Saturday, July 4, 2009

Obama's 4th of July Speech

I believe him. How about you? (via Deleware Liberal)

It Can Happen Anywhere out of Bismark North Dakota reports on the drive-by shooting which fortunately left no one injured and the shooters in jail.




The video includes the expected comments by the owner of the mobile home. She had no idea why someone would do such a thing. Yet, some of the neighbors seemed to know. They had reported criminal activity in the neighborhood to the police for years. What do you think? Do they have drugs and crime in peaceful North Dakota? I think we've had ND mentioned before as a place with lots of guns and very little gun crime. This must be an exception.

The gun, a .22 the police said, would have been in Lopez' possession illegally. Is it possible that the lax gun laws in North Dakota made it easier for someone like him to get his hands on a gun?

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Friday, July 3, 2009

What Is Dat Which Gives Me Joy?

For Earl, one of my first blog friends and big baseball fan.

"What is dat which gives me joy?


Cleveland Clark Sentenced to Death out of Atlanta has posted a fascinating video of the outbursts that may have helped the jury vote for the death penalty.

Convicted killer Cleveland Clark was sentenced to death Thursday, hours after he unleashed a tirade at the Fulton County Courthouse.

Earlier in the day, Clark, 52, slammed the defense table and screamed obscenities as prosecutor Kellie Hill made her closing arguments. Last week, the same jury convicted Clark of killing Sparkle Rai for $10,000 in a murder-for-hire scheme financed by Rai's father-in-law.

The ajc site has some more details.

Rai’s father-in-law, Chiman Rai, a native of India, wanted Rai dead because he opposed his son marrying an African-American woman. Sparkle, then 22, and Rajeeve “Ricky” Rai had been married a month when she was murdered.

Clark was the last of those implicated in Rai’s death.

Chiman Rai, 68, was sentenced in 2008 to life in prison without the possibility of parole for hiring Clark to kill Sparkle Rai.

What's your opinion? The news report explains that two other men — the links between Chiman Rai and Clark — each were sentenced to 10 months’ probation because they helped prosecutors bring cases against the father-in-law and Clark. Does the fact that these guys benefited from their testimony detract from its value? Certainly that's true in some cases, but I would think these go-betweens must have had information about the crime that made for solid convictions.

I feel that a cold-blooded hitman who commits murder for money is worse than other murderers. The others usually have some mitigating circumstances, but the hit man, I'm afraid he's on the top of the list for punishment. My only problem is the maximum punishment should be life in prison without the possibility of parole. We should start there and work down.

What do you think? If Clark had remained calm and acted remorseful, do you think the outcome would have been different for him? Or do you think his fate was sealed when the father-in-law who hired him was sentenced to life without parole?

Please leave a comment.

Dental Office Shooting reports on the domestic violence shooting that took place in the waiting room of a dental clinic in Simi Valley California.

A gunman opened fire inside a busy dental office in an apparent domestic dispute Wednesday, leaving one woman dead and three critically wounded, police said. A fourth person was grazed by a bullet.

The man, wearing shorts, no shirt and with a shaved head, surrendered after barricading himself inside the Family Dental Care office, police Sgt. Karl Becker said. A hostage negotiator coaxed the man out about an hour after the first shots were fired.

This story illustrates a number of our favorite themes. The first thing that struck me is that guns are bad news for women. The number of women killed by their intimate partner in states with lots of guns compared to states with fewer guns tells the tale. I'll have to dig up those statistics. I know some of you will want to see them.

Secondly, of course, it occurred to me that the shooter might very well have been a member of the famous 10% club. I realize he might have been a criminal already, perhaps we'll read about that in the subsequent news reports, but otherwise he was one of the many who hitherto numbered himself among the lawful gun owners of America until that fateful day when he went over to the dark side.

What's your opinion? Do you think the 10% figure is about right for this type of latent criminal or criminal-in-waiting? I suspect it may have to be increased.

I noticed that in the enlightened state of California, instead of sending in the swat team, they let the hostage negotiator do his thing. What do you think of that? It worked this time, but it's a gamble isn't it?

