Nel's New Day

March 13, 2016

Christianity – Good, Bad, Ugly

 

Good:

After over seven years in office, President Obama has decided not to include abstinence-only education programs in his budget. Ronald Reagan began in 1981 to fund these programs that are proved to be failures, and funding “grew exponentially” between 1996 and 2006. In 25 years, taxpayers have been forced to pay over $1.5 billion for these failed programs. One survey showed the doubling of participants in one type of this program who would “probably” have sex during high school. Teen pregnancy has steadily declined in states that require comprehensive-sex education while teen pregnancy in states where abstinence-only sex education is allowed and even mandated stays high.

States with the highest rate of teen pregnancies are New Mexico, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma—places that mandate sex-education programs stress abstinence and “the importance of sex only during marriage.”New Hampshire, Vermont, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Maine had the lowest numbers of teen pregnancies in the nation during the same time. Teen pregnancy costs the U.S. about $9.4 billion in 2010.

Unlike the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts have long refused to engage in bigotry, a policy that occasionally makes them the target of conservative religious groups. The most recent event comes from a Missouri Catholic archdiocese when St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson urged priests to sever all ties with Girl Scout troops, accusing them of “exhibiting a troubling pattern of behavior.” A week later the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri had raised a record amount of money at its annual fundraiser—over $350,000. In addition, increased sales of Girl Scout cookies has caused shortages, and  several local businesses offered to host cookie booths in their lobbies.

In a possible lessening of Catholic anti-contraception position, Pope Francis said that its use in avoiding infecting fetuses with the Zika virus is better than abortions. He said, “Avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil.” For example, Pope Paul VI permitted African raped nuns to use contraception. The Catholic church’s position on preventing contraception does not hold up in Latin America: 88 percent of Mexicans, 91 percent of Colombians, and 93 percent of Brazilians support the use of contraceptives. Francis also said that Catholic lawmakers are free to vote for same-sex marriage and civil unions in opposition to Pope Benedict XVI’s document in 2003 when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger that explicitly forbid Catholic legislators from voting for same-sex marriage or unions.

Bad:

Good news, bad news. Idaho is getting rid of a law mandating daily Bible readings in schools while allowing Bibles to be used in school classes—including science.

The Rev. Dwight C. Jones, mayor of Richmond (VA), thinks that the First Amendment protects him as he hires people from his church to do volunteer work for the church while being paid by the state’s capital city. Over ten percent of Richmond’s executive-level positions were filled by members of Jones’ church, First Baptist of South Richmond. Head of public works for Richmond, Emmanuel Adediran, was discovered supervising renovation work for First Baptist while on his city’s job. Two contractors also listed Richmond city offices as the billing address for estimates on kitchen equipment for the church. One employee has already been fired, but more are in the pipeline. Jones is asking for respect “for the wall of separation between church and state.”

Many Christians who fear Sharia Law in the U.S. support Christian Law. GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz is one of those according to his wife, Heidi. She claims that her husband is the only one able to provide a “combination of the law and religion.” According to Heidi Cruz, “the God of Christianity is the God of freedom, of individual liberty, of choice and of consequence.” She also calls Christians “loving” and  “nonjudgmental”–the same ones who want to take away rights from people. Cruz is running on a platform that rights in the United States come from God and talks about “Christianity under attack.” He openly supports torture, carpet bombing, distribution of water in Flint only to anti-abortion religious centers, and has connections to which supremacy groups.

GOP presidential candidate John Kasich, who claims to be “small government,” goes beyond pushing Christianity through the United States. He wants an agency to make Christians out of everyone in the world. His proposed tax-payer funded agency would “beam messages around the world about what it means to have a western ethic, to be part of a Judeo-Christian society.” In many ways, Kasich is as dangerous as his GOP competition, but the media gives him as pass as a “moderate Republican.”

Ugly:

God has declared that domestic violence abusers should have the “freedom” to “open carry” guns in order to protect themselves, according to Rep. Jeff Coody in his defense of an Oklahoma bill that passed the House by a large majority. When Rep. Mike Brown asked if the government had a responsibility to protect other people, Coody said, “No.” Since the state passed a concealed carry law, it is at a 10-year high for rapes. This bill also removes any requirement for permits or training before people can buy guns. “If we give people some freedom, people tend to use that responsibly,” Coody said.

Proving that “religious liberty” is only for Christians, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) is furious that President Obama has blocked the sale of a San Carlos Apache sacred site to foreign-owned Resolution Copper. He justifies his actions by alleging that the place has never been sacred, despite testimony from Scientists for the Society for American Archaeology the site has been used for religious purposes since “well before recorded history.” The area had been closed to mining since then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s recognition of the sacred land in 1955. Tribe members have occupied the site since it was sold out to the mining company according to a provision in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act. The sale would mark the first time in history that Native American land would be handed over to foreign interests by Congress.

Just when people thought that the Catholic Church might try to stop child sexual abuse, the church has delivered a different message. The guidelines for training newly ordained bishops state:

“According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds.”

This directive ignores the pope’s statement that “everything possible must be done to rid the church of the scourge of the sexual abuse.”

Girls-are-like-apples-on-trees

In addition, just plain creepy weird:

“Girls are like apples on trees. Their fathers are the farmers, whose job is to care for them. He must protect his apples from pests and disease. He must guard them against thieves who may pick his apples prematurely. Neither those at the top nor those at the bottom can help their location. But, when each reaches peak ripeness, it is the farmer’s job to harvest that fruit and give it to whom he will, to those in need. So there is nothing wrong with the apples still on the tree and nothing wrong with the boys who seek them. But it is the farmer’s duty to provide for both, in due season.”

That comes from Vaughn Ohlman, who thinks that Christian youth aren’t marrying early enough because fathers are too selective about which “boys” they give their “girls” to in marriage. According to Suzanne Titkemeyer, Ohlman is upset because he wanted a girl in his church and the father wouldn’t “give” her to Ohlman.

Mass shootings have increased within the past few weeks across the nation, but the GOP refuses to take any actions for prevention.  Their solution is prayer. Several months ago, the president said, “[T]houghts and prayers are not enough…. It does … nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America, next week or a couple of months from now.” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) responded, “When you are praying, you are doing something about it. You are revealing the presence of God….  That is why prayer should always come first.” No comment on what should come next. For Christian Republicans, solutions are denial and prayer while giving all the resources in the nation to the wealthiest people. This would be worsen under a fundamentalist Christian president.

December 19, 2015

Gun Myths Promote Killing Innocent People

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:13 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), a survivor of the lax gun laws in the United States, spoke on December 14, 2015, the third anniversary of the mass shooting that killed 20 children and eight adults, about the lack of gun safety laws:

“Congress will do exactly what its members have done every week since those 20 kindergartners and first-graders were murdered in their classrooms: nothing at all. That’s cowardice, an embrace of the shameful status quo we’ve grown to expect from a Congress in the gun lobby’s grip. Many of my former colleagues are in the cold clutches of pessimism and its key ingredient: fear.”

The second reason for refusal to face gun violence is ignorance and allegiance to distorted reality about guns. Many people opposed to gun safety laws don’t believe the following information:

Feeling safer is not the same as being safer. Two-thirds of gun owners say they feel safer because they have a gun in their home, but they aren’t. Having a gun in the home increases the chances of gun-related violence there: suicides, accidental shootings, domestic disagreements, and home invaders’ taking the guns. Of the 11,000 homicides in 2012, only 269—three-fourths with handguns—were justifiable, meaning self-defense. Each of these justifiable homicides was matched with 78 gun homicides, and two accidental gun deaths. A detailed report, “Firearms Training and Self-Defense,” shows that few criminals are shot in homes. Guns in homes are typically used to intimidate people they know in the home, including spouses, other family members, and people invited into the home.

