National Anti-Bullying Month – My Story

October is national anti-bullying month in the US. But as most of you know, bullying isn’t restricted by borders, or languages, or culture, or even religions. Bullying is a nasty part of childhood, that for many, persists until adulthood. Swedes, Americans, whatever, bullying is everywhere.
Mobbing
I was bullied in school. A lot. I moved a few times before college, and those were not easy moves. As a result, I often spent my time being the new, different kid in school.

Before I get to the bullying part, let me tell you about my teenage self. I was an over-achiever who enjoyed the attention of teachers. I had to work hard for my grades, they never came easy to me. I participated in several extracurricular activities, none of which were sports. I was short, wasn’t skinny, and wore clothes from middle class stores. My family was educated middle class and worked hard to pay the bills, take vacations, and be awesome parents.

I’m sure people would have considered me precocious, a know it all, and a dork (nerd and geek wasn’t often used at my schools…go figure).

And I was the new kid on the block, literally.

There was one year I spent being the kick bag of the entire class. Even the teacher gave up; or at least didn’t do much to stop it.

It was my year of hell.

I had only two friends in that school during that year. The remaining friends were from outside clubs and groups I was in, and luckily I had some friends.

But going to school that year? It was awful. There’s no one place to start with how or why the bullying began. But I did know it was because of my circumstances in life. I wasn’t rich, I wasn’t Christian or Jewish, I wasn’t tall and skinny, and I most certainly wasn’t white.

All things I could never control about myself, but so easy to weaponize against someone.

When that class started at the beginning of the school year, I though I would make lots of new friends. I was switching classes from the previous year, and as a result, none of my friends would be in this new class. Side note, my school would try to keep each class together in every grade so students would mostly know each other.

So many new faces! And a new teacher to boot! It was going to be an exciting year!

After a few weeks, I realized that the students in this class had been together since kindergarden. Many of them knew each other because their families were already friends too. They took trips together, went to church together, their parents played golf together, the list rambles on.

I didn’t do any of those things with my classmates and their families. My parents were outsiders as well, and they remained so that whole year.

And there weren’t any Invisibility Cloaks in the world to keep me hidden. I had to face it all every day.

I was invited to one birthday party that year. When classmates would discuss their weekend, especially if there was a birthday party, they would make sure to talk around me so I could hear about their fantastic parties.

When I invited my classmates for my birthday, only two showed up, out of a class of 35.

Lists were really popular then. The best singers list, the best movies list, and all that innocuous good stuff. But teenagers, they’re smart, cunning, and evil. Instead of those top 10s, they made the prettiest girls in the school list, the ugliest girl in the school list, the most likely to date, the most unlikely to date, and probably many more.

I remember one afternoon at recess, everyone was gathered around one of the guys in class. They were scheming a list up. It was the “Most Unpretty List.” The list was hand-copied and so passed around like wildfire in the entire school.

I was voted the #2 “ugliest girl.” I was also voted “least likely to date.”

When I found out, I was devastated. I cried the entire night at home. My parents were heartbroken. They spoke to the teacher and the principle the next day. Both the teacher and the principle were appalled and would put an end to this behavior immediately.

Whatever my teacher said to those students, was the wrong thing. Everything backfired. For the next couple days, classmates were “nice” to me, it soon became aware that it was my parents who complained about them.

Retribution was swift. The teasing, the active ignoring, the talking behind my back quadrupled. I was teased about where my clothes came from, why my parents didn’t own a Mercedes like the rest of everyone, why I was fat, why I worshipped “stupid” looking gods, and so much more. I don’t remember most of what they said, but I know the dictionary was their limit.

Soon the teacher told me to essentially stop being a wuss and grow up. That those students were teasing me because they liked me. That everything would be fine.

That teacher? She behaved like an asshole and the queen of bullies. She allowed and tolerated all that under the auspices of her roof. She protected the bullies when I (or others) complained. She encouraged them to talk about their birthday parties, knowing full well I wasn’t invited. She favored others and gave them awards, when I knew I deserved them.

I was, all but abandoned.

When that year ended, I was elated but terrified. The next year I would be changing schools again, and who knows what that would hold in stock for me.

As it turned out, the following year wasn’t so bad. And it got better year by year until I was in high school and learned to fight back.

The Lesson

But the over arching lesson here is that bullying takes a toll on your well-being, mentally and physically. It takes a toll on every one of us. As friends, as parents, as victims, bullies take the best parts of a person and crush them into nothingness.

Bullies take away hope.

Bullies take away the security of being a child.

It’s no wonder that in a social and online media driven world today, that bullying has crossed boundaries that literally destroys lives. From the young teens who commit suicide, to the children who take weapons to school, the execution of bullying has become more and more nefarious and destructive.

I wish I had answers on how to combat bullying. I don’t. I don’t know what my parents could have done differently. I don’t know what I could have done differently. But when the students and the teacher become the bullies, there are few options left.

