Saturday, September 19, 2009

More on the Racism Question

Via Cliff over at One Utah.

Co-Blogging at Man With a Mud-Rake

I've been invited to join the team over there. Check it out.

It's Not About Race

The New York Times published an op-ed piece by David Brooks entitled, "No, It's not about race." In it, Mr. Brooks argues, partly from personal observation, that the suggestion of racial motives being the cause of the discontent of many protesters is false. He very succinctly traces the history of Jeffersonian philosophy versus that of Hamilton, concluding that it is political ideology which separates us, not race.

Barack Obama leads a government of the highly educated. His movement includes urban politicians, academics, Hollywood donors and information-age professionals. In his first few months, he has fused federal power with Wall Street, the auto industry, the health care industries and the energy sector.

Given all of this, it was guaranteed that he would spark a populist backlash, regardless of his skin color. And it was guaranteed that this backlash would be ill mannered, conspiratorial and over the top — since these movements always are, whether they were led by Huey Long, Father Coughlin or anybody else.

What's your opinion? Do you think David Brooks has the right idea, or do you prefer the explanation of Maureen Dowd which we discussed recently? Personally I like both. Are they mutually exclusive, do you think? Couldn't both exist simultaneously?

Are you concerned with the consolidation of federal power, the way it's described here? Obama has "fused federal power with Wall Street," etc.? Is that the real problem many people have with this administration?

Please leave a comment.

Tragic Suicide in Gun-Friendly Vermont reports on the terrible incident in which a teenager took his own life last April with a handgun.

15-year-old Aaron Xue shot himself at Essex High School on April 17, 2009. An investigation determined Aaron got the gun from a friend who took it from his parent's house.

"We were stunned and heartbroken when we learned we lost Aaron because guns were made available to him when he was at a vulnerable moment," said Ge Wu, Aaron's mother.

The bereaved parents are in the news now because they participated in a community forum in their town, trying to find a solution.

They are calling on the state to pass tougher gun laws. They want Vermont to adopt a Child Access Prevention - or CAP - law, which would hold adults criminally responsible if a child gains access to a gun because it is not secure.

"Aaron would have been here today if he had no access to guns that day," Wu said at the forum. "If the guns were not in the hands of that boy that day and if the guns were secured at home by his parent."

The CAP laws are interesting. Why do you suppose they're necessary though? Are some gun owners so irresponsible in the securing of their weapons that they need legislation to encourage proper behaviour? By the way, isn't this the very type of thing that Mike W. denied the existence of? I remember somewhere along the line arguing that some states require gun owners to secure their guns, but Mike said that was false.

Well, as it turns out many states do have such requirements, but sadly for the Xue family, Vermont is not one of them.

What's your opinion? Did gun availability play a part in this tragedy? I've always claimed that since a bullet to the brain is more likely to result in death than other means of suicide, that it does. I find the pro-gun denial of this amazing. I suppose it's their knee-jerk defensive reaction to any criticism of guns. What do you think?

"Even if someone attempts suicide by another means, such as cutting themselves or taking pills, they're much more likely to survive the attempt," pediatrician Eliot Nelson, told the parents gathered at EHS (Essex High School).

To me, this seems like simple common sense, but there are many studies and surveys out there to prove it. Teenagers who kill themselves are good examples of my favorite adage, "suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Liberal Viewer on "You lie," and Health Care to Illegal Immigrants

This guy's the best. What do you think?

Arkansas Inmate off Death Row after 11 Years

The Arkansas News reports on the good news for Sedrice Maurice Simpson. It's also good news for opponents of Capital Punishment.

Condemned killer Sedrice Maurice Simpson moved off Arkansas’ death row after 11 years Thursday after a federal judge commuted his death sentence.

The state had agreed with Simpson’s lawyers that he was mentally retarded and should not be executed.

In a two-page ruling filed Thursday, U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes accepted their joint recommendation and ordered Simpson to serve two life sentences without the possibility of parole in the 1997 shotgun slayings of grocery clerks Wendy Pennington and Lena Sue Garner in Dallas County.

