Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Obama, FDR and the Second Bill of Rights

Nice bite-size morsel of an opinion as only Bloomberg can deliver it.
Obama, FDR and the Second Bill of Rights

Let's list them here:
  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.
  • The right of every family to a decent home.
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment.
  • The right to a good education. 
The right to bear arms...just kidding.

Why does the author insist that FDR "had no interest in socialism"?  He did, and good and damn well that he did.  Sorry but "socialism", "liberal" and "progressive" are not dirty words, but perhaps they are to the usual Bloomberg readership.  And think how a conservative or a libertarian would respond to each of these bullet points...Not sure?  Here are some choice comments from a couple of them [I added the emphasis]:

r minty 1 hour ago
Rights, properly understood, are individual and personal (with limited exceptions). They cost others absolutely nothing. My (or your) religious Beliefs and political opinions do not cost some third Party so much as one red cent. My security from State imposition costs nobody.
But Obama conflates THINGS with Rights. When it is claimed that some have a Right to food, housing (decent housing, at that), and free medical, the costs must come from the earnings of others, and are therefore not Rights. A Right to a good paying job? And what if the "employee" is not WORTH the pay? The cost comes from the pockets of others.And when government muddles into the business world, to determine what is "fair" trade (even without the inherent resulting corruption), it will always cost, and the cost is paid by everyone.
Obama, always the clueless "community organizer", and never someone who's earned an honest living or bothered to learn the business end of business.
Dracovert 4 hours ago
The comments herein are instinctively correct, and there are excellent analyses of the problem on a rational level, but there is something missing.  The problem is a failure to understand the psychological factors involved.
Obama is a psychopath just as Hitler was, and Sunstein is a sycophant and enabler just as the German generals were.
[yhk: I was going to paste the whole thing but you get the idea.  Well, maybe a bit more...]
Obama and his sycophants are quite capable of destroying our Republic.  The good news is that
psychopaths always fail.  The bad news is that their failure always costs innocent people their livelihoods and their fortunes, and sometimes their lives.

The previous commentator evidently loves to use the word "psychopath."  Why is the Second Bill of Rights so repulsive to the conservative and right-wing mindset?  Because national policy should not be about equalizing opportunity and wealth?  Do they incite class warfare because they take from the rich and give to the poor?  Are they indicative of state tyranny and demagoguery?  Too close to communism?  They do not reward the Makers and promote the Takers?  Because Ayn Rand was right?  [BTW, check out Paul Krugman's "Makers, Takers, Fakers", slamming Jindal, Romney and Ryan.]

In terms of the current gun control debate, the comment that "Obama conflates THINGS with Rights" is an appropriate one.  How is owning guns a right?  Guns are things, but gun ownership is a right?  Is this comparable to having a right to a home (not necessarily home ownership, mind you)?  Right to defend yourself? Sure.  Owning a gun?  Not a right.  Defending liberty and freedom?  Sure.  Being able to fire off guns of any type?  Not a right.  Pretty simple.  Guns or gun ownership do not equal self-defense or liberty or freedom.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Philosophy or Ethno-philosophy? Why and How We Think

Before I dive into more gun control topics, a little change of pace.  Check out the article below from Al Jazeera regarding the Eurocentric mindset when it comes to who's-who in philosophy and intellectualism:  Can non-Europeans think?

It's certainly a topic that has been debated for ages on college campuses and in many different fields of study, from literature to science and technology to intellectual history and philosophy.  Who determines the pantheon of influential thinkers of the past and the intellectual titans of our time?

Living in the United States we are beholden to and naturally influenced by the Western and European traditions.  That in itself is not what the author is questioning or asking to defend, rather he is asking, "What makes a person a 'philosopher', a 'Public Intellectual', a 'thinker', who is outside of the normally accepted think-brand in the European tradition?"

It is a worthy exercise to question whether we are unconsciously caught in the intellectual and cultural imperialism, a remnant of the European colonialism and superiority of the past, or we are truly liberated and open-minded to consider all philosophies and schools of thought, regardless of the place of origin, the ethnicity or nationality.  Honestly, it goes without saying that I do not know most of the thinkers, European or non-European, mentioned in the article by Professor Dabashi.  But I will do my best to get familiar with their writings.

And it is more crucial to note that what and how we think about our beliefs, values, politics and philosophies definitely "color" how and what we express or write in our daily existence.  We are certainly products of our environment, experiences and education, but we can also teach ourselves to think more freely and outside of the box of our cultural norms and assumptions.  We shouldn't just take for granted what is universal and what is cultural, what is absolute and what is relative.

