What’s The Matter With Kansas Now?

In 2004, Thomas Frank wrote the book “What’s The Matter With Kansas?” which looked into the state’s religious and political extremism. It was a fascinating read. But it’s time for him to write a sequel because the answer to that question is now more clear. What’s wrong with Kansas is Governor Sam Brownback and his version of Horse and Sparrow economics (feed the horse enough oats and a few will pass through to fall on the road for the sparrows to eat), aka Trickle Down economics, aka Supply Side economics, aka Reaganomics, aka Voodoo economics.

Most economists have known for years that this economic policy doesn’t work. Even the architects of Reaganomics now repudiate the philosophy. But Brownback is certain that he knows better. So, since he was elected governor, he has implemented Reaganomics on steroids. He cut taxes for the wealthy and eliminated taxes for thousands of corporations, promising that businesses would flock to the state bringing thousands of new jobs with them.

It hasn’t quite worked that way.

There have been no businesses flocking to Kansas from neighboring states. And the resulting loss in tax revenue ($333 million in 2014 alone) has not only caused the state to burn through the $700 million reserve fund that existed before Brownback took office, it has led to cuts for public schools, community colleges and state universities. But Brownback steadfastly refuses to return taxes to their previous levels or to raise taxes even a little bit. So the governor and the state’s Republican legislature are hoping to meet this year’s $710 million deficit by cutting funding to pensions for public employees and by cutting the budget for roads and infrastructure.

And Kansas isn’t alone in this right wing-fueled misery. After more than 20 years of corporate tax cuts and, with almost nothing left to cut, the Arizona Republican-led government is facing a $1 billion annual deficit. After the failed policies of a Republican governor, Pennsylvania’s new Democratic governor is facing a $2.3 billion deficit. And, after Gov. Scott Walker’s $541 million tax cuts in 2014, Wisconsin is now facing a two-year deficit of $2.2 billion. In all, there are 16 states facing deficits…most of them controlled by tax-cutting Republicans. Meanwhile, Democratic-controlled states like California and Minnesota have some of the nation’s lowest unemployment figures, the nation’s best job creation and…wait for it…budget surpluses!

So tax cuts combined with budget cuts equals few new jobs, reduced revenue and even larger deficits, while reasonable taxes, reasonable spending on education and other services equals more jobs, more revenue and thriving economies.

It can’t be any more clear than that.

Is Another Civil War Inevitable?

Some on the right believe so. To examine that dire possibility, it’s necessary to look at history – the issues that led to the Civil War and the issues created by the defeat of the Confederacy. As any school child knows, the cause of the Civil War was slavery. The primary reason the Union won was its manufacturing power. And, following the war, the South was left in poverty, even resenting the attempts of the North to help restore its institutions and economy.

While the South suffered and chafed at what it considered northern meddling, following the Civil War, the North went back to business as usual, happy that its boys were no longer dying. It never believed that its culture was all that different from the South. Sure, there were the stereotypes that anyone with a southern drawl was slow; that they didn’t believe in education and hard work. There were jokes that, in the South, a family reunion was a great place to pick up chicks. But few people in the North held a grudge.

Attitudes in the South were entirely different. Rather than admitting the war was initiated by slavery, it called the Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression.” And though the Confederacy surrendered, the South has never really admitted defeat. It kept its own identity; its distinct culture; and, of course, its racism.

You’ve heard the phrase, “The South Will Rise Again?” Well, it has – at least politically. The states of the old Confederacy are now almost completely red, with Republican governors, Republican-controlled legislatures, Republican US senators and mostly Republican congressional representatives. Like the Confederacy, today’s elected officials from the South believe in states’ rights and they have an almost universal contempt for the federal government.

In fact, the second Civil War has already begun. But, so far, it has been confined to a culture war. Rather than build their own business, southern states seem intent on taking corporations and jobs away from the North. And, to some extent, they’ve succeeded. In search of low-paid labor and lower taxes, many corporations have abandoned their places of origin and moved south, leaving the cities and former employees to wallow in poverty. Southern states have even succeeded in swaying the nomenclature to their benefit. While northern states are now known as the “Rust Belt,” southern states are known as the “Sun Belt.”

