Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Dumb Control Debate (Part 4)

So here's the conclusion of this. I'll start off by reaffirming my support of the 2nd Amendment, and the right to own firearms for self defense, to hunt, and for sporting purposes. Thing is, I also believe what Scalia writes in the Heller decision, that the 2nd amendment is not unlimited, and that the government has a great deal of leeway to regulate firearms through laws created under our representative government.

As I've already made clear, I don't think an armed citizenry will do much against tyranny, based on the historical trends on display in our own nation's armed citizenry doing little about tyranny for hundreds of years. You can be like some right wingers and pretend slaves or civil rights activists owning and using guns would have secured their liberties - but any cursory glance at our nation's actual history shows us exactly what happened to any minority population who tried to fight the power with non-violence, much less with firearms. Their actions were almost universally met with assassination, torture, lynching, bombing, rape, arson, terrorism, arrest, beatings, and other harassment at the hands of the armed and more numerous majority. If John Lewis had a gun at Selma, he wouldn't have been beaten - he and everyone with him would have been butchered by the authorities. But I digress. If you believe such nonsense, you likely wouldn't be reading this anyway. There's no convincing you anything different than the big bad government is coming in their black helicopters to take all of your guns away.

Which is a shame so many people believe something so dumb.

Because the regulations currently being proposed focus mostly on background checks that aren't going to make it illegal to own firearms - they're going to begin allowing law enforcement to more effectively enforce the laws of the land. That's something almost everyone I've ever heard talk about gun rights or gun control believes in. Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals is the most important job of any effective law enforcement structure, and law abiding citizens on every side of this issue overwhelmingly agree.

Would they have done anything about Newton or Aurora? Who can know? As difficult as it is to say this, I don't consider mass shooting events the main problem when it comes to gun violence in this country. Don't get me wrong, these are indescribable tragedies, but they are outliers. Our nation is simply limited in what we can do when a killer makes the determination to sow such destruction. There is no 100% safety anywhere, even for precious little children. We cannot prevent every tragedy.

But we can mitigate risk.

That's why these current proposals shouldn't be arbitrarily cast aside, even if they may not be able to prevent the worst events from happening. Again, as hard as it is to say this, the worst events are simply a drop in the bucket compared to the number of firearms deaths and crimes we are facing on a daily basis when tragedy doesn't make the national news. That's where I focus my attention. Because looking at that problem, we begin to see a pattern take shape. That pattern tells us that the majority of gun violence in this nation is perpetuated by violent individuals who should have been prevented from getting hold of a gun.  

Here's the hard, cold truth: when it comes to firearms laws, the right wing mythology tells us how our country should focus on "enforcing current gun laws" on one hand, and that "criminals will always have access to guns" on the other. Of course, what is never reconciled is that the political decisions made by the right wing make it impossible for law enforcement to enforce existing gun laws and make it easier for criminals to have access to those guns.

Why else would they holler so loudly about tyranny when the President declares he will be appointing a full time director to the law enforcement agency specifically tasked with investigating and prosecuting gun laws? Why does this agency not have a full time director? Because right-wingers have blocked the appointment for years.

Why else would they holler so loudly about losing their guns when the President declares the Centers for Disease Control can conduct public health studies relating to gun violence? Heaven help us if we gather some data about what is going on. It probably won't even matter, after seeing their reaction to climate change science.

And why would they go so berserk over background checks? Background checks are the most effective way to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, because background checks tell people selling guns if they are selling guns to criminals!

I've had multiple background checks to teach school and serve as a volunteer. My driving record is scrutinized every time I update my address on my driver's license, every time I reapply for my vehicle's registration, and at random intervals by my private insurance company. My credit history is under constant surveillance by banks and billing agencies. You know what? I can still legally drive. I can still get financing. I've never been turned down for a volunteer gig. Why should I be frightened of a criminal history check curbing my right to own a gun? I have no criminal history, so I am confident I will never face unreasonable restriction.

And that's the way it is supposed to work. Because if you have violent felonies or a history of domestic disputes on your record, sorry Jack, but HELL NO I DON'T WANT YOU TO HAVE A GUN. You gave up the right to own such a powerful weapon when you got convicted of whatever it was you did.

Take this guy, for instance.

