About gun rights

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One of the most treasured rights listed in the Bill of Rights is the right to bear arms.  It’s a right.  You do not need a reason or an excuse to exercise this right.  If you believe that a gun makes you safer, it doesn’t even matter if it’s true or false, you have the right to purchase a gun.  You have that right if you want to hunt, or to target practice, or just to hang it up on your wall.  For any reason or none your rights are nearly unlimited.  The same is true for your right to free speech, assembly, or religion.  So long as your actions do not harm others and you are willing to take responsibility for them, your rights should and are unencumbered.  You may carry your weapons nearly anywhere, concealed or not. (Obviously be careful to follow local laws).

However, there are some Americans whose rights are consistently infringed, especially when it comes to the second amendment right to bear arms.  Some people have suggested that Black people would be victimized less if they were more armed.  This is extraordinary absurdity of blind blatant white privlidge.  We’ve seen black men gunned downed for doing nothing more than holding a toy guy in a store. A black teen was followed, harassed, assaulted, and then killed for defending himself by a self-appointed neighborhood watch vigilante.  Recently, cops were summoned to a pool because the neighborhood black kids had the audacity to show up there. Then, one of the cops drew a weapon and badly escalated the situation. Fortunately, this time no one was killed. However, there’s no a doubt in anyone’s mind that if a black person had been lawfully carrying a weapon during the incident, he would surely have been killed. There are countless stories of people of color provoking an immediate fear based response for the most banal of activities. White people will call the police on their black neighbors because the black children are playing in the street, just like every other kid on the block. No, black people do not have the same second amendment rights as white people, further, if white communities were targeted for violence and other forms of oppression the way black communities are and have been. Guns wouldn’t be seen as the safety blanket they currently are.

Guns do one thing especially well. They make white people feel safe. With a gun, you can kill having no special strength or skill. You can kill a group of unarmed people on your own.  With a gun, you are an unstoppable god of death. It’s the ultimate equalizer.

An armed mob descended upon a Muslim prayer service recently. If the reverse had been true, had an armed band of Muslims descended in a Christian meeting they would have been instantly branded as terrorists and shot on site. Of this I have no doubt.

This atmosphere of plentiful unregulated powerful sophisticated weapons flooding our streets is only possible in light of the privlidge white people have in society and in law-enforcement. White people can walk down the street armed to the teeth, hold rallies, and even if that makes people uncomfortable they can do so without getting killed. A white kid can kill 9 precious people in a church and in conservative white America be considered “troubled” while anyone else would be considered a terrorist. It’s the white privlidge that brings to the fore America’s dysfunctional relationship with guns.

Guns are the tools for the privileged strong.  They perpetuate that air of safety that is denied to others.  No outrage, no fear, no respect for others is ever taken into account by the pro-gun advocacy groups.  Any criticism is met by loud and hysterical counter-claims of oppression and paranoia.  The strong have no need to listen to fears, desires, or vulnerability of minority populations.  The weak can be killed for any reason or none.  Even if white people are not marching on black neighborhoods or black institutions, which also happens, the deafness which white people have is every bit a part of racism as flying a Confederate flag or a noose hanging from a tree.  Let me be clear, violence, or the threat of violence is not something victims will ever be able to wield against their oppressors.

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Fear and change

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Starting with the secret Muslim socialist Kenyan Birtherism, conservatives have gotten so terrified and so paranoid that I’m afraid they will respond in the most human way imaginable. That they will inevitably resort to hysterical violence. Each of their conspiracies are more crazy than the one before.  At this moment, we have such a huge swath of Texas believing they’re about to be invaded by our own military for some obscure reason. So many believe this so strongly, they’ve convinced their governor and a leading presidential contender/actual senator to treat them seriously. This is after Michelle Bachmann said with a straight face and in all seriousness that Barack Obama will bring about the apocalypse.  These are the same people who pointed weapons at federal law enforcement officers at the Bundy Ranch. (Thank god the government stood down.  The Bundy Ranch Massacre would not have made a good headline.) and shortly after those same nutters shot several cops. Somehow I don’t see the Tea Party taking themselves out like Jones Town. I see them needing to exercise their demons using high caliber weapons. If you listen to gun rights advocates, the number one reason they will tell that they need all these guns is to protect themselves from an overreaching government. This is a uniquely American phenomena. No other government on the planet would allow people to stockpile weapons for the express purpose of destroying or resisting the government. But in these uncertain times, this is what is necessary for them to feel safe. And there in lies the key. 

