Archive for May, 2022


Recent discussions on this blog and in the public media on subjects such as abortion, gun ownership, and opioids have something in common, and that’s a manifestation of overreactive absolutism that appeals to the politically active extremes who control each political party.

While I still believe a majority of Americans are at heart moderate, from what I see, that moderate majority is shrinking, for a number of reasons.

There’s a growing distrust of the other side, fueled by the extremists on both sides. The gun control/safety issue is one example. With almost 400 million firearms in the United States and the second amendment, there is NO WAY the “left” is ever going to take your guns.

So the question is really about how to increase gun safety and what restrictions are reasonable to reduce gun violence and the associated carnage. The only real use for an AR-15 with large magazines and anti-personnel rounds is to kill people. So equipped, it’s not a hunting weapon; it’s not a target or sport shooting weapon; it’s really not a self-defense weapon [how many people can or should sleep with something like that close at hand and use it accurately and effectively in the middle of the night?]. No homeowner needs hundreds of rounds for self-defense, and anyone who thinks that is either self-deluded or excessively paranoid, and might well be exactly the kind of individual not to be trusted with hundreds of rounds and a rapid-fire weapon.

When a teenager buys two AR-15 type weapons and hundreds of rounds in a few days, that ought to set off red-flags everywhere. The fact that local police in Uvalde didn’t want to confront a single teenager with that kind of weaponry should suggest just how dangerous it is.

Driving a car requires getting a license [and passing tests to assure minimum competency] and having a vehicle with features equipped for safe usage. It doesn’t stop millions and millions from not driving, and we still kill tens of thousands of people on the highways every year – but you don’t get to drive tanks and armed APCs on the highway.

Societies don’t work well without limits on excessive personal and corporate behavior, nor do they work well when everything is overcontrolled.

Yet on the question of firearms safety, somehow it’s all about the unfounded fear that the feds and the left are going to take away guns, rather than about what reasonable and practical standards and laws need be enacted for public safety.

Illogic and Hypocrisy

Texas has more guns than any other state and also suffers more gun deaths annually than any other state. In addition, the states with the highest rates of gun ownership also have the highest gun death rates.

In the tragic Uvalde school shooting, while early reports stated that one armed school security officer was ineffectual against the shooter and allowed him to get into the school, later police statements indicate there was no security officer present and that police arrived fifteen minutes later and did not attempt to enter the school building after the shooter fired at them. More armed law officers arrived, and proceeded to dither around the outside of the school for forty minutes, breaking windows to help children escape, but not putting themselves in harm’s way, while the shooter barricaded himself in a classroom and massacred the teacher and 19 children, until a tactical unit arrived.

So all those guns weren’t terribly useful, or at least none of those upstanding personnel wanted to use them and risk their lives to stop further killing of children.

Yet Republican Texas politicians—and Republicans across the country – continue to claim that more guns are the answer when statistics clearly show that more guns are the major component of the problem and that more guns (and/or their owners) aren’t stopping the shooters.

These same Republicans claim they’re opposed to abortion because life in any state of development is sacred, and they’ll make it impossible for women to get abortions, often even if the pregnancy could cost that woman her life. Even where abortion is legal, they make it incredibly difficult, with all sorts of restrictions and requirements. Yet an eighteen year old can walk into a gun store and buy two weapons whose only real use is to kill people, with almost no requirements at all.

We don’t allow people to drive cars without licenses and driver’s tests, but you can buy a gun without either.

Interestingly enough, 62% of all U.S. gun owners are male, and 88% of all U.S. homicides are committed by males, three quarters of which involve a firearm. And, of all the women in the world killed by firearms in 2017, nearly 92 percent of them were women in the U.S.

The Republicans not only want to restrict women’s freedom to control their own bodies, but they also reject any measure that would restrict their right to weapons designed to kill people, including women and children.


The other day I ran across a tweet that read something like this:

Sometimes people use “respect” to mean treating another individual like a real person, and sometimes they use “respect” to treat someone like an authority. And sometimes someone who’s used to being treated like an authority reacts by actions that say if you won’t treat me like an authority I won’t respect you as a person, and that’s not fair.

When I read this my first thought was to agree. My second thought was that there’s far more to this.

