Nel's New Day

June 14, 2013

Six Months since Newtown Massacre

Twenty-eight people died of gun violence because of one armed young man only six months ago today. The flurry of attempts to reduce further gun violence in the United States gave some people hope that it would happen, but NRA knew that interest would fade if they stood their ground. Yet the people in Newtown (CT) where 20 children and six educators were gunned down in that massacre haven’t quit. Today they held a remembrance that included reading the names of the more than 5,000 people in the country killed with guns which is expected to take 12 hours.

Mayors against Illegal Guns has launched a bus tour through 25 states during the next 100 days to build support for expanded background checks for gun buyers, the legislation that failed in the Senate two months ago. Relatives of victims have gone to Washington, D.C. to lobby for gun control legislation although some of the legislators refuse to meet with them.

NRA has Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in their sights with an ad campaign telling people to phone his office and tell him “to honor his commitment to the 2nd Amendment.”

The gun organization has a strong supporter in convicted felon Gary W. Bornman who wrote from a federal super-maximum security prison in Colorado to his Connecticut hometown newspaper, The Hartford Courant  expressing his gratitude to the pro-gun lawmakers and NRA for giving him the ability to easily get guns when he’s released. As he pointed out in the letter, without the NRA and these legislators he could not easily buy weapons before he reaches Connecticut with its restrictive laws so that he can “resume my criminal activities.” He finishes the letter:

“And so, a heartfelt thank you to the NRA and all those members of Congress voting with them. I, along with tens of thousands of other criminals, couldn’t do what we do without you.”

This isn’t the first time that Bornman has written letters to the public. In a 1999 letter to the LA Times, he wrote:

“In little more than 14 months, in all probability I’ll commit murder, perhaps even mass murder. That’s when I’m due to be released from federal prison where I’m serving a seven-year sentence for bank robbery.”

Bornman’s public defender, Gary Weinberger, thinks that his client is not really that dangerous.

When Bornman is released from the Colorado prison, he can drop into adjacent Nevada, where the state legislature just passed a bill to close the gun-show loophole by requiring background checks on gun purchases, including private transactions. They followed the wishes of 86 percent of people in Nevada. Bornman could get a gun in Nevada, however, because Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) vetoed the bill, claiming it would do “little to prevent criminals from unlawfully obtaining firearms.” Another provision of the vetoed bill would require Nevada courts to submit information about mentally ill legal defendants to a national clearinghouse for all new gun purchases within five business days after the finding.

Some gun enthusiasts claiming that the Second Amendment gives everyone the right to own guns and ammunition are trying to stop the U.S. government from having them. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), chair of the House Homeland Security oversight subcommittee, is confused about why IRS law enforcement agents would train with AR-15 rifles. He said, “It’s been bugging me for weeks now, why IRS agents are training with a semi-automatic rifle AR-15, which has stand-off capability. Are Americans that much of a target that you need that kind of capability?” These are exactly my sentiments for the ordinary U.S. citizen.

The tax agency’s explanation:

“As law enforcement officials, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agents are equipped similarly to other federal, state and local law enforcement organizations. Special Agents receive training on the appropriate and safe use of assigned weapons. IRS Criminal Investigation has internal controls and oversight in place to ensure all law enforcement tools, including weapons are used appropriately.”

Fighting potentially violent criminals has been part of IRS agents’ job for 90 years; their jurisdiction includes “tax, money laundering and Bank Secrecy Act laws.”  The IRS guidelines for training its agents on semi-automatic rifles occurred in 2003 under George W. Bush’s watch.

Since the Newtown massacre, the House has passed one piece of gun control legislation.  By a vote of 234-192, the House voted last week to stop DHS from buying any more ammunition until they submit reports on the need for this to Congress. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) has proposed a similar measure in Congress’s other chamber.

During the past six months, gun violence has killed an average of 28 people each day, more than the number of U.S. military members killed during the Iraq War. In the last 30 years, 62 mass shootings occurred in thirty different states, making an average of two each year. Twenty-five of them happened since 2006—seven of them last year with 140 victims. Mother Jones has tracked these on an interactive map.

During the past four years, the U.S. averaged over one mass shooting per month. In the last six months, there have been at least 14 mass shootings—over two each month. An interactive map of the nation, pinpointing these shootings, is available here.

An analysis of the 62 mass shootings shows the following:

Weapons: The killers possessed 143 weapons, more than three quarters obtained legally, including dozens of assault weapons and semi-automatic handguns with high-capacity magazines.

Locations:  More than half of the cases involved school or workplace shootings (12 and 20, respectively); the other 30 cases took place in locations such as shopping malls, restaurants, and religious and government buildings.

