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Saturday, May 31, 2014

We can stop the NRA'a madness

(photo: unknown)
(photo: unknown)

How UC-Santa Barbara Can Turn Grief Into Action: Divest From Gun Manufacturers

By Peter Dreier, Jennifer Fiore, The Nation
28 May 14

Our communities are bearing the brunt of gun violence while corporate executives reap the financial rewards.

tudents and faculty at the University of California–Santa Barbara are understandably in shock after the murder of six innocent people Friday in the Isla Vista community that borders the campus. Over the next few weeks, there will be many memorial services, tributes and other events to remember the victims and provide family and friends with opportunities to mourn. But if UCSB students, alumni, faculty and staff want to channel their feelings into constructive action, here’s a suggestion: ask the University of California Regents if its $88 billion endowment is contributing to gun violence by being invested in gun companies that fund the National Rifle Association (NRA) and obstruct common-sense gun policies. If it is, demand that the UC system divest itself from these merchants of death.

America mourns with the families affected by this latest mass shooting. We face the responsibility to work together to stop the epidemic of gun violence.

“Not one more,” said a heartbroken Richard Martinez, the day after his 20-year-old Christopher, a UCSB student, was killed in the Isla Vista tragedy. “Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live?”

The following day, Martinez made additional comments: “There’s a tendency to think that this was a madman and that we can’t do anything about it. I think that’s an easy out. I don’t believe it. I know this is a complicated problem but I do believe it has a solution.”

Martinez is right. There is a solution, and it starts with putting economic pressure on the gun industry. The companies that manufacture guns and ammunition and the NRA are responsible for the United States having the weakest gun laws among modern democracies. In April of 2013, a few months after the Sandy Hook massacre, the gun lobby killed legislation to extend background checks for gun sales, ban assault weapons and limit the size of guns’ ammunition magazines.

The NRA has even used its political clout to block medical and academic research that would help us understand and end the epidemic of gun violence. According to ProPublica, “Since 1996, when a small CDC-funded study on the risks of owning a firearm ignited opposition from Republicans, the CDC’s budget for research on firearms injuries has shrunk to zero.” Last week, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) filed a bill that would fund the CDC research. The NRA issued a statement calling Markey’s bill “unethical” and an “abuse of taxpayer funds for anti-gun political propaganda under the guise of ‘research.’”

Although the NRA likes to portray itself as representing grassroots gun owners, only about 4 million of the 90 million American gun owners are NRA members. The bulk of the NRA’s money comes from gun and ammo manufacturers that donate millions of dollars to further political obstructionism and fear-mongering among a small but vocal minority of gun owners. The gun makers’ profits—and the profits of Walmart (the nation’s largest seller of guns and ammunition) and other retailers—grow when there are few restrictions on the sale and ownership of guns and ammunition.

“There is a lot of profit to be made for all of this sorrow, all of this death, and all of this destruction,” said Dr. Sheldon Teperman, director of trauma surgery at the Jacobi Medical Center in New York City, who routinely deals with gunshot victims and who was interviewed for a video urging people to unload gun companies from their 401k investments.

The gun industry—led by Remington Outdoor, Sturm Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Olin—has profited, even as more Americans die by the products they manufacture and aggressively market. The value of these companies has grown significantly just as the rate of mass shootings has increased.

Cerberus Capital Management owns Freedom Group, maker of the Bushmaster XM-15, which Adam Lanza used at Sandy Hook Elementary School to massacre twenty children and six educators in minutes. Cerberus promised to sell the gun maker, but after eighteen months it has not yet done so.

Sturm Ruger is the manufacturer of assault weapons banned in California and in 2012 donated over $1.25 million to the NRA through a program of selling guns and donating $1 for each gun to the lobby group.

Smith & Wesson is the maker of the assault weapon used in the Aurora, Colorado, and LAX airport shootings and the semiautomatic pistol used at the recent Fort Hood shooting. Smith & Wesson recently gave the NRA a check for $600,000 to continue its work promoting guns and gun culture.

Olin owns Winchester Ammunition, an NRA donor of between $500,000 and $1 million and maker of ammunition intended to quickly expand inside the body, leading to greater human damage.

By divesting from these companies, we bring a new kind of pressure to bear on the forces of obstruction that Martinez called out. Divestment was a useful tool in the anti-apartheid efforts in the 1980s and again in bringing the tobacco industry to the table in the 1990s.

