The Price We Pay In The US For Freedom


Already, we are hearing conspiracy theories about Las Vegas. Made worse by the fact that algorithms associated with social media sites are making some of the more obnoxious theories go instantly viral.

As upsetting as this is. Not least for victims, their families and friends. The fact is that, when a country, such as the US, places such a vigorous premium on freedom. Freedom of the press. Freedom of speech. Freedom of the internet. Freedom to own a gun. The price we pay for freedom is often ugly and painful.

As always, the price we are willing to pay as a society is the consequence of decisions we make to balance freedom, security, safety and decency. There is no right or wrong. There are only the choices we make, democratically, by deciding to take part in the electoral processes we have already agreed by way of majority vote.

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Published in: on October 6, 2017 at 3:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Las Vegas: If Not Now, Then When?


I got jumped on a bit for a comment that ‘politicized’ the tragedy in Las Vegas.

Before I say anything about that, let me once more take a moment for all of us just to think of 58 dead. 527 injured.

Let’s stop long enough, from looking at the pictures. Tracking money to the Philippines. And actually think about 58 people dead.

Lying on the ground. Tended to by friends. Who knew them, laughing and singing, only moments before. With families waiting. For whom now the wait will never end.

Let’s think about what 527 injured means. A scratch? Crippled? Neighbors whose lives are ruined. Whose families just went from sharers to carers.

Let’s think about the first responders. Who, as always, thought nothing of their own safety. As they attempted to protect others.

Let’s think of the concert-goers. Who stood up. Went back. Covered bodies. And helped some to safety. Who were themselves injured, or killed, as a consequence.

It’s not just that we live in violent times. We live in an age where social ADD is the norm.

Who remembers Harvey? Who cares now about Irma? The people still suffering the effects of flooding do.

The President, for sure, has moved on. To Puerto Rico. To demand praise. For emergency efforts that owe nothing to him.

A President whose only contribution to societal institutional memory was to minimize the effects of Maria, by making offensive comparison to Katrina.

But it’s not just Trump. It’s all of us. If it happened last week, it might just as well have happened a millennium ago.

If it happened before a win by our favorite college team. It is forgotten altogether.

I’m 61. I’ve seen a lot. There isn’t too much about which I cannot say: it’s ok; things will change – they will get better.

But one thing gets worse. Our ability to move on, and forget. I do not mind the moving on. I do mind the forgetting.

I was accused of heartlessness for ‘politicizing’ Las Vegas ‘too soon.’ The real heartlessness is allowing so much time to pass that it never becomes sufficiently ‘politicized’ at all.

We permitted Donald Trump to become President, because we waited too long.

We let important issues slide because we have convinced ourselves they can wait until tomorrow.

We condemn ourselves to future tragedies, because we pretend that it is ‘too soon’ to politicize the ones that just happened.

Another product of our age is our desire to normalize activity we know, deep in our heart, is not normal.

I understand about the Second Amendment. I get the history of this country. The desire to protect loved ones. But gun culture is not normal. We need to stop pretending to ourselves that it is.

And this is not merely a rant calling for gun legislation. That is one more product of our times: we seek to dumb everything down.

This isn’t just about responsible gun ownership versus bad. This is about changing ourselves into a society where we hate less, and are prone to violence less. Where the perceived need for guns is less.

This is not a cultural change that happens overnight. With one piece of legislation. This is a process that takes years. Demands dedication. Sacrifice. Clear thinking. And constant renewal.

I wrote elsewhere about what sort of issues I would see addressed if one were to attempt a complete rethink of a culture that regards possession of incredibly dangerous and offensive weaponry as the norm. I paste that ‘program’ here:

“If someone were to ask me to address the issue of violence in the US, I would talk about:

1) My therapist from alcohol rehab in 1994. Who is or was part of a national commission, set up by rehab experts and the insurance industry, to examine the whole problem of addiction. Causes. Environmental. Genetic. Cycles of abuse. Which commission was seriously discussing having all insurance companies pay for two weeks of therapy for every insurance holder. To deal with all of the natural distortions we all experience growing up. The commission (not so much the insurance companies) took the view that such wholesale therapy could well reduce the incidence of violence in society.

2) Reform of policing methods. Aiming at a time when front-line police in the US might not carry guns. When citizens would be involved in designing the rules of conduct by which they are policed. When the disconnect between those who genuinely want to serve and protect and their communities could be fully repaired. (

3) The connection between disadvantage and behavior. The connection between seeming imbalance in society and reaction. Addressing causes, while also making it clear that no ’cause’ excuses breaking the law.

4) The manner in which our society properly deals with those with mental health issues. In a dignified fashion.

5) Sentencing policy, and whether or not it creates a devil-may-care attitude among those likely to break the law.

6) Gun culture. How to change it. I really do not think there is anyone out there saying that gun ownership is a good thing. It builds character. It makes my crops grow. It is generally expressed in terms of protection. So, let’s talk about protection from what. And seriously address the ‘what.’ With an open mind.

This would be a start. And, as you can see. I regard the issue of ‘gun culture’ as multi-dimensional. Too many folks, in my opinion, look at it one-dimensionally: guns are good; guns are bad. It ain’t that simple. And. Addressing it will take tens of years. If not longer.”

I now add a couple of comments from another contributor. I do not have their permission. But I was struck sufficiently by their words that I want you to read them, too:

“I wish we had more support for those who feel breaking into someone’s house armed to rob and possibly kill (is ok), maybe if there were far less poor and suffering there would be less of a need for others to feel they have to protect themselves. Maybe if certain drugs were legalized and regulated there would be less violence as well.”

