to cars, some 80,000 new, high paying jobs, and in the end, the state is essentially fossil fuel free.

About half of that fossil fuel free goal comes directly from Continue reading Rebecca Otto’s Clean Energy Plan for Minnesota

The cost of commemorating 9/11 exceeds the benefit. Bin Laden, dead, continues to win.

This is a preface to the preface to a piece I wrote in 2011. I have only this to add:

First as an aside, I suspected Trump could win the presidency, most people simply said it was impossible. But nonetheless, I was just as shocked as anyone else.

Here’s the thing. American culture reacted to 9/11 in ways that are mostly harmful. Various aspects of culture tend to reside in specific, though often vaguely defined, entities, such as classes taught in schools, crap kids say to each other on playgrounds, religious ceremony, TV shows, etc. Sometimes parts of culture tend to hold, brew, evolve, hybrid, and occasionally exude specific aspects of culture. For example, everybody walks around saying “boohya” (well, not everybody…). This is an example of a widely used expression that comes out of a part of military culture. Big metro areas like New York and LA put out cultural tropes all the time. That sort of thing.

Well, I’m pretty sure that many of the bad cultural traits that evolved in our post-9/11 reactionary world, discussed below, now reside in what we can probably safely and accurately label as the Deplorable Right. Also called “The Base” this is the group of people who voted for Trump in 2016, and will vote for him again as many times as they can, the ones that say, “Yeah, Russians taking over is good” and who don’t care much about, or know much about, Democracy. The “get her drunk and get her done” crowd. The people who will vote for Trump again and again mainly because it annoys everyone else, and not for any other reason. The people some misguided analysts require us to somehow embrace and cater to. They don’t exist because of 9/11, and they have very little to do with 9/11 or anything else historical, social, or political. I’m just suggesting that that may be were some of the awful post 9/11 cultural traits we now have are nicely ensconced. Just a hypothesis.

This is a piece I wrote in 2011, on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. (Originally posted here.)

I believe that the sauntering I refer to has diminished. But instead of sauntering, our local and county police departments seem to have taken up a different hobby: Shooting unarmed people of color. I think the problems underscored in this essay are mostly worse now than they were five years ago, and the argument I make here for what happened since 9/11/2001 is stronger, more clearly demonstrated by event. Also, the link between 9/11 and the Donald Trump candidacy is as clear as a brand new picture window right after the window washers left.

I’ve made minor edits, but left time references as they were five years ago. This will not affect you reading of this post.

Happy Anniversary 9/11

A former engineering student, on seeing film of the World Trade Center towers collapse on September 11th, 2001, expressed surprise. He told a friend that he would have thought that on being hit with jumbo jets, the two or three immediately affected floors of the tower would have been destroyed but the structures would remain standing, or at most the floors above the impact sites could possibly collapse due to melting support beams but the lower floors would stand. The complete collapse, above and below the impact sites, of both of the structures was a surprise to him, given his engineering training.

Those remarks were made shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Almost ten years later the same man who made these remarks was shot to death by US special forces in a raid on a residential compound in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad. He was, of course, Osama bin Laden. (Did you know that a disproportionate number of terrorists have engineering degrees?)

Many have spoken of the Post Patriot Act world, affecting day to day life in America, the wars, our treatment of our fellow humans at Gitmo and untold secret prisons around the world, the rise of the most expensive bureaucracy ever, all that. Icons of post 9/11 loom over us largely, and also exist in a small way in every nook and cranny of day to day life. And it rarely makes sense.

I once told you about a rural Iowan, who felt trapped and scared in the Big City, calling an elderly African American homeless wheel chair bound gentleman a “Terrorist” because she had never seen a homeless black wheelchair bound man so, of course, he must be something scary and scary = terrorist. That was an example of regular people substituting mundane daily fears, in this case, the “inner city” the “Black man” and I suppose “Wheel chairs” … oh, and we were in a “deli” run by “middle eastern people” so there was that too … with the largely made-up bogeyman of “Terrorist.”

One day last summer criminals drove down our street and carried out a criminal act before our very eyes, so we called 911. The police showed up way too late to matter and with way too many cops to make me think they were anything but frightened to go out alone, and the first thing they did was to demand to see my identification. I’m standing in my yard at the Weber, coals hot, brats cooking, a long bbq style fork in my hand and an apron that says “A Man and his Grill” on it and the cop is asking me for my identification.2 I blew him off with a stern look, and he went away. (Our cops are fairly meek. That would not have worked everywhere.) But that has become the norm: When the cops show up, you better assume we live in a police state, or be you’ll be assuming the position. Yes, folks, more and more people are being treated just like black folk in this country always have been. That should tell you something. One step backwards. Then a few more steps backwards. Now you know what that’s like if you are white, except you don’t because it is worse if you are black. #BLM.