What I can say though, is hang in there. Hang in there because life will get better. Hang in there because these asshole turds rely on bullying to be “better”. You, dear victim, have so much more going; maybe you’re smart, maybe you’re great at music, maybe you love to write, maybe, you are just you.

But hang in there. Share your story as an adult to your children and nieces and nephews. Teach that goodness is better than bullying. Trust that no one can take your self worth, no matter how much people devalue you.

And love; we are all equal.

The United States is Closed

If you are currently visiting the United States on vacation and are hoping to see the Statue of Liberty, Lincoln Memorial, or even Alcatraz, well, sad news, they are all closed.
US goverment shutdown closed

US goverment shutdown - Lincoln memorial
That’s because of the clusterfuckery of House Republications holding the budget hostage so they can “negotiate” with the Senate to delay the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, by one year.

Does it makes sense now? No? Me either. Honestly, it’s just a bunch fucktards in the right of right of right Republican party that are making everyone facepalm. Of course, the tea party is jumping for joy that we can eliminate the evils of healthcare for all.

After all, “Americans don’t want Obamacare.”

I can’t facepalm myself enough times. Let’s ask Jon Stewart and see what he thinks of the government shutdown.

You can watch the rest of the videos on The Daily Show’s website.

If you want to know who’s causing this clusterfuck of stupidity, Gawker put together a list of crazy Republications. I mean, these are bat-shit-fucking crazy people. They’re not normal Republicans. Normal Republicans are hiding in the closet and thinking, “oh fuck! why did we ever accept these people into our party. Now we’re going to become obsolete.”

These 10 men-devils, Michelle Bachmann is not human so I don’t count her as female, are holding the entire country hostage. For them, it’s the happiest day of their lives. For the rest of us, we think they are idiots.
10 worst republicans government shutdown

And let’s not forget about the douchiest tea-bagger of all: Rep. Randy Neugebauer. He made a Park Ranger apologize for the closing of the Veterans Memorial. If you’d like to tell him he’s an idiot, here are his contact details: 611 University Ave. Suite #220, Lubbock, TX 79401, Phone: (806) 763-1611, Fax: (806) 767-9168

In any event, for those of you wondering when this will end, I have no idea. I really have no good idea when the House will come to its senses, or the rest of the Republican party kick the crazies out. This is the showdown the Tea Party has been waiting for. They’re probably drunk on power, singing and dancing on top of the dead bodies of the United States federal employees.

Because, you know they care for the American people.

Supreme Court Stikes Down DOMA, Paves Way for Vows in California

This morning (well Washington DC time), The Supreme Court of the United States announced its deliberation on two of the most explosive issues of the term: gay marriage rights and due process.

Specially, two cases were debated in front of the judges earlier in the year: the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, and Proposition 8.

To backup a bit, the United States is a behind when it comes to gay rights and equality. While in Sweden and most of Western Europe has legalized gay marriage, people in the US are embroiled in a bitter controversy of gay marriage rights between usually, religious conservatives, and liberals.

Yea, we are backwards. But going to the cases, I’ll try to break them down for you to easily understand. One thing that is essential to understand in US is the sovereign rights of states versus those of the federal government. It’s usually a reason why many cases head through the appeals as the states, federal, and the people jockey for rights asserted under the state and federal Constitutions.

First, it is uncommon for the Supreme Court to bundle cases together but they did so for this hearing. The cases were not directly about gay marriage rights, or what we would consider rights under the first amendment. The first case was about due process, while the Prop 8 case related to state’s ability to defend a case.

In the majority ruling for the DOMA case, SCOTUS ruled that the federal law violated due process in the Fifth Amendment. Most of us know that the Fifth Amendment protects us against double jeopardy but it also protects against unfair due process, specifically, “…nor shall any person…be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. In it, he said,

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Kennedy wrote. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

It’s in the due process statement that SCOTUS felt the federal law took liberties away by separating the population (those who are homosexual) and applied a different process to them.

In the end, married gay and lesbian couples are now granted the same federal rights as heterosexual couples. That includes more than 1,100 legal benefits, like passing of wills, tax exemption, health care and more, for such couples.

Justice Scalia, known for his wild banters, dissented on the DOMA case and his remarks were nothing short of amusing. Calling the majority view as demonizing the DOMA supporters, “I imagine that this is because it is harder to maintain the illusion of the Act’s supporters as unhinged members of a wild-eyed lynch mob when one first describes their views as they see them.”

The Proposition 8 case was a bit more interesting from a legal standpoint. The case reached the Supreme Court by ways of proponents of the proposition who were unsatisfied with the lower court decisions.

To clarify how this case made its way up the ranks, here’s a timeline of Prop 8.

The interesting part is that the Supreme Court ruled on a technicality. Chief Justice John Roberts said,

“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here.”