Please leave a comment.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Father Michael Pfleger on Guns

The Gun Guys posted a wonderful statement by Father Michael Pfleger, the well known Chicago gun control activist.

Gun violence has always been an issue, but in the last ten years, I've watched it become more of an epidemic. It has grown to a new and frightening level. In some communities, murder and shooting of youth is to be expected.

When we take a closer look, we can see that the NRA is the lobbyist for gun manufacturers -- but not for gun owners. It's really about business. It's like the tobacco industry. Eventually, that industry started targeting younger and younger people.

The gun industry reaches an astounding number of illegal consumers -- and many of them are young. For example, I can go to any high school in the city and students will say they know where they can find a gun. Without a doubt, the gun industry has promoted the kind of easy access to guns that makes this possible.

These are points we've debated plenty, but what Father Pfleger suggests as a solution you don't hear every day. He says there's a great majority of silent people who are either too frightened or too apathetic to speak out.

I believe there are enough people out there to support laws that mandate universal background checks on guns, limit the number of guns people can purchase, and make sure other key gun control laws are passed. But we need to hear from them.

Perhaps he feels like Bryan Miller. Through advocacy, or education, as I call it, the voters can be persuaded to pressure their representatives to make the right laws. It happened in New Jersey. Perhaps it can happen in Illinois as well.

What's your opinion?

Amazing Tattoo

I hope this guy never has to go to prison.

The Accutane Killer Gets Life reports on the tragic story of two high school sweethearts gone bad.

A young Monroeville man who repeatedly stabbed ex-girlfriend Demi Cuccia after a desperate, daylong exchange of text messages about the status of their relationship was found guilty of first-degree murder Monday.

You can accuse me of being soft on criminals, of not caring for the victim, all that, but doesn't that statement have a built-in contradiction in it? A "desperate, daylong exchange of text messages" does not lead to "first-degree murder." Not in my book. And it certainly does not lead to a sentence of "life without the possibility of parole," especially for one who committed the horrible crime at 18.

The most amazing part is that the best defense they could come up with was blaming it on the acne medicine. To me that's just bizarre.

Actually my heart does go out to the victim and her family. Who could not be moved by that video? But I also feel for the young John Mullarkey and his family. At 18 years of age, he was so incapable of dealing with rejection that he resorted to an act of such violence that it boggles the mind.

What's your opinion? Is the sentence he received appropriate?

Please leave comment.

Rain Dogs

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

On the Mexican Border

CNN reports on the newest initiative in the war on arms trafficking along the Mexican border.

The two federal agencies most responsible for stemming the flow of firearms to Mexico agreed Tuesday to improve cooperation after they were sharply criticized by a congressional report for lack of coordination.

The agreement between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will result in a more effective fight against the flood of U.S. weapons that provide Mexican drug cartels with more than 90 percent of their firearms. Top federal law enforcement officials were in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to sign documents pledging to work together.

The agreement is expected to result in increased seizures of trafficked weapons and more prosecutions and convictions, said David Ogden, the deputy attorney general.

But "it's hard to say when we'll see results," he added.

There's that famous 90% figure again. Why do some people get upset at that one? There was such an uproar about it around here a few months ago, people saying the Brady Campaign made it up and all sorts of things. It turned out the figure came from the ATF.

What do you think about that final comment, "hard to say when we'll see results?" I thought it was pretty funny. Maybe we'll see results as soon as we turn the corner on the War on Drugs. What do you think?

Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Famous 10%

A couple weeks ago I made a statement that among the legal gun owners there are between 10% and 30% who should not have guns. After the bombardment of complaints I received, I retracted the statement and amended it to a simple 10%. Naturally, the pro-gun crowd who felt they had me on the ropes weren't satisfied with that. They were outraged. They demanded proof. They provided "proof" that the figure is really less than 1%. One guy suggested I downgrade my idea from "theory" to "hunch."

