Enough is Enough


There’s been a lot of violence in the U.S. and the world lately with terrorist attacks, mass shootings, police killings of black men, and the killing of police in retaliation.  And much of it has its roots in racism, extreme hatred and the misappropriation of religion.  But what can be done?  Below are some suggestions:

Gun Control

No more semi-automatic weapons for gun lovers.  Hunters can keep shotguns and rifles. Handguns are fine with a permit but no more permits to carry a concealed weapon, though. We must resolve to strike down all open carry laws and institute a gun buyback program and extensive background checks.  Congress must close the gun show and internet sales loopholes.  And the U.S. must hold gun manufacturers liable for certain gun deaths.  Finally, the police must be disarmed and police departments demilitarized to gain the trust of the communities where they serve. Community policing needs to be emphasized to focus on building relationships between officers and the people they are sworn to protect.  If police working the community beat were unarmed and trained to de-escalate with words, not arms, it would go a long way toward building trust with people.  And policemen should not be immune from prosecution for using deadly force when such force was found to have been unnecessary.

End Racism

First, Congressional districts that have been racially gerrymandered have to be redrawn to give voters fair representation.  In addition, the courts must strike down voter ID laws and ensure there are reasonable numbers of polling places to prevent long voter lines. States should all have same day voter registration laws and automatic registration for citizens when driver’s licenses are obtained.  We have to make it easier not harder to vote to save our democracy, which has become limited and less responsive to the will of the people.

Second, we must preserve and expand affirmative action laws. Similarly, we must promote more diversity hirings among faculty at colleges and universities and among teaching staff in K-12.  And we should adopt Bernie’s vision of Free Community College and State University tuition for low-income students but with built-in supports to ensure high retention rates. Lastly, curricula at all levels need to deal with race in America.  The current crop of white-washed textbooks should be banned and burned.

We can’t learn to live together if we don’t live together and learn together.  Communities should be required to diversify.  Communities and neighborhoods within a city should reflect the general population of the city or town.  There should be no more “other side of the tracks” divisions which often produce separate and unequal schools.  Mixed housing development stock should be promoted so that people pay according to income and people of mixed socio-economic statuses throughout a city or town live together.

Stop Terrorism

We need to stop the drone killings.  “Collateral damage” or civilian casualties do nothing to win the hearts and minds of would be friends in the fight against terrorism.  ISIS, Al-Queda, and other terrorist groups do not represent the religious views of the billions of worshipers of Islam, so our efforts should not be framed as a war against Islamic extremists.  Terrorist groups use this rhetoric as proof that the U.S. is waging war on Islam and this helps them to recruit impressionable youth. The right, ironically, just like the terrorists, needs an enemy to prove that Christians are being persecuted to advance their theocratic vision of America.  They have found the “enemy” in Islam and President Obama. Notice that the conspiracy theorists have argued that  President Obama is a secret Muslim who wants to destroy Christianity by refusing to say “Islamic terrorism”, and by preserving the separation of church and state which is a hallmark of a free society.

I forgot who said it, a celebrity, I think, or possibly a comedian, that the best way to deal with terrorism is to kill them with mocking humor.  That would do more to destroy their purpose than taking them seriously with all of the military might that we can bring to bear. Look what good that has done us so far.  Rather than deploy the special forces, deploy a team of comedy agents.  Have something like an SNL, In Living Color, Portlandia road show to tour the world with skits lampooning terrorists.

I also think that there should be a way to ban terrorist and hate groups from social media.  Couldn’t some MIT computer science engineers hack into and jam their websites?  And aren’t there some CIA geeks who could send a signal that would fry terrorist groups’ electronics.  Surely it could be done.  Then, like Bin Laden, the jihadists would be reduced to recruiting by cassette tapes, which, of course, few people would even have the equipment to play.

Peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis also has to be a priority.  Whether it’s a one-state or two-state solution, if the conflict is not resolved, the region will continue to be unstable which helps to foment violence and terrorist activity.

Finally, the right should stop undermining U.S. diplomatic efforts in treasonous fashion by sending letters to foreign leaders urging them to reject negotiations AND inviting heads of states to address Congress simply to spite the President.  Their actions and the hateful and racist rhetoric coming from the Trump campaign in opposition to immigrants, to Muslims, to NATO and the European Union do nothing but further destabilize the world and breed more hate, terrorism, and fascism.

Enough is Enough!