Killers: Forty four were white males; only one was a woman. The average age of the killers was 35, with the youngest 11 years old. A majority had demonstrated being mentally troubled before they killed.

Not once was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun. In other recent rampages, civilians who tried to intervene not only failed but also were seriously wounded or killed. Even the police don’t have a good record: New York City police officers trained in counterterrorism wounded nine innocent bystanders when confronting a gunman at the Empire State Building.

Without registration, no one knows exactly how many guns are in private hands, but estimates indicate about 200 million privately-owned guns in 1995, a number that has increased 50 percent in the past 18 years to 300 million. During the same time, the U.S. population grew by only 20 percent. Yet fewer households have guns: 40 percent of them had weapons in the past decade compared to 50 percent in the 1980s.

During the last four years, the NRA and its political allies have pushed through 99 laws in 37 states making guns easier to own, carry, and conceal from the government. Eight states permit guns in bars, even when the carrier is intoxicated. Five states allow concealed weapons on college campuses. Kansas permit holders can carry concealed weapons inside K-12 schools, and Louisiana permits guns in houses of worship. Eighty percent of states now recognize handgun permits from at least some other states.

At least one educator is making a different in the gun control issue. Believing that children who play with toy guns become desensitized, making it easier for them to use real guns later, Strobridge Elementary School (CA) Principal Charles Hill organized a toy gun exchange. Gun rights enthusiasts claim that toy guns are painted in “bright colors,” making it impossible for them to be mistaken for a real gun, but “real guns” are also painted in such colors as bright pink and blue. About 75 children traded their guns for books and a chance on four bicycles.

Until 1996, Australia had the same lax attitude toward gun ownership that the United States does. After 35 people were killed in a massacre on April 28 of that year, Australia passed restrictive gun controls, requiring a “genuine reason” for permits and prohibiting gun ownership for convicted felons and those with mental illness. The rate of homicides involving firearms per 100,000 population in 2009 was 0.1 in Australia, as compared with 3.3 in the United States.The rate of unintentional deaths involving firearms in 2001 was 0.09, compared with 0.27 in the United States. Only Latin America has a higher death rate from guns than the United States.

May 7, 2013

GOP, the Party of Ignorance

Mark Sanford lied to the people of South Carolina when he was governor by leaving the state ungoverned for five days while he visited his mistress, spent taxpayer funds to go there, broke the law by trespassing in the home of his ex-wife, published the telephone numbers of people who called him, and showed other instances of unethical behavior. This is the candidate who has just been elected to the District #1 of South Carolina, defeating Elizabeth Colbert Busch.

Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler, called Sanford “America’s great sex pioneer,” and said in his endorsement of the candidate, “Mark Sanford has demonstrated by his words and deeds that traditional values are shameful and that he will not live by such rules.” And now the conservatives of South Carolina have chosen a “sex pioneer,” who demonstrates “that traditional values are shameful” to represent them.

Joining a group of hypocrites and downright ignorant GOP lawmakers in Congress, Mark Sanford was able to run for his new position after Gov. Nikki Haley (R) appointed Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) to senator after Jim DeMint (R) left to head up the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation. Arriving in Washington on the Tea Party wave of 2010, Scott’s actions demonstrate what we have come to expect from conservatives:

  • Impeach President Obama because the conservatives claimed that the debt ceiling is an unconstitutional infringement on the 14th Amendment.
  • Cut off food stamps for a family if one member goes on strike—no exceptions for children or other dependents.
  • Spend an unlimited amount of taxpayer money to display the Ten Commandments outside a county building in Charleston to “remind council members and speakers the moral absolutes they should follow.”
  • Protect over $50 billion in oil subsidies at the same time that oil companies are raking in tens of billions in profit every quarter.

Although South Carolina has only six Congressional districts, one-sixth of those in Texas, the state seems to be cornering part of the market on crazy. Last week, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) introduced a bill to bar the U.S. Census Bureau from conducting almost all surveys except for its decennial population count. If this were to pass, President Obama couldn’t be criticized for the unemployment rate: the bill removes statistics for that. Businesses, researchers, academics, and government agencies would lose information about commuting, income, family structure, education, housing, and finance. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) proposed making part of the this survey optional. Actually, they already are.

Duncan’s proposal, with 10 co-sponsors, would also eliminate the agricultural census, economic census, government census, and mid-decade census. Also lost would be the measurement of the nation’s GDP. Duncan has other bizarre positions, some of them about the Boston bombing, which led the patient Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to say that his ignorant inquiries were “full of misstatements and misapprehensions,” and “not worthy of an answer.”

