12.23.2012

NRA Prescription for Short-Sightedness: Rose-Colored Glasses





There are times to speak and times to shut up.  The NRA's silence would have been more preferable than this asinine suggestion that more guns will reduce mass shootings in the USA.  In other words, if we just kill the right people we wouldn't have so many mass murders.   

The NRA’s Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre goes on to say that there are evil people out there, monsters who are so possessed by voices that we cannot comprehend them.  He is of course talking about the mentally ill.   But he'd rather shoot and kill them instead of treating them.  

There's more....  LaPierre also suggests that the government's refusal to create and maintain a national database of the mentally ill somehow adds fuel to the fire.  As if it is more important to track the mentally ill than it is to track weapons.  

Federal gun prosecutions have decreased in 40% according to Mr. LaPierre, which he seems to complain about, but yet he fails to acknowledge the NRA doesn't support such prosecutions.  Not only that, but the NRA and it's supporters in Washington have actively and successfully blocked any and all research on gun violence in America.




And like any red-blooded, gun-toting, patriotic, 2nd Amendment zealot - Mr. LaPierre has the kahunas to blame everything else.  Violent video games, movies, music, and other forms of entertainment.  He is right of course, but like most of our problems it isn't that simple.

Violent video games are an extension of our gun culture - not the other way around.  Americans love violence, much as the ancient Romans did.  It's been in our DNA since the day of our birth.  For decades young boys (and sometimes girls) played with plastic guns and knives - long before the first edition of Grand Theft Auto.   Comedy routines on vaudeville and on the big screen featured slapstick comedy, itself a form of assault but in a humorous setting.   The point is art imitates life and life imitates art.  Which makes this problem more complicated.

Removing guns won't remove the violence, that I can agree with the NRA on.  But adding more weapons won't remove the violence either.  



"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,''
-- Wayne LaPierre



This comes from someone who has never planned for anything and can only see the situation at the moment it occurs.  Otherwise LaPierre would have stated a disclaimer in front of that statement.   

We cannot shoot our way out of a mass killing.  To insinuate we can is an insult to our collective intelligence.  And to claim that you have the one and only remedy is arrogant at best.   


First of all, there are many ways to prevent mass murders.  And most of them occur before the shooting would take place.  A prized example is Australia, a nation that also suffered horrible mass shootings such as the one in Port Arthur, Tazmania on April 28, 1996.  Their government actually did something about it and placed tight restrictions on weapons, particularly guns and assault rifles.  In the 16 years since - no mass shootings.   

Of course the USA is not Australia.  The most fervent gun rights advocates in the USA are also fearful of their own government - which is why they stockpile weapons in the first place. With the NRA on their side, any meaningful action can be thwarted.   In this announcement by the NRA, we can clearly see - it's the same song, different verse. 

There are other ways to prevent mass murders.  As the NRA suggests, America does need a better mechanism for finding and treating the mentally ill.  However, that takes money and the NRA's bedfellows - formally known as Republicans - abhor spending any money on anyone except "job creators".  So that leaves the mentally ill on the streets, with no where to go. 

Which leads me to my second point - guns and weapons will always find their way someone who wants to kill indiscriminately if such guns are readily available to the public.   The suspect in the Aurora killings at a movie theater this past summer did all of the things necessary to purchase his weapons legally.    The government, thanks to NRA support, had no means to stop him from obtaining the guns or tear gas used in the attack.  

There are also law-abiding citizens, who may have no interest in owning a gun themselves, but who will sell their eligibility status to the highest bidder.  For $500, I can get my permit if I don't already have one, wait the mandatory 7-days, obtain my handgun, and give it to my neighbor who doesn't qualify for gun ownership.   If the gun is traced back to me, I'd simply say it was stolen, but I didn't know about it.  Either way I have my $500.  If I do that a few times, establish a reputation on the street, I can make boatloads of cash just buying weapons for those who cannot qualify.  That's just one way assault rifles can wind up in the wrong hands.   The best solution - ban guns (okay, maybe that's not practical).  