The presence of guns in the home leads to violence. Too many unstable people own guns because 22 million people in the nation—8.9 percent of the adult population—have impulsive anger issues and easy access to guns. Few of these people are subject to current mental-health care restrictions, and 3.7 million of the 22 million carry their guns in public. Research shows that the more guns people have, the more likely they are to carry them in public and have a history of anger issues. Then sudden fear responses cause serious injury or death.

“Good people” with guns will not always defeat “bad people” with guns. Researchers studying the NRA belief in the contrary found the “good guns with guns” myth to be a dangerous vigilante fantasy. Most people with guns aren’t trained to be effective law officers. They don’t know how to confront unstable people; they don’t have the physical stamina to be in a potential life-or-death fight; and they don’t possess the self-control to stop themselves from firing indiscriminately. The result is injuries or death to themselves, bystanders, or both. The report stated:

“The lack of quality initial training and repeat training over time is potentially a disaster waiting to happen.”

More guns lead to more crime and violence. Research by a team of Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University researchers found in 2014:

“Our analysis of the year-by-year impact of RTC [right to carry] laws also suggests that RTC laws increase aggravated assaults. Our analysis of admittedly imperfect gun aggravated assaults provides suggestive evidence that RTC laws may be associated with large increases in this crime, perhaps increasing such gun assaults by almost 33 percent.”

The study also found “evidence that RTC laws increase rape and robbery.”

The deadliest weapons are very profitable.  Gun manufacturers and the NRA fan the fears of terrorism and government takeover because they make money from selling firearms—especially sem-automatic weapons that use more ammunition. Bullets accounted for almost one-third the profits–$4.6 billion sales in 2013 compared to 26 percent in 2008.

The gun culture promoted by the NRA and gun manufactures kills children.  The presence of a gun makes children less safe, programs such as Eddie Eagle are insufficient, and use of gun safes and smart guns could reduce the death toll. The presence of guns also directly increases the risk of youth homicide and suicide. Children between 5 and 14 in the U.S. are 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations. In the developed world, 87 percent of children younger than 14 killed by firearms live in the United States. In the U.S., more children and teenagers died from gunfire in 2010—a single year—than U.S. troops in Afghanistan since 2001. Yet to people who oppose gun safety laws, mass shootings of children are horrific while “accidental” killings of children in the home—sometime by other young children—are sad but business as usual.

Children from states where firearms are prevalent suffer from significantly higher rates of homicide, even after accounting for poverty, education, and urbanization. For example, most of firearm deaths in North Carolina youth were caused by legally purchased handguns. Easy access to firearms doubles the risk of homicide and triples the risk for suicide among all household members. Family violence is also much more likely to be lethal in homes where a firearm is present, placing children especially in danger. Murder-suicides are another major risk to children and are most likely to be committed with a gun.

These deaths are not offset by defensive gun use. For every time a gun is used legally in self-defense at home, there are “four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.” A study of adolescents in California found that there were 13 times as many threatening as self-defensive uses of guns. Many of the defensive encounters came from confrontations that became hostile because of the presence of a firearm.

Children living in states with higher levels of firearm availability also suffer from significantly higher rates of unintentional gun deaths. The vast majority of these shootings involve either family or friends. Accidental killings are significantly underreported in the official data, often being classified as homicides or suicides rather than accidents. Several states have twice as many accidental gun deaths than the official record indicated.

Many gun owners are unaware that children have handled their guns; therefore the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocates not having a gun in the home for safety. The NRA ignores this evidence and continues to push laws forbidding pediatricians from talking to parents about guns and safety measures. If people insist on having guns in homes with children, laws holding gun owners responsible for the safe storage of firearms reduced unintentional shooting deaths among children by 23 percent. States where gun owners are more likely to store loaded guns, especially if they are not locked up, have a much larger share of intentional firearm deaths.

Smart guns, which can be fired only by the owner, drastically reduces the risk of accidental shootings and teenage suicides. Extreme gun advocates have fought against their sales, going as far as sending death threats for offering smart guns. A campaign spreading lies about the failure rates of smart guns has stopped the use of this effective technology that could prevent deaths. Toy guns have regulations to reduce the risk of fatal accidents, but real guns have zero federal safety standards regulating their designs.

The NRA and extreme gun advocates perpetuate a culture of fear and violence, teaching children that guns are a solution. Bullied students are bringing thousands of guns to schools, and the number of school shootings has drastically increased since Sandy Hook. Exposure to firearm violence doubles the risk that an adolescent will then in turn commit violent acts over the next two years.

Conservatives have used the mass shooting in San Bernardino to avoid the serious problem of gun violence. After every mass shooting in the U.S. by a white man following the Christian religion, conservatives leap onto the “let’s not politicize the event,” “mental illness,” “lone wolf” memes. When two Muslims go out on their own to kill people—quite successfully because guns are easy to obtain—conservatives cry out for higher media surveilling, closing down the internet, building walls around the country, and stopping all Muslims at the border from entering the nation. A man kills three people in Colorado in the name of Christianity, and he’s simply deranged. A married couple kill 14 people in the name of Islam, and they are the devil incarnate.

Extremist people in the United States are so obsessed with their guns that they will do anything to keep them. As Larry Wilmore said in his segment about this lunacy, “See something, shoot something.” That’s what every obsessive gun owner believes no matter how many people are killed—as long as the shooter isn’t a Muslim.

December 14, 2015

GOP Killing People with Inaction

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:43 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

“Liberty isn’t just about having any gun you want, any time you want it. Liberty has got to also be about the right to be free from indiscriminate violence.”

This statement is part of the first speech that Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) made on that chamber’s floor in April 2013. Three years ago today, Murphy was a newly-elected U.S. senator. Three years today, a young man killed his mother and then went to Sandy Hook Elementary School where he killed 26 more people—20 of them children—before he killed himself. The last thing he did was to kill himself. During that three years, one child has died from gun violence every other day.

Almost 20 years ago, a local scoutmaster in a small Scottish school killed 16 children and their teacher before killing himself. The government took swift action to stop more mass shootings. Since then, there has been one “mass shooting” in which a man killed 12 people in various locations. Since 1996, the UK has had no school shootings; the U.S. has had 142 school shootings in the three years since Sandy Hook.

homicide rate chart

Satirist Andy Borowitz wrote:

“In what has become a tradition in the nation’s capital, the United States Congress on Monday notched the third anniversary of doing nothing in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

“As on the first and second anniversaries of the tragedy, lawmakers took up no new measures to prevent future mass shootings in the United States, and instead chose to mark Newtown’s third anniversary with a day of inaction. In that respect, the third anniversary of Newtown resembles the thousand-plus days that came before it, during which Congress took no action on guns except to periodically vote down expanded background checks.”

Earlier this month, the NRA ordered the GOP senators to vote against an amendment to keep people on the no-fly list from buying guns. According to the FBI, 2,233 background checks for purchasing guns or explosives resulted in 190 denials. Attorney General John Ashcroft had ordered permission for people on the terrorist no-fly list to purchase guns after 9/11, and the order has not been repealed in the past 14 years, despite cries to stop foreign terrorists from killing.

The NRA ordered GOP senators to vote against closing loopholes in the federal background checks allowing unlicensed dealers to sell huge numbers of guns in private sales with no checks. An Al Qaeda video encourages jihadists to exploit these lax laws to attack people in the United States. The GOP senators voted according to the NRA orders, and suspected terrorists may buy as many guns as they wish.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) voted against the bills because people on the no-fly list might not be terrorists. That situation can be fixed; selling guns to terrorists can’t without a congressional vote.

Even with guns leaking over from states with more lax gun laws, states with background checks for all handgun sales have 52 percent fewer mass shootings than other states. There are “63 percent fewer mass shootings committed by people prohibited from possessing firearms in states that require background checks for all handgun sales than in those that do not,“ according to a study. In states with these background checks, 48 percent fewer law enforcement officers are killed with handguns.

fewer mass shootings

Another “nothing” action from the GOP is their refusal to re-fund research on gun violence. Almost two decades ago, former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR) introduced the NRA-authored legislation to ban the Centers for Disease Control from studying gun violence and ways to prevent it. Since then, the United States has seen about 2 million dead and injured people from gun violence. The year before the massacres at Sandy Hook and Aurora (CO), Congress extended the ban to the National Institutes of Health to keep it from researching a serious health issue.