GA Gun Bill Good For Turkeys

Wild Turkey

Georgia, the home state of Ray Charles, President Jimmy Carter, Jasper Johns, Deforest Kelly, Martin Luther King Jr, Alice Walker, Burt Reynolds, Otis Redding, and Hulk Hogan, became the first in the country to allow residents with gun permits to pack heat just about anywhere – in bars, houses of worship, schools, and even airports.  Dubbed the “guns everywhere” bill, it passed the Georgia state legislature by 112-58 in the House and 37-18 in the Senate, despite majority opposition from Georgians.

As outrageous as the law sounds, it does have some restrictions.  A house of worship would have to authorize “armed” services.  I’m not sure how many priests, pastors, imams and rabbis would invite worshipers to bear arms inside their institutions, but no doubt a few would – “praise the lord and pass the ammunition”.  Maybe they would have a shotluck dinner at the conclusion of services.  Do rest assured that pub owners would also have to approve of guns and “shots” before an armed patron could enter the establishment and proceed to get “loaded”.  I am not sure that guns and drinks mix, but if the saloon owner doesn’t mind the place being shot up every Saturday night, I suppose that is his or her own business.  As for armed schools, it would be up to the local school or school board to decide who, if anyone, would be allowed to carry a gun on the premises.  Frankly, I think a “militarized” public school zone with metal detectors, armed security guards, loudspeakers, cameras and microphones would confuse kids into thinking they are in a prison rather than an educational institution.  And the thought of an armed teacher is too much to bear.  I can imagine the principal having to come around on occasion and take away some teachers’ bullets for accidentally discharging the weapons in class, kind of like Sheriff Taylor had to do with Barney from time to time – take away his one bullet.  While it may seem extreme that a licensed gun owner can carry a weapon to a Georgia airport, including Atlanta Hartsfield, the world’s busiest, know that guns would only be permitted in areas outside security checks.  But why would anyone bring a gun to an airport unless they had bad intentions?  From a practical standpoint, I guess it would give him a built in advantage in a long line say at the coffee shop, but it could cause a confrontation and blood to spill rather than coffee.  The law should be amended so that there would be an express line for gun holders.  One piece of advice to cashiers:  if the gun holder says he gave you a $50 dollar bill, HE GAVE YOU A $50 DOLLAR BILL.  According to the new law, airports would need to have signs indicating where guns are and are not permitted.  I can see the sign now – one with a pistol and another with a pistol and a line through it.

I don’t know who wrote the bill, probably some attorney for the NRA, but it is poorly written with gaping holes and inconsistencies.  First, the fine for shooting big game out of season or turkeys with the wrong caliber weapon is now $250, and the gun owner’s license would be revoked for 3 years.  By comparison, the fine for being caught with a weapon at a security checkpoint at an airport would be a misdemeanor with a fine of $100.  Actually, a gun wielding traveler with a permit could say that he “forgot” that he had “packed” a weapon and could simply leave the area to be screened elsewhere and not be charged with a misdemeanor or a fine.  Interestingly, law enforcement personnel cannot ask to see someone’s permit to carry.  One would think to keep everybody honest, police would be allowed to do periodic spot checks.  Lastly, the law appears to make it easier to obtain a permit to carry.  It provides a long section of relief from licensing exceptions including giving the superintendent of a mental institution the power to approve a request for a license made by former patients.  Also, residents who have had their licenses revoked can reapply after 4 years.  And 18 year olds who are in the military can apply for a license.

Any law that promotes gun ownership benefits the NRA and gun manufacturers.  And any candidate running for public office who supports gun “rights” will have the full support of the NRA to help them get elected and stay in power.  And while the NRA and Georgia Republicans argue that the new gun law is a victory for the 2nd amendment (which doesn’t say anything at all about the right of an individual to brandish a loaded gun in the public town square), it appears that the real victors here are big game, including bears, alligators and deer, oh, and the spirited wild turkey.



The Majority Does Not Rule on Background Checks


Senators voted down the bi-partisan Manchin amendment to expand background checks for gun purchases by a slim margin, 54-46. Actually, the 54 who supported the bill lost to the 46 who voted against it.  How could this be?  A simple majority doesn’t carry a vote?  You mean the side with the fewest votes wins?  It might come as a surprise to know that a simple majority doesn’t win in the Senate anymore.  Because of a rules change, too complicated to explain here, it takes 3/5 or 60 votes to pass anything in the Senate.

If people kill and not guns, how could anyone be against background checks at gun shows and on the Internet, where they are not currently required?  How do expanded background checks violate the 2nd amendment?  Should convicted felons, fugitives from justice, drug addicts, and people involuntarily committed to mental institutions have the right to bear arms?

