Friday, October 23, 2015

Two good guys with Guns (the laws of unintended consequence)

In Palm Beach, two men, both lawfully armed, come across one another.  Neither is obviously law enforcement, one draws his weapon in fear because the second man came out of the shadows and as a conditioned reaction to being confronted by a stranger on a dark night, the other reaches for his in reaction to the first man drawing his weapon.  The first shoots the second, the second man dies.  The first man's name was Nouman Raja, the second man, the man who died, was Corey Jones.  Mr. Jones' family is understandably upset, understandably outraged (even if it may be they ultimately shouldn't be, it's normal).  It happened to turn out Mr. Raja is a police officer.  The family claims Officer Raja never showed his badge, never identified himself as a police officer.

Look, it seems entirely possible neither man did anything wrong, and certainly not if we it were to have instead be the case that neither was a police officer.  In that case, neither man has to identify himself, he just has to be in fear for his life (under Florida law).

Now, it just so happens one was, and it seems may not have identified himself, thus averting a problem.  If so, that's horrible, and maybe even criminal (for a law enforcement officer), but it points out that police are trained, do behave differently, to try to avoid exactly this kind of event.  Civilians have no such requirements. You don't have to say, "Hands Up!, Police!"  You (he were Mr. Raja a civilian), simply had to be in fear, and once Mr. Jones started reaching for his gun, was entirely justified (under law) in shooting.  Mr. Jones, in fearing for his life with a stranger pointing a gun at him, was entirely within his right to reach for his own weapon and in fact according to the gun nuts, that's what he should do.  They claim they'd stop "robbers/bad guys" by being armed, being ready to "throw down" even though, just like in this case, trying to do so put their lives in great danger. So, under law, and in the eyes of the pro-gun crowd, this kind of confrontation turning deadly, was right, not just likely.

There may not have been time either for this officer to identify himself, this may all have transpired too quickly.  That's under investigation.  What isn't under investigation is that this is exactly the problem with people all over walking around armed.  What isn't under investigation is that having people who don't have to identify themselves, who are armed, confronting each other, whether in a movie theatre, on a bridge, in a classroom, wherever, draw a weapon, may elicit this exact kind of response by others who are also armed.  It may elicit needless shootings by people not trained (an more importantly not practiced) to clear their firing background, not trained/practiced (at) to establish the threat, not trained to seek to de-escalate and only use deadly force as the very last possible resort.  Under law, they merely have to feel in mortal peril, then they may draw a weapon, and even if the reason they feel in peril is because someone (in their classroom) has drawn a weapon in response to the real assailant, and they shoot that other person who was just trying to stop the real assailant, no matter, that's permitted under the law.  So, accidental killings are ok (apparently, at least under the law).  Apparently having accidental shootings is just the unfortunately collateral damage of making sure people walk around armed without any real constraints on the employment of those firearms other than feeling threatened.  Apparently the hundreds of accidental shootings each year in this country are better, are "ok" or at least, an acceptable cost, so that a handful of people a year (less than 200 non-law enforcement shootings by most reliable estimates) can be "saved" even though statistics say yelling at an armed assailant is more successful as a self-defense approach than being armed.

So, we are going to see, and have seen, needless deaths as untrained people draw and fire, fire in fear.  We are going to see unintentional killings, needless killings.  Fear is a strong motivator, it motivates people to carry guns, and it motivates those people, people who seem more susceptible to fear, to draw and use those weapons when they are afraid.  We are going to see it because they are relatively untrained, we are going to see it because too many walk around armed, because they are excessively afraid.  You can say "well they just need (better) training", but what we know from experience with police, is that training normally falls by the wayside in stress unless repeatedly drilled into the person, precisely because their fear overrules their reasoning.  Even with repeated training, the process still fails police.  And more, police must declare themselves, civilians don't have to do so, so no matter the level of training, two "ships in the night" may very well have a random, tragic encounter, where neither is held accountable, yet one (or both) dies.  That's what we've created, that's what the lobbying by the NRA has helped to create, a lawless, fearful vigilantism.

And so we get confrontations which turn into tragedy.  Rather than two people yelling at each other, one is dead, the other under a cloud and having to live with guilt the rest of his life for having needlessly shot "a good guy with a gun."

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

All that GOP empty talk about being the party of "RESPONSIBILITY!

Rubbish! When the truth and facts are not on their side, they will try even the most blatantly bald-faced lie to deny that truth and fact.  But oh, the rush! to demand others be held accountable, no matter how sight the actual responsibility. Jeb is still unable to explain how Dubya has no responsibility for 9/11, but Hillary Clinton has total responsibility for Benghazi. GOP = Hypocrisy

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Isreali Stabbings and Violence

I want to be clear.  I abhor and condemn the attacks by Palestinians on Israeli citizens.  Protesting what you see as oppression with violence and murder isn’t striking out with righteous anger, it’s murdering innocent people because you’re mad.  It’s unjust, it’s vigilantism, it’s abandoning law and worst for the Palestinians, it ultimately reinforces any stereo-type the more conservative Israelis and Israeli politicians may have about Palestinians.  It reinforces their own militantism, their own impatience, even their own brutality.

But that’s the rub, as the saying goes “An eye for an eye just leads to a world full of blind people.”  It’s rather easy to say, “When they stop rioting, I’ll stop punishing them”, just like it is easy to say, “When they stop punishing us unfairly (in our opinion), we’ll stop rioting.”  It’s also easy to say “Can’t we just get along?” and pretend that simply turning the other cheek solves the issue.  No one makes that choice after getting BOTH cheeks slapped, none of the parties in this dispute feel like “just getting along” and each feel they’ve been violated.  Each is right.  Whether you think the Israelis are “more” in the right or not, it is untrue to suggest the Israelis haven’t done wrong here.  Whether you hate the Israelis, it’s absurd to suggest the actions of the Palestinians were “in proportion” to the offense.  I personally feel the Palestinians have been “more” wrong, but that at $1 will get you $1 of coffee because that opinion solves nothing.  It may justify militarism, but it solves nothing.

