Thursday, January 17, 2013

The NRA - This Gun Organization For Hire.

Many years ago, there were a series of novels written about a private detective named Mike Hammer. One of the more famous of these novels was entitled. "This Gun For Hire." Now we have "This Gun Organization For Hire", as the NRA has, and is, selling out to the highest bidder, that being the gun manufacturers. They perpetrate this chicanery on the American public, by spreading rumors that the government wants to take your guns away, thereby working the gun nuts into a frothy frenzy. Of course this is nonsense, but as we learned from Hitler, The "Big Lie" as a propaganda tool can be quite effective.

The NRA tells the gun nuts that, "We have your back." Not so, as the NRA owes only one allegiance. They are in the hip pockets of gun manufacturers and both these manufacturers and the NRA have but one goal. Sell, guns, guns, and more guns. Of course if you're one who wants to buy guns, guns and more guns, then the NRA is your cup of tea.

School children and theater goers alike are slaughtered in huge numbers by crazed gunman with weapons that fire a number of bullets in just a few seconds. The NRA's response to this is to put even more guns in schools wielded by armed guards, which is tantamount to trying to fight a fire by pouring gasoline on it. Then they duck behind the dubiously worded Second Amendment by saying law abiding citizens have a right to buy and keep all types of guns. Here is a recent quote by the NRA.

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

This is one of the stupidest statements I have ever heard and is consistent with another big lie the NRA delights in spreading. It goes something like this. According to the NRA, there are crooks and bad people, and there are good people. The crooks and bad people shouldn't have guns, but many do, and the good people should have guns to protect us from the bad people with guns. Black and white, with no gray, and everyone placed into a neat little box of good or bad. That is pure folly, as over 60 percent of gun violence in this nation is perpetrated by people with no prior criminal record. In other words they are US!

On the opposite side of the coin, here is what Henry Blodget from the Daily Ticker had to say.

"The Second Amendment was written 220 years ago when 3.9 million people lived in America and the most powerful guns available were single-shot flint-lock muskets. Even if you ignore the "well-regulated state militia" clause in the Amendment language, it is reasonable to wonder whether the "Framers" had today's commonly available modern assault weaponry in mind. (Also, the Constitution is occasionally modified when it becomes outdated and/or inappropriate. Slaves were legal in those days, too.)"

Of course, criminals are guilty of much of the gun violence, but the shooter in the theater in Aurora, Colorado had no prior criminal record. The shooter in the Sandy Hook school killings had no prior criminal record. Over 60 percent of the people who injure or kill someone with a gun have no prior criminal record. All of these people are part of the "law abiding citizens" the NRA says would suffer by new and stricter gun laws.

The NRA says we need to put more emphasis on mental health. Obviously we do, but not at the expense of having the gun nuts and their lobby run roughshod over the interests of the American people.

To drive my cars, I need to be licensed, and so do the cars. Yes, people with cars kill and injure people, but not with nearly the same intent of deadly mayhem as do people with guns. Is it too much to ask that we control, and license guns and the people who own them, as we do cars and the people who drive them?

Yes, people in this country have a right to own guns. I may not entirely agree with all of that right (there is the "well regulated militia" aspect), but it is the law and I respect the law. But with rights comes responsibility, and that responsibility needs to be spelled out in an ironclad way by new and tougher gun laws and (the only area in which I have ever agreed with the NRA) more vigorous enforcement of the current gun laws. It is a felony to lie on a background check, but few are prosecuted. That should stop.

We are a nation of laws. We are a nation of rights. We are a nation of responsibility. It will take a strong dose of all three to even begin to reduce the gun violence in our country.

Is it time? No, unfortunately, it's way past time!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pity The Poor Republicans

As is keeping with my policies, I never post a new blog entry unless I feel I have something worthwhile to say. Posting daily or even weekly is not something for which I have ambition.