Contrary to what the NRA says, the bill doesn’t create a national registry of gun owners; in fact, it makes it illegal for a federal officer to use information obtained from background checks to try to create one, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Gun control is just common sense.  It’s not about the 2nd amendment at all.  It’s about keeping our streets, schools and public spaces safer.

Stallone Supports Gun Control but…

Sylvester Stallone in Sweden to promote "...

Sylvester Stallone in Sweden to promote “Rambo III” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sylvester Stallone.  What position does the man who played Rocky and Rambo take on gun control?  Would you be surprised to know that the star of the new movie “Bullet to the Head” is for a ban on assault weapons?  I am.  As the killing machine in the Rambo series of films, he fired practically every assault weapon in existence.  Stallone hasn’t exactly portrayed restraint in the films he’s most known for but even Rocky eventually understood that enough is enough.  I’m glad Stallone weighed in on the issue criticizing society for “dropping the ball” on mental health resources and calling for a ban on assault weapons.  In a bit of irony, Stallone said, “who needs an assault weapon?”, but he did walk it back a little to say that guns weren’t the problem as much as “insanity” and “isolation”.  Not exactly the most delicate description, but I think we know where he stands.  Now I doubt he will call for a ban on “Over The Top” gun violence in movies and video games, which certainly have contributed to the problem, or call out the NRA, but his support of gun control may help some kind of legislation see “Daylight”.

Better Days Ahead


What should President Obama’s second term priorities be?  There are lots of issues to tackle:  the “vaulted” debt ceiling, climate change, energy policy, gun control, mental health, but what first?  I can see gun control being up there especially as a response to the 7 mass murders committed in 2012 ending in the Newtown, CT tragedy.  The president issued a series of executive orders to address the issue, including mechanisms for improving the system of background checks; gun safety education; establishing a national dialogue on mental health issues; nominating an ATF Director (what, there isn’t one?) and authorizing the CDC to research the causes of gun violence, which the NRA had successfully prevented it from doing in the past.  Now it’s up to Congress to take substantive action, which the House appears unlikely to do, despite wide spread public support for a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazine clips.

Given the staggering numbers of Republicans in Congress who serve to protect the NRA, there isn’t much hope for significant legislation to curtail gun violence and prevent mass murders, so what would they support?  They can’t continue to be simply the party of NO, standing only for rejecting any proposal supported by the President.  If the GOP continues to stonewall, filibuster and obstruct for the next 4 years, they will forever be known as the party of no support from the people they desperately need to attract – women, Blacks, Hispanics, and moderates.

But Congress, with its pitiful 18% approval rating, has to do something to restore the confidence of the American public.  What can it do?  For starters, Congress can vote to raise the debt ceiling so as not to risk downgrading the nation’s credit rating. This alone won’t be enough to win the hearts of Americans.  No, they have to go bigger, and why not go big with immigration reform?  This could be a win win for all. But when I say big, I mean big, real big.  First, employ the unemployed to tear down the fence along the US southern border.  Don’t bother with the Northern border – first, to my knowledge, there is no fence there and second, the only Canadians who have any interest in living in the states are rockers and comedians.  With all that concrete along the Southern border, we could build  hundreds of new schools, employ tens of thousands of teachers and construction workers for all the new schools needed after opening up the border.  Yes, I mean it.  Open the borders to any and all law abiding citizens of the world provided they can work, have no criminal background and can show some means of support or sponsorship, (unless they have refugee status). For those upstanding citizens of the world without employable skills, adult education programs would be funded to teach English literacy and general vocational skills to serve local sectors of the U.S. with the greatest demand for workers.  All new entrants and the previously undocumented living in this country would be issued a Social Security number.  Consider this:  the best way to ensure the solvency of social security is to have more people paying in, not simply to raise the retirement age to 96.

Republicans should champion these ideas as a means of competing for the loyalties of a changing USA demographic that will soon be a non-white majority.  But the thing is, they won’t because the radical fringe that seems to be calling the shots would rather secede from the Union than come to grips with a loss of power in a democratic process that they despise and have tried desperately to rig in their favor through gerrymandering, and voter suppression tactics.

Let’s get it done – gun control, immigration reform and the greening of the planet in the next two years.  And let’s not let the GOP say “frack that”.

Newtown Tragedy Is Just So Sad

My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families and to the entire community of Newtown, CT.  20 children and 7 adults are dead, victims of senseless violence, murdered by a mentally unstable gunman.  Although the facts are not yet clear, the gunman, described as a man in his twenties, allegedly killed his mother, then went to Sandy Hook Elementary school and open fired on a class of kindergartners, killing 20 of the children and 6 school personnel, including the principal and a school psychologist before taking his own life.