What also solves nothing is continuing  the militancy (on either side).  The recent outbreak of violence shows with stark clarity that there is enormous antipathy sewn into the youth in the Palestinian territories.  We can say that it’s all brain-washing, but that’s whistling past the grave, some of it is sure, but some of it is also, just like in any dispute, as a result of what has been seen as needless crackdown, needless antagonism (like building additional Israeli settlements on the West Bank or on ground Muslims considered holy).  We can say with certainty that firing rockets aimlessly into areas where there are schools, where children play, is seen rightly as unprovoked attacks upon the utterly innocent.  All of us can understand the idea of “making war” on those who attack you, few (if any) of the rational among us can justify involving people who have had no choice and no voice, whether that’s an Israeli 3rd grader killed by a blindly fired rocket or a Palestinian toddler killed by an errant bomb, each “fired” with apparent ambivalence. 


The powerful actor here is Israel, right now.  The nation with the short term upper hand but long term problem, is Israel.  Their people fear attacks, rightly, but because of that fear they elect the strong-sounding, if not strong-thinking.  It takes courage to turn aside from retaliation.  It is the person who lashes out in anger when he is the powerful one with nearly all the might who is taking the easy road.  The truth is that Israel must start to consider, as a nation, and as a policy, what it feels the middle-east will look like in 20 years.  I fear that Israel will be in flames in 20 years.  Contrast that with the situation 20 years ago, and then 20 years before that.  20 years ago was 1995.  Things were probably better then than now, in part because Yitzhak Rabin had placed a moratorium on further settlements on the West Bank.  20 years before that was 1975.  Israel had just prevailed in a war with Egypt, Syria and, limitedly, Jordan (in 1973).  In 1977, Menachim Begin and Anwar Sadat won the Nobel prize for peace for hammering out the first permanent peace treaty between an Arab state and Israel.


So, to say that these folks will always be at war with each other, are incapable of finding a peaceful solution is not only untrue and defeatist, it dooms Israel to perpetual war.  Furthermore, it ignores that things aren’t “the same” as they’ve always been, but in fact are getting worse. It ignores that the “meeting violence with violence” approach of conservatives not only has failed, it’s made things worse, worse that is unless you’re an Israeli defense contractor (or US defense contractor working with Israel).  The truth appears to be that Israel has to decide whether it is going to pull back it’s own knives, restrain it’s police in a manner similar to the calls for, and actions taken to, restrain US police forces as the public sees incontrovertible proof of excessive force and abuse of power.  In short, the Israeli people have to decide if they are going to afford the Palestinians the same respect under the law, the same rights as human beings, as they demand for themselves from their government.  The reason is not that the Palestinians have earned it, it’s not because they are citizens of Israel (which some would throw out as a reason to not afford them those protections), but rather because, just like we feel about people who aren’t US citizens, certain rights are inalienable, in short are to be afforded to ALL people if we had the power to do so, and among those are the, “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  If Israel is to have peace it must take the first step, and that first step must be providing those who feel oppressed a sense that the rule of law prevails, that when an Israeli soldier or police officer flouts the law, they will be held to account and that Palestinians can get a fair day in court to do so.  The rule of law is exactly what the Palestinians are violating with their vigilantism, it is EXACTLY what the Israeli government is complaining about, and if they are not to appear the ultimate hypocrites, they must provide the Palestinians that same protection and remedy.  Anything else is complaining about a twig in the eye of another, when you have a log in your own, not because the violence of the Israelis exceeds that of the Palestinians, it doesn’t, but because the POWER of the Israelis to fix things far exceeds that of the Palestinians, and with that power comes the responsibility as moral people, to do so.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sweet Tweet - and let's get rid of Citizen's United.

Corporations are not people. Zygotes are not people either. Women are people with autonomy over their own bodies.

This reflects the failed values of conservatism.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Trying to have it both ways.......immigration

This graphic is from the FB page, Boycott Koch Industries.

It reflects the contradictions that underpin what the right incorrectly believes about the issue of immigration.  It is part of the pattern of demonizing immigrants, both those who are legal and those who are undocumented. 

It is factually false in BOTH versions in the graphic. 

Immigrants are not stealing jobs from Americans, in fact they provide much labor that would go unperformed otherwise.  And immigrants are not lazy; they want to work, and indeed BOTH legal AND undocumented immigrants start up new businesses at twice the rate of American citizens, AND they pay a significant amount of taxes, including into social security (which they cannot collect from).

While coming to this country benefits those who do so, often those people are fleeing hellish conditions, it is still a less than desirable life to live in the shadows.  We NEED immigration reform.  We should be treating these people with compassion (except for those who are criminals like those who willingly - as distinct from unwillingly through coercion - work for drug cartels etc.).

As with the famous Bible quote (John 8:32) about the truth setting you free, the truth, the FACTS, about immigration and why it is GOOD for the United States could set a lot of people free - not only the immigrants themselves, but those who harbor ill will towards them without legitimate foundation to do so.

Because the issue of immigration is so central to the political right wing in 2015 and 2016 elections, it is imperative that we correct the misinformation and propaganda deception of the right wing voters with solid facts and effective persuasion.  Not doing so, successfully, will harm all of us, not just the right, not just immigrants, but ALL of us, as a nation.

It won't be easy to do, but it is important to do.  Please, start with sharing this.  Hopefully the Schrodinger reference will be understood and the humor will help be persuasive, when put so graphically.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Fun Day - a sports related video: Who Pays and Who Plays?

Ok, so it is more serious and not pure entertainment.

But ask yourself the next logical question - who is benefiting from this arrangement? Follow the money.

It is not the players who benefit; they don't get paid, and are frequently injured, losing their scholarships after injury. It is clearly not the schools, students or ordinary tax payers who benefit; those are the people who pay the bill for this.

Sure a few superstars might go on to the major league sports teams, and make big bucks; but that is really the hook to attract athletes in the first place. It is not unfair to assert that college level sports operates as a farm team for the pros at the expense of most of the athletes - and students, and tax payers, and academic staff.

Watch the video below; and then remember what you saw the next time you see a Republican whingeing on and on about Democrats who want to give 'free stuff' like debt relief to students, or eliminate tuition. Aren't they REALLY just trying to keep rigging the playing field, keeping an unfair status quo in place?