Taking a different angle, this quote from the article encapsulates for me what it means to proclaim oneself as a "thinker":
Therefore the agent is the bearer of the "similar conditions" and indeed their creator. That is, he "must" act according to a "model" which he would like to see diffused among all mankind, according to a type of civilisation for whose coming he is working-or for whose preservation he is "resisting" the forces that threaten its disintegration.
It is precisely that self-confidence, that self-consciousness, that audacity to think yourself the agent of history that enables a thinker to think his particular thinking is "Thinking" in universal terms, and his philosophy "Philosophy" and his city square "The Public Space", and thus he a globally recognised Public Intellectual.

I came across this Al Jazeera article a couple of days ago.  Serendipity, coincidence or synchronicity or whatever you want to call it, earlier today I came across an article about a book called "Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Writers on How and Why They Do What They Do" which started this way:

Joan Didion had it right. In her 1976 essay “Why I Write,” originally published in the New York Times Book Review, she lays out the template in no uncertain terms: “In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions — with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating — but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.”

It occurred to me as I started writing this post that the Didion quote sounds very similar to the first quote.  To me, both quotes echo the same themes of why we think and why we write.  Let's exalt and celebrate our collective humanity!  And I have to dig up and finally finish reading Didion's "Slouching Towards Bethlehem"...

WATCH: Are the President's Kids More Important Than Yours? [Fiore Cartoon]

I'm definitely against Satire-Free Zones.  I've got a fever and the only cure is...more satire! Enjoy the video.

WATCH: Are the President's Kids More Important Than Yours? [Fiore Cartoon]

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Treatment for the mentally ill, and separation of the individual issues at hand.

I felt I should start with, what I personally believe to be, some positive and possible answers to this very complex, and easily convoluted issue of mental illness and gun violence. It is one of the rare times, where the question, and the description of what is the actual problem, is actually much more complicated than the answer (or, one of many possible answers, but this seems to be the most reasonable and forward thinking of the potentials, in my opinion).

Gun violence and mental health issues, are being tied together in a way that could easily muddy the waters, and cause NEITHER issue to be handled in a way that will lead toward some real answers and changes for the better, and health of the nation, and the people within. The dangers that lurk here, go beyond the simplistic view of a "crazy person" riddling a crowd of innocents with bullets, fired from guns that were too easily available - OF COURSE those incidents need to stop. That is not the debate lingering, it is the combination of issues, that are actually mostly unrelated, despite being lethal when put in combination together, and the potential for laws being pushed and passed out of fear.

People of ALL political persuasions are fearful of the "mad gunman" scenario, but that fear should not rule our collective minds. The fact of the matter is, there is a stigma against mental health. This is not new. This aspect of the subject requires its own separate focus, but is getting tied into the gun control issue, because of specific, highly publicized events like the recent Newtown elementary school tragedy. Mentally ill people, going on a rampage, makes for tragic and dramatic news stories, but the actual connection to gun violence and the mentally ill, has only a very slight overlap, and there are countless studies conducted over the past many decades that back this up.

As easy as it would be to assume that there is a stronger connection between mental illness and gun voilence, the truth is, that there is actually very little connection, and many mass shootings were not perpetrated by individuals who have been diagnosed with mental health problems, identified as being "dangerous", or even been involved with the mental health system. Not only that, but mental health professionals typically find it actually very difficult to identify individuals who are likely to go on to commit acts of violence, and even when they do manage to identify potentially violent people, current treatments are not necessarily effective in preventing their violent behaviors (especially if they have inconsistent medication intake, if they are, in fact, even on medication in the first place). This is a much more complicated issue, than seeing someone walking down the street, on a subway or bus, and tagging them as "dangerous", when, despite seemingly disturbing behavior, they may not actually be a danger to anyone, even themselves.

An aspect of a solution that many have proposed lately, has been to make lists of "potentially dangerous individuals", and THAT is a primary aspect of this issue with which I have a problem. As I said, to a large part of the general population, there already exists a stigma against mental health, and a "list" would do nothing, but complicate the issue for literally millions of Americans. As it is already, many people with mild, potentially treatable conditions, or issues that could at least be managed and controlled more easily, rightfully fear the stigma that any involvement with the mental health system may bring, adding a very real aspect of paranoia, that has nothing to do with possessing a mental condition of paranoia.

These lists would drastically aggravate this issue, and could easily affect the individual's employment potential, or even schooling, especially if financial aid or grants became involved. Suddenly, our "land of opportunity" would be one very scary step closer to certain totalitarian governmental policies in the not-too-distant past, like Nazi Germany, or even reminiscent of the "red scare" in our own United States.