Third, mass shootings, or any shooting, do not unfold as nicely and neatly as the NRA and other gun supporters seem to suggest.    

Mr. LaPierre seems to suggest that a good guy with a gun can take out a bad guy with a gun.  As if that's all that we need.   It assumes this is the situation:

http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2012/103/f/7/an_assault_rifle_and_a_smg_by_volfraider-d4w1e8f.jpgBad Guy walks in to a mall.  Bad Guy pulls out his assault rifle.  Good Guy sees Bad Guy and pulls out his concealed handgun.  Good Guy kills Bad Guy on the spot.  One shot, maybe two, both of which hit the target. The world is saved and Good Guy is treated as a hero.  

That's what I call the Rosy Scenario.  

Here are some more realistic scenarios....

1)  Bad Guy walks into a mall.  Bad Guy pulls out his assault rifle.  Good Guy doesn't see Bad Guy and is killed before he could reach for his handgun.    Bad Guy can now continue shooting until police arrive.

2) Bad Guy walks into a mall.  Bad Guy pulls out his assault rifle.  Good Guy doesn't see Bad Guy but isn't in the line fire.  Good Guy hears gunshots and pulls out his handgun and ducks for cover.  Good Guy doesn't get a clear shot of Bad Guy but shoots anyway from behind a barricade.  Good Guy misses target and his bullet kills a bystander.   Bad Guy doesn't notice and keeps firing.  Good Guy fires again, misses again.  Bad Guy notices this time and turns his attention on Good Guy.  Bad Guy fires in Good Guy's direction killing people around Good Guy. 

3) Bad Guy walks into a mall.  Bad Guy pulls out his assault rifle. Good Guy sees Bad Guy and pulls his weapon.  Good Guy takes a position behind a wall.  Bad Guy shoots and the people scramble.  Good Guy 2 hears the gunshots and pulls his weapon.  Good Guy 2 sees Good Guy firing his weapon so Good Guy 2 shoots Good Guy, not realizing what he's done.  Bad Guy is still shooting. 


I could go on and on with similar variances, but you get the idea.  The Rosy Scenario only happens in movies and staged hoaxes.   
Stopping this violence takes more than a gun. You have to be trained not only to shoot straight, but to do so under high stress, high adrenaline, and without accidentally putting innocent people in harm's way. Easier said than done. Highly trained cops and soldiers are fallible and have been known to cause "collateral damage". So what chance does a "good guy" have when all he's done is shoot stationary targets in a shooting range, or perhaps taken a safety class or two?
There is a solution to this problem.  It has been done in other countries and could just as well be done here in the US of A.  Since the Wayne LaPierre and the NRA cannot lead, refuse to follow, they should get the hell out of the way!


12.09.2012

The Next

The End Of Affirmative Action? What Could Be Next

I have always said Affirmative Action must evolve.  It is still sorely needed, however it is no longer a color thing.  Disadvantaged kids come in all flavors. Their individual circumstances must be measured and protected by Affirmative Action.

8.25.2012

And How Would He Know?

Mitt Romney: Claim I didn't pay taxes 'false' but won't release records


Mr. Romney has already stated under oath that he doesn't prepare nor reads his tax returns.  He merely signs them under penalty of perjury.  (in case you didn't catch that, Romney effectively admitted to breaking the law). 

There's dirt in them there 1040 forms.   Since he won't release the forms we can only guess - and gossip about our theories- making his decision a potentially fateful one.


REID WAS RIGHT - ROMNEY DID NOT PAY TAXES

Very plausible, given the economic downturn and Romney's use of off shore accounts.  Governor Romney is a very wealthy man.  His riches are largely in stocks and capital gains.  IRS rules allow for citizens to deduct losses in the stock market and if the losses are large enough, one could pay $0 in income taxes.  From 2007 to 2009 the market was in a downfall, steep enough to allow corporate giants like GE to pay no taxes.  So it is entirely possible the Romneys had at least 2 years of zero taxes.


