Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sorry to burst your bubble, but....

"You, go get more lipstick....lots of it.  We'll need to spiff up this pig if we have any hope of pimping it to the American people."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a dozen or so of his hand picked buddies locked in a back room as I write, trying to put together a new healthcare bill they can ram down our throats before we wake up.  When asked by some in his own party when they could see the bill, and how long they would have to review it before a vote was called, he said "a day".  Geez....what a railroad job!

"But....but....ObamaCare....the Democrats foisted that pile on us back in '10.  They...."  I don't care.  All I care about is now.  "Two wrongs don't make a right", as my mama used to say.  Truth is, they don't even care about healthcare.  Their goal is to gut healthcare so as to save enough money to fund their beloved giant tax cut.  That's it, bottom line.

Anyone who thinks they can put together a plan that will preserve the "pre-existing condition" and "no lifetime cap" provisions that everyone seems to like about ObamaCare, while giving us equal or better coverage, with equal or lower deductibles and co-pays, all for dramatically lower premiums, is delusional!  Nothing is free!

Everyone seems to think you have to either back ObamaCare or a derivative, or the Republican alternative.  That's it....pick one.  Both sides are just tippy-toeing around the fact that any meaningful change will require some seriously major changes, changes likely to step on the toes of some extreeeeemly powerful, wealthy interests who want to prevent that at all costs.  Until they are willing to piss off some of these special interests, nothing will change.  And politicians simply don't piss off those who are pulling their strings.  Never.

S


Saturday, June 17, 2017

My Ancestry DNA results are in, and the winner is....

....Europe.  Yes, I'm a very white mutt.

My long awaited Ancestry DNA results came back yesterday, and they say I have a "high probability" (99%) of being European. Specifically:




"Great Britain" is defined as England, Scotland, and Wales.

"Europe West" is defined as France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Lichtenstein.

"Ireland" is defined as Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.  (Looks like Scotland and Wales get 2 shout-outs.)

"Scandinavia" is defined as Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

Those 4 lilly white "high probability" regions total 92%.

With "lower confidence", they suggest I might be 3% from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), 2% from Europe East (Poland, Austria, the Balkans, etc), 1% from Finland / NW Russia, and 1% from Italy / Greece.

I have a "very low probability" (less than 1%) of having ancestors from Africa, and 0% from Asia, South America, or anywhere else in the world.   They say I have 0% chance of being Native American, which surprises me greatly.

These are based on DNA matches that cover the past several thousand years.  Over the past few hundred years (all here in America) my ancestors are likely from 2 regions, both heavily settled by North / West Europeans:



 The most likely route to Texas would be through Tennessee, Arkansas, and on to here.  Many Revolutionary War veterans were given land grants in Tennessee.  Some moved on to Texas to seek adventure fighting in our War of Independence from Mexico in 1836, and later some eventually moved to Texas by the lure of Black Gold.  



   This group first arrived in America mainly through Virginia.




A second, less likely way I may have arrived here is via a more southern route...South Carolina and northern Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.  (There was apparently a bit of romance going on with the Tennessee crew.)




This possible branch of the family tree hit our shores mainly through Virginia and the Carolina's.

There is much more Ancestry DNA info I have yet to digest, but this, in a nutshell, is ME!  Have you done any DNA research?  If so, where are you from?

This is REALLY COOL stuff to know.  :)

S



Thursday, June 15, 2017

"We need to come together for the good of the country...."

....said the Republicans and the Democrats.  "So just do exactly what I say and everything will be fine."



We Americans are pretty much evenly split between our preference for liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.  You'd think our politicians would sit down, haggle some, bang on the table some and swear, then eventually agree to split the difference.  "I'll give some here if you'll give some there."  That's how you get things done.  Doesn't that seem reasonable?

But Nooooooo!  The ultra-conservative (Tea Party) Republicans and the ultra-liberal wing of the Democratic party (do they have a catchy name?) won't give an inch.  "My way or the highway" they say.  If I were to sum up the Republicans with one word or phrase it would be "tax cuts".  They resent spending a penny of their upper-class money on anything the Democrats might want.  And the one word that sums up the Democrats would be "gimme".  They want all kinds of benefits, and want the Republicans to pay for it.  Dream on!  Those two extremes are like oil and water....they're never going to mix.

This leads to pissed off, violent followers who take their guns to baseball fields and try to kill Republicans.  It might just as easily be disgruntled hotheads who tried to kill Democrats at     fill in the place__

Listen up you knuckleheads....work it out!  Democrats:  $15 an hour for unskilled labor can't be justified.  If you want to make $15-$20 an hour you need a skill.  Republicans:  Agree to fund apprenticeships and trade schools so the unskilled can learn and work and pay taxes. 