In all, Proposition 8 is struck down by ways of the District Court. Attorney General Jerry Brown just announced that marriage licenses should be handed out as soon as possible in all the counties.

Timeline of California Proposition 8 – Ban on Gay Marriage

The Proposition 8 lawsuit is an interesting case. The case reached the Supreme Court by ways of proponents of the proposition who were unsatisfied with the lower courts decision.

To clarify how this case made its way up the ranks, here’s a quick timeline of Prop 8.

November, 2008 – Proposition 8 passes on a statewide ballot measure in California. It immediately bars gays and lesbians from marrying in the state.

Immediately after – Hollingsworth v. Perry case filed. Perry was one of the lesbian couples refused a marriage certificate in Alameda County. They served as the plaintiffs in the case.

The state of California, under the auspices of Attorney General Jerry Brown and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger decided the state would not defend the proposition. This essentially created a peculiar situation, the government abandoned its own law based on the predisposition that it itself is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In this void, private citizens argued, and were accepted by the court, to serve as defendant of the case. ProtectMarriage.com, lead by Dennis Hollingsworth, became the defendants in the case.

… after months of battling…

August 4, 2010 – U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker overturned Proposition 8, stating it is “…unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause because no compelling state interest justifies denying same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry.”

Now is when things get interesting. In all this drama, Imperial County in California was arguing to act as a defendant (as it is a government body) for the case. They were denied.

The defendants of the case appealed Judge Walker’s decision and the case move up to federal courts (from the district court).

February 7, 2012 – The Ninth Circuit (aka, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit) issued a divided three judge ruling that upheld the decision of the district court. It did so on narrower grounds than the District Court did.

June 5, 2012 – the Ninth Circuit denied a request for a rehearing en banc. En banc is a legal term that means a case that is heard before all judges of the court. In this case, it means all judges that sit on the Ninth Circuit, not just the panel of three judges that hear a case.

July 31, 2012 – Proponents of Proposition 8 appealed the case (now in the current form of Hollingsworth v. Perry) to the U.S. Supreme Court.

What’s important to note here is that anti-prop 8 supporters asked the Supreme Court to not hear the case. Why? Because the Supreme Court would have the power to overturn the ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court and declare the proposition legal.

December 7, 2012 – SCOTUS orders the parties involved to be briefed over additional question of whether supporters of Prop. 8 have standing, that is, a legal right to be involved in the case, under Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.

March 13, 2013 – The Supreme Court hears arguments in the case.

June 26, 2013 – The Supreme Court issues a decision, 5-4, that it does not have the right to hear the case based on the technicality that the state has not adequately defended the case. It essentially rules in favor of the lower courts.

The Nordic Region – The Happiest Place on Earth

For all that Swedes complain about the winter, weather, and rain, Sweden is one of the happiest places on Earth.

And so is Finland, Norway, and Denmark. Our saddest little neighbor, Iceland, is only the 15th happiest place on Earth.

Overall, the Nordic region is one happy family and Scandinavia is Disneyland in real life.

The 2012 Legatum Prosperity Index, produced by a British non-partisan public policy organisation, identifies the world’s happiest and saddest countries. They used several sources of data (objective and subjective) from Gallup, World Development Indices, and self researched. The 2012 LPI is similar to the UN World Happiness Report though the latter relies more on surveys than objective data.

The LPI focused on eight areas: economy, entrepreneurship, governance, education, health, safety, personal freedom and social capital.

Scandinavia and the greater group, the Nordic region, rank near the top in every category.

Here are the rankings of the Nordic countries. A few OECD and BRIC countries are included for comparison.

CountryEconomyHealthEntrepreneur-
ship &
Opportunity
Safety
&
Security
GovernancePersonal
Freedom
Education Social
Capital
OverallGDP
per
Capita*
Finland16123351985736472.6
Norway244213661157230.9
Sweden5142645129339024.2
Iceland611591201013131535642.2
Denmark19161837162240162.6
United Kingdom261862071130121335686.2
United States202122710145101247153
India571049911449671001381013425.5
Japan1262316224223202233732.9
Brazil3354787562579644411210.4
Use the arrows to zero out a category and reset the ranking list.
 
In some ways, the findings are not too surprising. India, while growing economically, severely lacks basic access to healthcare and sanitation. Women, suffering some of the greatest injustices in the world, sends the country spiraling downwards when backwards ideology like “marrying your rapist” is acceptable. Interestingly, governance is the country’s highest ranking factor; perhaps a sign that India has the potential to become a better and happier place.

The United States dropped two spots to 12 after three years of holding 10. A massive recession coupled with increased long term unemployment, decisive elections, and long wars have played its toll on the American psyché. The next several years will tell if the people can return to higher levels or continue on a broken path.

