Sunday, January 25, 2015

Georgia Now Allows Guns in Airports, Churches, Bars & Government Buildings

Alan: If flooding the nation with firearms is supposed to make us safe, why do Americans live in terror even as the number of guns soars? 

"Gun Cartoons and Gun Violence Bibliography"

Georgia Now Allows Guns in Airports and Bars

A controversial new law, officially part of the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014 but known by opponents as the "guns everywhere law," went into effect in Georgia today. The law, which has been called "a historic victory for the Second Amendment" by the National Rifle Association, allows people with concealed-carry permits to enter bars, nightclubs, unsecured government buildings, and public terminals in airports while armed.
School districts may now elect to arm teachers and administrators after they undergo training, though thus far none of the state's school districts have chosen to do so. People are not allowed to bring firearms into religious establishments such as churches, but individual establishments can opt in and allow them.
Some local governments in the state are reportedly considering installing security systems in government buildings in order to keep out those carrying weapons; under the law, people with concealed-carry permits can bring firearms into only government buildings that do not have security systems.
“If citizens will allow [local governments] to spend that much money to secure a building to keep honest people out, that they’ve never tried to secure to keep criminals out before, I’m sure there are some that will do that," Jerry Henry, executive director of the non-profit organization Georgia Carry, which lobbied for the law, told VICE News. "Those people were not worried about those buildings been unsecured last year, because the only people that could go in there, apparently, were criminals. Now that the law-abiding citizen can go in there, they’ve got to secure it to keep those people out.”
Although the law lets people bring firearms into bars and nightclubs, bar and club owners have the right to kick out anyone with a firearm as they see fit.
Alan: "Having the right to kick out anyone with a firearm" sounds like open invitation for disgruntled customers to start shooting. Am I missing something? Or is it likely that armed drunks will be prone to "shooting the place up?"

Although the law lets people bring firearms into bars and nightclubs, bar and club owners have the right to kick out anyone with a firearm as they see fit. Signs are not a legal way of prohibiting firearm carriers from entering a bar, however, and could even lead to lawsuits.
Under the law, police are not allowed to demand to see someone's concealed-carry permit. “That is the same thing as a policeman cannot detain you walking down the street to see if you have a driver’s license,” Henry said. “The reason it was codified is because we got tired of people doing it and violating people’s rights.”
In 2011, Governor Nathan Deal — who signed the Safe Carry Protection Act — signed an immigration law that let police demand immigration documents from suspects who, if unable to provide those documents, could then be taken to jail where the deportation process was begun. Parts of that law were later struck down by a federal court.
A May poll conducted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that 59 percent of Georgia residents disapprove of the new concealed-carry laws. But according to Henry, the poll is "not accurate…. We did a poll of our own and it was basically vice versa from what they found out.”
Though Deal is running for reelection this fall, signing the bill probably won't be a political liability for him. His opponent, current state Senator Jason Carter, voted for it.
Follow Jordan Larson on Twitter: @jalarsonist

Citizens United: In The Fall, 54 U.S. Senators Voted For A "Cancellation" Amendment

From Citizens United Carpet Bombing Democracy
Citizens United Carpet Bombing Democracy
(Image by DonkeyHotey)

Five years after the Supreme Court's disastrous 5-4 decision in Citizens United, there's a lot to be angry about.

With election spending out of control, and super PACs empowering giant corporations and billionaires like no time since the Gilded Age, Big Money is not just influencing who's elected to office in this country, but what elected officials do.

Consider how the new Congress has opened: A House of Representatives leadership effort to skirt normal procedure and rush through a repeal of key Dodd-Frank provisions to rein in Wall Street speculative activities. A House of Representatives vote to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. A House vote to handcuff consumer, health, safety, 

environmental and other regulatory agencies so that they cannot issue new rules to address corporate abuse and protect the American public. Another House vote to repeal the Dodd-Frank measure, after the initial rush effort failed to garner a needed two-thirds majority. Meanwhile, in the slower-moving Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has decided Keystone legislation will be the first significant matter taken up.