University endowments play a special role here, given the escalation of gun violence in our school and college campuses. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, at least seventy-two shootings have occurred on school campuses in the seventeen months since the Sandy Hook massacre. In 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, gun deaths—homicides, suicides and accidents—were the second-highest reason for death of young people ages 15–24, after only automobile accidents, according to a recent Center for American Progress report. Universities should lead to ensure that they do not further the epidemic of gun violence by financially supporting the companies that profit from the devastation of young people’s lives.

That is beginning to happen. In February, Occidental College became the first higher education institution to pledge to stay away from any investments in companies that manufacture military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines for general public sale. The college’s trustees did so at the urging of faculty and students who were horrified by the epidemic of gun violence, including those at schools and universities across the country. It turned out that Occidental’s endowment did not have investments in such companies, but its board’s policy ensured that it would not add any such stocks to its portfolio in the future.

Last year, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), both large public pension funds, moved to divest from manufacturers of assault weapons. The University of California endowment is one of the largest in the country. If the UC system announced a similar policy, it would have a huge impact, inspiring other universities to follow its example.

Media coverage of the Isla Vista tragedy has primarily focused on the details of the rampage, the mental problems, loneliness and anti-women manifesto of killer Elliot Rodger, and the grieving of the families and friends of Rodger’s victims. Rodger was seriously mentally ill. So was Adam Lanza. There are lots of such people in this world. But if we make it easy for them to obtain guns, they are more likely to translate their psychological problems into dangerous and deadly anti-social behavior.

Guns are a large part of American culture. Few object to the manufacture and sale of rifles used in hunting, a sport that millions of Americans enjoy relatively safely. But according to a CBS News poll last December, 85 percent of all Americans—including 84 percent of Republicans, 92 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of independents and 84 percent of gun owners—favor a federal law requiring background checks on all potential gun buyers.

Some will point out that Rodger passed background checks and purchased his Glock 34 and SIG Sauers weapons legally. That simply suggests that we should made it much more difficult for people to purchase assault weapons. In fact, a Rasmussen Reports survey in December revealed that 59 percent of likely US voters think there should be a ban on the purchase of semi-automatic and assault-type weapons. Only 33 percent disagree.

That’s the only way to prevent mass killings like we witnessed in at Sandy Hook Elementary, at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech University and last week in Isla Vista.

Our communities—especially students from kindergarten through university—are bearing the brunt of gun violence while corporate executives reap the financial rewards. Our institutions of higher learning should not profit from the violence that is wracked upon their students, whom schools are pledged to care for.

Toward that end, the University of California should join with major pension funds, unions, religious organizations and individuals by withdrawing its investments from gun manufacturers that profit from the violence wracked on our schoolchildren. We can stop the madness. We can learn from this horror, and even as we grieve, we can move forward.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Shooting victim's dad wants gun control

Richard Martinez, father of Christopher Martinez who was shot at University of California, Santa Barbara, breaks down in tears as he talks to the media at the Santa Barbara Sheriff Headquarters, Saturday, May 24, 2014, in Santa Barbara, California. (photo: Brett Hartman/MailOnline)
Richard Martinez, father of Christopher Martinez who was shot at University of California, Santa Barbara, breaks down in tears as he talks to the media at the Santa Barbara Sheriff Headquarters, Saturday, May 24, 2014, in Santa Barbara, California. (photo: Brett Hartman/MailOnline)

Santa Barbara Shooting Victim's Father to Politicians: 'I Don't Care About Your Sympathy'

By Kimberly Kindy, The Washington Post


ichard Martinez grew up around guns, shooting birds out of the fruit trees on his family’s farm. He later served as a military police officer in the U.S. Army before going on to become a criminal-defense lawyer, at times representing the young and the violent.

Now, Martinez is a grieving father.

He’s asking members of Congress to stop calling him to offer condolences but nothing more for the death of his only child, Chris­topher Michaels-Martinez, who was killed in the rampage Friday in Santa Barbara, Calif.

“I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a s--- that you feel sorry for me,” Richard Martinez said during an extensive interview, his face flushed as tears rolled down. “Get to work and do something. I’ll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician dvoesn’t impress me.”

Saying that “we are all to blame” for the death of his 20-year-old son, Martinez urged the public to join him in demanding “immediate action” from members of Congress and President Obama to curb gun violence by passing stricter gun- control laws.

“Today, I’m going to ask every person I can find to send a postcard to every politician they can think of with three words on it: ‘Not one more,’ ” he said Tuesday. “People are looking for something to do. I’m asking people to stand up for something. Enough is enough.”