Yet the biggest differences can be measured in terms of faith, poverty, education and tax contributions to the federal government. Most of the northern states contribute far more in federal taxes than their southern counterparts. Indeed, most of the southern states receive far more in expenditures than they contribute. The southern states routinely rank among the most underfunded public schools and at the bottom with regard to the level of education. And most of the people in the southern states are devout followers, believing that their impoverished circumstances are an act of God; that they will succeed if they only pray harder.

While the South has a relatively uniform identity, the North is much more diverse. States like California, New York, Minnesota and Washington have little in common with Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota and New Hampshire. About the only thing they share is the climate.

And though the Civil War represented a clash over slavery, it was also urban versus rural; manufacturing versus farming; the educated versus the uneducated. For the most part, those differences haven’t changed. Certainly, there are large cities, large manufacturing plants and large universities in the modern South. But the culture divide remains and, following the last 4 national elections, the divide seems to be widening.

For example, Arizona (now part of the South) has already passed a nullification bill that would challenge any federal law or regulation its legislature deems “unconstitutional.” Can the rest of the South be far behind? Even though the bill is likely to be vacated by federal courts, the attitude will remain. The southern states would rather spend the millions of dollars required to challenge the federal government than to spend the money improving their schools, nurturing business start-ups, maintaining the environment and creating jobs.

Where all of this conflict will end is uncertain.

The Sad State Of Arizona (2015 Edition)

Before the GOP-created Great Recession, Arizona’s state economy was based on the fantasy that construction could continue until the entire Sonora Desert was covered by homes, shopping malls and golf courses. So since the housing market crashed, Arizona’s economy has languished.

While other states were trying to mend their losses by diversifying, stimulating their economies and raising taxes, Jan Brewer and the GOP-dominated legislature chose, instead, to make cuts. Deep, desperate budget cuts. Yet, despite facing a large deficit, they chose to further reduce revenue by cutting taxes for corporations. At the same time, they put teachers out of work by cutting the funding of public schools. Indeed, since 2009, only Oklahoma has cut more from student funding than Arizona. As a result, the state’s per student funding is now just 69 percent of the national average and its student performance stands at 47th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia. Only 1 in 18 students who enter an Arizona high school will receive a degree from a college or technical school, and those who do earn a degree will likely be buried in student loan debt.

Not content with destroying schools and jobs, the GOP also did what it could to destroy tourism, the state’s 2nd-largest industry, by closing state parks and highway rest stops. And to make the state even less appealing to tourists, they passed the anti-Latino law, SB1070, which made tourists and conventions spurn the state costing us tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

It was as if the GOP was intent on pushing our citizens into its ideological clown car and driving us off a fiscal cliff.

Now along comes the new GOP governor, Doug Ducey, who must have frozen his brain while peddling questionable franchises for Cold Stone Creamery. During the campaign, he and his supporters ran millions of dollars in misleading attack ads accusing his Democratic opponent of raising tuition to the state’s universities. But, now that Ducey has been sworn into office, he has presented a budget that would cut $75 million in funding for post-secondary education. And, though he pledged to increase K-12 education funding during the campaign, he is attempting a shell game in which he proposes to take as much from the already stressed school administration and operations budgets as he would add for classrooms. Moreover, his budget completely ignores the hundreds of millions of dollars a court awarded public schools as the result of previous cuts to education in violation of the state constitution.

Of course, one budget item that will increase is the money allocated to corrections. True to the GOP’s commitment to line the pockets of private prison corporations, Ducey proposes building yet another privately-operated prison at a cost of $5.3 million. But there is no money for the education and rehabilitation of prisoners, so after they serve their time, they are all too likely to commit more crimes. And since the privately-operated health care system for prisons doesn’t track or treat infectious diseases, they are also likely to spread infectious diseases into our communities.

In their obviously delusional minds, Ducey and the Teapublicans still seem to believe that, by further cutting the state’s already low corporate taxes, they will be able to attract corporations to relocate to Arizona bringing with them thousands of high-paying jobs. Anyone who has ever consulted with corporations seeking a place to expand or relocate knows that’s a fantasy.