“He’s no longer on death row status,” state prison spokeswoman Dina Tyler said Thursday, though she said Simpson will remain at the Varner Supermax Unit near Grady for the time being.

Simpson was convicted of two counts of capital murder in 1998. In 2007, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted him a new hearing on his claim of mental retardation and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel hired a psychologist to test his IQ.

State law prohibits execution of inmates with an IQ below 65. Simpson’s IQ is 59, Holmes wrote in his ruling.

You would think that a man with an IQ like that would come to the attention of the courts long before spending 11 years on Death Row. That kind of mental retardation shows. Did the judge and the jury who convicted him just ignore it? Is this another case of incompetent legal defense?

In any case, this marks a major victory for the Abolition of the Death Penalty movement. Needless to say, I personally consider severe mental retardation a mitigating factor. What's your opinion? If a person commits a crime, does it not matter how smart he is? Is it possible to have a low IQ and still understand the difference between right and wrong? I say, if the answer to that is "yes," then punishment is indeed appropriate, but not death.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Mayor Robert Romano of Vineland New Jersey

The Daily Journal published an article about the mayor of a small town in New Jersey, a mayor who is a gun owner and in favor of gun control.

Mayor Robert Romano has supported legal gun ownership most of his life.

He got his first pistol -- a .38 special -- when he joined the city's Police Department in 1974 and currently owns four registered handguns. He believes people have the right to own guns, but must do it legally.

Now, the cop-turned-mayor's stance on illegal guns is drawing fire from the nation's most active gun-rights group.

Shortly after taking office last fall, Romano joined Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of hundreds of mayors across the country dedicated to enforcing proper gun ownership.

The NRA is very effective in bringing about political change. When they decided to attack the Mayors Against Illegal Guns, what they did was mail postcards to their members in selected areas urging them to make their disapproval of the mayor known. So powerful is this mechanism of the democratic process that the overall number of mayors belonging to the group dropped. It seems to me this is a type of lobbying trick that has nothing to do with what's right or what's best. It doesn't even concern itself with what the majority want. It only seeks to achieve an agenda. Here is Mayor Romano's response.

"People that obtain guns illegally or carry guns illegally, that's what I'm against," Romano said. "I don't want people to think I'm against legal guns. I'm not."

He has made that clear to the dozen or so local NRA members who have contacted him since receiving the NRA's mailing last week.

The NRA urged its New Jersey members to call, e-mail and write Romano and other mayors to ask them to support law-abiding gun owners and publicly disassociate themselves with the coalition.

The tactic has worked, with dozens of mayors dropping their association. Romano, though, says he won't be swayed.

He is one of 38 mayors in New Jersey remaining in the coalition -- a drop from 43 last week.

"As a mayor, we should be consolidated together to fight against illegal guns because that's the biggest issue police are fighting today," Romano said.

Who could have anything but respect for a man like that? He says the Mayors Against Illegal Guns is not an anti-gun organization, but rather it's anti-crime. What's your opinion? Do you think it's possible that the Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the Brady Campaign and the others are actually doing what they say they are doing, which is trying to find ways to reduce the gun violence? Do you think it's possible that these people are well-intentioned in their efforts?

Isn't it clear that the NRA, on the other hand, is only interested in accomplishing an agenda, the agenda being, to block and resist anything and everything that has to do with gun control? Or, are they well-intentioned as well?

Please leave a comment.

What's your opinion?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Texans and Trespassing

The Houston Chronicle reports on the latest incident of a homeowner shooting trespassers.

An 85-year-old man is in the Travis County Jail accused of shooting at seven workers who were clearing brush near his property.

An affidavit says none of the Piatra Inc. workers were injured, but some of the rounds struck near them Sunday. They had been hired by the city of Austin to help clear brush Sunday.

Henry Ralph Schots thought they were trespassing and allegedly fired eight shots from a .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun toward the brush.

The workers called police who arrested Schots.