If you look at history we’re in the middle of a transition. For thousands of years men have invented myths and religions to help explain the world and provide a sense of order and direction. And religion is really good at coming up with feel good bullshit about how the world was made and how it works. 

Eventually, sometime around the late Iron Age-early medieval period, government began to compete with religion in what it can tell people to do, and how it made sense of the world.  The clash was long and horribly bloody with no clear winner.  Religion and government more or less agreed to a compromise and thus began The Enlightenment. Since then there have been successive industrial and scientific revolutions that have gradually displaced religion and government from people’s lives. People have more freedom now than ever before. People are healthier and wealthier than at any point in human history and the twin institutions that we’re used to relying on, have proven themselves completely inadequate –if not thoroughly corrupt.  

The problem is science is, by definition, uncertain. In fact, it’s uncertain with a very high degree of precision. The government certainly can’t provide a comforting narrative. I think people beginning to realize there’s no quick fix, no handy ideology for the economy. Terrorism can’t be fixed with a strong military or shadowy police state. Environmental problems now have a global reach and global problems aren’t as simple as locking delegates in the same room in New York’s most architecturally boring building. It means talking to the “bad guys” because ignoring them or blowing them up simply won’t work. Even long standing traditions are under assault because they’re terribly oppressive and that’s no longer acceptable. If you chart the progress of freedom during the last 100 years here has been tremendous growth. But it hasn’t been easy And there are no guarantees. Obama isn’t the first President to promise change. They all do that. But he embodies that change by virtue of his skin color, his personal narrative, and his view of the world.  It’s this combination of racism and generalized anxiety that is causing such an extreme reaction to his relatively banal politics. 

Humanity has yet to embrace this new found power. It’s still looking towards institutions for meaning and direction.  It’s still rejecting that meaning, freedom, and liberty because they don’t have the strength to resurrect them as internal constructs. So many are afraid. This latest conspiracy theory is just a focused outpouring of fear and uncertainty.  Change is hard and we have the duty and obligation of ensuring that change comes to all.  The more we resist change the harder it goes for us. The less control we have. It’s time to seize control of our own emotions, our will, and abandon the need religion and governments to provide meaning and direction.  I don’t expect this to happen.  I fully expect that people will grow old and die clinging to their outdated beliefs.  But where there are children, there is hope.

The collateral damage of the pro-life movement

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When I talk politics I try to limit what I consider recent events to be a national level incident that has the potential to really happen or really impact peoples lives.  For example, I don’t like to write long blogs about some local official somewhere thinking his use of the n-word doesn’t make him a racist.  However, sometimes you find something so quintessential of long term challenges that I want to talk about it.

Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Texas) has launched a proposal that forbids the termination of any pregnancy post 20 weeks which is a full 4 weeks prior to the deadline set by the Supreme Court.  Proposals like this are a dime a dozen these days and have already decimated reproductive health care in many areas.  What makes this one slightly different is this allows for zero exceptions even if the fetus is nonviable.  It would even contravene the wishes of doctors.  To forbid abortions even in the case of nonviable fetuses represent an extreme threat to the health of the woman.  Such a thing would be very dangerous.  Either Matt Schaefer is unaware in which case he has no business crafting such legislation, or he is aware and does not consider the life of the mother worth protecting.  I doubt that something like this would pass, and even if it did, I doubt it would survive a constitutional legal challenge.  But less extreme regulatory attempts to shut down abortion providers and facilities are successful.  So successful there are states, like Texas have almost completely run abortion providers out of the state.  The result for this abundance of life? In the past few years infant and maternal mortality has skyrocketed.