Why is this the starting agenda for Congress? Most Americans are unfamiliar with derivatives clearing requirements, but they surely know they don't want to enable more of the aggressive Wall Street gambling that threw our nation into recession. Americans don't want dirty air, unsafe food and water, dangerous workplaces or to be ripped off by unscrupulous businesses; and by overwhelming margins, they want our regulatory agencies strengthened, not weakened. And there's no serious case for the Keystone pipeline, given that it will do nothingfor consumers, create only a few dozen permanent jobs, and significantly exacerbate the greenhouse gas emissions that are endangering the planet and humanity.

The Congressional agenda is the agenda of the billionaire class, plain and simple. The Koch brothers spent more money than we'll ever know on the last election. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was the largest "dark money" organization in the 2014 elections, at least in terms of spending required to be reported to the Federal Election Commission. The Chamber invested very heavily and successfully in the 2014 elections to elect corporate-minded candidates in the Republican primaries and in the general election. Now these and other giant donors are being rewarded with their return on investment.

When it comes to the outside spending facilitated by Citizens United, there's a lot we don't know about who's spending money on elections. Groups like the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity primarily spent money in ways that aren't reported at all. And almost a third of reported spending was done by organizations that don't reveal their donors.

But even with what we know, it's staggering how few donors are wielding such a gigantic influence over our politics, and our country:
Five years after the Supreme Court handed down the abomination known as Citizens United, we know this: Our country will not be able to address the great challenges it faces -- from putting people to work and raising wages to providing healthcare to all, from reducing wealth inequality to averting catastrophic climate change, and much more -- without ending corporate and super-rich dominance of our elections.

As a whole, the billionaire class has views that are profoundly out of step with everyday Americans. And that goes a long way to explain the agenda of the new Congress.

It also explains in significant part why we aren't making progress on measures that have overwhelming popular support. The vast majority of Americans want to raise the minimum wageThey want policies to advance income and wealth equality. By a more than two-to-one margin, Americans oppose more NAFTA-style trade agreements.By a similar margin, they want to break up the giant banks, and they want Wall Street criminals put behind bars. Americans want investment in our schools, on sustainable transportation and infrastructure. They want policies to prevent catastrophic climate changeThey want to protect -- and improve -- Social Security and Medicare.

But there's reason for hope, as well. The decision ignited a democracy movement. More than 1 million peoplehave called on the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue a rule requiring publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending. There are growing local and state efforts to win public financing of elections, and strong support for a federal bill as well.

And a grassroots firestorm is calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and related decisions, and to restore our democracy. The same day that the Supreme Court handed down its McCutcheon decision, demonstrators in more than 150 cities and towns took to the streets to demand an amendment. Sixteen states and nearly 600 cities and towns have passed resolutions calling for an amendment. And, last September, in a historic moment on the path to winning an amendment, 54 U.S. Senators voted for an amendment.

Our country cannot tolerate domination by the Koch brothers, the Sheldon Adelsons, the U.S. Chambers of Commerce and their friends, and we will not. Five years after Citizens United, our democracy is weaker, but our democracy movement is stronger than anyone could have predicted.

The road ahead is clear: Amending the constitution is hard by design, but it's something that We the People have done time and again to strengthen our democracy. We must do it again.

"He Who Does Not Move Does Not Notice His Chains," Rosa Luxemborg

"The Whistler," A Prose poem by Mary Oliver

Steve, The Whistler, 2005

"Great Whistlers You Can Hear Online"

"The Whistler" is Mary Oliver's breath-stopping prose poem that brings full-circle her opening reflections on never fully knowing even those nearest to us – a beautiful testament to what another wise woman once wrote: “You can never know anyone as completely as you want. But that’s okay, love is better.”

"The Whistler" is embedded in a post by Maria Popova who blogs at "Brain Pickings"

"Mary Oliver On What Attention Really Means And Her Moving Eulogy To Her Soul Mate"

Alan: About a year ago, I visited my bank in Durham, North Carolina, and was whistling absent-mindedly from the time I entered the building until I finished filling out my deposit slip. 

When I looked up at row of cashiers standing at a counter 30 feet in front of me, they were all smiling. 

Smiling at me. 

Since there happened to be no other customers in the bank, I said to them, "Why are you so happy?" 

