Blogging Allows Venting

It’s been years since I posted something here.  In 2016, my political venting was done on Facebook.  Since then, I have become acutely aware that Facebook is NOT my “Friend”.  Where, o where can I vent?  Tpzoo provides a safe and friendly environment for that.

The campaign season is quickly approaching and there are still too many choices.  Ha!  I predict that by January 2020, the number of candidates left with any money in their campaign funds will be down to 10.  It would benefit our nation and the world if we replace Fatsolini with a Democrat.  In order to reap any benefits from having a Democrat in the White House, it is imperative that we keep the House and we take the Senate back from Moscow Mitch.

That’s about all that I have for now.  It isn’t much, but, it is a start.  I will leave you with what I saw written on a bumper sticker; “Carry like 1776”.  Hmm, guess that means muskets.

Feel free to vent.  It’s good for the soul.

The Watering Hole: Monday, February 22, 2016: Your Gun Is Dangerous After All

According to the website Gun Violence Archive there has been a shooting incident or spree in which at least four people have died almost every single month since January 2014, the furthest back their site’s statistics go. And where last month’s mass shooting involved one family member killing five others before taking his own life during police negotiations, this past weekend’s incident in Kalamazoo, MI, involved someone apparently shooting people at random. That’s even worse. As tragic as the family shooting was, if you weren’t related to them (or living next door), odds are you were never in any danger. But the Uber driver who killed six seven and injured two another in between passenger pickups should scare the crap right out of you, because there was no rhyme or reason to how his victims were chosen. The only comforting thing is that he was caught so quickly, unlike the DC Beltway Sniper who terrorized people in the capital area for three weeks in October 2002 (during the time that President George W. Bush supposedly “kept us safe,” as certain delusional people like to keep repeating.) You only heard about this latest mass shooting because: A) it was the latest incident of a mass shooting out of far too many in this country, and B) more than one person died, unlike the other multiple shootings incidents that happened the same day.

We’re not even talking here about people shot and killed by our own police forces, which The Guardian is kind enough to keep track of for us here. We’re just talking about every day civilian Americans going nuts and shooting people. It’s become so common place now to hear of multiple people shot and killed that unless we personally know one of the victims, it doesn’t even bother us anymore. We almost never hear about the thousands who were single victims of their gun-toting killers. And unless they were famous celebrities battling the evil demons of depression, we hear even less of the nearly twice as many people who took their own lives by gun. (Would it surprise you to know that a suicide by gun happens about once every thirty minutes?) Regardless of the ultimate reasons for their use, each of these gun deaths had one undeniable fact in common: each involved the use of a gun. Now there are those who are ready to debunk just about any statistic you can name for whether or not things are safer due to the incredible proliferation of easily acquired guns in this country, but you cannot argue that each and every one of these deaths would have happened by some other method, and in the same incident, and the resulting number of deaths would have been unchanged. That is easily false. Certainly at least some, whether a majority or not is irrelevant but certainly a non-trivial percentage, of those gun deaths happened just because a gun was available to use. Many gun supporters argue that guns are not dangerous. This is pure bullshit. Besides the few dozen or so people killed by toddlers and pets around guns, there’s the point that guns are dangerous for many of the same reasons nuclear weapons are dangerous. Yes, both could “accidentally” go off and kill someone (or several thousand someones) nearby. But there’s a reason we don’t want other potentially hostile countries to have nuclear weapons: because they may have, or could soon have, a means of firing them at us from the safety of their own country elsewhere on the planet. Despite what then-National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice said in testimony, we did not learn on September 11, 2001, that our oceans no longer protected us. We learned that the day we learned the USSR (a country on which she was supposed to be an expert, but who did not foresee its collapse) possessed intercontinental ballistic missiles, with the nuclear warheads to put on top of them. They were able to kill or harm us from across the planet, just like someone with a gun can kill or harm you from across the room or street, and not have to put themselves in close proximity to you, where you might be able to take their weapon away from them. THAT is why guns are dangerous. I might be physically bigger and stronger than you, but if you can kill me before I can get close enough to punch that smarmy look-who’s-the-big-buy-now grin off your Shkreli-like face I’m not likely to survive an attack on you in self-defense. Without the gun, and possibly even with another hand weapon, you wouldn’t be as dangerous to me. It’s the gun that increases the danger.

Again, how can anyone argue guns are not dangerous? If guns aren’t dangerous, why do we make sure almost every soldier sent off to a war zone is equipped with a gun of some variety? Of what use are they in a confrontation with the enemy? Why don’t we give our soldiers headed to the Middle East buttons that say, “Ask me about my Saluki”? Why do the people we face in conflict often use guns if they’re not dangerous? Besides killing people, of what use are hand guns? You don’t hunt with them. You could use hand guns for target practice at a shooting range, but that would beg the question, “Why are you doing that?” You could properly answer with something about self-defense against bad guys with guns. So I ask if you would be shooting to kill them? If not, then why do you need a gun? And if so, then you’ve proven my point about what use they are. So if we agree they have no other purpose but to kill, then why are they not dangerous? Yes, people use things other than guns to kill one another and, yes, more people use bats and hammers to bludgeon people to death than use rifles, but rifles aren’t hand guns, and most of the other things people used to kill had been made for some other intended non-homicidal purpose. Not so with guns. Guns are made to kill. That’s their appeal to you people who own them. That’s the reason you keep them. Are you going to threaten an intruder with something non-lethal, or would you prefer to make the intruder think his life was in danger? Oh, wait, there’s that word again. Danger. Because of a gun. Which is supposedly not dangerous. Sorry, but the argument that guns are not dangerous just doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny and critical thinking. If guns weren’t dangerous, you gun owners wouldn’t feel safer carrying one around with you, would you? But if you carry one on your person somewhere, even concealed, now you’ll feel that YOU are a danger to bad guys who might try to pull something off in front of you. Which means your gun is dangerous after all.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss guns or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 5, 2015: How Much Is Too Much?

If you’re reading these words, then you have access to the internets. And if you have access to that wonderful “series of tubes” then you know it happened again. Several times, in fact. Another mass shooting (the worst in America since Sandy Hook, which actually happened, so don’t try to convince me otherwise) that left more than a dozen people dead, following a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in CO. Why did these shootings happen? Quite frankly, who cares? Two of these latest shootings, one in Colorado Springs, CO, and the other in San Bernardino, CA, were motivated by religious extremism, though you couldn’t be blamed for not knowing that based on the coverage in the MSM. But they were. One killer was motivated by his extreme Christian beliefs, and the other killers were motivated by their extreme Islamic beliefs. Of course, now that we learned one of the killers in CA had pledged allegiance to ISIS on her Facebook page, the talk has been about Muslim extremists but not Christian ones. (It should be noted that while ISIS thanked her for her support, they did not claim any responsibility for the murders.) And while Colorado Springs police have not officially released a motive for the killings there, there is ample reason to believe that he was motivated by his own extreme Christian beliefs. And not just those, but on lies promoted by right wing media and politicians regarding the doctored videos about Planned Parenthood and the lies told about fetal tissue and “baby parts.” (Please, if you’re conservative, don’t waste my time trying to convince me the videos were 100% legitimate and truthful. They were nothing of the sort.) But regardless of the motives of the killers, the real cause of the problem is being ignored by most of the MSM: the proliferation of guns and the ease with which they can be acquired, even by people the law says shouldn’t have one.

