Does George Bush Know the Bronx Exists?

Posted in Politics on September 10, 2009 by lylede

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post, along with Osama who? and Politics as Usual? Hopefully not, are a bit dated but I moved them over from a defunct political blog.

New York City, October 2007

In October of 1977 President Carter, after attending a meeting at the U.N., decided to visit the South Bronx. A NY Times photograph shows him, some reporters, officials and secret service agents strolling through a bleak, rubble-strewn lot.

“See which areas can still be salvaged,” Carter said to Patricia Roberts Harris, secretary of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Maybe we can create a recreation area and turn it around.”

George W. Bush has been President for nearly seven years. He spent his first term trying to let his Wall Street supporters get their hands on peoples’ retirement money with his so-called “social security reform.” He also led America, through a series of gross distortions and outright lies, into an unnecessary, disastrous war in Iraq.                    

Bush continued lying to Americans in his second term and claimed on several occasions the Al-Qaeda in Iraq we’re fighting is the same Al-Qaeda that attacked us on 9-11. The Al-Qaeda group in Iraq, Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, didn’t exist until 2003 and only exists because we invaded Iraq. Isn’t Bush supposed to fight terrorists, not create more?

He also said it’s up to the next President to decide what to do about Iraq and that he envisioned a South Korea-type presence in Iraq. The self-proclaimed “decider” isn’t making such great, or actually any, decisions.

We’ve been in South Korea for over fifty years. If our soldiers there faced the violence they’ve seen in Iraq after “Mission Accomplished” I highly doubt we would have kept them there for five decades. And it’s horrifying to think how many more terrorists and 9-11 attacks we would create by keeping our soldiers in Iraq for fifty years. Unfortunately Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia is just the beginning of a whole new wave of extremists we’ll be dealing with for years.

Along the way Bush has lost Congress to the Democrats and pathetically handled the worst hurricane to ever hit America (remember that Brownie guy and the “heck of a job” he did?) According to the article Bush’s Bunker (Vanity Fair, Oct. 2007) longtime Bush aide and former White House counselor Dan Bartlett had to put together a compilation video of post-Katrina news stories “in a last-ditch effort to make Bush understand what everyone else in America already knew: that the president had a crisis on his hands.”

And this is the same President who ran as a “compassionate conservative” in the 2000 election. “Ignorant incompetent” is a more appropriate philosophy in Bush’s arrogant, corrupt brain.

Bush did recently tackle one crucial, domestic issue. He vetoed a child healthcare insurance bill that had bi-partisan support. He claimed it would lead to too many government handouts and socialized medicine. Many experts and pundits disagreed. Again, “compassionate conservative,” anyone?

The child health insurance problem joins a litany of other pressing issues, like real social security reform, the falling value of the American dollar and our massive debt (we’re all basically working for China, and will be for decades to come) that Bush has done nothing about. Oh wait, correction, he did do something about our debt –  he caused it.

And remember Osama bin-Laden, Mullah Omar and Ayman al-Zawahri? Seven years after 9-11 they’re still out there, in the wilds of Pakistan (we even know where they are!), issuing videos, plotting against us and training recruits. During World War II we defeated the combined empires of Japan and Germany in less time it’s taken us to capture or kill these three bastards. It’s a shame there wasn’t any money to be made in capturing or killing them, the way there was by invading Iraq (record oil profits, a $10 billion no-bid contract to Cheney’s ex-company Halliburton, millions to politically-connected companies like Blackwater in exchange for campaign contributions) because if there was the great “decider” would have done something about them.

I wonder if Bush has ever visited the Bronx. Or Camden, Detroit or Oakland. During his two terms in office he hasn’t addressed any of the serious issues that face America and caused several scary problems we’ll be dealing with for decades to come. Bush has never even come close to being so “compassionate” that when it came to something like slums he would tell a housing official to “see which areas can still be salvaged.”

IGNORANT INCOMPETENT UPDATE, Nov. 29, 2007: You probably think I’m a liberal Bush-basher after reading the above piece. But the following comments, from Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, of Nebraska, are truly shocking (and true!) Here’s a Republican Senator calling the Bush White House “one of the most arrogant” administrations he’s ever seen, and then some: “I would rate this one the lowest in capacity, in capability, in policy, in consensus – almost every area. I would give it the lowest grade.” Hagel was speaking at a Council on Foreign Relations event in New York. I have never, ever heard a politician talk about an administration like this. You can read the full article, from CNN, by clicking on here – full article.

