A Scrapbook Of Life In America: Excerpts From The Pro-Gun Forums

Just over a week ago, I re-blogged a post by Greg, aka Ohio Realist, over at On the Fence Voters. It was the initial post of their new project on the issue of guns and the tragic gun culture in the U.S. Today, I share with you the second post in the project, a plethora of excuses for the fact that there is almost zero regulation on guns in this country. We have a problem … a huge problem … and the key to solving that problem is awareness. Please take a look at these pictures and read the words. The U.S. doesn’t lead the world in much these days, but we certainly do lead in gun fatalities, and once you see this post, you’ll understand why. Thank you, Greg and Jeff, for keeping this issue in the limelight … great work!

On The Fence Voters

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Out of the pool

Once again, our friend Keith has been thinking and come up with some ideas that I think have a great deal of merit. Granted, they will likely never see the light of day, but … I surely wish they would. Heck, I’m all for starting a campaign to elect Keith Wilson as the next president of the United States! All in favour? Thank you, Keith, for some excellent thoughts.

musingsofanoldfart

I think it is time to fire any politician in Washington who is forgetting why they are there. We could start with the White House incumbent and then take out hundreds of members of Congress in both Houses. I understand fully Congress must investigate and provide oversight over the Executive Branch. That is part of their job and the current incumbent has given them cause to dig further.

Yet, I have this simple idea that leaders of both houses sit down with legislative liaisons from the White House and figure out some things they can pass and sign into law. I think a civilian board could list about a dozen major issues to focus on and say work these out. It should not take a civilian board, but these folks are too beholden to funders to come up with a workable list.

A key reason for not listing the problems…

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Eric Swalwell: The 7 Issues Guide

Today I bring you the 14th installment of TokyoSand’s excellent series, The 7 Issues Guide, helping us get to know a bit about the platforms of the democratic candidates running for the office of president next year. Eric Swalwell is on deck today. I know next to nothing about Mr. Swalwell, other than that he is currently serving his 4th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He seems to have the right ideas, but with 23 candidates currently in the running, I don’t see anything that stands out and says, “Pick me!” Nonetheless, I believe all the candidates should be given fair consideration, for you never know where you will find a diamond in the rough. Thank you, TokyoSand, and your diligent volunteers, for helping us get to know Mr. Swalwell!

Political⚡Charge

swalwell Rep. Eric Swalwell

The Democrats have a big field of candidates running for President in 2020. Each of them brings their own unique strengths to the table in a bid to take our country in a very different direction than the one we’re on today.

But as we well know from 2016, the media (and especially social media) gets fixated on non-substantial issues that take up all the oxygen. Plus, they don’t give the candidates the same treatment or the same amount of airtime.

In order to help voters get to know the Democratic candidates, I’ve gathered quotes and information about what the candidates have said or done in regards to the 7 issues that midterm voters identified as the most important. I hope that these guides serve as a helpful starting point for you as you look into which candidates (or how many candidates!) you are interested in…

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emma gonzalez

On February 14th, 2018, seventeen students and staff members died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Students were heartbroken, and they spoke out, letting us know that this was beyond tolerable, that they were fed up with we “adults” allowing these things to happen … think Columbine, think Sandy Hook and many, many others. One of the young activists was Emma Gonzales, a courageous young woman who said, “No more!” And still today, the government and the people of this nation are letting our young people down.

Every time there is a mass shooting, especially a school shooting, we are horrified … for a few days … and then, while we don’t exactly forget, we let other matters take precedence and we put it out of our minds. How many of our children must die before we wake up, before we force our legislators to put our children ahead of the profits of the all-powerful gun lobby?

Our friend Larry has written an excellent post featuring a tribute song by Madonna. Thank you, Larry, for this post and your permission to share it.

QUEST

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photo by SIMON MATZINGER

“So we are speaking up for those who don’t have anyone listening to them, for those who can’t talk about it yet, and for those who will never speak again. We are grieving, we are furious, and we are using our words fiercely and desperately because that’s the only thing standing between us and this happening again.” EMMA GONZALEZ

We rise every morning anticipating a great day filled with joy, happiness and safety in our daily endeavors.  We hug our loved ones as they go out the door about their day’s agenda.  We expect to see them later, don’t we?

We know life has no guarantees, but we trust in goodness and mercy.  Emma Gonzalez chatted with friends before classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas not knowing that there were a few whom she would never again see alive.  Shots rang out, young people were murdered and…

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Beto O’Rourke: The 7 Issues Guide

Today I bring you the 10th installment of TokyoSand’s excellent series, The 7 Issues Guide, helping us get to know a bit about the platforms of the democratic candidates running for the office of president next year. Beto O’Rourke is on deck today. Last year, Mr. O’Rourke challenged Senator Ted Cruz for his Senate seat and came very close to winning. He is, in my opinion, an exciting candidate, so let’s learn a bit more about his platform. Thank you, TokyoSand, and your diligent volunteers, for helping us get to know Mr. O’Rourke!

Political⚡Charge

Beto Beto O’Rourke, Photo by MICHAEL STRAVATO via The Texas Tribune

The Democrats have a big field of candidates running for President in 2020. To briefly use a sports analogy, I see our candidates as the starting players on the Blue team, each bringing their own unique strengths to the table in a bid to take our country in a very different direction than the one we’re on today.

But as we well know from 2016, the media (and especially social media) gets fixated on non-substantial issues that take up all the oxygen. Plus, they don’t give the candidates the same treatment or the same amount of airtime.

In order to help voters get to know the Democratic candidates, I’ve gathered quotes and information about what the candidates have said or done in regards to the 7 issues that midterm voters identified as the most important. I hope that these…

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Filosofa’s BIG Announcement!

Okay, folks … here is my big announcement:

I’ve decided to run for President of the United States in November 2020! 

Um … don’t everybody wear your hands out applauding now … well, a little bit of applause might be nice … okay, I’ll settle for those few chuckles I heard.

Now, I can’t afford a huge campaign, and I will NOT take a single dime from any business or lobbying interest, so that puts me at a disadvantage before I even get to the gate. However, I do have a few advantages over the rest of the pack, but I’ll get to those in a minute.

First, a few of my highest priorities:

  • Environmental
    • The United States will immediately, the day after I take office, rejoin the Paris Accord
    • All regulations on the fossil fuel and auto industries that were revoked by my predecessor will immediately be re-instated
    • I will petition Congress for emergency funding to re-build the Environmental Protection Agency and will nominate a conscientious person as director of that agency
    • We will enhance our renewable energy resources and provide incentives for companies to develop new sustainable energy sources
  • Constitutional Issues
    • I will support freedom of the press to the fullest, even when I don’t like what they say about me – the free press is our only hope for remaining a free people
    • Separation of church and state will be the law. There is no place for religion in government, and this government will support no particular religion over another
    • I will petition Congress for a ban on all assault weapons, and for expanded background checks, as well as training and licensing in order to obtain any sort of firearm
  • Education
    • All funding for the Department of Education will go toward public schools where all children will be treated equally; taxpayer money will NOT be used for ‘charter’ schools that benefit only the few
    • I will propose that Congress introduce legislation to provide free college tuition for a minimum of two years to all students whose annual family income falls below $100,000
    • School curriculums will be evaluated and re-designed as necessary in order to provide students with a well-balanced education that includes both career training and a liberal arts education
    • Religion will not be taught in public schools. Parents who wish their children to obtain religious training may send their children to religious schools at their own expense
  • Health Care
    • No person in the country will be without affordable healthcare. Most will pay according to their ability to pay, without such payment placing undo hardship.  Those who cannot afford to pay will receive free healthcare
    • There will be an ad hoc committee to study prescription drug costs and appropriate caps will be put on all pharmaceuticals
  • Taxation
    • The tax brackets will be expanded for those earning over $100,000 per year. Those whose net worth is $1 million or more will fall into the highest income tax brackets, to be determined before year end
  • Economy
    • Unfettered capitalism will cease to exist. My administration will place a higher value on human life than on GDP
    • The Chairman of the Federal Reserve will decide at what point it is prudent to raise or lower interest rates without coercion from myself or others. This is not a political agency, but one based on the best interest of the nation
    • We will aim for a balanced budget, or at least reduce the deficit by 20% each year, and will not increase the national debt beyond its current levels
  • International Relations
    • We will begin re-building trust among our allies in whatever way possible
    • We will hold Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable for the brutal murder of our journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year by severing any arms agreements, and imposing other sanctions as seen fit
    • There will be NO wall on our border

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but merely the top bullet points of my platform.  Now, what do I bring to the table, since it damn sure isn’t money or fame?

Honesty and integrity, for starters.  I will take not a single dime from any organization that seeks special favours or sees their donation as creating an obligation.  I will not lie … if I cannot tell you something, I will simply say that I cannot discuss it, but I will not lie or over-inflate my achievements.  I will demand the same from any cabinet members that I select.

Compassion and humanity.  I will put the people of this nation … all the people … ahead of profit.  One thing this means is that I will never demean or mock another human being.  We’ve had enough of that to last a lifetime.  I will not tolerate bigotry in any form. The emphasis of this government will be people, not weapons of war, not profit for the biggest corporations, but the well-being of people.

Literacy.  Unlike my predecessor, I have studied politics and history all my life, hold a B.S. in both Accounting and Political Science, and an M.A. in International Relations.  I have read the U.S. Constitution at least 50 times in the past 30 years and have taken a number of classes in Constitutional Law.  I have studied past presidents.  And I can write more than 5 words without a spelling error.  In other words, I know the difference between ‘origins’ and ‘oranges’.

Common Sense.  I am smart enough to realize that there are many, many things I will not know, but unlike my predecessor, I am willing to seek the advice of those who do know those things.  I am also smart enough to realize that sometimes we all make mistakes, but the important thing is to admit those mistakes, then take steps to rectify the errors.  This I will do.

And that, my friends, is all I have to offer.  Now all I have to do is find a running mate who shares my values and vision.  Any takers?

Pete Buttigieg: The 7 Issues Guide

Today I bring you the 6th installment of TokyoSand’s excellent series, The 7 Issues Guide, helping us get to know a bit about the platforms of the democratic candidates running for president next year. Pete Buttigieg is on deck today, and he is one that I know very little about. Thank you, TokyoSand, and your diligent volunteers, for helping us get to know Mr. Buttigieg!

Political⚡Charge

buttigieg Pete Buttigieg; Photo by Yuri Gripas, Reuters

The Democrats have a big field of candidates running for President in 2020. To briefly use a sports analogy, I see our candidates as the starting players on the Blue team, each bringing their own unique strengths to the table in a bid to take our country in a very different direction than the one we’re on today.

But as we well know from 2016, the media (and especially social media) gets fixated on non-substantial issues that take up all the oxygen. Plus, they don’t give the candidates the same treatment or the same amount of airtime.

In order to help voters get to know the Democratic candidates, I’ve enlisted the help of a team of terrific volunteers who have helped gather quotes and information about what the candidates have said or done in regards to the 7 issues that midterm voters identified…

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Six Days …

Six days.  It only took six days after a gunman opened fire on two mosques in New Zealand, killing at least 50 people, before the government took action and banned assault-type weapons that were never meant for civilian use to begin with.  Yesterday, New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced a national ban on military-style semiautomatic weapons, on parts that allow guns to be modified into such weapons, and on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

This, my friends, is how a true leader responds to a crisis.  This is the action of a leader who actually cares what happens to the people in the country she is tasked with leading.  This is a leader who puts people ahead of corporate greed and politics.  Every nation deserves such a leader.

Now, you might say, well, New Zealand doesn’t have the National Rifle Association (NRA) to contend with.  Well, yes and no.  New Zealand actually does have a National Rifle Association, but their function is entirely different than the one in the U.S.  The New Zealand NRA is the country’s governing body for the sport of long-range target shooting. It does not engage in political lobbying.  When Prime Minister Ardern announced the ban on semiautomatic weapons yesterday, the NRA-NZ responded positively and even noted that they are considering a name change to avoid being associated with the U.S. NRA.

In New Zealand, gun owners are subjected to rigorous background checks and requirements, and even after acquiring a license, gun owners in New Zealand continue to be subjected to scrutiny from the authorities.

“If your name comes up with a police or traffic complaint, that list gets looked at by the police firearms division. If it looks like your name is coming up more often, they’ll come and have a word with you.” – Ross Mason, Chairman NRA-NZ

Can you imagine the outrage among gun owners if this happened in the U.S.?  Or, can you imagine the reaction if it was suggested that gun owners voluntarily give up their firearms?  Within the first four days after the shootings, a number of gun owners had turned in their semiautomatic weapons.  One man, a farmer named John Hart, turned his rifle over to police, then tweeted …John Hart

Did you read that, folks?  “My convenience doesn’t outweigh the risk of misuse.”  That should be a bumper sticker and we should hand them out with every gun purchase, every box of ammo …

I don’t know about you folks, but to me, this reaction all the way from the head of government down to the citizens, is a breath of fresh air.  This is the way it should be.  Consider this.  If a roller coaster at an amusement park derails and 30-40 people are killed or injured, all hell breaks loose.  The ride, or likely the entire park is shut down indefinitely.  The manufacturers of the ride are called in.  Safety experts and mechanics are called in to determine the cause.  If there is fault, fines are levied. And lawsuits are filed against the park and the ride’s manufacturer.  That ride will never operate again in all likelihood.  Why?  Because we place a high priority on human life.

But if a gunman goes on a spree in Las Vegas or a high school in Parkland, Florida, the nutters immediately come out ranting “don’t try to take our guns!” The NRA issues a statement before the dust even settles warning the sensible among us that this is “not the time” to mention gun regulation or gun safety.  A few days pass, the media move on to other things, and life returns to normal … until the next time.

Apparently, the NRA in the U.S. is not content to interfere and subvert any attempts at sensible gun safety legislation in the U.S., but have also stuck their nose into New Zealand’s business this week.  Former police minister and New Zealand National Party MP Judith Collins says that both she and the current police minister, Stuart Nash had begun receiving propaganda material from the U.S. NRA.  In the past, she said, when she sought to introduce gun law reforms during her two stints as police minister, she was inundated by material from the NRA in the U.S.

“They talked about how we were trying to take away their Second Amendment rights to own guns. We don’t have a right to bear arms. To own a gun in New Zealand is absolutely a privilege and not a right.”

Say WHAT???  By what right does the NRA here in the U.S. get off trying to change gun laws in a nation on the other side of the globe?  The NRA has gone beyond what is acceptable so many times in the past, but this one takes the cake.  Fortunately, New Zealanders have better sense that the average gun-lovin’ American, and Ms. Collins told them to …bugger off

I’ve said it all before, but it bears repeating.  The U.S. has the most lax gun laws, the most guns per capita (more guns than people, at approximately 400 million guns and only 330 million people), and the highest rate of deaths by guns than any other nation on earth.  It is past time for us to re-consider the 2nd Amendment that has cost the lives of more citizens of this nation than every war we’ve ever been involved in.  New Zealand certainly has the right idea, as do Australia and every other nation on the globe.  Yesterday I saw a New York Times’ OpEd piece titled, “America Deserves a Leader as Good as Jacinda Ardern”.  I second that!

Two thumbs up to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the good people of New Zealand for putting human lives ahead of corporate greed.

The State of DISunion

I did not watch Donald Trump’s State of the Union (SOTU) address last night, for three very good reasons.

  1. I was already not feeling well and knew that having to see his face, hear his voice, and see all those strange contortions he does with his face would make me unbearably ill.
  2. I feared that my strong reaction to having to listen to him would cause me to irreparably damage my laptop, and frankly I cannot afford a new computer at the moment.
  3. The most important reason of all is that the speech was sure to be filled with lies, or as Keith would prefer I say, ‘untruths’. Why bother?  I have better things to do with my time.

I have worked my way through most of the transcript this morning, have read a few analyses, read The Washington Post’s fact check, and concluded that I was correct in my assessment – it would have been a colossal waste of my valuable time.  That said, I do have some things to say (surprised, aren’t you?) about it all.

First of all, one has to wonder why we even have a State of the Union address every year.

Article II, Section 3 of the United States Constitution states that the president shall ”from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

Somehow, I think that goal could be accomplished without all the pomp and circumstance that surround the event these days.  And, with today’s instantaneous communication, the speech seems really to have outlived its usefulness.  In fact, of what use is it to waste the time of Congress, the Supreme Court, other guests and the home viewing audience, just to listen to fairy tales?  Why couldn’t he just tweet it, as he does everything else? I won’t bother to bore you with the fact-checking … you can get that from any of the major media outlets.

The speech is most notable for what was not addressed.

Climate Change.  How can a speech that is intended to inform us about the state of the country, completely ignore the thing that, by most measures, is the single most important issue facing this, and every other nation?  Under Trump, the U.S. has pulled out of major agreements to work toward reducing carbon emissions and has rolled back the regulations that were intended to help protect the environment.  We have seen the results with our own eyes in the past year, even the past week, yet he says not one word?

Renewable Energy.  The future is not in the coal, gas and oil that Trump has so adamantly vowed to protect, but the future is in renewable energy such as solar, wind and water.  Under Trump, there is no major push by the federal government to explore and expand on renewable energy, but a number of states and corporations are participating.  This could have been a genuine feather in Trump’s cap, had he opted to do the right thing, to take seriously the need to distance ourselves from fossil fuels.  Instead, he chose the most destructive path.

Relations with Allies.  Our relationships with our allies are crumbling, thanks to Trump’s policies that have, in many cases, left our allies scrambling to try to make up for the failure of the U.S. to pull its weight, such as in the Paris Accord, NATO, the Iran nuclear agreement, and NAFTA, and the latest threat to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan.  Add to that the disdain he has shown for the leaders of allied nations, such as Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, Theresa May and others.  We are no longer a good and trusted friend, to put it quite simply.

Poverty.  Despite Trump’s claims that wages have risen, jobs have been created, 13.4% of people in this nation are living below the poverty level.  As the population increases, and some jobs are replaced by technology, the number of people who struggle just to put food on the table has risen and will continue to rise.

Education.  We are falling behind in our education system, as I have mentioned more than a few times, and this is the key to almost everything I have listed so far.  The new trend seems to be moving away from developing minds and more toward job training.  This is a mistake … a huge mistake … and to add insult to injury, this nation has made it nearly impossible for a young person from a lower-income family to go to college.

National Debt.  With the December 2017 tax cuts that benefit almost exclusively the wealthy in the nation, we severely reduced the nation’s revenue.  To maintain a balanced budget, thereby keeping the national debt at current levels, would require spending cuts equal to the revenue reduction.  But those cuts, under Trump’s plan, would come from programs that help disadvantaged people.  Trump’s fiscal plan is rather a reverse Robin Hood – rob from the poor to give to the rich.

Gun Regulation.  The U.S. is the only nation on the globe with almost no regulations on firearms.  Those who claim the 2nd Amendment gives them the right to own an arsenal that includes assault-type weapons that can mow down a crowd inside of a minute are fools.  On this, the 37th day of 2019, there have already been 510 gun deaths in the U.S.  An average of 14 per day.  And yet, this topic was not considered important enough to be addressed in the State of the Union.

There is more I could add, but you get the picture.  The address was a public relations event, nothing more.  I found it strange that he would call for unity, when he has, in fact, been the most divisive president in the history of the nation.  “We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution …” he said, when he is the very source of revenge and retribution, he has pursued a divisive political strategy very much focused on his base.  Last night’s speech, like most everything he does, was intended only for his base … he told them what they wanted to hear and left the rest of us with the clear knowledge that nothing is changed, that the state of the nation is _____________________. (Fill in the blank)

A Slap In The Face!

This morning, Trump sent a letter to all members of both chambers of Congress.  The letter is long-winded and not particularly interesting, filled with his typical bluster and lies, but you can read it  if you wish.  There is one part, however, that stuck out like a sore thumb:

“Absolutely critical to border security and national security is a wall or a physical barrier that prevents entry in the first place.  Members of both parties—including then Senators Obama and Clinton, current Senator Schumer, and many other members of the House and Senate—all voted for a hard, physical barrier.  Walls work.  That’s why rich, powerful, and successful people build them around their homes.  All Americans deserve the same protection.  In Israel, it is 99 percent effective.”

I live in a relatively poor neighborhood that is bordered by a very wealthy neighborhood … it is, in fact, where former Speaker of the House John Boehner lives.  Until a few years ago, we were able to drive through that neighborhood, called only “Wetherington”, and I had frequently done so, as it connects our area of town to the area where most shopping and dining venues are located. I never once saw a wall surrounding a single house.  Most do not even have fences.  The community eventually put up a gate at the entrances to the area, for the residents complained about the noise we commoners made driving through their community, but there are no walls.

I have, when I was younger, traveled through many areas in this nation from Boston to Los Angeles and points in between, and I have never seen a house surrounded by a wall.  It is not the “rich, powerful, and successful” people who would build walls around their homes, it is the paranoid fools who would do so.  This is another of Trump’s many thousand lies, but it is offensive as hell to We The People! It is a slap in the face by the very ‘man’ whose salary we work hard to pay. It suggests that if you are not “rich, powerful, and successful”, then you are of little or no value.

Who would want to live in a house surrounded by a wall?  I would not.  I would feel horribly isolated from the world, and that is exactly what Donald Trump is trying to do to the United States – isolate us completely from the rest of the world.  Why?  The U.S. and its people are no better than any others.  People from other nations bring wealth to our culture … they bring us new foods, fashion, dance, music, art, and the list goes on.  They add value to our nation, to our lives.

There are many things that can be done to enhance the security of our borders, however … most crime, most murders in this nation are not committed by immigrants, legal or illegal.  Most murders in this nation are committed by people who were born and raised right here in the United States.  And most are committed with guns.  Donald Trump and his cast of characters are not … I repeat are NOT … concerned in the least bit with the safety of the people living in the U.S., for if they were, they would forget about the damn wall and turn their attention to gun regulation that would truly make this nation a safer place to live.

The fact that Trump is willingly making this country less safe by keeping parts of the government shut down unless he gets his way with the wall tells the story in its entirety.  He is on a huge ego trip and will stop at nothing to have his way.  I urge both the Senate and the House of Representatives to pass a spending bill that is veto-proof, one that will be supported by at least a 2/3 majority in both houses of Congress, so that we can resume the business of government despite Trump’s best efforts to destroy the nation.

As I was writing this, came the news that Trump said he is willing to keep the government shut down for months, or even years unless he gets the initial funding for his wall.  And … to add insult to injury, while 800,000 federal workers are not being paid, Mike Pence and ‘hundreds of senior political appointees’ will receive a $10,000 pay raise tomorrow!  Yet another slap in the face!

I close by asking that we all consider the poem written by Emma Lazarus that is on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty:

lady liberty criesNot like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Note to readers:  Since this was published, it was reported that Trump is also considering declaring a state of national emergency.  The beginning?  Or the end?