HELLO

Whether you're a fan of my OSCARBLOGGER site, or if you're just casting your way 'round the web, I hope you enjoy my new blog: WHISPERING IN A WIND TUNNEL. Here I will discuss issues of politics, religion, race, gay rights, gender, you know, the big stuff.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A DOUBLE BLAST OF COMMON SENSE


Here's a few words I thought I'd never say:  Rush Limbaugh posted something on Facebook recently that was genuinely honest and insightful.  He wrote:

"Now that I've outgrown the 25-54 demographic, I'm no longer confident that the way I see the world is the way everybody else does. I've gotten old enough now that there are younger people, generationally(sic) younger, who have an entirely different view, an entirely different experience."
It's truly surprising to find someone who has gotten very wealthy off mean spirited, thinly veiled racist, sexist and homophobic attacks admit that his time has passed.  While I wish it had happened sooner, I'm glad that it's happened and that he and other extremist right wing media figures will slide into irrelevancy.

The face of reason, for once


And no recent events confirm Limbaugh's prediction better than the two Supreme Court rulings that have just come down.  First, on June 25th. Obamacare was once again spared in a 6-3 vote.  This ruling was a bit surprising because many conservatives felt that Chief Justice John Roberts was going to "redeem" himself by gutting the same law that he voted to uphold in the first ruling on Obamacare years ago.  Instead, not only did he vote for it but so did swing vote  Justice Kennedy, making it not even close.  The case was based literally on a typo in the bill that because of various legislative maneuvers in congress, could not be easily fixed.  While the Supreme Court never should have heard this case in the first place, upholding the Affordable Care Act is a good thing.  While some improvements clearly should be made to Obamacare, the fact of the matter is that millions of Americans now have healthcare because of it.
And the Obamacare ruling was followed by an even bigger decision: the US has now joined twenty two other countries in making gay marriage legal.  This great blow for common sense equality is a stunning turn around for the country.  It's amazing to think that just 11 years ago, with the Iraq war crumbling, George W Bush was sadly able to squeak out a reelection victory by using gay marriage as a wedge issue.  And now the tide has turned, and a majority of the American public agree with the court's ruling.   Conservatives can yell all they want, it's a new day of equality in America.
And then there's the Confederate flag; in the wake of the horrific shootings of 9 innocent people in South Carolina, the fact that the shooter Dylann Roof had pictures of himself holding the Confederate flag and posted a racist tirade online caused many politicians to reconsider the waving of a flag that, to many people, remains a symbol of bigotry.  Surprisingly, even Republicans like South Carolina Govenor Nikki Haley and Senator Lindsay Graham have said that the flag should be taken down.  This conversation is long overdue: although it's perfectly fine for someone to wave that flag on their own property, having it in front of government buildings sends an ugly message.   Amazingly, the movement to remove it has been swift and overwhelming, with social media outlets swamping the state government, and even corporate groups like the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance support the removal.  For years white southerners have argued that the flag is just a symbol of rebellion and pride, but that argument seems weak given Roof's and other white supremacists embrace of it.  While I wish the tragic shooting could have resulted in some common sense gun control, if bringing down the flag springs from it, then at least there will be an important symbolic change.  It's time for the South to admit the Civil War was about slavery and the right side won.  And that was over a hundred years ago.  Get over it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

HOW MANY TIMES?



In the aftermath of the horrific killing of nine innocent church goers in South Carolina, a question arises and remains unanswered: How many times?  How many times will we hear about the mass shooting of innocent people and do nothing?  Why does America allow easy gun access to dangerous people? How long will the National Rifle Association continue to have a strangle grip on congress? 
While this current shooting raises other ugly issues (like racism and the confederate flag) let's look at the issue of gun control.  Groups like the NRA who oppose even the slightest kind of control point to the Second Amendment of the Constitution as the absolute bench mark of freedom.  While that amendment does say that American citizens have "the right to bear arms",  just how that was supposed to be inferred is up for debate.  Some pro gun control groups have claimed that this was only in regards to individual  states needing to have a militia.  But the NRA, or course, maintains that the country's  fore fathers opposed any limits on gun ownership.
Personally, I don't think that we can ever really know exactly what our fore fathers intended, and honestly, I don't really care.  It bothers me that some people look at our constitution the same way that fundamentalist Christians look at the bible.  Many of our country's founding fore fathers had slaves.  None of them thought that women should vote.  Were they just products of their time?  Sure, but that's just the point, times change.  There was no way that they could, in their time, foresee and understand the invention of weapons like assault rifles, not when they lived in an era of single shot flintlock weapons.  So why does their feelings about comparatively primitive rifles matter in an era of bigger, faster, deadlier guns?
Now I personally hate guns and would never own one, but I am also a realist; the American gun culture is too strong in many parts of the country for any kind of an outright ban on hand guns to work  like they have in many other countries.  There are just too many people who will refuse to follow the law, which would result in the government having to enforce it with often deadly results.
But I don't  see why every gun owner shouldn't have to get a license and register their gun the same way that we have to with our cars.  Having 16 year olds have to pass a written test and then a driving test before they get a license, which then  has to be renewed every few years seems perfectly rational.  Why can't we do the same thing with guns?  If a car driven by an unlicensed driver is dangerous, isn't a gun owned by an unlicensed owner also dangerous?
The answer that's usually given is that licensing guns would be the first step to taking them away, even though there is no proof of that.  A law banning all guns would have to pass congress, and the NRA is one of the most powerful lobbyist groups in the country, so there's little chance of that happening. 
Along with opposing even the weakest kind of gun laws, the NRA also fans the flames of fear by telling their members that whenever a Democratic president is in office, the government is just waiting to send in government thugs to take their guns away, even though the only gun control legislation that president Obama has tried to pass was a simple expansion of already existing background checks to include guns bought at gun shows.  And even that went down to defeat.  So the idea that Obama, or any Democrat wants to crack down on "law abiding gun owners" is absurd.
Equally absurd is the idea that the people of America need to have guns to overthrow the government.  The idea that a bunch of citizens with guns could storm the nation's capital and somehow defeat a president protected by the largest military in the world is laughable.  Even more ridiculous is the notion that people taking over the US government through force would be a good thing.  Just look at history: in the twentieth century there were quite a few examples of people violently over throwing their national governments all around the world.  Were any of them an improvement?  The Czars in Russia were overthrown and replaced by the Communists, which lead to the brutality of Joseph Stalin.  Batista in Cuba was overthrown and replaced with the dictator Fidel Castro.  A CIA backed coup in Iran led to the ousting of democratically elected leader Mohammad Mossadegh and the installing of the Shah of Iran, who got rid of elections; he was himself violently over thrown and replaced with the current repressive Mullah government.  And I could go on.  I think it's safe to say that Government rule through violence is generally not a good thing in the modern world, despite what the NRA says.
And don't forget, although the NRA claims to be an organization made of gun owning citizens, every year gun selling companies donate millions of dollars to the group, seeing  any limitation on gun sales as an cutting into their corporate profits.  Yes, at the end of the day the NRA opposes common sense gun laws because their major donors want to reserve the right to profit from selling guns to criminals who will use those guns to kill.  Honestly, I don't know how gun company executives can sleep at night.