Politics as Usual? Hopefully not.

Posted in Politics on September 10, 2009 by lylede

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post along with Does George Bush Know the Bronx Exists? and Osama who?, are a bit dated but I moved them over from a defunct political blog. Newer posts appear below this one. 

New York City, November 2008

I was greatly encouraged on Election Day morning when I saw two things outside of my regular polling place: the line of voters was out the door and down the street, and there were a lot of young people waiting in that line. For the last two presidential elections the line usually extended from the auditorium, where the voting machines sit, out into the lobby and it took me around 15, 20 minutes at the most to vote. This time it took me a little under an hour but that certainly didn’t bother me. 

It’s a shame Al Gore and John Kerry couldn’t draw the crowds, and youth vote, that Barack Obama did. If only Mr. Gore could have done that, and then not get robbed by Florida and the U.S. Supreme Court, thousands of American soldiers would still be alive because he would have never invaded Iraq in the aftermath of 9-11. 

We’re still in the honeymoon phase of the current election and President-elect Obama has not yet taken office. I’m swept up in the optimism people have been displaying, but cautiously so. President Obama has a daunting task before him and I hope he can solve many of the problems we face. 

As for Senator McCain, I can only hope the slime-masters that have taken over the Republican Party fade into history. I certainly respect Senator McCain, he suffered terribly for this country as a POW in Vietnam and has served in the Senate for several years, no easy feat. But he ran one of the worst campaigns ever because he hired the same slime-masters like Tucker Eskew who slandered him in South Carolina during the 2000 Republican primary, sinking his chance at the nomination. 

He used the same people who spread vicious, racist rumors through a fake phone polling operation that asked South Carolina voters if they would vote for McCain if they knew he had fathered an illegitimate child who was black. Was there a dark-skinned child in the McCain family? Yes. Her name is Bridget, she’s from Bangladesh and was adopted by the McCains. Other attacks on McCain included that he was mentally unstable and that his wife was a drug addict because she had some problems in her past with prescription drugs. 

This is pure Karl Rove slime, and unfortunately effective (Bush won the South Carolina primary). When George W. Bush ran against the incumbent Anne Richards for the Texas governorship in 1994 a similar tactic was used. Texans were called at home by people claiming to do independent research on the election (whether the telemarketers knew they were in on a scam is unclear) and asked would they vote for Ms. Richards if they knew she had a lesbian on her staff. 

For someone who claims to be a maverick, Senator McCain’s 2008 run for the presidency was anything but mavericky. I can only hope that politicians will tone down the slime in the future, but I’m less optimistic on that pathetic front. 

Politics As Usual? Hopefully Not update: for a great analysis of what went wrong with the GOP and America during the Bush years read this article by Ron Paul, a Republican Congressman from Texas. And while I don’t agree with everything he says about the incoming administration time will certainly tell what President Obama can do: from cnn.com 11-12-08 Commentary: GOP Should Ask Why U.S. Is On The Wrong Track.

The Sad List Continues

Posted in The Gun Problem on August 8, 2009 by lylede

High schools. College campuses. Office buildings. Churches. Post Offices. Factories. Civic Associations. Printing plants. Law offices. Fast food restaurants. Refinery inspection stations. Firehouses. Hotels. Car washes. Internet consulting companies. Real estate firms.

Not only does the sad list of places where people have opened fire with guns continue to grow monthly, it is equally pathetic how long these shootings have been taking place in America.

One of the earliest 20th century mass, public shootings occurred in 1949. A deranged war veteran named Howard Unruh, armed with a Luger pistol, shot and killed 13 people in about 13 minutes on the streets of Camden, New Jersey.

A more infamous shooting occurred on August 1, 1966 when a student at the University of Texas, Austin, named Charles Whitman perched himself atop a 27-story tower and opened fire with a high-powered rifle. He killed 14 people and wounded 31 others before police officers shot and killed him.

The article Rise in mass shootings linked to societal changes (The Salt Lake City Desert News/LA Times, 4-22-07) points out how the Whitman shooting marked a turning point and such massacres started to increase after that deadly day in Texas. Now there are “about 20 mass shootings that occur each year in the United States (a subset of the two dozen or so mass murders). A mass murder is defined as an event in which four or more people are killed in the same episode.”

