Saturday, April 11, 2009
Paul Helmke on the Gallup Poll
This polling information was collected last October, which Gallup does mention in its third paragraph. Yet it certainly begs the question: Why publish a statement based on data that is almost six months old, in the wake of a string of mass shootings committed over the past month?
The pressures of getting into the news cycle are powerful, but the important question is what Americans believe about gun violence prevention policy today.
What's even more disturbing is for Gallup to ask Americans whether or not they support a total ban on handguns when that policy has not been pursued nationwide in years and totally ignores the current debate on gun violence prevention.
It seems the Gallup Poll, that inviolate bastion of truth all Americans respect, is just another mouthpiece for the gun lobby. What else could explain the terrible discrepancies Paul pointed out?
The Bradys, meanwhile, conducted their own survey. Not surprising, very different results were achieved.
For example, the Brady Campaign commissioned a survey of 1,083 people who voted on Election Day last year to find out their attitudes on a handful of gun law proposals. The results showed:
83% of voters support requiring background checks for all gun sales in this country;
68% support registration of gun sales and licensing of gun owners; and
65% support banning military-style assault weapons;
These wide majorities include McCain voters and gun owners who support these policies, as well. (Not surprisingly, some of these results compare favorably to a CNN poll taken in June of last year.)
What's your opinion? Is it possible that the folks who run the Gallup Poll can be influenced by external forces? Is it conceivable that some of them, the ones making Gallup decisions, are biased towards the pro-gun side?
Those three ideas presented by the Bradys as having wide support among the American people, do you think they're practical? Who are the people opposing background checks for all gun transactions? What do they find objectionable in that?
Is registering and licensing guns and gun owners something we could do? Wouldn't that help?
And what about those famous "assault weapons?" Have we agreed on a definition we can all live with? Is such a thing possible, to define them?
What's your opinion? Why do some gun owners resist the Brady approach so vehemently? Why are they so threatened by all this?
Please leave a comment.
Murder / Suicide in Dearborn Michigan
A man and woman were found dead in a classroom building on the campus of Henry Ford Community College, Dearborn Deputy Chief Gregg Brighton said.
Investigators believe the man shot the woman but would not provide further information, Brighton said.
A shotgun was involved in the incident, which occurred in a classroom that was not being used, he said.
It's difficult to muster the usual cries for gun control when the weapon used is a shotgun. I imagine the old standby weapon, the one that's truly as American as apple pie, would be the last to be restricted in any way. So what can be done about cases like this? How can we prevent these types of incidents, the shotgun killings, from happening? Whom can we blame for this one?
Well, I have some ideas about that. First of all, one of the problems here is the mentality that says "shooting it dead" is a viable option. This has become so pervasive in our society that it's not even noticed any more. The mentally disturbed person, and I mean that in the broadest possible way, at times cannot distinguish between a conflict situation that merits a direct attack and one that requires some subtlety of negotiation or compromise.
I see this in our friends who insist that carrying a gun is the answer to - to what? To the infinitesimal possibility that one day they'll be confronted with a life-or-death situation and having a gun at hand will save the day? As soon as a person opts for this solution, their immediate world is changed. They, by constraint, must look at every person and every situation with suspicion, continually searching for untoward behaviour. To do anything less would be irresponsible. They have to be continually ready to determine if a situation requires armed intervention.
The proverbial hippies who lived in communes in Northern California in the 60s had a better grip on life. And they made a better contribution. As unrealistic as their worldview was, it's a far cry better than the one that says carrying a gun is the answer. And I mean carrying a gun in one's daily life, where the chances of being threatened are practically nil, or carrying one onto campus to resolve a conflict with your girlfriend.
What's your opinion? Should shotguns be banned? That's a joke.
What do you think about the statement of Marjorie Swan, vice president and controller of the college.
"Our hearts go out to the family and the friends of the young woman who lost her life today," Swan said.
Isn't something missing there? Isn't the young shooter as much a victim as the girl he shot? Didn't we as a society fail him in some way? Now, what, are we writing him off as someone who committed a crime? If he'd lived he'd merit the death penalty I suppose, and dead, he gets only our opprobrium. Is that it?
My heart goes out to both victims and their families. My heart goes out to the other 100 people, give or take, who lost their lives to gun violence yesterday.
Please leave a comment.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Controversial Album Covers
It’s amazing how times change. What would be considered absolutely unacceptable 40 years ago is the norm now. Sometimes I wonder what people will find completely acceptable 40 years from now. Yikes!
In any case, just for fun, here are 30 or so album covers that were either banned, changed to appease an overly prudish public, or sanitized to keep a retailer happy. Enjoy!