Martinez is the latest tragic figure to raise the mantle of gun control. Previous massacres and spasms of violence have produced urgent calls for new restrictions.

But these poignant appeals — most recently from former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a 2011 assassination attempt in Tucson, and the Sandy Hook families whose 20 children were gunned down in their Newtown, Conn., elementary school in late 2012 — have failed to translate into action by Washington. Nor have they significantly changed public opinion about further regulation of weapons.

Martinez vowed that he’s not going away. He said his training as a lawyer explains, in part, why he has not retreated from public view as many parents do after such a tragedy.

“We are tough people,” Martinez said of himself and Christopher’s mother, Caryn Johnson Michaels, a deputy district attorney in San Luis Obispo. (The couple separated when Christopher was young.) “Caryn was in charge of the sex-crime unit. We fight.”

At a memorial service organized by the University of California at Santa Barbara later in the day, Martinez was the only parent who spoke, but he also read statements from the parents of David Wang and James Hong, both computer-engineering majors.

For two hours leading up to the service, nearly 20,000 students, faculty, college alumni, local political figures and neighbors poured into the university’s soccer stadium. As the UCSB Young Artist String Quartet played, the stadium’s 17,000 seats filled and several thousand additional people, mostly students, sat on the grass field.

A dozen or more people at the venue wore orange vests with a sign that said “counselor” so that people who needed help could easily reach out and get it.

“It’s time to stop the gun violence. Our children deserve a land free from fear,” Martinez read from the statement from the Wang family, which went on to say, “Let us pray for all the people who lost their loved ones, including the family of the killer.”

Hong’s family asked Martinez to read a statement where the father recounted a dream he said he had the night before. “I saw my son in a dream last night. . . . [He said] my time at UCSB was the happiest time of my life. . . . I wanted to stay here forever with everyone. I know there are great injustices in the world and policies that could be improved. I can’t help with this anymore, but you can.”

Martinez wrapped up the statements from parents, asking the crowd to stand and shout “so loud they will hear you in Washington. Say it with me, ‘Not one more!’ The stadium thundered as the members of the crowd repeatedly shouted, clapped and stamped their feet on the metal bleachers. He repeated his call for people to send postcards to politicians but acknowledged that a Twitter ­campaign using the hashtag ­#NotOneMore might be more in keeping with the college crowd.

Janet Napolitano, the University of California president and former secretary of homeland security, called the shooting an “unfathomable tragedy” and encouraged the crowd to remember and celebrate the unique qualities of each of the students who were killed.

“All died much too young,” Napolitano said. “It’s important that we don’t let the arithmetic of this tragedy define them. Their individuality should not be obscured.”

A male student a cappella group, called BFOM (Brothas From Otha Mothas), sang a version of Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes” as everyone left the stadium after the service.

The families of the other victims remained largely out of public view ahead of the memorial service at the university. Two of the victims, Veronika Weiss and Katie Cooper, were members of UCSB’s Delta Delta Delta sorority, and on Tuesday the sorority issued a statement in response to their deaths.

“Words will never be able to express the pain and sorrow in our hearts from experiencing the loss of our two beautiful sisters,” the sorority said. It added: “In the wake of this tragedy, we are committed to appreciating the value of life and to emulating the amazing attributes that Veronika and Katie shared so generously with us. We are grateful for and hold close to heart those who survived on Friday, including one of our own.”

Martinez, 60, vaulted into the spotlight Saturday when he crashed a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office news conference at which deputies spelled out the details of the knifing and shooting attacks by Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who killed six people before shooting himself.

After the news conference, Martinez told reporters to train their cameras on him as he delivered a biting, 80-second speech attacking “craven” politicians and the National Rifle Association.

While Martinez said he is angered by the public’s willingness to accept mass murder as a way of life in America, he said he is not mad at Rodger’s parents.

“As bad as I feel about this, at least people come up to me and say, ‘I’m so sorry for you,’ ” he said. “Who will say that to them? No one is going to say that.”

Martinez said he hopes to meet with Rodger’s father, Peter Rodger, a Hollywood director and photographer, and enlist him in his fight to change gun laws. Peter Rodger and his attorney did not respond to a request for interviews.

“I’ve been told that the shooter’s father has said he wanted to devote his life to making sure that doesn’t happen again. I share that with him,” Martinez said. “He’s a father. I’m a father. He loved his son. I love my son. His son died. My son died.”

Martinez also said he is not angry with either the mental-health system or the sheriff’s deputies, who in April visited Elliot Rodger’s apartment after his family notified them, concerned about dark, brooding videos he had posted on YouTube.