Republicans:  Lack of healthcare is killing people, mainly poor people whose employers seldom offer benefits.  Your proposed healthcare replacement plan is, to use Prez Trump's word, "mean".  Show a little heart.  You want to round up all the "undocumented workers" and send them somewhere, anywhere else but here.  But we need their labor!  Find a way to bring them into the system where they can raise their kids without fear, work, and pay taxes.  Democrats:  Work together to devise a plan that guarantees "registration" will NOT be the first step to deportation as so many fear.  Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Democrats:  More gun control laws won't work any better than the old gun control laws.  Face facts. Republicans:  Grow some balls....quit cowering to the NRA.  You can work with Democrats to get help for the mentally ill who are too often the ones who get hold of guns and go on killing sprees.  Spending some money on mental health care now will pay dividends later.  And both of you should surely be able to agree to get guns out of the hands of known felons who are prohibited from having them in the first place.  Our laws have no teeth!  Fix it.

See, it isn't that hard.  Compromise.  Neither will get everything they want, but no one will feel like they were kicked to the curb, either.  Politicians got us into this mess, and they can get us out of it, too.  Let's try pragmatism for a change, because God knows extreme ideologies have done us more harm than good.

S

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

So is this it? Is this the opening salvo?


It looks like civil discourse is dying, if not already dead.  We've disagreed with each other since Adam and Eve, and that's OK.  If there are two people in a room, they're gonna disagree about something, count on it.  But now disagreement has moved beyond words and is going violent. And I don't mean "violent" as in a couple of drunks in a bar fight, but "violent" against our ruling class in Washington DC.

Is it any surprise?  Congress is a miserably disagreeable bunch, and they seem to like it that way.  As long as they can get a back-slap from their hardcore faithful, and continue to shake them down for a few million $$$, they don't care about the opinions of others.  Fair?  Pfffft!  They don't give a shit about fair!  They, Democrats and Republicans alike, absolutely live to crush each other.  Take no prisoners, winner take all.

Liberals hate conservatives and vice versa, publicly at least.  We're Christian vs Muslim, wealthy vs poor, the ivory tower vs the unemployed, pro vs anti abortion, pro vs anti gun, pro vs anti gay marriage, pro vs anti welfare, pro vs anti public healthcare, pro vs anti public education, pro vs anti tax cuts, pro vs anti regulation, pro vs anti climate change....pick an issue and there are LOUD, disrespectful partisans on both sides, being whipped up into frenzy by our politicians.  There are probably both right-wing militias and left-wing anarchists who would relish seeing their opponents physically whacked.  And here we are....

This morning a group of Republican lawmakers were practicing for an upcoming charity baseball game in Washington when they were attacked by a gunman.  Five were injured, the gunman is in custody, motive unknown.  What's gonna happen next?  Will there be copycats who will jump on?  Congressmen's town hall meetings have already become increasingly testy.  Will they now be cancelled altogether?  Will our lawmaker's offices, both in Washington and in their home districts, become open to citizens by invitation only, after a pat-down?  (And a personal financial statement review, of course.)

The immediate response, after a rousing bipartisan chorus of Kumbaya, will likely be a call for more gun restrictions by Democrats, and a call for less restrictive gun rights by the Republicans.  Both will appeal to their faithful, both will pull in a lot of money off of it....and nothing will change.  It never does.

Am I the only one still non-aligned who can't see what this despicable bunch of professional politicians have done to us?

S


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Just like they planned it...

Damn you Hawkins....don't you know we have a reputation to uphold?

For the past few months, and I'm sure for many more months to come, the United States, and much of the rest of the world, too, has been fixated on what Donald Trump and his band of merry men have been up to.  Is Putin using a condom?  Where are Prez Trump's tax returns?  Did he lie?  On and on. 

And in other Breaking News, we're still all hot and bothered about which bathroom transgender people can use, whether same sex marriage should be allowed or smacked down, whether Black Lives Matter more than any other lives, whether or not Kim's butt is getting bigger, whether you pronounce Qatar "Cut-er" or "kuh-Tar", etc.  All those things together pretty much take up all 24 hours of our modern 24 hour news cycle.

