The Devil Called Him Home

 Gone but not forgotten, his ideological decisions destined to keep the “right” people feeling safe in their homes and on Rodeo Drive, we just celebrated the 8th year of Antonin Scalia’s passing a couple of weeks ago. I remember when I heard the news that he had died in Marfa, Texas I wondered if he was another victim of Dick Cheney’s friendly fire. Being reminded of his passing, I used commercial breaks to Google items of interest on Scalia. I figured that there had to be more to the man than my own lowly opinion of him. In fairness, if I was going to write about him, I should at least try to bring up his good features. You know, like he didn’t kick dogs, stuff like that.

At the time of his passing, I’m sure that all of the smart money was on his best friend on the court Justice Ginsberg being the first to go. Justice Ginsberg was 83 and barely able to keep herself awake during the first few minutes of the State of The Union address that year. Not that being put to sleep by a State of the Union address is any indicator of vitality, it’s just that Justice Ginsberg looked so weak at the time that it was a shock that Scalia preceded her. Her frailty and Scalia’s passing underscores the proposition that appointing people to life time positions is a bad idea. People are not like wine, we don’t improve with age. We get cranky, close minded, uncompromising and generally just hard to deal with.

Justice Scalia was the first Italian-American Justice, appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986. He was part of the Reagan Revolution, in which Reagan elevated Justices to the court that were far more conservative than even his own views. Scalia cloaked his bigotry and misogyny under the guise of Federalism. By turning back every challenge brought to the court that impinged on human liberties as being a matter for the individual states to decide, Scalia reinforced his disdain for the Declaration of Independence. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” were just words to be determined by the state where you reside, unless you are a corporation. Corporations are given special powers in a Scalia court, like unlimited campaign spending and ignoring provision of the Affordable Health Care Act.

Scalia was exactly what every Republican talks about when they use the phrase “legislating from the bench”. The Republicans never complained about Scalia’s legislating, though. Scalia made law or struck down laws, without benefit of Congress or the President. He was the “decider” and he bullied all of the other Justices to support his view. In fact, Justice Clarence Thomas gave up long ago having an opinion. Uncle Clarence would just point at Scalia and say, “what he said”.

Thomas has since aligned with the other really right wing Catholic on the court, Justice Alito. Since we know “birds of a feather, flock together”, maybe it’s time to stop nominating Catholics to the court. Prior to Scalia’s death, they were a 6 to 3 majority, they are now a 7-2 advantage. Not that all of Scalia’s bad decision’s were based on morality issues. Just the ones involving, race, sexual orientation and women’s rights.

Scalia could also wreck havoc in areas other than human rights. He was instrumental in the Supreme Court forcing George Bush in as President, over Al Gore. Scalia didn’t even have enough of a conscience to recuse himself from the Bush suit, which was brought by the law firm where Scalia’s son worked. Scalia was convinced that his “moral majority” on the court had the right to decide who was going to be President, over the millions of us ignorant voters.

Scalia also refused to recuse himself from a Supreme Court case involving Dick Cheney, even though he and Cheney were hunting buddies. It was Scalia’s belief that the Constitution was not a living growing document, but could only be interpreted through the eyes of someone like Scalia who saw the world as how it was in 1776. To that end, Scalia could make determinations favorable to friends, political parties, corporations or others that were based on his insight to the founding fathers minds, not any sort of legal precedence.

Scalia believed in the devil, and I’m sure Scalia is with him today. While Scalia is arranging the chairs in Hell to his liking, I’m sure he’ll be looking in on how we mere mortals will handle his departure. Battle lines are being drawn, and it looks like it’s Scalia’s favorite battle, good versus evil.

Sadly, my research didn’t uncover whether Scalia kicked puppies or not, so the jury is still out on that one.

Implied Liability

You listen to the news every day hoping to hear that one kernel of good news that will restore your faith in humanity. These are sad times, desperate times, and a lot of times it doesn’t seem like the good guys are winning.

