Welcome to America, I hope you are packing heat – a reprise of a still relevant post

The following post was written almost eight years ago, but as you read it, the events seem to come right out of today’s headlines. This is one topic I am truly tired of writing about, as lobbyists have hobbled the ability for legislators to act like parents and spouses and do something. Americans have said in surveys they want, yet nothing gets done. It reveals who butters the bread for these politicians. At this moment, one more shooting has occurred in Virginia. After Colorado. After Atlanta….

I have written several posts about our excessive gun violence in America. We lead the world by far in gun deaths and children gun deaths. Yet, we continue to do nothing about it. We have a parade of children led shootings at schools the past few weeks, yet we continue to do nothing about it. Pick up any US newspaper anywhere in the country and count the number of gun death or violence stories. I wrote a post about Googling a “six-year-old kills four-year-old” and counting the number of stories that pop up. Yet, we still do nothing about it. We have mass shootings, which are horrific tragedies, but dwarfed by the daily killings of kids, yet we still do nothing about it. And, Americans by virtue of reputable surveys, clearly want better background checks and more elongated waiting periods, yet we still do nothing about it.

Here are a few links to these previous posts.

I am thinking of the person who finally asked Senator Joe McCarthy during his communist witch hunt trials, “Senator, have you no shame?” That was actually the beginning of the end for McCarthy. I fully recognize the complexity of what is causing gun deaths, but the NRA and strident gun amassers would like you to believe that guns have little to do with gun deaths. Responsible gun owners know this not to be the case, which is why they take great pains to teach their use and put them away for safekeeping. So, using the McCarthy line above, “NRA, have you no shame?”

We are well past the time to act on these issues. It is a poverty issue, it is mental health issue, it is a lack of civil discourse issue, it is a violence in entertainment issue, but make no mistake about it, it is an access to guns issue. Without access to a weapon, the child does not kill his sibling or cousin. Without access to a weapon, the depressed teenager, college student or adult does not act on an impulse and end a life. Without access to a weapon a drunken patron at a bar or ball game does not go to his car and come back guns a blazing because they were offended.

NRA, have you no shame? You could have acted responsibly like the majority of gun owners, yet you decided to fan the flames of a fervent crowd and crow about Second Amendment rights, which I still have not seen anyone threaten. You have also usurped the leadership of the GOP and taken them down a darker path along with some other fervent misconceptions. As a result, we cannot have the long overdue civil, appropriate debate about this topic looking at all issues, including what Americans, even Republicans want by far – better background checks and elongated waiting periods. We should do more than that, but those two issues are no brainers and largely popular.

It is past time. NRA, have you no shame? NRA, stand down. We need to have a better conversation without your involvement, as you violated the trust of Americans and responsible gun owners, whom you no longer represent.

How do you know who the good guys are? (a repeat post)

This is a repeat post from over eight years ago. With yet one more mass shooting in the United States, on top of the usual gun deaths that happen every day reported in any newspaper, this message sadly must be sounded again. We cannot solve a problem, if we don’t admit we have one.

There have been many excellent posts on the need to lessen gun deaths in the United States. I have been thoroughly impressed by many blogging friends, in particular Amaya at www.thebrabblerabble.wordpress.com who in the face of well-armed relatives will not back down on the need for smarter gun control. Yet, the purpose of this post is to address a series of questions I have, one in particular, in response to the infamous comment by Wayne LaPierre of the NRA.

“The only solution to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

My simple question is how do you know who the good guy with a gun is as opposed the bad guy? The answer to this question is not that simple, as we are all varying shades of gray. There are very few, if any, all good or all bad, people. Even Mother Teresa confided in her journal how tempted she was and how hard she prayed to do the right thing each day. You would be hard pressed to find a better person than Mother Teresa. Yet, since we are not all Mother Teresa’s, let me quote Kevin Horrigan of the St. Louis Dispatch who said this week about athletes who lie and cheat – Social scientists who have studied the issue generally agree that 10% of people are honest all the time, 5% will lie and cheat any time it’s in their interest and 85% of people are basically honest, but depending on the circumstances, will cut a few corners or shave the truth from time to time.