For the record, it’s stunts like this and the never ending war on abortion that has left the United States with the greatest mother and infant mortality rate the highest in the developed world and, it’s rising. At some point, the conservatives have got to get it through their skulls that the war on women has actual real life casualties to the tune of hundreds and thousands of women and children every year without doing a thing to save the lives of fetuses. You want to know the real pro-life position? It’s everything liberals are talking about: easy access to contraception, easy access to reproductive health (all options), a comprehensive sex education in school (none of this abstinence only nonsense). I can appreciate the good intentions of conservative positions, but the health of women, particularly women of color, women of limited resources, women in rural areas, and women vulnerable because of domestic and other kinds of violence is now threatened. So much so that it appears that conservatives simply don’t care, but the stats don’t lie.

Conservatives want to protect life, this is a laudable goal, but their actions are proving counter productive to this objective.  Women are literally dying in the collateral damage that conservatives are creating.  If you’re not looking after the health of women, you can not possibly consider yourself “pro-life”.  You are not serving humanity by attacking the lives and health of women.  I’ll also let you in on another fact, abortions have been steadily falling since Roe v Wade and not because of the legislative assault on abortion, but because of better access to contraception and education.  Every child needs to be intentional, but only half of pregnancies are planned.  If you want to protect the life, healthy, and financial well being, then you have to give women the freedom to explore their constitutionally mandated freedoms.

 

Right Wing Hate Speech

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“Let’s talk about poverty, for instance. The single best indicator of whether or not a child is going to be in poverty or not is whether or not they were raised by a two-parent household or a single parent household, so the breakdown of the family has contributed to poverty. Look at what is going on in Baltimore today, you see the issues that are raised there. Healthy marriages are the ones between a man and a woman because they can have a healthy family and they can raise children in a way that’s best for their future, not only socially but psychologically, economically, from a health perspective. There is nothing like traditional marriage that does that for a child. Each of us have a mother and a father and there is no way to get around that.” — GOP Rep Bill Flores

So I’m going to go ahead and call this out as right wing Republican hate speech and racism. I define hate speech is anything that removes the dignity and humanity of a class or group of individuals. First this ignores intense systemic long-standing problems imposed on minority groups. Secondly, this perpetuates a stereotype that poor and/or black family units are single parent units, which is blatantly untrue. three. It also perpetuates the myth that children need male/female pair bonds in their parents. They need love, attention and resources but the sex of their parents doesn’t matter at all. So not only is he factually incorrect, he’s is painting at least two entire group of people as immoral and unhealthy “socially psychologically, economically, and from from a health perspective”.  The idea that gay marriage is responsible for widespread racial unrest is so incredibly absurd, that he should be removed from his post on the basis of malicious malpractice and incompetence.  Unfortunately, that’s a matter for Texas voters, and they’ve indeed spoken.

If social media and typical media is any judge, the black protesters in Baltimore are “Thugs”, “Animals”, “Criminals,” so criminally deluded that they are burning down their own neighborhood.  That black people are so irrational that they would willingly seek to bring down a perfectly fair and legitimate functional system.  What is insane, is saying that people can not be part of our society simply because they’re black.  If you think that America has welcomed these people, you still aren’t listening.

Baltimore Riots #blacklivesmatter

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Mr. Centrist will not be writing a blog on the recent unrest.  It’s not that I have no opinion or no feeling on the matter.  It is not that I am not outraged over the things others, often white, have said to castigate and dehumanize because I am.  It is simply that I feel that as a white person of means and privilege this is not my story to tell.  If you care at all, if you have a thirst for knowledge and insight about this situation, there have been literally thousands of thoughtful people providing insight that I could never hope to measure up to.  It’s not my story, It’s not my stage.  I will silently stand by my brothers and sisters as they tell their story and I urge you to listen.