A blurb about Alex Jones reminded me about the little sliver of good news that poked through when the Sandy Hook families were awarded $73 million for their loss on December 14th 2012. That news was compounded when the courts awarded the families $1.5 billion from the mendacious broadcaster for defamation. I can say for a certainty that each one of those parents would gladly refuse the money to have their child back. I think we can all agree that there are some things that money can’t compensate. Society’s only hope is that the punishment is strong enough to deter the guilty from repeating their behavior.

The manufacturer of the AR-15-style weapon that killed the children, Remington, has come out of bankruptcy and reformed as two companies, one of which is located in LaGrange, Georgia. We Georgians love our guns so much that we even give the manufacturers tax abatements as well as utility and infrastructure improvements to locate here. According to our Governor, “Georgia’s firearms industry is responsible for thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of investment in our communities”, which I guess is the only consideration for encouraging a new business. The Peach State is also the “proud” home to Glock, another dispenser of indiscriminate death.

What makes the Sandy Hook settlement a big deal is that gun manufacturers have hidden behind a federal law since 2005 that protected them from lawsuits based off of liability. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act basically insulates the arms manufacturers from any suit other than outright manufacturing malfeasance. It is like Congress conspired to say what is the bare minimum these manufacturers can be held accountable for, and we’ll lower that bar a little. Fortunately, the Connecticut Attorney General opened a legal path to holding the arm manufacturers accountable for some of the carnage their products cause.

I hear a “hold on there little cowboy” in the audience. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” True enough, but guns make it way too easy to kill people, especially children. Every day, 22 children and teens (1-17) are shot in the United States”. That can’t be acceptable, not for one second. In my mind, the wounded children are the result of bad policy coupled with the insatiable greed of the armaments people. Even the association founded to promote gun safety bears a tremendous amount of liability for their part in the slaughter.

There are many things that can be done to make gun ownership safer. Sadly, in this article the NRA is promoting the idea that a lighter trigger pull is always a good thing. Ironically, in this article we can see that the necessary strength to pull a trigger exists in a four year old. I recall the story about a three year old that shot his mother to death in a parked car. Clearly gun manufacturers should be held responsible for making their products child safe. My God, even the pill bottle manufacturers can do that and their products cost pennies. It’s ridiculous to think that the manufacturers of weapons that cost thousands of dollars can’t make their products child proof.

One area that the Sandy Hook settlement did seem to provide a way forward is a way to hold gun manufacturers liable for their advertising. Romancing the idea of gun ownership is morally repugnant. I hope that going forward we can be spared any more tragedies committed by wannabe Rambos. Teenagers have enough to sort through without a gun manufacturer telling them that they have the solution to all of their problems.

Hopefully the Sandy Hook settlement will provide a way for everyone touched by a gun tragedy to get some some vengeance on the death dealers. Maybe there will be a class action suit. I can’t wait. The lawsuit / settlement would be enormous. It seems to me that if we can put a man on the moon we should be able to prevent a toddler from shooting his Momma.

Guns And More Guns

Am I overstating the problem? Not in the least. When it is more likely to be a victim of gun violence if you are an elementary school child than a police officer on duty, we have gone down the rabbit hole.

The Gun Violence Archive tracks deaths by gun of all types across the United States. The statistics are just staggering. Look at the numbers posted each year for children 0-11 and police. The numbers are far too close for what we as a society should expect. The police have a dangerous job, which, in my opinion, would be helped by some form of gun control. Elementary school kids are just trying to go to school. Do ads for bulletproof backpacks not scream enough is enough?

Why the insurance companies? Because the federal government won’t do it and the insurance companies are the only industry big enough to take on the gun industry.

Think about the industries that insurance companies have moderated in society. Automobiles and tobacco are a couple of huge, huge industries that were made to modify their behavior because of the insurance industry. All cars are tested now for crash-worthiness. Smokers pay higher premiums and are actively encouraged to quit by PSAs. What if gun owners had to at least buy liability insurance in the amount of one million dollars for each gun they own?

