Monday, February 19, 2018

Phrase of the Day: PARKLAND SHOOTING IN POLITICAL CARTOONS

As is often the case, cartoonists can capture a sentiment or make a larger point in just a small space.  Sometimes, the point they make can have a sarcastic or dark sense of humor about an issue.  Sometimes, they intentionally make you feel uncomfortable to make that larger point. 

The following are two dozen cartoons in response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last week.

©2018  David Horsey


©2018  Ann Telnaes


©2018  Adam Zyglis


©2018  Scott Stantis


©2018  Mike Luckovich


©2018  Kevin Siers


©2018  Rob Rogers


©2018  Nate Beeler


©2018  Phil Hands


©2018  J.D. Crowe


©2018  Jimmy Margulies


©2018  Jimmy Margulies


©2018  Daryl Cagle / Cagle Cartoons


©2018  Josh Greenman


©2018  Bill Bramhall


©2018  Chan Lowe


©2018  Mike Luckovich


©2018  Walt Handelsman


©2018  Mike Peters


©2018  Pia Guerra / The Nib


©2018  Clay Bennett


©2018  Walk Handelsman


©2018  Bill Lumsford


©2018  Drew Sheneman


Terry

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Phrase of the Day: THE LONE GUNMAN FALLACY

Yesterday, yet another school shooting took place in America.  This time, it was at a high school in Parkland, Florida.  More than a dozen were injured and, as of this posting, seventeen are dead.  The shooter is nineteen years old and an expelled, former student of the high school where the shooting took place.  He had hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a gas mask, four smoke bombs, and an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.  Yes, the same kind of rifle used in so many of these mass shootings.

Gun manufacturers sure have a niche market.

Time after time after time, seemingly ad infinitum, the cycle -- and the fact that this cycle even exists is part of the tragedy -- continues.  It starts with a tragedy and ends with nothing done.


News reports on this tragedy said that the shooter was a lone gunman.  In fact, many of these senseless mass shootings have, as the perpetrator, what the press describes as a lone gunman.  Now, before you think I have gone off my rocker, yes, there was one person in Parkland, and Las Vegas, and Aurora, and at Sandy Hill Elementary, and so on, who pulled the trigger(s).  Wouldn't that mean it was a lone gunman?  Yes and no.  One person fired the weapon(s), but there were accomplices.  If anyone knows or follows any news story of a tragedy or any wrongdoing, accomplices are always sought after as well ... except when it comes to gun violence in America.

If no one was in the high school in Parkland with the shooter, or in the hotel room in Las Vegas, or in the movie theater in Aurora, or in the halls of Sandy Hill, then who are the accomplices of these shooters?  There are three that comprise a triad of terror ...

The NRA, gun manufacturers, and the U.S. government.

The National Rifle Association, which began to promote rifle safety, has become, while ironically still promoting the same, deeply involved in the promotion of sales of firearms to the mass public by means of loosening or removing gun control laws and regulations.  Their methods include lobbying and political contributions in the millions of dollars.

Gun manufacturers, who lobby Congress along with the NRA, want to see regulations and laws relaxed and removed because such regulations and laws impede on their profitability.  (Although they are quite profitable, nonetheless.)  Think of it in terms of sanctions against another country.  If you are in business, as are the gun manufacturers, and you are there in make a profit, which is one of the reasons to go into business, why would you want to see your bottom line limited?

The U.S. government is probably the worst of this triad of terror, as they are swayed to do the work of the above two members of the triad and the work of themselves instead of the work of the people.  Over and over, gun laws that are in place are altered or relaxed.  Gun laws that need to be updated because the weapons and amount of accessibility have changed are never updated.  Loopholes at gun shows (which, in many states, operate like an open black market for arming vigilantes), which should have never been in place, are allowed to remain in place.

Gun manufacturers will simple say they are in business and their business happens to be firearms.  When suggestions of safety measures, such as smart gun technology, is suggested, they pose a threat to profitability.  Add that technology, it adds to the cost of the guns, and then the guns might become less accessible to the masses.  That is not what they call in business cost effectiveness.  So, the gun manufacturers stand back and say we just want to make our money.

The NRA, as well as other lobbying groups, and members of the U.S. government have their fallback position they obsessively throw into the face of those who disagree with them ... the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Oh, we can't impinge on freedom...  People have a right...  Do that and it's government overreach...  On and on and on and on and on they go.  Groups including the NRA tout such ominous, but immeasurably untrue, slogans such as "Freedom's Safest Place", "Fierce Defender of American Liberty", "Frontline Defenders", and "Guardians of the Republic".