Higher education is an investment in our future economy. Higher education is essential to avoid structural unemployment (job sectors collapsing, or people unqualified to fill open jobs), as distinct from frictional unemployment (normal economically healthy job changes as people advance leaving old jobs, retire, etc.). An educated labor force is essential to a competitive economy. Free higher education to those qualified to receive it is smart, it is an investment with a future payback, a future return. It is not a give-away, it is not a bribe, it is not a gift.

But if we DO enact free tuition, or at the very least less student debt, maybe it is time for either a drastic refinancing of college athletics, or their elimination entirely - let the pros run their own farm teams and pay for them. Ditto their stadiums. Get out of the public pocket benefiting the private sector wealthy.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

GOP/Conservatism of all stripes = Political Cancer

I was reading one of the blogs listed in our blog roll this morning, about an unlikely comparison  and contrast between marxism and cancer. This paragraph reminded me much more of the policies of Republicans than any other political, social or economic structuring:  

From Pharyngula:
In that sense, cancer is more of a reactionary counter-revolution, in which a few cells abandon the bonds of trust to selfishly exploit their neighbors and the resources of the whole. If they succeed, the whole system will crash, leading to the deaths of trillions of cells…including the greedy and short-sighted cancerous reactionaries.
The struggle for life is also a fight for the welfare of the masses. It is the restoration of harmony and cooperation to all of the cells of the body. I wish my comrade in the Leeds General Infirmary well, and if he should fall, let us all remember that he fell in glorious struggle, as a communal entity resisting an exploitive few.
How do I see this as a similarity to a Republican cancer on the body politic?
1. Voter suppression parallels attacks on the immune system, the body's way removing disease, and the body politic's way of removing corrupt or incompetent elected officials and voting down bad legislation.
2. Tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations, sweetheart deals, subsidies, and lack of regulation where there is obvious corruption and profiteering that lead to exploitation of labor and resources to benefit a few, to the ultimate detriment of the whole.
3. Struggle for life and cooperation of the masses vs political cancer - attacks on the social safety net, social security, medicaid and medicare, even the opposition to disaster aid all represent a philosophy of every individual for themselves, too bad if you die or are hurt, you are on you own even if that is cumulatively detrimental to the whole.
4. Chaos and disruption in individual living bodies result from the uncontrolled cellular growth of cancer, such as tumors, or the loss of tissue, such as bone tissue in osteosarcomas, and similar destructive outcomes have resulted from the bad governance of the Republicans, such as their inability to pass necessary legislation (highway bill comes to mind), as well as their government shutdowns, and their obstructive gridlock of congress, and their current speaker dilemma dysfunction.  Shut downs, for example, cost many millions of wasted tax dollars, and was responsible as well for a loss to our economy in the billions from lost economic activity, etc.
5.Opposition to factual sex ed leads NOT to less sexual activity but to highest unplanned pregnancies  among those least able or likely to be desirable parents (the reason we try to decrease unplanned pregnancies, especially among the young and immature) at the highest costs to society as a whole resembles uncontrolled detrimental cell growth. Attacks on factually accurate education as a whole, weakens the nation as a whole, and in particular weakens our economy which is education driven.
6.  Attacks on organized labor by the GOP/Tea Party has resulted in the gradual weakening and destruction of the middle class, just like a cancer.
7. Science denial of crises like global warming clearly harm the whole globe, not just the United States in multiple ways. Science denial is like cancer in facilitating that harm, usually to the exploitive benefit of the few, like those who get rich off of fossil fuels, while the rest of us are left to pay for the damage it does, and economically are at the mercy of fluctuating commodity market manipulation.
8. Gun violence versus gun control -- I shouldn't need to spell out this one; it should be obvious.
9. Short term exploitive gains in all areas of public policy and in conservative business practices as well, benefitting from short term advantages that are at the expense of long term success. An example would be failing to regulate hedge funds, or to break up the big banks, both of which engage in short term exploitation that is detrimental to long term growth and stability.

Those are my cancer/GOP comparisons -- please feel free to add your own comparison and contrast in the comments section.

Go ahead - take a wack at it yourself.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tuesday Night's Debates -- and Jesse Ventura, as a footnote

First, I love the differences between the Democratic Debate, and what has passed as more circus than debates on the right.  Substance, Dignity, appeal to an adult audience with adult behavior.

But there seems no clear consensus on who won.  Many say Hillary lit up the night. (Get the word play with the lit up the night Hillary jack-o-lantern?)

Others point out Bernie Sanders, noting he is in a stronger position re small money donors, focus groups, gains in the polls and rally turnouts than Obama was in the same time frame of election campaigns. (See Bernie feeling the Bern in the graphic.)  And then there was O’Malley, who a few people thought did a big break-out turn, but more seem to feel he at best looked like a potential Veep candidate.  Time will tell, if he goes thumbs up or thumbs down.

Lincoln Chaffee is a sweet guy, but not presidential or vice presidential material.  Rather he seems to me what people who haven’t been actually watching Bernie Sanders were expecting lefty liberal Sanders to be, all too nicey-nicey-touchy-feely-fuzzy.

Same for Webb; he is not ready for prime time, and doesn’t have anything special to break out of the unknown column. Certainly not anything he has shown so far. Webb is also not looking Veep-worthy.

O’Malley might be a good fit for a Veep candidate, but this is only one debate.

Depending on who you believe, mostly reflecting so far as I can tell pre-debate preferences, either Sanders or Clinton won, and both appear to be credited with strong performances (especially Hillary).  Hillary leads the left as the single-name-recognition candidate, highly recognizable like Trump on the right.  The “Feel the Bern” message of Sanders campaign is gaining ground (on a par with Yeb!) on the right.  People can figure out who it is, but it is less meaningful or significant to those not heavily into candidates this early.

I think the two are each excellent candidates for different reasons. I would not be averse to a shared ticket, with Bernie in the Veep slot. That ticket NEEDS the additional swing left/progressive.

And I think they could get along, and be useful to each other, bringing things to the general election race that one or the other lack. It is way too early to speculate on that possibility.

