Georgia On My Mind

Whether true or not, social media and the 24-hour news cycle make some of us feel as though we are experiencing the most dynamic era in human history.  It would be impossible to track all important daily events, partly due to the volume, partly due to the filters that our preferred news sources utilize and partly due to so many unimportant events (e.g. what did Kim K. do today?) competing for time and space.  But there are two things going on in the state of Georgia today that everyone should be aware of.

The first thing is Georgia SB 375, a bill that the Georgia senate passed last Friday by a vote of 35 to 19.  Entitled “Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act”, it would allow private adoption agencies—who accept taxpayer fundsto refuse placing children with same-sex couples.  The actual wording of the bill is “…allow a child-placing agency to decline to accept a referral from the department and decline to perform services not referred under a contract with the department based on the child-placing agency’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”  According to, the lead sponsor of the bill, Republican William Ligon,  indicated that “Just because you are a faith-based organization, doesn’t mean you have to check your faith at the door and cannot participate in government programs.”  One presumes, then, that if an agency’s god didn’t approve of inter-racial marriage or even inter-faith marriages, they could refuse placing children with couples meeting those descriptions.  But the main thrust of the legislation appears to be another attempt to allow someone’s feelings to override someone else’s rights, specifically, those of gay people.

I’m not sure what sort of constitution they’ve got down in the Peach State, but we have a national constitution that is fairly clear on some things, despite a barrage of recent court challenges.  One of those things is found in the first amendment, which reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  I have always understood that sentence to mean that our government will neither make me worship in a particular way nor prevent me from worshiping in a particular way (unless that worship results in activities that have been prohibited by a constitutionally supported law).  The very title of the Georgia bill seems to suggest that someone’s religious beliefs will become a litmus test for someone else’s chance to adopt or foster a child and Senator Ligon’s characterization of the bill indicates that he would like Georgia to finance that test.

This is just the most current example of arguments that have been going on for years.  What can churches say or do without putting their tax-exempt status in jeopardy?  What can some religious hospitals or schools refuse to do and still accept government monies?  And while I still find myself on the fence as to exactly what behavior our government can require of private religious institutions who mind their own business, I feel no ambiguity as to what it can require of those sucking on the public teat.  If you want to preach politics to your congregation each Sunday, then pay your taxes like everyone else.  If you don’t want to perform abortions in your clinics or teach science in your classrooms (wait, when did we start talking about Texas?), then stop accepting government funds to keep your doors open.

I’d also like to remind the good folk of Georgia that homosexuality is neither a choice nor contagious, but it is legal, as is the ability for same-sex couples to marry and even to be parents.  Gay people enjoy the same rights as any other citizen in this country.  While those rights include being able to despise someone else, they do not include the ability to strip rights from those we dislike.

The second thing going on in the Goober State involves the Lieutenant Governor (and gubernatorial-hopeful), Casey Cagel who is threatening Delta Airlines with negative tax legislation if it doesn’t reinstate its relationship with the NRA.  

Though it is safe to say that most of us have never worked in the meat industry, we have a vague idea of how sausage is made.  And while most of us have never been lawmakers, we intrinsically know that there have been unscrupulous, unfair and self-serving deals made in backrooms ever since they created politicians and taxes.  But I can’t think of a more brazen and public example of attempting to use one’s political office to punish (or reward) an entity for having a different political opinion.  I can only surmise that Mr. Cagel believes the potential pay-off for this political theater out-weighs the risk of being removed for abuse of his office.  Maybe he knows what he’s doing.  I don’t live in Georgia.  And I don’t how much Casey has historically received from the NRA, but I bet the blood ink is still wet on the fat check his campaign is about to get.

Delta announced that it was ending its discount program offered to NRA members because “…it will not support organizations on any side of any highly charged political issue that divides our nation”.  The Lt. Governor tweeted that “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.”

I try not to use the proverbial broad brush, but the Lt. Gov. has wrapped all conservatives in a single cloak, suggesting they all support the gun manufacturer’s chief lobbyist and hatchet man (the NRA), so I’ll join him.  I’ll assume, too, that every conservative in Georgia is a gun-owning NRA member who believes the second amendment guarantees them the right to own a weapon of war and that any law preventing the sale of any gun just propels Big Brother’s scheme to come in the night and castrate them.  But the stereotype also mandates that every conservative has a love affair with unfettered business.  Have we finally verified what it will take for an American company to feel the sting of a Republican whip?