No one would want to be on that list, and it certainly wouldn't catch and identify people like the Newtown shooter, ahead of time, and preventing the tragedies they perpetrate. What it WOULD do, would be to potentially, and unnecessarily harass people who might just be socially awkward or even excessively bright or creative, who already face the bullying of their peers. Just because someone is "different" does NOT make them a threat to others, nor a potentially dangerous person; it is often the people who appear "normal" (on the outside), that are the ones who commit atrocities (eg. Ted Bundy). In fact, these "out of the box thinkers" are much more of a benefit to society, than a threat.

This begins to tread into yet another controversy, about certain traits being described by some, as being "disorders" (ADD, ADHD, etc), while being considered by others, as just being"energetic and intelligent", or "out of the box" thinkers, or "creative" traits. I will not go down that path here and now, except only to say that this issue would also become aggravated, if there was suddenly a "hit list" that identifies people who have had been diagnosed as such, or had any sort of treatment of any kind, in the mental health system. A list that could all too easily, be abused far beyond its original intentions; a very slippery slope indeed.

The bottom line is, those with mental health issues need TREATMENT, not further stigmatization. These issues are not as simple as an individual going in to a doctor, diagnosing an ear infection, and taking antibiotics to clear it up. These issues are different from person to person, and the treatments vary widely. Some individuals would have the best results from consistent counseling (psychology), others may respond better to certain drug/chemical treatments (psychiatry), and even then, what works for one individual, does not necessarily work for another, which is why people who take antidepressants, often have to shift from one kind to another, as the patient and doctor identify what works best for them. There are simply too many factors to make it an easy, "talking point" answer.

As I stated earlier, this is not a new issue, the understanding of the brain, its chemistry, and complex workings, IS a relatively new science. We know so much more now, than we did even 30 years ago, but there is a lot of work yet to be done in this field. Making "witch lists" would only complicate the problem, causing many people choose to go undiagnosed (and untreated), and further complicating the entire issue. Taking that even a step further, to MANDATORY testing, and analysis, would not help, either. In the end, the real madness would be those who would seek to impose such totalitarian concepts on our society, that strives to be free to pursue happiness.

If the solution to this issue is truly being sought, it should be sought in the form of supporting the desperately under-funded state mental health systems (as just one example, just look at the details of Michigan's mental health system, if you want to have a rude awakening on this subject). The money spent on creating some national witch-hunting list of the mentally ill, would be money spent complicating the issue, which would not yield tangible results, and would be money much better spent on improving the mental health systems themselves, including research. To REDUCE the stigma, not accentuate it, is the path to preventing further tragedies that result when the mentally ill, and guns get into a lethal combination.

The hard fact of the matter is, no one thing will be a magic solution to this issue, but we need not further complicate it, or toss into the melting pot, multiple aspects of the overall problem, and try to make it all one comprehensive issue. That is a drastic over-simplification, and would result in further tragedies. I do not blame any political party, there is no "bad guy" in this discussion, it is just merely the FEAR, that is the negative element, and just as President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself!"

We cannot stand by, like a mindless mob, full of anger (against the violence delivered upon the innocents) and fear (of the mentally ill), and allow these issues to be bundled up together, and made into laws which will inevitably disenfranchise an entire segment of our society. With treatment, better funded mental health systems, and an atmosphere encouraging people to seek diagnosis and treatment, without fear of "reprisals", be it from some national "list", or a potential future employer, or a bank possibly making a mortgage loan on a house, we can help to revive the overall mental health of our nation, and the positive effects will very naturally follow. Or we can stubbornly not learn from history, and repeat its tragedies, take a negative stance against mental health (while undoubtably CLAIMING to be doing something for the GOOD of the mentally ill), and negative effects will inevitably follow, it IS our choice, and we DO have a choice at this point in time.

To punctuate the point even further, what if the qualifications of what is considered "dangerous" or "mentally ill" suddenly shift in your lifetime, and suddenly encompass YOU? By then, it would be too late to change the laws in place (not to mention the fact that no one would listen to someone on "the list"), and the things you would have to fear, would be far greater than some "crazy person" shooting up the mall, while you happened to be there... it would be a REAL threat to you, your family, your life, and your future, and a threat that would plague you, along with millions of others, constantly... so think about this issue NOW, before it becomes a bigger problem.

Gun violence, and the issues of gun control, high capacity clips and assault weapons bans, are very much the hot topic of the day. There are so many aspects to this issue, and when it is related to the Newtown shootings, the subject complicates, almost exponentially. Let us not carelessly jeopardize the freedoms that generations of Americans have enjoyed, fought for, lived for, and died for, by giving into a fear that is, itself, as insane as the madness of those we seek to prevent from harming us all. We should not replace one tragedy with another.