Besides, my preference for the Veep slot would be Gov. Brown of California – he’s made some pretty remarkable turn-arounds in California, and has been successful in making bi-partisan solutions that work while not entirely alienating conservatives or losing his left-leaning wing base.

While it is typical that after a two term stint, the oval office changes hands, I would remind our readers that didn’t happen with the election of George H.W. Bush after Reagan, although he was only a one term president, losing to Bill Clinton. Some models, notably Reuters, posit that the approval ratings of the President have to be above 55% -60%. But in the case of either Hillary or Bernie, I think that model is wrong, for not adequately considering voter turn out patterns and how they differ from past election voting patterns and demographics; also for not taking into account the utter debacle that is the right wing of our political spectrum, I would argue unprecedented in dysfunction. And it does not consider the history-making potential of either the first woman president, or the first socialist president. Bernie has done a masterful job of taking his message to the right, including sometimes the far right, and succeeding in getting past the knee-jerk negative reaction to the boogey-man word for conservatives. I have seen nothing this election cycle that impresses me as much as Bernie Sanders going to Liberty University, and making a success out of his speech in the proverbial lions den of the opposition.

I had been highly skeptical of Bernie having a prayer in heck of winning a general election, even if I like his policy positions and his campaign style. But I’m beginning to be more positive about Bernie.

And in other news, no debates, but last night on the Nightly Show, our former governor Jesse Ventura announced that he is (sort of? maybe?) going to be the Libertarian candidate for 2016. But then he stressed he would NOT join the Libertarian party. Because………like George Washington, he sees a pro-voter advantage in emulating our first president, even if there were really no clear parties developed until a few years into the history of our new-minted nation.

There was nothing about Jesse that rang presidential. Loud and attention grabbing, yes. Presidential…….no. Jesse had some interesting ideas back in the day when he was governor, notably exploring the advantages of a unicameral legislature instead of a state House and a state Senate. But he just seemed fond of more quirky notions than the most solid policy positions, and he looked old and rather tatty, like he was ridden hard and put up wet, as they saying goes. I just do not see a conspiracy hawker playing well outside of the foaming at the mouth fringies. And there are already too many people hoping for that minority cray-cray support.

Monday, October 12, 2015

ten cents a day, for people not to go hungry, including children

Corporations: The REAL Welfare Queens!

Who are the REAL welfare queens in America?Video by Occupy Democrats, LIKE our page for more!

Posted by Occupy Democrats on Sunday, October 11, 2015

Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!
Happy Columbus Day too!
We are all kin under the skin

'the blue marble'
aka planet earth
And for those of you who want to celebrate Europeans coming to the 'New World' (to them) happy Christopher Columbus Day, aka Christoforo Colombo, aka Cristobal Colon, aka Cristovao Colombo.  In his real life, born in Genoa in somewhere in October 1450, or maybe 1451, he answered to Christoforo Colombo. 

Saint brendan german manuscript.jpgAnd for those of you who who are Irish, we have St. Brendan the Navigator - because I love the Celts/  However to be honest that 6th century claim is a bit iffy.  The Scandinavians have Erik the Red and the rest of his Erikkson progeny, in the late 10th century going to North America.

Whatever floats your personal boat, an awful lot of boats traveled the world, in migration and exploration, as did a lot of people on foot.  I refer you to the entry on Early Human Migration in Wikipedia for a pleasant summary. 

It is evil, it is stupid and willfully ignorant to turn any part of the planet, including the USA, into some sort of territorial Musical Chairs of who got here first, who has the most right to be here, or who is going to hijack power over others.  PEOPLE MIGRATE.  Always have, always will.  Get over it! Don't fear it! Better, CELEBRATE IT!  Expect it, welcome it, and act to make it a positive rather than negative outcome for old AND new!

The three great Heyerdahl trans-oceanic rafts!

Whether we celebrate the Indigenous peoples, who came here first, or we celebrate early European immigrants to North, Central and South Americas, or if we celebrate the remarkable navigational accomplishments of other explorers, be they Scandinavian, Chinese - yes, they got here too!, or northern African.  The Chinese also went to Africa and to Australia, as early as 1402, and may very well have discovered the Americas nearly a quarter of a century earlier - well before Columbus sailed the Atlantic Ocean blue in 1492. Here is a short 4 minute link to an excellent video about the Chinese 15th century exploration.  (That amazing explorer, btw, was a Chinese Muslim eunuch, for those who have poorly informed ideas about the remarkable contributions of people who are not mainstream hetero-normative or western Christian.)  I wish the video would embed properly; please do follow the link, if you can make the time; it is worth it.

 The three great Heyerdahl trans-oceanic rafts!


We know, especially from the work of the modern adventurer, the late, great Norwegian scholar and adventurer, Thor Heyerdahl, that people have gone to many places from many places, and sometimes back again.  They have gone from Polynesia to South America -- and back; the Pacific Islanders have their explorers.  Our ancestors have gone from the eastern and southern Mediterranean to South America as well, and Heyerdahl duplicated those journeys too.  And we have Heyerdahl positing and providing supporting evidence that his Viking ancestors, way back when came to Norway.......from what is now Pakistan, based in part on the same kind of boat research he did for his voyages!

Earliest peoples have crossed land bridges from Africa to Asia and Europe, and from Asia into North America. We've been migrating all over the planet for at least 2 million years! 

WHO got here or there WHEN, or where they came from, should NOT MATTER. Race is a failed artificial construct; we are all kin under our skins.  We are not as different from each other as those who obsess about race or ethnicity would define us.  Some of us, including those who are primarily of European ancestry,  are not even pure homo sapiens, but contain traces of Neanderthal and Denisovan. When you consider how many of contain the genetic inheritance of more than one human species, caring who is bi- or multi-racial, that failed concept, is ludicrous, worse than a waste of time and effort, and a damaging and counterproductive belief.

Use this holiday to celebrate the adventurous human spirit that is a credit to humanity, and reject prejudices, that fail to recognize our common humanity and our individual capacity to excel, and to contribute to our shared heritage and mutual benefit.  We are the dominant species on our planet, although not always wisely so, because of when and where we cooperated.