The videos didn’t threaten violence, however, and Rodger was able to convince the deputies that he was depressed but neither suicidal nor homicidal, so they did not search his apartment, where he had already stockpiled an arsenal of weapons, including three semiautomatic handguns.

Martinez said that as a criminal-defense lawyer, he has seen the system from the inside and knows how difficult it is for parents to get help for their adult children when they are mentally ill.

He said he also recognizes that police have too few powers to intervene because the mentally ill cannot be involuntarily committed unless they prove to be an immediate threat to themselves or others.

“They don’t have the tools they need,” he said. “I don’t have the answers, but we should ask them what they need and we should give it to them. It’s a lack of will to find solutions. That’s what I’m upset about. This is a problem that can be solved.”

Martinez reserved his anger for the NRA, saying he has no understanding for the group’s position on automatic and semiautomatic weapons after a series of mass murders involving such weapons.

“I’m angry with the leadership of the NRA who always want to characterize this as if it’s a lone madman. That it’s an act of nature we have to tolerate,” he said. “I am angered by how they have worked to normalize this.”

The NRA did not respond to requests for comment.

“I understand this is a complicated problem. I have friends who are in the NRA. I grew up on a farm. I hunted. I killed animals. I understand guns,” Martinez said. “But assault rifles and semiautomatic weapons? There is no need for those except in war.”

He said his son — whom he described as “brave,” “competitive” and “extremely kind” — was also interested in guns but did not own any. He played paintball, expressed a desire to go to a shooting range and thought about following in the footsteps of his father by enlisting in the Army before college. An English major at UCSB, he planned to go to London next year and to law school after graduation, according to his father.

“He was very physically adventurous,” Martinez said. “He loved to argue. That’s probably why he wanted to become a lawyer, like his parents.”

Martinez said he is consulting with experts to help develop a clear message and a specific course of action that the public can undertake with the aim of preventing similar tragedies in the future.

“There’s no playbook for this. We don’t know what we are doing,” he said. “I just know I have to keep fighting until something changes. The most precious thing in the world has been taken from me. What else can I do?”

Slide Fire at 21,000 acres, 55% contained

UPDATE - Slide Fire


Mormon Lake Hotshots monitor the progress of the Slide Fire in the Coconino National Forest. The community of Mountainaire could be threatened by the still-growing blaze (Photo by Brady Smith/U.S. Forest Service)
 
SIZE:  Approximately 21,067 acres; 55% containment

AIR QUALITY:  Strong southerly wind flow overnight Wednesday weakened typical downslope winds, which allowed more smoke to be near the Flagstaff area during the morning hours on Thursday.  Heavy smoke impacts were observed in the upper Verde Valley around Sedona before light rainfall and breezy winds in the mid to late morning helped clear the air.  The rain and wind also improved the air quality in Flagstaff.

The cooler and moist air mass reduced daytime lift of smoke. Consequently, additional smoke from smoldering and possible unburnt interior fuels is more likely to reduce air quality between Flagstaff and Sedona tonight and Friday morning.

A warmer and drier weather pattern with increasing daytime southwesterly winds will begin Friday afternoon and continue into the weekend, especially on Saturday.  Modeled trajectories show Friday afternoon smoke moving north and northeastward.  Dispersion and ventilation of daytime smoke will improve, but early morning downslope winds carrying smoke into the upper Verde Valley is expected to continue.

For up-to-date monitoring information for particulate matter, visit the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) Web page for Portable Particulate Monitors, http://www.phoenixvis.net/PPMmain.aspx.

EVACUATIONS:  The Coconino County Sheriff's Office, in coordination with area federal and local agencies, lifted the mandatory evacuation order at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 29, for residents evacuated north of Slide Rock State Park.  At that time, Hwy 89A reopened to residents and business owners only to allow them to assess their properties.  Sheriff's deputies will continue to operate the roadblock at Slide Rock State Park; residents will be required to present an ID to verify their residency before being allowed to enter.

Access to Hwy 89A north of Slide Rock will be restricted until 6:00 p.m. on Friday to allow residents time to assess their properties and begin cleanup of household debris.  The roadway will remain closed at the Pine Flats Campground north to the overlook at the switchbacks.

Smoke will continue to be an immediate issue for many Sedona-area residents.  The Coconino County Public Health Services District (CCPHSD) advises the public to curtail outdoor activity and to monitor smoke levels.