No matter when it happened, no matter where it happened, and no matter why it happened, every single instance of gun violence in this country has had one and only one thing in common: A gun. Sometimes more than one. We keep wondering why somebody would pick up a gun and kill people, but we never admit that had it not been so easy to acquire guns, many of these killings (I would even say most) would never have occurred. Guns are dangerous things. Let me repeat that: Guns are dangerous things. Anyone who tries to say that isn’t true is deluding himself, and denying some simple facts. One of the main reasons guns are dangerous is that they allow you to harm or kill someone else without having to put yourself in close proximity to that person. If you had to actually get close to someone to stab them, you would be less likely to do that than you would to use means that didn’t require you to get close to your intended victim. That is not to say nobody ever gets stabbed, and only an idiot would think I’m implying that. But how brave are you? If someone wants to harm you, would you prefer getting up close to that person to try to thwart off the attack, or would you prefer some means of stopping (or harming in anyway) that person while not having to get up close? My guess is, given a choice, most people would prefer to not have to get up close to their attacker. A gun removes that danger to yourself. You can shoot your attacker from across the room with less chance of being harmed yourself in the process. And if you’re crazed with anger (or some other emotion, perhaps a deep abiding love for the particular god you worship), you are more likely to act without thinking. All the more reason it’s dangerous for you to have access to a gun anytime you want. You can look at it another way. Would the world be a safer place or a more dangerous place if every country had the means to launch nuclear weapons at another nation, even one halfway around the world? If you think it would be safer, you can stop reading this blog now, Archie Bunker.

If you still want to think guns are not dangerous, ask yourself this: Since we train our fantastic Marine Corps to be lean, mean, fighting machines capable of killing with their bare hands, why do we issue them guns when we send them off to war? If guns aren’t dangerous, why are they a vital component of war? And don’t say they’re just tools, like the knives, grenades and other weapons we hand them. They are deadly tools that can kill. If guns aren’t dangerous, why is it considered criminal negligence to leave a loaded gun where a small child could pick it up? If guns aren’t dangerous, why aren’t you allowed to carry one on board a plane with you (as Archie thinks you should)? If guns aren’t dangerous, why are people getting killed and seriously injured by children and dogs who manage to get their hands and paws on one? Please, if you like having a gun, admit the truth. You like it because it’s power. You can kill someone with it. I’m not suggesting you would, although I am suggesting that there are definitely people out there who would kill if they thought they could get away with it. And there are people out there who have killed because they thought they could get away with it. And in many of those cases, I’m positive the only reason someone ended up dead is because a gun was easily available to do the job. How many more people have to die just because we can’t get over this insane obsession with these murderous devices? How many are too many? How much gun violence in this country is too much?

Don’t put words in my mouth. Passionate gun owners (who lack compassion) have tried to twist my suggestions into saying we should take away all the guns in this country. I’m not opposed to that, but I’m not suggesting it, either. The first thing to recognize is that there are WAY too many guns in the United States. By some estimates, there are more guns in the US than there are people (legal citizens or not), and despite this, there are still about 6 million guns manufactured in the US per year (and about half that number imported on top of that.) Why is this? What good does it do? About 82 people die by firearms every day in America. Even if you subtract the third that took their own lives with a gun, that’s still more than one firearm death every 30 minutes. (And, no, the police aren’t doing all of them, but they are doing way too many of them. That can be the subject of another post.) I often hear gun supporters counter that many gun homicides are committed in cities or states with tough gun control laws. What these folks often ignore (deliberately) is that the guns weren’t being obtained in the places with strict gun control laws, but often from states with very lax laws (like Virginia.) If you’re going to argue that strict gun control laws do nothing to solve the problem, are you also going to say that lax gun laws have nothing to do with the problem, either? But regardless of whether or not the state has lax gun laws, it remains a fact that if the guns were not there to be gotten in the first place, fewer people would die by gun violence each year. How can that be addressed? Simple: tax the manufacture (or import) of guns. Not the sale, but the manufacture. The tax burden would fall totally on the gun manufacturer. Obviously they would pass this cost onto the purchaser, but that’s to be expected. If your gun now costs $5,000 more because the maker had to pay a tax to make it, you’ll think twice about buying a gun for which you very likely have no need. If the gun manufacturer later declares that some of the guns they made were destroyed, then they can get a tax rebate for them. But the key is to tax the gun as it is made. Otherwise they’ll just fund a way to dump them on the streets and the problem continues. Nobody (and especially no corporation) has a right to make guns, just to own them. So we can pass all kinds of laws related to the manufacture of guns, why not include that extra tax while we’re at it? That way the gun makers will have much less incentive to over-manufacture guns, and fewer guns would be available for people to buy. Maybe there are flaws to this plan, but since I don’t look at the issue form the perspective that you have a right to have any kind of gun you want, made by anybody you want, I’m probably seeing fewer flaws in this plan than you. And notice I said nothing about the guns that are already out there. But if you’re opposed to any kind of gun regulation in this country, then answer this: How many more people have to die by gunfire before you decide it’s too many? How much more gun violence do we have to endure? How much is too much?

This is our daily open thread. Talk about whatever you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 7, 2015: Adrenaline Rush To Judgment

There is a misunderstood problem in America that is not being talked about from the proper perspective. There are police officers, few in number to be sure, but there nonetheless, who have killed unarmed people who were absolutely posing no life or death danger to the police officer whatsoever. What has exacerbated the problem are the fruitless attempts to hold these police officers criminally liable for taking those lives. Time after time, a police officer caught on video killing an unarmed civilian has walked away free and clear of any punishment for his (or her) crimes. And they clearly were crimes from a moral standpoint. There shouldn’t be any way to defend these actions, should there? Well, if you don’t consider being human as part of the problem, there apparently is.

We are human beings, which means we are animals. I’ll give the more religious ones of you out there a moment to absorb that fact……….[looks at watch]………that’s enough time. And as animals, we have things called survival mechanisms. These are the natural, innate reactions we have to certain stimuli. When we suddenly smell a new aroma we hadn’t noticed before, our brains immediately kick in to identify it. Once we are confident we know its origin and have assessed any danger to ourselves, we unconsciously desensitize our nose to it (if it isn’t too pungent.) This makes our nose and brain better able to notice new smells, like smoke, which alerts the brain to the danger of fire (an association we learned as youths.) This is when our innate flight or fight response kicks in. The adrenal glands start producing adrenaline in case we have to move quickly or exert great strength. Fear can also stimulate the flight or fight response, which likewise produces extra adrenaline. You are now in an adrenaline rush, stimulated into believing, rightly or wrongly right now (but who has time to check?), that your life is in danger. And we humans in this situation do not think, we act. We do something. (Assuming we are not, literally, paralyzed with fear, which does happen, no shame in that.) But we have to do something, as they say in the movies, we can’t just sit here and wait to die. And what we often do is act without thinking things through thoroughly first. We are trying to resolve the situation in a way that puts us out of danger as quickly as possible. This is just part of the reality of being an animal prone to chemically reacting to stimuli in a certain way. If you were to inject yourself with adrenaline right now, you would be so hyped up you’d be looking for something you could call dangerous, just so you could react to it. Your brain would tell you that you are seeing danger where a less hyped-up mind, able to calmly think for a few moments, not subject to a reflex action that demands swift resolution of a crisis situation, would not. You’re not thinking clearly when your brain is telling you to react to anything you see as possibly being dangerous until you feel calm enough to decide that the danger has passed. Your brain is telling you to do whatever you have to to remove yourself from danger. Either you’re going to run as far away from the danger as you can (take flight), or prepare to battle against whatever you think is about to kill you (fight). Some refer to this as “standing your ground.”