One young woman replied: "Because you're whistling. You got us talking and we realized no one whistles in public anymore. It's great that you do."

I should mention that I am not a very good whistler. 

It's a habit I inherited from my Dad who used to whistle -- almost under his breath -- simple riffs in a narrow musical range. 

He never whistled "known" songs.

It was as if he was giving vent to the breeze in his beautiful mind.

"The Wisdom Of No Escape," Pema Chödrön

The Wisdom of No Escape: Pema Chödrön on Gentleness, the Art of Letting Go, and How to Befriend Your Inner Life

Pema Chödrön (b. July 14, 1936) – a generous senior teacher in the Buddhist contemplative tradition of Shambhala, ordained Buddhist nun, and prolific author – is one of our era's most tireless champions of a mindful wholeheartedness as the essential life-force of the human experience. For the generations since Alan Watts – who began introducing Eastern philosophy in the West in the 1950s and sparked a counterculture to consumerism seeking totranscend the illusions of the separate self – Chödrön has become the most widely beloved translator of Eastern ideas into Western life.
In the spring of 1989, she led a monthlongdathun meditation session at Gampo Abbey – the renowned Buddhist monastery of which Chödrön is founding director, founded in 1983 by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, her root guru. She began each day by giving a short talk aimed at emboldening participants "to remain wholeheartedly awake to everything that occurred and to use the abundant material of daily life as their primary teacher and guide." On the monastery grounds, meditators kept five vows: "not to lie, not to steal, not to engage in sexual activity, not to take life, and not to use alcohol or drugs." The rather singular combination of solitude, nature, meditation, and the vows made for what Chödrön calls "an alternatingly painful and delightful 'no exit' situation." Thus, the collection of her morning talks from the dathun is aptly titled The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness (public library) – short, beautifully simple yet powerful reflections on various aspects of how "to be with oneself without embarrassment or harshness."
In the fourth talk, Chödrön explores the related graces of precision, gentleness, and letting go:
If we see our so-called limitations with clarity, precision, gentleness, goodheartedness, and kindness and, having seen them fully, then let go, open further, we begin to find that our world is more vast and more refreshing and fascinating than we had realized before. In other words, the key to feeling more whole and less shut off and shut down is to be able to see clearly who we are and what we’re doing.
Pointing to the "innocent, naive misunderstanding that we all share, which keeps us unhappy" – the same well-intentioned but misguided impulse with which we keep ourselves small by people-pleasing – Chödrön writes:
The innocent mistake that keeps us caught in our own particular style of ignorance, unkindness, and shut-downness is that we are never encouraged to see clearly what is, with gentleness. Instead, there’s a kind of basic misunderstanding that we should try to be better than we already are, that we should try to improve ourselves, that we should try to get away from painful things, and that if we could just learn how to get away from the painful things, then we would be happy.