They are all contributing to what I called last Fall as "death-for-profit".  Add up all of the members of Congress to the number of members and staff of gun right organizations, and add that to the number of those who own and run gun manufacturers.  That number is much lower than the remaining total number of men, women, and children in this country.  Significantly lower. 

Stop and think of all the profits we represent to the gun manufacturers, the NRA, and the Congress.


These murderers have the full support of the triad of terror and, sadly, that support does not appear to be changing any time soon.  The next time -- and yes, sadly, there will be a next time -- when the news reporters and pundits mention "lone gunman", keep in mind that they have lots of backers.  They have lots of support.

They are never truly alone.

Terry

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Word of the Day: BRAVE

Image © 2018 ABC News

Last week, the trial of former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar, accused of sexual misconduct, came to a dramatic close.  Judge Rosemarie Aquilina allowed impact statements of Nassar's victims to be read in open court during the trial.  Those statements totaled more than 150, and it is known that more than those who appeared in court were abused by Nassar over the course of more than twenty years.  The above picture is from a television interview for ABC News of nineteen of his victims, a mere fraction of all those abused.

Two of the most profound statements came from Aly Raisman, a 2012 ('Fierce Five') and 2016 gold medal Olympian, and the first woman to speak out publicly and the first to be believed, Rachael Denhollander.  (Denhollander was the last woman to speak.)




After all of the evidence and overwhelming number of victim impact statements, which Nassar tried to get out of hearing, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina passed down her sentence.  Saying she "just signed [his] death warrant," Judge Aquilina sentenced Nassar, who is already serving a sixty-year sentence for possession of child pornography, to 40 to 175 years in prison.

Nassar would, under the guise of medical treatments, commit his abuse in private, or with parents in the room, or in an examination room, or in his hotel room (if on the road for various competitions or at the Olympics).  Nassar's abuse included fondling breasts and inserting his finger into the vaginas and anuses of these prepubescent and underage girls ... some as young as six years of age.

It was known as Nassar's "special treatments".

How did this happen in the first place?  How did it happen under the noses of parents and others?  How did this go on for so long?  It was the perfect storm of heightened passion (achieving a goal), high stakes, and high pressure providing the perfect opportunity for a predator.  (We now know that the pressure on these girls was both to compete and to be silent.)  Pursuing excellence at any cost is to blame here, too.  Certainly coerced ignorance played a part.  One example of that coerced ignorance is Amanda Thomashow, a Michigan State University student who had filed a Title IX report about the abuse back in 2014, and who was told she "did not understand the difference between sexual assault and a medical procedure".  Far too many were told that and summarily dismissed.

The vast majority of Nassar's victims were in gymnastics, but he also abused girls in figure skating, swimming, softball, volleyball, sculling, track and field, and even dancing.  It was yet another example of abuse of power and abuse of trust.

In light of the trial, a lot has happened.  The U.S. Olympic Committee demanded that the entire Board of Directors of USA Gymnastics resign; they are.  Aly Raisman and others have said similar attention must be paid to the USOC as well.  Lou Ann Simon, President of Michigan State University, who received much criticism, and who even attended the final day of the trial, has resigned her position.  MSU's Athletic Director Mark Hollis has also resigned.  Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette said a special prosecutor will be appointed to investigate MSU.  Karolyi Ranch, located in Texas, where many of the abuses took place, closed and is now under investigation.  More than 100 victims have several lawsuits in motion against the university and USA Gymnastics.  Even the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is conducting its own investigation.  Rest assured, even more than this is in the future.



What these women endured as children at the hands of Larry Nassar was thoroughly unacceptable and utterly disgusting.  What these women endured as children and as young women at the hands of the various powers that be by being dismissed and contradicted is equally unacceptable.  That enabling culture must be changed and this is a huge first step in that direction.  Many more steps are needed.  Many more steps will follow.

A sustained, two-prong approach is required.  This needs to be a lesson for women and girls and for men and boys.  It should be taught that being abused (and what abuse is) is never acceptable.  It should also be taught that abusing is never acceptable as well.  Stopping what is going on is as equally vital as beginning a cycle of getting away from that cycle existing.

These women were victims.  Now, however, they are survivors; they are vocal; they are warriors.  In short, they were brave.  Very brave.  I applaud that bravery and support its continuation.