Do you think at this point it would be wise to have a gun?

And that is the perspective from which we should be addressing these police shootings of unarmed people. Now, before we get sidetracked, yes, there has been in many of the cases that have come to the public forefront, an element of racism involved. And that is a serious problem in and of itself, and it often plays a significant role in these killings because it contributes to the sense of fear that the cop is feeling at that moment. That cop with a gun at his side. The one whose flight or fight response is about to kick in, but who knows he can’t resort to flight in this situation. (The cop can’t run away from the guy running away from the cop.) He must resort to fight. And what he is about to fight may very well not be an actual danger to him at all. But his brain is not perceiving it that way. His beliefs, formed in part by his experience, are leading him think a danger exists. Yes, that belief may be that all black men are armed and dangerous, but whatever the reason, however motivated, the belief is that a danger exists where none actually does. And that cop has a gun.

Many of these recent shootings involved either an emotionally unstable cop who shouldn’t have been allowed to become a cop in the first place, a veteran cop of some years with a history of valid excessive force complaints, or a very inexperienced cop not used to being in a situation where he thought his life was in danger. None of these are ideal situations, where you might feel comfortable about the cop involved having a loaded gun available. But that is what has been happening more and more lately. At least we are hearing about it more and more, and that is because of social media. But that begs the question of how many of these shootings are happening that are not caught on video? They are happening, and have been happening more often in the past, when there was less of a chance of the killing being recorded for later confirmation (or manipulation, as in the criminal case against the cops who tried to kill Rodney King for no valid reason.) We usually just took the word of the cop in question because there was no visual evidence to the contrary. Of course, this was usually after he had some time to formulate an explanation for his actions. We’re often never sure of what happened because we only heard one side of it, the other side being dead. And the fact that these cops are getting acquitted even after video of the events contradicts their story, as clearly evident in the case of Officer Lisa Mearkle, who shot and killed David Kassick in Pennsylvania after a foot pursuit, which began as a traffic stop over an expired inspection sticker, is an aspect of the problem that won’t go away without addressing the fact that we are giving cops deadly weapons and letting them use them in non-deadly situations, even though they think it is a deadly situation (or so they claim afterwards.) We can never be sure what happened because they can never be sure what happened. With or without the videos, a cop pumped up with adrenaline is not thinking clearly. (Were they calm and rationale, they would not be pumped up with adrenaline.) We are allowing them to defend their actions by claiming a perception of being in danger even absent a confirmation of a danger to them or the public existing. And we know that the very situation they are in can cause them to misperceive the truth of what is really happening. Is that a gun? I see no evidence it isn’t, so it must be. And we are not only allowing this defense to excuse their actions, we are even training our cops to shoot to kill, rather than shoot to wound. The problem is they are shooting to kill in situations where the person they are killing would never have faced the death penalty for whatever he is believed to have done. And this never seems to come up in the discussions I see on this topic. We are letting cops use deadly force in situations where the alleged crimes being committed would never have resulted in the death penalty.

Eric Garner wasn’t selling loose cigarettes without paying the taxes when cops strangled him to death. He was accused by someone and several cops confronted him to question him about the situation. He wasn’t in the act of selling those cigarettes when confronted. Whatever happened after that point, Eric Garner did nothing that would have brought him the death penalty if convicted in court. Selling loose cigarettes without paying the taxes is not a capital crime. Refusing to talk to cops harassing you for something you aren’t doing is not a capital crime. Failure to obey a cop is not a capital crime. Resisting arrest without any weapon is not a capital crime. Holding a toy gun, pointed down to the ground, is not a capital crime. Holding a toy gun in a non-threatening manner, in a store that sells that very toy gun, while talking on a cell phone is not a capital crime. Why are we letting cops get away with using deadly force at all in situations where the person they killed would not have faced the death penalty for anything he did?

Why are we giving deadly weapons to people we put in tense, but not deadly, situations, where the very natural instincts that are a part of being human, are going to make them think they perceive danger where none actually exists? Why are we letting the misperception of danger excuse the use of deadly force in those non-deadly situations? The human brain arrives at a conclusion in one of two ways – either by factoring in the details one perceives and arriving at a conclusion about what is happening, or presupposing what is happening and using the absence of contradictory evidence serve as proof that the theory is correct. In virtually all of the cases of cops killing unarmed civilians, this is how that cop arrived at the perception that his (or her) life was in danger. He assumed what he saw or heard was a gun, then took the fact that he could not see proof he was wrong as proof he was right. We can’t continue to do things this way. We have to change the rules and the training for use of deadly force. We have to train cops in non-lethal techniques to diffuse situations rather than escalate them. We have to drill it into their heads that the use of deadly force is a LAST resort, not the first reaction to the perception of danger, given that it’s more likely no actual danger exists. We have to do a better job of screening applicants to a police force, such as finding out why they were fired from their previous police force. We have to do all these things and more. But we have to do them now, before another unarmed person is murdered by a cop who had no business being issued a deadly weapon in the first place.

This is our daily open thread. Discuss whatever you wish. Just don’t shoot me.

The Watering Hole, Tuesday September 1, 2015

Away from food politics and environment for a moment, here is an essay on the presence of guns in the US with respect to other countries and the comparative murder and suicide rates. Surprised to actually find this at a CNN site.

Amerikans love their guns to death.

Papa bear, momma bear, and baby bear.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, June 20, 2015: Blame Anything But Racism

By 1852, the State of South Carolina was fed up with the Government of the United States and voted to secede from the Union. They forbore exercising the right of secession they claimed “in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States.” That was from the first sentence of South Carolina’s Declaration of Secession. They felt that Slavery was one of their “domestic institutions” and that the refusal of the Northern States to return runaway slaves, as actually required by the Constitution, constituted a breach of the agreement of the original thirteen colonies to be governed under it. So they declared their Independence in much the same manner (and at times quoting) as the Colonies did in our famous Declaration of Independence. (Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Nicholas Cage stole it once and pinned the theft on another guy.) There is no question that Slavery was a part of the Southern Heritage they defend to this day. And to defend Slavery is to defend the idea that some people, in particular black people, are less than human and can be treated morally and legally as property. That heritage is represented to this day by the Confederate Flag, in one form or another. (The “Stars and bars” come in various forms. One was the official National Flag, while another variation formed the Battle Flag.) To many of us, when you proudly display the Confederate Flag, you are insisting that the South was right on Slavery and the North was wrong. This is why the South has the reputation it does for being the home of racists. That does not mean, nor does anyone in the North truly believe, that everybody in the South is a dyed-in-the-wool racist. It does mean that racists can live in the South and not be bothered over their views.

