Forget Gun Rights vs. Gun Control: Think “RESPONSIBILITY!”

As this is written, a congressional hearing is occurring in the US senate regarding what, if anything, can be done to prevent another massacre of children like the one last month in Newtown Connecticut.

So far, advocates of both gun right and gun control have testified, including former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head and remains severely injured by a crazed gunman in Phoenix, Arizona two years ago.  You can hear her short and injury-impacted heart-wrenching speech HERE.

Also testifying was National Rifle Association (NRA) vice-president Wayne LaPierre, who said that neither guns nor gun owners are the problem, but that the federal government doesn’t enforce existing laws, and that’s the problem. he also reemphasized that the best protection for schools is to have armed guards at each one.

Perhaps most eloquent (so far), was Mark Kelly, Gabrielle Giffords’ husband and former space shuttle astronaut, who, as a gun owner (as is his wife), said that the real issue is that with rights comes responsibility.

Who’s right?

When one thinks of the US Constitution first amendment right to freedom of speech, religion, assembly, the press and so forth, one has to acknowledge (as the US Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly), that these basic civil rights come with an associated requirement to act responsibly in the exercise of these rights:

One cannot yell “fire!” in a crowded theater just to watch the ensuring confusion and  the injuries caused by people trying desperately to escape an imaginary threat to their lives.  One cannot practice a religion that kills “sacrificed” humans in the name of their deity.  One cannot direct the assembly of a 1000 people in a space that can only hold 50.  One cannot print lies that destroy the reputations of innocent private citizens.

To violate these common sense restrictions upon the basic rights in the first amendment is to invite arrest and/or lawsuits that if proved, will result in penalties and/or imprisonment.  And yes, this is allowable under the US Constitution, as repeatedly affirmed by the US Supreme Court.  The folks who think that any right is unbridled and devoid of responsibility in its exercise are wrong at best, and fanatical fundamentalist libertarian extremists who don’t understand the concept of rights and their responsibilities, at worse.

Many suggestions are been floated repeatedly whenever a crazed shooter commits multiple murders indiscriminately, such as the Newtown massacre.  For instance, the following have been promoted as ways to solve this “massacre” problem:

1. Limit the size of gun magazines to 10 rounds of less.
2. Perform universal background checks, including mental health check, which will require ALL threat diagnosis to be entered into a central system.
3. Ban assault rifles.
4. Close the gun show and private gun sales background check loophole.
5. Ban handguns.
6. Require all new gun sales to be registered into a central system.
7. Require gun safety training of all NEW gun owners.
8. Armed guards at all schools to protect children.

Now, keeping common sense and responsibility in mind, both banning assault rifles and handguns are completely pointless.  There are already literally millions of these items out there.  Banning them would be like banning beer-making kits.

Armed guards at schools does not require a federal law, although initially this might not be a bad idea as part of a multi-step process for some indeterminate period of time until the rest of the solution has been implemented and well established.  But always remember that children and schools are NOT the only victims of gun massacres.

Closing the gun show and private sales background check loophole, in concert with the implementation of a centralized universal background check that including mental health data is a very good idea and hard to argue against, as long as it is modernized, computerized, instant the way credit check are today, and transparent to the seller and purchaser.  Part of this system would also register the gun and/or magazine being sold and bought.  The responsible gun owner and gun seller would feel nothing as a result of this process.  But law enforcement would be enhanced against the irresponsible person who would leave his gun unattended, or is a straw buyer for someone else who couldn’t pass the background check.

And finally, training of new gun owners is a good idea that is also hard to argue against.  One wonders how many people buy guns for self-defense but have never shot them, cleaned them, or understand the rules regarding concealed weapons. An exemption could be instituted for people with prior military or law enforcement experience, although, some of them may want to take the course anyway.  Motorcycle drivers must take a course to be licensed, and many of them take skill-enhancement courses from time to time.

These common sense ideas are the only ones that stand a chance of passage in congress.  Doing what feels good now isn’t always the best long-term solution, any more than thinking that today’s solution is the final one.

Even the US Constitution is periodically amended…as further facts are forthcoming.  🙂

 

 

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Next Job: #45?