In an attempt to keep up with South Carolina, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced a bill, ironically called the “High Quality Research Act,” to mandate that any research using federal funds—and there’s lots of that in the United States—must have its results and findings approved by the House Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. If those House representatives don’t agree to the findings, then the research is removed from those who performed the studies and then disposed of. Smith claims that “the intent of the draft legislation is to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent on the highest-quality research possible.” With a couple of college science courses, he also sees himself as a “peer” to the researchers.

Smith voted to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, voted no several times on tax credits for renewable energy and incentives for energy production and conservation, voted against raising fuel efficiency standards, and rejected implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. In addition, he denies that climate change has been caused by humans. Chair of the science committee, he is its most moderate GOP member.

Several senators joined in the conspiracy theory that Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) announced on MSNBC about the Obama administration deliberately orchestrating airline delays. “The administration is clearly manufacturing a crisis for political gain,” Toomey said. The short term fix for air-traffic controller furloughs comes out of airport repair and improvement, a move which will start long-term delays in a few years.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has brought back the disgusting term “anchor babies.” While discussing immigration reform at a town hall meeting last week, he insisted on border control before allowing undocumented immigrants a “probationary” status. Ryan wants to change the constitution so that people don’t come into the United States and have children. “That’s what they call it, anchor babies.”

During the same town hall meetings, Ryan suffered serious memory lapses. When an EPA worker talked about losing thousands in his income because of the sequester, the House Budget Committee Chairman blamed the president for the sequester, failing to remember that he bragged about the GOP getting legal caps on spending with the sequester. His excuse now is that the president won’t promote Ryan’s budget plan. Ryan, however, failed to tell the EPA employee that the Ryan budget plan guts the EPA.

Governors aren’t exempt from ignorant prejudice. In Pennsylvania where Tom Corbett (R) has low job approval ratings and economic recovery, he tried to explain why his state is 49th in the nation for job creation last March. “There are many employers that say we’re looking for people but we can’t find anybody that has passed a drug test, a lot of them.” His state has a pilot program that requires drug testing for those convicted of felony drug offenses who apply for welfare. In the past 15 months, only two people have failed these tests.

Also on the state level, California GOP Assembly President Celeste Greig voiced agreement with Todd Akin’s infamous “legitimate rape” comment:

“Granted, the percentage of pregnancies due to rape is small because it’s an act of violence, because the body is traumatized. I don’t know what percentage of pregnancies are due to the violence of rape. Because of the trauma the body goes through, I don’t know what percentage of pregnancy results from the act.”

California is not as understanding as other states: the Assembly voted her out, but only by six votes.

North Carolina State Senator Tommy Tucker summarized how the GOP feels about the people in the United States. A recent bills that he pushed through committee is to not inform people with important government decisions through omitting the requirement that the government publish legal notices about these decisions—such as a sewage plant in the neighborhood. Questioned by the Charlotte Observer about his bill, Tucker said:

“I am the senator. You are the citizen. You need to be quiet.”

This is where the United States is going these days—everyone should just be quiet.

[Note: The Republican Party has removed the word “Republican” from its website: now it’s just NRCC. Currently in their attempt to attract minorities, it has an article called “The History about Cinco de Mayo That You Might Not Know.”  The article headlined “Nancy Pelosi: The Least Liked Person in Congress” is actually about only the four Congressional leaders. Rep. Pelosi (D-CA) is actually tied with House Speaker John Boehner at 31 percent favorability. Always interesting to see how the GOP—excuse me, the NRCC—twists and tortures the facts.]

April 20, 2013

GOP Politicians ‘Insensitivity’

A few days ago, my partner and I talked about how to describe Mark Sanford, candidate for the House of Representatives. She said “stupid,” and I thought perhaps “arrogant.” His words and actions are just another in the long line of  ignorant, clueless, naïve, self-serving, oblivious, dumb—the list goes on and on—statements from these people. For the sake of politeness, I’ll use the term “insensitive” to cover all these adjectives.

Back to Sanford. Most people in the country know him as the past governor of South Carolina who told people four years ago that he was hiking in the Appalachians to cover the fact that he had flown to Argentina for five days to visit his mistress. Public knowledge of his lies led to a rapid disintegration of his marriage and then a divorce. Nikki Haley became governor, and Sanford disappeared—for a while. This year, however, he is running for a House seat vacated by Tim Scott after Haley appointed him to Jim DeMint’s vacant seat.

Things looked pretty good for Sanford in his run against Elizabeth Colbert Busch. Until last week. The news that he had trespassed in his ex-wife’s house sent shock waves through his major donors from the NRCC to the Club for Growth, most of which dropped him like a hot potato. Yet the NRCC had no criticism for his illegal activities in entering a house without permission. They just said, “Mark Sanford has proven he knows what it takes to win elections. At this time the NRCC will not be engaged in the special election.”