I did not post a new entry during the final months of the presidential campaign, as news articles and blog posts were in an over needed abundance. However, now that the results are in and President Obama has been re-elected, there is much to be said about the Republicans and their own post election in-fighting, whining and gnashing of teeth.

The Republican party is made up of many different factions, some conservative, some V-E-R-Y conservative, and some moderate. Perhaps the title of this blog entry should have read, "Pity The Poor Moderate Conservatives", as that wing of the Republican Party has been silenced almost completely by the in-your-face hard line conservatives. And where exactly did this Tea Party/Religious Right stand put the Republican Party? As Mr. Rogers might say, "Can you say on the outside looking in?" Mitt Romney lost big time by over one hundred electoral college votes, and the Tea Party, which was originally formed to help elect conservative candidates, had just the opposite effect.

The Republicans pinned their election strategy on the white male voter and true to their predictions they won that vote. I'm a white male voter who did not vote their way, but the majority did. The rest of the very diversified American public, however, did not see it that way, feeling the Republicans, in both actions and intent did not represent their best interests.

The white male is no longer the dominant element in our society, and that is what progress is all about. We are a stronger nation because of our diversity. The old guard Republicans don't like that fact, but not liking it and clinging to outdated precepts won't change it. The Republicans were yesterday's news in today's election.

The Tea Party wants to return the country to the good ole' days, when in fact, the good ole' days weren't all that good or fair to a large segment of the population. Women, blacks, gays, and other minorities were persona non grata in those days which the Tea Party wants to throw us all back into.

Added to this right wing folly are reports that some far right Tea Party (that may be a redundant phrase) types are circulating petitions to formally request that their states secede from the United States. Of course, these efforts are futile as even most right wing Republicans, not to mention Democrats, will see that these feeble efforts are quashed.  Still, it does show the warped mentality of some of the more super fringe elements of the Republican/Conservative movement.

And we shouldn't forget the 3,000 pound elephant in the room that no one in the Republican party will mention, and that is racism. There are many rednecks (and also some white necks) in our nation who are bigots and the thought of a black man being president sends them into a frothy mouth frenzy of panic.  I have absolutely no sympathy for these buffoons, as their prejudiced opinions have no relevance in modern times. They are a living example of a square peg in a round hole.

Finally, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's running mate, is not very adept at hiding his agenda, which wants to get rid of Social Security and Medicare. He sees both programs as socialism, instead of a fair government taking care of its senior citizens, both financially and health wise. Sadly, many Republicans agree with him. Meanwhile, the Tea Party arm of the party wants to roll back much of the social progress our nation has made over the past decades. This in spite of the fact that, in this past election, four states approved gay marriage, and two approved the recreational use of marijuana. Times change, attitudes change, demographics change, but the Republican powers stick to their same old tired line of protecting the super wealthy and big business at the cost of everything else, including the rank and file citizen. The mind boggling fact with all this is that the Republican leaders are still scratching their collective head and wondering why they didn't win, which is sort of like the guys at the slaughter house wondering why the steers didn't vote for them.

As a Democrat, I probably should be applauding the fact that the Republicans, even after their stinging defeat, still do not have a clue. Trouble is, I don't. We need two functioning political parties, if for nothing else to keep each other in balance. Instead, we have the party of "NO" trying to put roadblocks, at every turn, in front of a president and party who are trying to make things better for our citizens. It's disgusting.

I have no advice for the Republicans, as they are much like the alcoholic or chronic over eater, in that only they can fix the problem. While there is no danger of my becoming a Republican, I would feel much more kindly towards them if they would right their ship, try to understand the changing mood and makeup of our nation, join the rest of us in the twenty first century, and work towards the betterment of our country. If they want to be taken seriously in a future general election, they need to tell the Tea Party/Religious Right/Wealthy fat cats to stuff it. As the old saying goes, "Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is a strong sign of stupidity."

Amen to that, brother!