Terry

*** UPDATE: Larry Nassar was sentenced on February 5, 2018, to 40 to 125 years after being found guilty of more counts of child sexual abuse.  It was the conclusion of his third and final criminal trial.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Keyboard Commentarian: Word of the Day: EVOLVE

The Keyboard Commentarian: Word of the Day: EVOLVE: Back in mid-June, a conference was held over a weekend in New York City.  Experts in a wide variety of disciplines took part.  Those discipl...

Monday, January 15, 2018

Phrase of the Day: THE BEAUTY AND FUTILITY OF THE 25TH AMENDMENT

The 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on February 10, 1967, in response to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  Even though that was the major event that brought about its ultimate proposal and ratification, there were many instances prior to his assassination that also contributed. 

Prior to the 25th Amendment, Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 was the guide.  It reads:
        "In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation,
        or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall
        devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case
        of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice
        President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall
        act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected."


Events that also contributed the ratification of the amendment include the "Tyler Precedent" (John Tyler succeeding William Henry Harrison, upon Harrison's death in office) and Woodrow Wilson's stroke and cover-up of his incapacity to perform presidential duties by his wife and an aide.  In the wake of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and impeachment proceedings against his Vice-President and successor, Andrew Johnson -- and no Vice-President serving under Johnson -- the Presidential Succession Act of 1792, which addressed vacancies in both offices of President and Vice-President, would have been invoked.  (During the period of Lincoln's assassination through the end of Andrew Johnson's presidency, a total of four years, there was no Vice-President of the United States.)

The 25th Amendment has four Sections, and reads as follows:
        Section I:  In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or
        resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

        Section II:  Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the
        President shall nominate a Vice President, who shall take office upon confirmation
        by a majority vote of both houses of Congress.

        Section III:  Whenever the President transmits to the president pro tempore of the
        Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration
        that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he
        transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties
        shall be discharged by the Vice President as acting President.

        Section IV:  Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal
        officers of the executive departments, or of such other body as Congress may by
        law provide, transmit to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker
        of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is
        unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall
        immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as acting President.

       
        Thereafter, when the President transmits to the president pro tempore of the
        Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration
        that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless
        the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive
        department, or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit
        within four days to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the
        House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to
        discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide
        the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session.
        If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written
        declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after
        Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both houses
        that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the
        Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as acting President;
        otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.


It is easy to see how the founders did not want a repeat of a singular leader dictating things to the people.  In this specific case, it was to avoid having a king dictating who would succeed him and to allow people (specifically those who ascended to serve in Congress) to have an organized manner -- a say in the matter, if you will -- of presidential succession.  That is the beauty of this amendment, not to mention the Constitution in its entirety, and it stems from the wisdom and foresight of this country's founders.

This amendment to the Constitution has been receiving large amounts of attention lately, even to the point of receiving as much, if not more, attention than the 2nd Amendment.  (That takes some doing in this country!)  The attention has been in relation to President Trump in light of his mean-spirited, misinformed, incendiary, self-contradictory, ignorant, racist, and possibly early-stages-of-dementia comments and actions. 

The beauty of the 25th Amendment, however, has now been matched by a new foe.  In this first quarter of the twenty-first century, a half-century after the amendment itself was ratified, and centuries after the founders drafted, proposed, and passed the U.S. Constitution, it is now equally matched by something our founders had not counted on, or at least thought unlikely ... a complacent Congress enabling a President who should be ousted.

For every commentary by a Republican senator or congressperson saying President Trump did or said something he should not have, there are many times as many who remain silent.  Some of those who condemn even flip and back off their condemnation. 

For context, the language and actions of the President Trump do not measure up to a definition of high crimes and misdemeanors for which impeachment would be appropriate.  However, does "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office" include the kinds of un-presidential language and behavior that derides the office of the president?  If we consider the context under which the 25th Amendment (and, for that matter, the Presidential Succession Act of 1792) came into existence, it would seem to indicate incapacity in terms of physical constraint, including death.  Certainly, how Woodrow Wilson's stroke affected him would fall squarely under incapacity.

What about careless behavior, reckless behavior, and childish behavior?  All three of these kinds of behavior have been displayed by the President.  Does that fall under incapacity?  My answer is yes, it does.  If it derides the office of the President and democracy, ignores the Constitution, and does the opposite of protecting the American people, yes, that is an incapacity to fulfill the necessary duties.  His willingness to do those things without being forced to do so is the proof of his incapacity.