Twenty mass shootings each year is a horrifying, pathetic statistic. It’s close to two mass shootings every month. The article cites five main factors responsible for the increase of these violent acts. The shooters have shown a “diminished ability to cope with life’s disappointments.” They’ve also complained that other people never gave them a fair chance and the shooters didn’t have any emotional support from friends or family members.

Another major factor the article points out is that since 1966 weapons have become more powerful and that “today, semiautomatics are all too easily accessible.”

That was sadly demonstrated back on July 18, 1984. On that terrifying day James Huberty walked into a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, California ready to go to war. He brought a long-barreled Uzi, a pump-action shotgun and a handgun. After 77 minutes of carnage 21 people, including grandmothers, children, teenage restaurant employees and an infant, lay dead. A police sniper finally picked off Huberty with a shot through his heart (see Slaughter at McDonald’s changed how police operate – cnn.com, 7-24-09)

So what have we learned in the 25 years since this horrible act of extreme violence? Obviously not much. Congress did act semi-wisely once (and amazingly not for the benefit of their campaign contributors in the NRA) and banned assault rifles in 1994. Unfortunately though it was a pathetically weak law and only lasted for ten years. In a stroke of Rovian double-speak President George W. Bush said he would extend the law if it came across his desk – while being fully aware, oops I mean being told by Karl Rove, that the then GOP-led Congress would never send it to him. Unfortunately this ban is no longer in effect.

And speaking of the NRA and campaign contributions, I want a legislator to show me where in the Constitution it says that special interest groups can buy legislation, or prevent laws from being passed. In an attempted show of muscle during the recent confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor the NRA, which saw the now-confirmed Judge as “hostile” to gun ownership, threatened to knock down its favorable ratings of politicians who voted for Sotomayor (see NRA threatens Sotomayor backers – The Associated Press/NorthJersey News, 8-2-09).

And regarding the Constitution, please don’t give me the lame Second Amendment / right to bear arms argument. For more on that see: “The right to bear arms” While Arming Mexican Drug Cartels (scroll down past the newer posts until you get to this one.)

As for more recent shootings in public places, on June 10 an evil man full of hatred walked into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC intent on slaughter. James von Brunn fatally shot security guard Stephen T. Johns and was looking to kill more people before other guards shot him. Mr. Johns was only 39 and nicknamed “Big John” for his tall height. According to Grief, Shock After a ‘Gentle Giant’ Loses His Life in the Line of Duty – The Washington Post, 6-11-09, “friends recalled the security guard’s constant courtesy and friendliness.” A museum statement said he was “an outstanding colleague who greeted us every day with a smile.” Mr. Johns left behind a wife and young son.

Unfortunately we can now add another public place to the list of these heinous shootings: fitness center. Two months after Mr. Johns’ tragic death, on August 4, loser George Sodini walked into an aerobics class in a gym outside of Pittsburgh, switched off the lights and opened fire. He had four guns with him. He pulled two out of his duffle bag and fired 35 times. Sodini killed three women and wounded nine others before shooting and killing himself. One of the wounded women, 26-year old Mary Primis, was 10-weeks pregnant. She was shot twice but doctors said her unborn baby was not harmed.

Shootings like the several pointed out in this post don’t happen in other countries simply because it’s so much harder to buy guns elsewhere. And please don’t tell me all of those people all over the world are living in police states as a result of strict civilian gun ownership laws because it’s simply not true. We have a lot of problems in this country. And the fact that there are so many guns out there is definitely near the top of the list.

Additional reading:

For frightening compilations/summaries of school, places of worship, workplace and other shootings click on Emergency & Disaster Management, Inc.

Defeating Two Empires Simultaneously – But Not al-Qaeda

Posted in Iraq on June 13, 2009 by lylede

Here’s a pathetic analogy of our war on terror versus our war against European fascism in the 1940s: during WW II America and our allies simultaneously defeated two empires, the Third Reich and Imperial Japan, in less time than its taken us to defeat al-Qaeda.

Hitler controlled most of Europe, from Madrid to practically Moscow, the first (and only) ruler to do that since Napoleon in the early 1800s. Japan went on a tear in the 1930s, taking over several Asian countries and large parts of China. But by the fall of 1945 the guns “were silent” to paraphrase General Douglas MacArthur.