There was one very interesting finding. Nordic swept the Entrepreneurship and Opportunity category. Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway took the top four positions. I would not have expected it because the venture climate is still lukewarm. Delving into the study questions, it became clear that the Nordic region would top the list. Some questions included, Mobile phones (per 100 people), Mobile phones per household, Secure internet servers (per 1 million people), Good place for entrepreneurs to start a business? (% yes), Business start-up costs (% of GNI per capita).

And most definitely the Nordic region is home to cheap cell phone plans and low start up costs from Skatteverket. If you think about it, how many people do you know owning a HB or AB in Sweden versus your home country?

Looking at the World Happiness Report, the Nordic region holds the top three slots (Denmark, Finland, Norway) followed by the Netherlands and Canada. The whining about the Swedish weather pushed Sweden out of the top.

Still, after all our complaining about Sweden, it really is not a bad place. We are happy, prosperous, and eat a lot of semlor. What more could one ask?

Now only if Disney opened a Disneyland here would we be truly the happiest people on Earth.

Research:
http://www.prosperity.com/2012Findings.aspx
http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2011/12/07/the-worlds-happiest-and-saddest-countries/
http://issuu.com/earthinstitute/docs/world-happiness-report

The Sorta Quick Guide To American Football for Swedes

Today is the Super Bowl. That final game of the season where we football lovers drink bad beer, eat lots of nachos, and scream at a television.

It is epic, it is fun, and it is slow. Yes, slow. A 60 minute game takes three hours to complete. You can thank the advertisements and all the breaks between every drive.

But since most of us will be up at an ungodly hour to watch this masterpiece classic, it’s time to have a quick overview of how game is played. You Swedes are probably wondering why we are so obsessed with the game and really, there is no answer.

Here’s a sorta short guide to watching football for dummies. If you want more to read, check out the dummies series.

Rules of American football:

  • The goal is to score a touchdown, field goal, or safety. Touchdown (six points)
  • Touchdown – Six points – scored when a team crosses the opposition’s goal line with the ball, or catches or collects the ball in the end zone.
  • Field goal – three points – These are usually attempted on fourth down if the kicker is close enough to the end zone to kick the ball through the posts, or uprights.
  • Extra point – One or two points) – A point is earned by kicking the ball through the uprights after a touchdown (similar to a rugby conversion). Two points are earned by taking the ball into the end zone again.
  • Safety – Two points – Awarded to the defensive team when a member of the offensive team is tackled with the ball in his own end zone.
  • The length of the football field is 100 yards. Each end zone is 10 yards wide.
  • There are four quarters to the game. Each quarter is 15 minutes of game time. After the second quarter, there is halftime. This gives the teams a chance to reground and for the audience to watch a splendid half time show during the Super Bowl.
  • There are 30 NFL teams in the league. The league divides into two conferences: the AFC (American Football Conference) and NFC (National Football Conference). During the regular season the teams play each other within the league and outside.
  • The Super Bowl is the final game of the top team from the AFC and the top team from the NFC.
  • The regular season comprises of 16 games.
  • After regular season, the playoff breakdown into three rounds played in each league respectively: Wildcard, Division, and Conference Championship games.

This bracket summarizes the playoffs:

via wrapupp.com

Playing the game:

  • When the team is on the offense, it must move the ball 10 yards to get a ‘first down’ to continue holding the ball.
  • A team has four downs to move the ball the 10 yards. Most of the time, a team will use the first three downs to move the ball. Upon failing on the third down, the kicker will punt the ball to the opposing team and the receiving team will become the offensive.
  • If a team chooses to take a fourth down and does not earn the new first down, the defensive team will get the ball at that yard line.
  • Interception – when a defensive players catches or takes the ball from the offensive team. The defensive team will now be the offense.

There are many strategies to playing a football along with many types of penalties. I won’t bore you folks with the nitty gritty. Here’s a great video instead:

The Super Bowl:
Probably the most important aspect of watching the Super Bowl is the TV commercials and the halftime show. If the rules confuse or bore you, then watch the game for the commercials.

The five commercials you should look out for are: Blackberry, Volkswagon, Go Daddy, Mercedes Benz, and Lincoln. You will have plenty time to bet and argue over which ones are the most outrageous, offensive, and crazy.

Oh and if you haven’t figured out who is playing, it is the San Francisco 49ers versus the Baltimore Ravens. An epic game in pro sports history since the coaches of the teams are brothers. A real family feud!

For now, it’s time for bed and then to see the 49ers kick butt!

Lance Armstrong, You Broke My Heart

Last night Lance Armstrong, the once king of cycling, was on a special Oprah interview to discuss doping and his problems. Or something like that.

This has nothing to do with Sweden, but sports and doping affects everyone. And we, as fans and admirers, end up feeling betrayed and angry over years of denial by athletes.