Using the above as a proxy, we could say that 85% of people are in the category of the varying shades of gray. We are human and not bad people, but we will err, sin and use bad judgment. So, let’s place a gun in the hands of the 85% and see what happens on a daily basis. As I noted in earlier blogs, as tragic as Newtown is, the greater tragedy occurs every day. A 16-year-old kills a 13-year-old for showing him disrespect. A distraught son gets mad at his mom and kills his three siblings and parents. A person gets mad at a pizza parlor, goes to his car and comes back to kill the person who slighted him. A mother shoots her son over an American Idol argument. A football player shoots his girlfriend in front of his mother as he is mad at her for staying out late. A man goes home to get his gun after being confronted about his dangerous driving in a parking lot, then returns and shoots two people. A man takes a gun to sell at a weapons show and it discharges and hurts someone.

A gun in the hands of a perceived good person does not make things safer for many reasons. Our society has become less civil to each other, so arguments become more hostile than they need to be. Without a gun, you may have seen a fist fight or someone leaving the scene. With access to a gun, the good guy will be more prone to use it to preserve his honor. So, acting impulsively, a death occurs and he is charged with a crime and will go to jail.

Acting on impulse gets worse when you mix guns, alcohol and testosterone. Good men when tipsy or drunk will throw good judgment out the window. If a gun is handy and offense is taken, whether intended or not, someone will get shot. “Oh, but he was such a good man,” his neighbors would say. When I hear about people who want to take a concealed weapon into a bar, I truly think that is the most asinine action one could do. And, if you don’t believe me, please ask your wife, mother or sister about what good can possibly come from mixing guns, alcohol and testosterone.

But, let’s set that aside and talk to Mr. LaPierre’s thesis in a mass shooting situation, since that is the only crisis he wants to address. Let’s say we arm the 10% who are honest as the day is long. Police officers and soldiers will tell you, no matter how much training you have, it is a totally different ball game when you are shooting at someone who is shooting at you. Would a teacher better serve her students to get them out of harm’s way as practiced or attempt to be Dirty Harry? Once he or she is shot, the children have no prayer. And, to further embellish this point, there was someone armed in the Aurora theatre. He said it was so dark and smoky, he did not know who to shoot. This is someone who knew what they were doing and chose not to fire.

I am delighted the President asked his Vice President to discuss openly with lawmakers what to do about our nation leading the civilized world by far in gun deaths. With 80% of the gun deaths out of the top 23 nations combined, we hold an infamous distinction. I detest that this has become a wedge issue, but one side has to disagree with the other side because the other side said it. So, the recommendations made by the President based on the VP led committee are meritorious. They should be considered each and every one. I for one am against assault weapons in the hands of civilians. I think any civilian that has an assault weapon has the potential to do great harm given the above.

Yet, if we set that aside, as it gets included in the eternally mentioned and misunderstood Second Amendment rights basket, let’s focus on a couple of things that should be as close to no brainers as possible.

 All guns purchased need to have a waiting period and background check, period. There is no reason not to require this. There should be no gun show loophole as to have one defeats the purpose. This is not a fishing license, it is for a weapon that is designed to kill. You can wait 30 days for it James Bond.

– All weapons and bullets need to be traceable. The police have long advocated for this. If you have an unlicensed weapon or bullets, you should lose your weapon, be fined or go to jail if you continue to be non-compliant. If you have no malintent, then you should not be threatened by this requirement. That car you say that also kills people has a VIN number and the driver has a license. And, the driver could not drive it until he or she showed evidence of insurance.

– Guns should not be around alcohol. We must address civil disagreement as a society, but when judgment is impaired due to alcohol, people die when guns are around. Again stating loudly, mixing guns, alcohol and testosterone is assinine.

– I am for armed guards in school. To have at least the illusion of better security to dissuade mass shooters, we need security guards who know what they are doing. But, I do know many public schools cut back on teachers, counselors and security guards due to budget reasons. I have witnessed on many occasions, people cry out to cut back big government and then when positions are reduced, the same folks cry foul when something bad happens. This is important, so let’s fund it and more teachers with it.

