Thursday, December 03, 2015

"Thoughts and prayers" as gun safety policy

Working about as well as you would expect.

(Yesterday) saw not one but two mass shootings, on opposite sides of the country. In San Bernardino, California, three gunmen entered a center for persons with disabilities and killed at least fourteen people. In Savannah, Georgia, a single gunman killed a woman and injured three more people in the early hours of this morning.

There was also a shooting death in front of a Houston women's clinic yesterday.

All three Democratic presidential candidates responded to the shooting by calling for something — ANYTHING — by way of action to prevent the next mass shooting. All of the Republican presidential candidates called for prayers, and perhaps some thoughts, for the victims, their families and first responders on the scene.

It didn’t stop there, though. (Think Progress contributing editor) Igor Volsky has found 38 -- and counting -- Republican members of Congress, not counting the ones who are running for president, who tweeted out some version of “thoughts and prayers” immediately following the San Bernardino shooting. He also made a second pass through with said members’ contributions from the NRA.

Go check it out.  As the linked piece's headline so bluntly reveals, the sum of gun safety policy for the Republican Party begins and ends with "thoughts and prayers".  The New York Post also pointed out the hypocrisy of asking and then waiting for the Supreme Being to take action.

As was the case with October’s mass shooting in Oregon, the Republican party line hasn’t even included the traditional hand-waving at the need for improved mental health services — even as there are bills currently stalled in Congress that would improve our country’s mental health services! Instead, the unified message has been that thoughts and prayers are the necessary and sufficient reaction to this shooting tragedy.

You don't have to be a non-believer to understand how powerfully ignorant this is. But as expected, Christians pushed back against being shamed for doing nothing but close their eyes and meditate.

In isolation, nothing. ... (I)f you, personally, want to send good thoughts in the direction of someone who has just experienced a loss, go ahead. It doesn’t hurt anyone, although God’s continued agnosticism on American gun violence has made it pretty clear that it isn’t helping, either. What absolutely is hurting people, however, is the continued implicit insistence of the Thoughts and Prayers Caucus that there simply isn’t anything else we can do about America’s off-the-charts homicide rate.

Because when politicians offer their thoughts and prayers, they don’t do it in a vacuum. These are people charged with making sure that tragedies like these don’t happen again, and ... the same representatives who are driven to prayer by the sheer horror of this tragedy have stopped even pretending to put any effort into curbing gun violence. Hell, they’ve blocked efforts to research the issue.

This being the case, the regular call to prayer we see every time someone takes legally-purchased guns and kills a whole bunch of people with them comes off as nothing more than a dodge. Prayer is being passed off as what we’re supposed to do instead of coming up with any ideas for how to make mass shootings happen less than once per day. Given that the number of prayers being offered by various politicians seems to be directly proportional to the size of the investment the NRA has made in their campaigns, you don’t have to be all that creative to imagine why.

If you're one of those people who votes straight ticket GOP, is afraid that Bill Clinton Barack Obama Hillary Clinton is coming to take away all your guns, you might be part of the problem.  Whether you're sending thoughts and prayers to the latest victims of the most recent mass shooting, or not.

If Republican thoughts and prayers were followed up with anything by way of an actionable solution to this epidemic-level problem, it’d be one thing. But when their conversation starts and ends with an earnest, prayerful tweet, it feels like they’re sticking their fingers in their ears until the news cycle moves on. They bring no actual ideas to the table, just well-wishes. Doing nothing appears to be the line item on the party platform, but “thoughts and prayers” are scribbled into the margins in order to give candidates something to tweet out.

The Atlantic’s Emma Green is dismayed that prayer isn’t being welcomed in the political debate today, writing that “At one time in American history, liberals and conservatives shared a language of God, but that’s clearly no longer the case; any invocation of faith is taken as implicit advocacy of right-wing political beliefs.” But today, prayer really is being used to defend a particular right-wing political belief: that the only feasible solution to mass shootings is to get on your knees and ask God to let more than a week pass before the next one. One political party’s pseudo-religious commitment to that belief is indirectly contributing to the deaths of thousands of Americans every year.

If that’s what prayer is being used for, it deserves to be shamed.

Daily mass murders from high-powered weapons are officially this nation's most pressing concern, whether the shooters be Muslim or whether they are not.

I'll ask again: what do we expect our elected leaders to do about this?  I'm asking more specifically beyond thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Houston mayoral debate tonight

There was also one last night, which I skipped, and two more after tonight, one of which has been previously advanced.

Univision 45/KXLN-TV and ABC-13/KTRK-TV have joined to co-host the Houston Mayoral Debate, streaming it live from the University of Houston-Downtown at One Main Street, Houston, Texas at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 2nd. The Houston Mayoral Debate will feature runoff candidates Bill King and Sylvester Turner and will be accessible live on-air on KTRK-TV abc13 and online at and Simultaneous Spanish-language translation will be available on Univision 45's website and will air the same day at 10 p.m. The debate will be presented in partnership with the University of Houston-Downtown and Mi Familia Vota.

Univision is the most-watched television network in Houston. How's the ad rotation between King and Turner over there?  Anybody who knows want to say?

