Friday, February 23, 2018

Pennsylvania districts

This past Monday the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released its version of new Congressional district maps. Earlier, the court had declared the GOP drawn maps, in place since 2011 were unconstitutional due to partisan gerrymandering. The court told GOP lawmakers they had a deadline to redraw the maps. I doubt few people were surprised when that deadline was missed. So the court did it (well, hired a professor who is an expert in gerrymandering issues).

Using this new map in the fall election Democrats are likely to pick up 3 seats and perhaps a few more. My brother in Pittsburgh is pleased.

GOP members of the PA legislature are taking their case back to the US Supremes (who rejected their suit once before). The claim is this new map is now gerrymandered in favor of Democrats.

Ultimate insult

In an excerpt from Jessica Valenti’s book Full Frontal Feminism she lists several slurs directed at women, then several slurs directed at men. They’re nasty, so I’m not repeating them here. She continues:
Notice anything? The worst thing you can call a girl is a girl. The worst thing you can call a guy is a girl. Being a woman is the ultimate insult. Now tell me that’s not royally fucked up.

It’s not about the profits

There have been many news and blog posts on a multitude of sites discussing various aspects of the American gun debate. These article appear after every mass shooting (and even after some of the minor ones) and that certainly includes the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida last week.

Many of these articles include the idea that the NRA is wielding its campaign of no gun restrictions to boost the profits of the gun manufacturers. If the article’s author doesn’t mention it commenters usually will.

But I don’t think that’s true. I think it something else, something deeper and more pervasive: racism.

First bit of evidence: There is a National Tracing Center in West Virginia. When a cop anywhere in America wants to run a trace on a gun to discover its owner the request comes here. They do about 370,000 traces a year. When a gun is sold a record of the sale comes here. The center receives about 2 million sales records a month.

Two million new records a month. 370,000 requests to access those records each year. This is an operation that has Big Data at its core. Except…

Computer databases are banned
. Yeah, really.

In 1986, thanks to the NRA, Congress passed a law saying there cannot be a searchable database of America’s gun owners. The NRA’s reason: It would be a tool to confiscate guns. Government evildoers are going to attack any day. You don’t give the enemy an inventory of your weapons.

It’s like a library without a card catalog (remember those?). At least the National Tracing Center has microfilm…

This goes way beyond maintaining profits for gun makers. This is a situation where a product is used to kill someone and the owners of that product do all they can to make sure the perpetrator cannot be caught.

Second bit of evidence: Back in 2016 Danny Glover was at a Martin Luther King event and, apparently in response to a question, said:
The Second Amendment comes from the right to protect themselves from slave revolts, and from uprisings by Native Americans. So, a revolt from people who were stolen from their land, or revolt from people whose land was stolen from, that’s what the genesis of the Second Amendment is.
The same idea had been proposed by Mother Jones back in 2008. Well regulated militias refers to state militias that were used to suppress slave revolts.

In this blog I’ve talked a lot about ranking, or a societal hierarchy – male over female, white over black, Christian over non, straight over gay, rich over poor. The list goes on. This is a strong force in America. People define themselves by their place in the hierarchy and are willing to use violence and even killing to maintain their place or move up in the ranking – and prevent those people from moving up.

The fastest and most thorough way to enforce or challenge the hierarchy is with a gun. Many a black man has received his first gun with the thought you ain’t gonna mess with me no more. Many a white man buys a gun for protection – to make sure his place in societal ranking is not challenged.

So the reason why the National Tracing Center can’t have a computer, why so many are fearful of the government taking their guns, why Democrats are demonized is to make sure those whose place in the hierarchy feels threatened can keep a tool to enforce their superiority. Putting up with mass shootings in schools and night clubs is a small price to pay for the ability to keep that enforcement.

And those deaths may not be seen as a price at all. Mark Sumner of Daily Kos writes about Dana Loesch, spokesperson for the NRA, who recently gave what many see is a vile speech.
Because it’s only following a shooting that the NRA can prove its real worth to its real supporters. It’s only in the face of horrid tragedy, complete with dead children and agonized families, that the NRA does its real job—creating talking points, deflecting the conversation, putting the blame anywhere but where it belongs. And their real clients, the people they really care about, are extremely grateful. Because they love mass shootings, too.

It’s that without the NRA to protect your guns, all those gun grabbers would take them away.

The NRA doesn’t just want people afraid. They want people afraid for their guns.

The NRA gets to prove its worth in two ways: It builds up the fear that someone is coming to snatch away guns, and it makes sure that reasonable conversations about sensible changes to gun laws can’t happen.

Why might people be afraid for their guns? Because guns are so important in enforcing societal ranking. And people care so much about their rank they’re willing to kill.

It isn’t about the profits (though they’re sweet). It’s about keeping the ability to enforce societal ranking.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Protected by the math department

Senator Marco Rubio was a featured speaker at a town hall meeting. He’s pretty good at showing charm and empathy or whatever it is politicians do. Then Cameron Kasky came up on stage. During the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. student Kasky hid in a closet with his brother.

Kasky: “So, Senator Rubio, can you tell me you won’t be accepting a single penny from the NRA?”

Rubio: “People buy into my agenda.”

Kasky: “So you won’t take more NRA money?”

