Archive for April, 2009

“The right to bear arms” While Arming Mexican Drug Cartels

Posted in The Gun Problem on April 23, 2009 by lylede

I find the Second Amendment / “right to bear arms” argument incredibly weak when it comes to the issue of gun ownership in America. Contrary to misguided belief the Constitution is not set in stone and has been changed several times since it was written.

There are too many guns, including assault rifles (that can easily be converted into machine guns), on the streets of our cities. In 1994 Congress banned assault rifles – hunters don’t use them and note the word “assault” in what they’re called – but it was a pathetically weak law that only lasted for ten years. And once the GOP took over Congress and the great “Decider” was pretending to actually be a president the last thing they were going to do was anger their NRA / gun-nut campaign contributors by extending this law. Unfortunately it’s no longer in effect (and I’m certainly aware that plenty of Democrats also take money from the NRA – for more on the problem of campaign contributions see AIG – Always Into Giving).

When the Constitution was written assault rifles didn’t exist. The Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings, Yakuza, Islamic militants and White Supremacists didn’t exist (and while I loathe political correctness how’s that for covering violent gangs based on race!) Fourteen-year old boys weren’t turning their schools into shooting galleries. Disgruntled employees weren’t walking into offices and slaughtering coworkers. Unhinged college students weren’t – I think you get the picture. If all of this did exist in Colonial America I think you’d see a drastically different Second Amendment.

As for those assault rifles, many are winding up in the hands of the incredibly violent, murderous Mexican drug cartels. According to U.S. Stymied as Guns Flow to Mexican Cartels – N.Y. Times 4-14-09 the drug thugs send straw buyers into American shops who purchase “semiautomatic AK-47 and AR-15 rifles, converting some to machine guns, investigators in both countries say. They have also bought .50 caliber rifles capable of stopping a car and Belgian pistols able to fire rifle rounds that will penetrate body armor.

Federal agents say about 90 percent of the 12,000 pistols and rifles the Mexican authorities recovered from drug dealers last year and asked to be traced came from dealers in the United States, most of them in Texas and Arizona.”

The article notes how Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the NRA, and gun dealers argue the Mexican drug cartels have the money to “easily obtain weapons on the black market in other countries” if they couldn’t buy them here. 

This is another lame, weak argument. Let’s consider a hypothetical situation. I’m a thug in a Mexican drug cartel and need twenty assault rifles. I can go to Houston, which isn’t far at all from my home base in Mexico, or say to a country across the ocean we’ll call Redneckistan that allows the sale of such weapons. Let’s say Texas and / or the U.S. do something intelligent and ban the sale of assault rifles. They’re still readily available in Redneckistan, but that’s an ocean away. What do you think I would rather do, take a quick jaunt across the border or a long, laborious trip across an ocean?

We unfortunately recently marked the tenth anniversary of the Columbine High School (Littleton, CO) massacre. Two mentally unstable students shot to death twelve fellow students and one teacher. One of their accomplices, acting as a straw buyer but with the two killers at her side, bought two shotguns and a 9-mm semiautomatic carbine from three private, unlicensed dealers at a gun show.

These unlicensed “private sellers” are allowed to sell weapons at gun shows and also don’t have to run background checks on customers. According to Gun Dealers Rejected Columbine Killers – The Rocky Mountain News, the two high school murderers were turned away by dealers at a show so they returned the next day with a friend, Robyn Anderson.

“It was too easy,” Anderson told the newspaper. “I wish it would have been more difficult. I wouldn’t have helped them buy the guns if I had faced a criminal background check.”

She’s then quoted as saying: “I think it was clear to the sellers that the guns were for Eric and Dylan (the two killers). They were the only ones asking all the questions and handling the guns.”

Anderson, by the way, was 18 at the time and three days prior to the massacre attended the prom with one of the killers. She was also a student at Columbine.

It is pathetic and grossly socially irresponsible to allow unlicensed dealers to sell murderous weapons at gun shows and, on top of that, they don’t even have to run background checks on customers.

Congress needs to act sensibly for once, and not for the benefit of their NRA / gun-nut campaign contributors, and ban the sale of assault rifles. Congress also needs to stop allowing unlicensed “private sellers” from operating and background checks should be conducted on everyone who wants to buy a gun in this country.