Of course, all individuals deserve respect as unique people. That shouldn’t even be a question.

The real question behind this tweet is what “respect” do authority figures deserve and on what basis.

In loose terms, in western society, such respect for authority figures has historically been based on position and accomplishments. The office of the President of the U.S. deserves respect [even if you dislike the individual holding that office]. So do the offices of a Representative or Senator.

But paying respect to an institutional officer-holder can be difficult if that person holds views or has acted in a way contrary to one’s beliefs [or sense of decency]. The same is true of individuals who have great accomplishments. Mozart was a great composer, but from everything I’ve read, he was also a wastrel, womanizer, and arrogant little bastard, and Wagner was even worse. Many individuals with great achievements have or have had personal lives that were anything but exemplary.

Modern media has become extraordinarily effective at uncovering such personal behavior and often magnifying it to the point that it seems difficult to respect anyone. But the reaction of too many people is to ignore the faults of those they like and magnify the faults of those they don’t like, rather than assessing authority figures on their demonstrated professional performance and expertise.

The greater problem with this media emphasis on fault-finding is that it combines with the look-it-up culture that allows people to think they know more than they do to grind down respect for professionals in almost every field. What makes this worse is the Dunning–Kruger effect, i.e., the cognitive bias where people with the lowest knowledge or ability at a task are the ones most likely to overestimate their abilities, otherwise known as Monday morning quarter-backing, and so often the least qualified individuals are the most negative and critical, and social media magnifies their impact.

As a result of these factors, over the last forty years, virtually every occupation has less public respect than in previous years. While one can certainly make a case that a lack of respect for Congress, politicians, news reporters, and car salespeople should be lower, is there any real case to say that everything is worse?

The Pain Management Crisis

Roughly two years ago, I wrote about a friend who committed suicide because the medical profession denied him the opioids he had been taking for years, despite the fact that he had managed his pain successfully at the same levels for years without increases in dosage.

While this is not a personal problem for me, I’ve seen this problem increase among people I know, and from what I’ve observed and from the statistics, the problem has continued unabated, and there are scores of articles in both medical journals and government publications, as well as a number of studies, that show, among other things, that reduction or elimination of opioid pain medication dramatically increases suicide rates among those with chronic pain.

There have been successful lawsuits against doctors and medical providers for failing to provide adequate pain relief to patients who then committed suicide. Another study of more than 100,000 veterans on pain management medications showed that among those who had their dosage reduced or eliminated, the suicide rate increased 50%.

While the rate of opioid overdose deaths has also increased, almost all of the increased overdose deaths were the result of using illegal opioids, which makes perfect sense. When people suffering acute chronic pain are denied relief, many of them will look for any way possible to dull that pain. That’s also why alcohol use/abuse goes up among chronic pain sufferers who turn to suicide, although most of the medical literature has it backward, often claiming that excessive alcohol use contributes to suicides among those with severe chronic pain. No, people in pain are more likely to turn to alcohol to reduce or dull pain.

Yet the crusade against opioids and overdoses continues, partly because no one is really addressing the root cause – and that’s pain.

Is anyone out there really looking hard for a non-addictive, inexpensive, and effective painkiller able to eliminate or reduce severe chronic pain?

Probably not, at least not until they can charge at least $1,000 a pill for it.

The Stupidity of Democratic “Leadership”

As I’ve said for years, the “leaders” of the Democratic Party are their own worst enemies.

What has made Republicans so effective is that they’ve concentrated on key issues that worry their supporters – and made them personal and simple. The libs are baby-killers. They’re going to take your guns. The lefty commies have taken over education and are teaching subversive stuff to your kids. They’re also flooding the schools with gay pornography and black propaganda. They want to swamp the U.S. with immigrants who will do your job for less. To pay for all this, they’ll raise your taxes just like they have before.

Simple, direct, and wrong – because truth is complex and nuanced, and the Democrats have tried to explain why. But if you’re explaining, you’re already at least half-losing.