Dickey now regrets what he did, calling it one of the biggest mistakes of his political office that ended in 2000:

“Research could have been continued on gun violence without infringing on the rights of gun owners, in the same fashion that the highway industry continued its research without eliminating the automobile.”

A coalition of over 2,000 physicians recently called on Congress to lift its ban on research, and nine medical associations urged Congress to overturn the Dickey Amendment. Dr. Alice Chen, executive director of Doctors for America, said, “Gun violence is a public health problem that kills 90 Americans a day.” Last month dozens of House Democrats called for renewal of federal research on gun violence, writing:

“We dedicate $240 million a year on traffic safety research, more than $233 million a year on food safety, and $331 million a year on the effects of tobacco, but almost nothing on firearms that kill 33,000 Americans annually.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) has submitted a bill called the Gun Violence Research Act with the express purpose of “helping identify and treat those prone to committing mass shootings.” President Obama asked for $10 million for this research in each of his last two budgets. Both times, the GOP eliminated the request. The GOP Congress is also refusing to fund any research about gun violence that costs the United States a staggering $229 billion every year.

The GOP is actually taking some action regarding gun laws. Republicans have started a process to send more guns into Washington, DC, the only city that Congress completely controls. After the mass shootings in San Bernardino, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sped up a bill to repeal gun restrictions in the nation’s capital by skipping over the committee process. Gun violence has increased in the city because lax gun laws in the state of Virginia allow a glut of guns in DC.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has introduced a bill to repeal Washington’s ban on semiautomatic guns, remove criminal penalties for unregistered firearms, repeal a gun-offender registry, revoke the federal ban on interstate handgun transfers, restore the right of self-defense in the home, and require D.C. to issue and honor concealed carry firearms permits for residents and non-residents. In addition, he wants guns allowed in “public, non-sensitive areas of federal property”—in the nation’s capital. Earlier this year, Rubio raised his NRA rating from a B+ to an A with a similar bill.

Concealed carry of guns is allowed in bars in 16 states, in churches in 25 states, and schools in 28 states. States have prohibited authorities from seizing guns during emergencies, moved to ban the use of taxpayer funding for government gun buyback programs, and banned the destruction of firearms seized by law enforcement. Some states have pre-empted local governments’ ability to pass stricter firearms laws. The year following Sandy Hook, 26 states passed 63 laws allowing people to more easily carry guns in public.  For example:

  • Kansas: Gun owners don’t need a licensed for carrying concealed weapons.
  • Texas: Permits will allow open carry in holsters and concealed weapons in college classrooms.
  • Arkansas: People can carry guns into polling places.
  • Georgia: People can carry guns in bars and churches. 
  • Wisconsin: People no longer have a 48-hour waiting period to buy guns.

Every widely-publicized mass shooting brings GOP members to their knees. They pray for the victims and survivors while following the NRA directives. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) wrote:

“Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing–again.”

As NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said about guns, “I have no faith in the Congress of the United States.” The GOP goes farther than doing nothing: they kill people by their lack of action in a crisis of gun violence and proliferation of even more lax gun laws.

December 10, 2015

GOP Celebrates Xenophobia on Human Rights Day

Conservatives claim that members of a religious group are stockpiling weapons for a takeover of the United States and make them subjects of discrimination and violence, arson and protests. Muslims experience this persecution now, but Catholic Americans endured the same persecution a century ago when they lived in fear, many of them lynched. Formed by white supremacists after the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan was declared a “terrorist organization” by 1870, but by the 1920s, the group persecuted Jews and Catholics.

The United States has a long history of xenophobia: anyone who isn’t white and Christian can be the subject of ethnic and religious discrimination.

Europeans began their xenophobic march across the United States in the 17th century when they began their elimination of the indigenous peoples. By the time they finished, they had eradicated 95 percent of the native population and deported survivors to the most undesirable land they could find. Most Native Americans were denied U.S. citizenship until 1924, but not until 1940 were all the indigenous peoples of the U.S. considered citizens. Not all “Indians” were permitted to vote until 1948.

Anti-Jewish sentiment has existed in the U.S. since the 17th century, peaking in the years between the two world wars. Restrictions in the 1700s included bans from practicing law, medicine, etc. States had religious tests for public office, and some states prevented Jews from voting until the late 1800s. During the Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant issued an order—immediately rescinded by President Abraham Lincoln—that expelled Jews from the areas in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi under his control. During the first half of the 20th century, Jews were excluded from “white Christian” jobs, social clubs, resort areas, and colleges.

As people in the America expanded, they brought black immigrants—legally until 1808 and illegally thereafter—to be unpaid labor. Initially, most people believed that these violent, amoral savages could be reformed only through Christian belief, and many still hold the same position.

Irish immigrating to the U.S. in the mid-19th century were called “white Negroes” and stereotyped as alcoholics, depicted like apes to insinuate that they were an “inferior race.” They were Catholics, but Protestants labeled them as pagans—immoral and demonic.

The railroad across much of the United States was built by Chinese labor, but later the nation passed the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act to keep out these laborers. The law stated that Chinese immigration “endangers the good order of certain localities” and led to California’s tax on the hiring of Chinese-American laborers and Oregon’s Chinese Massacre of 1887 in which an angry white mob killed 31 Chinese Americans.

Italian-American immigrants were seen as members of the Mafia. New Orleans acquitted 19 immigrants in 1890 after the police chief was killed, but a white mob attacked and killed 11 of the freed men. World War II led to arrests, interments, and travel restrictions against thousands of law-abiding Italian Americans.

The Oriental Exclusion Act of 1924 was passed to limit immigration from “non-white” countries.

Early drug laws were based on xenophobic beliefs. During the early 20th century, San Francisco banned opium smoking because of its popularity within the Chinese community, and El Paso (TX) made marijuana illegal as an excuse to search, detain and deport Mexican immigrants. Although restricted, other drugs such as heroin and cocaine have remained legal in the U.S.

California passed a law in 1913 to prevent Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Korean immigrant farmers from owning land. Directed toward Japanese Americans, the law was supported by two Supreme Court cases and wasn’t lifted until for almost 40 years in 1952. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a 1942 executive order interred at least 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry, 62 percent of whom were U.S. citizens. Three Supreme Court cases upheld this order.

In Minoru Yasui v. U.S., Yasui fought a ruling that he was no longer a citizen because he had worked for the Japanese Consulate and learned the Japanese language. The Supreme Court case reinstated his citizenship, but Yasui was sent to an internment camp in Idaho. Gordon Hirabayashi was jailed for two years for missing curfew and failing to report to an internment camp. Fred Korematsu refused to go to an internment camp because he didn’t want to leave his Italian-American girlfriend. In his case the Supreme Court ruled that race did not factor into the internment of Japanese Americans.

Four decades later, legal historian Peter Irons found evidence that government officials had withheld documents from the Supreme Court stating that Japanese Americans posed no military threat to the U.S. In 1983, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Korematsu’s conviction, one year before Yasui’s conviction was overturned, and three years before Hirabayashi’s conviction was overturned. In 1988, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act, apologizing for the internment and paying $20,000 to each internment survivor. That act was 44 years after the Supreme Court struck down Jim Crow laws in the South, ruling that the policy of “separate but equal” violated the Constitution.

Although German Americans comprise the largest identified ethnic group in the United States today, the two world wars brought out xenophobia with state laws against speaking German and the indefinite detention of 11,000 German Americans by executive order without trials or due process protections.