Obviously there would be a sliding scale on the weapons. The premium for an AR15 with extra magazine would be significantly higher than a 410 shotgun. Just like an 18 year old driving a Corvette paying more than a 35 year old driving a Honda CR-V, the insurance companies will develop the strategies that will keep them from paying out rewards. We can trust the actuaries to work it out, they’re good at that stuff. It worked for cars and tobacco.

Let’s talk about the upside for state and local governments. Just like proof of ownership and liability insurance for cars is required by law, so would gun ownership. Thinking about walking around downtown with your Uzie, fine. The police have the right to ask you for your registration and insurance. No insurance, no problem. Big fine and confiscation until proof of insurance is secured. Just like with your car.

Want to buy a gun because you’re really ticked off at your neighbor and something needs to be done? No problem, you can pick up the gun when your insurance has been secured. Society will rely on the insurance companies to do their due diligence and your neighbor will be happy they did.

Is my proposal crazy and farfetched? No. The city of San Jose, California has already enacted such a plan. I’m not going to quibble with them over who thought of what first. “There’s no good idea that can’t be improved on”.

One would think that the state of Alaska would want to be one of the first to jump on the bandwagon. They lead the country in firearm mortality according to the CDC. Of course the south comes in a close second. We do love our guns. I just hope we love our children more.

The State of the Union

President Biden gave his State of the Union address last night. Even if I wasn’t the bleeding heart liberal that I am, I thanked my lucky stars that the 2020 election went as it did. My guess is there are some people with a more right wing bent that are glad too. There’s nothing like having someone the people can look up to in a time of crisis.

I watched the President and I saw a man who projected, “I’m here for all of you, not just the one percent. I’m not here for just the Democrats, or just the people that voted for me, but for all Americans.” With all of the uncertainty going on in the world, and at home, it was reassuring to hear the President say to everyone, “It’s going to be ok”.

As I watched, I was struck by the joy that Kamala Harris exuded from her spot behind the President. At one point she jumped up so fast and high to applaud that she almost slipped off the podium. The V.P. wasn’t the only one energized by the President’s words.

Republicans have been told to sit on their hands and voice their opposition to any plan the President proposes to better the life of average Americans. The Repubs couldn’t even rise to support stopping fentanyl at the border or the President’s actions against Russia in defense of Ukraine. Strange times indeed.

Speaking of the idiot Putin, and the invasion of Ukraine, how much better off is the world now than it would have been if the former guy had a return to duty? The Donald had publicly stated that he wanted the U.S. to pull out of NATO. It’s clear from his current fawning after the invasion that there is no wish that the Donald would have denied Putin. “Want to roll the tanks into France, no problem. Just don’t salt the earth. I might want to put a golf course up there someday.”

Of course President Biden doesn’t just have the threat of WWIII hanging over his head, he’s still got mop up duty with the worst pandemic in over one hundred years. Seeing the Congress without masks was a reminder of how lucky we are that Biden took over when he did. I forgot how old some of those people are. Just kidding./s They are old, really old and seeing them without their masks reminded me how desperately we need to enforce a retirement age.

Even so, wasn’t it great to see them acting social and friendly? Maybe being able to see each other smile will encourage congress critters from both sides to work on the President’s agenda. There’s still plenty to do even though Biden illuminated a healthy list of accomplishments so far. With that said, here’s some of the list:

* $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. Those pot holes aren’t going to fix themselves, or haven’t in the last couple of decades. Twenty years of kicking the can down the road has resulted in failing bridges all over the country. Biden has brought both sides together to finally fix them.

* The $1.9 trillion Covid relief deal. It’s hard to imagine what the vaccination program would have been like if left to the pharmaceutical companies. How many people would have gotten vaccinated if the shots were $500 a piece? The fact that the program provided financial relief for people affected by the crisis economy shows what a truly compassionate man Joe Biden is.

* Ended the war in Afghanistan. Was the withdrawal completely without issues, no, but we’re done with that hell-hole. No more American lives lost in vain.Trillions of dollars of American taxes will be freed up to pursue the challenges that need immediate attention like climate change.