So when a young white supremacist decided to callously murder nine unsuspecting, unarmed black citizens in one of the most famous landmark black churches in American history just because they were black, and for no other reason, the conversation ought to include the subject of racism, and why it is so acceptable to so many people in the South. (Whether or not examples of racism can be found in other parts of the country is completely irrelevant and beside the point. The discussion needs to be about the openly accepted racism in the South.) But conservatives are trying to divert from that topic and blame anything but racism as the reason Dylann Storm Roof killed all those people. People who hadn’t done a thing wrong to him. People who let him sit among them before he told them, “You have to go.” Once pictures of him wearing flags of the white-ruled nations of South Africa and Rhodesia went public, there was no doubt in any right-thinking person’s mind that this massacre was motivated by racial hatred. So it should come as no surprise that Conservatives reject the racism motivation and cling to their guns and bibles, to borrow a phrase.

[NOTE: FTR, what I am about to write I fully intended to write before I sat down to watch Friday night’s Bill Maher show. I didn’t get the idea from him any more than he got his idea from me.]

“We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” [President Obama] said at the White House. Besides the clearly displayed racism shown in the massacre, guns are another issue the Right Wing refuses to discuss openly and fairly. But we can get to what the National Rifle Association (NAMBLA) has to say another time.

And quoting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after four black girls were killed in the bombing of a black church in Birmingham, Ala., 52 years ago, he said the lessons of this tragedy must extend beyond one city and one church. He cited Dr. King’s words that their deaths were a demand to “substitute courage for caution,” and urging people to ask not just who did the killing but “about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.”

It seems Dr. Martin Luther King’s niece and Fox News Channel contributor, Alveda King, would disagree. [NOTE: Full disclosure/confession/cry-for-help. For reasons surpassing all logical thought, Alveda King decided to follow me on The Twitter. I’m guessing after I questioned her there she’ll be re-thinking that decision. Cool.] She made a truly bizarre leap of logic to conclude that the Charleston Massacre was linked to abortion. You heard me right. Abortion. Okay, maybe you didn’t hear me. Maybe you heard a voice in your head you thought was mine. You should get that checked. And Alveda King should get hers checked, too. Is there something they’re serving in the green rooms at Fox that makes their contributors come out and say bat shit crazy things on live television?

There is no doubt at all that this massacre was motivated solely by racism. None. Zero. But Rick Perry cautions us to wait, we don’t have all the facts. It may turn out drugs were involved. You heard me right. Drugs. (Maybe the drugs are why you can hear me. I know that’s why I can hear you.) That’s after he “misspoke” and called the massacre an “accident”.

Sweater vest aficionado and Presidential Delusions-Filled former Senator Rick Santorum believed it was an attack on our religious liberty, even though at the time he said that it was known this was a purely race-motivated attack. US Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham, currently running for First Lady, sat down with other women on The View to stress the shooting was an attack on Christianity (it most certainly was not), though he seemed to express doubts about whether or not race had anything to do with it (it most certainly did).

Fox & Friends invited Bishop E.W. Jackson who jumped to the conclusion that because this happened in a church, it’s clearly an attack on Christianity. They completely ignore the comments the killer made prior to opening fire on almost everyone in the church (reloading several times) and cold-bloodedly telling one survivor that he was letting her live so she could tell everyone what happened. Which she did. And she said he did it because they were black, and for no other reason.

Also believing the motivation was unknown, SC Gov Nikki Haley emphasized the fact that the shooting took place in a house of worship, without mentioning the racism openly displayed by the killer. NRA Board Member Charles Cotton even went so far as to blame Pastor and SC State Senator Clementa Pinckney for the dead saying his opposition to guns prevented them from being saved. The leaders of Gun Owners of America, father-son duo Larry and Erich Pratt, also blamed Rev Pinckney.

But none of these people on the right want to blame the murders on Racism. Some allow that it may or may not have been a factor (Yes. It clearly was. The killer himself said so to the person he let live so she could tell us why he did it.), but they always reach for something else to blame. And the only logical reason I can think of for why they do it, is because deep down, they don’t want to admit they feel the same way Dylann Storm Roof did. They sympathize with Roof’s racist rantings, but they can never say so publicly. Others probably will. (I’m guessing Rush Limbaugh is going to cross the line on this one sooner or later.) Because they don’t want the South’s history with Slavery and their undying support of it, their view of it as one of their domestic institutions, to come under scrutiny again.

South Carolina still proudly flies the battle flag their army followed when they killed more US Soldiers than any other army in our nation’s history. Maybe we should reconsider our decision to stop them from seceding. And they can take all those people who think racism isn’t a problem with them. The United States will recognize the birthright citizenship of any SC citizen who wishes to remain here in the states. Racists need not apply.

UPDATE: The Perry campaign insists that from the context, it’s clear Governor Perry meant to say “incident,” not “accident.”

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about Racism or any other topic you want, in case that one is a little too uncomfortable for you.

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 20, 2015: Sixteen Years And Not Much Better

It wasn’t the first, and many of us knew then that it wasn’t going to be the last. Unfortunately, we were right. There were more. Plenty more. Too many more. Way, way too many more. And the children. So many, many children. Even after the nation was shocked that a score of little kids would fall victim, still we did little or nothing. Sixteen years ago, on April 20, 1999, two Colorado high school students committed one of the worst gun massacres in American history. The guns they used were bought from gun dealer shows where no background checks were performed (even though they were straw purchases), because no names were taken. One of the guns had been banned from manufacture five years before, but the loose gun laws in our country made it possible, even likely one might believe, that it would end up in the hands of someone who planned to shoot the thirty-six rounds it could hold at other people. A year later, more than 800 pieces of some form of gun control legislation were introduced across the country. Only about ten percent passed. People rightfully asked what it would take to do something about gun violence, but nobody seemed to want to link gun violence to guns. Even after somebody killed more than thirty people on a college campus, even after a nine-year-old girl was killed and a United States Representative suffered a critical, life-threatening head wound, even after twenty small children and seven adults were gunned down by a deranged young man, America still refuses to admit it has a gun problem.

I don’t want to add up all the innocent people who have died at the hands of mass murderers with guns. The number would be too depressing because it’s way more than zero. I don’t know what the financial impact has been on the communities and people who were victims of these mass shootings. I doubt anyone can because the NRA, through its friends in Congress (most of them Republicans, but not all), has managed to make it a crime for the government to compile that kind of information. Congress won’t allow the government to conduct any studies on gun violence, thus giving them the chance to dispute any statistic anyone throws at them as being from a biased source with an agenda, as if that alone disqualifies anything factual that might be said. Yes, everyone who takes the time to inform his or her Congressman about something has an agenda, otherwise they wouldn’t be taking the time to do what they’re doing. That doesn’t mean that each and every one of them isn’t proposing something worthwhile, because many are. But when an organization originally created to teach gun safety and proper shooting procedures has become warped and distorted into an organization that lobbies on behalf of gun manufacturers, not on behalf of its estimated 3.4 million members (about 1% of the country), one can easily wonder just what the “original intent” of the Second Amendment (more on that later) has to do with what’s going on. The NRA spends millions of dollars defending the alleged individual right to bear arms (it is not settled law yet), yet refuses to allow sensible precautions that might help prevent another mass killing. Polling suggests the vast majority of average NRA members support the use of background checks at gun shows, to prevent the sale of guns to people who wouldn’t otherwise pass one, yet the NRA leadership ignores that and cries that background checks would lead to gun owner databases (which are not a bad idea), which would lead to mass confiscations of guns (never in a million years in this country), which would lead to Tyranny, which the Second Amendment was written to prevent. No, it wasn’t.