Like Mark McGuire who denied to Congress for years he doped. I never respected him so him losing all credibility didn’t bother me at all. But thousands of people did, and many lost their faith in baseball because of him.

Sadly, I thought Lance Armstrong was different. I think many of us did. But he’s proven himself to be the douche king today.

Lance was this guy that came out of nowhere and took the Tour de France by storm. Surviving cancer, becoming an American winner in an European race, pushing hard in an long endurance sport, Lance was the apple pie for America.

I met him in person in 2001. He was charming and nice. I was the second to last person at the book signing. I still got a hug. And I don’t know why, but I had mad respect for him.

Those couple years, I spent July glued to the TV with my USAToday newspaper spreads of the teams, circuits, and gossip. I read how so many cyclists fell to the devils of doping. How Lance could never do this to us.

Then in 2005 I stopped watching the Tour. Drugs, cheating, scandals became the headlines. All of sudden, Armstrong was in this defensive attack mode when it came to using testosterone and EPO and other shit. He insulted reporters, insulted his friends, and even sued some of his friends.

The US Postal Service team was falling apart. I turned myself away from the Tour, realizing it was being driven by drug addicts.

And now here’s Lance sitting in a chair talking to Oprah in a weird second person stance. Saying how “he needed to win at all costs” and “he should apologize.” He admitted to being a bully.

Armstrong is the fall from grace. A man we all so admired for his perserverance and committement is today, nothing more than a fraud, a bully, a cheater, a liar, a fake. Even a douche for dumping Sheryl Crow because of her “biological clock.”

The second interview takes place tonight at 9PM EST, 3AM Swedish time, on the OWN channel. But you can go online to their site and watch it live.

I’ll be watching it because I hope he can look me in the eyes and tell me he’s a lying liar, cheater, and overall horrible person for destroying a sport, a nation’s admiration, and his teammates.

Guns, Fear, & US

By now, all of you have read or heard about the mass killings in Newton, CT. The killing of twenty children and seven adults has sent the nation into another state of mourning, the fourth this year, just before the happy holidays.

There is a lot of talk now, as always after such a national tragedy. What happened? Why? Who was he? Why these babies? Why this school? Why his mother? Were the guns legal? Was he insane?

Some of these answers will take months to piece together, long after America forgets what happens and until we experience another national tragedy.

I had a very difficult time deciding both what to write and what angle to take. After several hours of writing drafts and researching, I still do not know. I wrote this post because many of you, as Swedes and Europeans believe us Americans are gun toting nutballs. There are many, but not all. And change, especially Constitutional change isn’t easy.

Bear with me, I’ve broken this post down in several parts in order address some issues. They are the tip of the iceberg and it was difficult to not be too emotional. Plus this post is really long and without pictures.

My first thoughts:

Guns. Gun control. Gun rights. Fear. Protection. God. The 2nd Amendment.

An infinite discussion with those on the left promoting “gun control” versus those on the right promoting “gun rights.”

Is this really productive? It is an eternal argument between the right and the left over who has more money, more lobbying power, and a louder mouth.

The 2nd Amendment
There is something that will unlikely happen now or in the future: repealment of the 2nd Amendment. It has happened only once that an amendment was repealed (the 18th Amendment, Prohibition). It was probably a dumb idea to morally control people by outright banning a substance, spending millions controlling the ban, and losing millions in potential taxation. The US came its senses, overturned it with the 21st Amendment and left it to the states to control alcohol.

With guns, we could take a similar approach. Repeal the 2nd amendment. We could create a new amendment, leave it to the states, or share the power between the state and federal government. Many Swedes and Europeans ask me why the United States doesn’t just repeal the amendment. The answer is simple: it’s complicated.

To repeal the 2nd amendment, a new amendment must be proposed, of which there are two ways:
BOTH the House of Representatives and the Senate approve the proposal by a two-thirds majority vote. The amendment does not require the signature of the President.
or
Two-thirds of the state legislatures ask Congress to call a national convention to propose amendments. This has never happened.

To ratify, or pass, the amendment, there are two ways:
Three-fourths of the state legislatures approve it.
or
The ratifying conventions in three-fourths of the states approve it. This method has been used only once — to ratify the 21st Amendment.

Any amount of common sense would tell us that getting this many Congressmen to the table AND a lot of states to sign on will neither be easy or cheap.

Which brings us to the point, guns will continue to exist in the US. These massacres are the price we pay for the freedom of some people who don’t want it regulated. Really, we should not be surprised when such events happens over and over and over again. Disgusting but happens.

Fear Factor
The NRA and many gun associations use fear as a tactic to promote gun ownership. Fear the government is taking over your freedom. Fear that Obama will restrict gun access (The White House hasn’t even tried these four years). Fear that the bad guys will have more firepower because they don’t care about the law anyway. Fear that, if someone starts shooting people, who’s gonna shot the shooter?!