Delta (whose crime was attempting to minimize it’s perceived support for the merchants of death), is a publicly traded company with over 80,000 employees that happens to be tied for 13th of Georgia’s largest employers and is directly linked to millions of dollars in annual revenue generated by its largest hub, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International airport.  It has not suggested that those who support responsible gun ownership are wrong or are not deserving of a cheap flight.  I believe it just recognized that the organization pretending to represent those citizens is really just a divisive money-making machine that plays on people’s fears while sharing complicity for getting people killed.

So what are you going to do, Georgia?  Do you believe a child should remain in an institution rather than in the home of a loving couple who want and are willing to take him/her based on an individuals unfounded bias?  Are you willing to codify and then subsidize prejudice?  

Are you going to allow elected officials to alienate and punish one of your largest economic engines due to a perceived slight?  And would your answer be different if Delta had in fact advocated for more gun control?  Your Lt. Governor is banking on the belief that you’ve become so polarized and dogmatic that you actually believe law makers should craft economic policies to benefit only those who share their political views, to reward loyalty.  Is he right?  

You’re on my  mind, Georgia.


What’s A Beto?

To those friends and family that I left back in Texas, to other readers who care about the Lone Star State and to ANYONE who would like to end Senator Ted Cruz’s destructive incumbency and impede his stated path to the White House, I call your attention to Congressman Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke and the links below.  

If Beto tics enough of your boxes and you have a dollar or two to spare, keep in mind that the DNC has little intention of using its resources against Cruz in what it foolishly still labels a firmly red state, but miracles can happen.

Lone Star Longshot

Who’s Beto O’Rourke

Beto for Senate

Thank You!

Tipping Point?

On Valentines’s Day a 19-year-old man murdered 17 students and staff at a high school in Parkland, Florida with an AR-15 (ArmaLite) style rifle, which he apparently obtained legally.  As of this writing, the size of the bullet magazine(s) involved has not been released, but clips containing from 5 to 60 rounds of ammunition (and even a 100-round drum), can be obtained for the type of rifle used, with a 30-round clip being the most common.  Florida is not one of the eight states that limits magazine size, so regardless what capacity boxes the shooter used, they were apparently legal as well.  AR-15 style rifles are classified as semi-automatic because while an ammunition magazine can reload the gun automatically, each firing of the gun requires an actual pull and release of the trigger.

Within hours of confirmation of the tragedy, politicians went to their corners.  A handful of liberal law makers called for stricter gun laws and nearly every conservative law-maker sent thoughts and prayers with reminders that “this is not the time to discuss gun control”, once again engaging in what appears to be our new favorite national pastime: Shoot, Bury, Repeat.

The initial responses were followed by the usual avalanche of commentary from all sides.  One example that caught my attention appeared on ABC’s The View on friday.  The panel included Meghan McCain, daughter of Senator John McCain.  I don’t share many political opinions with either McCain, but I appreciate that they are usually measured and thoughtful in their remarks.  Meghan’s school shooting remarks made to her fellow hosts were also measured and thoughtful, or at least well-intended.  She began by reaffirming that she is a proud member of the NRA.  She then correctly pointed out that Democrats bear some responsibility for the current gun laws as they did nothing to re-enact the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004, even though they controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress in 2009 and 2010.  And if you’re  wondering if those two years represented a slow killing season, thus making re-enactment of the statute a low priority, 155 Americans–excluding gunmen–were killed in mass shootings from Jan 2009 through Oct 2010 (though not all of the incidents involved semi-automatic weapons).

But Meghan went on to say “For me, I’m like, ‘OK we can talk about assault weapons’ — that being said, I know people who own them that obviously aren’t mass murderers, they’re hunters…”

I want to be careful here.  My immediate inclination is to believe that men (or women), who stalk animals in the wild and use semi-automatic weapons to kill them are not hunters, but butchers.  My personal hunting experience has been limited to that of quail and deer.  While I’m sure that killing either of those creatures could be achieved using a rapid-fire gun, I seem to remember that you use a shotgun for birds and that you don’t humanely take down a deer by spraying its body with bullets.  If any readers can correct me or add to my understanding, please do.  Regardless, I do not believe that preserving the preferential tool of recreational game hunters is more important than limiting the tools of those who hunt other men.

Meghan went on to say that many gun rights advocates are resistant to any prohibitions relating to fire arms for the same reason that Pro-Choice advocates resist any restriction to abortion—the infamous slippery slope.  While not all Pro-Choice supporters resist ANY restriction to abortion nor all gun rights supporters resist ANY gun restriction, a valid comparison of those two issues would necessitate agreement on the definition of human life.  Regardless of how one views a fetus, all Americans will agree that the 17 beings who lost their lives last Wednesday (or the 58 in Las Vegas, or the 49 in Orlando or the 27 in Newtown, or the 26 in Sutherland Springs, et cetera, et cetera, on and on) were human beings.  The core argument in the abortion issue, though, has revolved around a disagreement as to when human life begins, so it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples political analogy.  However, Meghan’s juxtaposition of those two fights got me thinking.  I’m sure that contrary to stereotypical belief not all anti-abortion advocates are pro-gun rights crusaders (and for those that are, I encourage them to rethink their position).  But what if all of the folk claiming to be ProLife who work so hard to protect innocent unborn life worked equally as hard to protect innocent already born life?