That gentleness of presence, Chödrön argues, is at the heart of meditation:
Meditation is about seeing clearly the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, the job that we have, and the people who are in our lives. It’s about seeing how we react to all these things. It’s seeing our emotions and thoughts just as they are right now, in this very moment, in this very room, on this very seat. It’s about not trying to make them go away, not trying to become better than we are, but just seeing clearly with precision and gentleness.
The problem is that the desire to change is fundamentally a form of aggression toward yourself. The other problem is that our hangups, unfortunately or fortunately, contain our wealth. Our neurosis and our wisdom are made out of the same material. If you throw out your neurosis, you also throw out your wisdom.
Chödrön, however, is careful to point out that holding one's imperfection with gentleness is not the same as resignation or condoning harmful behavior – rather, it's a matter of befriending imperfection rather than banishing it, in order to then gently let it go rather than forcefully expel it. Whatever your folly – anger or fear or jealousy or melancholy – Chödrön teaches that freedom from it lies in "getting to know it completely, with some kind of softness, and learning how, once you’ve experienced it fully, to let go."
And yet, in a sentiment that calls to mind the Chinese concept of wu-wei, "trying not to try," she gently admonishes against seeing this practice itself as a source of compulsive striving:
Precision, gentleness, and the ability to let go ... are not something that we have to gain, but something that we could bring out, cultivate, rediscover in ourselves.
She points to the simple exercise of following your unforced breath as a way of contacting the art of letting go:
Being fully present isn’t something that happens once and then you have achieved it; it’s being awake to the ebb and flow and movement and creation of life, being alive to the process of life itself. That also has its softness. If there were a goal that you were supposed to achieve, such as “no thoughts,” that wouldn’t be very soft. You’d have to struggle a lot to get rid of all those thoughts, and you probably couldn’t do it anyway. The fact that there is no goal also adds to the softness.
This practice, Chödrön points out, cultivates a nonjudgmental attitude and helps us learn how to, instead of succumbing to harsh self-criticism, begin "seeing what is with precision and gentleness" and develop "a sense of warmth toward oneself." She writes:
The honesty of precision and the goodheartedness of gentleness are qualities of making friends with yourself... As you work with being really faithful to the technique and being as precise as you can and simultaneously as kind as you can, the ability to let go seems to happen to you. The discovery of your ability to let go spontaneously arises; you don’t force it. You shouldn’t be forcing accuracy or gentleness either, but while you could make a project out of accuracy, you couldmake a project out of gentleness, it’s hard to make a project out of letting go.
In the next talk, titled "The Wisdom of No Escape," Chödrön explores well-being and suffering as two sides of the same coin which, when put together, define the human condition. She points to the practice of meditation – arguably our greatest gateway to self-transcendence – as the way to illuminate both sides of this duality:
We see how beautiful and wonderful and amazing things are, and we see how caught up we are. It isn’t that one is the bad part and one is the good part, but that it’s a kind of interesting, smelly, rich, fertile mess of stuff. When it’s all mixed up together, it’s us: humanness.
This is what we are here to see for ourselves. Both the brilliance and the suffering are here all the time; they interpenetrate each other. For a fully enlightened being, the difference between what is neurosis and what is wisdom is very hard to perceive, because somehow the energy underlying both of them is the same. The basic creative energy of life ... bubbles up and courses through all of existence. It can be experienced as open, free, unburdened, full of possibility, energizing. Or this very same energy can be experienced as petty, narrow, stuck, caught... The basic point of it all is just to learn to be extremely honest and also wholehearted about what exists in your mind – thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, the whole thing that adds up to what we call “me” or “I.” Nobody else can really begin to sort out for you what to accept and what to reject in terms of what wakes you up and what makes you fall asleep. No one else can really sort out for you what to accept – what opens up your world – and what to reject – what seems to keep you going round and round in some kind of repetitive misery.
This is the process of making friends with ourselves and with our world. It involves not just the parts we like, but the whole picture, because it all has a lot to teach us.
In the remainder of The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness – which shares with Alan Watts's indispensable The Wisdom of Insecurity not only a similarity of title but also a kinship of spirit – Chödrön goes on to explore such related secular wisdom from the Buddhist tradition as joy, satisfaction, inconvenience, and the art of living with balance in a culture of extremes. Complement it with Sam Harris on the paradox of meditation.

"Dear God, I'm Glad You Lied Because I Never Could Have Been A Mormon," TED Talk

More From This Episode

Why Would You Share A Secret With A Stranger?

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Keeping Secrets
About Frank Warren's TED Talk
"Secrets ... can be shocking, or silly, or soulful," says Frank Warren, the founder of PostSecret. He shares a few of the half-million secrets that strangers have sent him on postcards.
About Frank Warren
Frank Warren is the creator of The PostSecret Project, a collection of personal and artfully decorated postcards mailed anonymously from around the world, displaying secrets that might never be voiced otherwise. Since November 2004, Warren has received more than 500,000 postcards, with secrets that run from sexual taboos and criminal activity to confessions of hidden acts of kindness, shocking habits and fears. PostSecret is a safe and anonymous space where people can share untold stories.

"Keeping Secrets," TED Radio Hour

"Every day we make that decision: what do we conceal, what do we reveal?" — PostSecret founder Frank Warren


Keeping Secrets

Who should get to keep secrets, and who should demand to know them? In this hour, TED speakers talk about the damage secrets can do, and the shifting roles we play when we keep, or share them.