In this post I propose to offer a bit of what goes into my thinking. I won't call it proof, because as I've said before, much of this is not quantifiable. We must use common sense. So, in order to guard against bias, I'll downplay the numbers, allowing only very conservative figures to go towards the final result.

In the end, I will once again call my idea a "theory," and I would expect to never again hear the complaint that I make this up as I go along, that I say these numbers off the top of my head, and as Mike W. so eloquently put it, that I pull this stuff out of my ass.

Here goes. Let's presume there are 80 million gun owners. That means we need to identify 8 million who aren't fit to have a gun.

Good guys who turn bad. 1%

Some of you guys have generously provided the stats on concealed carry guys who get in trouble. That combined with the FBI stats of overall crime, allowing for the fact that some of the FBI criminals were not gun owners, we come up with about 1 million. So what we're saying is every year about 1 million gun owners out of the 80 million get in serious enough trouble to lose their right to bear arms. If you have trouble with that, look at the crime stats, add the felonies up and divide by 2, estimating that half the men own guns.

Alcoholics and drug addicts. 3%

It is estimated that 8.5% of the population is alcoholic. What percentage do you suppose has problems with other substances, anything from prescription medication to illicit drugs, another 10%?. Let's say 5%. That's 13.5% of our population at large and consequently of the 80 million gun owners. In all fairness, most of them, although I don't personally feel comfortable with their having weapons, won't cause any problems. But what of the worst 3%, say? These are the guys who become anti-social when they drink or party with drugs. You know the type. 3%.

Depression. 3%

It is estimated that about 8% of our population had at least one MDE (major depressive episode) in the last year. Gunowners, being no different from regular folks, can claim this same percentage, which I'll bet goes a long way explaining all those suicides. Since not everyone who suffers one of these episodes attempts suicide or does something else rash, let's call it 3%.

Rage (including road rage). 1%

One of the most frightening types of rage is called Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED). It is estimated that 4% of the population has yearly episodes. I say not a single one of them should own a gun. I realize some of these guys also suffer from depression and may have even been counted under "Alcoholics and drug addicts," so we can cut the 4% in half twice and settle on 1%. I'll throw in the regular rageaholics and road rage maniacs for free. 1%.

Domestic abusers. 3%

It is estimated that 22% of women in America have been abused. It's men doing that abusing, usually the domestic partner, so let's say 22% of the men out there are guilty of this behaviour. Only about half of those men are gun owners, so we're down to 11%. Now, let's eliminate the one's who slap their partners once in a while because they asked for it. Now let's cut it way down because many responsible owners of firearms can successfully separate their domestic squabbles from their proper gun management. I say 3%.

Rape. 1%

The U.S. Department of Justice statistics for 2005 say that 191,670 incidents of rape or sexual assault were reported. Only 16% of rapes and sexual assaults are reported which brings the total in 2005 to about 1 million. 1 of 6 U.S. women has experienced an attempted or completed rape. These rapists may be some of the same guys we already counted in the "Domestic abusers" percentage. Also, some of these1 million rapes per year might be done by the same people, creating additional duplicate counting. I say we need another small entry here, say 1%.

General stupidity and irresponsibility. one half of 1%

I couldn't find anything to support this except humorous things that weren't very funny. But, just look around. You know who these people are.

There you have it, support for my "theory" that about 10% of the legal gun owners should not have weapons. I honestly believe using the same method I could make a good argument for the higher figures I'd stated earlier, but in the spirit of giving the benefit of the doubt in all cases, I'll leave it at 10% (rounded down from 13%, you probably noticed).

Some gun enthusiasts are very comfortable with the "us against them" mentality. They do it with the good gun owners and the criminal ones. They do it with the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks. It's all foolishness, say I. It is from their very midst, from this 10% that we have a significant "people flow." Not every one of the members of the group will go bad, and certainly not this year, but it is from their ranks that we see so many national headlines.

Please feel free to comment. I'd love to hear your opinion.

Toledo Gun Rally

The Toledo News Leader 11 site has the story. The gun rally, as was pointed out by the commenters to the news article, was not about carrying guns in church, but rather about the compatibility of 2nd Amendment Rights and being Christian.