Corporations, at least good corporations, look for places to expand that offer quality transportation, abundant resources, an abundant high-skilled and well-educated workforce, abundant and low-cost energy, a high quality of living, and affordable taxes…usually in that order. Arizona’s approach will only result in the relocation of corporations that offer low-skill, low-paying jobs or gun manufacturers who are drawn to the state by our heavily-armed population and our virtually non-existent gun laws. Even then, they will only come to Arizona if the state is willing to pay for changes in needed infrastructure, provide further tax cuts and pay for other incentives. All of which explains why, when high tax states like California and Minnesota are thriving with low unemployment and budget surpluses, Arizona has failed to emerge from recession and faces annual budget deficits of $1 billion or more.

In the competition to build a sustainable, thriving economy, it would seem that Arizona can only compete in a contest of Biggest Loser against other red states like Kansas and Mississippi. And the biggest losers of all will be our students.

MLK Day: An Update.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, it seems appropriate to look at King’s legacy in the area of civil rights. By the time Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, he and his movement had made great strides. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been signed into law making it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In addition, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had been enacted guaranteeing all citizens the right to vote as protected by the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.

It seemed that segregation and racism in the United States were coming to an end. However, that has not been the case.

According to recent studies, the US is more segregated today than it was in 1968. The white flight from the inner cities to the suburbs and the end of forced busing of school children has led to nearly lily white, well-funded suburban schools and mostly black, underfunded schools in the inner cities. More and more children from wealthy white families have been enrolled in virtually all-white private schools. And, to further accelerate segregation, Teapublican legislatures and Congress have passed new laws authorizing the redistribution of funding from public schools to charter schools, private schools and religious schools.

With regard to voting rights, Teapublicans have enacted restrictive voter ID laws in numerous states to suppress the black vote. They have limited polling hours making it more difficult for poor, working people to find time to vote. They have reduced the number of polling stations in poor, black neighborhoods creating long lines of voters. And the conservative-dominated Supreme Court has eviscerated the Voting Rights Act to make it more difficult for the Justice Department to prevent voter suppression.

On the positive side, the GLBT community has won the right for same sex marriage in 36 states. Yet, with the Supreme Court agreeing to review a lower court decision to uphold same sex marriage bans in four states, the gains in other states are now in limbo.

The opportunity for poor black students to have access to a college education is also in doubt following a 2013 Supreme Court ruling which limits affirmative action. Yet another Supreme Court decision has created special rules for religious organizations, and numerous state legislature bills have opened the door for further religious discrimination as if it isn’t already bad enough. (A recent study found that atheists are marginalized and subjected to discrimination. For Muslims, the situation may be even worse.)

Finally, racism is on the rise, made worse by the events in Ferguson, Missouri, Cleveland, Staten Island, the Bronx and elsewhere. And the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has noted a tremendous rise in the number of hate groups since the election of our first black president.

It’s clear that much of what Martin Luther King, Jr. lived for and died for is in jeopardy. It’s up to all of us to ensure that he did not die in vain.

An Informed Voting Public?

Our Founding Fathers created a democracy based on informed voters carefully selecting a representative government. The reality is that, after nearly 240 years, we have neither an informed public nor a representative government. The most recent election is a case in point.

After six years of Teapublican obstruction, the approval rating of Congress was lower than the approval of cockroaches. So what did our “informed” voters do? They re-elected the vast majority of the incumbents and gave extra seats to members of the party that was responsible for the obstruction. Our national political pundits explained this phenomenon as the result of a low voter turnout and massive spending of “dark money” to elect candidates who would repay their benefactors with fewer regulations and more tax cuts. I explained that it was the result of the failure of the Democratic Party to promote its record of pulling our economy out of perhaps the biggest hole in history, making affordable health care available to most Americans, improving our nation’s standing throughout the world, expanding consumer protections and attempting to expand civil rights to all segments of our population.

There’s a better explanation.

This past Sunday, Fareed Zakaria, on his CNN show Global Public Square, featured an Ipsos MORI international study that measured the political ignorance in 14 western nations. The study asked respondents from those nations about various issues ranging from unemployment to immigration. While Italy ranked number one as the least informed citizenry, voters in the US ranked a close second. For example, when asked about unemployment in the US, our respondents guessed that the figure was 32 percent when the real number is less than 6 percent nationwide. When asked about the number of recent immigrants in our country, Americans guessed that they make up 32 percent of our population, when the real number is about 13 percent. Asked about the number of Muslims in our country, Americans guessed that Muslims comprise 15 percent of our population, when the real figure is 1 percent.