We will now pass the collection plate and take up a collection to aid our poor misguided Republicans.  I'll contribute a penny. Perhaps the likeness of Abe Lincoln will be a start in showing them where they went so terribly wrong!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ready, Aim, Fire!

The recent incident in Florida in which an innocent teenager was gunned down by a man with a Neanderthal mentality is terribly tragic, but not unique. The fact that it is not unique constitutes another terrible tragedy.

Florida has a law known as "stand your ground" which means a private citizen may use firearms against any person they deem is an immanent danger. They are allowed to do this at home, on the street, in a restaurant, in a park, and anywhere else. It seems, by the lack of an arrest of the Florida shooter, that this laws protect those who actually were in immanent danger, as well as those who were not. All they must do to comply with the law is to state, after the fact, they thought they were in danger.

The "stand your ground" law is a dangerous law, as the Florida killing illustrates.  What makes it even more dangerous than one might suppose is that it is not just a Florida law, but laws like it have been passed in twenty one states in our nation.

What would possess state governments to pass such off the wall legislation? As Mr. Rogers might ask, "Can you say NRA?"  The NRA is driven by some $200 million dollars a year, mostly from gun manufacturers and gun sellers to use their influence to see that America becomes an armed camp.

They are now urging bills that would allow concealed weapons in day-care centers and school buses. The more places that allow gun (concealed guns in most cases), the more guns that can be sold and the more profit the gun sellers and manufacturers will make.

Getting back to Florida, Brian Malte, of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said, "Florida is the NRA Utopia. They make it as easy as possible to carry a loaded gun in public, virtually anywhere. And then instill the mentality that you can shoot first, ask questions later."

In Arizona they recently considered a law that would make it legal for anyone on the campus of public colleges and universities to carry a gun. I am not a big fan of the Arizona governor, but to her credit, when this law was actually passed in her state, she vetoed it. The NRA, no doubt, will surely try there, again.

The NRA and other pro gun organizations and individuals will tell you that armed citizens will counteract the guns in the hands of felons and other criminals. Well, that sounds pretty good until you are faced with one startling fact. Two thirds of the gun violence in this  country is committed by these same citizens, who prior to their act of violence, had no criminal record. To use that old phrase, "We have met the enemy, and it is us," seems quite appropriate here.

In a recent op-ed piece, Gail Collins of the New York Times said," I am thinking that the best solution for all concerned would be a strict national gun-control law that makes it very difficult to get a concealed weapons permit, permits gun dealers to sell only one handgun per individual per year, and makes it illegal for even permit holders to keep handguns anywhere but their home, store or car glove compartment unless they are employed in the security business." 

Of course what Collins is advocating in her op-ed piece is no more than common sense, and while the NRA may be flush with cash, they are significantly over-drawn on their common sense account.

So the gun carnage in our country continues, while the NRA is screaming, "MORE, MORE, MORE." They love to say that guns do not kill people, people kill people. That is both true and incomplete, as in fact, people with guns kill people, as the NRA makes doing so easier and easier.

I do think the NRA has missed one important area where guns should be legal, if not mandatory. That would be in the shower. Picture, if you will that while taking a shower you hear what you believe to be an intruder in your house, or worse yet in your bathroom. You grab your gun (a water proof one, of course), leap naked from the shower, assume a slight crouch, and while holding your gun with both hands, holler (in your best Clint Eastwood impersonation) "Freeze, punk." Then all you have to do is to wait until the intruder keels over, either from fear or laughter.

Hey, the NRA being what it could happen!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Religion In Politics And God Help Us All

Religion.  If you asked ten different people to define religion, you might very well get ten different answers. "The eye of the beholder" is certainly in play when it comes to how people view religion. Religious faith is not bad or evil, and in fact is a guiding principal for many good and decent people who live their lives dedicated to fairness, honesty and helping others in need. I have no quarrel with people who are guided by religion to live their lives in that manner. I also have no quarrel with people who have no religious faith, but still live good, decent, and honest lives, as there are also many of those people in our country. Religious faith is not a prerequisite to being a good person, and never has been.