If you have time to read anything today, read Jared Diamond's exceptional work, Guns Germs and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies;  National Geo and PBS have aired a documentary on Diamond's work, and it was the 1998 Pulitzer Prize winner for general non-fiction.  It is not light reading, it is not a short, breezy or trashy beach paperback, but it IS good reading, engaging and enriching to human understanding about ourselves and each other.

And good on Minneapolis, and the other cities trending to follow their example and other examples of celebrating Indigenous People Day.  There is room for all celebration, not one group over another, but the one that looks back furthest and looks most comprehensively at the totality of who is here is the better option.  As a species, our common cradle was Africa; since leaving we have gone everywhere on the planet, throughout human history.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Celebrate the International Day of the Girl!

I hope everyone will celebrate today empowering girls.

In celebration of women and girls pursuing their passions and fulfilling their potential, I offer this news item about a young woman who did so with her love of the sciences, creator of one of my favorite FB pages, I Fucking Lovr Science.  From NPR and Ozy

Temp 1

Elise Andrew
Elise Andrew has to put up with a lot of sh*t. And why? Because she’s young, she’s a woman, and she f*cking loves science. So much so that she created a Facebook page that now boasts an audience of over 7 million.
Andrew is the driving force behind the insanely popular “I Fucking Love Science” page. The 24-year old British blogger who now lives and works in Canada, created the page back in March 2012, while still at university. There was no big plan; she started the page “in a fit of boredom” as a collection of the cool science stories she had read. The next day, the page had 1,000 likes. Sixteen months later, that number has skyrocketed into the millions and there’s still really no plan. In an interview with ScienceWorld she explained her approach, “I just keep sharing things I think are amazing, and people keep agreeing with me.”
And fans think it’s pretty amazing, too. Taking a look through the timeline photos, you begin to realize just how popular IFLS posts are, with many images seeing “likes” and “shares” in the tens of thousands. Take, for example, a cute little representaton of hydrophobicity or how kittens illustrate concavity and convexity. The vast collection of cartoons, news snippets, photos and other tidbits all work to make science fun and humorous. Even the IFLS cover photo spells it out with a quote by Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny.’”
Andrew told World News Australia that her aim is to keep the site surprising and entertaining. “I try to keep it light,” she said. ”I try to keep it acceptable and interesting to everyone on all levels.”

Read the rest of the interview here.

Pop that pop corn, and pull up a comfy seat, the drama (and comedy) is about to begin

Friday, October 9, 2015

United we stand, against the extreme fringe right?

Harvey Dent aka Two Face
Harvey Dent aka fictional villain Two Face in the DC Comics Batman franchise, came into the graphic novel world late in 1942.

Charlie Dent, R-PA
Congressman Charlie Dent, Republican from Pennsylvania, was born in 1960 and entered the sometimes freakish world of the House in 2005.  He might be both freakish hero, and villain to some, in Congress.

What they have in common is uniting and combining two disparate and opposite sides, or in the case of Rep.Dent, attempting to do so.  Charlie Dent wants to elect the next speaker of the House as a bi-partisan effort, with the other moderate (presumably more establishment members of the GOP) members on the right.  This would effectively cut out the crazies and the tea partiers and the other extremists from power.  The radical right does not have the votes necessary to elect the speaker to replace Boehner, but neither does the more mainstream right.  Looking at the news feed over the past few hours, the prospect is upsetting the radical right extremist media.  That alone is more entertaining than any comic book.

But the less radical right could do so, overwhelmingly, IF THEY FORMED AN ALLIANCE with the Democrats.  Since that would mean the Dems in the alliance would likely outnumber the Republicans by a significant margin, it is distinctly possible that would return Pelosi to the speaker's chair, and 2nd in line behind the Vice President should the president die or become incapacitated.

Among other things it would do is to effectively END the highly obstructionist Hastert rule.  And THAT would open up, potentially, a backlog of legislation that would be brought forward for a vote, including most likely effective and comprehensive immigration reform and universal background check gun control legislation.  It would effectively end the witch-hunting committees like the Benghazi committee, and it would likely mean the end of attempts to repeal Obamacare.  The debt ceiling would be raised, and government shut downs would recede into memory.

And THAT in turn would turn the 2016 election cycle inside out and upside down, especially with those candidates for president who want to be the right wing nominee in 2016.  They have been falling over each other to go further right.   Off the top of my head I cannot begin to imagine what effect this could have on the Senate, but Mitch McConnell is no fan of the radicals, and would be badly hamstrung as majority leader of the Senate without the partnership of Boehner.  Turtle-man could still obstruct, but not nearly as effectively, and possibly not past the next year.  At the very least I would expect McConnell to work with such an alliance at least part of the time, while happily giving the bad finger to the extremists like Ted Cruz or even Rand Paul.

This may very well be just a pipe dream and wishful thinking on the part of Rep. Dent.  It may be too good to ever happen, and would certainly require the approval of the behind the scenes big money that controls the moderate puppets, those sometimes referred to as being in the pockets of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  But with the dances going on among those seeking Boehner's is a long shot, but not impossible.  It all hinges on the capacity for one of the two GOP factions to capitulate, compromise and cooperate.  They have shown a decreasing inclination to do that.

THIS may very well be why Boehner was laughing as he contemplated his exit at  the end of this month on Halloween.  Who knows? Truth and reality may turn out to be, if not stranger than all fiction, as strange as comic book fiction.  We can hope, for real governance for a change.

Gun Violence Humor

There is not much funny about gun violence or our failed gun culture in the USA. This is one of the exceptions to that rule.  From FB, never more apt than when new Star Wars episodes are on the cultural horizon.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Good question.

The answer is because they are not equally lethal, and only the firearm is designed to be a weapon, a very efficient weapon.  The other items are not.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

It's not just those misspelled tea party signs: conservative supporters are cultivated for their ignorance

Behold the dumbing down of America in the pandering of the right wing politicians looking for support from those who are less likely to be educated, or critical thinkers.

The grammar and spelling checker App, Grammarly, was used to evaluate the writing abilities of candidates for president in the 2016 election cycle.  The differences it showed between supporters of Democratic candidates and Republican candidates was striking and pronounced.

Let me stress, this was a politically neutral computer program, which should minimize bias. Think Progress, generally viewed as left leaning, should have used the Grammarly app themselves, as they made an error it would have corrected, in the first sentence.