The large number of poorly informed voters explains why voters continue to vote against their own self-interests; why poor people vote for officials who give large tax breaks to the wealthy and large corporations; why they vote for officials who refuse to raise the minimum wage; why women vote for officials who refuse to demand equal pay for equal work; why the retired and near-retired vote for representatives who want to eliminate Social Security and Medicare.

Of course, we also have to ask ourselves why so many Americans are so poorly informed. The answer can be summed up in two words: schools and media.

Many of our schools no longer teach civics. As a result, many of our young people have never read the Constitution. They don’t even know how our government works. In addition, many of our nation’s textbooks are edited and approved by Texas conservatives so that they more resemble Christian and military propaganda than American history or science. For instance, we are still teaching children that Christopher Columbus discovered America when historians agree that he didn’t. And many of our schools are forced to teach “creationism” as an alternative to evolution, even though evolution is a fact as established as the theory of gravity.

Further, our so-called news media have placed an emphasis on entertainment and sensationalism to drive ratings at the expense of real news and information. As a result, we all know about the latest murder trial or the marital status of celebrities. But we don’t know the beliefs and agendas of the candidates on our ballots. Neither do we know world events that will ultimately affect us. We don’t even know that the US has been fighting wars for all but 13 years of our nation’s history. And we don’t know that our own actions led to most of them. Worse yet, we don’t know that our nation is no longer a democracy. Numerous political scientists and economists have proven that, by definition, it has become an oligarchy. (Of course, our poorly educated public likely doesn’t even know what an oligarchy is.)

The point of all this is to say that, if you don’t like our government, it’s not entirely the fault of those who were elected. It’s not necessarily the fault of one political party or our political system. The fault is our own, because we voted the scoundrels into office without ever bothering to ask what they will do. We’re only interested in which tribe they belong to – red or blue.

Delusional Democrats.

The midterm electoral ass-kicking should be a wake-up call for Democrats. Yet, in the hours following the debacle, all I’ve seen and heard are the same old lame excuses. “Democrats only turn out for presidential elections.” “Our candidates were swamped by a tsunami of dark money.” “It’s the result of Obama’s unfavorable numbers.” “With the growing number of minorities, it’s inevitable that Democrats will win in the future.” And, my favorite, “We don’t belong to an organized political party. We’re Democrats.”

Although I hate it, that last excuse is more true than I’d like to admit. The Party is disorganized. It has no real leadership. It fails to communicate what it stands for, other than getting elected. Its messaging is pathetic. And its consultants are a joke!

More important, the Party and many of its candidates are gutless. Even though they had real accomplishments to promote – accomplishments that are popular with voters – they seemed afraid to stand up for them lest they be criticized by Teapublicans and their comments featured in a Teapublican attack ad. For example, during this election cycle, few Democratic candidates were willing to take credit for the Affordable Care Act that gave millions access to health insurance for the first time. Few would stand up for environmental issues. Few stood against climate change. Few would stand up for labor unions. Few would stand up for universal background checks for gun purchases. Few took credit for voting for the 2009 economic stimulus that kept the nation from sliding into the Great Depression II. Few stood behind Democratic economic policies that have the stock markets at historic highs and unemployment numbers at their lowest level in more than a decade. Few would take credit for getting our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Few would stand behind their Democratic president. And one even refused to acknowledge whether or not she voted for a Democrat for president!

To make matters worse, Democratic consultants begged the president not to take a stand on immigration reform in order to help red state Democrats who were almost certainly doomed to lose anyway. But that advice did have an effect. It cost several blue state Democrats their seats and it may have cost the Party the support of Latinos in the future. Yet their worst advice was to tell candidates to run away from the president and the Party’s accomplishments. Their only real strategy seemed to be, “a Republican said something stupid, send us money.” (I, for one, will not send the Democratic Party another dime until it gets its house in order and miraculously grows a spine.)

In truth, the Democratic candidates who took the advice of their Party got what they deserved.

But why would political consultants care if their advice is awful, anyway? Most will still be around for the next election, even if their candidates aren’t. And they will still be able to cash their rather substantial checks.