– We must make mental health services more accessible and get over the stigma. One in five people will have some issue with mental health in their lifetime. One in 10 people in a company’s medical plan will be taking drugs for a mental health issue. In today’s world, we can live normal lives with mental health issues. Yet, with that said, when people do get depressed, the availability of a weapon increases the likelihood of suicide. This is why having guns on college campuses is a horrible idea – college kids have a higher degree of depression than general society and these kids will act impulsively. And, once acted out, it is over. There is no do over.

–  Finally, we must take responsibility for our actions. If we own a gun, we need to be like the many responsible gun owners who are rebelling against the NRA. We must also teach civil disagreement approaches in school. There are some forward thinking programs that are doing this, but it should be a routine part of the schooling and preached routinely by teachers and reinforced by parents, mentors, etc.

I guess if there is an appropriate prayer to the God of your own understanding, it is something like the following – Lord, please help me do the right thing, even when I am tempted to do otherwise. Please help me use good judgment and be accountable and responsible for my actions. And, help me treat others like I want to be treated. But, since I cannot always do the above, using the famous words of President Ronald Reagan, “trust but verify.” Make sure that if I own a gun, it is registered along with its bullets and I had to go through a thorough background check to get it. Therefore, I will make damn sure I am using it to a good purpose.

KISS – Keep it Simple Stupid

We should remember this acronym, KISS. It stands for Keep it Simple Stupid. Donald Trump certainly does. There is a reason why he speaks in a bumper sticker fashion. He does not know or care to know details. He just needs a prop, a message or a hook. Then, he repeats it over and over, sometimes a half-a-dozen times in one a short speech.

Whether people think Mike Bloomberg or Tom Steyer are the best candidates for the Democrat nomination, note how simple they are keeping their messages in TV commercials. They focus on how weary we all are of the current president. But, the ideas are straightforward:

– we must act on climate change (both)
– we must improve health care access (Bloomberg)
– we must help more people prosper under the economy (both)
– we must have better gun governance (Bloomberg)
– we must have term limits (Steyer)

Steyer has added another key element which I like, people are treating each other better than the folks in Washington treat each other. That has resonated with me and someone I know who voted for Trump because he disliked Hillary Clinton.

I am not saying these are the best candidates. But, I am saying they are worthy of people’s consideration. I encourage all Democrat candidates to boil their messages into simpler themes. And, stop the circular firing squad. A good idea should not matter from whence it came.

A few why moments the past decade

Since I speak often that we need to ask more why questions, as well as a few more what, how, and when questions, permit me to ask a few why questions about the past decade.

Why would Prince Andrew think it was a good idea for him to visit a known pedophile’s house and be photographed with teen girls he is accused of having sex with?

Why do people still not find it a national security concern when a US president bends over backwards to support various Russian narratives and running shadow diplomacy?

Why do mass shootings continue at such a rampant rate in the US and no tangible action is taken to address these and everyday shootings?

Why do the kids (such as Greta Thunberg, Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, eg) understand our climate change and gun problems better than many adults?

Why are two of the heroes of the decade female – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who led to new gun laws in one week after mass shooting and the 16 year old climate activist, Thunberg?

Why have people allowed the media to be labeled around the world as enemies of the people by so-called leaders not known for truth – Trump, Putin, Bolsonaro, Duterte, Xi, Johnson, Erdogan, et al?

Why are we not actively condemning hate groups for domestic terrorism – this is not right?

Why is the current White House trying to solve our growing poverty problem by kicking people off their healthcare and food stamps, and defanging the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau designed to punish predatory lending?

Why is there not a bigger outcry for screwing over our Kurdish allies who fought our enemies?

Why is the Hong Kong story being covered far more than China’s abduction and brainwashing of Muslim and other religious groups within concentration camps?

There are so many more why questions than I have space. Please add a few of yours.

The majority of the people want better gun governance

From an article called “Polls find Americans mostly are supportive of stricter laws on guns” by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughn of the Raleigh News and Observer, please note the following cited survey results. Note these results have been fact checked by the paper’s Fact Checking Project.

– Gallup’s poll from August, 2019 noted “61% would support a ban on semi-automatic guns known as assault rifles.”