“If only I had a gun, I could’ve killed him…” That is the rationale of many gun owners.

“I’m sitting in a theater, three rows in front of me a man stands up and starts shooting. Immediately I access my pistol, stand up and then end his life. He has killed 2 people, but 12 others will go home alive. You do the math,” said Cestlavie3, a user commentor on CNN.

So because this person has a concealed weapon he will somehow miraculously see the gunman in the dark, pull out his pistol, and shoot only him? Impressive. He probably hasn’t heard of friendly fire or understands the psychological impact of ending another person’s life but hey, he does have a gun and will save us all.

Therein lies the problem with Americans. Many of these gun tooters are a bunch of standoffish idiots who think they would become Batman and be able to save anyone with the blasting of a gun. Like, “I’d rather die with a gun in my hand trying to defend my family and myself than see them all die in front of me knowing I did nothing to try and stop it.” Good for you. I’d prefer you not accidentally shoot me though.

I know friends with guns. A few of them use their guns exclusively for hunting and would never carry a gun as a concealed weapon. They have handguns and rifles and feel that high ammunition cartridges are for people looking to kill people, not for shooting tea saucers.

I personally do not know people who have guns and leave them in their handbag or backpack, but there are many. They don’t lock their gun up at home because it would take “too long to get the gun if a bad guy enters your home.” They would have their children invite friends over and still not have the guns locked away. Morons? Absolutely.

Case in point; there are about 130-170 deaths per year from accidental killings of children with firearms. It is not necessarily because laws are too lax but that parents are stupid. They believe having a gun is a right and not a responsibility and somehow magically, “guns don’t kill people, people do.” Well, those “people” are kids who may not even know what they’re playing with. The rationale might then be: Let’s blame those fucking kids for playing with guns and killings others!

The Israel Fear Factor
But let’s look at a country that has real imminent threat: Israel. A country geographically placed at the heart of religion has missiles, guns, and weapons always pointed at it. In the “hope” that one day, Israel could literally be wiped off the face of the Earth.

That’s frightening. That is fucking scary actually. Knowing everyday of your existence is only because of an armistice other countries brokered to keep your ass alive.

They all must be owning guns, tons of guns!

After all, Israelis are no stranger to pipe bombs, suicide bombers and shootings. Guns are visibly seen everywhere. And yet, citizens have to prove to the government that there is a need to own a gun. Hear that? Civilians don’t get to just waltz around and mazel-tov with guns.

People carrying those guns? They are security, military, police and some settlers. These civilians, usually those in settlement areas, that pack heat have to get approval by the government, law enforcement, trained professionals at shooting ranges, and medical professionals.

Shalom Bear wrote an op-ed piece piece in The Jewish Press, “Even though Israelis watch the same movies and play the same video games that glorify gun violence as Americans do, Israelis, unlike Americans, are taught from a young age a mature, respectful and structured interaction with their weapons. In America, it’s considered a right to carry a gun, but in Israel, it’s considered both right and a privilege.”

He hit the nail on the head. I know guns are not going to be banned anytime soon in the United States. I also believe people have the right to own firearms, within reason. I am not saying people shouldn’t own guns, I am saying use some common sense.

Switzerland’s Neutrality, Chocolate, & Guns
We all know Switzerland to be the land of the Alps, chocolate, and banks with clandestine clients. And gun uncontrol supporters (that’s my new phrase for people who want no government interference) point out Switzerland’s high gun ownership rate of “1 in 2 citizens.” Partially true. Conscripted Swiss men own guns, regular civilians and those out of the out military do not. Most conscripted men may keep their guns at home but each canton (province) is moving towards making those guns stored in depots, not at home. Ammunition, since 2007, has been forbidden to be kept at home. Also, non-miltary citizens do not get easy access to guns.

Therefore, the claim by gun uncontrol supporters is “look at Switzerland, guns don’t kill people, people do.” I agree, Switzerland has one of the lowest rates of homicide in the world with a firearm coupled with high gun ownership.

But let’s take this out of the vacuum and put the statement in reality. You know what else Switzerland is good at? Having the lowest mortality rates, lowest poverty rate, highest development, highest gender wage equality, and universal health insurance. Oh and 27% of the Swiss don’t believe in God.

Switzerland doesn’t have mass killings and firearm violence because the country and people believe in creating a strong society based on education, health, and equality. Does that sound like what America is today or ever has been?

Here’s the update to the cliche that guns don’t kill people, people do: guns don’t kill people, Americans do. Get that? The Swiss take care of the people so much more than the US that really, gun violence comes down to a culture thing. The Swiss know how to use their guns and treat them with respect, echoing Shalom point about Israeli treatment towards guns.