Prior to 1977, nobody was ever arguing that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual right to carry a gun for personal protection. That only began to happen when the National Rifle Association was taken over by extremists who argued that 200 years of legal and constitutional precedent were wrong. A large part of their ultimate success in deceiving people into believing this was the misuse of various quotes form Founding Fathers, including Patrick Henry’s “That every man be armed.” In its proper context (see link), it was actually a call to limit gun ownership, not expand it. It is true, regardless of who said it, that the NRA has perpetrated a massive fraud on the American People by claiming the Second Amendment is about the individual right to possess guns. It’s simply not true, regardless of Supreme Court decisions which wrongly claim it is. The Second Amendment was justified to support the use of state militias to defend the nation against invasion and rebellion, and to authorize Slave Posses to capture runaway slaves. President George Washington used the authority of the Second Amendment to put down the Whiskey Rebellion, so that should dispel the myth that its primary purpose (which is the gun enthusiasts’ main argument) is false. And since Slavery was outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment, the idea that guns should be allowed to capture runaway slaves is now null and void. Despite the Constitutional limitations on such a thing, the fact remains we have a standing army, even though we’re supposed to be re-authorizing its existence every two years. (How they could legally make me sign a contract to enlist in the Air Force for four years still escapes me.) So we no longer rely on State militias to defend the nation from invasion or rebellion in the same way the Colonists did in the 18th century. Yes, they are called out in emergencies, which can include rebellion, but they aren’t quite used the same way the Founders intended. They tend to get used to suppress exercise of First Amendment rights. The point is, maybe it’s time to rethink how we interpret the Second Amendment in 21st Century America. There’s no reason to lock ourselves into living and thinking like 18th century colonialists. The Constitution is meant to be a framework for our evolving country and its government, not a shackle to the past. Things that were issues and concerns back then don’t necessarily apply to today, which means the same justification used back then don’t necessarily apply today, either. Where citizens might have patrolled streets back them to catch purported thieves, now we have police patrols to whom we’ve granted the authority to use guns and capture criminals. Nobody seriously expects a private citizen to pull out a gun and stop a criminal (and none ever has.) The arguments people come up with to justify carrying around a gun get weaker and weaker. Most of the time the only danger that exists is in their own minds, which is why I hate the idea that one can use that as a justification to kill. “I thought my life was in danger.” From what? “From something it turns out I imagined.” Well, if you were never in actual danger, then you can;t justify using actual deadly force to defend yourself, can you? After all, what was going to kill or harm you? Nothing but your own imagination. Does it make any sense to say it’s okay to claim you were defending yourself against something you imagined when you killed someone?

We have a serious problem with gun violence in this country, and it’s long past time we admit it’s largely connected to our serious problems with guns and the fact, yes, I repeat, fact, that they are dangerous. It defies all logic and common sense to say guns are not dangerous, especially loaded ones. The same Justice who wrote the infamous Heller decision had previously written that laws adding years to a prison sentence for using a gun were constitutional, even when the gun in question was not being used as a gun but as a bludgeon. If guns weren’t dangerous, why would we make sure every soldier sent into battle carried at least one? If guns weren’t dangerous, why would trigger locks even be necessary? If guns wren’t dangerous, why are so many children killing other children with them? It is totally stupid to say a loaded gun isn’t dangerous. It’s dangerous for the same general reason it’s dangerous for a country unfriendly to you to have a nuclear weapon that can be carried by missiles that can reach you. It would allow them to kill or harm you from a safe distance, and before you can do anything to stop them. If I’m standing across the room from you, I can kill or harm you without needing to put myself in close proximity to you, thus giving you the chance to kill or harm me (or take my dangerous gun away and kill me with it.) Yes, you can cite all the cherry-picked statistics you want about how more people are beaten to death with bats than are killed by high-powered rifles, if you want to ignore the use of handguns (which were designed for one, and only one, purpose – to kill people.) But there is one indisputable fact that cannot be ignored, but which all too often is: In every single instance of gun violence in this country’s history, the one common element to all gun deaths, regardless of who, if anyone, was pulling the trigger, has been a gun. So maybe that’s where you have to begin.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss guns, gun control, lying NRA bastards, or any other topic you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Tuesday March 31, 2015 – Environmental News and Food Politics

Back after last week’s unexcused absence.

 

Item 1

OK, let’s blame the cookie but not the gun…

Guns don’t kill, cookies do.

Item 2

Don’t know if it is true, but supposedly written on WC Field’s tombstone is the phrase “I’d rather be here than in Philadelphia.” Well, after turning up this story, I’d say he might have been on to something. But not to worry, most of the victims were lawyers.

What do you call 100 lawyers sickened at a banquet? A start.

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/03/nearly-100-people-sickened-after-attending-philadelphia-banquet/#.VRrVwI5vC1w

(With apologies to those among us who toil in the law.)

Little surprises in each morsel.

Open thread.

 

 

 

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 4, 2014: This Week in Paranoia: The Humbling Gay Ebola Gun Grab Anarchy

Courtesy of the good people at Right Wing Watch, we learn what’s got the right wing’s knickers in a twist. From soldiers being sent to West Africa to deliberately contract Ebola (a US Congressman actually said this) to gays trying to recruit your sons (I don’t hear them expressing any concern about your daughters, just your sons) to Obama coming for your guns (again, and for discredited reasons, again) to anarchy over teaching actual American History (because we don’t want to whitesplain it) to America being humbled because of the devastation Ebola will cause (undoubtedly after all those US Soldiers come back with it), the right wing in this country is becoming more and more unhinged from reality. I’d like to know what they’d say about Ebola if they actually understood how it’s transmitted from person to person. I’d also like to know what they’d say if they understood any of the other things they went haywire over lately. BTW, here’s a simple way to tell if you have Ebola: Have you been in contact with any kind of bodily fluid from a person infected with Ebola and showing symptoms? If the answer is “No,” then you do not have Ebola. It’s just that simple.

Professional Misanthrope Michael “Savage” Weiner (“Savage” is his phony name; his real last name is Weiner) actually believes that President Obama is sending 3,000 troops to West Africa in the hopes that at least one of them will contract Ebola, bring it back to the US, and infect the entire country. I am not making that up. And he must have convinced Rep Louie Gohmert (Orc, Middle Earth) who thinks this is part of the president’s problem with political correctness. I am not making that up, either. And then Ebola will turn everyone gay. Okay, I made that last one up. But I’m not the only one making things up about teh gay.

Paul Cameron, known for making shit up about gay people, was a guest of “Pray In Jesus Name” host Gordon Klingenschmitt (no friend to the either the LGBT or Reality communities), and he made the extraordinary (i.e., totally bullshit false) claim that “Homosexuals, from the get-go, as long as we have recorded history, have used the molestation of boys as a way to recruit to homosexuality.” He then goes on to spew, what I have no doubt are, made-up statistics (his leitmotif, which means, literally, “light more teeth”) to support his pre-conceived bigoted notions about gay people. “So this is a tremendous recruitment tool,” he said. “If a gay can get to your son first, the chances are about 50-50, as near as we can tell, that your son is going to be a practicing homosexual to some degree.” He feels it’s very important that your sons avoid having a “homosexual experience.” Ironically, Cameron was forced to perform oral sex on a man when he was four years old (he says.) Does that mean there’s a 50% chance that Paul Cameron is gay? Some people would say Yes.