– The Civitas Institute (a conservative policy group) poll from September, 2019 showed “58% of respondents saying gun laws were not strict enough.” Note of the Civitas poll respondents, “48% either owned a gun or had someone in their home who owned a gun.”

– A Quinnipac University poll from May, 2019 showed “61% of Americans support stricter gun laws. The same poll showed 94% of Americans support required background checks for gun buyers. And, 77% of those polled support ‘requiring individuals to obtain a license before being able to purchase a gun.'”

– In 2017, Politifact Wisconsin “found multiple previous polls citing support for background checks ranging from 84% to 94%.”

The numbers 58% and 61% are meaningful, but let’s focus on the 94% (or even 84% to 94%) of respondents who want required background checks and the 77% who want a license before hand.

These are consequential majorities. Earlier this week, the Houston Chief of Police challenged his two Texas Senators (Ted Cruz and John Cornyn) and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to act after yet another police officer was killed.

The NRA has spoken. Now, we need to set their ardent, sales focused rhetoric aside and act sensibly. Just the two items highlighted above will help – background checks and pre-buy licensing. No loopholes. Cars require ownership and driving licenses to operate. Yet, they are not designed to kill.

I am long-ago tired of the standard “thoughts and prayers” line offered by legislators followed by “now is not the time to discuss changes.” Since people are dying everyday by suicide and other reasons, waiting for a time with no deaths will not happen. Further, the mass shootings of more than a few victims are happening with alarming frequency.

To be brutally frank, Democrats should push this issue to the nth degree. Maybe, the Senate and president will act. It matters not who pats themselves on the back – JUST DO SOMETHING!

Yet another road rage shooting

On today’s local midday news, we learned of yet another road rage shooting. Call me crazy, but a human life is much more valuable than an argument over right of way or a simple mistake in judgement while driving. So, the other person screwed up and you took his or her life?

Help me understand this? One thing I do know, if a gun was not present, that other driver would still be alive. And, the shooter would not be headed to jail. Lives are changed when a gun is present.

A man who killed the husband of a woman who parked in a disabled person parking spot was convicted of manslaughter and is in jail. He was right that the woman should not have parked there. But, by starting an argument, her bigger husband, who emerged from the store, took offense and pushed him to the ground. The man on the ground shot him. Should a person die over a lapse in judgment? The one thing I do know is if a gun was not present, the shooter may not have been so emboldened and certainly would not have killed someone.

The Second amendment advocate is only partly right and mostly wrong when he argues “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Actually, without the gun, arguments may not be started or would end up in a fist fight. So, the more accurate quote is “People with access to a gun, kill people.”

More often than not, the person getting killed is the shooter. By far, the majority of gun deaths are suicide. We spend too much time focusing on mass shootings, when the far more common gun death happens everyday.

Background checks on all purchases with as accurate a data base that can be compiled are key. Elongated waiting periods are key. Red flag laws are key. Just these three measures, may reduce suicides. Initial and recurring training on safety will help with accidental shootings.

Nothing has been done since the last mass shooting. Now is not the time is a stalling technique and it works. So, I argue now is the time and the focus should be on the daily shootings.

A nice thing about our country

Our country is weary of having a person in a leadership position who is seemingly in the eye of every storm. He seems to be the lone constant in personal, political, company, country and media attacks. Even his supporters lament some of his tweeting habits.

Yet, our imperfect country has some nice things going for it. Here are a few thoughts.

– when our leaders do not address our real problems, companies, cities, states and people can step up and do more;
– when the president cannot get out of his own way and then has his people spend time, energy and their integrity defending his inane comments, we can choose to tune him out;
– when the president is untruthful more than he is not, we can choose to not believe a word he says or tweets;
– when leaders rationalize indefensible comments as normative, we can push back on them;
– we can choose to act on conservation, climate change and guns by voting with our feet; companies pay attention. Why? What creates profits and jobs are customers.

To this last point, companies like Google, Amazon, IKEA, Walmart, Facebook, etc. and states like California, Texas, Iowa, North Carolina, etc. are active in renewable energy. Walmart, Dick’s and Albertson’s are stepping up on gun sale restrictions. Even ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell are paying attention on climate change due to shareholder pressure.