Shouldn't have been out of jail in the first place (a separate law enforcement issue in its own right), but the lack of regulations under our current firearms laws (especially in Louisiana) mean he can walk into a gun show and pick up whatever gun he wants, as much ammo as he wants, and NOBODY will know that he isn't legally allowed to purchase. And you can see what damage he was planning to do.

Now, it is true that even if we did close the gun show loophole, there's still a chance he could go out and illegally purchase an illegal weapon. But here's the rub: that's a whole lot harder to do.

First of all, it is a felony if he's caught (back to jail), and it is a felony for the seller (goes to jail and loses the right to own a firearm). That creates disincentive. That disincentive additionally limits the buyer's access to weapons, because the seller has to trust him not to be undercover law enforcement, or tell the authorities where he got the illegal weapon if he does follow through with his crime. The sale itself is determined by what illegal firearms the illegal seller has on hand (limiting the buyer's choice of weapons). Add to that the higher cost of high powered weapons on the black market (greater risk, limited supply), and that would also be a limiting economic factor. There's also a limit to how much ammunition an illegal seller can have at any given time. So while he could still get a hold of all of that, he's got to jump through a lot of hoops and marshal a lot of resources to do it. That process increases his chances of running into law enforcement again before he enacts his plan or simply falling prey to other criminal elements.

That's a lot harder than going to the latest local gun show and picking out anything and everything he needs.

And that's where I'm at on firearms laws - the right to bear arms is not unlimited, and with sensible regulations, our nation can do a lot to keep them out of the hands of violent criminals. To do that, we're going to have to get control over the gun shows (which we are Constitutionally allowed to do), develop a working background check system (which we are Constitutionally allowed to do), and begin letting law enforcement enforce our laws (which we are Constitutionally allowed to do).

Thanks for reading this group of posts.



Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Dumb Control Debate (Part 3)

No, I'm not done.

Like I said, it takes time to go after the braying, willful ignorance and historical revisionism right wingers engage when talking about firearms regulations. The other day, we explored some of the plot holes in the fairy tale that Hitler somehow got to be a dictator through the confiscation of guns from the German people. Unfortunately, that little bit of the snake oil has been getting sold to right-wingers for so long, and the story is so entrenched, that people are going to have to call bullshit for a long, long while. But the Hitler thing was just the low hanging fruit. There are far more insidious narratives to discuss, and they hit far closer to home than than the right-wing's preferred mass murderers (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc).

You see, America isn't like all those other places. According to Tea Party legend, it was only in the United States where “freedom” was able to flourish, because our liberty birthing, patriotic founding fathers enshrined gun ownership in the national DNA through the 2nd Amendment. Part of the reason Washington, Jefferson, and the fellas did this was to make sure the US of A would never, ever succumb to the rise of someone like Hitler, because an armed and ready population would leave their suburban cul-de-sacs, rise up and put the brakes on any creeping government tyranny.

That sort of mythology flies in the face of America's real history. The 2nd Amendment has been very useful for individuals defending themselves, and was very useful early on when national defense was decentralized, but it didn't make a damn bit of difference when it came to the very real examples of American on American tyranny. What was really required to shut down tyranny here in America (and abroad, if you're still hung up on WWII examples) is big government intervention and non-violent activism. And that's the main reason you hear about Hitler and not about this nation's own Civil Rights Movement.

According to the right-winger's fantasy, Americans like Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton - our revered, Founding Fathers - supported YOUR right to bear arms and defend yourself from bad people. If you listen to the legend, that's what made us different here in America - our country was more vigilant against tyranny and could defend ourselves with our guns.

That is, unless you were black.

I know, I know, people who don't like real history will stomp and stammer and say I'm playing the "race" card here. But if you want to flap your lips about the Constitution as sacrosanct, you're going to have to deal with that 3/5 of a person thing. If you want to deify the Founding Fathers instead of seeing them for the complicated, brilliant, and flawed human beings they actually were, you're going to have to come to terms with reality at some point. In Kindergarten, when kids learn about stuff like George Washington and the cherry tree, we don't usually draw the line for them between our first president and the human beings he owned, because that's complicated to explain to little kids. But the idea is they'll go over it sometime later, and as they go through the process of becoming educated and growing up, they'll synthesize the fact that our Founding Fathers did in fact put conditions on freedom, and several of them owned slaves.