However, (you just knew there was a however coming, didn't you) religion in the United States has an ugly, dark and quite destructive side, which seems to be growing more dangerous each year. There is a segment of religion that seems not only to know how to live there lives, but are also convinced they know best how the rest of us should live our lives, as well.  Call them the religious right, the Tea Party, hard liners....whatever you like, the end result is the same.

The Republican party candidates for president are falling all over themselves to prove that each of them is a religious zealot more dedicated to moral(?) values than the next one. With a bible in one hand and a bolt of lightening given to them by god in the other, each of these people feels they must champion every religious dogma precept of how each citizen of our country should live.

These candidates, as an example, are quick to jump on the bandwagon that says marriage is only to be sanctioned between a man and a woman, and its main purpose is procreation. Really? Does this mean that a married couple that decides not to have children, has less of a marriage than those that do? They proclaim that gay marriage is a great threat to traditional marriage. Silly me, and here I thought divorce was the greatest threat to marriage, as fifty percent of all marriages end up that way. These doom's day marriage prophets also tell me that my marriage is somehow threatened if two men or two women get married. How this threatens my marriage, or anyone else's, is a total mystery to me. Am I to announce to my startled wife some day, "Honey, Bob and Ted, were just married and moved in down the block, so I'm afraid our marriage is over." What utter nonsense. If Bob and Ted love each other, they have as much right to get married as anyone else, and it is no one else's business if they do. Finally, these misguided candidates and their followers are hell bent on passing national laws that prohibit gay marriage. Fortunately, I live in Washington State, which this week became the seventh state to formally legalize gay marriage. Yes, our weather may get us wet enough to rust, but the thinking of the majority in this state is fair and just.

Birth control is another hot button for the religious right kooks who want to define our nation's direction. They don't want it and God forbid (no pun intended) that medical insurance pay for it, or that hospitals dispense it. One only need look at all the unloved and un-cared for children in our nation (and the world) to understand the real need for giving people the choice of birth control. In fact, a survey of Catholic women showed that the vast majority are in favor of birth control, and a majority of those in their child bearing years use some form of it. Sorry Vatican, but even your own people don't agree with you. Birth control should be a choice, without undue pressure (either way) from outside sources.

Abortion? Oh boy, the hard right religious folks go nuts over that one. Yes, without question, an abortion is a tough choice for any women. Should they or shouldn't they is not a question I can answer, nor is it a question the nay saying religious right people can answer. Only the woman can answer that question for herself after receiving all the information and counseling from the sources she chooses, and no advice or pressure from those sources she doesn't choose. It is her choice, her body, and non of our damned business. Pro-choice doesn't always mean abortion. It simply means what it says, with the key word being choice.

The religious right wants desperately to run our lives. Hey, some moral values and a little guidance....what could be the harm in that? Plenty! For proof, take a look at those Middle Eastern countries where Islam runs the government. Religious police roam the streets so that a man and woman do not hold hands, kiss, or show any form of affection towards one another. TV content is tightly censored, Gays can be jailed or worse, women are not looked upon as the equal of a man, and Islamic courts and Islamic law take precedent over civil courts and civil law. No, we do not have those conditions in our country, but "give them an inch and they will take a mile" holds true here, and religious right oppression must be opposed at ever turn so that we never experience those conditions, or any that even come close.

The constitution gives us a guarantee of religious freedom. That means a person is free to follow any religion they wish in their personal lives, or no religion at all. It can be Christian, Muslim (without the draconian laws of some of the Middle Eastern countries), Buddhist, any other faith, or no faith at all. As long as we obey the laws of the land, religious faith, or lack of same, is (like abortion) our individual choice and not the business, or responsibility of anyone else.