The rally will point to numerous biblical references claiming Jesus Christ would support second amendment rights. "We're just informing our folks you got to be able to protect yourself and what does the Bible have to say about it. We know our constitution. But this is the final authority here above our Constitution is the word of God," said Reverend Andrew Edwards with the Northwest Baptist Church.

Naturally it has its critics. As posted on the Gun Guys site, the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence issued a very eloquent statement.

The gun lobby and gun industry like to disguise their radical and extremist agenda by hiding behind the flag, and now the Bible. People’s lives and safety should matter more than a radical and violent ideology purported by the gun lobby.

We need to honor our values by reducing the access to these tools of violence and not promote weapons and fear if we are ever to reclaim a peaceful and just society.

What's your opinion? Is it fair to say they have "hidden behind the flag," that now they want to "hide behind the Bible?" I think it describes pretty well what they do. I've often suspected that some of the most vocal supporters of the 2nd Amendment, the guys who quote the Founders with reverence, are really just guys who like guns. These means of justification came later.

May I make a prediction? These characters in Toledo won't be the last preachers of the Word who jump on the bandwagon. It started last month with Pastor Ken Pagano down in Kentucky. I can feel it coming like a tidal wave now.

Please leave a comment.

FBI Agent Mistaken as Home Invader reports on the killing of an FBI agent serving a warrant on a suspected drug suspect.

Special Agent Sam Hicks was shot to death on Woods Run Road in Indiana Township.

According to an affidavit obtained by WTAE Channel 4 Action News, police surrounded the house and announced themselves saying, "This is Pittsburgh police. We have a warrant for your arrest."

The affidavit indicated that Hicks, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, looked inside the house and saw a man running, at which point, authorities said Robert Korbe, 39, went to the basement to flush cocaine down the sink.

Christina Korbe said she got a gun and fired one shot down the steps, thinking it was a burglar coming in and not federal agents. The gunshot struck and killed Hicks.

Consistent with her claim not to have known it was the cops, after the shooting, Mrs. Korbe called 911. "Authorities took her into custody while she was on the phone." But, if she thought the first cop, FBI Agent Hicks was a home invader, why didn't she shoot the others who came to arrest her? That part sounds a little fishy to me.

On the other hand, the neighbor stated that she didn't know it was a warrant being served. She said the unmarked police cars came and left before the incident, and that there was no announcement that she could hear. This seems to support the story of the shooter.

Of interest is the gun, of course. I suppose it's not unusual for people to have guns in the house for protection, especially if they're in the drug business. But is that legal?

Robert Korbe's mother, Antoinette, told WTAE Channel 4 Action News that her son has been involved with drugs for years. She said he is a convicted felon and is not allowed to own a gun, but she said Christina Korbe does have a license to carry.

How common do you think that is? The criminal, who is a prohibited person, has the spouse get a concealed carry permit. It's like having a built in bodyguard in the family, and of course if things get ,the gun can always be shared. What about in the home? In the home of a convicted felon, the spouse who has a clean record can have all the guns she wants? This sounds like another loophole, what do you think?

What's your opinion? The action took place last November; the reason it's back in the news is there are some squabbles about the defense attorneys not being paid. They've petitioned the judge to let them go or name them court-appointed attorneys in order to receive at least some compensation.

It's certainly a fascinating case. What do you think?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bernie Madoff about to be Sentenced

What do you think should happen to old Bernie?

The Madoff Sentence

CNN reports on the sentencing of Bernie Madoff. He received the maximum.

A federal judge sentenced Bernard Madoff, the convicted mastermind of the largest and most sweeping Ponzi scheme ever, to the maximum sentence of 150 years in federal court Monday.

Judge Denny Chin of U.S. District Court in New York announced the sentence just moments after Madoff apologized to his victims.

Chin, who called Madoff's crimes "extraordinarily evil," said the maximum sentence was important for deterrence, and also for the victims, many of whom erupted into applause after the judge announced the sentence. Many hugged and some of them broke down in tears.