The 21st century has seen the targeting of Latinos by police who racially profile, harass, and brutalize Hispanics because of the growing fear of undocumented immigrants. In Maricopa County (AZ), for example, Latino drivers are stopped from four to nine times more than other drivers and detained for longer periods of time. County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, also consistently failed to investigate cases of sexual assault against Hispanic women.

Korematsu v. United States (1944) ruled that individual rights are not absolute and may be suppressed at will during wartime. The conservatives have created a permanent war for the United States, and, by so doing, destroying human rights. Xenophobia: Fear or prejudice against people, culture, ideologies, etc. from foreign lands. That’s the legacy of the United States; Donald Trump is building on that legacy with the support of Republicans who either outright support his xenophobic statements or say that they will support him for the GOP presidential candidate.

The Frankenstein party has been developing its monster of xenophobic members for decades as it developed their “Southern Strategy.” Until now, they have used coded language to appeal to their increasingly angry base, but Donald Trump discovered that he doesn’t need to use code in spewing his hate.

For decades, the GOP has played on the fear and anxiety of its white, evangelical, working-class base. Republicans shipped jobs overseas and made sure that wages stagnated before they decried the loss of the American Dream. The GOP succeeds by turning people against each other instead of fighting the real enemy—the profiteers of the top 1 percent. Only through a system of “divide and conquer” of racism, sexism, homophobia, class-prejudice, and xenophobia can the corporations and wealthy maintain their power.

The Koch brothers, along with other wealthy people, understand the success of fear. The tragedy of 9/11 by 19 people—15 of them from Saudi Arabia—started a war on the Muslims in the U.S., part of its culture since the 17th century. An important component of this war is the distribution of 28 million anti-Muslim CDs, costing over $15 million—funded by a shadow group funded by the Koch brothers.

The media promotes the fear of a Muslim terrorist-inspired mass shooting. This visual of this year’s mass shootings demonstrates how lacking in credibility this fear is.

mass shooting

The Christian-inspired killing of three people at a Planned Parenthood two weeks before the San Bernardino shooting has largely disappeared from the media, not because fewer people were killed but because it was not by a Muslim.

Frankenstein’s monster is now calling for ethnic cleansing—“the mass expulsion or killing of members of one ethnic or religious group in an area by those of another.” The conservatives started targeting Latinos as aliens, rapists, and criminals and then moved on to describe all members of the largest religion in the world as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.

It’s like working for a large corporation. People who don’t fit into companies are likely to be isolated or fired so people can’t speak out against bullying and sexism. The answer to any resisters is that these are exceptional times and people will be forced to do extraordinary things to be safe.

The question is how far the GOP will let Trump go. He has started threatening to leave them if they aren’t “nice” to him. They need to hang on until he can no longer qualify as an independent candidate in many states. Meantime, the white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups are increasing in number and openly praising Trump.

William Daniel Johnson, chairman of the white supremacy group the American Freedom Party, called Trump “the real deal.” He claims that “virtually all pro-white nationalists are at least somewhat supportive of Donald Trump and most are even enthusiastic. …European Americans know they are the only group that can’t defend their own essential interests and their point of view.” The term “European Americans” is code for “white Christianity.” Trump is delivering the message of xenophobia to millions of people in the U.S., and other GOP politicians are supporting him.

Today is International Human Rights Day; its them is “Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.” Today Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), GOP presidential candidate, voted with three other Republicans—Jim Sessions (AL), Thom Tillis (NC), and David Vitter (LA) against a proposal that would oppose using religious beliefs to deny people entry into the United States. Cruz’s vote is stronger than Trump’s rhetoric, but only Trump receives public disgust. Trump is not worse than the other candidates: he’s just noisier.

December 5, 2015

‘Seasonal’ Facts about Guns in the U.S.

‘Tis the season for more mass shootings although they seem to fit into every season. Although conservatives cut off funding for tracking gun violence several years ago, Mass Tracker is watching the prevalence of mass shootings, defined as a single shooting which kills or injures four or more people, including the assailant.

The killing spree in San Bernardino was the 353th mass shooting in 2015 on the 336th day of the year. At least 20 days of 2015 had four or more mass shootings in a single day.

shooting calendar

Sixty-two of these 353 shootings were at schools, bringing the total to 161 in the three years since the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre on December 14, 2012.

Overall, 12,223 people have been killed in gun “incidents”—not counting suicides and “accidental shootings”–this year in the U.S. Another 24,722 people have been deliberately injured by guns.

The number of per capita gun murders in the US in 2012–the most recent year for comparable statistics–was almost 30 times that in the UK, at 2.9 per 100,000 compared with just 0.1. Of all the murders in the US in 2012, 60% were by firearm compared with 31% in Canada, 18.2% in Australia, and just 10% in the UK.

More people died from gunfire in the U.S. since 1968 than in all the wars fought by the U.S. The 1,516,863 gun-related deaths in that time period are nine percent more than the 1,396,733 million U.S. deaths in every conflict between the Revolutionary War and the Iraq war.

The number of deaths in mass shootings is up from last year, currently 447 people compared to the 383 people who died from gun violence in 2014. The number of injured has also gone up from 1,239 to 1,292—and the year isn’t over yet.

This year saw fewer days between mass shootings that killed at least four people. On average these occurred every 200 days between 1982 and 2011, increasing to 64 days.

At least half of the 12 deadliest shootings in the U.S. happened in the last eight years.

Five percent of the global population lives in the United States, but 31 percent of the world’s mass shootings occurs in this nation.

The U.S. has 4.4% of the world’s population, but 42% of civilian-owned guns.

States with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence, and areas with more guns have more homicides. States with the lowest death rates from firearms–Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Hawaii—are the same states with the most restrictive laws. Death rate of 2.6 per 100,000 residents in Massachusetts is almost eight times less than the death rate from gun violence in Alaska. Other states without gun restrictions—Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Wyoming—also have the highest number of gun deaths.

The United States spends more than a trillion dollars per year defending itself against terrorism which killed an average of 31 people a year between 2002 and 2011. During the same time, an average of 11,385 people died in the U.S. from gun “incidents” not related to suicides and “accidents.”

Australia took steps almost two decades ago to stem gun violence and now takes notice of the growing problem in the United States. Tim Fischer, former prime minister, is calling for travel warnings to the United States because of the increasing gun violence in the U.S. Australia’s firearm mortality rate is one per 100,000, ten times less that the U.S. statistic of 10 per 100,000.

A 1996 mass shooting in Australia that killed 35 people turned around the country’s gun legislation. The conservative-run government ran a mandatory buyback of 700,000 newly illegal guns and passed other laws controlling the purchase and ownership of guns and ammunition. People are prohibited from private sales, and each gun must be registered to its owner for a “genuine reason.” Self-defense is not one of those reasons. A person can be refused a license because of “reliable evidence of a mental or physical condition which would render the applicant unsuitable for owning, possessing or using a firearm.”  Gun license applicants are required to take a safety course before owning a gun. New measures banned the sale and possession of all automatic and semiautomatic rifles and pump shotguns as well as making storage and inspection requirements. Laws created a 28-day waiting period gun purchases and a national gun registry.

Results of change in legislation:

  • Intentional gun deaths dropped by half in the first decade while the population increased by 14 percent.
  • During the following 11 years, gun related homicides dropped 59 percent with no increase in any other homicide related deaths.
  • In 2013, the 200 gun-related deaths, a rate of .87 per 100,000 people, was almost one-third of the 2.71 deaths per 100,000 residents in 1996 before the laws took effect.
  • Suicides fell 65 percent.
  • In the homicide rate of 1.1 per 100,000 in 2012, only ten percent involved a gun—below 50 victims annually during the past decade. Adjusting by population, that would mean about 750 victims in the U.S. instead of the existing 12,223 thus far this year. The U.S. rate of homicides is about four times that of Australia at 4.5 per 100,000.
  • Robberies occur at half the rate of the U.S. (58 compared to our country’s 113.1 per 100,000 in 2012). There has been no increase in home invasion.