Check out the explanation for Bruce Springsteen, ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ (1984). I was laughing out loud.
CIA to Close Secret Prisons
Leon E. Panetta, said agency officers who worked in the program “should not be investigated, let alone punished” because the Justice Department under President George W. Bush had declared their actions legal.
This would be in spite of the fact that Panetta and other top Obama administration officials have said they believe that waterboarding, the near-drowning method used in 2002 and 2003 on three prisoners, is torture, which is illegal under American and international law.
In his first week in office, President Obama banned coercive interrogations and ordered the C.I.A. program closed. Mr. Panetta said that the C.I.A. had not detained any terrorism suspects since he took office in February and added that any suspects captured in the future would be quickly turned over to the American military or to a suspect’s home country.
What do you think about this? Is the fact that torture and secret prisons are things of the past, or is it necessary to prosecute people for having been involved? Is the CIA Director right to say that his people should not be investigated or charged with wrongdoing?
Is the fact that these black sites have been closed and that torture is no longer utilized a feather in Obama's cap? Should he be credited for accomplishing this as he promised during the campaign?
What's your opinion? Please feel free to leave a comment.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Olbermann Gets on Obama
Comrade PhysioProf demands that you hold Obama’s feet to the fire with the same critical rigor that you have Bush’s. If you do not, you will establish yourself as nothing but a political hackfuck just as bad as Bill Kristol.
Today I remembered it when I saw this video. (h/t Delaware Liberal)
Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy
What's your opinion? Do you think Keith Olbermann is living up to Physio Prof's hopes and expectations? Is Obama slacking off on some of his campaign promises? I've been saying all along it's too soon to judge, but this is making me wonder. What about you?
Please leave a comment.
The Pro-Gun Take on All the Shootings
It's not the guns. A 9mm handgun doesn't shoot people on its own. It's not the availability of guns. Some of the people in the above list were prohibited persons. It's not the economy. We see shootings like these even when times are good.
A day or so later, he wrote The Assault Weapons Ban and Mass Shootings..., in which he subjected each of the incidents to an assessment of how the much-vaunted ban on assault weapons would have impacted on the events.
The five non-prohibited perpetrators illustrate the messy, dangerous side to freedom. Sometimes people snap; and sometimes, in statistically insignificant numbers, when they snap they decide to take others with them. Short of dramatically and unConstitutionally changing the American way of life with a complete ban on firearms, there's little that can be done to safeguard against these acts.
I disagree with some of the things he says, for example, I believe the availability of guns does matter, in fact in many cases it makes the whole difference. I also feel that what he calls "statistically insignificant numbers" is debatable. Goodness knows we've discussed both those ideas to death in recent months. My antagonists in the never-ending debate seem to think that the onus is upon me to prove my points. They seem to think that their facts and statistics presented in rebuttal are unassailable and inarguably true. I haven't found them to be so. I remain unconvinced by their arguments.
The main problem I have with Jay's posts is that he's talking about several nationally reported shootings that resulted in about 50 deaths over a month's time. As tragic as they are, during that same time period another approximately 3,000 people died from guns. Now, I've been saying 100 per day, which includes murders, suicides and accidents, and Bob S. came up with some stats that showed it was slightly less than that in 2005. It very well may have escalated to 120 in the last three or four years, but let's call it 90 if you like.
The point is, the 50 killings that made all the headlines are, to use Jay's words, a statistically insignificant part of what's really happening, and that's 3,000 a month (call it 2,500 if you want, Bob).
I say the availability of guns, their easy access, both legal and illegal, made a difference in many of those 3,000 cases. If guns were less available, how many of those 3,000 who died in March would still be alive today? 10, 100, 1000? Perhaps it simply depends upon how much less the availability is. It's probably proportional. I say that the lawful gun owners need to take responsibility for the fact that it's the pool of legally owned guns in America that's continually feeding the black market. It's called gun flow. Stolen and improperly sold weapons combined with the individuals who turn, like the "non-prohibited perpetrators" identified as such by Jay, are what constitutes gun flow - it's weapons and people, and it's anything but insignificant.
What's your opinion? Do you think there might be a middle road? Jay said, "Short of dramatically and unConstitutionally changing the American way of life with a complete ban on firearms, there's little that can be done to safeguard against these acts." Why does it have to be a complete ban? Wouldn't partial bans achieve partial success? Wouldn't enough restrictions to achieve a reduction in the total numbers, address the problem, at least in part.
Please feel free to leave a comment.