In 2008, Hillary Clinton, US senator from New York, former first lady as wife of president Bill Clinton, mother of Chelsey, universal health care advocate and former lawyer, mounted and ran the first really credible political campaign for president of the USA ever run by a woman candidate.  She came very close to winning enough delegates to be the democratic party’s nominee for president that year, winning 18 million primary votes.  Barack Obama edged her out in the delegate count toward the end of the campaign season and Hillary pivoted to throw her complete support behind Obama.

Obama had said during the primary season that Clinton and he were friends before the campaign, and they would be friends after the campaign.  He also recognized that except for his superior political organization on the ground, particularly in states that held caucuses instead of primary elections, Hillary might have won the nomination instead of him.  He and his closest advisers realized that Clinton was extremely intelligent, had lived in the White House for eight years, had been engaged as the wife of a president, had traveled around the world as first lady, was a capable and popular senator from New York, and had knowledge, skills and abilities that would be squandered if he did not capture them and access them.

As a result, before the 2008 democratic convention, he met with her in private and asked her to be the next USA Secretary of State.  Incidentally, this would place her fourth in line of succession to the presidency should something ever happen to him, the vice-president, the speaker of the house of representatives and the president pro tempore of the senate, in accordance with the US Constitution 25th amendment and subsequent US law.

Hillary was confirmed by the US senate in early 2009 and has served as the USA Secretary of State ever since.  She was there with President Obama the night the Navy Seals took out Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, and she has been instrumental and engaged in international dealings that have benefited the USA.

In November 2010, largely as a result of GOP lies and false propaganda about the newly passed but not yet implemented health reform legislation now known as Obamacare, the tea-party-infested republicans took over as the majority in the US house of representatives.  At that point the upcoming presidential election of 2012 became a real horse race.  All during that time, Hillary continued to work behind the scenes on the foreign policy issues of the day.

Pundits wondered if Obama should replace vice-president Joe Biden as US vice-president for the 2012 election with her.  For her part, she repeatedly made it crystal clear that she was not interested in any way in the job of vice-president or any other elected position…ever.  In fact, at this point it became common knowledge that she would be leaving her job as Secretary of State shortly after Obama won re-election.  Over and over she has stated that she wants to return to private life.

In September 2012, terrorists attacked the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, murdering four US diplomats.  In its aftermath the public statements about it were confusing and conflicting.  Republicans attempted to make a political campaign issue out of that but were unsuccessful.  Still, congressional hearings were scheduled, and yesterday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before both houses of the US Congress.

Republicans, who are still reeling over their losses in the November 2012 elections, were told to be respectful of Hillary when she testified.  They realized that she is incredibly popular among Americans, with a 67% favorable rating vs. 26 unfavorable.  Most republicans were respectful to her, with notable exception made by republican 2016 presidential hopeful senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and GOP senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin.   When Ron Paul stated that he would have fired her had he been president (how much more political can you get?), she simply looked away dismissingly as if to tell him that she wasn’t interested in his political campaign statement.  And when Ron Johnson asked her something but wouldn’t let her answer, she lit into him in a way that backed him right off.  You can watch the exchanges HERE.

For their part, the democrats kept thanking her for her service and repeatedly hinted at their desire for her to run for president in 2016, even though she has repeatedly insisted that she’s all done with public life.  Of course, that was before the November 2012 elections. With each hint, she simply smiled or laughed.

think about it.  She is much wiser and more experienced now.  No republican can come close to matching her skills and abilities in foreign policy. She is clearly the front-run among the democrats and much of the USA, for that matter.

So….will she change her mind?  Will she being unengaged bore her to death?

The smart money says….stand by.   🙂

 

Guns Now, But the Debt Limit Train is Speeding Down the Track

While the USA is quite appropriately finally focusing attention on the gun rights vs. public safety, there are now only 45 days left for the congress to work out a plan to avoid the new “fiscal cliff” of raising the debt limit while finding a bipartisan road to budget control.