* The American rescue plan. In Biden’s first year in office, the economy grew at the strongest rate in nearly 40 years. From beating back COVID to creating over 14.8 million new jobs, Biden has given the average American a path forward. The national unemployment rate has dropped to 3.7 percent from 6.3 percent when Biden took office.

* Appointment of federal judges. Biden has appointed 181 federal judges, the most since Ronald Reagan. He has also placed a moratorium on federal executions, reversing a policy that the Donald drug out of the closet.

Well, that’s just five off of the top of my head. I guess I could go on for days, but I won’t. Let’s just say that I think President Biden will be viewed very well by history, particularly with a look at the lack of cooperation he has received.

The State of The Union is stronger than it ever has been and will continue to get stronger, thank you President Biden.

Too Aloof

While we wait for the next mass shooting, and, I hear one was averted by a traffic stop in Indiana, I wonder what form of tragedy is it going to take before some people’s humanity is finally awakened.

We learned about the RWNJ headed to Washington with an AR15 and a hit list during the testimony of Dr. Fauci before Congress this week. Rand Paul, one of the two Senators from Kentucky that could effectively be replaced by door wedges, took an aggressive stance with his opportunity to question Dr. Fauci during the hearing on the pandemic. Instead of using his time to glean insights into Dr. Fauci’s specific knowledge of the facts, Paul chose to expound on some of his favorite conspiracy theories. Thankfully Dr. Fauci shut Paul down with the revelation that Paul was using “Fire Fauci” as a fund raiser on his Facebook page.

History bears out that there’s never a time so dire, a national emergency so acute that some people won’t bend the facts to their advantage. Dr. Fauci summed up this exchange with another Repug lawmaker so well that I can’t really improve on it. “What a moron” is a phrase that could be used universally against the current crop of Republicans.

How on earth did we get here? How did the country turn its back on the universal truth, “we just want our politicians to be smarter than we are”? Democrats at all levels are calling on their counterparts in the Republican party to act with courage and defy the RWNJ elements of their party. Seriously, which one of the 5 G’s is smarter than the guy that changes your oil?

Of course the Repugs won’t change their ways. Courage is the first thing removed from a Republican candidate, along with the will to serve the public. Meanwhile, the press has to blame someone for our fall from grace in standing with the rest of the world, so they ask the question, “Is President Biden too aloof?”

Too aloof, well I guess so. I know I prefer a leader that runs through the woods like his hair is on fire every time somebody pushes the hot topic button./s I guess in that regard the press will love having the Donald president again, until he bans the free press once and for all.

Speaking of another term in office for the great lurker, how is it that the sentient members of the Republican party, and I do think there are a few of them left, haven’t just decided to bathe in Clorox and get the stench of the Donald off of them forever? Some of them are safe in their districts no matter how much the misinformation machine attacks. It makes me wonder if physical threats aren’t thrown in with the Donald’s fealty oath. One speculates if the old veiled threat “nice family you’ve got there, it would be a shame if anything happened to them” is getting a lot of work these days.

Speaking of threats, and aloofness, I’m more than amused by President Biden’s welcome in Atlanta this week. Some black groups chose to not represent because they felt that Biden has been “aloof” to their needs. The threat by some black leaders to not keep strong with the Democratic party is madness in my opinion. I’m not sure how much sympathy blacks will get from the descendants of the “Back to Africa” movement. The old adage, “you got to dance with the one that brung you.” comes to mind. It might have been a Republican president that freed the blacks, but this is not the same Republican party.

While I totally agree that the future of America as a democratic country is truly on the line, it’s not like the President isn’t dealing with an existential problem 24/7. As near and dear to my heart as voting rights are, I can see where voting rights might not have been front burner for the President in his first year. 839,000 Americans have died due to Covid and the hospitals are bursting at the seams again with the sick and dying.

So, aloof, I don’t think so. Busier than a one-armed paper hanger is more like it.