And they didn't want those slaves owning guns. One can only imagine what a bunch of armed slaves would be able to do to the "peculiar institution," am I right? Even after the Reconstruction Amendments officially freed the slaves, it didn't stop. Along came the Jim Crow laws where states forbid black people doing things like voting and owning guns. I'd wager there were laws in some states that took the right to bear arms away from other racial and ethnic minorities, as well. It made their populations far easier to terrorize and control, you see.

Of course, by terrorize and control I mean that our nation's most significant historical terrorist threat - the Ku Klux Klan - often worked in collusion with state and local governments to disenfranchise blacks and other minorities of their civil rights.

So right here in America, we have significant experience with the government undermining civil rights. The state and national governments that got in on the game or looked the other way for so long are responsible for surrendering entire populations of the citizenry to tyranny. Legislative prohibition on those populations owning firearms was part of that enforcement of powerlessness. You would think our own American history serves as a far more poignant example of why the 2nd Amendment might have such value to civil liberties.

So why don't we hear more about that? While I will give credit to a few pundits on the right for addressing the subject every once in a while, it simply does not have the traction in the national conversation when it comes to the right to bear arms. Why?

For one, it fails to properly deify the Founding Fathers and the mythology of American freedom. Within a group where any criticism of America the Beautiful is met with the insightful response "if you don't like it here, leave," it doesn't do much good to bring up the long history of problems this country has actually had with civil rights, individual freedom, and the complex personal lives of national heroes. Reality is difficult to swallow for people who's entire political mindset is based on "good ole days" that never existed.

Next up, the history requires thought about how the Constitution and its interpretation has changed over the generations. This is difficult for a political "movement" that considers Constitutional construction as its main theory on the judiciary. You'd think a group of folks who walk around with pocket Constitution booklets would have a more in depth understanding of the actual history of the document, but instead these are usually the same people that equate every policy or law they don't like as "unconstitutional."  

Synthesizing those last two points: if the Constitution in general and the 2nd Amendment in particular was supposed to act as a safeguard against tyranny, what explains America's long and troubled history allowing some groups of people to act as tyrants over other groups of people? The Constitution has been around for a long, long time after all.

You can't remove the racial element. You would think that modern day gun-rights proponents would have posters of the Black Panthers and Malcolm X hanging in their offices. But they don't, and there are reasons why. From the panic inducing fear of slave revolt to the lynching of freed blacks who dared own a gun, one of the most frightening images in the national historical id is that of a black man holding a gun. When the Black Panthers preceded the Tea Party in carrying loaded assault rifles in public places, figures no less than (then) California governor Ronald Reagan questioned the need to own or do such things. Malcolm X is widely considered a racist because he believed that blacks had the right to arm themselves for self defense. The Gun Control Act of 1968 was sold as response to violent urban rioting but probably had something to do with the idea that minorities had recently ensured themselves basic civil liberties, including the right to bear arms. And lest we forget, the current NRA-endorsed popular understanding of gun rights in America is a recent thing, and the it only really takes off after the success of the Civil Rights Movement.  

That's important to note, because the unlike the Constitution and the 2nd Amendment, the Civil Rights Movement actually did provide a check on tyrannical behavior by governments in the USA, and it did so in great measure due to a dedication to non-violent civil disobedience and generations of legal challenges to the accepted understanding of the Constitution. Taking that a step further, these rights were only finally secured and protected by a responsive, interventionist Federal government with massive resources and the machinery of state behind them - not the individual right to bear arms.

And since non-violence and "big" government don't exactly fit in with the narrative today's extremist NRA want you to be thinking, you don't often hear about how Americans have historically dealt with homegrown American tyranny.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Dumb Control Debate (Part 2)

I’ve already wrapped up my critique of how Democrats, Liberals, and Progressives tend to act dumb when it comes to discussing firearms regulations in the USA. Now it is time to talk about the braying, willful ignorance and historical revisionism right-wingers engage when speaking about gun control. Unlike talking about the dumb on the left, talking about the dumb on the right might take some time. There's a lot of it. I'm not even done with it, and this is a long post.

I’m not writing today to suggest some sort of “both sides do it too” false equivalence. When liberals are dumb when talking about firearms, they might as well not be participating in the conversation at all. Folks on “that side” of the national conversation would probably win on policy and politics, if they simply recognized what the Constitution allows as far as regulation is concerned, and focused on that. Instead, their general behavior seems to be based more on a need to call other Americans violent rednecks than to achieve anything realistic or helpful when it comes to policy. For example, while Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion in District of Columbia vs. Heller should be the first thing they cite when proposing firearms regulations based on Constitutional prescriptions, they would rather ignore that decision wholesale because they find Scalia distasteful.