CLOSURES:  Due to increasing fire danger, the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests will implement Stage II fire restrictions on Friday, May 30, at 8:00 a.m.  Visit Arizona Fire Restrictions at http://firerestrictions.us/az.  The Coconino National Forest has issued an emergency closure on all National Forest System lands within the area of the Slide Fire on the Coconino National Forest, in Coconino and Yavapai Counties.  To view the Order and map of the fire closure area, visit:  http://tinyurl.com/mzja5rd.

The following areas remain closed:  Hwy 89A from Sedona to Ft. Tuthill, Forest Road (FR) 535 at Hwy 89A, FR 533 at Hwy 89A, FR 231 at Rogers Lake, FR 527 & 530 (west side, Volunteer Canyon area), and Casner Mountain closed to all vehicles.

FIRE ACTIVITIES:  On Thursday, crews on all areas of the fire perimeter continue chipping, patrol, and rehabilitation efforts.  Internal areas of unburned fuel may continue to smolder, producing light to moderate smoke.

INFORMATION:  For detailed fire information, visit the Incident Management System (InciWeb).  For information regarding fire restrictions, visit Arizona Fire Restrictions at http://firerestrictions.us/az or Arizona Fire Prevention & Information (fire restrictions & red flag alerts) at http://wildlandfire.az.gov.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Frail old woman with brain damage


The Borowitz Report

May 18, 2014

Posted by


hillary-clinton-580.jpg
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is an evil genius capable of masterminding the most elaborate cover-up in U.S. history and is also a frail old woman with brain damage, leading Republicans charged on Sunday.
 
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus led the attack while appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he said that the American people should be wary of electing a woman who is capable of orchestrating the complex conspiracy to whitewash Benghazi while, at the same time, being too old, feeble, and brain damaged to serve in the Oval Office. 
 
“These two aspects of Secretary Clinton would have me very concerned,” he said.
Mr. Priebus said he saw “no contradiction” between the portrayals of Secretary Clinton as an evil mastermind and a brain-damaged crone, explaining, “The one part of Secretary Clinton’s brain that works perfectly well is the part that creates elaborate cover-ups, and that is the part of her brain that is currently covering up the fact that she is brain damaged.”

The R.N.C. chairman said he was confident that once the American people realized Secretary Clinton is both an evil mastermind and a frail old woman with brain damage, they would reject her at the ballot box.

“The one thing the American people will not tolerate is double-talk,” he said.

Photograph by Alex Wong/Getty.

Five things you should know about Maya Angelou

Article image
By Carimah Townes
Think Progress / News Report



Maya Angelou, the esteemed poet, writer, and actress died Wednesday in her Winston-Salem home. The literary giant, most known for her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Phenomenal Woman, a collection of poetry, was one of the foremost African-American writers and thinkers of her time. But society often forgets her legacy as a fierce civil rights activist, and someone who did not shy away from political controversy.

Here are five facts you should know about Maya Angelou, the freedom fighter. 

1. Angelou was a close associate with Malcolm X prior to his assassination and had plans to start a new effort with him to advance African-American rights. According to Angelou, she intended to jump-start the Organization of African-American Unity with Malcolm X. The two intended to vocalize the issues plaguing black people in the U.S. to the United Nations, with the hope that the international body would assist in their struggle. 

2. Angelou was a leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).SCLC, an organization founded by Martin Luther King which preached nonviolence, was instrumental in arranging protests and voter registration drives. Before becoming a member, she arranged the Cabaret for Freedom, a five-week show that raised money for the organization. After the play’s success, she was asked by Bayard Rustin to become the Northern Coordinator of the SCLC, and was instrumental in fundraising and promoting the organization’s mission. 

3. Angelou supported Cuban leader Fidel Castro, despite his rivalry with U.S. leaders.She once wrote, “Of course, Castro never had called himself white, so he was O.K. from the git. Anyhow, America hated Russians, and as black people often said, ‘Wasn’t no Communist country that put my grandpappa in slavery. Wasn’t no Communist lynched my poppa or raped my mamma.’” Her commentary aligned with Pan-Africanism and anti-colonial sentiments, according to which people of color — particularly those in the African Diaspora — identified their struggles as part of one larger, systemic fight. 

4. Angelou was a staunch advocate for marriage equality. Angelou personally calledNew York state Senator Shirley Huntley (D) to voice her support of same-sex marriage, which the the state was considering and the Senator opposed. During the call she said, “To love someone takes a lot of courage,” she said. “So how much more is one challenged when the love is of the same sex and the laws say, ‘I forbid you from loving this person’?” Huntley ended up voting for the measure. 