Schots was in the Travis County Jail Tuesday night, charged with seven felony counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

It reminds me of the Muhs story. Although much more tragic, the Muhs couple actually committed murder, the mechanism and the mentality is the same. These are people who supposedly are enjoying their rights to own guns for home protection but in reality are so paranoid and mentally unstable they become a danger.

What's the solution? I don't know. What do you think? Is this the price we must pay so the majority of normal healthy home-owners can have guns? I don't know. Are these incidents so rare that we can dismiss them as anomalies? I don't think so. Just like the defenders of a high estimation of DGUs like to point out, also here you've got many cases which never come to the attention of anyone. Aggressive threatening with guns when no threat existed. If pressed these people report the as defensive acts, further inflating those numbers, but they are crimes. And they are crimes committed by supposedly law-abiding gun owners.

What's your opinion?

Road Rage in Pennsylvania reports on the former Marine arrested for shooting another motorist in a road rage incident.

A former Marine was charged in a road-rage shooting that critically injured a New Jersey motorist driving his 8-year-old daughter to her home in suburban Philadelphia, police said today.

Authorities thanked the public for helping to find suspect Christian Squillaciotti, 33, who had been at large for about a week. He was arrested Monday at his South Philadelphia home and charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and other offenses.

No wonder the Philadelphia cops are so dangerous, they've got guys like this going around with guns. It boggles the mind that someone can get that angry. Maybe he didn't see the kid, maybe it happened very quickly before he'd had a chance to think, but it still boggles the mind.

The incident happened last October. It's in the news today because the trial is about to begin. The defense attorney claims that his client suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.

Police said they recovered the truck and several weapons from his house, including a gun that is the same caliber as the one used to shoot Timko. Bethel would not confirm if it is the weapon investigators believe was used in the crime.

Police released few details about Squillaciotti, except to say that he has a martial arts background and was honorably discharged from the Marines. He has no criminal record, Bethel said.

"No criminal record" must mean he owned the guns legally and up until the moment of shooting Timko, was one of the law-abiding gun owners of America. Please refer to my post entitled "The Famous 10%." Mr. Squillaciotti probably belonged to several of the categories that comprise the 10%, apparently proving one of the criticisms I've received about the theory. However, if you read carefully, you'll see that I downplayed each of the percentages and knocked off a couple points at the end to compensate for that problem.

The point is the enormous population of gun owning people in the United States includes people like this. This means it's not black and white, it's not good guys and bad guys. There is a huge gray area from which we have never-ending trouble.

What's your opinion?

No New Trial for Charles Dean Hood reports on the decision made in the case of death row inmate Charles Dean Hood.

A death row inmate in Texas does not deserve a new trial even though the judge in his case was having an affair with the prosecutor, a state appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Charles Dean Hood was granted a last-minute reprieve in June 2008 when a former district attorney came forward to confirm long-rumored reports of the affair. The judge and prosecutor later admitted to the secret affair under oath.

In a 6-3 opinion, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Hood's request on the basis that his defense team did not raise the issue in their initial appeal despite the fact that they were aware of the rumors.

"Accordingly, the application is dismissed as an abuse of the writ," the court ruled.

To me, that sounds like Mr. Hood got the shaft. What do you think? Does it mean that if they had raised this objection in the first appeal, a new trial would be allowed? Sounds like the Lone Star State is getting off on a technicality. The only problem is we're talking about a Capital case in which a man's life is on the line.

Wouldn't it be more to the point to examine the decisions made during the trial to see if the judge and prosecutor lovers had teamed up in some way to the detriment of the defendant? Nevertheless, I'd say in a death penalty case, no shadow of impropriety can be allowed.

Here's what I had to say about the case before.

The man should have a new trial. And Judge Holland and Prosecutor O'Connell should be disciplined.

What's your opinion? For a proper analysis of the case go to Talk Left.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Frank Zappa - Joe's Garage

Jon Stewart on the September 12th Protest

As our frequent commenter kaveman pointed out, I'm not as bad as the guy who uses The Onion for his information. I prefer The Daily Show.
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Leroy Nash, Oldest Death Row Inmate provides a short bio.

Date of Birth: Sept. 10, 1915.