Before the new legislation, Australia had 11 mass shootings killing at least five people each in the prior ten years; since the laws were enacted, Australia has had not one mass shooting like those.

People opposing gun restrictions in the U.S. take pride in their rugged individualism. This philosophy, however, is very similar to the Australian culture that also expounds “freedom and liberty.” The conservative man behind the shift in gun laws, then Prime Minister John Howard, was a good friend of George W. Bush, but he spoke up after the mass shooting in Aurora (CO) which left 12 dead and 70 injured:

“The Second Amendment, crafted in the immediate post-revolutionary years, is more than 200 years old and was designed to protect the right of local communities to raise and maintain militia for use against external threats (including the newly formed national government!). It bears no relationship at all to the circumstances of everyday life in America today. Yet there is a near religious fervour about protecting the right of Americans to have their guns—and plenty of them. It remains to be seen … how much carnage a society is willing to take.”

Even President Ronald Reagan supported gun restrictions.

After a mass shooting in the UK killing 18 people, including 16 children, a conservative party member decided that they must “take this as a warning that we are becoming like America and act before it is too late.” Gun-related offenses had surged in the early 2000s, but new laws began seven years of successive drops in gun crimes.

People need guns to be safe, cry the NRA supporters. The victim did not use a gun for defense in 99.2% of violent crimes in a country with 357 million guns in civilian hands, a 50-percent increase in the past two decades. And that’s just a guess because the government is not allowed to keep records.

An Atlanta study of 198 cases of unwanted entry into occupied single-family dwellings found that the invader was twice as likely to obtain the victim’s gun than to have the victim use a firearm in self-defense.

Conservatives claim that they want to control killings by reforming mental illness. In Germany, people under 25 who want to buy a gun must pass a psychiatric evaluation. Conservatives claim that it’s too easy for criminals to get guns—and they are right because many criminals purchase guns. In Italy, people wanting to possess a gun must pass a background check considering both criminal and mental health records. Conservatives reject these laws.

Australia was may have been successful in reducing gun violence not only because of the change in the laws but also because of a shift in culture. When the people acted on their shock of the Port Arthur massacre, they removed the ready availability of guns, and mentally troubled people were not constantly told that guns are the best way to address any grievances, whether against other people, organizations, or the government.

The U.S. culture rewards the man who killed people at Planned Parenthood because of the constant attention to false videos. Even so-called Muslim terrorists are following the U.S. culture that keeps guns in order to overturn the U.S. government. If Christians believe this, why shouldn’t Muslims? People–mostly males and mostly white–parade their guns, not for safety but as a demonstration that their “freedom” is far more important than human lives.

Research shows that gun restrictions save lives. The Constitution places limits on all rights when they threaten others—religion doesn’t allow human sacrifice, and free speech doesn’t permit incitement, conspiracy, and libel. The Supreme Court has declared that government can put reasonable restrictions on gun ownership. In all other areas, people in the U.S. are willing to exchange “pure” freedom for safety; guy ownership should be no different.

November 29, 2015

Conservative ‘Christians’ Wage War on the United States

 

Black Friday, traditionally known for store sales putting them into the “black,” can now be known for the most recent mass shooting in the far-right “Christian” war on the people of the United States. A 57-year-old white man killed three people, including a policeman, and injured nine more at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. He was heard to yell “no more baby parts.” The right-wing first called the attack a bank robbery and then said it was done by a “mentally disturbed individual.” The Washington Post called him “adrift and alienated,” and the so-called liberal New York Times called the killer an “itinerant loner.”

The first two GOP candidates who made any comments about the attacks—Ted Cruz and John Kasich—waited for a day and then just prayed for the victims. Cruz had spread anti-PP propaganda and led the charge to close down the government to stop its funding. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul remained quiet and advertised clothing for sale on their websites. Ben Carson was busy visiting a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan where he said that Middle East countries should absorb the refugees who he had called “rabid dogs.” Other predictable comments from GOP candidates trickled in two days later on the Sunday news talk shows. Mike Huckabee who agreed that the killings were domestic terrorism, but he claimed that it was against Planned Parenthood for making pro-life people look bad. He said:

“I don’t know of any pro-life leader—any—if you can tell me one, please correct me — but I don’t know of anybody who has suggested violence toward Planned Parenthood personnel or some act of violence towards their clinics. I’ve not heard that, not from one single pro-life person.”

Out of many, one example is when a pro-lifer shot Dr. George Tiller in the head while Tiller was in his own church. In another, Huckabee proposed using physical force from federal troops to keep women from entering Planned Parenthood.

All terrorists are Muslims, according to conservatives led by Huckabee and Cruz. Jeb Bush said the Middle East had no Christian terrorists. Politicians use the Paris attacks as an excuse to close down the refugee program that saves Syrian people from the jihadists. Donald Trump said that PP is like an abortion factory, and Carly Fiorina joins him in spreading lies about the contents of falsified videos about PP. Rubio tells the world that women get pregnant “just to sell their fetuses to Planned Parenthood,” and Cruz blames the Obama Justice Department for not investigating “Planned Parenthood because they’re a political ally of the president.”

At first, right-wing media declared that the attack’s target was a bank. Deciding the killer started with PP, conservative pundits and their respondents praised the killer as a “hero.” While the tragedy was ongoing, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said that anti-abortion fanatics have “legitimate concerns” about Planned Parenthood.

Declining to admit that the killings were domestic terrorism, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chair of the House committee for Homeland Security, labeled the PP killings as “a tragedy… It’s, I think, a mental health crisis.” Six years ago, the House GOP members forced Daryl Johnson, the leading expert on right-wing terrorism in the U.S., to resign from Homeland Security because his research was not in accord with conservative beliefs.

Meanwhile, police are calling on Congress for help with domestic terrorism. In his appearance on Meet the Press a week ago, New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton expressed his opinion about accepting Syrian refugees that is supported by police officers across the nation:

 “[If] Congress really wants to do something instead of just talking about something, help us out with that terrorist watch list, those thousands of people that can purchase firearms in this country. I’m more worried about them than I am about Syrian refugees to be quite frank with you.”

The man who was legally able to have an assault rifle to kill and wound people at the Planned Parenthood has a record of traffic violations, voyeuristic stalking, and domestic violence. After he hit his wife and pushed her out a window, she filed a police record but didn’t press charges. A neighbor woman later filed a restraining order against the man in 2002 because he hid in the bushes beside her house to watch her. He also abused an animal and threatened another neighbor. Thanks to the lax laws in Colorado (and other parts of the nation), he can openly carry an assault rifle because he hasn’t been convicted of these crimes. Earlier this month Colorado laws allowed a man to murder four people before being apprehended.

The right-wing is frantically trying to erase any idea that the killings were religiously and politically motivated, using quotes from his neighbors that the killer wasn’t at all political. Yet he claimed that “Obama is ruining America,” wanted him impeached, and tried to hand out anti-Obama leaflets to people. His cabin sported a cross, and a posting on his Facebook urged people to “Accept the LORD JESUS while you can.”

“Right-wing terrorism is terrorism motivated by a variety of far right ideologies and beliefs, including anti-communism, neo-fascism, neo-Nazism, racism, xenophobia and opposition to immigration.” A large majority of domestic terrorists in the U.S. connect these beliefs to the “Christian Identity” ideology. Like Adolf Hitler, the leaders of the movement persuade followers to commit evil acts in the defense of their God and religion. Rubio’s comments on the Christian Broadcasting Network a week ago represent the prevailing guidelines of the “Christian” conservatives:

“We are clearly called, in the Bible, to adhere to our civil authorities, but that conflicts with also a requirement to adhere to God’s rules. When those two come in conflict, God’s rules always win. In essence, if we are ever ordered by a government authority to personally violate and sin, violate God’s law and sin, if we’re ordered to stop preaching the gospel … we are called to ignore that. We cannot abide by that because government is compelling us to sin.”