In doing so, they concede almost all of their ideological ground to the violent imagery, hyperbolic conspiracy theories, suggestions of violent revolution, staggering historical revisionism, and unconscionable Constitutional ignorance evident among the right-wing of American politics. Concession on such matters of ideology and law are one of the reasons our political culture is so toxic these days and why so much of that toxicity comes from the right. That’s because when you do not challenge someone when they are wrong on the facts, the assumption is they are correct on the facts. That dynamic sets the entire tone of the policy discussion.

Let’s start with Hitler. Because when it comes to firearms regulations, this is where the staggering historical revisionism begins and ends. You may see mentions of Stalin, and Pol Pot, and other widely considered historical monsters lumped into the chain email, but the Nazis are always “exhibit A.”

To sum up the mythology entertained by most right wingers, Hitler (and other assembled monsters) seized “the guns” and therefore ensured their nations’ descent into dictatorship, tyranny, and horror. Once they had “the guns,” they were able to terrorize their newly hapless and defenseless populations. According to the fairy tale, if the Jewish people had more guns, they would have been able to stand up to the Third Reich and prevent the Holocaust!

But, the historical make-believe continues, America wasn’t like all those other places. It was only in the United States where “freedom” was able to flourish, because our liberty birthing, patriotic founding fathers enshrined gun ownership in the national DNA through the 2nd Amendment. Part of the reason Washington, Jefferson, and the fellas did this was to make sure the US of A would never, ever succumb to the rise of someone like Hitler, because an armed and ready population would leave their suburban cul-de-sacs, rise up and put the brakes on any creeping government tyranny.


Hitler didn't take guns away from people, he handed them out like candy. He violated international treaties in order to develop bigger, better, and badder guns. The more fanatical support you gave him, the cooler weapons you got. He even started arming children so they'd be ahead of the curve when they got older. And you know how he consigned his nation into dictatorship, tyranny, and horror? Well, he got a vast majority of Germans to sign up for his political movement, vote for him, and cheer him along the way as the savior of "real Germans," not the "German elites" who read books, questioned stuff, and probably drank lattes. He helped sell this majority on his patriotic German platform by demonizing people whose politics and minority religions didn't agree with his. Once he controlled the government and his millions of followers had the best guns, he upped the ante from harassing those who disagreed with him to straight up enslaving and killing people he found distasteful.

And make no mistake about this - there were literally tens of millions of Germans who were armed to the teeth with the best weapons available at the time, and it didn't do one bit of good in stopping Hitler because most of them were on his side. Let's not play pretend that pre-Hitler Germany was some idyllic Octoberfest with massive beersteins, pretty serving girls, and a libertarian ideal. Before the failure of the Weimar Republic, Germany was an series of aristocratic autocracies where the government controlled the guns, preceded by aristocratic autocracies where the government controlled the swords, spears, and catapults. To make his plan work and shore up political support, Hitler had to get more guns into German hands than at any time in German history. He even had to give guns to less armed nations, so they could catch up to where he had Germany at the time.

There's a Facebook chain post going around with some sweet little old lady talking about pre-Hitler Austria, and how everything changed when "they" took God out of the schools and guns out of the hands of the Austrians.  Listen, folks, pre-Hitler Austria is to the Sound of Music the same way the South is like Gone With the Wind. Those shows are famous works of fiction for a reason. I sure hope her next Facebook expose explains how every historian ever has simply missed the thousand plus years of liberty loving religious freedom and gun ownership culture that was nurtured by the Hapsburg and Holy Roman imperialists in Vienna. In the history I read, from multiple credible sources, pre-Hitler Austria couldn't sign up fast enough to become post-Hitler Austria.

Because this is where actual history that actually happened comes in and wrecks the fairy tale. People did try to stop Hitler with guns. An awful lot of people with an awful lot of guns. The Polish threw everything they had at him and got stomped. The Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark had some guns; that didn't work. The Norwegians had guns and glaciers, and were descended from Vikings - that didn't work either. France had one of the biggest, best trained, and ready to rock and roll armies in the world at that time, and Hitler beat them so badly that ignorant Americans still make fun of them for it. The United Kingdom had twenty miles of ocean separating them from Hitler, and he had them on the ropes in Europe before trying to fight them in Africa - a completely different continent. Hell, the only reason he didn't kick all the Russians out of Russia was because he got so caught up going after the Yugoslavians, he ended up giving the order several months late.