America has been bogged down in the unnecessary war in Iraq for six years now. It’s also been eight years since the tragic events of 9-11 and we still haven’t captured or killed Osama bin-Laden (or Mullah Omar, another real enemy and unknown to most Americans because of their own ignorance, a pathetic corporate media and Bush/Cheney/Rove manipulations).

The Taliban and al-Qaeda are thriving. The Taliban, based in Afghanistan and not Iraq, harbored bin-Laden and his crew. Iraq never attacked America in its history. But Iraq is awash in oil, something that obviously concerned George W. Bush and Dick Cheney more than seeking justice or eliminating the real threat to America.

Today in Afghanistan – eight years after we invaded without nearly enough troops or equipment because it doesn’t have any oil – this CNN headline reads: Taliban storm strategic Afghan city – CNN.com 5-12-09. And while more troops are being sent to Afghanistan if the proper amount were sent there after that country launched the 9-11 attacks there’s a good chance we would have already defeated the Taliban and al-Qaeda and captured or killed the real bastards who attacked us.

The Taliban also set up shop in Pakistan and control large parts of that country. The Pakistani Army, or actually the non-Taliban elements of the Pakistani Army, is finally engaging the Taliban and serious fighting is occurring there. If the Taliban are not defeated in Pakistan we are looking at several more years of terrorist attacks and warfare.

It’s a shame the Democrats in our government are just as corrupt, ignorant and inept as the Republicans and in the same pockets of their campaign contributors. Because if they weren’t they might not have voted for Bush’s war. And if ever a president (and V.P.) should have been impeached and then sent to jail for blatantly selling a war on a pack of lies it’s George W. Bush.

How the NRA helps terrorists – in America

Posted in The Gun Problem on June 13, 2009 by lylede

The NRA, pro-gun people and legislators everywhere need to do some research about Oussama Kassir. This past May Kassir was convicted of aiding al-Qaida with recruiting by trying to establish a weapons-training facility in Bly, Oregon. That’s right, Oregon. Right here in the good old U.S. of A.

And why Oregon, on American soil? According to Oussama Kassir convicted of trying to start terror camp; 5 convicted in Miami for Sears Tower plot, NY Daily News, 5-12-09, “Prosecutors in the Kassir case portrayed him as a follower of militant clerics who wanted to take advantage of more relaxed gun laws to arrange training in the United States (emphasis added) for European recruits to Islamic militancy.”

Kassir and his heinous friends did their homework in choosing Oregon. According to a Department of Justice press release:

“The Bly jihad training camp was established as a site where Muslims could receive various types of training, including military-style jihad training, in preparation to fight jihad in Afghanistan or to continue with additional jihad training in Afghanistan. In a letter faxed from one of the co-conspirators to ABU HAMZA (a Kassir cohort), the property in Bly was described as located in a “pro-militia and fire-arms state” (emphasis added) that “looks just like Afghanistan,” and the author stated that the group was “stock-piling weapons and ammunition.”

Note to the NRA, pro-gun nuts and all those who actually believe “god, guts and guns made America great” – Please wake the f____ up! When terrorists want to take advantage of lax gun laws in this country to set up training camps here THERE’S OBVIOUSLY A MAJOR PROBLEM HERE!

Notice how Kassir didn’t try to set up his terrorist training camp in England, Spain, Singapore or about 125 or so other countries simply because it’s harder to purchase guns elsewhere!

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or brain surgeon to figure out assault weapons should be outlawed. It doesn’t take a genius to realize there are too many guns, easily available, in every American city and town. And now terrorists want to use the pathetic gun laws here to actually set up training camps in America! Did “god, guns and guts” also make terrorists great? Unfortunately, actually, in many radical Islamists’ minds it did.

And please don’t give me the Second Amendment / “right to bear arms” nonsensical argument. And don’t tell me if there were serious limitations on civilians owning firearms here that we’d be living in a police state. For more on my arguments regarding these topics see The Gun Problem and “The right to bear arms” While Arming Mexican Drug Cartels and Kids and Guns – Again.

President Who? He’s Just a Politician.

Posted in Politics on May 17, 2009 by lylede

Thank goodness President Obama’s first 100 days are over. They’re totally irrelevant. He’s only a politician. That means he’s beholden to his campaign contributors and not constituents – just like every other politician. And his actions, or inaction, prove that.