It seems quite strange to me that the Tea Party is forever saying they want the government out of their lives. Yet, many of these same folk are only too quick to want the government to ban for all of us anything they deem is wrong. They also claim that each life, including the unborn, is precious, but seem to think that arming each citizen with enough fire power to kill dozens is OK. They are indeed speaking out of both sides of their mouth (although I suppose they speak more out of the right side than they do the left).

Please understand, I am not an anti-religious faith person by any stretch of the imagination.  My wife belongs to a Christian faith church, in which many of it's members have become friends of mine. The majority of the members of that church believe that religion should keep out of government and government should keep out of religion.  Amen to that, brother!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Occupy Wall Street - A Third Take

Just as I was saying I saw no plans, goals or actions coming from the Occupy Wall Street crowds, one finally manifested itself over the weekend, and I have to admit, it was a doozy.  If adopted by a great number of people, it could send a very powerful message to the large banks.  It was a declared day for people to close their accounts at large banks, and move their money to credit unions or small regional banks.  Of course, there is nothing that says such a movement must last for only one day.  It can essentially go on for as long as there are people who want to move their money away from big banks.

The bigwigs that run the large banks care nothing about protests, marches, sign waving , speeches, and all the rest of such actions.  They yawn and say, "So what."  But touch their money, and you have their attention, and then some.

This is exactly the kind of action that is needed to start showing that the people are fed up with what the banking industry has been doing to us and put some real teeth in our protest.  If only a few million people (more, of course, would be even better) removed their money from the large banks, that would be a big thumb in the bank's collective nose.  It is the famous line from the film, Network, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore," but this time said to real financial fat cats by real people.  It is a firm sign to the banks that people are taking positive action for their cause.

My wife and I will soon be joining those ranks.  We are already a customer of a regional bank, but it is buying other banks, growing rapidly, and starting to find ways to nit-pick its customers to death with additional fees.  It seems to have designs on becoming a large, or at least larger bank. That's when it's time to say, stop the bus and let us off.  We will join the exodus to the credit unions within a short while.

If you are still banking with a large bank perhaps you will join us in leaving, and spread the word to others.  It could do wonders and save you a few bucks at the same time.  It's a first step.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Occupy Wall Street - A Second Take

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is now in its second month and, instead of going away, it has increased to hundreds of cities, large and small, in our country.  In my opinion (isn't that what most blogs are individual opinion) is this good or bad? The answer to both sides of that question is yes!

The good part is that the demonstrations, sit-ins, occupations, whatever you choose to call them have touched a nerve in this country. which has long simmered just below the surface.  That being the general discontent with the banks and the fat cats who control them.  Discontent because, while job seekers, home owners, and the middle class in general suffer from a long lasting financial downturn, these same banking fat cats have prospered at the expense of those in financial need.  With ever increasing new fees, the large banks are constantly inventing new ways to separate the average citizen from their money, and they are doing so while sitting on huge profits, and large piles of cash, which normally would be used for loans.  So, they sit on their piles of cash and nickle and dime us to death.  Citizens have had it with the blatant gouging and money grubbing of the banks.  No one denies that banks, like any other business, should make a healthy profit, for otherwise they wouldn't remain in business.  But the extent that they are running roughshod over the public no longer represents making a healthy profit, but is instead, a prime example of big business out of control.  Many in the OWS movement are out of work people, homeowners who are over their head and stand to lose their homes, union members who have seen the Republicans severely curtail their bargaining rights, and otherwise just plain fed up people.

And that brings us to the bad side of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  There are many justifiable causes represented in this movement.  Out of work people, home owners, union members and others have legitimate complaints about problems and situation that need to be addressed.  However, there are two troubling aspects to this movement.  The first is the lack of goals and actions. When someone is standing on your foot, hollering about it for a brief moment is understandable, but then you must do something about it.  Yes, hollering will get the attention of the person who is accidentally standing on your foot and they often will remove their foot from yours.  But for those who are doing it deliberately (as are the banks, Republicans, and others), then you must have a plan to correct the situation.  I have yet to see any such plans among the OWS crowd. All good movements start with protests, but those that accomplish needed change do so with plans and action.  We hear the occupiers and many of us agree they have raised valid concerns.  Now where is the action?  Where are the goals?  Where are the plans to reach those goals?