While serving two consecutive life sentences for murder and robbery in Utah, Nash escaped. Three weeks later, on Nov. 3, 1982, he entered a coin shop in north Phoenix, demanded money from an employee, Gregory West, and then shot West three times with a .357 Colt trooper. Another employee was in the line of fire but was not hit. As Nash fled, the proprietor of a nearby shop pointed a gun at him and told him to stop. Nash grabbed the weapon, and the two men struggled over it. Police officers soon arrived and arrested Nash.

But if you want to read a glorified version, go here to the CCADP site.

This man is a survivor. Born in Utah, in 1915, only a handful of years after Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, he is a living link with a bygone era, growing up at the time of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, in the infamous days of prohibition, when the Mob ruled Chicago and Al Capone was King. In the year that Nash entered this world, the Lusitania was sunk, Wyatt Earp was very much alive and American had yet to enter the First World War.

Their glamorizing of his life goes on from there. The American counterparts of this Canadian organization do the same thing. I guess for them, the death penalty is so abhorrent they actually see the condemned men as victims.

I don't go that far myself. I oppose the death penalty, but I see no reason to avoid the fact that most of these guys are extremely violent and dangerous and should never get out of jail.

Being contrary to Capital Punishment, I feel any time a condemned person dies of old age or from natural causes as a victory of sorts. Anything that avoids the Government having to do this is a good thing.

What's your opinion?

10-Year-Old Shoots and Kills his Father

The local ABC News in Albuquerque reports on the 10-year-old boy who shot his father in the head because of too much punishment.

Belen police have charged a 10 year-old-boy with first degree murder in the shooting death of his father.Police said officers responded to a Valencia County home after getting a call around 7 p.m. Thursday from 10-year-old Benjamin Hilburn.

When police arrived, they found 42-year-old Bryon Hilburn shot once in the head. Police believe Benjamin used his own rifle to fatally shoot his father.The boy reportedly told police he felt his father was disciplining him too harshly and too often.

This case is eerily similar to another one which happened last year in Arizona. In that one the young shooter was only 8-years-old, and amazingly was initially charged with murder too.

In the case of Benjamin Hilburn, although there were no bruises or marks found on him, there was reason to believe his story.

But Romaine Serna with the Children, Youth and Families Department said the agency had been called to check on the family more than seven times since 2003, after anonymous reports of child abuse and neglect.

But, even so, my question is where did a 10-year-old learn to solve problems like that? Do you think in some way his father taught him that, and it resulted in his own death? How ironic and sad, huh?

Serna also said there were a lot of weapons in this home."It was a family sport, they were avid shooters," she said.New Mexico state law says only handguns are restricted for people under the age of 18. By law, Benjamin was allowed to own a rifle and use it with parental supervision.

With parental supervision, indeed. What's your opinion? Do you think there was something wrong in that home in the way their weapons were secured? Wouldn't "with parental supervision" mean the boy shouldn't be able to use the guns on his own? Is that practical in a "shooting" home? Wouldn't stricter laws relating to children and guns prevent something like this? We're talking about lawful gun owners, who presumably would obey the laws, so this wouldn't require criminal compliance, but simply the compliance of the law abiding. What do you think?

Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The September 12th Protest March

Thanks to Skyewriter for the following incredible video. She's posted two others, also well worth the time.

I was reminded of what I read yesterday on Weer'd Beard's blog. At his request I'm not providing a link, but here's what I'm talking about.

I am 100% behind these people and their cause, and I get goosebumps seeing HUGE crowds of people all carrying American Flags, and Gadsden Flags, and signs and chants against policies I'd like to never see come to fruition.

I'd love to say that those HUGE fucking crowds will tip off the creeps on capitol hill that a LOT of people disagree with them, and for every head there is down in the streets, there are many more heads, like mine, nodding in agreement.

Skye called it "Live from Jupiter," as in "what planet are you from?"

Guns are Bad News for Women - Especially in Kentucky reports on the sad story of a former state legislator who is implicated in the shooting death of his ex-partner who had filed a domestic abuse restraining order against him.