But SURPRISE...there's more going on in the world than they've told us about we've been allowed to know, namely that the BANKS have been scheming relentlessly behind the scenes to get control of what little money they DON'T already have.  Example in point, from today's BBC news:

"An international group of bankers, lawyers and stockbrokers - reportedly with links to the City of London [Europe's major financial center]- appears to have fiddled the tax system, employing practices which were at best unethical, at worst illegal [italics added].  Ultimately they may have deprived the state [Germany] of nearly €32bn (£28bn; $36bn)."

And they almost got away with it, until a young administrative assistant in Germany's central tax office noticed that she was receiving claims for huge tax rebates from a single US pension fund.  BUSTED!

Closer to home, the US House of Representatives last week voted to gut most of the Dodd-Frank banking reforms put in place after the financial meltdown back in '08.  The banksters have pretty much already poked D-F full of holes anyway, but this is just their way of kicking the rest of us in the teeth.  While we were all looking left, they quietly ran right for the win.

If you're keeping count, since 2008 the 20 largest international banks have been fined over a  QUARTER TRILLION DOLLARS for their illegal activities....and they're not the least bit ashamed of it!  

Meanwhile we sit here glued to the TV wondering whether Trump's Atty Gen, Jeff "Goober" Sessions, had grits for breakfast this morning?  *sigh*

Let that soak in for a minute.

S

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The truth about carrying a gun


In a previous post I discussed the legal civilian carrying of firearms, and based on the responses here and on my Facebook link, I don't think many people understand all the intricacies of getting a license, the responsibilities, and the liabilities of carrying.  This is how the program works in Texas, and as we have reciprocal agreements with most other states, I imagine this is fairly standard:

To get a license you must make an online application with the Texas Dept of Public Safety (DPS), give them some basic info, and pay an application fee.  While they're processing your initial request, you must take a class and pass a test, followed by a live-fire test on the range.  The curriculum of the class and the range requirements are mandated by the State.  

In our class they instruct us how to avoid conflict (retreat if at all possible, go into a public place and call the police, etc), as well as our legal obligations and possible personal liabilities (more on this later).  The instructors give possible scenarios and ask how you would respond.  If you answer "I'd pop a cap in the sumbitch" or something similar, you're immediately disqualified and your declined status is sent to the DPS in Austin.  Your judgement is obviously defective.  You can't just go down the street and try again.  And yes, this has happened!

If you pass you must next be fingerprinted and photographed, and these are passed back to the DPS along with your class instructor's certification.  Then it's wait time while the DPS checks all state and federal databases....you must never have had a felony conviction, a misdemeanor conviction within 10 years, must not be "wanted" anywhere or have a restraining order against you, been involuntarily committed for mental health issues, and more.  This process can take about 3 months.  Personally, the requirements could be toughened and it wouldn't bother me, although the present process has been used for 20 years with no problems.

With a Concealed Handgun License (now called a License To Carry), you can carry either concealed (hidden from view) or as of a year ago carry openly for anyone to see.  No knowledgeable firearms expert I know recommends open carry.  They say it makes you a target (if you happen to walk into a robbery-in-progress you'll be the first one they shoot), or likely to be hit over the head and your gun stolen, to be sold later on the black market.  (Over 500,000 guns are stolen every year.)  Thankfully open carry in Texas is rarely seen.

The law prohibits you carrying into a federal building (including a post office), a school, a polling place, a court building, a sporting event, a bar, and some other places, too.  If a business owner doesn't want anyone carrying a gun on their premises they can simply post a notice (with specific verbiage) on the front door or window and carry is legally disallowed.

If you're ever stopped by law enforcement for any reason, you must produce for them both your ID (drivers license) AND YOUR PERMIT TO CARRY.  You should keep your hands visible to them at all times.  (Cops will seldom look you in the eye, but will constantly be looking at your hands and what might be within reach.  Hands behind your back or in your pocket will likely get you a gun shoved in your face.  Cops know "eyes won't hurt you, but hands will".)

Now for a reality check:  If you're ever blindsided by an attacker and you can't retreat, and you shoot someone, your life will be turned upside down.  Our class instructor said you should immediately call 911, tell the operator you have shot someone in self defense, where you are, request police and ambulance response, tell them what you're wearing so responders will know you when they see you, and tell them you will be unarmed when they arrive.  Then offer whatever emergency first aid you can to the victim. 

When the police arrive you should be seated on the ground with your hands visible, preferably on top of your head, and your gun should be 10' or so away, definitely out of your reach.  As no facts will immediately be known, you'll be handcuffed and hauled to jail, as you will initially be a suspect.