The second troubling thing about the OWS movement is the trouble makers (as Mr. Rogers might say with his calming voice, "Can you say anarchist?").  The recent violence in Oakland, turned a large, but peaceful demonstration into chaos.  The cause was a mere 80 to 100 anarchist and thugs who were not there for any political or social action, but merely to cause as much mayhem and damage to property as possible.  Until the OWS can police itself and rid their ranks of these punks, their message will be diluted at every turn.  Yes, police (who have been shown to have a few anarchists and mayhem makers in their own ranks) can stop such violence after the fact, but to be truly effective, it must be stopped from within before it happens,

I'm rooting for the movement in hopes that it will bring about needed change in the business and social atmosphere of our country.  In my last blog entry I said if the movement did not show some organization and goals it would disappear as a forgotten footnote in history.  That turned out not to be true, as it has now grown large enough and has gone on long enough so that whether it bring about positive change in our country or not, it will not be forgotten.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Occupy Wall Street - A Different Take

It has been featured in the newspapers, magazines, and local and national TV news. I'm talking of course about what is commonly known as "Occupy Wall Street."  It has also been described in various ways, some of which are "The voice of the people", "The liberal answer to the Tea Party", or "A sign that a change is coming."

As a liberal Democrat, one would think I would embrace this movement with open arms.  I'm not sure how you embrace something with open arms, but you get the idea.  The problem is I don't.  ahh....but then again, I do.  Confused?  Me too.

Protests make those involved and many not involved with them feel good, because they are doing something.  They often are a fore runner of a more permanent action, cause, or movement.  Also, they bring light to a problem that needs fixing, and the banks are certainly a problem that needs fixing.

However, in looking at the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, and now in other US cities, there are troubling aspects, not so much because of what is happening, but more because of what is not happening.  First and foremost, where is the organization and where are the stated objectives?  I have made no bones about that fact that I do not like, or respect the Tea Party movement or what they stand for.  However, only a fool would claim they are not organized.  They are, and that's what makes them so dangerous to our country.

Like most mass movements, Occupy Wall Street is a conglomerate of different factions.  The unemployed are a large part of the crowd, as are the employed who are just managing to get by.  But so are the anarchists, and the hangers-on, and thrill seekers who have nothing better to do.  The anarchists are dangerous and want to cause mayhem and destruction.  The hangers-on and thrill seekers just get in The way.

Many of the major banks were saved with a bailout (a loan that has been almost entirely repaid, not a hand out as the Tea Party claims).  They were saved from conditions which they created for themselves with greed, fraud, and just plain bad business practices.  Saving them was a bitter pill, but as I have pointed out in the past, not saving them would have made the financial condition of our nation far, far worse than it already is.  What we need now is government regulation (with teeth) that will force them to start circulating (via loans and other avenues) the trillions of dollars on which they are currently sitting.  We need that money to flow through our country once again.

Some in this new movement want to shut down Wall Street, and while Wall Street, itself, has some answering to do for some of its transgressions and shady deals, we must never forget, that the investments of many average Americans are also tied up in stocks, bonds and mutual funds, and harming Wall Street also harms all of those citizens, their families, and their retirement.

So, will any long lasting good actually come from the Occupy Wall Street movement?  I sincerely hope so, as it could be the start of a needed political force to offset the stupidity of the Tea Party.  If this is to happen, however, we will need less people in the demonstrations dressing like zombies (never have quite figured that out other than some type of street theater) and more organization, goals, and plans to achieve those goals in order to get the money flowing in this country again, create jobs, and stop the banks from lining their own pockets at the expense of average Americans.

If we can do that, the Occupy Wall Street movement will have positive results for the country.  If not, it will soon be a forgotten footnote in history.