So how about… the GOP sold out to the fat cats who pay you starvation wages. Or, the GOP pushes murder and death for pregnant women [since in fact the leading cause of death for pregnant women is murder]. Or maybe, the far right wages war on women and outlaws abortion to get cheap minority labor and adoptable white kids. The right opposes free trade to keep prices high and subsidize fat cat companies. [And if the Democrats worked on it, they could probably do better than I did, and if they don’t they’ve got a real problem, because what they’re doing now isn’t working all that well.]

In addition to over-explaining, the Democrats have too many issues and seemingly can’t focus on the ones that are the most important, while over-emphasizing the trivial. Stop worrying about pronouns and language when you don’t have adequate pay and equal rights. And don’t come up with stupid slogans like “defunding the police” when, despite all the problems, minority communities don’t need fewer police, but better police and other support services.

Democrats also can’t organize for the long run. They can create rallies for important issues, but can’t match the GOP in doing the day-to-day, week-on-week organizing, and the grinding and boring groundwork. Part of this is because much of their constituency is either working so hard that they don’t have time, or too young and doesn’t know how to work, and often too ignorant of how grassroots politics works.

And while the Democrats can raise money, they don’t always spend it wisely in supporting electable candidates, as well as candidates who can legislate and not just pontificate.

None of this is new. So why doesn’t the Democratic leadership actually lead?

The “Catholic” Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States has nine justices. Six of them are Catholic; one other justice identifies as “Anglican/Catholic.” Catholicism specifically condemns abortion. Of those seven, six oppose abortion.

Now, I don’t have a problem with Catholics who oppose abortion. I do have a problem with Catholics, and those of other religions, who use and interpret the law to force their beliefs onto others, particularly when those laws are effectively targeted to reduce the rights of half the population and when the other half is largely unaffected. Regardless of “religious” beliefs, that’s blatant discrimination.

About six-in-ten U.S. adults (61%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 37% say it should be illegal in all or most cases, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted this past March. These figures have remained remarkably constant over the past thirty years. Yet a male-Catholic-dominated Supreme Court [Sonia Sotomayor is Catholic and opposes the draft opinion, while Amy Coney Barrett is Catholic and supports it] appears determined to effectively outlaw abortion in over half the states.

In addition to such laws and legal interpretations being discriminatory – and against the views of almost two-thirds of the American population – they also effectively enshrine the religious beliefs of a minority into law, and, in doing so, violate the intent of the First Amendment which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

As a side note, one of our distinguished founding fathers – Benjamin Franklin – printed and distributed a medical treatment book containing ingredients and procedures for inducing a pharmaceutical, do-it-yourself abortion. So did others during that time period, so Justice Alito is slanting the history more than a little when he says that the Founding Fathers made no reference to abortion, since it was definitely known and practiced at the time, and it might just be that it wasn’t mentioned because it was practiced and wasn’t particularly controversial.

Allowing women to choose is not the same as mandating abortion. Study after study shows that the vast majority of women who have abortions don’t make that decision lightly.

Given that over 60% of Americans have consistently felt that abortion should be legal in all or in most cases for more than 30 years, as far as I’m concerned, the draft opinion is nothing more than an attempt by a male patriarchy to continue to oppress women and to reduce their power. For all the rhetoric about the “rights” of the unborn, history demonstrates clearly that beliefs and governments that restrict the rights of women to control their own bodies also have abysmal records in protecting human rights, and virtually all of them oppress women and children. And, by the way, in a surprising coincidence, the Taliban have now abolished school for women and again mandated the burka.

Is it any surprise that justices appointed by a political party that has opposed equal legal rights for women also oppose them having rights over their own body?

Get Real About Abortion

Forget the arguments about “right to life.” They’re a smokescreen for the real issue, because the real issue is power.

Men have absolute sexual freedom biologically. They can choose to have sex when and where they wish, even when the woman or another man is not willing. And in the case of women, the only one who suffers adverse physical repercussions is the woman.

The freedom to use birth control or, if the woman desires, to have an abortion in the case of an unwanted pregnancy, gives her close to equal freedom and certainly the freedom to do as she wishes with her own body – which is analogous to the freedom men already have.

Like it or not, most men, at least subconsciously, don’t want women to have that freedom. Their answer is that if women don’t want to bear the consequences, they shouldn’t have sex. But men can have sex without bearing the potential consequences. Those are unequal rights, pure and simple.