An emergency protective order filed against former state legislator Steve Nunn by his one-time fiancee specifically prohibited him from the possession or purchase of a firearm.

The domestic violence order obtained by Amanda Ross in March says that "in order to assist in eliminating specific acts of domestic violence and abuse: Respondent is further ordered not to possess, purchase, or attempt to possess, purchase or obtain a firearm during the duration of this order."

Ross, 29, was shot to death on Friday outside of her home. No one has been charged in her death.

Nunn was arrested in Hart County on Friday afternoon after allegedly firing a .38-caliber handgun when police officers approached him. He was charged with six counts of wanton endangerment. Lexington police have said he is a person of interest in the death of Ross.

Nunn was taken to the Bowling Green Medical Center with self-inflicted wounds on his wrists. He was still there on Sunday night, State Police said. He is expected to be moved to the Hart County Jail on Monday.

Police have not said whether the handgun he allegedly brandished belonged to Nunn or where he might have obtained it.

This must be another misuse of the word "brandish." Recently we had lengthy discussions about whether openly carrying guns at the presidential appearances could be called "brandishing." Most agreed it could not, even though a secondary definition of the word could apply.

1. To wave or flourish (a weapon, for example) menacingly.
2. To display ostentatiously.

But in today's story, I really don't see how the word could be used. He was said to have fired at police, then they call it "brandishing?" Is that some kind of attempt to downplay the offense? What do you think?

About the title of the post, "Guns are Bad News for Women - Especially in Kentucky," does anyone deny this - like the the last time we discussed it? Here we've got a state in which restraining orders and histories of abusing spouses and partners need not prohibit a man from enjoying his gun rights.

Federal law prohibits someone who has a protective order against them from having a weapon. But that law doesn't require courts or law enforcement to confiscate a gun or other weapon. In other words, domestic violence offenders in many cases continue to possess their guns after their offenses against women.

Kentucky has no state law regarding the possession of weapons by a person who has a domestic violence order against them, but judges often address the issue specifically if an allegation includes information about weapons, Thomas said. Although allegations about weapons are not clear from court documents, Family Court Judge Tim Philpot made the prohibition against them specific for Nunn.

So, in practice, it depends on the case by case pronouncement of the judge. And in this case, for example, Nunn was prohibited. But did officers of the court go to his house and take his gins away? Was he required to surrender all his weapons or face contempt of court charges? It doesn't sound like it.

So, once again the sorry combination of factors makes for a mess. The prevalence of men abusing women combined with the weak gun laws in Kentucky has resulted in another preventable death. May Amanda Ross rest in peace and may her relatives and loved ones find forgiveness and acceptance in their hearts.

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Bullets Ain't Got No Eyes

The Washigton Post reports on the latest fatal shootings to take place in the North East sector.

Two people were killed and two others wounded in shootings over the weekend in Northeast Washington. In one incident, a 16-year-old boy was shot in the head, according to D.C. police and neighbors.

The violence, in the 6th Police District, began at 9:27 p.m. Saturday, when officers were called to the 5000 block of Just Street NE for a shooting and found Antonio Ward, 16, of the District lying dead.

A witness to the shooting, Bennie Bellinger, 76, was watching TV when she heard what sounded like gunfire just outside her home. Bullets had actually pierced her front window. Her car windows were shattered, too.

"Good thing wasn't nobody sitting there," she said. "Bullets ain't got no eyes."

In another case, Jason Liser, 32, of Bowie was found with multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to a hospital, where he died. There were no witnesses and no suspects in this killing.

My question is, where do you think those guns came from? Do you think they originated in the District of Columbia? Or do you think it more likely they were imported from Virginia or Georgia or Louisiana or Mississippi? The pro-gun crowd keeps trying to say that violence like this proves the local gun control laws don't work. I say it's just the opposite. If those guns came from neighboring states with easier access to guns, then these incidents prove that gun control laws do work. The obvious solution, albeit a partial one, would be to regularize those laws to apply everywhere. I guess we could call this gun control harmony, what do you think?

Please leave a comment.

Rest in Peace Patrick

Monday, September 14, 2009

Friday Evening in New Orleans's Ramon Antonio Vargas reports on the unusual spate of shootings which took place on Friday night.

Marking an exceptionally bloody 11-hour period in New Orleans, 12 people were shot in seven separate attacks between 3 p.m., Friday, and 2 a.m., Saturday, local authorities said.

Two of the victims -- Charlie Johnson Jr., 31, and David Handy, 19, both of New Orleans -- died from their injuries, New Orleans police said.

Despite near-constant rain -- the sort of weather that tends to keep outlaws indoors -- gunfire erupted across town, from eastern New Orleans to Central City and Gentilly to Algiers, and taxed paramedics beyond any experience in recent memory, said Dr. Jullette Saussy, director New Orleans Emergency Medical Services.

It's interesting that when this kind of thing happens in Chicago or Newark, the pro-gun crowd is quick to say it proves the gun laws don't work in those cities. They never mention New Orleans though, which most years leads the nation in murders per capita, and enjoys some of the most lax gun laws in the country.

The last time a dozen people were shot in a single day was Mardi Gras, with seven victims wounded in a shootout along the St. Charles Avenue parade route.

I don't know if that's clear enough. The Mardi Gras they're talking about was just a few months ago, it was earlier this year.

It seems to me we're all becoming jaded to the fact that criminal gun play is rampant in our major cities. It's hardly newsworthy any more. The pro-gun crowd is carrying on about their rights and demanding what they call "freedom," while young criminals find it easier and easier to get guns.

The connection between the two seemingly disparate worlds is a direct one. Those guns used in 12 shootings during one Friday evening in the Big Easy all started out as the legal property of some gun dealer. Then, by various means those guns found their way into the criminal world. What's the lawful gun owner's response? "Well, I don't know nothin'. I didn't do anything wrong."

The fact is somebody's doing something wrong, and if you could follow the gun back to its origins you'd see that that somebody is a so-called lawful gun owner or gun dealer. I say to them, take responsibility for what's yours. Take responsibility for the mess that's going on in places like New Orleans.

What's your opinion?

The Voices of the Unarmed

The New York Times published an op-ed piece entitled "Good Sense in Tennessee."

Safety-minded localities in gun-friendly Tennessee have delivered a blunt and very welcome lesson in gun control to the National Rifle Association. While Tennessee’s ever-obeisant Legislature has enacted a law permitting handguns in all state and local parks, about 70 cities and counties have voted to opt out of this latest lock-and-load obsession from the N.R.A.

The message is obvious: folks at the local level will not be bullied by the gun lobby. Local municipalities have rejected legislation which allows guns to be carried in hundreds of parks — "including public playgrounds, campgrounds, greenways and nature trails."

Few state politicians anticipated there would be local resistance. But bans were voted by Nashville and Memphis and dozens of suburban counties and rural communities.

It's very interesting that the surprise resistance to gun friendly legislation comes from two of the largest urban centers as well as many rural ones. What's your opinion? Do pro-gun folks, who object so strenuously to the federal government dictating policies that affect them, feel the state government should have this same power? It seems the NRA thinks this.

The gun lobby is not giving up, of course. It is already marshaling lobbyists and cash to ensure the next Legislature strips localities of their right to just say no.

What's your opinion?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bill Maher on Obama's Health Care Speech

Thanks to kavemen for a wonderful compliment, I've decided to turn to Bill Maher for more info on the health care story. Actually, what I like about Maher is that he's extremely critical of the President. Some of the others are very funny in their observations about the right, but Bill Maher really says it like it is. What do you think?

Is It Really About Racism?

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Maureen Dowd on "You Lie"

The New York Times published an op-ed piece by Maureen Dowd, entitled "Boy, Oh, Boy." In it, Ms. Dowd pulls no punches in assigning racist motivations not only to the unprecidented outburst of Congressman Wilson, but to the the general animosity being shown President Obama.

The outburst was unexpected from a milquetoast Republican backbencher from South Carolina who had attracted little media attention. Now it has made him an overnight right-wing hero, inspiring “You lie!” bumper stickers and T-shirts.

The congressman, we learned, belonged to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, led a 2000 campaign to keep the Confederate flag waving above South Carolina’s state Capitol and denounced as a “smear” the true claim of a black woman that she was the daughter of Strom Thurmond, the ’48 segregationist candidate for president. Wilson clearly did not like being lectured and even rebuked by the brainy black president presiding over the majestic chamber.

This is exactly where conservatives have veered from the path of acceptable debate and disagreement. And attempts to justify Rep. Wilson's actions by saying Bush had received much of the same, are the height of rationalization. Here's an example, read the comments.

In debating the gun enthusiasts and being continually surprised at the depth of their ill will towards President Obama, I suggested it was due to his gun politics. This was roundly denied, most pro-gun commenters claiming that his gun control sympathies are only a small part of what's wrong with Obama as president. I had another idea which I dared not mention. Maureen Dowd has dared though.

I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids — had much to do with race.

I tended to agree with some Obama advisers that Democratic presidents typically have provoked a frothing response from paranoids — from Father Coughlin against F.D.R. to Joe McCarthy against Truman to the John Birchers against J.F.K. and the vast right-wing conspiracy against Bill Clinton.

But Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president — no Democrat ever shouted “liar” at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq — convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it.

What's your opinion? Is the fact that Barack Obama is a black man, the unspoken problem? Do you think that plays a role in what we've been seeing in the news? Is there anyone commenting here with the guts to admit this, either about themselves or the others? As politically incorrect as overt racism is, perhaps integrity and honesty might overcome the inhibitions, and some would be willing to admit it.

For two centuries, the South has feared a takeover by blacks or the feds. In Obama, they have both.

What do you think?

Sebastian on Glock

On his wonderful blog, Snowflakes in Hell, Sebastian makes an interesting observation about the Business Week cover story on Glock that came out the other day.

It raises some questions about the business structure and profits of Glock, but I’m not sure what they are describing is illegal.

I very well may have missed something or misunderstood, but it seems to me the Business Week article is rife with allegations of not only intrigue and the usual dirty shenanigans that go on in business, but plenty of illegal activity as well.

Among the Glock-related material the IRS allegedly is examining: boxes of invoices and memos provided by the company's former senior executive in the U.S., Paul F. Jannuzzo. Once one of the most prominent gun industry executives in America, Jannuzzo said in a federal complaint he filed last year that Gaston Glock used his companies' complicated structure to conceal profits from American tax authorities. "[Glock] has organized an elaborate scheme to both skim money from gross sales and to launder those funds through various foreign entities," Jannuzzo alleged in the sealed May 12, 2008, IRS filing, which BusinessWeek has reviewed. "The skim is approximately $20.00 per firearm sold," according to the complaint. Glock's U.S. unit, which generates the bulk of the company's sales, has sold about 5 million pistols since the late 1980s, Jannuzzo estimates in an interview.

Jannuzzo is currently being prosecuted by the Cobb County District Attorney's Office for siphoning corporate money into a Cayman Islands account. Jannuzzo, who left the company in 2003, claims he's the victim of a vendetta.

In the U.S., Jannuzzo and another former Glock executive, Peter S. Manown, have claimed that for years they distributed company funds to their wives and Glock employees with the understanding that the money would be donated to congressional candidates—an apparent violation of U.S. election law.

The Glock company seems to have more than its share of intrigue and internal turmoil. Beginning in 1987, the Austrian industrialist had employed Charles Ewert to head up the sales end of the business.

Ewert, a mustachioed Luxembourg resident now in his late 50s, it turns out was a purveyor of shell companies: paper corporations that can be used to shield income from taxation—sometimes legitimately and sometimes in questionable ways. Ewert designed a network of shells to lessen the gun empire's exposure to product liability and potential taxation, according to documents filed with the Luxembourg court.

Perhaps those questionable ways were within the letter of the law, but one wonders about the integrity of Mr. Ewart when it turns out he tried to have Mr. Glock killed.