WHY does this matter, you may be musing? Is this mere unimportant opportunity for snark? It matters because we think, we reason, and we persuade primarily in language.  There are deeper implications.

From Think Progress:
Bernie Sanders supporters might think you’re great, but Donald Trump supporters think your [sic] an idiot.
Grammar-wise, that’s at least what might be derived from a new analysis released Tuesday by the proofreading app Grammarly. By analyzing the spelling and grammar of comments on each presidential candidate’s Facebook page, the analysis found that Republican supporters made mistakes at nearly twice the rate of Democratic supporters.
To get their results, Grammarly went to each candidate’s Facebook page, taking comments that were at least 15 words long and expressed either positive or neutral feelings about the candidate. Then, researchers randomly selected at least 180 of those comments to analyze for each candidate.
The analysis — intended by Grammarly to be “a lighthearted look at how well the 2016 presidential candidates’ supporters write when they’re debating online” — found that, for every 100 words written, an average Democratic candidate supporter made 4.2 mistakes, while an average Republican candidate backer made 8.7 errors. It also asserted that Democratic supporters have larger vocabularies, using 300 unique words for every 1,000 words they use, compared to Republicans who only use only 245 unique words for every 1,000.

Politico back in mid-August analyzed Donald Trump as speaking like a 3rd grader.
Donald Trump isn’t a simpleton, he just talks like one. If you were to market Donald Trump’s vocabulary as a toy, it would resemble a small box of Lincoln Logs. Trump resists multisyllabic words and complex, writerly sentence constructions when speaking extemporaneously in a debate, at a news conference or in an interview. He prefers to link short, blocky words into other short, blocky words to create short, blocky sentences that he then stacks into short, blocky paragraphs.

The end result of Trump’s word choice is less the stripped-down prose style of Ernest Hemingway than it is a spontaneous reinvention of Ogden’s Basic English, the pared-down lexicon of 850 words selected by early 20th century linguist/philosopher C.K. Ogden as the bedrock of a new world language. In the August 6th Republican candidates debate, Trump answered the moderators’ questions with linguistic austerity. Run through the Flesch-Kincaid grade-level test, his text of responses score at the 4th-grade reading level. For Trump, that’s actually pretty advanced. All the other candidates rated higher, with Ted Cruz earning 9th-grade status. Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, and Scott Walker scored at the 8th-grade level. John Kasich, the next-lowest after Trump, got a 5th-grade score.

Trump’s low grade at the debates wasn’t a fluke. His comments from an August 11 news conference in Michigan earned only a 3rd-grade score.

Flattening the English language whenever he speaks without a script, Trump relies heavily on words such as “very” and “great,” and the pronouns “we” and “I,” which is his favorite word. As any news observer can observe, he lives to diminish his foes by calling them “losers,” “total losers,” “haters,” “dumb,” “idiots,” “morons,” “stupid,” “dummy” and “ disgusting.” He can’t open his mouth without bragging about getting the Clintons to attend his wedding, about how smart he is, the excellence of his real estate projects, the brilliance of his TV show, his generous donations to other political campaigns and so on. In a freakish way, Trump resembles that of Muhammad Ali at his prime—except the champ was always kidding (even when he was right) while Trump seems to believe his claims (and often is wrong). Or perhaps he is afflicted with binary vision disorder, which renders all within his eyeshot either great or rotten.

Politico goes on to note this is a feature, not a bug.  I would argue it works well for reaching his desired base audience.  Politico goes on to note that part of Trump's success in business comes from his capacity to deceive.  I think we can conclude that is part of the strategy of every right wing candidate running this election cycle.  I would argue that it demonstrates the same appeal to emotional thinking that characterizes propaganda, in contrast to an appeal to rational, factual and logical thought.

I would go further and argue that this presents a distinct challenge to the function of representative government, when we let the emotional and ignorant drive the bus of government.  We do not function well as a nation when those who are anti-factual education, anti-intellectual achievement, and especially anti-science are setting the policies and funding priorities, and proposing failed ideology or superstitious religion as solutions to very real problems.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Darn! We MISSED IT! Banned Book week was Sept. 27 to Oct. 3!

My bad, I try to mark this week every year.  But don't worry - we can celebrate banned books any time, all year long.  Celebrate today, and often!

From the Banned Books Week website:

Banned Books Week is the national book community's annual celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. The 2015 celebration will be held September 27-October 3.
Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association. There were 311 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2014, and many more go unreported. The 10 most challenged titles of 2014 were:
1)     The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”
2)      Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”
3)      And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”
4)      The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”
5)      It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”
6)      Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group. Additional reasons:
7)      The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence
8)      The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”
9)      A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group
10)  Drama, by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: sexually explicit
More information on banned and challenged books is available on the American Library Association website.

More GOP hypocrisy

Monday, October 5, 2015

Just DO IT

Gun Laws Are Both Constitutional And Will Help

Over the weekend, I saw several commentators who essentially argued that no laws which will help stop mass killings are possible because they are either too weak or will run afoul of the Constitution.  These commenters included one from the NRA and another from the National Review (an ultra-conservative magazine). 

They further argued (the same old meme) that criminals will "still get guns" and so any laws which restrict access to firearms are pointless and maybe even make the situation worse because they limit what "law abiding" people may have while not limiting criminals.

There are so many holes in these statements it is hard to know where to begin and equally hard to be concise, but I'll give it a try.

First, any law which limits the ammunition capacity and cyclic rate (rate of fire) of firearms will help and not meaningfully limit the ability of civilians to defend themselves.  I have argued time and again with conservatives on this point and not one of them disagrees that a 12 gauge shotgun or higher caliber revolver is insufficient for self-defense in 99.9999% of all cases.  The argument that the .00001% is some justification for access to firearms which otherwise help to cause needless deaths, is clearly NOT justification.  The purpose of high cyclic and high capacity weapons is ONE thing only, to kill multiple humans quickly, and nothing else.  Further, the US Supreme Court has made it very clear that limitations like banning weapons with a capacity of more than 7 rounds which are gas or spring fed and require no other action than pulling the trigger to fire another round is ENTIRELY permissible under both the Heller and McDonald decisions.  Making such a limitation does not imperil safety, and probably improves it as Police Departments feel more able to de-escalate the kinds of weapons they carry as the firepower of the civilian populace decreases.