I used to be a guy who called 911, when appropriate, and probably more than others on average. Now, I only call 911 if someone is in physical danger or needs medical attention. If I’m going to get shaken down for helping the coppers, the coppers can help themselves, thank you.

When an accident happens, the First Responders show up and close more lanes than they need to and they saunter. Instead of rushing in and managing the situation safely and effectively, they saunter around in full view of the drivers who are all forced over onto the shoulder to get by the scene. One day I sat in traffic for a half hour going north on State Route 169, and for the last six or seven minutes of that I could clearly see the two fire trucks that were blocking most of the lanes of traffic and the first responders sauntering around with absolutely nothing going on, no debris, no inured citizens, no other vehicles, nothing on the road to clean up, no “investigation” in progress, and they were passing around coffee. I’m sure there were donuts somewhere. I’m a fairly observant person and I’m not especially paranoid, and I’m pretty sure that I’m right: Post 911 first responders think they are the shit because hundreds of them died in the World Trade Center. This change in status and attitude is seen everywhere in our culture, I don’t need to convince you of that. Here, I’m just adding in that extra bit of unnecessary and costly sauntering at scenes that should be cleared. Because the cultural details matter even when they are small.

Do you know that during the late 1960s, when the US was in the throes of an unpopular war and a on the edge of revolution at home, there were an average of well over one hijacking of a commercial airplane flying out of a US based airport every month? Do you know what the reaction to that was? Metal detectors, and eventually baggage screening. Society did not change. It just got slightly harder, but not much harder, to get onto an airplane. Post 9/11 changes have been enormous and far reaching and pervasive. Now, I’m not trying to equate, or even compare, the scores of hijackings in the late 1960s and early 1970s with 9/11 and related acts (such as the attack on the Cole and the earlier WTC bombing, etc). There is no way to make that comparison. What I am trying to compare is the reaction, then vs. now. And, I’m not even comparing the reaction, exactly. What I’m trying to point out here is that in the 60s, the governmental and societal reaction to a significant spate of hijackings was to address airport security. The more recent reaction to 9/11 was to shift all of society and almost every aspect of American culture, the activities of every government department and agency, the expectations and rule sets, the budgets, the procedural manuals, and everything else to a paranoid modality and to institute what is essentially a low-level police state. That’s a difference worth noting. And worth complaining about.

Generation 9/11. History will be at least a little embarrassed by us.

Recently, we’ve been discussing the State Mandated Recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. The reason this is becoming increasingly enforced around the US is because of various state laws passed in time to be in place for today’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, or more generally as part of a post 9/11 culture. In one of our local schools, students had interesting responses to this happening on their turf, expressed in a school paper’s “debate” layout. The printed views were even … same number for and same number against. Those against the pledge requirement made all the usual and generally quite convincing arguments and did a great job. Those in favor of the jingoistic approach were, well, jingoistic, but, with an interesting and very positive twist; Most of them gave sway to atheists and agnostics. They said that they fully supported people leaving off the “under god” part and totally understood why they might do that. And none of the pro-pledge opinions were dripping with religious commentary or reference. It is important to note that of all the high schools in the region, the one to which I refer to is in the top four or five with respect to conservatism of the area served, and in the top two with respect to per capita wealth of the residents, and is probably the least diverse district in the state.

And that is interesting because the average high school kid is about 16 years old, meaning that they were 6 when the 9/11 attacks happened, and therefore, the attacks themselves are not necessarily part of their own cultural composition to the same degree that it is with older folk. These are kids that grew up in the post 9/11 world without necessarily feeling the powerful shock and disbelief that many of us felt, followed by whatever fear or rage or helplessness or sense of dread or revenge that affected so many. The bad news is that this generation has become accustom to a much, much lower standard of freedom than many older people have, but this also means that when they confront this lack of freedom they may be more willing to rebel against it because they related less directly to the Defining Moment.

Sauntering firemen and cocky police officers are not the end of the world and they are not the Nazi’s or the Bradbury’s Salamander. They are, rather, puddles of dried blood from a minor wound. When you get into a bad accident, you may get a major wound that could kill or maim you, but you will also get a lot of minor wounds that on their own would not mean much. But you know that the accident was truly traumatic when the minor wounds add up to a plethora but are uncounted or ignored because they are just background. Sauntering firemen, cocky police officers, and Iowans who label homeless wheel chair bound African American old guys as “terrorists” are the tiny scrapes and bruises on a battered body.

And now might be a good point to ask the question, “What has risen from the ashes of the 9/11 attacks?” There was much talk at the time, and since then, and again today, about how great America is, how great Americans are, and how we will move forward and become better and stronger and so on and so forth. But it is just talk. What has happened instead is something entirely different.