The Earthquake in L'Aquila Italy
Tonight I heard about a special unit of the fire fighters that is accompanying people to their half-destroyed homes to retrieve valuables. These are people who fled in the middle of the night with just the clothes on their backs, and they were the lucky ones.
One of the first reports was of a hospital, 90% destroyed in which five children died. The problem is it was built just 15 years ago and the immediate implication is that contractors and local politicians conspired to take short cuts on the building codes. Seismic regulations had already been in place at that time. Our friend Il Principe has a scathing indictment of this form of Italian corruption.
A few years ago in a town called San Giuliano, a school caved in killing 26 kids. The country was outraged. Investigations discovered that some frighteningly high percentage of the schools were in jeopardy. Then it went away. I doubt if much has changed.
My own experience with it was a certain road I used to use driving to work from my old house. When I first started using it, I saw them paving the road. After six months they were back doing it again. By the third or fourth time, I realized they were paving the road so poorly that they'd have to come back within a year and do it all over again. I kid you not, this particular crew of pavers had practically a lifetime's work right there, and no one seemed to care. I multiplied that by what must have been going on in other parts of the city, this is Rome we're talking about. No wonder nothing works.
Anyway, people who choose to live here don't do so because Italy is so organized. They say if you want that you move up to Switzerland or Germany. No thanks.
Mother and Son at the Shooting Range
A central Florida woman who fatally shot her son then killed herself at a shooting range wrote in suicide notes to her boyfriend that she was trying to save her son.
"I'm so sorry," Marie Moore wrote several times. "I had to send my son to heaven and myself to Hell."
She signed two of the notes "Failed Queen."
The ill-fated mother and 20-year-old son went to the shooting range where they rented guns. Video surveillance captured the entire episode. As the boy was taking aim, the mom fatally shot him in the back of the head before turning the gun on herself.
Charles Moore, the husband and father of the victims, told police that Marie Moore had a history of mental illness and had previously attempted suicide and been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in 2002. She left two suicide notes.
"I'm sorry to do this in your place of business, but I had to save my son," one message said. "God made me a queen and I failed. I'm a fallen angel. He turned me into the anti-Christ."
Moore said she could have killed only herself but felt she had to "save" her son and do it in a public way so the world could also be saved. "Hopefully when I die, there will 1,000 years of peace."
The range requires that customers fill out a form with a series of questions, including whether they have ever been convicted of a felony or been declared mentally unstable. But it has no way to verify the information.
I remember reading that suicides are more common at shooting ranges than elsewhere. I guess in the numbed-out state we've allowed ourselves to degenerate into, a single shooting barely bakes the news anymore. The fact is there are over 100 fatal shootings per day. I say it's about time something be done.
This tragic story seems to be a combination of Christian Fundamentalism gone astray and easy access to guns. If a woman like that can fill out a form and get her hands on a gun, something is wrong. Would it be too much to require a stricter qualification process at shooting ranges? Would that infringe on people's rights?
Haven't there been suggestions along the lines of registering guns and registering shooters? Would that be a solution to prevent this type of situation? Why are common sense restrictions like that so difficult to enact? My theory is that the gun lobby crushes them before they can even get started. They do that on behalf of gun enthusiasts who believe any restrictions, even reasonable ones, would lead to a slippery slope, the bottom of which is total gun confiscation.
I believe they are mistaken about that. I believe the politicians and gun control activists who claim they don't want to take guns away from people are telling the truth. I don't believe there's a sinister conspiracy to trick gun owners into giving up their guns. I believe the gun control people when they claim they just want to find a way to minimize gun violence. But without the cooperation and assistance of the pro-gun folks, it will be very difficult and whatever improvements that are made will come at the cost of increased polarization, increased hard feelings, increased us-against-them mentality. That would be a shame.
What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
In the Ghetto
The HuffPo's Take on All the Shootings
They had more in common than unleashing carnage _ nearly every gunman in this monthlong series of mass killings was legally entitled to fire his weapons.So what does that say about the state of gun control laws in this country?
The answer is obvious. The state of gun control laws in this country is poor. As much as the gun enthusiasts lament all the gun laws, there doesn't seem to be much difficulty for anyone who wants guns to get them.
Ms. Hastings lists many of the attempts currently in play to lessen the restrictions including the fact that last month, 65 House Democrats said they would block any attempt to resurrect an expired federal ban against assault weapons. In Texas and Arkansas, for example, legislation is pending to loosen gun restrictions.