David Brooks opined in the New York Times yesterday that to make real progress, gun control advocates need to start respecting gun rights advocates because they believe “snobbish elites look down on their morals and want to destroy their culture.”  His piece goes on to introduce a team that’s trying to bridge the great American divide, which I applaud.  I have aspirations of becoming a peacemaker someday myself, but I would be more inclined to embrace sensitivity training once there are no longer children bleeding-out on the gymnasium floor.   I acknowledge that we must not use too broad a brush to paint those with differing opinions.  I get that we should strive to find commonality in order for our society to function at its best, but I have mistakenly assumed that the freedom to go to class (or to church, or to the movies or to a concert or even to just walk down the street), without the fear of being shot was something all American’s shared.  And I don’t see how “from my cold, dead hands” implies any wiggle room in the discussion for solutions.

I am admittedly one of those Earthly inhabitants who wishes there were no guns at all.  In my world hunters would have to rely on the single-shot spears or arrows of their ancestors.  Global conflicts would be resolved by hand-to-hand combat between the leaders of the quarreling countries (which, by the way, might certainly have caused some 2016 voters to rethink their decision).  I am a dreamer, but I’m not an idiot.  I know the world is full of bad actors and that we as a species want to protect ourselves and our property, which can be physically threatened.  Also, you will find no greater fan of the Constitution than I, with its warts and all (and I won’t use space here to argue that the second amendment can be read a couple of different ways).  I know there are citizens who can only sleep at night knowing there’s a pistol within reach to thwart any midnight intruder.  I know there are folk who not only enjoy, but may actually subsist on, the killing of wild animals and that they require a rifle to do so.  I am not advocating that every firearm be collected and destroyed, just that the weapons with most multi-victim lethality be restricted to our military and police forces.

To be more specific, I want the expired ban on assault weapons not only revived, but also re-worked (the original statute had more holes than a shooting range target).  I want a single, comprehensive gun safety law.  It should not only specifically ban the sale or ownership of any semi-automatic rifle, but also any device or accessory that could make it so.  It should limit the size of ammunition magazines for unprohibited guns to 10 rounds.  A dear reader and great blogger quoted a friend in one of her recent post (which I encourage you to read, I’ve Been Around Awhile…) that included some of his ideas for restrictions, including “…prohibit clips of more than 10 rounds for home defense. If you can’t take down a home intruder with 10 shots, best you throw the gun at ’em and try to bite ’em to death.”  

The law should require a buyer to pass a comprehensive, universal background check prior to ANY sale of ANY gun, the designation of clearly defined mental illness issues or inclusion on the federal No Fly List causing an immediate (but appealable) fail.  The law should include guidelines for agencies (yes, i.e. the FBI), to enforce and investigate reports of violations and/or suspicious behavior related to threats of gun violence.  The new legislation should also mimic Australia’s tremendously successful edict which included a government buyback program for all of the items being prohibited.  Would that be expensive?  Yes, but the price of failing to act for all of these years has naturally produced some inflationary tariffs (that might be partially offset by an assessment made on the NRA and gun manufacturers).  Also, I don’t think it will seem like so much money if you break it down by cost-per-corpse.

But what about that group of western ranchers who believe that we are still living under the principle of Manifest Destiny or those “religious” paramilitary militias who believe that David Koresh was wronged?  They will argue that their “midnight intruder” will be the well-armed law.  Those folk have legitimate concerns for their safety, but their best protection would be to obey the laws that the rest of us have agreed upon until they can figure out a way to change them.  Otherwise, they will need to become proficient with the wrist rocket.

Am I going to get what I want?  It seems doubtful.  But I do feel that something is about to happen.  I feel that maybe the tragedy in Florida pushed us to a tipping point.  I feel that the children who experienced and survived the horrific event have been prematurely thrust into adulthood, but having been so with the energy of youth, conviction based on real world experience, a lack of political allegiances and perhaps most importantly, unlimited access to  social media.  But let’s not abandon them.  We can’t leave it to them alone.  Make sure you echo and amplify their calls in a loud and coherent way.  Maybe this time we can at least interrupt the Shoot, Bury and Repeat loop.