Further thoughts

Follow-ups to a couple of recent posts, plus other assorted thoughts.

Guns:

Salon explains why the answer is not more guns:

But perhaps the biggest problem is the philosophy underpinning notions to arm more people. Goddard of the Brady campaign said it best in an interview: “The idea behind concealed carry is a kind of ‘defend yourself and your family and fuck everybody else’ mentality.”

… “America is not going to shoot our way out of the gun violence problem, and that’s what these people are calling for. And I think that’s dangerous and I think that will lead to more of us being killed by bullets,” Goddard said.

Read the whole thing. Seriously. I quoted the philosophical points, but this is one of the best evidence-dense debunkings of pro-gun bullshit that I’ve seen lately. If you’re going to argue for gun control, you need this information. Another article responds in similar detail to why the NRA’s plan for putting (more) armed guards in schools is a terrible idea.

For a more historical perspective, read Tony Horowitz on the similarities between the NRA’s idea of maximum guns and the proponents of expanding slavery.

In short, the NRA has become a neo-Confederate movement that sees Federals as foes, and that stokes the paranoia of its followers by claiming, as LaPierre did this year, that Obama’s re-election marks “the end of our freedom forever.” That’s more or less what Fire-Eaters said about Lincoln in 1860.

The argument about gun rights in this country has a much longer, more twisted history than most people are aware of. It also cannot be separated from the history of race – I had no idea about the Black Panthers’ aggressive use of gun rights (and the NRA’s calls for gun control in response). It looks to me as if the idea of “gun rights” has shifted from its historical roots in a way very similar to the transformation of Republicans from the party of Lincoln to the party of angry white men, mostly southern.

And on that note, Goblinbooks says something like what I said about how defending oneself against tyranny with household guns is nonsense, but does so much more stylishly.

Love spells:

I don’t think I said this clearly enough last time, but the reason that I’m so concerned about when love spells become rape is not just the magical implications, it’s the practical actions that we take as a result of the way we think. When we in the magical community fail to call out certain kinds of manipulative magic as part of rape culture, we’re enabling not just the thinking, not just the magic, but the actions.

If we say, loudly and clearly and repeatedly – because it’ll take a lot of repetition – that thinking of someone else as an object for your manipulation into bed is rape culture, we’re working to eliminate the so-called gray area where a lot of opportunity rapists operate.

If we leave wiggle room for people to think these kinds of spells are not rape, then that same kind of thinking is going to be used to justify totally mundane actions that lead to rape. If you’ve already done the spell to get her into your bed, why not offer her one more cup of wine after Beltane? What’s to stop you from seeing her stumbling, mumbling, not-really-consent as the manifestation of your magical prowess? Or maybe offering her a ride home, and then taking her to your house, or letting yourself in her place, and, well, encouraging her a little bit….that’s just taking action in accordance with your spell, right?

No. That’s rape. The magical actions and the mundane actions are products of the same thinking, and one will encourage the other. We have to discourage both.

This is very similar to the situation I encountered when trying to explain to people why things like DC 40 and other Christian Dominionist “prayer efforts” are dangerous. Even if you don’t believe in magic, these kinds of actions that specialize in raising emotional energy and directing it towards a purpose have tangible, physical manifestations. People vote based on Christian Dominionist thinking and actions. People rape based on rape culture. The thinking and the doing are both important, and if we’re going to change things, we have to work on both.

Why the s0-called fiscal cliff is a feminist issue:

Women get lower pay all their lives. Then they tend to live longer. When we’re talking about further impoverishing our nation’s seniors, we’re disproportionately talking about women. Talk to your political representatives and tell them to push back against the chained CPI and raising the Medicare eligibility age, which would actually cost more. Tell them to raise the cap on Social Security taxes (that is, tax income over $110,000 for Social Security) and solve this puppy without putting more people, and more women, into poverty.

Science, climate change, and cash:

If you’re younger than 27, you’ve never experienced a colder-than-average month. Never.

Therefore any memories you have that you’re using to judge how much our weather is shifting over time are themselves already skewed.

This enables people like the Kochs to make gut-based appeals that cover for their lack of solid science. I haven’t read the whole report there yet, but I have been following a few other stories about how the Kochs and their cronies are so very deeply invested in convincing us, by hook or by crook, that we should keep making them rich and making our world hotter.

Notice the similar dependence on appeals to uninformed instinct between the Kochs’ denial of climate change and the NRA’s denial of gun violence. Our memories make it easier to disbelieve that the climate is changing, because our memories themselves are shaped by that changing climate. Our instincts tell us that we’d be better off if we were armed, because our instincts are shaped by the culture of violence, complete with magically perfect good guys who, as far as evidence can find, don’t actually exist in real life.

Life is messy, and complicated, and understanding it takes real work. But that understanding can be the first step to change. Won’t you try with me, as the light begins to return in this new year, to take those first steps, to change?

Where is ExxonMobile’s Doomsday Clock?

Actually, that should read “Giga Ton Clock.”

As this new article in Rolling Stone makes painfully clear, the math is simple. If we restrict future CO2 emissions to less than 565 gigatons, we might – hopefully – restrict climate change to 2 degrees Celsius or less. That’s enough to flood entire countries out of existence, to devastate Africa with famine, and to cause untold amounts of lives lost and property damaged by out-of-control weather, but it just might keep the human species and the biosphere as we know it alive.

But fossil fuel companies have so far discovered fuel reserves that will emit 2,795 gigatons of carbon. And their balance sheets depend absolutely and completely on them getting that fuel out of the ground, burning it, and releasing that carbon. That’s five times more than the limit we need to stick to to keep ourselves around.

Back when the primary threat to life on earth was nuclear weapons, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created a Doomsday Clock that showed how close we were to “midnight” – nuclear annihilation. These were atomic scientists, people (largely men) whose careers and livelihoods depended on using these technologies. When they spoke out about the problems their own expertise and industries were likely to create, people listened. And yeah, they’ve included climate change as one of the reasons they moved the clock hand in recent years, but that’s not their primary area of concentration.

More importantly, these numbers are just too simple not to communicate the message.

I will not believe that ExxonMobile, or Shell, or BP, or anyone else who has a stake in convincing us to deep-fry ourselves is actually concerned about the threat of global warming until they create a similar countdown. Because the clock’s ticking, and we’re running out of time to stop it.

This is what climate change looks like

This is what climate change looks like in my neighborhood right now. This tree is in a very well-maintained commercial area and has an automatic sprinkler in its bed. It’s still not getting enough water, and after the record high temperatures this summer, it has many leaves that are partially green and healthy but withered around the edges.

I know this is nothing compared to other instances of terrible damage done by weather in the last few seasons, but it tugs at my heart to see such blatant examples. The worst of the heat may be past, but its impact is still with us.

This realization makes me worried for the future, but it also makes me renew my commitments to living mindfully and striving to reduce or offset my negative environmental impacts.

What does climate change look like where you are?

(Photo by the author; if you use it, please link back.)