Jeffrey Chamberlain, a former Rochester prosecutor and chief counsel to the New York State Police says, the answer to gun violence lies not in stricter regulations, but in answering the question, "Why are we so tolerant of having guns in this country? The answer to that is historical. We've had guns for a very long time."
"I can't think of any sweeping law change that would address that."
The answer to why atrocities happen in places such as Binghamton, and before that Washington state and Santa Clara, Calif., lies in sheer numbers.
The number 280 million, to be precise, the estimated total of every gun in this country.
"When you have that many guns, those guns are going to be used in horrific ways," Vogel said. "There's just too many. Inevitably, somehow, some way, those weapons are going to be used in an egregious way."
Now we're talking. Now we're talking about the real problem: too many guns. I've been saying it for months, and it seems I'm not the only one. But, what of the solution? Is there no legislation that could address this problem? Mr. Chamberlain's comment is that no sweeping laws can answer the question why are we so tolerant of having guns in this country?
Could the answer lie in the fact that the NRA and the pro-gun lobby are extremely powerful and block every attempt at improving the situation as far as gun violence goes? Could it be that gun owners individually resist such ideas as "gun flow" contributing to the problem, "gun availability" being key in many incidents and in the much-maligned idea of their sharing in the responsibility for this violence?
If the gun owners are wrong, and the anti-gun folks are right, why doesn't the situation resolve itself naturally? Well, I have a theory about that. A very high percentage of gun owners are passionate about gun rights. A very low percentage of folks who don't own guns are passionate about the debate. The results are apparent on any google search you can think of. The proportion of pro-gun to anti-gun comments on such blogs as my own also tells the tale.
Unfortunately for the pro-gun crowd, having the greater visible numbers on the internet, just like incessant repetition of their claims, does not mean they're right.
I say there are too many guns and something must be done about it. If that means taking another look at the 2nd Amendment and how we interpret it, then good, if that is what's necessary before we can have the types of federal restrictions that would reduce the total numbers.
What's your opinion? Do you think the gun lobby is too strong in America? Do you think in spite of the incredible number mentioned, 280,000,000, the pro-gun folks represent only a minority? Which direction do you see it moving, towards increased gun restrictions or away?
Please leave a comment.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Cenk Uygur on All the Shootings
Of course, their answer is that we don't have enough guns in the country. If we just allowed concealed weapons at schools, nursing homes, work, bars, airports and just about anywhere else you can imagine, then we would have less gun violence. Yes, maybe in bizzaro world, but in this world the more guns we have had in this country the more people have been shot ... with guns.
The Washington case is a good example. Would that father really have been able to kill his four young daughters and his young son without a shotgun? Maybe, it's happened before. But it would have been a hell of a lot harder and hell of a lot less likely. And what would have been the NRA alternative fix here - arm the kids?
With mild sarcasm, Uygur makes a good point, one with which I am in total agreement. The more guns there are, the more gun violence there is. To claim anything other than that to me violates basic common sense and logic.
"It's madness that almost anyone can stroll into a Wal-Mart and walk out with a deadly weapon. Guns should be the hardest things to get in America, not the easiest," says Uygur. Do you think that's true, or is he exaggerating? Surely one can't walk into just any Wal-Mart and do that. Does he mean in certain states? Do you agree with the point, though, that it's too easy to get guns in America?
What's your opinion? Please feel free to leave a comment.
Paul Helmke's Take on All the Shootings
After each horrific shooting, some leaders in Washington have said the solution is to do nothing, simply continue to enforce the existing laws, just as we have been doing. The gun lobby, meanwhile, calls for weakening our already paltry laws to get more guns to more people in more places. It is time for the gun lobby to stop stoking fear among gun owners with false claims about the government. It is time for the gun industry to stop capitalizing on those ginned-up fears to spread weapons of war among the public.
The gun lobby’s rhetoric has consequences. We have seen how profound those consequences can be.
We have a gun crisis in America. As important as the economic crisis is, the right to be safe at home and work and play needs at least as much attention from our policymakers as the right to economic security. It is time for leaders in Washington to drop empty platitudes after each horrific shooting, and instead do what they're paid to do: show backbone, and enact reasonable laws to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.
At the very least, require Brady background checks for all gun sales; restrict military-style assault weapons to the military and law enforcement and help law enforcement crack down on corrupt gun sellers.
What's your opinion? Do you agree that the existing gun laws are "paltry?" I would say ineffectual, but "paltry" describes them pretty well, don't you think?
Do you think it's fair to put the responsibility on the gun-lobby rhetoric? Do you believe such a connection exists, a connection between the increase in gun violence and the talk that gun bans are just around the corner? Do you think it's a fair statement to say that the gun lobby is "stoking fear among gun owners with false claims about the government?"