If leaders choose not to lead, we can all do more. It sure would be nice if they helped some, too. If they do not, they become less relevant.

Rainy days and Mondays, especially today, get me down

Karen Carpenter sang “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” This weekend was a yet another sad chapter in America’s history. Plus, we learned 31 people died in a ferry capsizing in the Philippines. In California, an eroding cliff collapsed next to the shore killing three. And, Russia and China are coming down hard on protestors. These are signals.

In America, we have decided we cannot do anything to stop mass gun shootings. We have decided the politics are too hard to do the needed things that would help. We could start by acknowledging that we average 100+ gun deaths a day even without the mass shootings. Many of those deaths are suicides. Some of them are accidental shootings of kids who find a gun in the house. And, some of the homicides are due to mental health issues, lack of civil discourse, hate crimes, or drug crimes. The common thread is access to a weapon without better governance.

Yes, we must act on these signals. We must call hate speech on the carpet, especially if it comes from someone who is in a position of leadership. Dog whistle racism and xenophobia are fuel to a fire for some extreme thinkers. The ones who want status quo in gun laws will say “now is not the time” for change to gun governance. Apparently, “never is the time.” The ones who want status quo will say “that change would not solve this instance.” Yet, doing nothing at all is not solving much.

There are things we can do that, in sum, will help make a difference. If it saves a few lives, that is good. I want politicians to get in a room and I want them to check their politics. I do not care who wins and loses a political game, but it is obvious the dead people and their families are losing. It amazes me how little we did after Sandy Hook. We even had a conservative shock jock say for years Sandy Hook was not real. He is on trial for his hateful rhetoric for the damage he has caused to Sandy Hook families and should be.

The Philippines tragedy is terrible, but not getting much play here. It seems we don’t pay attention like we should when the weather sends us signals. Overloading ferries can be OK in calm waters, but it is a disaster when waters are rough, especially after two earlier ferries had issues. I think failing to heed signals causes far too many deaths. Here in the US, we are whistling past the graveyard in preface to the next infrastructure collapse. Around the world, we have signals telling us to plan ahead on eroding seashores, increasing floods with stalled and repetitive storm systems, increasing droughts in other areas and elongated and bigger forest fires. We need to act on these signals.

In Russia and China, the signals are telling us that we must not be like that. Civil protest is more than fine, yet we must emphasize the word civil. Yet, a regime that crushes the spirit of those who question things, is one that is sowing more seeds of discord, not fewer. A regime that squelches and controls the media is not one that wants to hear the truth. I am watching the mini-series called “The Loudest Voice,” about Roger Ailes and his creation of Fox News. He purposefully controlled what and how things were said, that he started believing his own BS.

Truth matters. Facts matter. Diligent preparation in the face of those facts matter. When people ignore problems, white-wash or deny the truth, and squash those who are trying to tell you those things, the future is hamstrung. As I say often, I do not care what people’s politics are, as usually they are a mixed bag like me, conservative on some things, progressive on others. What I do care about is when people ignore or massage the facts to make their tribe win. I a more concerned about the people who die, who struggle, who become infirmed, who are jailed inappropriately, etc. That is what our leaders should be concerned about and not spreading fear, hate and division to win an election.

 

A few Sunday meanderings

Good morning one and all. I hope your weekend is going well. Reading the Sunday newspaper and a few stories online, I thought I might meander a little on this Sunday, typing in tune with cicadas chirping outside.

A simple concept with a lot of big numbers – Swiss scientists have confirmed that planting one trillion trees would be one of the least expensive ways to take carbon out of the air. They note there are 3.5 million square miles of available land to do so. In the documentary “Ice on Fire,” which I wrote about a few weeks back, planting and maintaining forests was one of several key options that we should do. The scientists note this will only work if we stop putting so much carbon there in the first place.