Hitler didn't bring Europe to the brink by taking guns out of the hands of his own people. He armed his own people to the teeth and then went out of his way to pick fights. At first it was just street fights against political rivals who also had guns, but eventually it became fights against nations just as well armed. In the end, if Hitler disarmed or confiscated any actual weapons it usually was from your cold, dead hands. Western civilization barely survived it, the Russians had it worse, and both were easy street compared to what the Jewish people had to deal with.

That's usually how the monsters of history do it. They aren't going to use republican forms of constitutional government to legislate regulations on firearms ownership where stakeholders have a say in the decision. No, they buy as many weapons as they can and come for you in the middle of the night. They know that even if you have a gun, if they can outnumber you at the moment of conflict, it doesn't matter.

There's another group of folks used tactics like that a lot closer to home, and it is another part of history we don't like talking about as Americans. I'm going to get to that one soon.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Dumb Control Debate (Part 1)

If we're going to talk about gun control in any sort of rational manner, we're going to need to get a handle on dumb. Because, boy oh boy, has this national conversation gone right off the rails. Thing is, I don't think any of the arguments are anything new, but since we haven't really gotten into this issue since the 90's, we haven't really had to have this "conversation" over social media.

Now I'm not big on false equivalency - one "side" of this debate has really locked down the crazy, after all - but I have to call out all comers. Especially when it comes from my "side." I'm going to start with the low hanging fruit and go after the left. Don't worry this will only take a minute.

I can't believe that liberals have a chance to actually get some real changes made to the gun culture of the United States, and they're blowing it by being dumb.

Have y'all ever heard of the Heller decision? That's the Supreme Court's latest take on national gun control. I know y'all don't like Heller because you read some blog on Daily Kos or comment on Huffington Post that y'all aren't supposed to like Heller. Because according to some dumb bloggers and commenters, Heller was a pro-gun rights decision by the right wing of the Supreme Court. Which part of it was, but not in the way you think it was. If you actually took the time to read the decision, you might have realized that.

Don't have time to read it? Luckily, the national understanding of that decision as it pertains to firearms law and the Constitution can be stated pretty succinctly.

Basically, you're not going to be able to outlaw firearms. The Constitution doesn't allow it. Not only that, but any legislative changes you attempt to outlaw firearms aren't going to work because enough people disagree with you about guns, and we live in a representative republic where we make group decisions. No legislature, state or federal, is going to do that. No executive, be it a President or governor, is going to sign that into law. And even if any of them do, the judiciary up to the Supreme Court is going to strike down that law for being unconstitutional. Because the Constitution doesn't allow it. Sounds pretty simple to me.

I know that stings to hear that. It kinda reinforces everything you've read on the internet about the Heller decision. But you need to hear that. Again and again. So you can stop being dumb about gun control.

Because according to the Heller decision, and this is going to piss off everyone on the right-wing, the Constitution does allow significant regulation of firearms through both the Federal and state governments.

Wait. What? I'll run that by you again.

According to the Heller decision, the Constitution does allow significant regulation of firearms through both the Federal and state governments.

I know, right? It gets better:

Antonin Scalia is one of the most right wing reactionaries ever to warm the Supreme Court bench, and he came up with no less than nine examples of Federal or state regulation of firearms that pass Constitutional muster. Then he said there are plenty more things you could add to the list that he couldn't think of right then. Additional SCOTUS decisions clarified that the state can, in fact, enact similar regulations.

And one of those examples Scalia himself cited as perfectly OK with the Big Document is "conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms." I'm no Constitutional scholar, but I think that means Antonin Scalia handed you some pre-packaged, ready-made language that will allow the gun show loophole to be slammed shut by the Federal and state governments.

You could probably put background checks and waiting periods into that category, come to think of it. As a matter of fact, as soon as you get past your hang ups about making all guns illegal, there's a lot of rules the Constitution allows the governments to enforce, when it comes to guns. Isn't the Second Amendment great?

And something tells me "Conditions and Qualifications on the Commercial Sale of Arms" will look just fine on a t-shirt, and prove a point much, much more important that the tired trope "guns kill people." That's because the point you're trying to make, that the United States needs reasonable regulation of firearms, has already been made for you by Antonin Scalia, of all people, in a decision called District of Columbia vs. Heller.