Consider the following dollar amounts for 2012 which do not yet include the increased revenue from the tax increase on the wealthiest Americans, which became law on January 2, 2013:

* U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000

* Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000

* Recent budget cuts: $ 38,500,000,000

* New debt (deficit for the year before budget cuts): $1,650,000,000,000

*Total National debt to date: $14,271,000,000,000

If this was a family budget, it might look like this:

* Annual family income: $21,700

* Money the family spent: $38,200

* Total budget cuts so far: $38.50

New debt on the credit card (deficit for this year before budget cuts): $16,500

* Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710

It is clear by these figures that neither the national budget nor the family budget can long endure without catastrophic consequences.  No member of congress who can add whole numbers would disagree with this, either.  And when it comes to resolving this impossible budget situation, no member of congress who can also subtract would dispute the following methodologies for bringing the budget in line with revenues:

* Reduce spending.
* Increase revenues.

Seems simple enough, and actually,both have been partially accomplished:  Revenues have been raised as a result of both a recovering economy and the tax increase on those making more than $400,000 a year;  and there have been approximately US$1.2 trillion over 10 years, or approximately US$120 billion a year in spending cuts.  However, these are not nearly enough to fix the USA deficit or debt issues in the foreseeable future.  Both GOP’ers and democrats who know math know this.

To date, republicans have resisted tooth and nail any tax increase on the rich because, truth be told, the rich finance the GOP’s political campaigns.  One does not bite the hand that feeds it, so the GOP believes. However, because of their poor showing in the recent general elections, they had little choice but to reluctantly allow passage of the aforementioned tax increase.

Democrats have resisted some (though not all) spending cuts, particularly those involving social net programs like social security and Medicare.  The GOP likes to call these entitlement programs, or government giving away free stuff, as Mitt Romney said, even though those receiving benefits already paid for them.

In fairness, both parties have resisted stopping the pork-barrel extra spending that gets inserted into legislation to buy votes, such as the infamous $150 million “Ted Stevens Bridge to Nowhere”, and the unnecessary and unrelated spending that was included in the Superstorm Sandy relief legislation that recently passed congress.

All of the partisan dysfunction notwithstanding, the big angry white elephant in the room (pardon the pun) is the threat issued by republicans to use the debt limit ceiling  issue in February, i.e., appropriating  the funding necessary to pay for goods and services ALREADY bought (much like paying the monthly bill for the debt already racked up on the family credit card), to force spending cuts.  They have drawn a line in the sand claiming that they will not support raising the debt ceiling unless, dollar for dollar it is matched with spending reductions.  They do this despite creating more self-inflicted harm and debt for the nation, as well as having the good faith and credit of the USA further damaged and downgraded on a global scale, as it was in the summer of 2011 during the last GOP-inflicted debt limit ceiling crisis.

There is only one way to describe the GOP’s intention with this issue:  BLACKMAIL. 

Blackmail is a criminal offense.  Yet, congressional republicans are threatening to hold the entire country, its credit rating, and its ability to pay bills for goods and services already incurred hostage in order to force president Obama and the democrats to cave in to the GOP’s fiscal demands.  This is no different than a kidnapper demanding a ransom for the return of a Kidnapped person.

 

A little education for the righties.
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President Obama rightfully drew his own line in the sand earlier this week when he threw out the gauntlet to the GOP, telling them in no uncertain terms that he will not negotiate on raising the debt ceiling.  He stated clearly that he wants the spending cuts conversation with them and even welcomes it, but will not allow the GOP to tie it in any way to the issue of raising the debt limit ceiling.  He thus put the GOP on notice that if they wish to lose their shrinking majority in the House of representatives, the 2014 midterm elections are only 21 months away.  Failing to raise that ceiling so that the USA can pay its bills will weigh heavily upon whomever supported that failure.
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Still…it makes you want the entire GOP congressional delegation to drive over the debt limit ceiling “cliff”, doesn’t it?  🙂

Gun Control: Logic Shot Dead By Passion

For aliens from the planet Zork to visit Earth, they would have to be unimaginably more technologically advanced than us in order to travel faster than the speed of light.  Keeping that in mind, if they came to the USA and studied the issue of gun rights vs. gun control, this is what they would find:

1.  The Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, amendment #2, states:  A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

They would also note that the US Supreme Court, which interprets the constitution and rules on interpretative disputes, has concluded that the second amendment protects the citizens’ right to own guns in the USA.