We can also see it as, Swedes admit to having little control over alcohol moderation and thus, leave it to the goverment to regulate, least we lose generations to Absolut drinking. But Americans are so crazyed and self obsessed with the right to own a gun and believe the end justifies the means, no matter what. Shooting in a school? We need more guns in schools. We need God in school. We need the militia guarding schools with giant fucking “assault rifles” to scare the bad guys away.

How about we get some common sense about respecting guns?

“What Do You Want ME To Do? Guns Don’t Kill People, People Do”
Point taken and as mentioned above, guns don’t kill people, Americans do. And part of the “only in America” blame stems from a lack of mental health treatment. Many of these mass killings are the result of mentally imbalanced people getting their hands on firearms, legal and otherwise. Yet, the American system of taking care of them is nearly non existant.

Liza Long could be one of those mothers. In a heart wrenching and controversial piece entitled, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mom” she discusses her own son who has yet untreated mental imbalance. An imbalance that can make violent, angry, and scary. An imbalance that she had the police called to restrain him. Your own child. A 13 year old child. I cannot bear to think of the burden and difficulty it is to call law enforcement and press charges against a kid, your own.

For her, she doesn’t know what to do anymore. There are not many choices and those that exist are terrible ones. Give him away to an institution, put him jail, drug him. In all, the cause of his problems is not solved.

Let’s put this on the national agenda. Let us help this mom and every mom and every child out there to get the help they need to prevent future massacres by imbalanced people. Here’s my plug to donate to NAMI: http://www.nami.org/.

What about Compromise?
Gun owners, like Edwin says, “I have nothing that qualifies in the minds of most progressives as an “assault weapon,” but if I could afford one I would. They’re interesting, and enjoyable to shoot.”

Kudos to him and many of his fellow guns for being smart and keeping their locked up safely (unlike the moronic parents who don’t).

He doesn’t believe they should be illegal because hey, most gun owners are boring fellows who keep their guns safely and deserve to own them because they’re fun. And who’s the government to say they cannot have fun?

But here is the problem. He asks, “what do you want us [law abiding gun owners] to do?” He wants to own his fun “assault rifle” so there obviously isn’t room for debate there. He won’t give up any “fun” for the sake of the greater good.

Which is why comprising with gun owners is damn difficult. They want their fun even if means a few assholes every year mow down fellow Americans.

You know what I would love gun owners to do: how about have a little more common sense for the greater good? Society passes rules, written and unwritten, based on protecting and maintaining a healthy group. And the opportunity cost is sometimes losing some personal rights for the greater good. I know it sucks.

I want to blast Friday on my sound system at 2am but apparently there’s an ordinance against loud noise after midnight. Ironic, the government can take away my right to fun to play lame music on the boom box but not your right to fun to blast tea saucers with an “assault rifle.”

How about you say,

“We know as gun owners that there are some assholes out there who get guns and mow down little kids in schools with semi-automatic guns and other powerful weapons. Those weapons can easily spray a lot bullets quickly because their job is to kill people, not bunnies in the forest. So how about: 1) we agree to banning these kinds of weapons and high cartridge clips (or whatever weapons); 2) help sponsor tougher legislation for obtaining firearms so mentally imbalanced people can’t just order them online; 3) and push training classes for every person carrying a concealed weapon so they understand it is not the same as carrying a phone.

In return, these kinds of guns are legal {a list of guns we agree to} and we get to hang out at the shooting range enjoying a cola and learning about guns.”

Hey! I could sign on to that! People who want to ban every kind of gun are in their own deluded world unless they rip apart the Constitution so I’m not including them here. For the rest of us, let’s all meet in the middle somewhere. Guns exist, guns will always exist, but let’s say guns are a right AND A RESPONSIBILITY.

Finally, I’m going to be untactful and say what many Europeans, Americans, and probably cats think:

GUNS ARE A RESPONSIBILITY. Here’s a notice to you idiots who pass legislation allowing guns in bars, idiots who think “background” checks should be eliminated, and idiot gun owners who think they have the right to own every firearm available to mankind because dammit the Second Amendment didn’t say what *kind*. There is no way to be diplomatic, you are all idiots.

For every good, law abiding gun owner who believes in gun control *shock, they are some!*, you idiots fuck it up for everyone else.

If the cost of owning all these weapons is tacitly allowing mass shootings every so often, shame on you. Shame on me for not standing up. Shame on America for putting the lives of everyone at risk for weapons, power, and money.

But since I don’t have millions in the bank and a bunch of compass keychains to giveaway, no one cares what I think.

And that’s the point, my opinion does not matter on this issue as long as the other side has the political power, the money, and the keychains to beat down my First Amendment right to free speech of common sense. I’ll just have to hope one day people listen.

Live Blogging the 2012 Elections

I’m going to start blogging the elections live from sunny California in San Francisco.

Latest updates are at the TOP of the post but underneath this sentence. Times are in Pacific Standard time.