And yet, Congress says little and does far less ... sometimes even defending him.  Their behavior during Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, itself rife with hatred, fear-mongering, and lies, was no different.  In terms of consistency, the Republicans in Congress have remained solid ... they supported the candidate then and they support this President now.  For them, it is party over country at any cost.  I am thoroughly convinced that they will stand up and do what is right for the country and its citizens only if they are directly attacked by the President (i.e. exposing dirty secrets, financial doom, destruction of property, harm to them and/or family members).  If that sounds far-fetched, ask yourself why, after all that he has done, is Trump still in office?  The 25th Amendment is a powerful tool, but what good is that powerful tool if you refuse to use it?

Ask the Republican Party.

Terry

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

WARNING! ACTION REQUIRED! REMOVE PRESIDENT TRUMP NOW!

Just two days ago, I said this is the year we need to stand up.  Leave it to President Trump to accelerate that need.  Yesterday afternoon, he posted the following on Twitter:


This is a childish response.  This is a response from someone with sexual issues (i.e. "much bigger & more powerful", "my Button works").  All in all, this is a dangerous response that is practically begging for nuclear war.  Normalizing or skimming over his behavior with "That's just Trump being Trump" is dangerous. 

To hell with Trump's ego!  Our lives are not freely-offered collateral damage as a result of his unhinged, playground bully rantings!  GET HIM OUT OF OFFICE NOW!!!!

EVERY politician who does nothing to remove him from office is complicit in his actions and equally responsible for whatever happens.

Click HERE to look up the contact information of your Senators and Representatives.  Do not mince words.  Tell them short and sweet, and to the point:  Take the steps to remove President Trump from office or YOU will be voted out of office! 



REMOVE
PRESIDENT
TRUMP
NOW!

Terr
y

Monday, January 1, 2018

Phrase of the Day: THE YEAR OF UPRISING


Well, 2017 is gone, and 2018 is here.  I'd like to wish all of you, dear readers, a happy and healthy new year!

There were so many amazing stories this year ... so many stories that made us smile and warmed our hearts.  Stories such as the total solar eclipse that made us stop and look up (with special glasses, that is) and marvel at the heavens ... England's Prince Harry's engagement to American actress Meghan Markle ... India's Jet Airways giving a lifetime pass to a baby born on board one of its flights ... April the giraffe giving birth (finally!) to a healthy male calf ... and a homeless man spending his last twenty dollars to help a stranded woman and she raises nearly $400,000 for him in return.  Every year, these kinds of stories always keep us marveling at life and restoring our faith in humanity.


However, this year, many of the stories had me wanting to eschew profundity for profanity in my postings.  President Trump leads the pack of those kinds of stories.  His words, both spoken and tweeted, and actions run the gamut between embarrassing to disgusting.  His (what I will call) mission of destroying the presidency, and democracy itself, while operating as an autocrat has had very little resistance from his own political party, the Republican Party.  In fact, the enabling and outright support he has received from his own political party has allowed him the continue to say and do things that are disgraceful or, at best, unpresidential.  It resulted in the recent wealth grab "tax bill", effectively rendering the United States a kleptocracy.

Other stories from 2017 that unsettled me in one way or another include North Korea's heightening of tensions (this is, in great part, due to President Trump, too) ... the multiple-hurricane onslaught in August and September ... more mass shootings (over 300, including Las Vegas, a Baptist church in Texas, and, just yesterday, Colorado and New Jersey) ... wide-ranging famine (Nigeria, Yemen, southern Sudan, and Somalia) ... major earthquakes (Mexico, Iraq-Iran border) ... terrorist attacks here and around the world, particularly bombings and driving into crowds of people ... pro-Nazi protests in Charlottesville, Virginia ... enormous wildfires in California ... North Korea sending home an American student who was in a coma (and who died one week after returning) ... and the beginning of the great sexual harassment comeuppance (#MeToo movement).

The fact is, I originally wanted to write this New Year's as nothing more that an opportunity to gripe.  Heaven knows there is plenty to gripe about, and complaining is, indeed, a necessary part of healing.  That's the rub ... it must be a part of healing, lest it becomes part of the problem.  With all of the hopes and dreams a new year brings, it brings bad things, too.  This year will be no different in those respects, but this year must be our year of uprising.  We have seen what those in power have been doing.  We have seen what they did just last year alone.  We know their goals.  The few are taking away more and more from the rest of us.  Our country is being taken away from us, and it's now happening faster and in larger measures, and we must take it back!  

If we do not, we might as well send invitations to them to go ahead and take it, take it all.

In that spirit, this year's musical post on this blog is Muse's 2009 hit 'Uprising'.  Happy New Year, dear readers!  Let's make this a great year!





Terry