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AIG – Always Into Giving

Posted in Politics on April 5, 2009 by lylede

I highly doubt any of the thieves from AIG will ever be prosecuted. And Congress put on a pathetic, shameful display of pretending to be outraged over the retention bonuses AIG executives received after being bailed out by taxpayers – when many lawmakers knew all along about the bonuses!

AIG went from a respectable company to one that devised a “scheme that smacks of securities fraud” according to What Cooked the World’s Economy? It Wasn’t Your Overdue Mortgage – The Village Voice, 1-27-09. The article points out how AIG’s Financial Products unit wrote credit derivatives policies (insurance policies for investors) that AIG didn’t have the money to cover. And to get around those pesky American insurance reserve requirements AIG moved its Financial Products group to London.

And why won’t anyone from AIG go to jail? Two words: campaign contributions. According to the Center for Responsive Politics Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn., and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee) has accepted $281,038 from AIG in campaign money, the highest amount of any politician, from 1989 to 2008. No wonder Dodd lied, got embarrassed, then backtracked when he initially claimed he was not a member of the conference committee that wrote a provision to the economic stimulus bill allowing companies receiving taxpayer bailout money to pay retention bonuses. Not only was Dodd a member of the committee but he played a key role in allowing these shameful bonuses.

As for other politicians accepting campaign money from AIG the Center for Responsive Politics lists George W. Bush coming in second with a haul of $200,560. Number three is Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) with $111,875, while number four is President Barack Obama at $110,332. Right behind the president is Senator John McCain (R-AZ) with $99,249 of largesse.

Congress needs to put in place some serious lobbying and campaign contribution reforms. Legislation is bought on a daily basis at the local, State and Federal levels of our governing system. This is something the founding fathers did not intend and I’ve yet to see this sad fact of our system provided for anywhere in the Constitution.

One reason our economy crashed is because the financial industry wanted deregulation and got it – by spending over $300 million on a successful lobbying / campaign contribution effort to get rid of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act (see Obama Urges Regulation in Wake of Housing Slump – NY Times 3-27-08).

Once the sensible, regulatory measures of Glass-Steagall were no longer law mortgage lenders and Wall Street – working in collusion – ran amok. For more on this see “How $350 Million Destroyed Our Economy.”

As for other problems we’re facing because of the corrupt nature of our system and campaign contributions, the list goes on:

We still don’t have comprehensive healthcare reform in this country because the health insurance companies make billions of dollars each year – and don’t want anything changed. So they contribute mightily to both political parties to do exactly nothing and Congress complies – by doing nothing!

We’re still hooked on oil and coal, while we’ve known for decades we need to get off of both. But Big Oil and Big Coal give lawmakers millions (if not billions!) of dollars of campaign contributions annually. As a result we still burn too much oil and coal and what does Congress do? Not only nothing about getting us off these harmful fossil fuels but lawmakers actually gave Big Oil a multi-billion dollar tax break during Bush’s first term as payback – while the oil companies were making record profits and gouging consumers at the pump!

We still have too many guns, including extremely deadly assault rifles, on the streets of our cities. In 1994 Congress banned assault rifles but it was a weak law that only lasted ten years. And once the GOP took over Congress and the great “Decider” was pretending to be a president the last thing they were going to do was anger their NRA donors by extending the ban (and in all fairness I’m certainly aware that plenty of Democrats also take campaign money from the NRA).

Mexican drug cartels are currently running amok in many Mexico-U.S. border cities, causing the Mexican Army to move into several areas. These murderous gangs are buying high-powered assault weapons from the thousands of U.S.-based gun dealers who’ve set up shop on the border. While I think the “right to bear arms” Constitutional argument is incredibly weak I seriously doubt it covers arming Mexican drug gangs (for more on this see “The right to bear arms” While Arming Mexican Drug Cartels).

It’s time for Congress to stop acting on behalf of its campaign contributors and start working for the people of this country. And it is imperative that we figure out a way to get corporate money out of politics. 

Additional reading:

For a scathing, brilliant rebuttal to “Dear AIG, I quit!” NY Times op-ed 3-24-09 by former AIG Financial Products employee Jake DeSantis (who wants people to re-think their anger toward AIG) read Matt Taibbi’s AIG Exec Whines About Public Anger, and Now We’re Supposed to Pity Him? Yeah, Right – The Smirking Chimp 3-27-09.