Stop being dumb. Stop being mad that the Constitution allows people to own guns. Start focusing on the iron clad fact that the Constitution absolutely allows for Federal and state regulation of firearms, especially "conditions and qualification on the commercial sale of arms." And who knows, you might just find that a majority of folks agree with you when you get there. I support the Second Amendment, and I think it is pretty important to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

So remember Heller whenever your right-wing family and friends bring up Hitler and Stalin, or how you don't know the difference between an AK-47 and a Daisy BB gun, or something about their cold dead hands. You won't be the one looking dumb after that.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Rules

From now on, I'm going to try and make sure my own social media behavior follows a few simple rules:

  1. I plan to post my thoughts and opinions on Facebook. Many of them will be political in nature.
  2. If you do not like to see my thoughts and opinions on Facebook, I will not be offended if you hide or de-friend me.
  3. If you disagree with my thoughts and opinions on Facebook, I will not be offended if you make comments to that affect.
  4. That doesn't mean Imma let you slide. If you make a comment, I reserve the right to make a comment back. This is called an online discussion.
  5. Other FB friends of mine may choose to join such a discussion. That is OK.
  6. I will not apologize for knowing a wide variety of people who may disagree with you.
  7. I will try to keep my online comments civil and respectful, though snark and sarcasm are often how I communicate. 

And because I do not know anyone else's threshold for tolerating disagreements on FB:

  1. When I agree with your thoughts and opinions, I will "like" your post or make a comment to that affect.
  2. When I disagree with your thoughts and opinions, I will do my best not to start a FB argument with you or someone you know on your FB page.
  3. Fair warning - if you and I have a lot of online discussions, that last rule may be difficult to follow.

Here's why:

I try to be an easy person to get along with. I no longer need everyone to agree with me about everything in order to interact socially. This is a big change from my younger days, when I was something of an ideological absolutist. (Or "asshole" as some undoubtedly would call it.) I was one of those folks who thought I knew everything, and it took me a while to realize I didn't.

Don't know what it is that brought about that change. Probably a bunch of things. But I can tell you that washing other people's dirty dishes in a restaurant is one of the more humbling activities in which an opinionated human being can engage. I can also tell you that at some point far later than I'd like to admit, I came to the realization that I would never argue my way into changing my parents' minds on any topic. More importantly, I realized that changing their minds doesn't matter very much, I don't love them any less if we disagree about something.

At that point, it was just a matter of figuring out a variety of eloquent and diplomatic ways to say "that's the craziest damn thing I've ever heard," "we're not going to agree on that at all for a number of reasons we all consider important," and "we're not going to make it through supper without an argument unless we agree to disagree and get back to talking about sports."

And yeah, anyone who's heard me speak with my brother for longer than five minutes can tell you, I'm still working on that. Especially when it comes to communicating disagreements over the internet.

Because learning that I don't know everything doesn't make me any less opinionated about the things I do know (or think I know). And I'm not what you'd call shy about my sharing my views. I've got a lot to say about a lot of things. And you know what? I'm related to or friends with a lot of people who have a lot to say about a lot of things, too. Hell, one reason I started this website in the first place was so me and my friends could argue online and enjoy football tailgates.

Now there's social media, and the dynamic is very, very different. Before, I had a blog, and everyone contributing and commenting knew that opinions and disagreements were the very point. That's what it was there for, and if you didn't like it, you could click to a different webpage. With my social media account, not only are my obnoxious opinions delivered directly to other folks' news feed, their obnoxious opinions are delivered directly to my news feed.

Of course, the natural response to seeing something I disagree with on my social media feed is to disagree with it. But suddenly, EVERYONE can see your back and forth. One thing leads to another, and it can be pretty awkward to get in a long political argument with strangers on someone else's Facebook feed.

Which means the last year was a very awkward time for my social media presence. It had been so exhausting, I couldn't even bring myself to write a whole lot about stuff I thought was pretty important. Hell, I thought a lot of others felt the same way. Maybe we'd get back to goofy pictures of cats and other less controversial popular culture tropes, at least for a while.

So much for that. Between the fiscal nonsense and the school shooting, things are right back where they were in October. But this time, I've learned a little bit. Hence the rules.

Am I missing any?