A British ambassador speaks the truth about the US White House – Per a CNN report as reported by AFP.com, “Britain’s ambassador in the United States has described President Donald Trump and his administration as ‘inept’ and ‘uniquely dysfunctional’, according to leaked diplomatic memos published by the Mail on Sunday. Ambassador Kim Darroch reportedly said Trump’s presidency could ‘crash and burn’ and ‘end in disgrace’, in the cache of secret cables and briefing notes sent back to Britain seen by the newspaper.”  This is not news to people who pay attention to the machinations of the White House incumbent. My prediction is this will be called fake news from a loser network by said incumbent.

A day in the life, two more shootings in my city – If we rewrote John Lennon’s portion of the famous song “A Day in the Life.” which blended two separate songs, the other by Paul McCartney, we might have the following:  “I read the news today, oh boy, about two more shootings in the city I live. One was shot in an expensive hotel corridor, while the others in a famous fast food chain.”  Recognizing I did a poor job matching words with the notes, the sentiment is valid. Maybe, we should just report when no one is shot in the city, as that would be more newsworthy.

False equivalences abound – This is a pet peeve of Bill Maher, with which I agree. When someone commits a series of poor behaviors or says inappropriate things, members of the supporting tribe will parade out a false equivalence that is intended to balance the scales. The past few years, these false equivalences are paraded out to show that the president is not the only politician who lies. While that is true, the president has lapped the field several times with his lies. He lies far more than he does not, he has been recorded with over 10,000 lies as president, and five former associates (not the media, not Democrats) have been quoted, one under the oath, that the president is not very truthful including, but not limited to, his attorney fixer Michael Cohen, his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, his former White Counsel Don McGahn, his former National Economic Advisor Gary Cohn and former attorney Thomas Wells. The latter noted “Donald Trump lies every day even about things of no consequence.”

Why does the last item matter so much? Just read the leaked correspondence of the British ambassador. We are not trustworthy because our president is not trustworthy. And, it is hard to solve problems and build relationships if you cannot tell the truth. The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. Climate change is a problem, but he tells us it is a hoax. Guns are part of our shooting death problems, but he won’t admit they are. He tells the children detention centers are well run. And, so on.

 

 

Underneath a few headlines

We get so consumed with the person who shall not be named, we lose sight of other stories. Here are a few on this Father’s Day.

– Hong Kong citizens reminded the financial city leaders they are promised a different path forward by their owner. One million people equal to 1/7 of the city’s population protested the proposed law to extradite people to mainland China. The law was postponed, as a result. It should be noted some big money investors threatened to move money to Singapore to aid their cause. I applaud their protest and shows the power of people. China can ill-afford the notoriety or flight of capital away from Hong Kong.

– An issue that needs attention today, is a subset of our US debt issue. Social Security will soon pay out more than its revenues. This will draw down the trust fund in a way to require automatic 20% cuts in sixteen years. Of course, we could act now and make less onerous changes, but politicians are not even talking about this issue, which is par for the course, in my view. Why plan ahead they ask by their failure to act? I have seen exercises where a group of locals solve the Social Security funding dilemma. It should not be that hard for our representatives to act like such.

– Another shooting at Costco in the Los Angeles area occurred this weekend. Public shootings are now so commonplace in the US, it made page four of my newspaper. And, that shows how derelict our so-called leaders are in failing to do anything of substance. We have become too inured to gun deaths in the US. This makes me sad and angry that our representatives are failing to address a huge problem that is killing people. If Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings can’t bring greater change, I truly do not know what will.

– Both Brazil and the US need more doctors, especially in rural areas. Brazil is seeing visiting Cuban doctors bail on them, as they are not getting paid what they are owed. Why is a good question? In the US, medical students are going more into specialty areas. With student debt, it is hard to practice in low income areas and in lower margin general services. There are good ideas with telemedicine, but doctors need to see their patients up close to assess risk, physical and environmental.

If you have not heard of these issues, it reveals how little we pay attention to news and news not related to a someone who commands so much attention. I am hard pressed to ever remember an occupant in the White House consume so much attention.

I could use a heavy dose of boring competence in a leader who need not be the center of attention. Maybe then, we could address some of these issues. So, let’s celebrate Hong Kong’s successful protest and speak to issues like these and others. Again, I hope fathers are having a wonderful day.