Some men have argued that greater punishment for rape or forced sex and financial support is preferable. Those won’t prevent women from being forced into sex and bearing the consequences. Only the unfettered access to birth control and abortion will.

The fact that this is a power struggle is further supported by the renewed push by the far right not only to eliminate all abortions, even when the life of the woman is endangered, but to prohibit all forms of birth control.

This isn’t about right to life; it’s about male domination, which, apparently, some women on the far right also prefer – and that’s their choice, but it shouldn’t be forced on all women.

The fact that those religious faiths that oppose abortion, including the Catholic Church, are also male dominated, sometimes viciously and violently, should also tell thinking people that it’s not primarily about right to life, but about men’s “right to dominate.”

When Justices Lie

With the leaked draft of the pending Supreme Court decision, apparently to overturn a woman’s right to abortion as established in Roe v. Wade, has come another not totally unexpected surprise. In their meetings before their confirmation hearings, both Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh told Senator Susan Collins of Maine that Roe v. Wade was “settled law.”

In essence, they both lied to get confirmed.

Chief Justice Roberts is incensed that the draft opinion was leaked.

He ought to be even more incensed that the two newest justices blatantly lied to get confirmed.

Now, admittedly, Senator Collins was a fool to believe either, especially Neil Gorsuch, whose views on abortion were well known long before he was even considered for the Supreme Court, but the fact that they both blatantly lied speaks volumes about the far right.

We all know that too many politicians lie or mislead to get votes in the hope of getting elected. That’s nothing new. But one could hope for more from a potential appointee to the nation’s highest court. These two didn’t even have the decency to say, “My record speaks for itself.” Instead they, in effect, made a promise they had no intention of honoring.

Personally, I have a real problem with so-called idealists who will compromise every principle they supposedly hold dear in order to be able to impose, very selectively, their principles on others. But this is and continues to be the hallmark of supposed “conservatives,” who are in fact not conservatives, but religious zealots trying to impose church upon state.

The far right effectively espouses the right to shoot other people under certain circumstances, but they won’t allow a woman the right to decide what goes on with her own body. At least, the far left will let you go to hell in your own handbasket, even if they’ll overcharge you for using the handbasket.

“…and I Don’t Like Anyone Very Much…”

[With apologies to The Kingston Trio]

Because I’m a registered Republican and have given money in the past to a select few Democratic candidates, over the past few months both my snailmail and my email have been deluged with appeals for money and support from both parties and from candidates from both political parties. Each party and every candidate insists that the very existence of the United States is threatened if they don’t get adequate funding in order to defeat the “evil other.”

Now, I’d be the first to admit that there are politicians in each party that the respective party – and the world – could and should do without. Parties being what they are – greedy and without ethics [ethics are only used in judging the other party] – that’s not going to happen.

Depressingly predictable is that the vast majority of these desperate-sounding appeals are close to fact-free, along the lines of “if the other party gains/maintains control of Congress, the sky will fall.” The specifics of how the sky will fall, of course, are also general, but behind the vague generalities, the implications are obvious.

If those free-spending free-sex Democrats get control, they’ll take away our guns, require abortions, indoctrinate our kids with gay and lesbian propaganda, give the vote to every illegal immigrant, require paying people for not working, and bankrupt the entire country, and that’s just for starters.

If those authoritarian Republican Trump clones get control, they’ll take away civil rights from anyone not a white male, ban all abortions for any reason, fortify and militarize the southern border, pass more tax cuts for selfish millionaires, keep the minimum wage as low as possible, accelerate climate change and destroy the environment in a generation, and that’s just for starters.

I’ll also admit that there are politicians close to those extremes, not that most would ever admit it publicly, but I did spend twenty years in the Washington, D.C., political climate and there have always been extremists, just not so many that are so extreme. Even so, I’ve never seen such vitriol on such a wide scale – not in the fifty-plus years that I’ve been in and watched U.S. politics.

And that’s why I don’t like any of them very much – this frantic sky-is-falling, violent-hatred fund-raising just exacerbates the current polarization… and by engaging in it, they may well permanently fracture the underlying consensus required for a democratic political system.