5. Angelou made a strong moral case for action to recover the kidnapped Nigerian school girls. Angelou never lost her commitment to social justice. Earlier this month she tweeted about the kidnapped girls in Nigeria.


ABOUT Carimah Townes
Carimah Townes is a Special Assistant for ThinkProgress. She received a B.A. in political science from UCLA, where she also minored in cultural anthropology. While in school, she served as a festival planner and interned with the Office of Mayor Villaraigosa. Before joining ThinkProgress, she worked for the National Center for Lesbian Rights and interned with the Communications and Development teams at Vital Voices Global Partnership. Carimah is originally from Amherst, Massachusetts.

Obama non-invasion policy stuns foes


The Borowitz Report

May 28, 2014

AP985778832096-580.jpg
WEST POINT (The Borowitz Report)—President Obama raised eyebrows with his West Point commencement address Wednesday by offering a defense of his controversial foreign-policy doctrine of not invading countries for no reason.

Conservative critics were taken aback by Obama’s speech, which was riddled with incendiary remarks about only using military force for a clearly identified and rational purpose.

Obama did not shy away from employing polarizing rhetoric, often using words such as “responsible” and “sensible” to underscore his message.

Harland Dorrinson, a fellow at the conservative think tank the Center for Global Intervention, said that he was “stunned” to see Obama “defend his failure to engage the United States in impulsive and random military adventures.”

“History tells us that the best way to earn respect around the world is by using your military in a totally unpredictable and reckless manner,” he said. “Today, President Obama showed once again that he doesn’t get it.” 

Photograph by Susan Walsh/AP.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Gun murders: 8,855 in US, 30 in England


Article image

Article image
By Juan Cole

Truthdig / Op-Ed

Published: Tuesday 27 May 2014

 The mentally imbalanced individual who hunted down UC Santa Barbara students and knifed three and shot 6 of them to death, wounding with gunfire 7 more, on Saturday, used a semi-automatic handgun.  The most popular such weapon is a Glock.  It is not an automatic weapon, meaning you have to squeeze the trigger each time to fire.  But it is much easier to get off many shots one after another than in the case of a traditional pistol. The magazine for the Glock 17 has 17 rounds; one can get a high capacity magazine of 33 rounds.  High capacity magazines and some semi-automatic weapons were banned in the Clinton era.  But the gun manufacturers have bought Congress, so that that ban could no longer be implemented.

Let us not pretend that this is about hunters and hunting, folks.  Anyone who shoots deer with a Glock should be denied sex the rest of their lives the way the Santa Barbara shooter complained he was. Having a hand gun in the house also does not make anyone safer; family members shoot each other with them or commit suicide with them when temporarily depressed; and burglars wrestle them away and shoot the owners with their own weapon, or the owners end up being charged with murder for shooting an unarmed burglar. Plus people are not well.  I figure at least 20 percent of the US population has mood disorders or other mental problems such that you really wouldn’t want to see a gun in their hands.  Nor is it about the actual, historical, 2nd Amendment.  Our current legislative program in the US is “a semi-automatic high capacity weapon in the hands of every mentally unstable person.”  But since Congress is also determined to pump 50 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in the next decade, which will pretty much sink us, the mania about everyone having guns is not the most dangerous hysteria currently gripping our country.

The United States continues to be peculiar in handing out powerful magazine-fed firearms to almost anyone who wants one and not requiring background checks on private purchases even if these are made at gun shows.  80% of civilian-owned firearms world-wide are in the US, and only Yemen vaguely competes with us for rates of firearm ownership; Yemen is a violent mess with Shiite insurgencies, al-Qaeda taking over cities from time to time, tribal feuding, southern separatism and US drone strikes.  And even it has fewer guns per person than the USA.

It has gotten to the point where the increasing epidemic of mass shootings now threatens the US military, the most powerful military in the world.

The US is downright weird compared to civilized Western Europe or Australia(which enacted gun control after a mass shooting in 1996 and there have been no further such incidents).


Number of Murders by Firearms, US, 2012:  8,855 

Percentage of all Murders that were committed by firearms in US: 69.3
Suicides in US 2011: 38,285

Gun Suicides in US, 2011:  19,766

Number of Murders by firearms, England and Wales, 2012-2013:  30
(equivalent to 164 US murders).


Percentage of all murders in England and Wales that were committed by firearm: 5.4 percent.


Number of suicides in England and Wales, 2011: 4871 (equivalent to about 25,818 in US or 31% lower)




For more on murder by firearms in Britain, see the BBC.


The US has the highest gun ownership in the world and the highest murder rate in the developed world.


There is some correlation between high rates of gun ownership and high rates of violent crime in general, globally (and also if you compare state by state inside the US):




In the case of Britain, firearms murders are 53 times fewer than in the US per capita.  [Don’t bother with flawed citations of Switzerland or Israel, where most citizens are the equivalent of military reservists.]

Do hunters really need semi-automatic AR-15 assault weapons?  Is that how they roll in deer season?  The US public doesn’t think so.





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ABOUT Juan Cole
Juan Cole is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. For three decades, he has sought to put the relationship of the West and the Muslim world in historical context. His most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan, March, 2009) and he also recently authored Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

Bottom line: Conservatives can't empathize



So poor don't deserve health care

Digby


Ezra Klein makes a good point in this piece in which he acknowledges the VA revelations for the scandal they are — nobody should be denied needed health care — by showing the vast numbers of people affected by Republican governors’ cynical decision to refuse the Medicaid expansion. It encompasses millions of people, many of whom will suffer and die as a result of this craven political act.

But Ezra leaves out the salient issue for Republicans: they revere the military for all its traditional masculine virtues so veterans deserve health care. Poor people (who are not veterans or elderly white people) do not. This is the simple equation that guides their philosophy:

If you don’t have health care through gainful employment or fail to buy it yourself from an insurance company, you are obviously being irresponsible. (And no, the government shouldn’t help you with those premiums — no Obamacare for you!) Therefore, you deserve what you get.

Life is black and white to these people, at least in the abstract. When it comes to their own lives or people they know, it’s obviously a different story. The extenuating circumstances, life’s harsh blows, bad timing and bad luck explain why a particular person might need some help. But they are also very harsh with people who develop bad habits or fail to live up to their behavioral standards. And they assume laziness and sloth among most people of color so unless they have ascended to the highest levels of society, like Condi Rice or Marco Rubio, they assume they also deserve what they get.

The bottom line is that conservatives can’t exercise empathy, by which I mean that while they can see themselves in an unfortunate circumstance, they are unable to extrapolate from that possibility the fact that others in those unfortunate circumstances deserve the same compassion and assistance. I guess that would mean these people aren’t “special” and that’s something they really cannot live with.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How Liberalism Violates All 10 Commandments

By Matt Barber

[Gazette Blog Editor's note: The following is from a pretty outrageous website that is just loaded with right wing BS.  While we wouldn't normally give Matt Barber an outlet for his idiocy, we thought you'd get a good laugh out of this.  In the end, we lefties are going to burn in hell for believing that women are equal and should be able to do what they want with their bodies; that all Americans are entitled to health care, food and a roof over their heads; and that it really is OK that our President is black.  Who was it who said: "Judge not lest ye be judged."  Enjoy...] 

One of my readers, we’ll call him Moses, is the publisher of a mainstream newspaper in California. He wrote me the other day with an insightful observation. Since Moses works in one of the most liberal industries, in one of the most liberal states in the union, I won’t divulge his real name. We don’t want Moses tarred, feathered and banished to Oklahoma with a scarlet “C,” for Christian, emblazoned on his Harris Tweed sport coat. (Note: I have antipathy toward neither Oklahoma – I once lived there – nor Harris Tweed, though I do recommend against wearing Harris Tweed in Oklahoma. Especially in the summer.)

“Matt, think about this,” wrote Moses. “Every one of the Ten Commandments is explicitly violated by a principle of the left.”

So I thought about it.

And you know what? Slap me with a Red River catfish if Moses ain’t exactly right.

To be sure, as individuals, we’ve all violated many, if not most or all, of the 10 Commandments. In our fallen, sinful state we have an inherent propensity to rebel against God’s perfect and holy will for our lives. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Thank God for making available a path, narrow as it is, for eternal redemption and salvation through Christ Jesus.

Still, there is a difference between individual sins and a philosophical worldview that embraces those sins as a matter of course. Modern liberalism – “progressivism,” leftism, secularism, pick your poison – is built upon, by and for sin itself. Liberalism’s entire fabric is constructed by precept planks that are soaked through and stained by man’s arrogant rebellion against our Creator God.

In sum, liberalism is folly. It represents man’s futile attempt to disorder God’s natural order. It’s the unholy brainchild of God’s very first enemy, given by that enemy to God’s favored creation, us, with the sole purpose of destroying that creation.

Unfortunately, we’re all too happy to help. Liberalism just formalizes the process, making sin public policy.

Volumes could be penned on the myriad ways in which the central tenets of liberalism violate each of the Ten Commandments. The following is a much truncated analysis:

The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17):

1. Thou Shalt Have No Gods Before Me.
At worst, liberalism denies the very existence of God in the forms of atheism and secularism, while, at best, it adopts that wonderfully “inclusive” blasphemy called religious pluralism. Pluralism presumes to give the false gods of false religions equal footing and denies Christ as He defined Himself: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Liberal “Christianity” falls under this category. It’s pluralism with a Christian stamp.
Secular humanism, liberalism’s prevailing false religion, denies God altogether and crowns man as king over himself and the measure of all things. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

2. Thou Shalt Not Make Graven Images.
We’re talking idolatry here. Liberalism is built on it. First, there’s literal idolatry (the worship of man-made idols, animals or inanimate objects) enjoyed by our New Age friends. And then there’s everything else: pantheistic environmentalism, the idols of “reproductive freedom,” “sexual liberation and equality,” etc.
Essentially, liberalism worships the created over the Creator. Liberalism also worships the sins of the flesh (see Commandments No. 1, 6 and 7).

3. Thou Shalt Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain.
To deny God is to take the Lord’s name in vain. To deny God as He defines Himself is to take the Lord’s name in vain. To misrepresent God, to call other gods God or to deny the deity of Christ is to take the Lord’s name in vain. Liberalism does this and much more. Many liberals also mock Christ, Christianity and Christians. They revile the exclusive nature of Jesus, His commands and His faithful followers. They hate truth.

4. Remember to Keep Holy the Sabbath.
This one is a bit tricky as it is widely understood to fall under the Jewish ceremonial law, not the moral law – the old covenant, not the new. Christ Himself healed (worked) on the Sabbath. That said, many Christians still view Sunday as the Sabbath and do, indeed, keep it holy. Not all liberals (there are certainly liberal Jews), but liberalism at large denies the Sabbath any significance whatsoever, much less a holy significance.

5. Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother.
Liberalism seeks to supplant parents with “progressive” government. It diminishes parental rights and encourages children to rebel against the antiquated conventions held by mom and dad. It denies that children even need a mother and father and bristles at the “heteronormative” lack of “gender neutrality” inherent within the very words “mother and father.” The sin-centered, counter-biblical notion of “gay marriage” desecrates God’s design for true marriage and family and is intended to undermine these cornerstone institutions.

6. Thou Shalt Not Murder.
Abortion, euthanasia, “pro-choice,” “reproductive rights,” “death with dignity.” Need I say more? Sacrosanct is the liberal rite of passage for a feminist mother to slaughter her own child in the womb. Fifty-five million dead babies later, liberals continue to worship at the pagan altar of “choice” (see Commandments No. 1 and 2).

7. Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery.
This means all sexual immorality as identified in the scriptures, to include marital infidelity, fornication, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, et al. Liberalism, it seems, embraces all perversions of God’s design for human sexuality. Central to liberalism is moral relativism. When it comes to sex, you can do no wrong because there is no wrong.

8. Thou Shalt Not Steal.
With class warfare as its fuel, liberalism embraces the redistributionist philosophies of Marx and Engels. Liberalism thrives on theft. Like some completely incompetent and inefficient Robin Hood, liberal government steals from the middle class to give to the poor, thereby ensuring that liberal politicians remain in power and everyone else remains miserable.

9. Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness.
I give you Saul Alinsky from his Rules for Radicals: “The third rule of ethics of means and ends is that in war the end justifies almost any means.” As we’ve learned from Barack “you can keep your insurance” Obama, that includes lying. Liberals lie. That’s what they do. The ends justify the means. Bearing false witness about detractors of liberalism is par for the course.

10. Thou Shalt Not Covet.
Again, liberalism uses man’s inherent covetousness as the driving force behind all liberal economic policies. Creating a political climate of economic envy and class warfare gives liberal government the cover needed to take wealth from those who produce and redistribute it to those who don’t. Not only does liberalism violate this commandment, liberalism commands its adherents to do the exact opposite. “Thou shalt covet.”

As Satan “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), so, too, does liberalism masquerade as good. It’s deceptively packaged in flowery euphemisms and feel-good sound bites that promise “equality,” “tolerance” and libertine notions of “social justice.”

Yet, in reality, liberalism, in both philosophical and practical terms, simply signifies man’s predisposition to “call evil good and good evil.” It’s sin, all dolled up and doled out.

Ronald Reagan once quipped, “I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress.”

If the Gipper had lived another couple decades, he might’ve found out.