At the jail you'll be asked to give your statement, but you shouldn't until legal representation arrives.  Tell them you'll answer any and all their questions after your lawyer is beside you.  (I personally have a firearms legal protection insurance policy that provides legal counsel if needed.)  The police should eventually recommend you not be indicted, but the DA will still have to send it to the Grand Jury, who will No Bill you.  That's the end of any criminal liability you might have.  

But...

Next will come a likely civil suit against you.  The victim or his family will sue claiming you were unjustified in using lethal force against their poor, horribly injured loved one, who was WRONGED!  They'll tell a jury you should have just shot him in the foot or arm, and that you owe THEM a Gizillion Dollars.  

They, and probably the jurors, too, think a shooting is like they see on TV.  The good guy draws his gun, aims carefully, and delivers a perfectly placed shot.  Here's how it REALLY is:  When you draw your gun your mind will suddenly exhibit the IQ of a gerbil.  Adrenaline will course through your body and you'll be shaking.  There is NO WAY you'll be able to place an exact shot.  We're taught to shoot for the torso, from the neck to the waist...a pretty large target...in the hope that you'll hit something vital enough to stop the attack.  You never shoot to kill, but just shoot to stop the attack.  

Hopefully your lawyer will be able to convince the jury of this.  You don't simply pull your gun and fire off 15 rounds in 3 seconds, because YOU are responsible for every round you fire.  If you miss your target and your bullets hit the kids in the yard or the house across the street, and someone is injured or killed, YOU will be charged and will go to prison.  This would also apply if you go to the aid of someone else as a Good Samaritan.  In fact, you're not legally required to be a Good Samaritan at all if you carry a gun. You have to weigh what might happen to that victim vs how your family would cope without you if YOU were killed trying to help someone else.  It's a sobering dilemma.

Finally, you'll have to go through the personal anguish of knowing you've injured or maybe even killed someone.  Simply put, we're taught that no material possession you own is worth shooting someone over.  If someone wants your laptop or TV, let 'em take it.  Buy another.  Only if you believe you or a loved one's life is truly threatened should you pull the trigger.  The liability is simply too great.

So you see, carrying a gun is serious business, and must be done only by those of very sound mind who exhibit good judgement...this is not something for "cowboys".  Those of us who do carry firearms (legally) are deadly serious and are not just blood thirsty knuckle draggers.  We simply feel it's prudent to be prepared.

S


Monday, June 5, 2017

Just stirring the pot....


It looks like ISIS has again attacked innocent civilians by driving a van into a crowd, this time in London, and then moving on to attack others nearby with knives, too.  This has happened previously in France and Germany as well, and experts say it's likely to happen again.

Because of the tight control of firearms in Europe, it's difficult for civilians to legally possess guns.  ISIS has for some time now urged their "soldiers" in Europe to get a vehicle and run  infidels over.  Cars and truck are readily available; guns are not.  Terror will happen, using whatever weapons are at hand.  

In the incident over the weekend the London police were reportedly on the scene promptly, and had shot and killed all 3 terrorists within 8 minutes.  I've heard one bystander tried to defend himself by throwing a table at one of the terrorists as he ran through the crowding stabbing people at random, but most of the victims were simply defenseless for 8...long...minutes.

What if a select number of civilians, after undergoing a serious background check, and after attending both classroom instruction and actual live-fire training, were allowed to be discretely armed?  What if one of those select few were on that London bridge, or in that pub?  What if they could have defended the helpless until the police arrived?  Would that have been a bad thing?

Some say introducing more guns into society won't make us safer.  It seems to me guns in the possession of well trained and well intentioned civilians certainty won't make us any less safe.  I'm one of those civilians legally licensed to carry a firearm, and I regularly do, even though statistics say the odds of me ever needing to use my gun to thwart an attack is infinitesimal.  I also have several fire extinguishers in my home, and the odds are about the same I'll ever use them, either, but in either circumstance I'm prepared. 

Do I make society any less safe by being armed?  If you were being attacked by someone with a knife, for example, would you tell me to get away from you as my gun was a menace to you and society?  Would you decline my offer to defend you?

Guns certainly aren't for everyone.  They must be kept out of the hands of criminals.  I believe in extremely thorough background checks for anyone willing to carry, and extensive training, too.  I don't believe in "open" carry (not concealed), or non-regulation of civilian carry.  Some shouldn't be allowed to carry as they haven't demonstrated the necessary level of good judgement, and that needs to be rigidly enforced.  

After over two decades of legal carry being allowed in my "Wild West" state of Texas, statistics have shown that legally armed civilians have been a strong net positive for society.  Even those in law enforcement who were originally opposed to the idea are now on board.

Just something for you to think about....

S