The real heroes of the shooting are the people who go to work every day—including the day after the most recent attack—despite the possibility that they may be killed. They are the ones who continue to care for people’s health needs in clinics that can be attacked at any time. Since 1993, eight doctors have been killed; since 1976, over 200 crimes of bombing or arson have occurred at clinics. Since the release of the fraudulent videos, four Planned Parenthood clinics were burned to the ground, and others were damaged or vandalized. This is not a “lone wolf” situation; this is terrorism—Christian radical terrorism in the United States.

A 2012 study by Arie Perliger, professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, shows that “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.”  The toll increased since the study’s release: 305 mass shootings—four or more people shot—have occurred this year as of mid-October. Refusal to recognize Christian terrorism in the United States is killing people.

The GOP Congress legitimizes pro-lifers such as Troy Newman who campaign for violence against women’s clinics and medical people who perform abortions. Donald Trump’s racist remarks have led to attacks and beatings on people of color, and the mainstream media criticize him. Yet the GOP incitement of religious violence continues putting the blame on the perpetrator without recognition of how they provoke these violent acts. Political and religious leaders in the United States routinely call for executing LGBT citizens, Muslims, immigrants, abortion providers, liberals, etc. while allowing unfettered gun ownership. As a result, people in the U.S. live in a terrorist-occupied war zone. Armed and dangerous U.S. citizens represent far more menace in this country than ISIS does.

Of the dozen people shot at Colorado Springs’ Planned Parenthood, several had nothing to do with the clinic. Any one can be impacted by the violence even if they are not a member of a targeted group. Two weeks ago, the GOP candidates were cheering about the attacks in Paris because they thought that the opposition to ISIS would put them in control of the country. Now they have the fallout of domestic terrorism after months of virulent rhetoric. Meanwhile other killings go on as if usual. In the early morning hours before the killings in Colorado Springs, a man shot a waitress in the head after she asked him to put out a cigarette. The woman is dead, and the former firefighter is in a Biloxi (MI) jail.

Those who criticize the “politicization” of the PP travesty fail to understand that they are the ones who surrounded PP with poiltics. After the most recent mass killings, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted, “I hope people realize that bitter rhetoric can have unintended consequences,” Republicans, words matter!

[Meet the Press update:  Today Donald Trump stood by his statement that Muslims in New Jersey cheered as the Twin Towers came down on 9/11. On this morning’s news talk show, Trump and Todd devolved into an argument of “I’m right” and “You’re wrong.” Yet neither one alluded to the record of five Middle Eastern men who celebrated the tragedy. All five were Israeli Jews, speaking Hebrew. Another religious group that traditionally celebrates 9/11 is the membership of Topeka (KS)-based Westboro Baptist Church. These Christian terrorists describe 9/11 as “a gift from God” and honor its “anniversary.” Todd wants Trump to tell the “truth,” but he doesn’t bother to find itself for himself.]

December 13, 2014

Gun-Obsessive Society Leads to Violence, Inequality

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of 28 deaths surrounding the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown (CT). This tragedy was three days after three deaths at Clackamas Square, a shopping mall near Portland (OR). Despite 64 laws passed in different states that strengthen gun laws, the federal government has passed no gun-sense laws, and mass shootings have become so common that they get little media except regionally.

During the past two years, about 60,000 people died from guns in the United States, and the almost 100 schools shootings includes one this past week at Rosemary Anderson High School in north Portland (OR). A student reported that she changed schools from Reynolds High School to Rosemary because of two shooting deaths at Reynolds last June. According to trends, guns will pass motor vehicles as the top killer of the nation’s youth under the age of 26 in the coming year.

Equally serious are the deaths by law enforcement in the United States. Police officers have killed an estimated 1,039 people thus far in 2014. Despite some evidence, including videos, that some of these murders could have been avoided, however, police are generally not indicted for these killings. According to a 2012 study, about half of the people killed by police each year are mentally ill. Young black men are 21 times more likely to be killed by these police officers than young white men who also fail to follow police orders. People of color are the most likely to be killed by police in general.

most likely to be killed chart

Today, over 10,000 activists participated in the Justice for All March, which began at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. and continued along Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. Similar numbers marched in New York, and hundreds more protested in Boston. Protesters called on Congress to combat racial profiling, and police discrimination and violence.

As just one example, police officers in Utah killed Darrien Hunt, who was carrying a toy sword. Initially the chief deputy attorney said Hunt was shot because he “lunged toward the officers” but later admitted that Hunt was shot in the back. An autopsy reported that Hunt was shot six times from behind, including the shot that killed him. The killing was judged justified, just as the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson (MO) and Eric Garner in New York were.

Police officers consistently claim that they won’t shoot people who politely obey their orders. Yet a South Carolina state trooper shot an unarmed black man who reached into his car after the trooper ordered him to get his driver’s license. The man had taken off his seat belt as he pulled into a Circle K. He did everything he was told and stayed polite, begging the officer not to shoot him. Fortunately, he’s still alive because the police officer was such a bad shot that he hit the man only once although he fired several times. In this case, the trooper was fired from his position and has been charged, a highly unusual situation.

Police officers do not have an easy job. National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reports that 1,501 police officers died on the job in the past decade, and 100 officers were killed in 2013. An annual average of 58,261 assaults against law enforcement in the last decade resulted in 15,658 injuries.

On the other hand, people don’t trust the police:

  • 65% overall say police departments nationwide do an “only fair” or a poor job in holding officers accountable when misconduct occurs, compared with 30% who say they do an excellent or good job.
  • 65% respondents say police do a fair/poor job in treating racial and ethnic groups equally, compared with 32 percent who believe the police do an excellent/good job.
  • 61% say police do a fair/poor job in using the right amount of force in each situation, compared with 35% who say the police do an excellent/good job.
  • Respondents were split evenly when asked if police departments nationwide do a good job in protecting people from crime.

This survey was taken before the police officer who killed Eric Garner was not indicted. The percentages of people disapproving of the police may be even higher since then.

Last year, the FBI identified 461 “justifiable homicides” by law enforcement—and none unjustified. Only the FBI determines whether these are justified. Homicides committed by on-duty law enforcement make up 3 percent of the 14,196 homicides in 2013; in 96 cases a white officer killed a black person, sometimes another law enforcement officer.

This total may be a serious undercount because reports are voluntary, and the federal government doesn’t keep a strict tally. A Facebook page, Killed by Police, has started keeping track of people killed by police officers through news articles. The creator of the page listed more than 1,450 deaths by law-enforcement officers since its launch on May 1, 2013. That’s about three per day, 1,100 a year. A website lists the names, dates, states, and links to news articles.

The wide distribution of left-over equipment from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has greatly increased the militarization of police departments. SWAT teams are used about 50,000 times a year now, compared to 3,000 in 1980. These teams are used for routine patrols, breaking up poker games (Baltimore and Detroit), investigating under-age drinkers in bars (New Haven, CT), raiding barber shops for unlicensed workers (Orlando), cockfighting (Maricopa County, AZ), etc. Keene, a New Hampshire town of under 25,000 population, had three homicides between 1999 and 2012. It spent nearly $286,000 on an armored personnel-carrier known as a BearCat, used, according to the police chief to patrol the “Pumpkin Festival and other dangerous situations.”

Radley Balko collected stories about at least 50 innocent people who died from botched SWAT raids, one when a SWAT-team officer tripped while an innocent man was lying face-down on the floor. The officer’s gun discharged, killing the man.  In 2006 Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old woman in Atlanta, thought that the police raiding her house in the middle of the night were robbers. She fired an old pistol, and the police shot her five times, killing her. To cover their mistakes, they put marijuana in her house, but later it was discovered that the police had falsified the information for their “no-knock warrant.”

Police profit from SWAT raids. Officers can seize anything claimed to be the proceeds of a crime even if there is no conviction. If police find drugs in the house, they can take cash and the house. Forfeitures amount to about $1 billion a year, some of it from innocent people.