Rubio: “That’s the wrong way to look at it. People buy into my agenda.”

Kasky: “In the name of the 17 people who died, you can’t ask the NRA to keep their money? I bet we can get people to give you exactly as much money.”

Beyond that, Rubio’s answer was irrelevant. To me this exchange shows that Rubio wants what the NRA is peddling and the NRA buys into Rubio’s agenda because they like the pro-gun aspects of it.

In response to this particular shooting the nasty guy has proposed arming teachers. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos starts the rebuttal with just the financials. Arming and (minimally) training 750,000 teachers would cost about $1 billion. Ask any GOP politician for $1B in books and teacher pay.

Commenters supply a lot of other reasons why this is a bad idea.

* Even professional marksmen – soldiers – are terrible shots when under stress.

* If teachers had guns the shooter would target them first. Even if a particular teacher is unarmed.

* “Parents terrified that this literal life and death experiment will be performed on their children.” We do not want our children to be caught in the crossfire or even witness such an event.

* Shooters like collateral damage. Teachers would want to avoid it.

* Do we want our students to sit in classes with teachers who are visibly armed?

* How does a teacher keep it out of the hands of the kids yet have it quickly available when a shooter walks through the door? How does the teacher make sure a student doesn’t use the teacher’s gun to become a shooter?

* How do the cops, when they finally arrive, tell the difference between a shooter and a teacher with a gun? Those cops can identify colleagues through uniforms.

* Is a teacher going to have much effect using a handgun facing down an AR-15?

* What happens when a teacher’s gun is missing?

* Teachers are notoriously underpaid and can be stressed out. How do we prevent a teacher, after a really bad day, turning the gun on a student having a really bad day?

* Who do you arm at the movie theater, another target of shooters? The high-school aged ticket-taker?

* Would the GOP agree to arming black teachers?

* Are we going to start hiring teachers based on whether they are willing and able to engage in a firefight?

* President Reagan was surrounded by Secret Service and was still shot. The math department from the local high school would surely offer more protection.

* Want to arm teachers? Let’s also arm senators and remove the security checkpoints in senate chambers.

Conclusion: really bad idea.

I’ve written about students taking it on themselves to include protest in their high school curriculum. Curtis Rhodes, Superintendent of schools in Needville, Texas had declared that students who disrupt or walk out in protest over guns will be suspended.

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville responded:
Take the suspensions, kids. Trust this old lady that, in the grand scheme of your life, a mark on your record definitely won't matter. But standing up for your principles always will.
Commenters respond that explaining such a mark would delight college admissions officers.

Twitter user KingofTorts also responded by saying such walkouts and protests are free speech rights. He offers lawyerly services to students who are suspended.

This a suitable cartoon for the situation. A takeoff on this one from last October, which came out after the nasty guy visited Puerto Rico and did a particular act while there.

McEwan tackles the idea that mass shooters must be mentally ill.
There is no mental illness that causes someone to pick up a gun and start murdering people, and only affects men.

Women are routinely accused of being "crazy" in every conceivable way and for every conceivable reason in every other aspect of our lives.

We are "crazy," we are "insane," we are "hysterical," we are "emotional," we are "irrational," we are *every euphemism for mentally ill under the sun*, we are "psycho bitches."

But when it comes to mass shootings, suddenly women are so uniquely sane that our failure to have the mystery mental illness that causes "people" to pick up guns isn't even remarkable.

We're crazy when men need us to be crazy to avoid accountability and we're sane as the day is long when we don't want to talk about toxic masculinity or access to guns.

If mental illness is the primary issue, then why is only men who are picking up guns?
So, says McEwan, let’s talk about toxic masculinity. And access to guns.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Young agitators

The survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida – the youth who saw 17 of their colleagues killed – are saying that’s enough. No more. Never again. They are organizing, sharing their voices with media (and juggling interviews), and lobbying GOP representatives at every level. It is one way to deal with the shock and grief.

Sarah Chadwick, a 16 year old student, sent a tweet to the nasty guy saying she didn’t want his condolences, she wants gun control. It went viral.

Twitter user JeLLe (who I don’t think is a student) has a nice graphic in response to those condolences.

Those students aren’t just talking. A hundred of them boarded buses and went to the state legislature at the other end of the state, 400 miles away. If you’re going to do nothing you need to see the people your inaction affects. But even while the students were in the gallery the legislators voted down an attempt to revive a bill to ban assault rifles. Completely heartless.

Of course, those GOP elected officials don’t want to hear such personal stories. They’re doing all they can to smear and discredit the kids. Like saying the kids are puppets of the left or at least are being “coached” – sheesh, kids need to be coached to say “Please don’t kill us!”?

Actually, the kids were coached. As would any kid who had taken a decent government class in high school. Emma Gonzalez, one of the student leaders, is taking Advanced Placement Government, and says they’ve had three debates about guns this year. They’ve studied and know the talking points – and now have first hand experience on how empty the talking points of the right are. I’ve heard one say your right to own a gun is not more important than my safety. Gonzalez said:
The people involved right now, those who were there, those posting, those tweeting, those doing interviews and talking to people, are being listened to for what feels like the very first time on this topic that has come up over 1,000 times in the past four years alone.