Archives for the month of: July, 2012

We stand corrected—we didn’t think this would happen.

Yesterday, while addressing a National Urban League Conference in New Orleans, President Obama took a substantial political risk: he said he would work to reduce gun violence in the United States.

"I’m going to continue to work with members of both parties and with religious groups and with civic organisations to arrive at a consensus around violence reduction," the president said.

Obama further noted that "every day and a half the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theater." Reducing this carnage should be a matter of common sense, not controversy, he added.

But in a political climate where the National Rifle Association holds absolute sway, and polls show support for gun control has been dropping, the president’s remarks are bound to be controversial. Already Romney has been quoted as saying we don’t need more gun control laws.

President Obama was careful to show deference to the Second Amendment, and to "the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation." He didn’t propose any specific legislation, such as a renewed ban on assault weapons. Still, he displayed significant political courage in this election year and we commend him for that.

Let’s get this out of the way first:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

That’s the Second Amendment. Most reasonable people interpret it to mean that the people of the U.S. have a constitutional right to form a militia; e.g., a National Guard, an armory. Some reasonable people interpret it to mean that every individual has the right to own a gun for self-protection, although arriving at this conclusion is something of a stretch from the amendment’s actual wording.

But no reasonable person interprets the Second Amendment to mean that anyone—and I mean anyone—is entitled to purchase automatic weapons and then conceal those weapons on their person until, like 24-year-old James Holmes in Colorado yesterday, they determine how they’d like to use them.

Site of the Colorado shootings
Site of the Colorado shootings. Credit: Ed Andrieski/AP Photo

Nor do most reasonable people belong to the National Rifle Association, the most feared and most loathsome political lobby in the United States. Most reasonable people aren’t like Representative Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, who lamented the fact that other people in that Colorado movie theater weren’t "carrying" and were thus deprived of an opportunity to open fire themselves.

Colorado did make some attempt to pass new gun control laws after Columbine, in 1999. Not much was accomplished, as the shootings yesterday in Aurora demonstrate. Not much could be accomplished in present-day America, where virtually everyone holding political office kowtows to the raw power of the NRA.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a notable exception. He was bold enough to declare that "Maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about it."

Unfortunately, in a climate where anyone who even mentions gun control is accused of "exploiting the victims" of the latest senseless atrocity, that’s unlikely to happen.

It could be argued, with a high degree of credibility, that the most serious roadblock to happiness and fulfillment, not to mention health and general well-being for the average American in 2012 is the Republican Party. Or, to be more specific, the practices and principles which are embraced and endorsed by the current incarnation of the Republican Party.

Let’s look down the list. The economy? Still in the tank, thanks to the profligate spending of the Bush administration and the crimes and predations of Wall Street and the banking industry. The environment? Drill, baby, drill—and frack you in the process. Health care? Let’s repeal it. Civil rights? Depends on whose. Women’s rights? Sure, we have lots of special laws just for women.

It is heartening, then, to watch Mitt Romney and the Republicans squirm as the candidate comes under attack for his work at Bain Capital, and for his refusal to release more than two years of tax returns.

Bain of Our Existence
Photo: Evan Vucci/AP, on csmonitor.com

It’s no wonder Romney is defensive about his time at Bain, and about when he ended it. After all, the firm is notorious for outsourcing and layoffs, and for investing in such sterling endeavors as Stericycle, a company that specialized in disposing of aborted fetuses collected from family planning clinics, among other things. And that was an investment that took place in 1999, by the way.

As for the missing tax returns … as so many others have said, the calculation must have been made that it would be more damning to release the returns than to withhold them. Hence Romney’s continued refusal to show anything earlier than his 2010 return. We already know about the offshore accounts Romney has, and we already know he makes tons of money (most of it from his Bain days). What is he hiding? And as a presidential candidate, is he really entitled to hide it?

Let’s keep the pressure on.

Once again, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to move the country backward by repealing “Obamacare”, even after the Supreme Court upheld it. Our representative Chris Gibson was among the reactionaries voting to undo health care reform, despite the fact that the people he ostensibly represents have some of the poorest health care outcomes in the state. Gibson has been cheered on by a band of hill country Greene County zealots who seem oblivious to their own best interests.

The Blue team obviously has a lot of work to do. Locally, it’s important to counter the hysterical rants these dimwits regularly submit to the local press. Try to be polite when doing so … it’s not always easy.

Nationally, we need to elect Julian Schreibman this November and send Gibson packing. That will better serve our county’s residents in many important ways, including health care. Even those residents too blinded by Tea Party slogans to recognize genuine progress when it occurs.

Here’s an apt message from Van Jones on what makes America a great country.

Happy Independence Day!

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