The United States has two faces of justice. Michael Brown was jaywalking when he was picked up; the officer knew nothing about his having allegedly stolen any cigarillos. People call him a “thug” and claim the police officer had the right to kill him. At the same time, Kate Meckler was caught stealing $2,000 worth of clothing from Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. She pled to “disorderly conduct” and worked five days in a soup kitchen. Meckler is white, one of New York’s top real estate brokers, and the daughter of MediaBistro’s CEO, Alan Meckler. Their multi-million-dollar ocean-side mansion appears in the movie, As Good As It Gets.

The effect of police killings, just like poverty and hunger, affects the body for generations. These external forces and stressors change the way bodies react by altering individual’s DNA. When high-stress environments cause the body to “turn on” or “turn off” genes, future generations carry the scars such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Other changes are mental disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The United States has a serious killing problem, most of it from its gun obsession. It begins with the fact that people refuse to face the fact that there is no problem. Instead everyone sweeps information under the carpet. Any statement about the number of police killings or racial profiling ends with journalists saying that there’s no proof because there are no accurate statistics. While police killed three people a day in the United States, police in the United Kingdom fired their guns a total of three times last year and killed no one. In 2011, police killed six people in Australia, two in England, and six in Germany.

guns-and-government different countries

 

With their military paraphernalia and training, law enforcement assaults and kills, too frequently with impunity and too frequently against minorities and lower-class people. As a country, we should do better.

July 16, 2014

Archie Andrews One of 2014 Gun Statistics

archie diesArchie Andrews, 73, died from a gun shot today because he protected his friend Sen. Kevin Keller from an assassination attempt. Anyone who has read comic books for the past seven decades knows Archie, from DC Comics Life with Archie. In this way, Archie Comics and co-CEO Jon Goldwater brings the issue of senseless gun deaths to entertainment media.

The first gay character in the Archie Comics series, Keller is a married military veteran and newly elected senator. He pushed for more gun control after his husband, Clay, was involved in a shooting while trying to prevent a robbery. Today’s #36 shows the killing; #37 will show Archie’s friends paying tribute to his legacy one year later.

Goldwater said that the comic’s plotline was not a publicity stunt but a way to educate readers about gun violence.

Superheroes such as Marvel’s Spiderman and Captain America have died, but Archie has always been like the person living next door. Goldwater thinks that Archie’s death has more impact because he’s human—“he bleeds.” Archie may bleed only on the pages of a comic book, but he represents the tens of thousands of people who bleed and die each year because of the nation’s lax gun laws and a misguided approach toward patriotism.

Exactly how many people die from gun shots each year in the United States is impossible to know because the NRA and the gun industry have coerced Congress into preventing the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from compiling national statistics on gun-related deaths and injuries. To overcome this ignorance, Jennifer Mascia, assistant editor for the New York Times, has attempted to collect these statistics by gathering the information state by state for Joe Nocera’s The Gun Report.

In examining over 40,000 deaths from guns since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that Mascia could find, she discovered that half the shootings came from arguments, frequently fueled by alcohol, among friends, neighbors, family members, and intimate partners. More and more, people solve their problems with guns, not fists. Loaded guns are easily accessible, many times to children who shoot themselves or each others. Suburbs are the new magnet for gun violence

Mascia also discovered:

  • In Iowa, it’s easier to sell a gun than lemonade.
  • In Arkansas, it takes less time to buy a gun than to qualify for food stamps.
  • In Arizona, you need a permit to cut hair, but not to carry a concealed weapon.
  • In Florida you’re fingerprinted to be a substitute teacher, but not to buy or carry a gun.
  • It’s easier to buy an assault weapon than it is to vote.

guns-and-government different countriesJapan averages four—yes, four!–gun murders per year although its population is 41 percent of that in the United States. If our gun deaths were equal to those in Japan, the United States would have ten each year. Getting a firearm in Japan requires a massive amount or paperwork, 20 hours of lectures, a written test, and a shooting class. The person must pass a criminal background check and a physical and psychological exam as well as submitting to half a dozen police interviews and more police interviews of your friends and family. Before a gun is issued the person must provide a floor map of the home with the location of the firearm’s storage and photos of locks on the gun safe. The process requires about a year. You are asked to produce a floor map of your home and indicate where a firearm will be stored, as well as photos of the locks on your gun safe. Approval usually takes a year. Even the mob in Japan doesn’t bother to get guns.

Canada requires third-party character references for gun ownership, and officials conduct interviews with an applicant’s spouse, partner, or next of kin before issuing a license. That’s before the person is required to pass a firearm safety and law class and take a practical training course. Gun-owners are required to re-apply and re-quality for their licenses every five years.

Tightened legislation in Australia after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre banned semi-automatic rifles and pump-action shotguns. Owners of firearms must provide a reason to obtain these. The country has had no mass shooting since the legislation went into effect. Most important, suicides by guns, which cause 60 percent of adult firearm deaths, declined in Australia after the legislation.

By contrast, mass shootings have become so much “business as usual” in the U.S. that they receive less and less attention in the media. A week ago, four children as young as age four and two adults were killed in Houston’s suburb, Spring. The one survivor, a 15-year-old girl, was able to tell police where the gunman was going to kill more relatives and save their lives. Archie’s fictional death received much more press than this mass shooting.

Even ultra-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia believes in limits on gun ownership. In District of Columbia v. Heller, he wrote, “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

The theory of a good guy with a gun stopping a bad guy with a gun has been debunked many times. At the mass shooting surrounding Gabby Giffords, a good guy almost shot the people who had already disarmed the killer. A good guy pulled his gun in Las Vegas after a man killed two police officers, but the killer’s partner shot and killed the good guy. Bad guys get their guns by grabbing them from the good guys, especially in home invasions. Many police officers, who have supposedly been highly trained, shoot themselves and others around them.

As the NRA and gun industry fight to make gun regulations more lax, people who fight any regulations such as universal background checks claim that the entire solution could come from enforcing existing laws. Cross-referencing gun checks with mental health records is required, but Montana and South Dakota submitted only three mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in 2012. North Dakota and Massachusetts turned in one; Rhode Island submitted none. A year ago, only four states had laws requiring that mental health records be sent to the system, and the federal government cannot require it. NRA and the gun industry have made sure that conservatives will not support this reporting.

Other common-sense solutions have been rejected by gun enthusiasts. Smart guns activated only by the owners could stop children or intruders from discharging firearms, but gunners are so frightened by the smart guns that they threatened to kill the two vendors who tried to sell them in the U.S.

Lax laws in conservative states across the nation are creating a culture of killing others for little or no reason. People—usually men—pull guns because they don’t like a type of music or get into an argument while waiting in a line at the local pizza place. Or they accidentally shoot through walls and ceilings because of their carelessness.

Many state gun laws don’t even make the gun owners liable. Most states don’t have requirements for securing guns. In many cases, gun owners aren’t made responsible when their carelessness causes a death. For example, bad guys in early July broke into a Pennsylvania home, tied him up, and took at least 31 guns from his weapons’ stockpile. Most likely, the bad guys, who now have an additional 31 firearms, targeted the person because of the weapons. In some states, they don’t even have to report that their firearms have been stolen, allowing the bad guys an unlimited method of acquiring guns.

In a speech to the Howard County chapter of Open Carry Texas, Michael Brian Vanderboegh proposed killing voters who opposed unfettered ownership of guns. On a Fox & Friends Facebook page, Kathy Perkins, founder of Moms with Guns, posted a photo of President Obama with the statement, “Where is an assasin (sic) when you need one?” A responses suggested a way to contact a hitman.

Although they ignore other parts of the U.S. Constitution, ammosexuals consider the Second Amendment to be sacred. Their ignorance keeps them from understanding that the document has evolved during time. The original constitution allowed slavery, considered blacks to be only three-fifths of white people, and restricted voting to only white property-owning men. Their behavior is calling for changes in the Second Amendment, to return it to the original meaning of a militia.