The morality of abortion

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There is something that many christian denominations believe.  It’s an internally consistent metanarrative that speaks to what they consider the duality of the universe.  It’s classic star wars just without the Ewoks and Jabba. There’s a purely good side full of supernatural entities fighting a dark side also full of supernatural entities who, like any good movie, are fated to lose in the end.  That struggle, many ways, is played out on earth.  It’s straight up bronze age mentality.  Hasn’t changed for 3000 years.  It’s called, fittingly, “The Culture of Death”.  If you’re not with us, you’re against us and going to burn in hell.  There’s no middle ground.  No grey area.  There’s certainly no clearly defined rights and responsibilities.  There’s no self-defined purpose for your life.  Those are all things meted out by god.  If you reject them, hell.  If you embrace them, hell on earth, but you go to heaven.  That’s why abortion is so frowned upon in conservative religious circles.  You’ve prevented a life from coming into being.  That’s dark, not light.  The consequences to the mother are not relevant.  No matter what happens to her on earth she’ll go to heaven.  Same for the child.  The costs are not relevant.  The ethics are not relevant.  That’s why birth control is frowned upon.  Same rational, you’ve prevented a life from coming into existence.  Life, everyone agrees on, is one of the most wonderful things to happen.  The “Culture of Death” is how Catholics and other religious conservatives justify their position.  But the entire premise is flawed.  Their stuck cherry picking a non-relevant book over translated, repeatedly copied, that last made sense when the Roman Empire was at it’s peak.

All of these debates we have between pro-abortionists and anti-abortionists are not relevant.  The “personhood” argument doesn’t matter to either conservatives or liberals but we debate it anyway.  To a conservative the entity, whatever you want to call it (medically it’s a zygote/fetus depending on it’s stage of development) it doesn’t matter because it’s potential will eventually mature into personhood no matter how long it takes or what it costs.  To a liberal it doesn’t matter because the argument is about personal autonomy.  Legally it doesn’t even matter because the case was decided on the principle of medical privacy.  The pragmatic argument that Liberals trot out all the time about the potentially negative consequences don’t matter.  A conservative won’t buy them because the most negative consequence possible is the death of the child.  They matter a little to Liberals because people matter to liberals, but it’s not the crux of their argument.  Almost no one will care about the utility of abortion.  There are no good statistics, but a significant source of clients in abortion clinics are pro-life believers.  “Most pro-life women oppose abortion with four exceptions: rape, incest, the life of the mother, and me.”

Surprisingly, the Supreme Court got this one right.  The issue is decided on medical privacy.  Conservatives are always a bit outraged on that one since under normal circumstances privacy would not normally apply.  My right to privacy would not trump my obligation through action or inaction prevent the death of another person.  (Though, oddly enough law enforcement is currently going down that path).  Same with “personal autonomy”.  I absolutely will lose my personal autonomy if my actions result in the harm to another.  That’s why they’re confused in this case.  Because when we talk about murder, or theft, we’re usually talking about two independent adults.  Who, for the most part, suffer and benefit from their actions (social/economic pressures a different topic for a different time).  When I pass a homeless person on the street I may choose to give him some money or some assistance.  I may also choose to donate to an organization with the resources to make a more substantial impact.  The person who has nothing, who will die if not aided, can demand nothing from me.  Not the least part.  I may not be a very good person to refuse, but he has no moral right to demand.  That much is theft.  He can not have my time, my resources, parts from my body (I do not have to fear from organ hunters).  There is nothing that he has a right to forcibly take from me.  It doesn’t matter how rich I am, or how desperate his condition.  Force is never justified no matter how well-meaning.  And yet, we have a good 40%, according to recent polls, that believe otherwise.  Pregnancy takes an enormous biological, emotional, physical, and economic toll on a woman.  In damn near kills her, and in some cases it does.  (That’s actually fairly unique to humans by the way).  No homeless person has the right to put me through hell for 9 months for his sole personal benefit.  Neither does a child.  I want there to be no more abortions in the same way I want there to be no more cancer treatments,  Ie by curing cancer.  We shall not tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.  Imagine the umbridge if a woman merely suggested as much.