In my (hopefully temporary) home state of Arizona, the consultants advised Democratic candidates to base their campaigns on support for public education, including increased funding. But most Arizona voters don’t seem to care about public education. Many are too old to care and others simply don’t vote. As a result, every Democrat running for statewide office lost. Indeed, the voters showed how they really feel about education by rejecting numerous school bonds and apparently electing a Teapublican with absolutely no background or understanding of education to the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Her platform consisted of a single plank…stopping Common Core, the program created by Republican and Democratic governors that sets standards for schools across the nation. (It’s just as well, Arizona schools are so under-funded, few of the state schools could meet those standards anyway.)

And, rather than turning the state purple as the Party hoped, the far-right-wing Arizona voters passed yet another “sovereignty” bill designed to raise a collective middle finger to the federal government. The bill will encourage our very right-wing state government to challenge the federal government on any federal law with which our nincompoop-driven legislature disagrees. The result will be millions of Arizona taxpayer funds spent on lawsuits against the federal government that sends $1.50 to Arizona in federal spending for every $1.00 the state contributes in federal taxes.

Clearly, in this election, few Democrats went to the polls. Why would they? The Party gave them few reasons to vote. In hopes of attracting more women and more Latino voters, the Party essentially abandoned its core voters…its base. After all, if the Democratic Party won’t stand up for its own president and its own accomplishments, how can we trust that its candidates will stand up for us?

The Only Thing We Really Need To Know About School Shooters.

After the most recent school shooting, the media and law enforcement are, once again, attempting to find out what motivated the shooting. They’ve analyzed his social media posts. They’ve interviewed his friends, family members and teachers. They’ve speculated that he was suffering from mental illness. They’ve explored his relationships. Everyone wants to know why he brought a gun to school and opened fire. Such analysis may be helpful in preventing future killers. But it overlooks the only thing we really need to know.

Like all of the other school shooters, he had easy access to a gun.

This was not a hunting rifle or a shotgun. That would be bad enough in the hands of an unsupervised 14-year-old, but at least hunting firearms are difficult to hide. This was an easily-concealed 40-caliber semi-automatic handgun – a weapon that does not belong on our streets, in our schools, or in the hands of a troubled 14-year-old boy. His access to such a weapon begs many questions: What kind of parents allow a 14-year-old access to a semi-automatic handgun? Why would he need one? Did they think he needed it to defend himself in school; after football practice; at a school dance, on the mean streets of Tulalip? Did they think he was going to defend us from Ebola-infected ISIS terrorists who might be crossing our border with Canada? Did they not know? Did they not care?

Had the shooter not had such easy access to a concealable weapon, he might still be alive today along with the girl he murdered. And other children would not be in the hospital fighting for their lives.

His ready access to weapons is most certainly not unique. In most states, children of any age can legally purchase guns from gun shows and individuals even as they are prohibited from buying tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets and most other items intended for adults. Want to buy a gun? No problem. The only questions are handgun or long gun? What caliber? How much ammunition? Would you like some extra clips with that? Greedy gun manufacturers represented and encouraged by the National Rifle Association are even marketing child-sized, but no less lethal, guns to kids. To make them more attractive to kids, they even offer such weapons in candy colors.

What normal human being thinks this is a good idea? For what social benefit? We’ve already seen what can happen when an Uzi is placed in the hands of a supervised child on a firing range. Have gun manufacturers ever considered the consequences of their actions? Of course, they have. But their judgment is blinded by visions of increased profits and higher share prices. Unfortunately, the more guns they sell, the more dangerous our streets and schools become. That generates more paranoia. And that, in turn, generates more sales.

In reality, the only way to stop school shootings and other mass shootings is to limit the sales of guns to keep them out of the hands of the mentally unstable; to keep them out of the hands of criminals; and to keep them out of the hands of children. And the only sensible way to do that is to follow Australia’s lead. Like Australia, we should immediately pass legislation calling for a nationwide buy-back of the most lethal types of guns, such as rapid-fire semi-automatic handguns and semi-automatic assault rifles. We should immediately institute mandatory background checks on all transactions involving guns and ammo. We should ban guns in cities and other public places as was the custom in the Old West. We should limit the sale of the most lethal types of ammunition, especially so-called “cop killer” bullets. And we should ban the sale of guns to anyone under the age of eighteen.