Apparently out of any new reasons why Obama wants us all dead, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy and former (thankfully) Judge Andrew Napolitano resurrected the discredited claim that the United Nations is coming for your guns. Napolitano also tried to vomit out the lie that more guns makes us more safe. Actual studies have proven this wrong. It’s thinking like this that really puts our nation in danger. Obama’s choice to be Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, believes that gun violence is a serious health issue. The NRA disagrees, of course, so his nomination is being held up. So thanks to the same party that thinks our nation is in great peril from Ebola, we have no Surgeon General to guide the nation through this health crisis (which isn’t a crisis yet at all, and likely won’t be.) Oh, and because Obama is taking away our guns, more of us are going to be beheaded. In this country. Because it happened once.

And one can’t help but think beheadings would be on the rise if we were in a state of anarchy, which right-wing darling and presidential I-think-I-wannabe Ben Carson believes is the direction this country is headed. And because of it, he won’t get to run for president because Obama will cancel the 2016 elections. He’s also joining the chorus of ill-minded people denouncing the new Advanced Placement US History curriculum, because it isn’t patriotic enough. Growing up, I wasn’t taught the truth about American history. The times when our nation did not live up to its ideals, when it didn’t seem to know right from wrong, they were glossed over. It wasn’t until I got older that I learned about things like the Tuskegee Airman experiments, the genocidal treatment of the Native Peoples living here before white Europeans showed up and claimed the land for themselves, and the numerous times our government deliberately overthrew democratically elected ones elsewhere in order to prop up a ruthless dictator who would grant US corporations special favors. I already knew Slavery was bad. But the right wing would prefer that our students be taught only the good things about America, not the bad things that eventually made it possible to do some of the good things we did.

Yet Glenn Beck thinks that because of all the bad things we’ve been doing, and continue to do, our country is headed for a “massive humbling.” That we are going to be brought down. And the beginning of that “massive humbling” may already have happened. With one case of Ebola.

This is our daily open thread. Finally. Feel free to discuss Ebola, gay recruitment, anarchy, guns, late posts, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 14, 2013: A Year Wasted

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past 53 weeks, you know that today marks the one-year anniversary since one of the most horrific mass shootings in our nation’s gun-crazed history. When twenty six- and seven-year-olds are shot to death by a lunatic with a gun, you would think a nation would jump up and down and demand that steps be taken to ensure this never happens again. Maybe some other nation, but not his one. Oh, it’s not as though nothing has changed. More than 200,000 people have joined anti-gun violence groups, but 194 children under the age of 12 have been killed by gun violence. There were 109 laws passed by state legislatures regarding guns, but 70 of those laws expanded gun rights while only 39 restricted them. (I would have preferred that it was 0-109, respectively.) And on the federal level, only one gun violence law passed, and that was a reauthorization of the Undetectable Firearms Act. (Why do laws like this have to be reauthorized? Do we envision a point where we’ll want undetectable firearms to be legal? Why isn’t this law permanent?) Of course, in all the debates about gun safety, the one thing that had almost universal support failed to become law – mandatory background checks on ALL gun sales. This was inexcusable. Again, why would anybody think it a good idea to let some gun sales go without a background check being performed, to make sure the person buying the gun is legally allowed to own one? I don’t care if you’re passing granddad’s old Winchester down to your 16-year-old son, you need to run that background check. And a background check needs to be a real background check, not a self-check where you just tell the dealer you’ve done nothing that would bar you from owning a gun. I mean, seriously, filling out a questionnaire whose answers will never be verified actually counts as a “background check” in some states? This is why I oppose the Conservative idea of “states’ rights.” It basically takes the “United” out of “The United States of America.” Obviously there are some things that should be determined by local government, but “some things” doesn’t mean “everything.”

We have a serious problem with guns in this country, and if it isn’t addressed soon more innocent children will die. Is your so-called non-militia-related gun ownership “right” really more important than the life of a child? Do we really believe the problems of the world can be solved with a gun? Why do we even listen to people who say the solution to the scourge of gun violence is more guns? Is the solution to the problem of nuclear proliferation more nuclear weapons? Is the solution to the problem of HIV spreading to have more unprotected sex? Is the solution to the problem of rampant stupidity in our country more stupidity?

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about guns, gun violence, small penises or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 20, 2013 – Do Guns Really Make Us Safer?

The important thing to remember is that nobody gets hurt, so watch the whole thing.

The National Rifle Association (or NAMBLA) likes to claim that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The kindest thing I can say about that is that it is demonstrably untrue. But since I don’t feel like being kind where the gun nuts are concerned I’ll call it what it is – a flat out bullshit lie. Patricia Maisch didn’t have a gun, but she didn’t need one to stop the Tucson, AZ, shooter (why glamorize him by using his name?) from killing more people. The two men who tackled the gunman didn’t have guns, either, nor did they need them. The fourth one, Joseph Zamudio, did have a gun and he almost used it – on one of the two guys holding the gunman down! Fortunately, he hesitated and realized he was mistaken, then rushed over to hold down the gunman’s legs. Being “a good guy with a gun” was completely irrelevant in this case, as his gun had nothing to do with the restraint or capture of the gunman.

You can speculate all you want about why the gun nuts think having a gun makes everyone safer. It doesn’t. To say that the solution to the problem of too much gun violence (besides admitting there is one) is to have more guns is like saying the solution to the problem of too many car accidents is to have more cars. Wrong! Just as the solution to having too many car accidents is fewer cars and more better-trained car owners, so it is with guns – fewer guns and more better-trained gun owners. Besides, why do these people insist that guns are the ONLY answer to the problem? If someone had come up behind the Tucson gunman and hit him upside the head with a two-by-four, would the gun nuts think he did it wrong?

I agree that the world is a dangerous place but, unlike conservatives, I believe it can be made better if we stop dividing ourselves by how we’re different from each other, and reach out to each other through what we have in common. And that is that we are all human beings on this planet. Please remember that.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about guns, gun nuts, nuts in general (I like almonds in my chocolate) or anything else you want. Just don’t shoot anybody.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 30, 2013: Is the U.N. Really Coming to Take Our Guns?

To hear some people on the Right tell it, the United Nations is going to be sending troops with light blue helmets door to door to confiscate your guns. But is that even remotely true? Well, I did start this post with “To hear some people on the Right tell it…” so that should be a clue. The answer is a simple “No,” but if you want something more complicated than that, then “No, and can I have some of what you’re on?” The United Nations is not about to do anything of the sort. In fact, it would be just as accurate to say that the Wicked Witch of the West is sending her flying monkeys to everyone’s house to confiscate the guns of law-abiding citizens and to fling poo at them. Let me be as clear as I can be: The United Nations is NOT going to take your guns, nor are they going to fling poo at you. Period. Anyone who tells you differently is either deliberately lying or sadly misinformed. Speaking of deliberately lying or sadly misinformed, Fox News Channel is helping to spread the fear that the U.N. is coming for your guns. And they are joined by, who else, the National Rifle Association (which, contrary to what any of their leadership says, actually lobbies on behalf of gun manufacturers, not gun owners.) But more on that later.