ROMNEY GOT CAUGHT

Another possibility is that the Romneys were hiding money in foreign bank accounts for years to avoid paying taxes.  When the IRS cracked down on such scofflaws in 2008, offering amnesty, Romney obliged.  Tax records would show this to be the case.  Is this the "ammunition" Ann Romney spoke of?

Hmmmmm....


 Mitt Romney clearly doesn't understand what the issue is.   There is a reason that Democrats, Independents, and yes even Romney's own surrogates are pressing for him to release his tax returns.  Tax returns say a lot about the candidate - not just how much money  he/she makes, but whether they are dutifully fulfilling their obligation as American citizens.

Romney isn't trusted by many people including me.  He's claims to be a businessman who knows how to create jobs, but yet he didn't bring that "experience" with him to the Governor's mansion in 2002 where Massachusetts ranked 47th in job creation while he was in office - and this was BEFORE the Great Recession.  The unemployment rate went down only because young talent left the state (a situation known as "brain drain").  Hence why he doesn't speak of his time in office.

Romney passed universal health care in Massachuesetts - a crowning achievement that has by all accounts been successful. But now he wants to repeal Obamacare - a carbon copy of Romneycare.  Y'all know the stories... Which is the point: his tax returns will show he is honestly and truthfully paying his share in taxes and that he's not this vague, deceitful, little rich guy we've come to know.

But then again - maybe his returns will reveal just how deceitful he really is and that's why he cannot release any more than 2 years of returns.

It may be too late though.  By fighting this so hard, Rommey has forced people to guess what's in them.  And that's never good.  It also makes him appear to be hiding something or perhaps he's stalling - amending returns to make them look "better" before releasing them.  He's done that before when he paid taxes as a Utah resident back in 2000 when he was running the Olympic Games.  Then when he wanted to run for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, he found himself in a pickle.

Massachusetts law stipulates that an eligible candidate must have lived in the state continuously for at least 7 years prior to the election.  The 2000 tax returns was a problem since it clearly showed he wasn't living in Massachusetts.  No Problem!  Just file an amended return to say he lived in Massachusetts.  Tada! Problem solved.

This question will never go away and will become even more fodder as we approach the debates.  


Dear Jane - That's Not Quite Right

Cumberland Times News : If anybody hates women, it’s not the Republicans




GOP Hates Women? Well Yeah, Kinda


Dear Jane Webster:

How do Republicans reproduce you ask?  The reproduce because they love sex, not women, but sex.  As a woman I hope you know the difference.  We (Americans) have long held women as somehow less than a full citizen, but yet we reproduced...  In other words, we men do not have to love women to reproduce. 

The ladies you mentioned Sarah Palin, Condoleeza Rice, Kristi Noem, Michele Bachmann, Jan Brewer, Susana Martinez, Mary Falin, and Nicki Haley - I'm afraid they are tokens.  The "war on women" was coined by liberal media because of policy not because they hate particular women.  None of the women you mentioned have initiated restrictions on access to women's health care.   Forced ultrasounds (Virginia, Pennsylvania), forced closures of Planned Parenthood (Texas, Kansas) and outright assault on abortion providers (Mississippi, Kansas, others) were all put in place by MEN - all of whom are Republicans.   And these ladies have remained silent on the issue.  That's what tokens do. 


As for the networks not broadcasting Ann Romney's address - it was decided LONG ago that they would cover three (3) days of each convention.  Three days for the Democrats, and three days for the Republicans. The GOP is demanding 4 days and because they didn't get it -are crying foul.  Ann Romney will probably get moved to another day, and I hope she does because I want to see her too.  But that means some other woman will NOT be seen on national TV. 

If the GOP were smart - and I have reason to believe they are -  they should use the one day that will NOT be on the air to present their platform.  Announcing it in prime time (particularly the abortion clause: no exceptions for rape/incest), could be detrimental.  I'm just saying....

Teresa Heinz-Kerry isn't a fair comparison to Mitt Romney.  You made the same mistake Romney has - assuming that the issue is money.  It's not.  It never has been. There are many reasons for tax returns - chief among them is whether the candidate followed the law.  We can also see what tax laws they may favor.  

The Kerrys released their tax returns for multiple years as is tradition.  As a result, there was no guessing what was in them, no insinuation, no hiding, it is what it is.  Romney on the other hand has made excuse after excuse - the latest being a direct contradiction to prior statements - on why he will not release tax returns.   Had he released them months ago - this would no longer be an issue and we'd be talking about something else.  Kerry was upfront and transparent.  Romney is not. 

Finally, you are correct the Republican Party once stood for women's suffrage and other human equalities - but that is now ancient history.  A lot has changed since then.  After the Civil War, Democrats ruled the South - supporting Jim Crow laws, voter suppression and opposing women's suffrage.  But the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s changed all of that particularly after the GOP adopted its so-called Southern Strategy.  Now it is Democrats who support the rights of minorities and women far more than the GOP.

I admire your passion.  Please keep writing!

Sincerely,

Christopher Tracy



 

8.16.2012

Julian Assange: Hero Runs from Fight

Ecuador Grants Assange Asylum


What a coward.  Assange thinks he's brave enough to leak a million sensitive documents but he'll only do it from afar.  He (allegedly) assaulted women in Sweden, claims he's innocent but won't face the music.  And this man is somehow a hero?? 

If he were a real hero he'd man up, face down the charges and pay the penalty if necessary.  Real heroes risk everything for their cause.  They'll risk their career (Muhammad Ali), their freedom (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), even their life (every soldier, firefighter, police officer and first responder). 

Julian Assange is about as heroic as the tooth fairy. 

Ecuador is well within their right to grant asylum to whomever they please, but they've been duped.  The US has no means to try or prosecute him as a foreign national.  We have a much bigger interest in the person or persons who provided the sensitive material for THEY are the ones who breached security.  Assange was only the messenger - the person who leaked the documents to the masses. 

Assange clearly doesn't understand US Justice or American interests.  Neither does Ecuador.  And he has successfully suckered Ecuador by confusing the two issues to create a conspiracy. 

I can't wait to see what happens when he screws up in Ecuador.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/16/us-wikileaks-assange-idUSBRE87F0KQ20120816



3.11.2012

What is Gingrich Smoking and How Can We Regulate It?

http://m.cbsnews.com/storysynopsis.rbml?&pageType=politics&catid=57394710&feed_id=3&videofeed=39&nb_splitPage=5

Talk about playing to the crowd....  Apparently Mr. Gingrich thinks we are stupid.  He wants us to believe that Leon Panetta wants to hand over our military to the International community.  Further, Mr Gingrich thinks the USA has full authority to act on Syria unilaterally with no input or approvals from our friends and allies.  We tried that already - in Iraq,  Afghanistan, and Vietnam.  None of which turned out very well.  Now he wants us to break Syria. 

This is why you are failing in the polls, Mr. Gingrich - you are not paying attention, and talk considerable smack.    Are you a war merchant like Dick Cheney?  What is your interest in taking on Syria?  Do you also have a Halliburton (military contractor) greasing your palm?  And spare me the "it is the right thing to do for the Syrian people" speech, we both know that is your political slant, not the real reason.  You are far to enchanted in your own greatness to care about what happens to other people, especially non-Americans. 

I could go on, but I am through wasting my breath on this subject.  Good luck on the campaign trail Mr. Gingrich and don't let the door hit you on the way out. 

2.19.2012

Geez.. I Hate Banks

But then, now that I know how to play the games, I should love them...

Online Banking
I tend to be ahead of the curve when it comes to technology, so it should be no surprise I've been banking online longer than most.  In fact, my bank itself is virtual - no brick and mortar locations (okay to be fair I DO use a local bank, but it isn't my primary bank).  

Of all the great benefits of banking online, one giant benefit doesn't exist, and banks won't allow it.  I'm talking about the overdraft charge.   

People like myself who automate payments online do so because we fully expect to have the cash in hand at the time payment is due.  And for the most part it works out well.   There have been one or two instances where I accidentally set up payments every week as opposed to every two weeks and as a result was overdrawn.  Which leads to this question - If my bank sees there's not enough money in the account, why process the payment anyway?  

The answer of course is fees.   Online banking, if a bank really cares about its customers, could prevent most overdrafts (it won't eliminate overdrafts though).   But banks do not care about its customers, they care about shareholders.  Of all the banks I've done business with, only one - just one - automatically cancels a scheduled payment if there's not enough cash - ING Direct.  I was really impressed with this online bank for a lot of reasons, but when I saw how they handle potential overdrafts, it really won me over.   Unfortunately the bank was sold to Capital One, and since I'm already familiar with Capital One, I had to dump that bank.

My challenge to all banks:  provide me with a means to avoid overdrafts and I will consider using your bank.   Note:  I said avoid overdrafts - which means prevent, stop, evade, cease, avert, overdrafts.  It does NOT mean I want your "overdraft protection" - which requires I put MORE money in your bank.  

History of Overdrafts
There is a bona-fide reason for overdrafts.  And I should note that I appreciate the "service" my bank gives me when it comes to withdrawing more money than I have available.   

For example, if my bank rejected a check I wrote to cover my rent, the landlord would A) charge me a bounced check fee, B) require all future payments to be made by money order, and/or C) sue.    In such a case, I would gladly pay my bank $35 to cover that check.   Of course the bank would gladly accept my money.  


By doing so, the bank can help preserve your credit rating.  In other words, if that check were allowed to bounce, your landlord will quickly report you to the credit rating agencies which in turn will make it exceedingly difficult for you to obtain credit or employment at a later date.  So by covering that check, the bank is doing you a big favor.   


An aside to that, the banks had a process of paying the larger sums first.  The idea was that for most people, the two biggest checks written each month were for rent and for a car note.   Both of which have a big impact on your credit score. As a result, you can get hit with an overdraft of $35 for a $5 cup of coffee even though you made that purchase before you wrote the check to your mortgage company.  Unfortunately for banks, that makes the situation worse because the perception is they are penalizing their customers for minor transgressions.  That rule has been made illegal under the new Banking Law.  It remains to be seen if it will be helpful or not. 

But those scenarios apply to checks - a financial instrument that can float (meaning I give a promissory note to a vendor, who in turn cashes at his bank at a later time).  In the modern era, I and many people like me do not write checks.  We pay either by ATM or online - both of which are transactions that do not float (meaning nearly instant).   Instead of a promissory note I give to a vendor, I tell my bank to pay the vendor directly.   A caring bank would tell me - "hey, you don't have enough money.  We won't honor this request".  What I have is a bank that gleefully pays my $5 latte just so it can tack on $35 in overdraft fees.  

And Now....
In addition to not providing me services I really want, banks have taken my tax money too!   How rude!   


Fortunately, I have the US Government to get my money back and I have reason to believe they will.  Other bailouts generated revenue for the US Treasury.  Banks are making money and eager to pay back these bailouts.  Shortchanging Uncle Sam would be bad for business.  


I now know how they make their gains - and their gambits.  And I've learned they do not want consumers to do what they do.  In short, banks borrow money to make even more money.  It was legal before the financial crisis and is still legal after the crisis, but with more scrutiny from regulators.   Big banks do not want Joe Schmoe to do the same because they fear they won't get their money back.   So on a lot of loans there are restrictions on what you can do with that money.  For example, you cannot take out a loan for a house and then buy stocks with it.  It MUST go to the house you said you were buying.  


