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Why We Can’t Have Nice Things


That’s the Cliff Notes version for those of you who don’t like reading more than just a headline. For everyone else, let me explain what has me bitchy today.

"Stand your ground" in Florida. I know what you’re thinking; Bitchy has been bitchy about "stand your ground" for a long time now. That’s true, but there’s a new development that has significantly elevated my level of bitchiness. About a month and a half ago, the Tampa Bay Times published an article of their analysis of 200 "stand your ground" cases. Here’s a summary of what they found;

  • People who killed a black person walked free 73 percent of the time
  • People who killed a white person went free 59 percent of the time
  • Whites who invoked the law were charged at the same rate as blacks
  • Whites who went to trial were convicted at the same rate as blacks
  • Of the 88 fatal "stand your ground” cases that have been decided, about 1/4 involved defendants and victims of different races including; six cases in which a white killed a black, five cases in which a black killed a white and six in which a Hispanic killed a non-Hispanic
  • No charges were filed in most of those mixed-race cases

Whether you like this data or you don’t like this data, you should like the fact that someone is looking at the data. I do. I like data because unlike anecdotal evidence, it’s empirical. Data objectively lets us know if something is producing positive or negative results. Data helps us to form objective opinions about things, and I believe that more information = better informed opinions. But I don’t want to get into this data, or present to you the other pieces of data I have about "stand your ground"and what a destructive law it is. That’s not what has me bitchy.

The thing that has me at DefCon 5 of bitchiness is a republican Florida house member named Matt Gaetz. Matt Gaetz doesn’t like the data. He doesn’t like some of the alarming things that the data shows. So what do you do when you don’t like the data? Do you address the problem that the data suggests may exist by perhaps asking for more data? Do you maybe take a closer look at the law that created the alarming results that the data shows? Do you rethink your position on something because the data you don’t like is telling you that there’s a problem?

No, silly goose! Matt Gaetz is a republican, and there’s a reason why fewer republicans than ever "believe" in evolution or climate change, than democrats or independents. They just disregard data they don’t like. But Matt Gaetz is going further than simply disregarding the data he doesn’t like. He’s trying to make it impossible to collect this type of data in the future.

Gaetz has proposed an amendment to a bill that would expand the scope of "stand your ground" to expunge the court records if the "stand your ground" defense was successful. In other words, we won’t be able to look at the data that might show us if there’s anything nefarious about how the law is being applied. Now, Matt Gaetz is no Rhodes scholar so he didn’t come up with this tactic on his own.

No, this is a tactic that the NRA has found to be tried and true. Back in 1996, the NRA and the legislators they bought successfully blocked funding for the CDC’s research into gun violence. If you clicked on that last link, I’d like to point out that Jay Dickey, who co-wrote that article was one of the cosponsors of the bill to strip the CDC of that research funding. So for 18 years now, we haven’t been able to learn things like, how many kids are accidentally shot by their gun loving parent’s firearm in the house? The data in that last link was compiled by doctors who did the painstaking work of combing through hospital records because there is no other way to find it, since the NRA has also (successfully, in many states) lobbied to make sure that the accidental shooting of a child is not criminal. So there’s no data on criminal charges to be looked at. See what the NRA did there? Data = bad, so we need to block anyone’s ability to ever collect any data that might suggest that having a gun in your home may not be a brilliant idea.

This is a tactic that is also (largely) working for Monsanto, who won’t let us look at the genetic modifications they’re making to our food (proprietary information and other bullshit like that) and they’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars to make sure these modifications get a blessing from the FDA. They’ve produced mountains of "GMOs are safe" studies by buying scientists to make sure they get the results they want. Have you ever noticed how the "science" in the US regarding GMOs has come to vastly different conclusions than the science in the rest of the world?

We can’t have nice things because our government is bought and paid for. We can’t have nice things because a battalion of lobbyists have been deployed to hide information, fabricate information, and do whatever they can to confuse us into not knowing what "nice things" are. Do you think that fewer parents would have guns in their homes if they knew that 10,000 kids a year were being injured because of unsecured firearms in the house? I don’t know, but I know that the NRA is worried about that information getting out. Do you think that fewer people would eat corn that is genetically modified to be resistant to toxic weed killers if we could get some peer reviewed studies in those modifications? I don’t know, but Monsanto seem to be worried about that data getting out.

Part of why we’re dumb, is because there’s a concerted effort to make us dumb. Because dumb people don’t notice that they’re not getting nice things.

We need to reform our political system before we can have a functional government that serves the people, let alone nice things. We need to get money and corporate personhood out of our political equation. We will never be able to solve our big issues until we get the money out.

So let me continue my broken record impersonation;