In 2010, more than 30,000 Americans died from gunfire…nearly 3,000 of them children. That year, another 73,505 Americans recovered from gunshot wounds… more than 7,000 of them children. Yet Americans seem willing to accept those statistics. Indeed, the only response to our endless murder and mayhem has been for even more Americans to arm themselves. By contrast, our nation seems paralyzed by the fact that a single person in the US has died from Ebola…ONE! Yet our media and politicians are disproportionately reacting to the threats. While they ignore more than 100,000 shootings in a single year, they are demanding immediate action for…wait for it…Ebola.

Fear-mongering conservatives have raised alarms that we could all die if we don’t react to Ebola fast. Yet the very same people are unconcerned about mass shootings. They cower from the NRA. Instead of limiting access to guns, they pass laws making it easier to buy and carry firearms. They tell us that the Second Amendment is more important than the lives of thousands. They tell us that the number of gun victims doesn’t matter. They talk about freedom and call anyone who disagrees with them unpatriotic.

Keep that in mind as you go to the polls on November 4th.

Proof That Racism Is As Rampant And Repugnant As Ever.

In writing the majority decision that struck down key portions of the Voting Rights Act, Chief Justice Roberts stated, “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.” That’s the same uniformed and misguided mindset that the Court has used to strike out against affirmative action, to endorse religious discrimination, and to rule that corporations have the same rights as individuals.

To educate himself, Justice Roberts need only read the recent article by Braden Goyette and Alissa Scheller published by Huffington Post. It’s so concise, so clear that even Roberts and his conservative co-conspirators should be able to understand it. In the article, the authors present 15 charts that clearly demonstrate that the US is far from a post-racial society. In fact, racial discrimination may be more prevalent, if less obvious and less violent, than it was on the day LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act.

To wit, Blacks held just 2.7 percent of the nation’s wealth in 2010 while comprising 13 percent of the population. The racial wealth gap has ballooned from $85,070 in 1984 to $236,500 in 2009. Blacks are three times more likely to be arrested for drug possession than whites, despite the fact that white Americans use drugs more than blacks. Black men receive prison sentences that are 19.5 percent longer than those of white men who commit similar crimes. Blacks seeking jobs are more likely to be turned away based on the sound of their names and the belief that they use drugs.

The discrimination even extends to pre-school where black students are punished more frequently and more harshly for their behavior.

Of course, if you ask people if they are racist, most will vehmently deny that they hold racist views. In fact, they just use different names for their racism. Today’s racists are more passive-aggressive than in the past. They claim not to discriminate against skin color. It’s just that they dislike those who have “values,” religions and cultural traits that are different than their own. They assume that the problems faced by people of color are of their own making; that they just don’t work hard enough (if they work at all), study hard enough or pray hard enough (at least not to the right god or in the right church).

They dwell on anecdotal evidence of the tiny percentage of people of color who abuse welfare, food stamps and other safety net programs while ignoring the vast majority who work long hours and multiple jobs. At the same time, they ignore the disability fraud, welfare fraud and Medicare fraud committed by white people. They call for harsher sentences for drug crimes and petty crimes while applauding the white collar criminals who take advantage of the lax oversight of our regulatory commissions and loopholes in our tax codes. They fume about the dark-skinned illegal immigrants who walk hundreds of miles across deserts in search of a better life while dismissing the 40 percent of largely white illegal immigrants who simply drive or fly across our borders and overstay their visas.

Despite all of this, America is changing. It is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. And here’s the really bad news for racists. Our electorate is changing. In a few decades, voters of color will outnumber white voters. If whites don’t change their racist views and embrace diversity (I’m looking at you, Teapublicans), payback could be a bitch.

Conservative “Values.”

Whenever I hear someone talk about “values,” I silently prepare myself to endure yet another lecture about religion, hard work, freedom and patriotism. That’s because conservatives assume that they are the only ones who appreciate such things – the only ones who admire hard work, dedication to family and the benefits of living in the US.

Conservatives talk about religion, but they spout hateful ideas. They talk about freedom, but they want to discriminate against those who look different and those with whom they disagree. They talk about hard work, but they refuse to see others rewarded for it. They talk about getting the government off their backs, but they don’t want anyone to touch their Medicare or Social Security. They rail against illegal immigrants while denying equality to the First Americans. They spout quotes from the Founding Fathers, but ignore the statements from those Founders with whom they disagree.

They talk about patriotism, even as they are at war with our federal government.