But I have news for them.  I am going to beat them at their own game.  I won't break the law, and I'm not advocating for anyone breaking the law or lawful contracts, but all contracts have loopholes and I've found mine.   The result:  the next loan I get will go to my favorite stocks.  I've been investing with Monopoly money, and have done quite well.  I have also invested with real money and did well, just not as well as I have lately.   The goal - make my bank pay me, instead of me paying my bank.  


Of course, I'll keep you updated on my progress.  






Idiota - Santorum is Missing a Few Marbles

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum Says Obama Thinks Man Should Serve the Earth 



I'm trying to be open-minded to this man, but he doesn't make it easy.  He says man's role is to husband the earth's resources and be good stewards of the earth.  Well said, but wrong.  Mother Earth has been here for billions of years and man has only been here for a tiny fraction of that time.  She doesn't need a man.  

To go deeper... If mankind were to die today, Mother Earth would keep on turning and frankly, over time, would repair the damage we did.    However, if Mother Earth died today - she'd take us and all living beings with her. So to say the Earth is a priority over Man is correct.  Her fate is our own.  Civilizations throughout the ages knew that.  For some reason, we've lost that focus and so has Santorum.  Fortunately, Santorum has reminded us that President Obama has not lost that focus, so there is hope for us all if we re-elect Barack Obama.  

I think what he's trying to say is our focus should be on ourselves (what else would an alleged conservative say?), and tend to the earth after damage is done.   For example, in his mind, there's no need for regulations on oil companies.   Let them do their thing and when the next Exxon Valdez or Deepwater Horizon disaster comes up (and it WILL) then we'll worry about how to clean it up.   

Most of the rest of us know we cannot wait until disaster happens to fix things.  It's too late then.  We cannot wait until global warming becomes irreversible - we'll all be dead by then.  And just because it's unlikely that "The Event" will occur in our lifetime doesn't mean it won't happen and doesn't mean we should disregard it.  Our descendants will bear that cost if we do nothing.  A conservative - especially ones who speak so passionately about public debt - should understand.  Santorum doesn't.    



Mr. Santorum goes on to talk about his ideas on education.  He says parents should run schools, not the federal government, not the state, not local municipalities - but parents.   It's an idea of a long by-gone era - pre-Civil War America - where communities came together to build schools.   In this idea, Mr. Santorum has a point - but a woefully misguided one.   

For starters, parents are no longer involved in education as we once were.  It is a travesty, but the truth.  Particularly in poverty-stricken areas in America where the parent either works two jobs just to keep food on the table or strung on out crack or too drunk to attend or care about Parent-Teacher meetings.  The same is true in many suburban school districts.  For whatever reason, parental participation has fallen off a cliff.  

But let's take Mr. Santorum at his word - his idea that parents run schools.  Okay, then who decides on where the school is located?  Who decides which contractors to build a school or an extension?  Who interviews the teachers?  Who will discipline the kids (and the teachers) when needed?  Who will make up the curriculum for teachers to follow?  Who decides on teacher pay?  Who is responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the school?  We can get Newt Gingrich and his kids to clean the bathrooms so that shouldn't be a problem, but what if the plumbing breaks?  Who fixes it? Who is responsible for fire, tornado, hurricane, earthquake evacuations?   

It's a full time job to run a school.  The parents would need some mechanism to hire a superintendent, pay him/her a fair salary and give him/her clear directions on what they want from the school.  Parents cannot get together to meet on every such decision they run busy lives themselves, hence the idea of a school board.  Then there's the money.  What are parents to do, pass around a collection plate every month and deposit funds into a PayPal account?  No!  The most logical mechanism for collecting money to pay for school is through the local and state government - through property taxes and school bonds.  

So, Mr. Santorum, if America were to take you up on your fabulous offer to turn back the clock to 1812 we would simply wind up right back where we are today - albeit woefully unprepared for the modern era.  We don't have time for fanciful time travel, so suck it up!  The people who are going to elect you are perfectly okay with public schools being public!   So if you want to help, work with what we have already agreed to.  As I've said many times:  either lead, follow, or get out of the way.  

NPR Topics: News