There are probably at least two-dozen AIG employees, if not more, who should be going to jail. 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.

Time Magazine reported that during a March 2009 press conference, while discussing the AIG fiasco, President Obama “did not seem that into it, a surprising misfire for a politician who has long excelled at striking the right tone at public appearances. He was almost grinning as he described the “recklessness and greed” of the traders in AIG’s financial-products division.” (See Obama’s AIG Outrage: All Talk, No Action – Time 3-17-09). The article also notes Obama asked rhetorically “How do they justify this outrage?” but with “only the slightest tinge of outrage in his own voice.”

Populist outrage soared when it was revealed AIG executives, who drove the company into the ground resulting in a taxpayer bailout of nearly $180 billion, would be receiving millions of dollars in retention bonuses.

Obama then asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to “pursue every single legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole.” (See Obama Rips AIG Bonuses – CBS News 3-16-09)

But when the House voted to slap a 90% surtax on bonuses granted to employees who earn more than $250,000 at companies that have received at least $5 billion from the government’s financial rescue program Obama (along with the Senate) struck a different note.

According to Is that 90% Tax on AIG Bonuses Dead? (CBS News 3-23-09) Obama, when asked for his perspective on the tax as a former Constitutional law professor, is quoted from a 60 Minutes interview as saying “as a general proposition, you don’t want to be passing laws that are just targeting a handful of individuals… I think you certainly don’t want to use the tax code to punish people.” (Also see Senate Stalls Vote to Tax AIG Bonuses – The Arizona Republic 3-24-09)

Obama adds it doesn’t make sense for the AIG executives to get bonuses but says ”the flip side is that Main Street has to understand, unless we get these banks moving again, then we can’t get this economy to recover.”

The President sure knows a thing or two about how money gets things moving. According to the Center for Responsive Politics Obama is fourth on the list of accepting campaign contributions from AIG, with a haul of $110,332 (this number, and the following figures, are from 1989 to 2008). At the top of the list is Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn., and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee), who accepted $281,038 from AIG in campaign money. Right behind him is George W. Bush at $200,560. Number three is Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) with $111,875 and fifth on the list is Senator John McCain (R-AZ) with $99,249 of largesse.

Sadly, the AIG executives got their bonuses after Obama backed down and the Senate did nothing to prevent these shameful payouts (see Senate Stalls Vote to Tax AIG Bonuses – The Arizona Republic 3-24-09)

As for more inaction on the President’s part because of his hands being tied by campaign contributions, As Foreclosures Surge… (NY Times op-ed 5-4-09) points out Obama did nothing as “12 Senate Democrats joined 39 Senate Republicans to block a vote on an amendment that would have allowed bankruptcy judges to modify troubled mortgages.”

The NY Times notes Senator Obama campaigned on this provision but when it came time “to stand up to the banking lobbies and cajole yes votes from reluctant senators – the White House didn’t. When the measure failed, there wasn’t even a statement of regret.”

Senator Obama also campaigned on a platform of change. But since he also accepted $6 million in campaign contributions from investment and securities companies (It’s the Deregulation, Stupid – Mother Jones 3-28-08) I don’t see how he can really change much.

Why the Taliban loves George W. Bush (and Dick Cheney)

Posted in Iraq on May 17, 2009 by lylede

The Taliban probably say a prayer or two for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney every day. Since the terrible events of 9-11 America invaded two countries: Afghanistan, the country once ruled by the Taliban and whose leaders gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, and Iraq, the country that had nothing to do with 9-11 and never attacked America in its history.

It’s been eight years since 9-11. While the Taliban did suffer some initial setbacks in Afghanistan when America invaded in late 2001 they were never defeated. And today they control several areas of Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. We initially invaded Afghanistan with 1,300 troops and that level has risen to about 60,000 today. In 2003 we invaded Iraq with thousands more than the initial Afghanistan incursion and currently have close to 125,000 soldiers still there. Unfortunately the Taliban are still extremely dangerous, and flexing their muscles more than ever in Pakistan, thanks to Bush and Cheney’s unnecessary war in Iraq.

W. and Dick (both draft-dodgers by the way) obviously didn’t care about seeking justice or doing the right thing. They were more concerned with making profits and giving a no-bid $10 billion contract to Cheney’s former company, Halliburton, so it could get its hands on Iraqi oil fields. Other friends of the administration, like the private security firm Blackwater, got close to $1 billion in Iraq-war related contracts.