What was Sanford’s excuse?

“I did indeed watch the second half of the Super Bowl at the beach house with our 14-year-old son because as a father I didn’t think he should watch it alone. Given she was out of town I tried to reach her beforehand to tell her of the situation that had arisen and met her at the back steps under the light of my cell phone when she returned and told her what had happened.”

So Sanford was worried about just the second half the game, he referred to his ex-wife’s place as “the” beach house, and she was in town because she caught him sneaking out the back door.

Even conservative columnist Kathleen Parker has thrown Sanford under the bus, attributing Sanford’s behavior to “hubris.” Skipping the fact that she blamed his problems on the fact that his wife didn’t stand by him, Parker’s conclusion is right on target:

“Sanford’s lack of empathy for his family, not to mention his impeachable judgment, should disqualify him from further public service, an opinion apparently shared by the Republican National Committee, which recently withdrew support for his candidacy.”

On May 7, the nation will find out if the voters of South Carolina prefer a stalking, law-breaking candidate rather to a Democrat

Sanford isn’t alone, however, in his “insensitivity.” The bombing in Boston brought out the worst in several high-profile lawmakers.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is a lawyer, Air Force Reserve colonel, and member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps who led the impeachment of President Clinton because he believes in the “rule of the law.” Now he wants the perpetrator of the Boston bombing to be “held as an enemy combatant.” Graham wants a U.S. citizen captured in the U.S. to be deprived of his basic constitutional rights. This is the same man who considers those who massacre large numbers of people with high-powered weapons to have mental issues.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) took Sean Hannity’s Fox show as fact when Steve Emerson reported that unnamed “sources” told him that the U.S. government was secretly deporting the Saudi national suspect in the bombing. Presenting this conspiracy theory as fact, he criticized Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at a House hearing for doing this. When Napolitano said this wasn’t true, Duncan said, “He is being deported.” Duncan follows the conservatives of the United States when he gets all his information from the least reliable news network.

Even Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), usually a reasonable person, joined the insanity. She said, “Whenever we have an attack like this it’s difficult not to think that it’s somehow involved in Islamic extremism. I don’t have evidence to back that up. That’s just based on previous attacks.” Although it turned out that the two young men who allegedly set off the bombs are Muslims, there has been no “evidence” to show that it was connected to “Islamic extremism” any more than the mass murders by “Christians” were connected to “Christian extremism.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) argued, “We have people that are trained to act Hispanic when they are radical Islamists.” Rep. Steve King (R-IA) followed that up with trying the persuade people to drop the immigration bill that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented people. For him, one act of violence eliminates the possibility for anyone to again become a citizen in the United States except by birth.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told a national television audience on Tuesday that a “person of interest” in the Boston bombings “is in custody.” Law enforcement officials spent time explaining that he was wrong. McCaul also announced at a press conference that “we’ve been quite fortunate that this type of attack has not happened before in the U.S.” At the age of 51, McCaul could possibly be forgiven about the anarchist bombings in 1919 and 1920, including the wagon bomb that killed 38 people on Wall Street.

But where was he during the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the Unabomber in 1994, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the 1996 pipe bombs at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, the 1998 bomb at an Alabama abortion clinic in 1998, the 2000 arson attack at a Syracuse temple in 2000, the 18 pipe bombs planted in mailboxes in five states in 2002, the 2008 bomb at a military recruiting center in Times Square, the 2008 bomb at a San Diego courthouse, the 2008 fire bombs targeting researchers at UC Santa Cruz, and the 2011 attempted bombing of an MLK parade in Spokane. The last four happened since he became representative in 2005.

This last week was tragic in many ways, one of them the rejection by a minority of senators who managed to quell an amendment to require background checks for some people before purchasing weapons. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), who voted against requiring background checks has a solution “to do more to curb the senseless acts of violence that continue to occur in this country.” His answer:

“One of the things we need are parents, parents to be more careful and more repetitive at telling their kids that it is not right to kill people. It’s not even right to bully them. And it’s definitely not right for them to kill themselves. Until we can get that message across to our kids, I hope that we don’t rely on a few votes by this body to make everybody feel comfortable that all the problem is taken care of.”

If Enzi is right, we don’t need him or any other lawmakers; we just teach kids to do the right thing. Wouldn’t that be grand!

the way of improvement leads home

reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life

© blogfactory

Genuine news

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily News

Transformational News; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

Rainbow round table news

Official News Outlet for the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: