Archive for February, 2013

Is a Rational Debate on Guns Possible?

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013
Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre, NRA chief

By Bob Gaydos

Well, all it took for America to finally enter into a serious, rational discussion of gun control was for 20 kindergarten students to get gunned down in school by a troubled young man with an automatic weapon and lots of ammo. Who says we’ve become desensitized?

I mean, it is perfectly rational for the chairwoman of a legislative committee in Ulster County, N.Y., to argue against her state’s recently enacted tough gun control law by stating: “Genocide is almost always preceded by gun confiscation. History tells us that.” That’s rational isn’t it?

After all, that threat of government confiscation of guns is right out of the literature of the National Rifle Association, proud defender of all citizens’ rights, or at least those rights as the NRA interprets them in the Second Amendment. And genocide is not a loaded word meant to inspire fear in the minds of the less-informed members of the citizenry, is it?

Of course not. All the sturm und drung among self-declared fans of the Second Amendment — the marches and demonstrations and outraged letters to the editor — are, at least as the NRA sees it, justified sensible responses to proposals by President Barack Obama and countless political leaders around the country, including in New York, to rob them of their right to own as many guns as they want, of as many types, with as much ammo, and, truth be told, the right to carry them around anywhere they want, concealed or not, whenever they want.

Because you never know when the government is going to come after you. Hey, look at Ruby Ridge, right? Right. But setting aside the right or wrong of that incident for a moment, who won that particular shootout? And if the motivation for unfettered gun ownership is to protect citizens against their own government — as the NRA leadership often claims — how in the name of anything sane could a group of heavily armed citizens — of any size — prevail against the might of the American military with an even more unfettered access to weapons of every type? Forget the fact that most Americans have no real fear that their government is going to come after them armed to the teeth, most Americans also know that would be a losing battle.

That’s why they focus their energies in the gun control debate on such sensible proposals as requiring a background check for anyone who wants to buy a gun. All recent polls say roughly 90 percent of Americans favor this idea. That obviously includes many gun owners, but not the NRA leaders. And if they fear the government coming after their guns, why do roughly 70 percent of Americans favor creation of a federal database of gun sales? To make the FBI’s job easier? Actually, yes. Because it is the sane thing to do.

As support for gun control measures have gained strength in the wake of the ghastly shooting in Newtown, Conn., the arguments against more restrictions have grown increasingly strident and outrageous by some elements of the NRA.

This is a typical, fearful response. After years of bullying and cowing politicians with threats of political defeat, the NRA leadership is faced with a growing consensus of citizens — if not politicians — who are fed up with people claiming they have the right to carry AK-47s around in public, with lots of well-stocked magazines, because our Founding Fathers gave them that right. In fact, polls show 55 to 60 percent of Americans favor a ban on semi-automatic and assault-type weapons and about 55 percent favor a ban on high-capacity ammo magazines of the type that has created such a furor in New York because the Legislature voted to downsize the capacity from 10 to 7 rounds. This has led some gun owners to fret about being “outgunned.” I for one, don’t want to be around for that shootout, whoever has the most bullets.

The point is that as ever larger numbers of average Americans have finally stepped forward to support sensible restrictions on gun ownership, the arguments by the most avid opponents of gun control have become less sensible. Kids being shot in school? Arm the teachers. Want a safer city? Let citizens strap on guns in public. A few proud Americans armed with AR15s will keep any shopping mall safe. Requiring background checks at gun shows will only keep criminals from trying to get guns there. And making it harder for criminals to get guns is bad, why?

There is no assault on the Second Amendment going on in this gun-crazy country. (There are about 300 million firearms privately owned in America, but most Americans don’t own guns. Most gun owners own two or more weapons.) Rather, there is a growing public consensus that the time of being fearful of the NRA and its most vocal advocates is gone, drowned in the blood of kindergarten students. Politicians who don’t get this are those fearful of losing political and financial support from the NRA and some of its members. It is time for courage on their part. The responsible, prudent course for them would be to suggest reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, not rail about the unfairness of some laws that were long overdue. Work to right good laws.

The NRA has waged a long, illogical campaign of fear and threat in the guise of protecting citizens’ rights. But in recent weeks it has shown through statements of its leader, Wayne LaPierre, that its agenda is not about protecting the Second Amendment, but rather removing any and all restrictions on gun ownership. But the U.N. is not coming for your guns, America. Genocide is not on the horizon. Grow up. Demand sensible gun laws that protect you from those who have no business owning deadly weapons.

Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Our Founding Fathers also believed in those rights. No one has ever needed an assault weapon to enjoy them in America. 





A Few Words from a Former Gun Owner

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

By Michael Kaufman

I used to own a gun. I kept it hidden in a shoebox in the attic, where it remained unfired for years. I was comforted by its presence. I thought it might come in handy some day if a dangerous criminal came to our house, or maybe a gang of anti-Semites or the Ku Klux Klan. We lived in Englewood, New Jersey, at the time but hey, you never know. Besides, we have something in this country called the Second Amendment that says that American citizens have the right to keep and bear arms.

The Founding Fathers of our Revolutionary government gave us this right so we could protect ourselves against any attempt by future government leaders to establish a dictatorship. Maybe I would need my gun to help keep the fascists from taking over. I could not have imagined that some 40 years later a delusional right-wing candidate for the United States Senate would speak openly about “Second Amendment remedies” or that gun-toting right-wing militia groups around the country would be preparing for battle against a government they perceive as barreling towards socialism. (The odd thing about this is that corporate rule in this country has never been stronger.) Some scary people are out there now with guns—and I’m not talking about the mentally ill ones who go on killing sprees at schools, movie theaters and other public places.

You can see some of them on the TV news: wackos like Ted Nugent (who predicted he’d either be dead or in jail if President Obama were re-elected) and the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre (who said in a 1995 a fund-raising letter to NRA members: “The semiauto ban gives jack-booted government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us.”) Six days later NRA member Timothy McVeigh used a similar argument to justify using a fertilizer bomb hidden in a truck to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people including 19 children under the age of six.

I never thought about using a fertilizer bomb but sometimes I fantasized about using my gun to kill a Nazi war criminal, an old Hungarian guy who lived a few blocks from our house. The Hungarian government had been asking for years that he be sent to Hungary to stand trial. But the U.S. allowed him to remain here, accepting his argument that he couldn’t get a fair trial under that country’s Communist government. This man’s crimes were described by Charles R. Allen, Jr., in his book Nazi War Criminals Among Us (1963). Chuck Allen was one of my journalistic heroes, a great investigative reporter who devoted much of his work to exposing the presence of numerous Nazi war criminals in the U.S.  (For more information about his life and work, copy and paste “Charles R. Allen Jr (Saidel)” into your browser bar: The actual link is too long to print here but those search words will lead to a 2005 obituary and it is a darn good read.)

Even now I don’t think it was so unreasonable to entertain thoughts about shooting the old Nazi. I knew from my few trips to the shooting range, however, that I’m not a good marksman: I never got close to a bullseye and was lucky to even hit the target. What if I missed the Nazi and shot an innocent bystander, a child, or even the guy’s wife?  I never fired the gun. The bastard died of old age.

One day my wife was looking for something in the attic and she noticed the shoebox. I had never told her or anyone else in the family about the gun. This led to an argument that I lost: She didn’t give a fig about Second Amendment rights, protecting our house from criminals, anti-Semites, racists, or the coming of fascism. We had children. As unlikely as it may have been for them to climb into the attic, find the gun in the shoebox, figure out how to use it….and to then shoot and possibly maim or kill someone (even themselves) with it—it wasn’t worth the risk. She was right. Statistics show that many more deaths occur to family members in the homes of people who have guns than in homes without the guns. So one day when I wasn’t home she threw it in a dumpster.

And if the government ever becomes so insufferable and tyrannical that the majority of people find it necessary to rise up against it,  those weapons you or I may own won’t help much. But that doesn’t mean all would be lost, either.

Gandhi, anyone?

Michael can be reached at


If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Cheat ‘Em

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Jon Stewart of The Daily Show coins a new Fox sobriquet: Ferret News Channel.

By Emily Theroux

The Stupid Party’s been trying to act foxy lately over the urgency of ideological “reform.”

But Jon Stewart of The Daily Show has ferreted out the Republicans’ actual intentions. The GOP’s search for a “new, improved” menu of voter comestibles is really an effort to repackage the party’s time-honored “s–t sandwich.”

Unable to win presidential elections fair and square in the face of encroaching demographic turbulence, Republicans have resorted to what Stewart termed a type of “Orwellian sleight of tongue” — a.k.a. cheating. (Oops! I meant “winning through process innovation.”) The GOP, Stewart contends, needs “a perpetual messaging refinement and distribution resource — preferably one cloaked in the trappings of journalistic authority, but without any of its ethical constraints.” In other words, a “rebranded” Roger Ailes 24/7 propaganda vehicle: “Ferret News“!

Karl Rove, 'the Architect'

Playing word games in an attempt to hoodwink low-info voters, as Fox does, is really just a variation on Republican “dirty tricks.” Originated by Richard Nixon and Chuck Colson, this reprehensible strategy dates back in recent political history to the advent of Karl Rove on the national stage at the dawn of the new millennium. We may have dodged Y2K, but enduring the mercurial machinations of Y2Karl has continued unabated for four election cycles, with mercifully declining levels of success.

  • In 2004, Dubya won reelection despite pro-John Kerry exit polls in Ohio, where allegations later surfaced of “blatant partisanship of election officials” and possible electronic ballot tampering. Two Democratic reports on the Ohio vote later suggested that many Kerry votes were suppressed by long lines, too few voting machines, and numerous instances of election officials improperly forcing Democratic voters to cast provisional ballots that were later discarded.
  • In 2008, Rove served as an informal adviser to John McCain. Any stratagems he may have recommended failed to stem the Democratic tide of “hope and change” that swamped McCain and Sarah Palin, as Barack Obama won swing states by margins too wide to contest or tamper with.
  • In 2012, the GOP hollered “Voter fraud!” and followed up the general panic that ensued among Fox News viewers by passing voter suppression laws in battleground states. But not even minority voter intimidation, interminable lines at polling places, billions in Citizens United super-PAC moolah, or Karl Rove’s election-night histrionics on Fox’s air could pull out a Mitt Romney win.

Abject failure in the last election hasn’t stopped Rove from reinventing himself this year, however. Rove has drawn the ire of the Tea Party after launching a new initiative by his American Crossroads super PAC, the Conservative Victory Project, designed to get moderate GOP candidates nominated in 2014 primaries instead of extremists, who often go down in flames during general-election contests.

Like a battered pop-up target in a particularly brutal game of Whac-a-Mole, the trusted consigliere whom Dubya nicknamed “Boy Genius” has sent out political green shoots in midwinter 2013. Knowing Turdblossom, the emerging “bloom” is likely to crop up as a stinkweed.


All ‘happy talk’, no policy proposals

The Republican Party establishment doesn’t appear to be following the new blueprint drafted by “the Architect” — not, at least, with any construction contracts. Most remain in the “bargaining” stage of dealing with defeat, if not the “denial” phase. Talk is cheaper and less painful than action, and anyway, wordsmithing has been the GOP’s ticket to ride since 2000, and many are reluctant to disembark from the happy-talk train.

'Maybe this strategy is starting to have diminishing returns. Maybe Republicans have hit peak Luntz' — Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, Feb. 5, 2013

When Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal admonished his fellow Republicans to “stop being the stupid party,” he advised the GOP to start “(talking) like adults.” This tactic, however, is nothing new. Glossology guru Frank Luntz, whom Stewart dubbed the “Republican Batman,” has long corrected what he terms “language errors,” converting them into persuasive obfuscations then uttered simultaneously by Republican “communicators” on Luntz’s cue.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 5, 2013. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor put Luntz’s “new” linguistic framing into effect earlier this week, when his speechwriters went so far as to purloin the “fair shot at success” speech delivered in December 2011 by his arch-enemy, Barack Obama (as Al Sharpton demonstrated on his MSNBC show, Politics Nation). Cantor’s purpose was to lull the ignorant sheeple into swallowing his party’s “softer focus” on “creating conditions for health, happiness, and prosperity”  — you know, stuff like education, health care, immigration reform, and the American Dream. His focus was soft, all right: gauzy words, but no policy prescriptions.

After all, as participants in The National Review’s recent summit on “reforming” the Republican Party concluded, the GOP need only ameliorate its delivery, not change its platform. While Karl Rove breaks ranks with the Tea Party in a desperate bid to defy demographics and reinstate the “permanent Republican majority” he has long envisioned, the (Hoping You’re) Gullible Old Party reduces its existential impasse to mere semantics.

“Rebranding,” not reform, is the GOP’s new raincheck for electoral success. Republicans haven’t quite “completed the sentence,” as Cantor offered on Morning Joe, but the clauses that form it are beginning to coalesce. Just ask Faux pundits InSannity, O’Really, or Steve Duncey — talking points have always been the most effective form of GOP cheating.

Ferret News may have dumped Palin and kicked Dick Morris to the curb, but crusty cliches don’t vanish overnight. How much do you want to bet that Fox keeps guarding the GOP henhouse?

The Littlest Victims

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

Does the war against children ever end? Here are some important recent stories you may have missed that illustrate the violence inflicted on kids as well as the seeming indifference some authorities display in prosecuting the abusers.

First, some numbers: In her Violence Against Children Act of 2011 (which died when it was referred back to committee), Senator Barbara Boxer noted that 248,000 crimes against children ages 12 to 17 were reported in 2007. That’s about 700 a day. Nearly 92,000 of the victims were under age 12. Boxer also noted that 65 percent of violent crimes against people ages 12 to 19 go unreported to the police.

* * *

I was struck dumb when Deborah Gomez, 43, of Chicago recently faced a judge in Kansas – where she had been charged with child endangerment – and then strolled out of court. Specifically, Gomez last June bound the hands and legs of her two youngest children, then blindfolded them and then left them in her car in a Walmart parking lot while she and her husband went to shop. The children were aged 7 and 5. The high temperature for the day was 87, pretty dangerous in a closed car.

Gomez pleaded no contest and the judge, clearly not as outraged as you and I might have been, sentenced her to one year on probation.

Gomez’s husband, Adolfo, was charged with misdemeanor counts of child endangerment and was to be sentenced later. A wire service report noted that Adolfo insisted the children be blindfolded and bound as a defense against demons.

The Gomezes’ three other children, ages 15, 13 and 12, also were locked in the car but were not restrained. They made no attempt to help the two youngest.

To be ordered to report to a probation officer every week for a year reminds me of the light sentences some judges have been known to hand down in some drunken driving cases. These are judges who justify such a degree of mercy with the idiotic chestnut “He didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”

In the Gomez case, I think the Kansas Bar Association should order the judge to move in with the Gomezes, their children and their demons for a year while Mrs. Gomez reports to her probation officer.

* * *

Sometimes kids are abused by other kids, as often is the case in instances of bullying. Last Friday night, with a wind-chill of about 13, Freddy Martin, 9, was playing on the roof of a five-story building in the Bronx. So was Casmine Aska, 17, almost a grownup. Around 8:30 p.m., the police say, Casmine threw Freddy off the roof.

It was an accident, Aska is reported to have told the cops. While holding Freddy off the ground, Casmine turned and slipped and somehow dropped the younger kid off the roof.

Did Casmine call 911? No.

Did he tell his mother what happened? No.

Did he run downstairs to see if Freddy was all right? No.

Freddy somehow survived and was able to tell the cops who had dropped him. The Times quoted a neighbor as saying Freddy was “unrecognizable” as a result of his fall.

* * *

In rural Alabama, Jimmy Lee Dykes once beat a dog to death with an iron pipe and had threatened some elementary school children – they’d stepped  onto his property – with a gun. Now he was days away from a court hearing on charges that he had threatened a neighbor with a gun.

That incident was in December. But now it was February, and Dykes and his police record boarded a school bus in Midland City. When Dykes tried to grab two kids to take with him, the bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, put himself between Dykes and his gun. Dykes killed him in cold blood.

But Sykes got one kid, an autistic boy named Ethan, and took him to his underground bunker.

It took authorities about a week to finally work out a plan for Ethan’s rescue. There was an explosion and gun shots, and Dykes was dead. Ethan was not injured.

I’d like to meet the people in charge of Dykes’s current case. With his history of violent behavior, how could his December threatening-case have been delayed two months as he walked about?

Maybe Jimmy Lee Dykes was just a crazy old coot, but he was dangerous enough to move his case as quickly as possible and be done with him. I understand that. So do you. But the prosecutors didn’t? I don’t believe that for a minute.

* * *

In Queens, a couple was charged with shaking their baby daughter to death; she was 70 days old. The man was convicted and faces 15 years to life in prison. His wife went free; the district attorney dropped the charges against her. Both had spent five years in prison awaiting trial.

This is how screwed up the system is. Everyone wants to avoid trial. So it just goes on, with those in charge often seeming to go easy on child abusers. To avoid trial, prosecutors often accept a guilty plea to a reduced charge. And children keep dying.

* * *

Did it take you about 5 minutes to read this story? According to Boxer, that means almost 3 children were beaten or clubbed or shot or stabbed or otherwise abused since you first saw the headline.