A few months ago we discussed the most enjoyable New York Times article by Ralph Blumenthal in which he suggested Madoff should receive the Dante treatment: every punishment matches the crime. Apparently the courts heard that message, at least in the sense that an excessive crime receives an excessive punishment.

What do you think? Is this kind of sentence a deterrent? Do you sense an element of vengeance in the reaction of the victims? What do you think about my theory that white collar criminals should not spend time in prison? For me, prison is to prevent violent criminals from continuing to harm others. Wouldn't heavy fines and government supervision accomplish that in Madoff's case?

What's your opinion?

The New Boss

It's been about six months. Is there any indication that Obama will be significantly different than his predecessors? According to Il Principe, no. In a wonderful article, in which he highlights the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr who warned Americans against what he called “our dreams of managing history,” the Prince pulls no punches in pointing out that Obama is indeed a new boss, just like the old boss.

One only has to look at the abysmal record of trying to manage the future of two foreign countries the United States invaded and has since occupied to see that the future cannot be certain or managed.

Incredibly, most Americans do not see the connection between the annual half trillion-defense budget and open-ended wars in two foreign countries, to the demise of America as an economic world power.

Forget about drawing a line in the sand like the Bush administration said in 1991 and the First Gulf War, more Americans need to get their head out of the sand and realize the drag on the economy the trillions of dollars spent on the Pentagon is having on the American economy.

What's your opinion? Do most Americans have their head in the sand about military spending? In the beginning of Obama's term we talked about it: Is Afghanistan going to be just another Iraq? What do you think? Are you hopeful that we can pull out of Iraq eventually and manage Afghanistan without going completely bankrupt?

Please leave a comment.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Is It True? Terrorists Buying Guns?

MSNBC reports on the latest concerns over the gun buying frenzy in America.

More than 800 gun purchases were approved after background checks in the last five years even though the buyers' names were on the government's terrorist watch list, investigators said Monday.

Being on the watch list is not among the nine factors, such as a felony conviction, that disqualify someone from buying a gun under federal law. More than 900 background checks between February 2004 and February 2009 turned up names on the watch list, and all but 98 were allowed to go through.

The watch list — maintained by the FBI and used by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies — is meant to identify known or suspected terrorists. However, the list has drawn criticism over the years for mistakes that have led to questioning and searches of innocent people.

I believe this is the same list we talked about last year. At that time there were reports all over the internet that the list contained a million names, obviously many who didn't belong there. Suddenly the government announced the list is much shorter than that, around 16,000 they said. So what does it mean? What does it mean for the 800 "suspected terrorists" who've purchased firearms over the last five years?

The top lobbyist for the National Rifle Association said the terrorist watch list has names of people who should not be on the list.

"Law-abiding Americans should not be treated like terrorists," the NRA's Chris Cox said. "To deny law-abiding people due process and their Second Amendment rights based on a secret list is not how we do things in America."

I'm certainly in agreement with that, although I don't know if it qualifies as a "secret" list. The federal government that keeps lists on it's citizens might be all right for China and Iran, but surely not in America. But what's a government to do? How are they supposed to anticipate another 9/11 attack if they don't keep lists? These are difficult questions.

About anyone being able to buy guns, certain places in America are havens for that sort of thing, aren't they? No one goes to New Jersey for that, but there are states where anyone, terrorist, felon, mentally ill person, anyone at all can easily buy guns. And let's not forget the so-called "straw purchasers" and the middle men looking only to turn a profit. That's the problem. That's where a lot of the gun flow happens.

We talked about New Jersey's new one-gun-a-month law the other day. Is it safe to assume that the crime guns in Camden and Newark are for the most part imported from out of state? Then would it be safe to assume that if those other states had similar restrictions to those of NJ, this type of gun flow would cease? I say yes, and I say that's part of the solution. I also say it would be a small price for the legitimate gun public to pay for a major improvement in the gun violence problem.

What's your opinion?