Second, making it illegal to sell firearms to ANYONE and ANYPLACE without a background check is also Constitutional, very clearly since background checks have already passed muster in the courts.  Doing so would make the purchase of large numbers of firearms by "straw buyers", straw buyers who then SUPPLY the criminals, very much harder to do without detection.  So, it would likely make the access to high firepower weapons, and weapons in general, for criminals, more difficult.  Not impossible, but just like banning pseudo-ephedrine hurt access for meth amphetamine producers, it would hurt their access without in any way limiting the access by "law abiding" citizens to firearms.

Last, we MUST improve our reporting to a background database and use that database more broadly than is currently used.  It must include the ability to share data between policing agencies, and must include the ability to limit access to those who are judged mentally ill, have a restraining order against them and include the obligation to surrender weapons if deemed such.  Again, these are clearly Constitutional as they've passed muster and they will help because limiting access to firearms AND limiting the firearms they may possess may not stop everyone, but it almost certainly will decrease the potential number of fatalities if people have to reload more often, have to actuate the weapon more slowly, and potentially at least, aren't available to those who are most likely to strike out at those around them.

One post script, the other thing the right-wing gun addicts need to understand.  It is NOT the gang members who are the most dangerous, commit the most murders and otherwise use guns more often to harm so many, it is far more often the supposed "law abiding" husbands who kill their wives, or wives who kill their husbands, or students who kill their peers.  Of the 17k murders by firearms in the US per year, roughly 1000 are gang killings, meaning 16000 are others.  Those others ALSO thought they were "better" than the rest, wouldn't misuse their weapon, etc.. In short, it is THEY (YOU) who are the greatest threat to the wider community, at least where firearms are concerned and so you should not be above the same kind of sane and reasonable limits as you would expect for the rest of society, whether they be the mentally ill or the hardened criminal.  If you are judged a danger, you shouldn't be allowed firearms and you have NO reasonable need for a 5.56 or 7.62mm semi-auto rifle to lay by your bedside for you to defend yourself.  The truth is you're FAR more likely to use your "gun" to kill your family than anyone else but that right (to own and bear) has been affirmed, so it cannot be taken away.  What can be limited is the level of weapon you actually need to (supposedly) "defend" your home/family/self or what you need to hunt.  Those restrictions are legal, constitutional, valid and WILL work.  Changing the debate to what criminals will get doesn't address these reasonable limitations and are little different than ad hominem attacks on those who propose such reasonable limits.  You many not LIKE the limits, but that doesn't mean they won't work nor that they will fail to be Constitutional.

A few graphics that underline the point.  Credit for graphics to Vox, Gun Violence Statistics.

Not all parts of the US have an equal exposure to gun violence, which - logically - correlates to guns owned.  This demonstrates that more guns DO NOT keep us safer, more guns expose us to more gun violence.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Truth in Sarcasm

OF course, in the graphic below, all other countries, by which the writer appears to mean developed countries, have not eliminated mental illness.  But they have largely eliminated mass shootings. Most mass shootings are NOT the result of mental illness, such as schizophrenia, where an individual lacks the capacity to distinguish not only right from wrong, but reality from delusions.

WHAT those other countries do NOT have is our sick, failed gun culture which exalts individual capacities for violence.

WHAT those other countries do NOT have is the NRA, promoting obsessive single issue voting through fear mongering lies and propaganda manipulation.  No one in government or gun control advocacy is "coming for your guns"; they (the government, in the form of Republicans and Tea Partiers) ARE, as has been wryly observed, trying to take away your health insurance.

WHAT those other countries do NOT have is the sheer quantity of guns in private hands.  There is a clear correlation to gun violence and the number of guns, by state.

WHAT those other countries do NOT have is a gun lobby contributing to significant corruption and cowardice in government.

WHAT other countries DO have that helps drastically reduce mass shooting, is a combination of guaranteed health care, including for mental health, and significantly stricter and more effective gun control.

WE could have both of those, but conservatives obstruct and oppose it.  They would rather have wealth and income inequality by serving corrupt big money interests, not the citizens of this country.
The right wing politicians don't care if we citizens are killed or injured in large numbers, or in smaller number individual shootings, especially those which are murder suicides, seen daily across the country.  The party signified by the color red doesn't care if you or those you care about bleed, so long as they cash in on their nice green money.  The right wing voters believe they will somehow avoid, individually, any threat to their safety by carrying a gun.  Evidence does not support that emotional thinking.  Right wing voters believe they will survive the lack of a comprehensive medical policy by luck, and maybe prayer, and a false notion that, somehow, makes them more free.  That doesn't appear to be successful either, based on the number of people in this country bankrupted, regardless of religious belief or political affiliation.

Conservative ideology is a failure which is literally killing people in this country, by violence and by illness that is preventable.

Oregon Shooter DID NOT target Christians

The conservative guns-and-Bibles pushers are LIARS. That explicitly and emphatically includes the GOP candidates who are exploiting the Oregon shooting for political gain.

They make money and gain influence by peddling false claims about tragedies.  They make claims from un-verified reports; in the case of Oregon, the unverified reports about targeting Christians which law enforcement conspicuously would not validate or confirm.  The guns-and-Bibles pushers then CONTINUE to push their inaccurate but scary narrative, even after the facts are clear their statements and positions are false.  Follow the money; they do this because there is bloody $$$ in it for them, from the religious right and from the gun promoters.

To update that old line "there's money in them thar hills!", there is money in those 'shills'.  From
Shill, noun:a person who poses as a customer in order to decoy others into participating, as at a gambling house, auction, confidence game, etc.
The Oregon shooter, like the Columbine shooters he emulated, did not target people for their religion, much less for being Christian.