To all the people who strut around with guns: if you’re strong enough to do this, you’re strong enough to decrease the violence from guns.

November 8, 2013

No Help for Gun Violence

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:45 PM
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The U.S. House members aren’t in session right now except to have hearings haranguing Secretary of Health Kathryn Sebelius about the problems with Obamacare’s website. They come back next Tuesday for the month’s eight days of work—technically six days because there are no votes before 6:30 pm the first day of their week and none after 3:30 pm the last day. After their scheduled eight days in December, they can breathe a sigh of relief as they get onto the planes running on time because they tweaked sequester laws for personal benefit.

Fortunately, thanks to Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), chair of the Rules Committee, we know the complete House agenda. “Everything we do in this body should be about messaging to win back the Senate,” he said. “That’s it.” At least, the House has a wider agenda than the Senate. Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced in 2008, a nanosecond after President Obama was elected for the first time, that his entire agenda was to see that the president wasn’t re-elected. He failed which means that he has nothing on his agenda now except to get himself re-elected.

For the rest of the 113th Congress—which still has another year after the end of this one—the voters who elected the obstructionists will see no movement on any issues– immigration, gun control, anti-discrimination laws like ENDA, tax reform, lifting the sequester …. The list goes on. The farm bill may have to operate on a half-century-old law because the House won’t compromise with the Senate. We can forget about any results from the  joint House and Senate committee’s budget proposal due by December 7 with a January 15, 2014 deadline for acceptance.

Gun control is certainly dead despite the number of people killed each day. In his satiric column, Andy Borowitz described gun violence in the country:

“A new study released today indicates that Americans are safe from the threat of gun violence except in schools, malls, airports, movie theatres, workplaces, streets, and their own homes. Also: highways, turnpikes, libraries, places of worship, parks, universities, restaurants, post offices, and cars. Plus: driveways, garages, gyms, stores, military bases—and a host of other buildings, structures, and sites.

“National Rifle Association C.E.O. Wayne LaPierre applauded the study, saying that it reinforced his organization’s long-held position that the United States does not need additional gun laws. ‘This study makes it abundantly clear that Americans are in no danger of gun violence except in these isolated four hundred and thirteen places,’ he said. He added that he hoped that the study would spark a conversation ‘about the root cause of mass shootings: people who recklessly show up at places where they could be shot at.’”

Black humor aside, the NRA made it easier for a gunman to kill a TSA agent and wound six others at a LAX security checkpoint a week ago. It was the second airport shooting in six months. The NRA has consistently campaigned for firearms to be brought into airports with greater ease and criticized security for any efforts to block guns on airplanes. Although federal law prevents travelers from taking firearms past checkpoints, many state laws allow people to carry guns before they reach security checkpoints because of NRA propaganda.

Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin either permit firearms in areas of airports or prohibit them only past checkpoints. In California, where the most recent airport shooting occurred, the NRA fought 2012’s Assembly Bill 2182, requiring the arrest of people who bring guns into airports and banning them from entering airports after that arrest. Thanks to the NRA, the bill stayed in committee. Virginia, Georgia, and Ohio have recently introduced bills that would allow people to carry firearms in airports.

After a TSA agent questioned a girl carrying a firearm-shaped purse, the NRA cried harassment. Yet TSA agents confiscated 30 percent more guns, many loaded, in 2013 than the previous year. Most of them said that they “forgot” they had them, which means that the presence of guns in our society is almost everywhere. The week before the LAX shooting, the TSA found 29 firearms—27 of them loaded. The week before, the take was 39 firearms.

The NRA also gives candidates “A” rating for supporting guns in airports. The group spent more than $500,000 to make Ken Cuccinelli governor of Virginia after he voted against a 2004 bill that would have banned guns in airport terminals. The bill won, and Cuccinelli lost. The NRA may argue that looser gun laws would have stopped the LAX shooting because a bystander would have shot the gunman. That doesn’t really work, as history has shown.

The carelessness of so-called responsible gun owners is appalling:

  • Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-KS) lost her AR-15 after she left it leaning against a locker in her unlocked garage.
  • Missouri House staffer Dave Evans left his loaded gun in the men’s restroom of the State Capital Building.
  • Someone lost a loaded gun under a chair cushion in a New York hotel, and another left one on a ride at Disney World.
  • A nine-year-old boy found a loaded semi-automatic gun in the men’s room of a movie theater in Tampa (FL), and seventh-graders found another one in another movie theater in Tillamook (OR).
  • An armed guard left his loaded weapon in a public restroom at a Texas convenience store.
  • Two loaded guns were left in a tent outside a Georgia furniture store.
  • Another gun was in a Dallas (TX) courthouse restroom.
  • Gun owners held a gun legalization rally in Ohio in September to prove that gun owners are responsible. Someone left a loaded magazine behind in Oberlin’s Park Street Park after the rally.

Guns show up in public buildings, restrooms, garages, homes—everywhere. All this means that kids can find guns in restrooms or on a Disney ride or while sitting on a chair in a hotel. Three fifth-graders even found a loaded gun at an archaeological dig.

Criminals might be more responsible in knowing how stupid and careless these gun owners are. In Cincinnati (OH) a man found a note in his car: “LOADED GUN: Unlocked Car = STUPID” and “LOTS OF Children in Area.” Missing were the man’s “throwing knife, sheath, .40 caliber pistol and magazines.” The man had left his Toyota Corolla unlocked.

In at least one North Carolina state-mandated concealed carry handgun (CCH) class, necessary to get a CCH permit in the state, a law enforcement officer told attendees to store loaded guns under the bed. The state doesn’t monitor these classes to see how they are run.

People opposing any gun control laws refuse to tolerate a reasonable discourse about the subject. Guns & Ammo editor Jim Bequette wanted to generate a “healthy exchange of ideas on gun rights” by publishing a column that suggested a little regulation might fit into the Second Amendment. The backlash caused Bequette to quit and the magazine to cut ties with the column’s author. the column’s error came from defending an Illinois state law requiring training for people before they could get a concealed-carry permit in the state. The author of the column wrote:

“I firmly believe that all U.S. citizens have a right to keep and bear arms, but I do not believe that they have a right to use them irresponsibly. And I do believe their fellow citizens, by the specific language of the Second Amendment, have an equal right to enact regulatory laws requiring them to undergo adequate training and preparation for the responsibility of bearing arms.”

The mainstream media has become so blasé about mass killings that they fail to report many of these. A few days before the TSA agent will killed at LAX, a Texas man shot and killed five people. Yesterday, the killing of three people and injuring of another six by a shooter in Detroit didn’t even 

When a seventh-grader shot a teacher, two 12-year-old boys, and himself at a school in Sparks (NV), major cable news channels referred to the disaster only briefly throughout the day. The breaking news event that day was the release of Apple’s new iPad and iPad mini. The shooting was the 15th school shooting of the year but the first time that the new technology had gone on the market.

Killings are so common that police have joined in the violence with no excuse. Tyler Comstock, 19, was shot and killed by a police officer on the campus of Iowa State University because Comstock’s father wanted to teach him a lesson. After his father wouldn’t buy him a pack of cigarettes, Comstock took his father’s truck without permission. The father reported the theft to teach his son a lesson, and the police pursued Comstock. He pulled over the truck, but when he didn’t turn off the engine, a police officer fired six rounds and killed the unarmed teenager. The officer ignored two pleas from an unidentified police staffer, who said, “Hey, we know who this is. It’s a kid, back off.”  

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-sanford-neighborhood-watch-guns-20131104,0,7629896.story    I had some hope when the Sanford (FL) Police Department banned Neighborhood Watch members from carrying guns after George Zimmerman stalked and killed Trayvon Martin. Protests forced them to back down on the new policy and move to “recommending” that people leave their guns at home while looking for danger around them.

Borowitz needs to add neighborhoods and archaeological digs to the places where people aren’t safe from gun violence.

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.

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