Over time, Ewert transferred ownership of some of the Glock-affiliated shells to himself, according to Luxembourg court judgments. Suspicious of Ewert, Gaston Glock sought an explanation in July 1999. On the afternoon of a meeting scheduled at Ewert's office near the tony Rue Royale in central Luxembourg, Glock was attacked in an underground garage. The hit man, a former professional wrestler and French Legionnaire named Jacques Pecheur, bashed the businessman on the head with a rubber mallet, a technique apparently aimed at making it look like the victim had fallen down and fatally injured himself. Glock, physically fit from daily swimming—often in the frigid lake abutting his home near Klagenfurt, Austria—fought back. When police arrived, they found Glock bleeding from gashes to his skull. Pecheur, 67, was unconscious.

Luxembourg investigators found Ewert's business card in Pecheur's car and determined that the two had met at a gun range in Paris in 1998. Both were convicted of participating in a conspiracy to kill Glock. Pecheur received a sentence of 17 years, Ewert 20.

My overall reaction to this story is to have admiration for Gaston Glock. His rise to prominence in the international gun manufacturing business is impressive as is his personally beating off a would-be assassin. But to say "I’m not sure what they are describing is illegal," as Sebastian did, I just don't understand.

The Business Week article is a chronicle of illegal activity, granted it's the kind that many big businesses engage in, but it's certainly illegal.

What's your opinion? Is there a problem with American law enforcement doing business with a shady company like Glock? Or is that beside the point, the point being their product is superior and that's all the clients need be interested in?

I'm sure Sebastian can explain what he meant, but why do you think he would defend the Glock company like that? Is the pro-gun position to give the benefit of the doubt to gun manufacturers even in the face of all those allegations? Do you think the dirty dealings which may go on within the manufacturer's company somehow taint the consumers of the product, the gun buying public in this case?

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Lock 'em Up, That's the Answer

AztecRed, whose blog I like very much, said in a recent comment, "If you can't trust someone enough to own a gun, you can't trust them enough to not be locked up."

The discussion that followed indicated that not all pro-gun folks agree, but many do. These are the same guys who generally believe in harsher treatment of criminals, even young ones guilty of their first offense. The problems of overcrowding in prisons and the near non-existence of rehabilitation does not concern these law-and-order types. This video made me think about all that.

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Guns and Africa

The Economist published an article on the flow of guns in Africa.

THE UN reckons there are some 500m small arms in circulation around the world. At least 70m are Kalashnikovs. The Soviet-designed automatic assault rifle, the Avtomat Kalashnikova, was first manufactured in 1947 (hence its commonest version, the AK-47). Its compactness and durability have made it Africa’s killing weapon of choice since the 1980s, despite its inaccuracy. These days, the continent has all of the score of Kalashnikov variants, including the AKM, the Chinese Type 56, and the Serbian Zastava M70.

I remember commenters claiming not to care what goes on in Mexico and Canada. I don't suppose those guys will be too concerned about this. But it is interesting, and may put some of our other discussions in perspective.

In an attempt to make it harder for organised criminals to arm themselves, and in a nod to global counter-terrorist efforts, a group of ten eastern and central African countries, including Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda, which owe their liberation movements partly to the Kalashnikov, has agreed to harmonise gun laws.

Now, there's an interesting idea. African borders are easily crossed, much like the state borders in the U.S., and so the obvious solution to them is to "harmonize gun laws" among the different countries. This is one of the solutions proposed by gun control folks in America. Even in Africa, which is not known for its cutting edge politics, they know this much.

What's your opinion? Is the autonomy of individual states in the U.S. more important than attempting to make a unified effort at gun control? Aren't there already many areas in which the federal government "harmonizes" states' efforts? Why do some people resist this when it comes to guns?

What do you think about the statement, "500m small arms in circulation around the world. At least 70m are Kalashnikovs?" Does that sound right to you? How does that jibe with the U.S. numbers we always throw around, 50M, 80M, and so forth? Are we talking about the same thing, "small arms?"

Please leave a comment if you'd like.