There are no simple answers, but by separating the individual issues, and addressing each issue on its merits, we can arrive at more thoughtful conclusions to the issue as a whole, when it is reconstructed.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Once GOP stronghold, West veers into Dems' column

This is an interesting piece from the Associated Press that speaks to the complex currents of political change. The same independent spirit that resists taxation also fuels "liberal" causes like reproductive rights, same-sex marriage and legalizing pot. Ultimately, we're all more complex than simple party labels.

It also includes this amusing quote from a libertarian: "The West is the most American part of America."

Once GOP stronghold, West veers into Dems' column - Associated Press, Jan 26, 2013

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery"

When I read the title of this Thom Hartmann article I was thinking, "WTF?! What the hell did I do in all of those U.S. history courses?"  Needless to say, ya gotta read this:
The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery

I know that there is somewhat inaccurate, dubious at best, information going around that NRA was a front organization for the KKK, but isn't it astounding to think how much slavery really had a ripple effect in American politics, culture and history?  It's like the Big Bang of America.

Gotta think, folks, and...
“Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.” -George Saunders, American author

"The Secret History of Guns"

A fascinating article by Adam Winkler on the history of gun control.  Well worth the read.
The Secret History of Guns
It presents a lot to digest, from Black Panthers to post-Civil War to first gun control legislation to the evolution of the NRA, but definitely points out for all of us the importance of history and understanding the proper perspective of history when it comes to the Constitution and political discourse inextricably linked to it.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Young's Excellent Adventure in Gun Control Debate, Part 1

This is first of the breakdown regarding the Facebook posts from last month in the wake of the Newtown killings.
Here's the the WH petition that started this:  Support Law Abiding Gun Owners
[Link to the WH petition that I signed:  Immediately Address Gun Control Legislation]

We ask President Obama to support law abiding gun owners in this time of tragedy.
We ask President Obama to stand with law abiding gun owners in this time of tragedy. Guns laws could not have prevented Adam Lanza from killing 27 innocents. The real question is what made this disturbed young man into a murderer of children. Where is the outrage at the violent video games he played? A piece of plastic and steel doesn't have a will Mr. President. Evil is not law abiding, and Adam Lanza stole those guns after failing to buy one legally. it is America's law abiding gun owners who would have died with Victoria Soto and Dawn Hochsprung defending the children with only our bodies on December 14th, because it was already illegal to bring a gun into that school. Please don't pander to the politics Mr. President. A feeding frenzy of new gun legislation is not the answer.
Created: Dec 16, 2012
Having read this petition, I posted the following question:
Young Ho Kim Why do we need more guns when the shooter got the assault weapons from his mother's collection, supposedly a "law abiding gun owner"? Please enlighten me.
I mentioned "more guns" because the petition refers to the fact that it was illegal to bring a gun to the Sandy Hook Elementary.  My friend answered in a way that left me wondering if he even read the petition:
Name Removed I don’t know why you need more guns, but I own them to protect my family, my property and my liberty. It’s a right as designed by the founders of this country. If you want to take an indignant tone then focus that energy on the genocide that happens every day. More than 3000 babies in the womb are killed every day in the USA Over 1 million deaths. More than the top 10 killers combined. But I don’t hear the press calling for the end of abortion. You can't value those lives any less than the 20 that were killed. Selective indignation.
The image above makes a good comparison of gun deaths vs. other deaths, but I think that is sidetracking the issue at hand which is reducing gun violence.  My friend's entire argument is that if we are to work on preventing deaths, then go after the cause that is killing the most number of people.  Granted, a valid point to make, and aside from the deaths marked "unintentional", I believe there are people and groups advocating to prevent all of these deaths.  But why not reduce gun violence?  Only because it kills the fewest number of people based on the graphic above?
Then his point made a dramatic shift toward abortion because that kills way more than any of the ones listed above.  Wow.  How did my friend end up there?  Apparently, a death is a death, a killing a killing, they are all alike, regardless of the circumstances.  Therefore, only the most number of deaths should really matter, if at all.  This is a typical line of reasoning from most conservatives and libertarians that all situations and incidents are the same--e.g. racism, reverse-discrimination, affirmative action, quotas--all the same.  Aborting an embryo or fetus as an exercise of a woman's reproductive rights is the same as a deranged killer shooting 20 kindergarten-age children.  Wow, really?
I realize that this is arguing without giving equal time to my FB friend, but then right-wingers don't much like the fairness doctrines, either, so...part 2 coming soon.

Armed to the Teeth

Link to graphic: