The Path to Possibility

Monday might be a very big day.

The California State Senate is set to vote on AJR-1, a resolution introduced to the California State Assembly in 2012 by Representative Mike Gatto. It calls for a constitutional convention for the purpose of revoking corporate personhood in regards to free speech and limiting campaign finance.

It has already passed the California State Assembly.  And the Senate judiciary Committee.  It was set for a vote last Thursday, but was tabled for unspecified reasons (rumors are some of the yes votes were absent at the time).  It has been rescheduled for a vote on Monday, June 23, 2014.

A very similar resolution has already passed in Vermont.  The movement, led by Larry Lessig and other citizen-funded groups was the very definition of grass roots. (Registering nary a ripple in the national media, of course.)

Similar resolutions are in various stages of percolation in 10 different states, introduced and supported by both Democratic and Republican legislators who’ve had enough.

Article V of our ceaselessly amazing U.S. Constitution allows for conventions to be called by the states, circumventing the federal government. It requires 2/3 of the states to call for the convention and 3/4 of the states to ratify the amendment once the convention puts forth a resolution. In short, we need 34 states to call for a convention and 38 states to ratify an amendment proposal.

It is also critical to note that constitutional conventions are required be very specific.  They can only be held regarding the issue for which they were called. No switcheroos or add-ons after one has been convened.

Of the people. By the people.  Like music to the ears, innit?

Needless to say, if AJR-1 does pass in California, it would be historic.  The largest state in the union would have called to amend the U.S. Constitution for the express purpose of returning the democracy back to the American people.

It would be a chance to undo the damage done by the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) which proclaimed corporations as people and preventied bipartisan campaign finance reform on the grounds that money is speech protected by the U.S. Constitution, as well as McCutcheon v. FEC decided in April of 2014, in which SCOTUS struck down many of the remaining limits on campaign contributions. These decisions  effectively allowed for the purchase of entire elections by private interests.  It’s what led to the explosion of Super PACs and their shady regulations.

But let’s call this for what it is: legalized corruption.  A recent Princeton study found that voter opinion has no discernible influence federal lawmakers.  The only opinions that moved the needle were rich donors and the lobbyists that work for them.  In other words, lawmakers are only listening to the people who fund their campaigns. Money for influence. All that comes out of it is voter apathy and stymied political discourse (and cash windfalls for a select few). It’s the reason we can’t do anything about climate change, or for-profit prisons, or gun control, or our schools, or any of the monumental and mounting issues we face.

Legalized corruption.  

So long as SCOTUS holds that money equals protected speech, they can shoot down any campaign finance reform law anyone tries to pass.  And so far,  they pretty much have.

AJR-1 is a means to put an end to this broken corrupt system.

Of course, that’s if it passes.  And make no mistake, it would only be the first salvo in what could very well be a long and hard fought political war.

But however the vote goes in the California State Senate, the fight is only beginning.  Often times, the powers that be try to slow cook hot-button issues. They wait for the furor to die down, occasionally placating the disquieted masses with some meager, symbolic concessions, then get back to business when the noise dies down and interests shift (the 4 biggest banks are bigger now than they were before the 2008 crash…por ejemplo).

We can’t continue to let this happen.  It’s not about going after the super rich donors or even the politicians.  Its about tearing down the system that has squeezed the people out and made us inaudible.

We’re late in the game in California, but if you support the idea of exercising the power of the people and getting money out of politics, I urge you to call your California state senator Monday morning (you can find your state reps here) to let them know you support AJR-1 and you want them to vote yes.

Even if you don’t live in California, call your state legislators.  Let them know  you support a constitutional convention to get money out of politics.  Demand it. Tell them you want your democracy back.  (Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a catch-all database.  The best way to find your representatives is to type in “who are my representatives” and then your state in your favorite search engine.  Usually in the first 2 or 3 choices you’ll find one that only requires your address or zip code and then finds your reps along with contact info for you. Teh interwebs are awesome.)

96% of Americans say that the influence of money in politics needs to be reduced. 91% believe nothing can be done about it.

They’re wrong.

It’s well worth it to show them.

Finger crossed.

 

Look Everybody, I Did A Batman!

Whaddaya know?

I co-authored a 3-part story for the Legends Of The Dark Knight series with my good friend and longtime writer/inker,  Derek Fridolfs. He’s done a bunch of stuff for DC, Dark Horse, Marvel, Image, Boom, and Wildstorm among others.

The Beautiful Ugly is a dark, psychological tale that delves into themes of redemption and the somewhat Boolean divide separating justice from vengeance.  It also gives readers a glimpse of life in Gotham City for regular people and how thin the line can be between them and the costumed lunatics that terrorize the city. (C’mon, is that juicy or what? :))

BTW, I also did a 3-part interview with Derek on his blog (which you can read here).  The art is fantastic and done by Jason Shawn Alexander, a phenomenal and accomplished painter who for some reason likes to draw comic books, too. I love his work and it’s easy to see why.

Anyway, all 3 issues are available now on:

Comixology:

Itunes:

Amazon Kindle:

It’s only 99 cents per issue!

The ‘Murican Dream (A Long Trayvon Martin Rant)

“Apparently, we are now at the point when a seventeen year old boy, unarmed, must make all the correct judgments during a confrontation with a grown man in order not to be shot to death.”

-David Simon, co-creator of HBO’s The Wire

I’ve been called a nigger, to my face, somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen times in my life.  Clerks have followed me around stores countless times.  I’ve been automatically put in remedial English classes on 3 occasions and told by an English teacher that I have problems writing (it salted my opinion of my ability for years).  I’ve been stopped by police dozens of times, asked what I was doing, occasionally searched, yet never given a citation or a warning.  Once a cop pulled up when I was sitting in a car outside my house talking to a friend.  He checked my driver’s license three times (never hers, of course, she was white) on the grounds that there had been a robbery at a nearby convenience store.  He admitted when he first saw me that I didn’t fit the description except that I was black.  (Couldn’t she have been the getaway driver?)  The worst was the time the police pulled me over when I was driving home from work and drew guns on me.  The 1st cop asked for my registration, when I reached for it (it was in the glove-box) he blurted Whoa!Whoa!Whoa! at me while his partner aimed his gun at my head through the passenger window.  His intent was clear: Don’t move your hand another inch or you’re gonna get shot in the face. They kept me there for two hours, repeatedly checking my driver’s license and registration.  They said, once again, that my vehicle ‘matched a description,” but considering I was driving a grey Nissan pick up with blue side panels, you can count me  skeptical.

But I digress.  My point is, most black men have stories like these.  It’s just the reality of life in America.  I typically don’t give it much thought.

But I can’t treat this stuff so lightly anymore.  I mean, I live in a world where, as a black man, if being harassed and followed around is all you get, you’re actually doing okay.  Think about it; in any of the above instances, if I had been belligerent or, God-forbid physical, I might have been killed with impunity.

I mean, what the hell is that?  This is America, right?

We’re at the point now where a 12-year-old black kid needs a completely different set of instructions from a 12-year-old white kid.  If anything happens they won’t trust you if you’re black.  If you’re black and anything less than an absolute angel, you’re guilty.  And always run, because if you defend yourself successfully, the odds are you’re going to jail; if you defend yourself and lose, you could be dead.  And it will be your fault.

Yeah, yeah, I’m just being reactionary.  It’s got nothing at all to do with race.  It’s just happenstance.  Again.

The truth is, that while many of the details in the Trayvon Martin case have nothing to do with race, at its core, it’s all about race.  Race is what made George Zimmerman suspicious of Trayvon in the 1st place.  Race is why people are so quick to believe that Trayvon is a thug or must have initiated the physical confrontation that lead Zimmerman to shoot him.  Of course this is all based on Zimmerman’s account, which he had a month and a half to work on before being seriously questioned about it.

But I cannot possibly believe that if Zimmerman was black and Trayvon was white that Zimmerman’s story is the one law enforcement would go with any more than I believe that Sean Hannity and Fox News would help raise money for a black Zimmerman’s defense. Or that the police would give black  Zimmerman 44 days to get his story straight before arresting him. Or that a jury of six white women from a small southern town would sympathize with an armed black man patrolling the neighborhood and shooting an unarmed white teenager. Or that a 17-year-old white teenager would get racial profiled in his father’s gated community.

Don’t get me wrong, the judge’s instructions were horrendous; Zimmerman actually rejected Stand Your Ground in favor of a standard self defense claim. Yet the judge instructed the jury that Zimmerman had the right to stand his ground and Juror B37 has since admitted that Stand Your Ground factored into the acquittal.  Simultaneously, the judged failed to instruct them  that in a standard self-defense claim Zimmerman needs to prove that he didn’t initiate the confrontation.

Thus, I believe the evidence, or lack thereof, leaves room for reasonable doubt, particularly with how self-defense laws currently stand.  Moreover, I think the Dept. of Justice going after Zimmerman is de facto double jeopardy, a violation of Zimmerman’s Constitutional rights.  And I don’t think two wrongs make a right.

The fact is, this whole thing stinks.  And it hurts.  If Trayvon’s death was a punch to the gut, the verdict is a kick in the balls.

I honestly can’t help feeling…unwelcome these days. It’s somewhat familiar feeling,  unfortunately.

I know.  Everyone has to deal with racism.  But let’s be honest here.  America has one of the great atrocities of human history on its books. 400 years of the most brutal, oppressive, and dehumanizing slavery ever known followed by another 100 years of legislative, systematic, and violent oppression.

Trayvon Martin’s death is just an echo of this legacy.

Consider that at no point in American history have blacks enjoyed equal standing with whites in terms of income, wealth, education quality or access, job opportunities, corporate leadership, or representation in government.  This on top of being historically red-lined by banks denying us access to home and business loans, subjected to gentrification, stopped, frisked, arrested and charged by law enforcement with much greater frequency, and punished more severely for similar crimes.  So let’s stop pretending that there’s an equivalency, it’s ignorant if not downright duplicitous.

The problem is that we’ve allowed cowards, liars, and bigots–bullies essentially–to set the terms of the discussion.  And bullies hate a fair fight.  They have instead created an environment in which there can be no discourse on the subject of race, save for the occasional rant by Chris Rock.

When we’re not hitting each other over the head with the race card, we’re denying it outright (don’t be fooled, this is just a means of deflecting the entire argument back), focusing on minutia completely out of context as evidence of egality (a.k.a. the “see, when viewed in a vacuum, this detail isn’t racist”), or simply burying our heads in the sand and proclaiming that we’ve arrived at a post-racial America.

It’s bullshit.  And shame on all of us for accepting it as anything else.

The fact is, Trayvon Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal are about race.  A lot of things are about race, and will continue to be, because we refuse to face the issue.

I think about Germany, another nation with a Great Atrocity on its books.  They study the Holocaust as ugly and humiliating as it is.  They look at it and seek not only answers but solutions.  And soon after World War II they came to the conclusion that their government no longer has the right to take a person’s life.  Their current constitution, ratified in 1949, abolishes capital punishment.

That’s the kind of approach we need here in the United States.  Instead of meekly slapping injustice and discrimination away whenever it pops up, we should be actively hunting it down, rooting it out, and crushing it utterly.

More importantly, we can’t keep letting the people who are indifferent, weak-minded, self-interested, or hateful keep controlling the argument. There aren’t two equal sides to the issue.  There’s right and there’s wrong. We have to be determined to be on the right side of this issue forever more.  Not to make up for slavery, which at this point is impossible, but to ensure that inequality and discrimination are completely eliminated and bigotry of every stripe is banished to the shadows where it may wallow only in tremulous fear of the light.

Of course, this is only my dream.

We don’t actually live in a post-racialist America.  Toes are going to get stepped on, nerves will be frayed.  There are blatant racists and more significantly, oblivious ones.  Having your worldview shattered is an unnerving, occasionally violent thing.  It’s unpleasant.  But we can’t let that deter us.

We can no longer afford to be tolerant of intolerance.

Free.  Thought.

And boycott Florida.

Regarding Sandy Hook…

Man, this last day has been a vacillation between being heartbroken and enraged.  I keep thinking about those families in Newtown, Connecticut, this being the silly season and all.  I think about how many of those murdered children had gifts at home waiting for them.   I think about the parents anticipating the looks on the children’s faces Christmas morning.  I think about all the plans that were made to travel and visit family.

I think of how utterly trivial all this holiday consumer crap is in comparison to losing a child. Hell, pretty much everything else in life is trivial.  Those parents would have stepped right in front of those bullets for their kids without a second’s hesitation.

Then I think about the person who killed those innocent kids and I can’t find words to describe him, or words I would utter publicly to describe what I feel about him.  I won’t say his name, though.  Ever.  And that’s that.

What else can I say about an event so tragic, I keep forgeting that 6 innocent adults were killed as well?

The other reason I’m so worked up is because I’m so tired, as many of us are, of seeing these tragedies result in no effort whatsoever to prevent, or at least reduce the risk, of another tragedy.  The next bloodbath comes, and I wonder how many more of them will it take before we realize that we bear the responsibility of preventing this?  I mean we can’t keep our kindergarteners safe.

So in my furor, I took to the twitter-verse looking for a fight with every lobotomized ideologue dumb enough to defend gun rights.  I was surprised and encouraged to see that a lot of like-minded people were doing the same.

The mainstream media was doing the same as well (well, some of it).  To my more encouraged surprise, no one on my side of the argument appeared to be biting on the typical right wing talking points and fallacies (now is not the time; it’s an attack on the 2nd Amendment, etc.).  People were pissed.  The situation was too grave.  And when the sane people pushed, the loons quickly found that the ice beneath their feat was not only thin but cracking.

Maybe America is finally ready to to do something about gun control.

That’s not fair, a majority of us have been ready for years.  But maybe now there are enough of us, sufficiently motivated, to spur the politicians to act.  I wrote every representative I have, Democrat and Republican.

Because our current system is not just untenable, it’s illogical, immoral, and unjust. It’s easily demonstrable.  Instead of scoffing at the gun nuts clamoring for even more firearms, play those scenarios out.  What would really happen if you were working or out running some random errand, and all of sudden shots start firing?  You pull out your gun and you see someone with their gun out firing shots.  Are they the shooter?  Is that just another well-armed citizen like you?  What if they turn their gun on you?  Do you shoot first?  Do you hesitate and put yourself at risk?  It’s goofy.  The fact is the status quo is failing, miserably and absolutely.  We cannot continue to let the defenders of that status quo control–or better, stifle–the conversation.

The first step is to not fall for the rhetoric, which is working so far (though it’s only the 1st day).  The second is to maintain a sense of context.  This specific case may not have been preventable with simple gun control laws, but that doesn’t mean at least some of the 10,000 gun deaths we have every year in this country weren’t preventable.  Gun control is about the epidemic not the one event.

There are sensible measure we can take right away that the overwhelming majority of Americans agree with, such as closing loopholes and doing background checks on everyone looking to buy a gun.  Even a majority of NRA members support that.  Then there are things we need to investigate and discuss further; like ways to better identify potentially dangerous people who shouldn’t have access to guns.  Additionally, we should consider that peripheral issues such as improved mental healthcare might do considerable good.

We live in an “ocean of guns”  in the U.S (89 guns for every 100 people, highest in the world).  It’s too easy for just anyone to get a gun legally.  The NRA is hellbent on putting as many guns into as many hands as possible, while simultaneously giving us greater legislative freedom to use them against one another.  They are behind crazy laws like  stand your ground, which has led to a substantially increased number of penalty-free murders by moving the goalpost on what’s considered self-defense.  They pushed for legislation allowing people on the Terror Watch-list to purchase guns and for loopholes that have created an environment where 40% of  firearms are purchased without any background check (mostly over the interwebs).  And they oppose, with bookoo lobbying dollars, basic, common sense gun control laws that even the NRA membership supports.

This is because the NRA is really just a lobbying organization for the gun manufacturers.  That’s who gives the NRA most of its funding.  The NRA works for arms dealers who sell guns to our military and to the people our military fights.  Those arms manufacturers have sold–directly–some of the very guns that have killed our troops.  So they’re not morally above creating an environment where everyone feels they have to have a gun.

You’ll hear the gun nuts arguing for this like it’s a good thing.  We should’ve armed teachers (the same ones they think are overpaid by the way) After that it’s waitresses, I suppose…then cashiers, office managers, doctors, and finally the clergy.  They won’t be happy until they see every pastor and priest standing before their congregation wearing a Kevlar vest.

We also need to study the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, what the Founding Fathers wrote and said about it ( here’s a hint; they meant militia literally), and what the subsequent court decisions have interpreted the Amendment to mean.  Because that’s the actual process of determining Constitutionality.  We do this for the 1st Amendment, which is why you can’t yell “fire!” in a crowded theater or accuse someone of rape without proof.  The 2nd Amendment is a fundamental right but we need to have an understanding of what that right is and what it’s meant to be.

Finally, we’ve got to have the resolve to see this through.  Once the sting of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary wears off, it will be easy to fall back into old habits until the next tragedy rekindles the outrage.  At that point, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.  And a lot of bloody hands to wash clean.

Free. Thought.

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Stopping The Insanity

Maria Santos Gorrostieta

I should begin by noting that I have never, ever taken an illicit drug in my life. Nor do I plan to.

I’ve been reading about the death of Maria Santos Gorrostieta, the 26 year-old former mayor of Tiquicheo, Mexico (smack dab in the middle of cartel country).  I remembered hearing about her taking over as mayor a few years ago.  She was only 21 years old at the time and a staunch opponent of the cartels.  I worried for

Gorrostieta was assailed and abducted on Novermber 17th as she was driving through town with her daughter.   Three days later, her burned and mutilated body was found in a field by farm workers.  It’s tragic.  There’s no debating that these cartels are motherfuckers; as evil as evil gets in this world.

It made reading about how she told her abductors she’d go willingly if they let her daughter go as heartbreaking as it was moving.

Gorrostieta showing the injuries she sustained in an assassination attempt in 2011.

Granted, Gorrostieta wasn’t your average cookie.  I mean, the cartels’ power is based entirely on butchery (and the constant threat of it).  Their severity and vindictiveness are all they have in lieu of legitimacy.  Their imperative is slaughter; to torture and kill any would-be heroes that dare to stand up to them.  Their survival depends on it.  In that light, along with  some of her statements and actions, it’s fair to say Mrs. Gorrostieta had a bit of a martyr complex. She played a role in creating a sort of inevitability to her death and likely would have done the same for another cause if the drug war didn’t exist.  So even though standing up to the cartels seems kinda suicidal to me, I don’t know that there is a better word than courage to describe it.

But no matter how premeditated or deliberate her heroism might have been, she is inarguably one of the good guys–a bonafide hero.

https://i0.wp.com/wac.450f.edgecastcdn.net/80450F/nj1015.com/files/2012/05/BILLBOARD.jpgThe problem here–the only problem here–the cause of her death and many, many more is this stupid, violent, exploitative, wasteful, obtuse, impossible, unwinnable, unjustifiable, mind-numbingly counter-productive War on Drugs.  It boils my blood.  50, 000 people have been killed by the cartels in the last 6 years alone.   The last 6 years.   At the cost of $15 billion per year–roughly  $500 per second, millions of people have been  jailed for drug-related crimes, losing their lives and their futures–the very same activities our last 3 presidents engaged in.  They were just lucky enough to not get caught.   Thousands of people are killed in street violence over territories and transportation.  Dozens of countries are have had their economies and citizenries decimated fighting murderous cartels.

All of this just to prevent people from getting high.  (Sure, there’s a downside to illegal drugs; there’s a downside to legal drugs, whether it’s alcohol, over-the-counter, or prescription.)

And drugs remain as easy to buy as candy bars.

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It’s goofy.  And comically inconsistent. We don’t see anything so wrong with getting drunk.  We allow people the right to give themselves cancer from smoking cigarettes, and diabetes from eating junk food. But for some reason getting high is an intolerable evil.

It doesn’t make sense.

There are myriad secondary factors:  Private military contractors like Blackwater (er…the Academi, or whatever they’re calling themselves these days to cover up the shame of slaughtering innocent people), profit enormously from “advising” Latin American countries on how to fight America’s War on Drugs. Private prisons lobby state legislatures with barrels of cash for stricter drug enforcement laws to boost their bottom line.  The cost of recovery and treatment places additionall burden on our already overburdened healthcare system.

These things  are awful and true, but they’re resultant rather than causative of the war on drugs.  They go away when the war on drugs goes away.

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“Advisors.”

For whatever reasons, we’ve decided that getting high is somehow immoral or unholy and the peripheral crimes associated with drugs are an unforgivable  blight on our society.  It’s pure nonsense; outmoded and outdated thinking based on the very faulty assumption that the drug war is  WORTH all this death.  ALL this pain.  ALL this cost.

We have never revisited this conclusion.

For a modernized country, America is notoriously susceptible to group-think and ideology.  We follow our political affiliations the same way we follow our sports teams; thick or thin, good or bad.  Even against our own best interests.  We’re loathe to let go of our beliefs, regardless of the evidence.

Case in point: the absolute epitome of failure known as America’s War on Drugs.

Can anything s lead us to question the validity of this war?  Is there a death toll that’s too high?  Enough sacrificial Maria Santos Gorrostietas to spur us to action?  A number prisons built and filled to bursting that would make us take note?  Or will we keep accepting our current, blood-drenched policies no matter the cost?  What will it take before we begin asking ourselves if it’s worth it?

Because it’s not worth it.  Not even close.  It’s all unimaginable cost with no reward whatsoever for the simple fact that after everything is said and done, illegal drugs are readily available for whoever wants them.

At their worst, drugs can be pretty bad–some much worse than alcohol and tobacco.  But even then, drugs are but a mild annoyance in comparison to the hell-spawned inferno of this war of insanity.

The argument against the war on drugs can be won, decisively, if only we’d pull our heads out of the sands of convention and make the case (it’s a policy for crooks and idiots) and challenge those defending it.  It only requires the will to do so.

Maria Gorrostieta showed me that.

Free. Thought.

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Killing for Profit–An American Story

I was gonna go postal in a blog (still might) about this but The young Turks once again handled it much better than I ever could.

Wells Fargo Yovany Gonzalez
Yovany Gonzalez with his daughter Mackenzie.

For those without time to watch the video–and if you haven’t heard–the short version is that Yovany Gonzalez is suing Wells Fargo bank because he believes they fired him 3 days before his daughter, Mackenzie, was scheduled to have cancer surgery. Gonzalez alleges that the financial conglomerate and their insurance provider, United Healthcare, fired him for the express purpose of not having to pay for the expensive medical procedure.  (He was not offered his government mandated COBRA coverage until after 90-days…when he was no longer eligible.)

Mackenzie died of cancer in March 2011.

Germane here is the point that corporations are inherently devoid of morality.  By design, corporations are meant to, within the scope of the prevalent laws and regulations, generate profits and alleviate personal risk.  They can be either good or bad as profit and their executive leadership dictates.  Now these amoral “constructs” have assumed overwhelming influence in the U.S. because of our corrupt political system.

A prime example of this manifest corruption is the lack of gun restrictions–hell, there isn’t even talk of restricting access to guns, even after the Aurora, Colorado, Tayvon Martin, Gabby Giffords, and Virginia Tech shootings.  Gun restrictions very well might have saved lives in all of these instances.  America averages roughly 20 mass shootings a year.  Most just don’t make national news.  In fact, the rate of gun-related deaths in the United States is 8 times higher than in economically similar nations.

Yet it is political anathema to even consider any gun restrictions–even though a vast majority of Americans think more restrictions are needed.  There are even some gun regulations that a majority of NRA members agree with, such as:

1. Requiring criminal background checks on gun owners and gun shop employees. 87 percent of non-NRA gun-owners and 74 percent of NRA gun owners support the former, and 80 percent and 79 percent, respectively, endorse the latter.

2. Prohibiting terrorist watch list members from acquiring guns. Support ranges from 80 percent among non-NRA gun-owners to 71 percent among NRA members.

3. Mandating that gun-owners tell the police when their gun is stolen. 71 percent non-NRA gun-owners support this measure, as do 64 percent of NRA members.

4. Concealed carry permits should only be restricted to individuals who have completed a safety training course and are 21 and older. 84 percent of non-NRA and 74 percent of NRA member gun-owners support the safety training restriction, and the numbers are 74 percent and 63 percent for the age restriction.

5. Concealed carry permits shouldn’t be given to perpetrators of violent misdemeanors or individuals arrested for domestic violence. The NRA/non-NRA gun-owner split on these issues is 81 percent and 75 percent in favor of the violent misdemeanors provision and 78 percent/68 percent in favor of the domestic violence restriction.

–From:  http://thinkprogress.org/election/2012/07/24/577091/nra-members-agree-regulating-guns-makes-sense/

A majority–in most case a super-majority–of Americans, a of gun owners, and of NRA members support these reasonable and very commons sense gun controls.  Still, no gun regulations get passed because lawmakers fear the power of the NRA and gun manufacturers.  Apparently the NRA members don’t matter.

Meanwhile Conservative–and establishment–propaganda has many people convinced that the government–the only body with the authority to check the power of these corporations–is an even greater evil.  This has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as our government is now in the hands of corporate machines with no conscience.

We are in dire need of a political revolution that puts power back into the hands of the people.  But with people being being allowed to die in the name of profit, access to opportunity shriveling on the vine, more and more advantages being stacked in favor of the rich, and the voice of the people being increasingly ignored, I’m not sure how much longer the window for political change will stay open.

They right way.

After that, the only option will be violent revolution.  In modern times.  With modern weapons.  No sane person could possibly want that.  But given the human inclination to not act, even on our own behalves, until absolutely  forced, I dread that large scale violence is becoming increasingly inevitable in the long run.

The wrong way.

It is our Constitutional Right to not just be heard, but represented.  Despite all the other problems we face, getting money out of politics–ending the purchase of political office–has to be our first and foremost priority. 

We need a Constitutional Amendment revoking the corporate personhood which allows business interests to use their dollars as “political speech”.  We need strict, draconian campaign finance reform (I would prefer 100%publicly funded elections).  Take away the means of buying politicians.

Forget party affiliation.  Forget campaign promises.

Crush the corruption.

Get money out of politics.  If not for ourselves, for Mackenzie Gonzalez and those like her yet to come.

Free.  Thought.

Evolution Is Not Just A Theory…Look At Obama

President Barrack Obama has “evolved” to conform with the growing majority opinion across the country that LGBT Americans are Constitutionally entitled to the same rights as heterosexual Americans, including marriage.

The president had been inexplicably resistant to the idea of marriage equality even though his administration had otherwise made great strides in promoting LGBT rights.  He always described his position on gay marriage as evolving. (As opposed to waiting for the right time, I guess.  Classic Obama.)

Nevertheless, public opinion was changing and pressure was mounting.  The Democratic party supplied the screws.  Joe Biden tightened them on Meet the Press last Sunday.  Then Amendment 1 passed in North Carolina.  It imposes a state constitutional ban on gay marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships.

Apparently it combined with the previous environmental conditions to push President Obama’s evolution past the tipping point.

Obama is hilarious sometimes.  But hey, you take the wins where and when they come.

This flip-flop/concession/self-realization/admittance of an actual belief moves us all one step closer to an America that recognizes the Constitutional rights of all citizens equally and the basic human rights of all humankind.

This is a bit of a follow-up on the post I did about celebrating stupidity in America. A great, informative argument about how legalized prostitution has its own inherent problems. I make my assessment in the comments, but it’s definitely eye-opening.

P.S. More info on human trafficking here.

Wasn’t Justice First Anyway?

U.S. Army veteran and Representative for Florida's 22nd District, Allen West

You might have heard about how U.S. Representative and incendiary quote factory Allen West–an early candidate for both Fool of the Year and Fool of the Decade honors–followed up his not-so-subtle claim that “78-81” Democratic congressional members are card-carrying members of the Communist Party with the equally untrue assessment that economic justice is un-American.

(There are roughly 78 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC)–all Democrats.  Again, not subtle.)

What you might not have heard is that the supposedly-Communist CPC proposed a budget in March of this year (which they suspiciously named The People’s Budget–Uh-oh!).

Their budget is designed to eliminate the deficit by 2021–in fact, it creates a budget surplus, while preserving Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

This is primarily done by cutting waste in defense spending, applying the Buffet Rule, taxing capital gains as regular income, and eliminating oil subsidies and corporate loopholes from the tax code.  Their budget enacts a public option for healthcare.  It fixes–REPEAT–fixes Social Security’s insolvency.  It invests US$1.45 trillion in job creation, education, clean energy, housing, and broadband infrastructure.  It promotes energy independence.  It eliminates emergency war funding which will help prevent presidents from going to war without congressional consent (as mandated by that pesky U.S. Constitution).

In short, this is a budget that is not only balanced, but saves money by reducing spending overall, eliminating waste, and moving us closer to a flat tax rate (for all but the very poor). It might sound made up but it’s not.  I got all this directly out of the actual budget proposal (which you can read here).

The CPC budget stands in stark contrast to the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan which devastates social programs, imbalances the tax code even more in favor of the rich and large corporations, and in the end INCREASES the deficit by more than US$3 trillion.  Despite being denounced by religious leaders as “immoral” and “irresponsible,” the Republican majority in the House passed the Ryan Budget on March 29, 2012.

The CPC budget proposal was voted down the very same day, 78-346.  It barely managed a ripple in the national media.  And Allen West called them communists for proposing it.

(A bipartisan budget proposal incorporating ideas from both sides also went down in flames that day.)

West has been one of the louder voices in the cacophony denouncing social justice as socialism, communism, Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, hell, syllogism, and whatever other ism they think will get a rise out of people.

Much as socialism and capitalism have been locked hand-in-hand by our Constitution, so has liberty and justice (I’m pretty sure I heard that somewhere).   Before the Founders even got started with the particulars of how our newly formed nation would work, they made their intentions clear:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

My glasses might be smudgy but I think justice is first.  Now obviously this isn’t a prioritized list but justice seems to at least be equally important as  the other things.  I hear so much talk of liberty being an American value.  Yet when many people say that they only mean economic liberty.  Oddly, many of these same people don’t interpret justice to include economic justice.

Communism dictates that an engineer and a janitor should earn the same income.  It’s ridiculous.  I’d be willing to bet that less than 0.01% of Americans believe anything remotely close to that.  What I believe, and I think many other Americans believe, is that a janitor should be able to put food on his family’s table and a roof over their heads.  That his kids should have access to a college education.  That no children should starve. That no one should die of untreated illnesses or exposure to the elements.

These are not radical assaults on American liberty.  They are American values that simply place a higher priority on justice.  There’s actually a reasonable argument to be made that economic justice  increases liberty because it allows more people the freedom to enjoy it.

Allen West’s type of partisan name-calling is usually just a means of deflection.  Unfortunately, so are the calls for a “change in the tone” of political discourse.  I disagree.  Our lives, our freedoms, our futures–and our children’s futures–are at stake.  We should be passionate about these things, so long as that passion doesn’t supersede truth and reason.

So it goes with liberty and justice, too.

Allen West--technically--violates U.S. federal law by putting Ol' Glory in water--on flag day. (I know, I know, but I just couldn't help myself. :))