This brings us to the ultimate point.  Having breached medical privacy, you fools have opened up the door for government agencies to tell doctors how to practice.  To make demands of women they do not want.  Anti-abortion activists have mandate cruel, invasive, unnecessary, and irrelevant procedures as a purely malicious and ineffective hurtle towards abortions. — good– you’re thinking — that was the point, we don’t want abortions– but the government can now, in theory make ANY medical decision for you on any moral basis that it wants.  It can tell you what meds you can have, what procedures can be done.  All on the basis of the current collective morality of the government.   For there to be effective healthcare in this country the barrier between government and health must be secured.  THAT is the moral imperative.

Why I’m supporting Hillary Clinton

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Hillary Clinton

The right will go through it’s hundred and one candidates in a an unending series of Reagan-fetishistic debates where candidates are eventually whittled down by their own incompetence. In fact, it’s already happening. Chris Christie is already out before he had a chance to run. On the left, you’ll have Hillary and a handful of straw candidates. (Or maybe not so straw depending on how seriously O’Malley is taking himself). Liberals are unenthused with Hillary. She comes with a lot of baggage. She’s a moderate democrat not a socialist or even a social democrat. She’s not even a progressive.

Be that as it may, she is not merely better than a republican. I know liberals are frustrated and so we’ll forgive them their self-sabotaging cannibalistic  insults and tendencies. For the record if Democrats screw this up, that will be how and why.

One of the reasons I love Hillary Clinton as a President is that she has absolutely zero principles. She is as far from a true believer as it’s possible to be. I know it sounds like a bad thing, but I’m not willing to martyr my cause for somewhat nebulous principles. I want someone who will get things done. I want someone who will fight for grand reforms and revolutions, but who at the end of the day will accept compromise rather than suffer total defeat if the political winds turn.  I want a politician who knows where to put their political capital to do the most good. That’s Hillary Clinton and no one else in the political landscape.

She will be effective in advancing some of the most important issues of our day. Immigration? She supports a path to citizenship. Where that’s not possible (for which we have only minorities to blame) she supports interim measures like drivers licenses. Abortion, birth control, LGBT rights, women’s rights, minorities, early education etc. she’s been an advocate for social policies her entire career, both in and out of public service.

One of her top priorities is income inequality, and we can be certain tax reform will be a major priority in the coming days. She’s also a strong environmentalist, supports cap-and trade, alternative energies and other regulations.

In short, she’s everything you’d expect from a left-of-center Democrat.  What she isn’t is a bomb-throwing radical who wants to tear down the system and build a new one. She’s not going to nationalize the banks or the energy companies, she isn’t going to nationalize healthcare, especially with the Obamacare framework put in  place. She’s not going to take away the guns. She’ll probably put in place a tougher Warren-esque regulatory environment in place. She probably won’t do Jack about guns until the political environment changes. Personally, there are far more important issues to deal with than tilting at that particular windmill.

Foreign affairs we can expect her to continue to support our allies while working for diplomatic and economic solutions. Drones? Yes. Expensive foreign occupations? No. America can not remain passive but neither can we intervene. Especially in places like the Middle East. It will take a delicate hand to thread that needle, but if anyone can, it’s her. No other politician, GOP or DEM, has that kind of experience.

Liberals, for the last 30 years this country has been slowly clawing our way back from a conservative paradigm. You will not find any sufficiently liberal politician that has a hope of winning the election and enacting their agenda. Trying for too much too fast will only hand an easy victory to conservatives. Hillary will probably win without the wellspring if support liberals can afford. In the election for president I can think of any politician that isn’t loathed by all except the base. But this isn’t about just the Presidency in tens of thousands of races are candidates that need that support. All those victories important to the liberal base at the national level can easily be undone at the state level. Millions of poor people have been denied access to healthcare because Republican governors have been sacrificing them in their puerile attempts at spiting Obamacare. Only a selfish whiny party would wallow in apathy because their candidates aren’t sufficiently liberal. Take a lesson from the last election when minorities and liberals stayed home. This country deserves the republican majorities it elected.