From the Inquisitr:

Even initial reports that Mercer was targeting Christians now appear to be incorrect. Initial reports indicated that he asked victims if they were Christian, and shot them in the head if they answered yes.
But new reports from witnesses say that Mercer did ask questions about religion, but it did not appear to be a motivating factor in who he shot and who he did not.
“‘Do you have a God? Are you Christian? Do you have a religion?’ It was more so saying, ‘You’re going to be meeting your maker. This won’t hurt very long.’ Then he would shoot them,” said Stephanie Salas, whose son, Rand McGowan, was wounded in the attack, in an interview with the Associated Press.
We saw something similar in the Columbine mass shooting back in 1999.  There were false claims made then about religious persecution in the targeting of victims.  And it is likely from the information known to date that the Oregon shooter, who had a sick interest in becoming famous (or more precisely notorious and infamous) like those other shooters, was to some degree emulating the Columbine shooters.

This shooter - and I won't use his name, precisely to deny him that notoriety, was into Goth.  The Columbine shooters were erroneously widely reported to be into Goth.  The Columbine shooters were, again erroneously, widely reputed to be outcasts, without friends, part of the 'trench coat mafia'.  And the Columbine shooters (who were really trying more to be bombers) were widely reported to have targeted certain groups, notably jocks, minorities, and Christians. 

Watch the news coverage of the Oregon shooter unfold.  Then take a look at his proto-type mass shooting, Columbine.  The parallels are chillingly clear that the Oregon shooter was emulating the myths and the actual behavior of the Columbine mass shooting in a number of ways.

From the most definitive research on Columbine, Dave Cullen's book Columbine, via the article 7 Myths about Columbine:
Myth #3: The Columbine killers targeted certain kinds of students.
Truth: Although initial news reports claimed the Columbine killers had targeted minorities, jocks, and Christians, the killing was indiscriminate. Their initial plan was to blow up hundreds of students in the cafeteria. When the bombs failed to go off, they killed students randomly. Interestingly enough, Eric’s friends described him as a sports enthusiast, and two of his best friends were Asian and African American.

Myth #6: Cassie Bernall was martyred for her faith in God.
Truth: According to the eyewitness under the table with her, Cassie was shot when Eric poked his shotgun under the table and said, “Peekaboo.” The 911 tape verifies this testimony.
The martyr story arose from the testimony from another student in the library, Craig Scott (brother to victim, Rachel Scott), who recounted a conversation that took place across the room. Valeen Schnurr was the one who actually professed her faith in God, and this took place after she was shot. As she lay bleeding, she prayed, “Oh my God, don’t let me die.” Dylan turned around and asked her, “God? Do you believe in God?” Valeen said, “Yes, I believe in God.” When the killer asked why, she replied, “Because it’s how my parents raised me.”
We also heard, about Columbine, that those two mass shooters would have been stopped if someone had a gun.  There were two armed cops who were unsuccessful in stopping those two shooters.  Likewise, there was a security guard, and numerous armed students, mostly trained veterans, on the Oregon campus - it was NOT a gun free zone - and they did NOTHING to prevent the tragedy from taking place.  In fact, no civilian with a gun has EVER prevented or stopped a mass shooting in the United States, even when on the scene.

Conservatives like to play the victim card, claiming to be victims when they are not. It is one of the more annoying aspects of conservatives. The religious right is particularly prone to making these false claims. Pro-gun advocates likewise push the notion they could be attacked at any moment, by fill-in-the-blank adversaries, and they likewise push the factually faulty notion that if they have their gun(s) with them they will shoot the bad guy dead, the good-guy-with-a-gun fallacy.  All of which sells more guns to stupid people who are not fact or reason based, the goal of the NRA.  Because gun sales need two things, a ginned-up threat and the myth that another gun in circulation in the hands of a civilian carrier is the solution.

Pro-gun candidate Ben Carson is trying to gin up his support from the religious right based on the false initial claims that Christians were targeted in the Oregon shooting.  God-and-Guns scam artist Mike Huckster-bee, promoter of fake diabetes treatments to desperate sick people for cash, and Bible-thumping pro-gunner, is also trying to gain political advantage from the tragedy.  We also see Donald Trump doing the same, with a less explicitly religious persecution angle.  And we have the Lt. Gov. of Tennessee claiming that Christians should be arming themselves because they are a persecuted minority - both factually false claims.

Whether it is claiming they're some kind of martyr if you don't wish them Merry Christmas, to the false claims they were targeted in the latest mass shooting -- by a self-proclaimed fellow conservative -- they try to spin gain, including political capital from these false victim claims.  Pushing the "we are victims" at every opportunity, no matter how factually false is also part of the right wing propaganda that keeps the right wing, especially the radical and extremist right, feeling angry and agitated. That gets unqualified crooked con artists elected, and it sells a lot of guns.

It does not get us good governance or greater safety.  It is based on lies and corrupt money, corrupt power.  Only the foolish and the willfully ignorant should support this effort to propagandize, manipulate, and gain advantage from these efforts to push an us vs. them national mentality of fear and divisiveness.  They lie, they profit, they gain advantage and power.  DON'T LET THEM. They will make you their victims, not the victims of some shooter who should never have had access to legal guns in the first place, much less 14 of them (yes, they found another one).

Friday, October 2, 2015

Dick shooters, Dick NRA, Dick GOP

We have too many guns, too many shootings, too damn much money corrupting our government preventing action and too damn much right wing propaganda lying and distorting the discussion.  The President tells it straight, and the country needs to listen: we need to restrict guns better than we are doing.  It is time for government regulation to save us from crazies, extremists, racists, and the armed religious right.

According to the Freethinker - to which we link on our bog roll -
The Guardian reports that the father of Anastasia Boylan, 18, who was one of those injured, said that Mercer started asking people one by one what their religion was.
‘Are you a Christian?’ he would ask them, and ‘if you are a Christian then stand up’ and they would stand up. He’d say ‘because you are a Christian you’re going to see God in about one second’ and then he shot and killed them. And he kept going down the line doing this to people.
In this Guardian report, Mercer described himself on an on-line dating site as as  a 26-year-old, mixed-race “man looking for a woman”. He said he was “not religious, but spiritual”, was a “teetotaler” living with his parents and was a conservative Republican.

When 3 people shoot themselves in their shorts in one week, it should be obvious we have a problem.  It should be obvious guns are not making us free or safe, so many guns are making us numb and dumb, hurt and dead.