“I don’t think society will become safer. We are over populating our planet and our middle class is disappearing, with not much hope in sight for a brighter future for those who have only known a life of despair. I am grateful for those in my life who have helped my family out in our lowest of times, preventing me from feeling the desperation that so many do that bring them to the point of committing heinous acts against others. There isn’t much I wouldn’t do to ensure the safety and wellbeing of my husband and children. Thankfully I have people in my life who have prevented me from reaching the point where I feel I have to jeopardize my moral beliefs to keep my family fed, not everyone has that. And the number of people who don’t is growing rapidly.”

Hate. Violence. Gun culture. Are not normal. But that does not mean that I do not understand why they exist. They exist because too many of us are in despair. In fear.

I do not apologize for ‘politicizing’ Las Vegas. I do not apologize for ‘politicizing’ it ‘too soon.’ I do not apologize for saying that ‘gun culture’ is not normal. And demanding that our society do much, much better. Each of us. As individuals. Not some amorphous societal blob, in a capital or capitol. All of us. We all of us need to do much, much more to relieve the despair and fear felt by so many in our society. My only apology would have been if I had not politicized this issue at all.

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Published in: on October 6, 2017 at 3:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Las Vegas 2017 – Guilt


Nobody really wants to be the one to say this. We would prefer our focus be entirely on grieving and consoling. But, it is not too soon. And we all know it is in our minds. So. Let me be the one. A country and western music festival? Maybe now the rednecks will wake up and take notice?

#heartbroken #stopallthehate

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Published in: on October 6, 2017 at 2:53 am  Leave a Comment  

‘American Made’: Why Clinton Lost in 2016


Ok. It took me a while. But this movie is about Barry Seal? For real?! The same Barry Seal who was at the heart of the dirty deal Bill Clinton did with the CIA when he was Governor of Arkansas? Apparently so. But, very considerable sanitized.

Which is my allusion to Hillary. The fact that the Clintons got up to this kind of s**t. And then thought no-one would ever notice the trail of crap they left behind them. Not unlike Pig-Pen of Peanuts fame.

The film is probably worth watching. Even with all the juicy bits censored out. Unless you just hate Tom Cruise.

But. The real story (and I spent some time researching it for my book) is that Bill cut a deal with the CIA. To allow Mena in Arkansas to be used to run drugs into Central America. To fund the Contras. In return for ‘assistance’ in becoming President.

And, if you think US intelligence does not involve itself in the US Presidency, then you’ve not been paying close enough attention to the Trump-Russia story. Or to the Reagan ‘October Surprise.’ The Carter years. And the Kennedy assassination.

In any event. The movie should be a huge giggle. They’ve done it as a comedy. And it reminds me, one more time, why Democrats have such trouble winning the Presidency. We need to find better candidates …

Published in: on October 1, 2017 at 4:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Returning Mrs. Trump’s Book Donation


Ok. If my fellow liberals truly want to understand why Democrats are in trouble. Even with Mr. Trump in the White House. Then the whole saga of the school librarian who returned Mrs. Trump’s book donation with a snotty letter sums it all up.  By the numbers:

1) I have no time for any Trumps. Not even the females. Although. Hands up. If I found myself alone on a deserted island with Ivanka for a year. I’d be spending a long session with the family priest in the confessional. Upon my return to civilization. But, that said, my politics would not have changed.

2) It is an absolute nonsense for anyone to suggest that education ever has been or ever will be devoid of politics. Whoever is in the White House. Ain’t ever going to happen. I grant you that.

3) Mrs. Trump may not be the brightest bulb on the Christmas Tree. But she is the First Lady. And she is trying.

4) The letter from this school librarian is the most inappropriate, pompous, unnecessary, ivory-tower, I-know-better-than-you, arch piece of trite, political propaganda I’ve ever seen. It owes nothing to concern for children. And is merely a naked attempt to embarrass someone with whom the librarian does not agree politically. I’m sorry. I’ve been the governor of a British elementary and middle school. And this letter makes my skin crawl. It brings back nightmares of all the teachers and administrators with whom I fought, and who were way more interested in school-kids being politically correct, rather than well-taught in the basics, and happy.

5) I know the federal Department of Education is under the control of the ‘enemy’ at the moment. But when it was under the control of the Obama Administration, there were some 62 million voters who believed it to be under the control of a different enemy. As much as we can, we really do need to try to keep too much politics out of the classroom. There is a time and a place. And on this occasion, under this Administration, their Department of Education signed off on Seuss, and signed off on the schools to which the books were being sent. Find a political path to make your political point. But not with the First Lady. Play fair. Be grown up.

6) There are many different ways this could have been handled. The books could have been returned to the Department of Education. The books could have been forwarded privately and honorably to a school the librarian thought would be more deserving. The fact that an alternative path was not chosen. The fact that the option chosen was designed specifically to receive a lot of publicity. By embarrassing the First Lady. Demonstrates that the tactic had nothing to do with education. And everything to do with cheap politics and misplaced political correctness.

I say again. If this is the sort of stunt we Democrats think is going to win over independent swing voters. If we truly believe that these voters are not intelligent enough to recognize a cheap political gambit when they see one. If we genuinely take the view that whole swathes of voters are suddenly going to feel safer with an overactive, Democratic, Seuss Policewoman than with Betsy DeVos (as obnoxious as she is), then there is next to no chance we will ever gain the trust of the voters we require. And we deserve to lose in 2018 and 2020.

We progressives need dramatically to grow up. And to do so fast. Besides, I was raised on Dr. Seuss. It really is time to give the whole trigger, call-out, over-hyped snowflake thing a rest.

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Published in: on October 1, 2017 at 4:09 am  Leave a Comment