The Zorkians would also note that the 1st amendment protects freedom of speech.  Some low-information Americans think that their right to own guns cannot be qualified in any way, but the Zorkians would realize that the 1st amendment constitutional guarantee of free speech is qualified, since one cannot yell “fire!’ in a crowded theater without severe legal and civil consequences because laws exist that qualify freedom of speech.  The Zorkians would conclude that gun rights can likewise be qualified with requirements.

The Zorkians would study human psychology, human passions and weaknesses, and human history.  They would also study the history of guns and their various iterations and characteristics.  They would study the recent massacres committed in the USA over the past few years including Columbine, Aurora, Phoenix, and Newtown.  They’d absorb the history of gun control laws in the USA, from the gangster-inspired 1934 National Firearms Act, through the JFK assassination-inspired 1968 Gun Control Act, then the 1986 Firearm Owner’s Protection Act, the Reagan assassination attempt-inspired 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Act, and the 1994 The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which banned some, not all assault weapons until it expired in 2004.  They would also study the 50 states and their often-contradictory gun-control laws and they would note with utter bewilderment that what is legal in one state is illegal one inch away in another state.

Finally, they’d study humans on both sides of the issue, with emphasis on the extremes.  They would first hear from the anti-gun lobby that the only way to stop gun violence is to ban all handguns, all assault rifles, all ammunition that can penetrate clothing, all large-capacity bullet cartridges, and any weapon that doesn’t emit a loud siren wail when loaded.  This statement would baffle and perplex them, in light of the well-established second amendment.

Then they’d listen to the pro-gun lobby (consisting mostly of men and Sarah Palin, the Zorkians would note curiously), and they would evaluate the following repeated arguments:

1.  “Gun don’t kill people, people kill people!  Without guns, people would just uses knives !”  Of all the idiotic rationales that the Zorkians would hear, this one would win the Zorkian Supreme Prize for Stupidity.  Zorkians would know that guns in the hands of people kill people, and that guns enable killing from a distance that knives don’t.  “WTF”, they would say in Zorkian, as they laughed through their armpit openings.

2.  “The democrat-controlled government will take our guns away from us, but we’ll defend our constitutional right to own guns by revolting against the government”.  The Zorkians would consider this the epitome of fantasyland paranoia and hypocrisy, because the constitutional US government has repeatedly acknowledged the constitutional right to private gun ownership;  however, overthrowing the US government is UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!

3.  “If all Americans had guns, gun crime would disappear!”  This argument would convince the Zorkians that the human race is simply not ready for prime time.  They would look at humans and see that all of them have hands, and then point out that hands are the primary item universally used in every single crime ever committed in the known universe (among all those races that actually have hands).

The Zorkians would then, after spending 1.2 seconds on all of the above (remember, time has no meaning to them), conclude that controlling gun crime is no more difficult than controlling  a starship through a time warp – something their offspring learn to do while still in both their parents’ shared womb.

They would offer this simple and elegant solution to humanity:

1.  Via a federal system, register all future gun sales into a central database, thus eliminating differences, gaps, and even non-registration in some states.

2.  Via a federal system, require a streamlined, computerized, centralized background check of all potential gun buyers.  This background check would check for any past violent criminal convictions and also check for any psychological records indicating mental, emotional, or psychotic characteristics as inputted by psychiatrists, local medical experts and/or hospitals.

3.  Via a federal system, encourage voluntary registration of currently-owned firearms by offering meaningful incentives like federal income tax credits (e.g., $500 credit per gun registration).  While not perfect, gun owners would informed that if they didn’t participate and one of their guns was stolen and used in a crime, they might be prime suspects, or ultimately be charged as accessories to a crime committed with their gun.  Kind of  a “don’t ask, don’t tell” in reverse.  🙂

Then the Zorkians would depart, leaving an intergalactic traffic warning sign (invisible to humanity, of course) for the rest of the galaxy to avoid the planet Earth,   which says,

“REMAIN CLEAR!!! 

VIOLENT, PRIMITIVE, ILLOGICAL, EMOTIONALLY DRIVEN RACE STILL EVOLVING OUT OF BACKGROUND VEGETATION!!