This unspeakable crime is almost too gruesome to process, and as horrifically shocking as it is, mass murders are not all that uncommon in the U.S.  Mother Jones recently released a report finding that 61 mass murders have been committed in the U.S. in the last 30 years, and 7 such murders have occurred in 2012 alone.  In most of the cases, the atrocities were committed by mentally unstable gunmen with semi-automatic handguns and assault weapons they legally obtained.

Given the frequency of these tragedies, it’s time for lawmakers to get serious about enacting gun control legislation and providing more funding to support mental health services to people in need.  We seem to care more about the right to own a gun, than we do about the idea of a social contract, one based on love and support for all and a commitment to those in need – the poor, the hungry, the neglected and those suffering from abuse and mental illness.  We should look after each other and this also may mean institutionalizing those who are a threat to themselves and the community.  But I’m tired of the slogan that “people kill, not guns”.  I’m sorry conservative NRA members, but you are wrong.  Guns obtained legally do kill when in the wrong hands.  In the 61 cases of mass murder in the U.S. in the last 30 years, victims were slaughtered not by baseball bats or fists, but by guns purchased legally by people with serious mental health issues.  Honestly, what is the purpose of a semi-automatic handgun or an assault weapon anyway, if not to kill?  And consider this:  the 2nd amendment does not state that people have the right to own an AK-47.  In fact, the 2nd amendment refers only to the rights of gun ownership within the context of a well-regulated militia for the purpose of national defense.

Society did not kill 27 people today.  But aren’t we in some way responsible as a nation for trying to prevent mass killings?  And what have we done lately? At the federal level, Congress let the Federal Assault Weapons ban of 1994 expire in 2004.  At the state level, Florida passed an open carry law, as did Oklahoma. Florida leads the nation in mass murders.  Texas passed a law in 2011 that permits workers to keep guns in their parked vehicles at their workplaces.  And in Kansas, permit holders can carry concealed weapons inside K-12 schools.  According to research by Mother Jones, 37 states have passed 99 laws in the last 4 years with strong backing from the NRA that make it easier to own and carry a gun.  Finally, as the GOP refuses to allow tax increases on billionaires and pledges to keep state and corporate tax rates low and wages low too for that matter, 31 states in 2012 reported cutting mental health services by $840 million to deal with revenue shortfalls.

What will our nation’s policy response be to the Newtown massacre?

Another 5-4 Ruling in Favor of Handguns

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a law banning handguns in Chicago is unconstitutional.  Homeowners in McDonald v. Chicago want to be able to keep a handgun in their homes as a means of self-defense and assert this as a right guaranteed under the second amendment and protected or incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment.   The ban originally enacted 28 years ago has done little to control gun violence in the windy city.  People do not feel safe and want to pack some compact household heat.

The second amendment says nothing about the right of an individual to use a handgun for self-defense.  Nor does it imply that an individual has the right to pack any heat at all.  Rather, it gives the states the right to form a well-regulated militia to protect its citizens.  We can see this in state defense forces and in modern times our local and state police forces.  Here is the actual text:

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.

Lifting the ban means more handguns will be in circulation in ChiTown which in my view makes the city even more dangerous.  If I were a Chicagoan, I would challenge the ruling on the basis that allowing and thus encouraging people to possess concealed weapons is a threat to life, liberty and property.

It is important to note that the ban was never a ban on arms.  Folks in Chicago have always been able to keep a registered shotgun or rifle in the house, as long as it is out of the reach of a minor.

A firearm is not the only means of self-protection.  A good alarm system can bring piece of mind and security.  911 works too, and with a cellphone, you can remain in contact with the authorities.  A text message can quietly provide details.  Record it.  Put up a sign saying house under constant video surveillance.  A fearful granny could sleep alongside an ax.  An aluminum baseball bat packs a punch.  And one of the best deterrents I know is a barking dog.

I do not adhere to a strict interpretation of the constitution based on what the founders were thinking.  I believe the constitution should evolve and be applied reasonably to address modern societal issues.   I think law abiding adults should have a right to own a registered gun for lawful purposes.  But I also believe the states and municipalities have a fundamental obligation to try local solutions to keep their citizens safe.  I don’t believe a federal ruling should trump a local approach to a unique urban problem.  It is true that gun violence is on the rise in Chicago, but with this SCOTUS ruling which surely delights members of the NRA, the powerful gun lobby, I expect gun violence to skyrocket.