For news in Swedish check here and here.
Path to victory, The Electoral count:
Obama: 257
Romney: 200

22:27 – Washington has voted to legalize marijuana. “Initiative 502 sets up a system of state-licensed marijuana growers, processors and retail stores, where adults over 21 can buy up to an ounce. It also establishes a standard blood test limit for driving under the influence.”

22:07 – New Hampshire has become the first state in the US to have an all female Congressional delegation.

21:57 – Romney is giving in his concession speech. The presidential election is over, Obama has been re-elected as president of the United States.

21:14 – The state of Colorado has passed Amendment 64 to legalize marijuana for adult recreational consumption. Two other states, Oregon and Washington, have it on the ballot.

20:55 – Had some drama…but back and Obama is predicted to win the election. Swing states Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina are too close to call. Ohio is expected to be called for Obama but is also a tight race.

Around 18:00 – I voted! Here’s what my ballot looked like:


17:05- Indiana and South Carolina called for Romney. Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina precincts are giving Obama a lead.

16:47 – Kentucky and West Virgina called for Romney. No surprises here.

16:41 – Virginia, one of the key battleground states, polls closed forty min ago. Preliminary precincts reporting has Romney in the lead.

Gay Marriage – Don’t Worry, America is Crawling out of the Dark Ages

I had originally written a long post about the right to gay marriage after watching the fallout in North Carolina and Colorado this past Tuesday.

On Wednesday, President Obama became the first president ever to endorse that gays “should” have the right to marry.


I do wish he said “right” instead of “should” but at least he’s taken the first step.

My original post went by wayside because everything I had written was outdated.

Instead, I will share a few thoughts and leave you with hilarious and bizarre quotes from the pundit wagon.

First, living in Sweden is a blessing when it comes to equality and rights. Sure, Swedes may not always see that have equality to the best extent and that at times some groups of people receive equality at the expense of others. But living in Sweden is so different from America for two reasons: gay rights and religion.

When I moved to Sweden, no one ever asked me what my religion is. Other immigrants do, especially those from Middle East/South Asia, but in general, no Swede has cared what my religious beliefs are. And I only talk about them when we have a discussion about religion related to culture/politics/society.

All in all, I feel safe being who I am and practicing my religion without requiring ‘absolution’ from others.

Second, gays and lesbians have the right to marry. Civil unions have been legal since 1995 while the Riksdag passed the marriage resolution in 2009.

And that is awesome. The right, the left, and the center parties don’t have wedge fights over gay rights. Krisdemokraterna is the only party opposed to gay marriage but they make up a very small percentage of the political spectrum.

Which brings me back to the United States. This is an election year. Everything is up for grabs and the conservative base is moving further right than anyone else. Yet they are a powerful group of citizens.

When Obama announced on Wednesday for his support of gay marriage, the conservative right said he was using social issues instead of economic issues as the center of the presidential race. They screamed he’s doing this for ‘political reasons’ and making this an issue when unemployment should be the driving issue.

But the conservative have been using social issues all year long to drive support for Republican candidates at the expense of discussing the economy and education.

And it is insane. Earlier this year Congress had to act on one of the dumbest provisions ever: that employers can refuse coverage for birth control under insurance plans if it “morally offends them.” That’s just one example of Congress and politicians making social issues more important than economic issues.

I would not be surprised if gay marriage becomes the center of attention this year like it did in 2004. George Bush Jr ran on the promise of a “constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.”

He won. No amendment ever came to pass, or even close to it, but Bush successfully divided and destroyed the country’s ability to function as a united front in one go.

This time, I hope Americans come to the conclusion that gays are people too. That gay rights is a human right, not states’ right. Just like abortion was a state issue until Roe v Wade and interracial marriage was a state issue until Loving v Virginia, gay marriage will make its way to the Supreme Court one day.

Some rights are just bigger than a state’s right, and this is one of them.

Until then, let’s hope for a more open and tolerant America. Or, a banishment of idiots who pander on Fox News (brought to you by the same friendly wire-tapping parent company, Murdoch).

I will leave you with quotes from across the US from this past week. Some hilarious and some, downright frightening.

From Mitt Romney, Republican presidential candidate
“My view is the same as it’s been from the beginning,” Mr. Romney told a CBS affiliate in Denver. “I don’t favor civil unions if it’s identical to marriage, and I don’t favor marriage between people of the same gender.” Asked why he opposed civil unions, in particular, he explained that in many cases they represent marriage by a different name for gay couples.

“If a civil union is identical to marriage other than with the name, why, I don’t support that,” he said Wednesday.

 

From Stephen Colbert, comedian:
“I would like to read to you what The Jesus said about homosexuality. I’d like to but he never said anything about it. Evidently. Evidently, Jesus was so filled with rage that he was speechless.”

 
From Jon Stewart, The Daily Show:

Don’t you love Fox News and their viewpoints on everything in life?!