Back in July of last year, the United Nations met to discuss the international arms trade and how they could help keep guns from getting into the hands of bad people (like, you know, terrorists.) Contrary to early reports from the right, flinging poo was not on the agenda for these meetings. From that meeting emerged the Arms Trade Treaty, “to elaborate a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms.” And it makes sense. If you want to stop guns from getting into the hands of bad governments and international terrorists, you need the cooperation of everybody involved, otherwise the bad guys could just go to the country that didn’t sign the treaty and get their guns from them. This negotiation would have started sooner if not for the Bush Administration, which opposed the treaty on the illogical and unsubstantiated claim that “national controls are better.” Fortunately, the Obama Administration reversed that position. So the U.N. did meet but were unable to come up with an agreement. So they agreed to meet again this past week to conclude the work done in July. It’s important that the United States be a part of any such treaty because we are, by far, the largest exporter of arms in the world.

Much of the opposition to the treaty (and it didn’t all come from the U.S.) was over the issue of national sovereignty. There are some countries that have constitutions guaranteeing their citizens certain rights. (Quick quiz: Name one such country.) The fear was that an international treaty would override those rights. Well, I can’t speak with any authority on what other countries’ constitutions say, but I can promise you that no international treaty can ever supersede the United States Constitution. If it did, it would be struck down by our own Supreme Court (and then be forced to gay marry a treaty from another country.) But, to make sure that wasn’t an issue, our own State Department issued, what they call, “red lines.” According to the dictionary, red lines are “lines that are colored red” (well, that was no help), but they are also what you could call “deal breakers.” To allay the fears (real or imagined) that this treaty would empower the U.N. to send their famed “blueberries” to your door, the United States State Department issued these key red lines:

KEY U.S. REDLINES
——————————————————————————–
The Second Amendment to the Constitution must be upheld. There will be no restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution. There will be no dilution or diminishing of sovereign control over issues involving the private acquisition, ownership, or possession of firearms, which must remain matters of domestic law.

The U.S. will oppose provisions inconsistent with existing U.S. law or that would unduly interfere with our ability to import, export, or transfer arms in support of our national security and foreign policy interests.

The international arms trade is a legitimate commercial activity, and otherwise lawful commercial trade in arms must not be unduly hindered.

There will be no requirement for reporting on or marking and tracing of ammunition or explosives.

There will be no lowering of current international standards.

Existing nonproliferation and export control regimes must not be undermined.

The ATT negotiations must have consensus decision making to allow us to protect U.S. equities.

There will be no mandate for an international body to enforce an ATT.

So you’d think that would satisfy those “gun enthusiasts” (a/k/a “gun nuts”) who fear the U.N. is going to be coming for your guns. But, sadly, no. You see, removing the controversy by explicitly stating that the United States will not be party to any treaty that takes away your Second Amendment rights is too inconvenient for a network that wants you to live in fear. And that’s why the folks at Fox News Channel conveniently ignored that statement and pretended it didn’t exist. Instead, they reported the opposition to the treaty as if its rationale was based in facts. They reported the lies that the treaty could be interpreted as giving the U.N. the right to come to your home and take your guns as if they were old, settled issues (which is a common tactic of theirs.) That the industry that stands to lose a lot of money is opposed to the treaty should come as no surprise, nor should the fact that you’re not hearing their chief lobbyists, the NRA, explain it that way. Instead we get the lies. But we also get surprises.

For example, the National Rifle Association and Fox News Channel are vehemently (dare I say “violently”?) opposed to the Arms Trade Treaty. You know who else is, to the point of possibly thwarting the whole effort? Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Yes, you read that right. Fox News is on the same side as Iran, North Korea, and Syria. And they say we’re the ones who are un-American. And that we fling poo.

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss the Arms Trade Treaty, Fox News, the NRA, poo-flinging, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, January 17th, 2013: The NRA

Today’s thread provides a look at some recent activity from the NRA’s website, along with some background and statistical information from the ATF’s website, plus a few other odds and ends.

From the NRA’s website:

January 16, 2013
NRA RESPONSE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA’S GUN CONTROL PROPOSALS
Throughout its history, the National Rifle Association has led efforts to promote safety and responsible gun ownership. Keeping our children and society safe remains our top priority.

The NRA will continue to focus on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law. We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America’s most valuable asset — our children.

Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation. Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.

[“inevitability?]
– and –

January 10, 2013
STATEMENT FROM THE NRA
The National Rifle Association of America is made up of over 4 million moms and dads, daughters and sons, who are involved in the national conversation about how to prevent a tragedy like Newtown from ever happening again. We attended today’s White House meeting to discuss how to keep our children safe and were prepared to have a meaningful conversation about school safety, mental health issues, the marketing of violence to our kids and the collapse of federal prosecutions of violent criminals.

We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment. While claiming that no policy proposals would be “prejudged,” this Task Force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners — honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans. It is unfortunate that this Administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems. We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen. Instead, we will now take our commitment and meaningful contributions to members of congress of both parties who are interested in having an honest conversation about what works — and what does not.

Back in December, the NRA-ILA (Institute for Legislative Action) – self-described as “The Lobbying Arm of the NRA” – commented on Senator Diane Feinstein’s draft for proposed new gun legislation. And on January 4th, the NRA-ILA began to gin up fear over proposed House gun control bills.

From the ATF (which the NRA refers to as the BATFE, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), here’s a brief history of the National Firearms Act. The ATF website also includes information regarding Firearms Trace data (“state-by-state reports utilizing trace data which is intended to provide the public with insight into firearms recoveries”) as well as graphs and links for “Number of NFA Firearms Processed by Fiscal Year” Take a look at the jump in the numbers of “firearms processed” in 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012, when the NRA, in the person of Wayne LaPierre, was strongly pushing the “Obama’s going to take your guns away” meme. The website also provides a list (including photos and descriptions) of firearms which are covered under the National Firearms Act and subsequent additional gun control legislation.

Let’s go back to the NRA again. Here’s a brief introductory excerpt from a fascinating Alternet article by Steven Rosenfeld entitled “The Surprising Unknown History of the NRA”:

“For nearly a century after, its founding in 1871, the National Rifle Association was among America’s foremost pro-gun control organizations. It was not until 1977 when the NRA that Americans know today emerged, after libertarians who equated owning a gun with the epitome of freedom and fomented widespread distrust against government—if not armed insurrection—emerged after staging a hostile leadership coup.

In the years since, an NRA that once encouraged better markmanship and reasonable gun control laws gave way to an advocacy organization and political force that saw more guns as the answer to society’s worst violence, whether arming commercial airline pilots after 9/11 or teachers after the Newtown, while opposing new restrictions on gun usage.

It is hard to believe that the NRA was committed to gun-control laws for most of the 20th century—helping to write most of the federal laws restricting gun use until the 1980s.”

The NRA claims to have over four million members, a number disputed in this article from motherjones.com. There have also been claims made by the NRA that, since the Newtown tragedy, the NRA is gaining 8000 new members a day, supposedly over 100,000 total. However, when I tried to find more information to back up these claims, all I found were links to Fox News, Breitbart, and to some site called “The Daily News Report” (no relation to the NY Daily News.) And since this Daily News Report article contains the sentence “Unlike many who are using the school shooting as a political club, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has been staying quiet out of respect for the Newtown victims“, I think we can safely dismiss this ‘report.’ BTW, tomorrow night, FoxNews will be presenting “Hannity Special: Inside the Gun Debate, featuring Wayne LaPierre.” I wonder if they’ll have any of the parents from Newtown on for this “fair and balanced” Hannity “Special.”

And lastly, also from motherjones.com, here’s Frank Smyth’s article “Unmasking the NRA’s Inner Circle”, as discussed last night on Lawrence O’Donnell’s Last Word.