And speaking of Blackwater, in the wake of having six former employees facing manslaughter charges for the shooting deaths of 17 civilians in Baghdad, the company changed its name to Xe (pronounced like the letter Z). That sure makes everything better.

Meanwhile as Bush’s second term wound down he signed off on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Iraqi government. This treaty determines several things, including a three-year deadline for U.S. troops to leave Iraq. Its most-troubling clause, and further proof of how Iraq, regardless of what the right-wingers claim, is not our ally, states that U.S. forces based inside Iraq will not attack any of Iraq’s neighbors (see Deal on Iraq Withdrawal Poses a Pentagon Challenge – Time Magazine 11-18-08).

So why did W. sign off on the SOFA? Simple. He invaded Iraq for all the wrong reasons. And by agreeing not to attack Iraq’s neighbors he really tied the hands of our forces in Iraq and this only further proves what a mistake the war is. But W., cocky on the outside, incredibly insecure on the inside, also had to show America and the world what a tough, strong, “decider” leader he was. Oh yeah, and then there’s the billions of dollars of war-related contracts his friends and campaign contributors got.

Iraq, by demanding and getting us to not attack its neighbors, is obviously more concerned with protecting its new best friend, Iran, than showing any gratitude toward us. By putting the Shiites in power in Iraq with our invasion the Iraqis are now allied with their Shiite brethren in Iran, a truly frightening thought. Remember the first Persian Gulf War? The Saudi Royal Family practically begged Poppy Bush not to get rid of Saddam Hussein because they knew the balance of power in the region would be tipped toward a Shiite-based Iraq-Iran alliance, which is exactly what W. created with his war.

The Pakistani Army, or actually the non-Taliban elements of the Pakistani Army, is now engaging the Taliban in fighting in Pakistan. But Bush and Cheney had to have their Iraq war, and now we’re in for a hell of a lot more warfare for years to come.

Kids and Guns – Again

Posted in The Gun Problem on May 10, 2009 by lylede

Let’s just consider for a moment how asinine and pathetic this headline is:

“Conn. Senate OKs machine gun ban for kids” (msnbc.com – 4/30/09).

The bill bans children in Connecticut under the age of 16 from handling or firing machine guns. It was passed after an 8-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself while firing an Uzi submachine gun at a Massachusetts gun show (see Boy, 8, accidentally kills self at gun show – msnbc.com – 10/27/08).

The child, from Ashford, CT, was firing the weapon under the supervision of an uncertified 15-year-old boy, according to Police Chief, club indicted in boy’s Uzi death (msnbc.com – 12/4/08). Unfortunately the boy lost control of the weapon when it recoiled and shot himself in the head. The gun show he was at was called the Machine Gun Shoot and Firearms Expo. Organizers promised shooters would have certified instructors.

Pelham, Massachusetts police chief Edward Fleury owns COPS Firearms & Training, the sponsor of the show, and according to Hampden County (MA) District Attorney William Bennett Fleury wrongly told the two men who brought the Uzi to the Westfield Sportsman’s Club (site of the show) that it was legal for children to use under Massachusetts law. 

The boy’s father, who claimed his son had fired handguns and rifles but never an automatic weapon, chose the Uzi because he thought its small size made it safer. Bennett said the weapon’s size makes it deceiving and its “rapid rate of fire made it more likely that an 8-year-old would lose control and the muzzle of the weapon would come close to his face, which is what happened here.” (Again see Police Chief, club indicted in boy’s Uzi death). The boy’s father was standing about ten feet behind him and reaching for his camera when the child fired the weapon.

The gun laws in this country are a joke and need to be stricter. You would never see a headline like the one cited above in countries like England and Singapore, both of which have strict gun control laws. And contrary to claims made by pro-gun advocates England and Singapore are not police states as a result of serious limitations on civilians owning weapons. Singapore is actually a very prosperous country and you’d be hard-pressed to find any instances of some lunatic walking into a school or office building there and opening fire with a handgun or automatic weapon.

According to the Violence Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization, states with high gun-related death rates have “lax gun laws and higher gun ownership rates. The report defined states with “weak” gun laws as those that add little or nothing to federal restrictions and have permissive laws allowing civilians to carry concealed handguns.”

So much for the NRA’s “responsible gun ownership” argument.

“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.

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.