The giddy fear and sense of dread that comes from a violent moment clouds the mind, of the individual or more broadly but also the collective social mind. The disorientation that caused that lady from Iowa to mistake the wheel chair bound homeless man for a “terrorist” represents an internal derailing of logic. The guard rail is down, the road is slippery, and rational thought has spun not just into the ditch but across the highway into oncoming traffic. The playbook has become garbled and the Quarterback is running the wrong way. The general, gone mad, is locked up on the army base with the launch codes. Twelve Angry Men, Lord of the Flies … stop me before I metaphor again! I think you get the point. There are a lot of people who benefit from our present social pathology, and that surely has been a factor. But also, it is simply a social pathology that we are experiencing, a terrorist victory, a lack of character on our part as a nation.

But the scary part is what comes out of it, and by now you have probably guessed my point. The Tea Party and things like the Tea Party. Strongly held anti-social illogical destructive beliefs with no hope of critical self evaluation, in a large and organized part of the population. It is obvious why this happened in the Republican Party and not the Democratic Party, but people on both sides of the political aisle have contributed. Literalist, libertarian, paranoid, self-centered, easily frightened, reactionary, willfully unintelligent, deluded in self worth and unmovable in conviction and belief despite all evidence to the contrary. The lady from Iowa, the sauntering firemen, the sheeple who welcome being harassed by the TSA agents at the gate, the people who are happy to click “I agree” when confronted with a 43 page EULA that, somewhere in there, tells you the thing you just bought and paid for is not yours; A general social willingness to be told what to do, fear of not being told what to do, cynicism that we can think of what to do on our own, and utter disbelief that collective progressive action any longer has potential or meaning.

The little puddles of drying blood are everywhere, splatter evidence not from the 9/11 attacks but from our national and social flailing about and rending of cloth and flesh as aftermath. It isn’t just that the terrorist won on that day; It is much much worse than that. First they beat us, then they recruited us to do ourselves in.

And yes, in this latest revision of my perennial post, I am drawing the line between 9/11 and Trump.

Happy Anniversary 9/11

1Apparently there is some question as to whether or not Osama bin Laden was actually an engineering student, but we’ll roll with it for the present purposes. Here’s the video of him making the remarks I paraphrased:

2I’m exaggerating. There was no apron. But I was wearing my Darwin I Think Cap.

Three Chances To Flip A Red District Blue

I know a lot of you are interested in local elections. There are three special elections coming up Tuesday that you might want to know about, and possibly lend some support to, or at least, watch. The candidates are shown above. They are:

  • Charlie St. Clair
  • <li><a href="">Kathryn Rehner</a></li>
    <li><a href="">Jacob Rosekrants</a></li>

    An Excellent Robot Kit: Tenergy Odev Tomo 2-in-1

    Tenergy is a company that you know well even if you don’t know them. They make a lot of the replacement batteries for everything, external power supplies, other electronic items. But recently they’ve added a few items to their line of products that reach out in an entirely different direction.

    Tenergy Odev Tomo 2-in-1 Transformable DIY STEM Education Programmable Robot Kit is a robot kit that can be configured as a tricycle with two large wheels, or as a two-wheeled “bicycle” which operates like a Segway. Which is pretty amazing.

    So far Tomo is my favorite out of the box Robot Build, and I highly recommend it. It is also very reasonably priced (see note on that below).

    Tomo the robot has the usual sensors that come with such a device, including a line tracker and a distance sensor that resembles a pair of eyes. The yellow color of the framework and the overall configuration give Tomo a sort of Wall-E look, which is cute.

    Assembly: Instructions are clear. Assembly involves Continue reading An Excellent Robot Kit: Tenergy Odev Tomo 2-in-1

    How FOX treats Christians vs. Muslims

    Not the same.

    Muslims must take the blame for all things done by anyone linked to an extreme Islamic group or ideology. Christians have nothing to do with anything, they were just standing there minding their own beeswax.

    The video below was fixed by Media Matters for America thusly:

    In a notably hypocritical segment on Fox & Friends, the hosts and their guest, David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network, attacked media outlets that called on Christian leaders to denounce white supremacy and the recent violence in Charlottesville, VA. Fox & Friends highlighted articles that noted that many white evangelical leaders have been silent since white supremacists in Charlottesville attacked counter-protesters on August 12 and that historically many Christians and Christian organizations have enabled systemic racism, from slavery to Jim Crow and into the current era. Co-host Pete Hegseth asked why the articles were “trying to make that link” and “rush[ing] to say” that “pastors or churches … are to blame.” Fellow co-host Abby Huntsman said that “people are pointing fingers” and “you have some journalists that are blaming white Christians.” And Brody claimed that “the fix is in, if you will, against evangelical Christians, white evangelical Christians in this country.”