ABC-13's Erik Barajas and Univision 45's Rebecca Suarez will moderate the debate. The audience will be by invitation only; however, Houston voters are encouraged to submit their questions in English or Spanish by posting them to twitter using #ABC13VOTE.

In other election news...

That's my state representative, Borris Miles, in the top left corner.  Next to him is Dr. Alma Allen and former council contender Laurie Robinson, and the bottom row, left to right, is Harold Dutton, Willie Alexander, and Garnet Coleman.  Former Texpatriate blogger Noah Horwitz, whose father challenged Christie in 2013, also declared on his FB page that he was voting for Christie.

NO.  Just no.

These are Democrats -- some of whom allege themselves to be 'progressive' -- recommending a vote for a conservative Republican who stands firm against influenza vaccines, saying "you don't die from the flu".  (In the United States of America, the number of deaths from the flu -- not complications from it but the illness itself -- is a number estimated to be between a few hundred to a few thousand annually.  Most are children or elderly who don't receive the vaccine.  Christie was the only 'no' on city council two years ago to accept federal dollars for flu shots for Houstonians.)

Yes, it is accurate to say that Sharon Moses, the so-called Democrat in the runoff against Christie, sucks.  But she doesn't suck so hard that you should be voting for this. fucking. guy.  That makes you a moron, not a lofty non-partisan.

Your best vote other than nobody in this race is to write in Cthulhu, the least worst of three evils.

This is the dumbest thing I have seen a bunch of local Democrats do yet.

The faces of American domestic terrorism

Some might be inclined to call them Christian terrorists (in the same vein as "Islamic terrorists") but I'm not certain without Googling -- which I'm disinclined to do -- whether that is the case for all of those pictured.  It certainly is for Robert Dear, despite what Ted Cruz demagogues says.

Let's stick with 'American terrorists' for the moment, without referring to their religious affiliation, or their race, their political ideology, or even their psychological state.  They and their peers have many of those things in common, but for the purpose of this exercise let's not make the same mistakes conservatives make in generalization.  Kindly take note -- presuming you're familiar with their faces and backstories, of course -- of their different motivations for carrying out their terrorist acts.

Paraphrasing the words attributed to PA state representative Brian Sims, quoted in this Facebook meme (scroll down):

"These are the very familiar faces of terrorism in America. They are not members of ISIS, or Hamas, or the Crips. They are neither Muslim nor atheist. They don't have brown skin, they don't wear a keffiyah or a hoodie. They didn't come to the United States from across the southern border, or on a boat or a raft. They weren't escaping genocide or fleeing a ruthless dictator. They aren't refugees, or 'Ill Eagles', or 'thugs', or foreigners.

"They're all ours, America. What are we going to do about them?"

I'm taking ownership of this very serious problem by using "our" and not "their" in the next-to-last sentence.  Because we're all in this together.

The suggestion box is open.  Who'd like to go first?

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Ted Cruz is a transgendered leftist activist

Just like Donald Trump, out to destroy the Republican Party from within.

Speaking with reporters following the (shootings at a Colorado Planned Parenthood), Cruz rejected suggestions that the shooter was part of the anti-abortion movement, taking issue with the “vicious rhetoric on the left blaming those who are pro-life.”

Robert Lewis Dear, 57, was taken into custody Friday night after allegedly opening fire inside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, killing three and injuring nine others.

When a reporter reminded the Texas senator that the suspect allegedly made a comment about “baby parts” while being arrested, Cruz countered, “It’s also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and transgendered leftist activist, if that’s what he is.

Dear’s voter registration, where he is listed as a woman, was uncovered by the Gateway Pundit, a self-described "right-of-center news website."

“We know that he was a man who was registered to vote as a woman,” Cruz said. “The media promptly wants to blame him on the pro-life moment when at this point there is very little evidence to suggest that.”

The appropriate response, from Jon Green at AMERICAblog.

Cruz is referring to right wing bloggers, who reported on Saturday that Dear is listed as female on his voter registration. It appears that, like Bill O’Reilly, he checked the wrong box on his form.

Cruz’s campaign later clarified that Cruz didn’t mean to imply that Dear was actually a “transgendered leftist activist,” but rather that “there isn’t enough information.” In other words, it’s just as likely that Dear is exactly who he says he is as compared to a ridiculous caricature of what the right wing imagines white criminals to be. You see a radical conservative Christian, Gateway Pundit sees the opposite. HOW CAN WE TELL THE DIFFERENCE???

Aside from Dear’s penchant for handing anti-Obama literature to complete strangers.

Cruz’s is a particularly lazy form of misdirection, to say nothing of a drastic deviation from the conclusions he was more than willing to jump to following the Paris attacks. He might as well have said that some people think cucumbers taste better pickled. While no less ridiculous, at least that bit of misdirection would have been true.

The somewhat less than appropriate response, from me:

Ted Cruz likes his pickled cucumbers deep up his ass, with a side order of tossed salad.  As far as we know.  That has been reported in the media (this blog).

So if this is how the next twelve months is going to go, we might as well be prepared to counter their facts with some facts of our own.  Right?

Update: "Ted Cruz says there is no ‘war on women’ because we don’t have a condom shortage"