For the so-called “values voters,” everything is black or white; us against them; Christians against heathens; fiscal conservatives against spendthrifts; cut-and-save against tax-and-spend. There simply is no room for middle ground. As stated by former president George W. Bush, “you’re either with us, or against us.”

I suspect this will fall on deaf ears, but here’s some news for conservatives. Caring for and helping others is a value. Negotiating peace is a value. Showing compassion for those less fortunate than yourself is a value. Leaving the environment in the same shape you found it is a value. Helping to educate others is a value. Honoring knowledge and accomplishment is a value. Tolerance for other lifestyles, ideas and religions is a value. Moderation and compromise are values. And you can be patriotic without waving the flag, shouting “USA” or supporting yet another war.

I understand, dear conservatives, that these may be distasteful and foreign concepts to you. But these are values shared by most of the developed world. In fact, your “values” of greed, anger, hate and intolerance are reviled by most of those who are educated and enlightened. You remember who used those words to describe themselves and their aspirations, don’t you? We refer to them as the Founding Fathers.

Another School Shooting…Yawn.

The recent Oregon school shooting was the 74th shooting on or near school property since the slaughter of six and seven-year-olds at Sandy Hook Elementary. Several other school attacks have been discovered before the individuals could carry out their plans. Nevertheless, these shootings are happening at a rate of more than one a week. And when you consider that most schools are not in session for 3 months of the year, the frequency is greater than that. And if you consider gun violence outside of schools, things are much worse. More than 3,000 children die from gun violence every year. In fact, a child or teen is a victim of gun violence every 30 minutes.

But it seems that few care. Accepting gun violence is just part of living in America…the land of free and the home of the guns.

Since the wacko Second Amendment absolutists staged a coup which transformed the Nitwit…er…National Rifle Association from a benign club devoted to hunting and marksmanship into a mouthpiece for gun manufacturers, the NRA has not only succeeded in making more guns available. It has made more lethal guns available. It has helped market guns to children as young as five-years-old. It has fomented fear that the government is coming for your guns. It has pushed laws making it legal to carry guns in every state. And it has lobbied conservative Republicans and cowardly Democrats to block any legislation aimed at sensible gun control.

As a result, you can now see dimwitted bullies openly carrying guns in restaurants, convenience stores, shopping malls, sports stadiums and bars. And those are just the guns that are visible. There are many more concealed in waistbands, pockets, boots, purses and cars. For what purpose? Apparently it makes the mentally weak feel more powerful. It seems that guns are like sports cars…the speed of the car and firepower of the gun are in inverse relationship with the size of the penis.

Contrary to NRA beliefs, the presence of guns is not a deterrent to violence. In fact, easy access to guns is more likely to escalate confrontations. And guns are definitely more likely to end them. To see how useful guns are for self-defense, you need look no farther than the recent Las Vegas shooting in which a good guy with a gun was shot and killed because he was unprepapared to deal with a violent and fluid situation. (A gun does you no good if you don’t see the person who is about to shoot you.) For further evidence, consider the death of a priest in Phoenix, Arizona. He was shot and killed by a burglar using a gun owned by a fellow priest!

Two-thirds of homicides in the US are committed with guns…11,078 in 2010. More than half of all suicides are committed with guns…19,392 in 2010. More than 10,000 children are killed or injured by guns each year. Indeed, a five-year-old Kentucky boy just shot and killed his two-year-old sister with a child-sized, but no less deadly, Crickett rifle given him by his parents.

Had enough?

Apparently not, because unless the shooting incidents result in dozens of deaths, the media offers little coverage, few people take notice and even fewer demand solutions from their congressional representatives. It seems that most Republicans and many Democrats are more concerned about potential attacks from al-Qaeda and ISIS than from domestic terrorists. Yet as many children are killed in the US by guns each year than there were victims of 9/11. And our Congress does nothing to stop it. Yes, our 2nd Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms in order to maintain a well-regulated militia. But guns in the hands of five-year-olds, the mentally ill and anti-government “patriots?” What about the preamble to our Constitution which promises to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty…?” Does the right to threaten and shoot outweigh our rights to tranquility and general welfare? I submit that the reverse is true.

You know the problems of gun violence. You know the solutions. You simply need to care enough to speak up. Until you do, the NRA will continue to control our laws, and the shootings will continue to happen.