This is our open thread…better put your reading glasses on!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 22, 2012: No, Wayne, We Don’t Need More Guns

In the aftermath of one of the most horrific mass shootings in our nation’s long history of mass shootings (see partial list of recent mass shootings here), David Keene, President of the National Rifle Association (NRA) the began an announcement to the press “for the purposes of beginning our discussion of the topic that’s been on the mind of American parents across this country, and that is, what do we do about the tragedies of the sort that struck in Newtown, Connecticut — to avoid such events in the future?” He then introduced Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who proceeded to lie.

Wayne said, “Out of respect for the families and until the facts are known, the NRA has refrained from comment.” Except if that were true, he would not have been making those comments, because the facts are not yet known and won’t be for some time. But after promising on Tuesday that the NRA would have a “meaningful contribution,” their solution to prevent more mass shootings in schools was – yes, you guessed it – more guns in schools. Really, Wayne? Do you honestly think that if we put armed security guards in every school, that fewer children would die from guns? Maybe you really do believe that, because among many stupid things you said was this gem, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This is the mind set we must face if we are to do anything about the prevalence of guns in our society. A mind set that believes that the only thing wrong with the guns in our society is that there just aren’t enough of them, not that there are too many in the hands of people who have no business holding one let alone owning it. A mind set that thinks guns provide a level of safety their absence can’t match, despite the clear evidence that guns provide a level of danger their presence can’t eliminate. A mind set that believes you have every right in the world to kill someone for no other reason than that you believe, some how, some way, that he posed some kind of danger, possibly imaginary, to you or someone in your care.

They will try to make this about anything but guns. They will try to make it about mental health. They will try to make this about public health. They will try to make this about school safety. They will try to make this about ANYTHING but guns. But there is one, and only one, thing that all mass shootings have had in common – guns. People have committed mass murder without using guns, but those incidents are few and far between, and they certainly aren’t happening at the rate of about one per month, as is true with mass killings using guns. But until we talk about the issue, we won;t come to any meaningful solutions. And since the discussion will revolve around the Second Amendment, the very first question we should ask and answer is a simple one: What year is it right now? Because it isn’t 1791, and we don’t rely on out militias for law enforcement, only law assistance. And since militias were the clearly obvious reason for allowing people to own guns, shouldn’t we discuss them, too? The “right to keep and bear arms” is not without context, and a discussion on how to reduce the number of mass shootings in our society must address that context.

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss guns or any other topic you wish.

The Watering Hole: Monday, December 17, 2012 – Can We PLEASE Talk About Guns In Our Society Now?

On the morning of December 14, 2012, it was Newtown, Connecticut.
Before that it was Clackamas Town Center, Oregon.
Before that it was Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Before that it was Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
Before that it was Aurora, Colorado.
Before that it was Seattle, Washington.
Before that it was Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Before that it was Oakland, California.
Before that it was Seal Beach, California.
Before that it was Carson City, Nevada.
Before that it was Tucson, Arizona.
Before that it was Manchester, Connecticut.
Before that it was Fort Hood, Texas.
Before that it was Binghamton, New York.
Before that it was Carthage, North Carolina.
Before that it was Northern Illinois University, Illinois.
Before that it was Kirkwood, Missouri.
Before that it was Omaha, Nebraska.
Before that it was Virginia Tech, Virginia.
Before that it was Salt Lake City, Utah.
Before that it was Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Before that it was Seattle, Washington.
Before that it was Red Lake, Minnesota.
Before that it was Brookfield, Wisconsin.
Before that it was Meridian, Minnesota.
Before that it was Fort Worth, Texas.
Before that it was Atlanta, Georgia.
And before that, on the morning of April 20, 1999, it was Littleton, Colorado.

These are all places where someone, or several someones, took a gun, or several guns, and began shooting people at some location, or several locations. Does this list strike you as being rather long? These are just ones since Columbine. There were others in between and before that. Many people died in those mass shootings. Too many. And too many were children. Far, far too many. And yet, we can’t seem to have that talk about all these mass shootings and the prevalence of guns in our society.

How many people have to die in mass shootings before we are allowed to talk Continue reading

The Watering Hole – Saturday – July 21, 2012 – It’s Not 1787 Anymore

Yesterday morning, in Aurora, Colorado, a 24-year-old named James Holmes unleashed the largest mass shooting in US history using ammunition, weapons, and clips that were all legally purchased. Had the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban still be in effect, he would not have been allowed to possess some of that weaponry legally. It is desperation to try to argue that he would have found a way to get them anyway.

The people of this country need to have an honest discussion about guns. It’s not 1787 anymore, and we don’t depend on state militias to defend our nation against invasion, which is what the Second Amendment is about. It’s about national defense, not personal protection and not protection from our own government. That may be a side-benefit, but it was never the main purpose, no matter what anyone from the NRA says. The “right to keep and bear arms” is clearly predicated on the idea that the arms bearer was going to be part of “a well-regulated militia,” not just someone who liked having, as former Senator Phil Gramm once put it, “more guns than I need, but fewer guns than I want.”

A loaded gun is dangerous, and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. (I said “loaded.”) A loaded gun can kill or seriously injure even when it’s in nobody’s hands. Please don’t tell me guns are safe.

But enough about me. This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about this or anything else you want.

It’s Time To Talk About Our Guns

On Feb 26,2012, in Sanford, Florida, 17-year-old, 140-pound, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by 28-year-old, 250-pound George Zimmerman. Zimmerman has said that it was a case of self-defense. Despite the many facts that have come to light since the shooting, Zimmerman remains a free man, who hasn’t yet been arrested. The Sanford Police report also raises some questions on its own, such as why less than one minute elapsed from the time 9-1-1 was called until the time the police arrived to find Trayvon Martin face down and dead. If accurate, it would mean that George Zimmerman could not wait one single minute from the time he was told they did not need him to follow Trayvon until the time he killed him. [NOTE: Many people have brought up the racial aspects of this case, but since race has nothing whatsoever to do with the discussion I am having here, I have intentionally left those aspects out. I completely agree that had Zimmerman been black and his victim a 17-year-old white male, he would have been arrested immediately. But let’s save the racial aspects for another discussion.]

Although Zimmerman’s lawyer has said his client would not be invoking it, at the middle of this controversy is a law known colloquially as the “Stand Your Ground Law.” It says, in essence, that if you reasonably believe your life is in danger, you can use deadly force to defend yourself. The law was modeled on laws designed and written by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group of legislators and corporations that propose bills to be passed by the states. Believe me when I say they are not acting in your best interests. They are dangerous, and the laws they’ve helped pass have put innocent people in danger. They must be exposed and dealt with, but for now we as a nation must once and for all settle this matter of what the true meaning and intent of the Second Amendment is, and what role guns should have in our Society.

For the record, and so that there is no misunderstanding about the topic Continue reading

The Watering Hole: July 5th – Figures

So, it’s not ok to have a beer (or several) and use a car. I agree. But to have a beer (or several) and pack a gun? No big deal:

Reuters

Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich on Thursday signed into law a bill that allows gun owners in the state to carry concealed weapons into bars and other places where alcohol is served.

I like the part where it says the Cincinatti Bengals will continue to ban weapons in the stadium…

This is our Open Thread. Just get going, you know what to do. And during the day there may be other tidbits appearing below this thread. Just go see, or you might miss it.