GOP vs. Tea Party; What Fun!

On January 1, 2013, the US senate passed legislation that prevented the US from driving off the fiscal cliff and in doing so, prevented taxes from going up on 98% of Americans, most of whom are in the middle class.  The bill passed with an overwhelming and unusually bipartisan majority of 89 to 8 vote.  As if to accentuate the bipartisan nature of this landmark event, three of the eight “no” votes were from democrats!

Those old enough to remember the administrations that preceded the GW Bush will recall a time when both houses of congress dealt with issues on the basis of compromise and give-and-take negotiations to arrive at a finished product both parties could support, even if neither side was completely satisfied.  This had been how the US government conducted business since its inception.  And although the US senate had increasingly degenerated over the past 12 years into a polarized body more interested in “my way or the highway”, at least when the USA (and as a consequence, much of the world economy) had its back to the wall in the final hours, the senate acted to avert disaster in the the only way it possibly could:  compromise and bipartisanship.

Not so the US House of Representatives.

That chamber suffered an infestation of newly-elected Tea Party candidates in 2010, some of whom only had until this Thursday before they are replaced by those who beat them in last November’s elections.  They have continuously appeared to be deaf to the will of the people as expressed in the last election and continuing national polls.  They have insisted upon standing firm against ANY compromise, even one to prevent the USA from going over the fiscal cliff.

Although the senate-passed bill finally passed the House after 9pm last night by a 257-167 vote, only 85 republicans voted in favor of the billfully 151 republicans voted against it!

Those folks who voted to have taxes rise on 98% of Americans (who are now covered by the legislation they voted AGAINST) seem to think that Grover Norquist, the anti-tax guru pagan god of the Tea Party is the second coming of the messiah.  yet, if they paid even cursory attention to the news, they’d know that Norquist endorsed the legislation as “not in conflict with the anti tax pledge” he has blackmailed most republican congresspeople into signing.

These Tea-Party-infected folks also believed that it would have been better for the USA to drive over the cliff, seriously crippling the US and global economy, critically injuring the US stock market, having taxes rise on the 98% of Americans that that the bill now protects, abruptly shutting down unemployment benefits, and dramatically reduce or end health care benefits to the poor among other self-inflicted wounds, than to deny tax breaks to the very rich.  They also hated that the promised spending cuts, which must now be negotiated and passed within the next two months, weren’t included in the bill NOW!

They didn’t care that many Americans would suffer for the weeks or months it would take to forge a spending reduction agreement with democrats, if in fact such an agreement between ultra-conservative extreme-right-wing Tea Baggers and congressional democrats was even possible.  Remember, the baggers’ first manta is “my way or the highway”.  They also bore no responsibility whatsoever for the fact that for the 16 months they’ve known this issue (fiscal cliff) was barreling down the road, they did absolutely NOTHING to produce a passable fix..  After all, it’s the House that’s responsible for budget legislation.

Nope.  The Tea Baggers were too busy trying to convince voters to vote for people who think that rape is “God’s will”, or that raped women don’t get pregnant, or that global warming is a hoax, or that school prayer prevents school massacres by crazed assault-rifle-toting assassins, or that homosexuality can be “cured” with prayer-based therapy, or that same-sex couples should be hunted, not married, or that the richer the wealthy become, the better off the middle class will be, or that the Earth is 6000 years old and Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs (naked, mind you), until they were kicked out of the garden of Eden for accessing knowledge (brought on by the the stone-aged version of Wikipedia, known then simply as “Apple”).

Amy Kremer, chairwoman of the Tea Party Express reacted angrily to the passage of the bill.  “There will be consequences!“, she threatened.  And Mike Kibbe, president of tea party-affiliated Freedomworks, called passage of the bill an “epic fail”, adding, “If Congressional leadership fails to do the bare minimum to secure our economic future, then we will find someone that will,”

Meanwhile, the Dow Jones rose over 308 points today.  So much for business hating the bill, huh?

Y’know…watching Tea Party leaders condemn the GOP leadership (their ex-lovers) is a little like watching late-night porn, isn’t it?   🙂