What do you think about Helmke's three proposals? Would they help?
Please feel free to leave a comment.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Murder / Suicide - 6 Dead in Washington State
A father who shot and killed his five children in their Washington state home before killing himself had argued with his wife over another man before the shootings, police said.
Authorities found the children, ages 7 to 16, dead in their Pierce County home Saturday afternoon, and the father, James Harrison, was found dead inside his SUV in adjacent King County, Detective Ed Troyer told CNN Radio Sunday. Police said Harrison committed suicide by shooting himself with a rifle.
Troyer said that on Friday night, Harrison and his 16-year-old daughter found his wife with another man. The couple argued, and then Harrison and his daughter returned to the family home near Tacoma without his wife, Troyer said.
I've been told that the true common denominator in these tragedies is the people. They're mentally ill or depressed or violent or criminal. I say, although that may be true enough, the thing that ties all these stories together is the fact that each of these people had too easy access to weapons.
In this story, Mr. Harrison killed himself with a rifle, and according to a local news report, "Several weapons were found in the home."
So, not only is easy access to guns the problem, the insistence upon being armed and the incessant repetition that it's our "right," is the problem. Harrison was a diesel mechanic who lived in a trailer park. His wife had some kind of low-paying job. They had five young kids and yet he was able to amass "several weapons" in addition to the rifle with which he took his own life.
Does anyone find something wrong with that? In this economic environment, how could a man like that justify owning that much weaponry? To me it's sick and I don't see any solution except the one I keep repeating. Fewer guns overall will impact upon the frequency of these tragic incidents.
What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.
It was the middle of the night when I heard my second daughter, the 9-year-old cry out. I couldn't understand why the whole house was shaking for a few seconds. When my sleep-addled brain clicked on to the realization of what was happening, I felt a kind of fear and powerlessness that I've rarely felt. Then it was over.
I stayed with my daughter, who couldn't easily get back to sleep. My wife and mother-in-law went to the TV. As I was falling back to sleep, I was reflecting on how the things I spend most of my time worrying about become unimportant in the face of something like this. Today I feel grateful to be alive. I feel happy and optimistic. There's nothing like a natural disaster, or a near encounter with one, to make me appreciate what I have.
Now, back to our regular programming.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Pittsburgh Tragedy - 3 Dead Policemen
The shooter, "Richard Andrew Poplawski was a young man convinced the nation was secretly controlled by a cabal that would eradicate freedom of speech, take away his guns and use the military to enslave the citizenry." The timing of this sad incident comes like punctuation at the end of our discussions of just yesterday and the day before.
"He was really into politics and really into the First and Second amendment. One thing he feared was he feared the gun ban because he thought that was going to take away peoples' right to defend themselves. He never spoke of going out to murder or to kill," said Edward Perkovic, who described himself as Mr. Poplawski's lifelong best friend.What comes to mind for me is that Poplawski is a textbook example of that McVeigh-type character who can be poisoned by the right wing rhetoric. How rare are they? How rare are these massacre-type shootings? To the first question, I'd say they're not as rare as we'd like to think. To the second, I'd say, the incidents in which one of these lunatics kills only one person are probably not rare at all but simply escape the national spotlight. I agree with Charles M. Blow in saying the problem is very real.
Mr. Poplawski's view of guns and personal freedom took a turn toward the fringes of American politics. With Mr. Perkovic, he appeared to share a belief that the government was controlled from unseen forces, that troops were being shipped home from the Mideast to police the citizenry here, and that Jews secretly ran the country.
What Paul Helmke mentioned the other day on his Brady Blog comes to mind. When nine people died from tainted peanut butter, the government was mobilized into action. But, when an incredible, perhaps unprecedented string of high profile shootings take the lives of three times that number within a couple weeks, there's relative silence from the government. Of course there was that ominous comment of Biden's the other day with regards the shooting in New York State.
We’ve got to figure out a way to deal with this terrible, terrible violence.
What's your opinion? Do you think the Vice President is making reference to future legislation that will restrict arms purchases? Do you agree with me that, combined with other initiatives, such measures might help? Can you understand how some of us feel the only way to keep dangerous people from getting guns is to necessarily deny some of them to law abiding citizens as well?
Do you feel Mr. Poplawski should be a candidate for the death penalty? Do you think his paranoia and other mental conditions should be considered in judging his culpability?
In a country where we have over a hundred hand-gun killings a day between murders and suicides, do you think more guns and fewer restrictions would help or hurt the situation?
Please feel free to leave a comment.