Saturday, May 25, 2013

Annie Get Your Gun

Ethel Merman, Annie Get Your Gun, 1946
In the Broadway musical, Annie Get Your Gun, Ethel Merman belts out
The gals with 'umbrellars'
Are always out with fellers
In the rain or the blazing sun
But a man never trifles 
With gals who carry rifles
Oh you can't get a man with a gun.
With a gun, with a gun,
No, you can't get a man with a gun.

Sarah Palin might well disagree. She's all for guns and she has her man, Todd, and she's the darling of the National Rifle Association, where she was a featured speaker at their annual "Stand and Fight" convention in Houston. Palin tried to hit all the gun nut hot buttons; President Obama, a hot button needing no elaboration, gun control, the liberal media, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and those of us who "exploit" tragedies like Newtown to press our liberal agenda. Palin's brief talk was a highlight for many of the conventioneers, who pushed forward to get a good look at Palin's tee shirt, which had antlers and the words, 'Women Hunt' written across her ample breasts in bright pink.
Despite Sarah's appeal to the female shooter, the percentage of women gun owners in the population as a whole, an estimated 10%, is only about a third of that of men. Among people who admit to owning guns, 74% are men and 26% are women. The NRA is trying to change that statistic, as seminars and product displays at their 2013 convention demonstrated. The message being broadcast by the NRA is simple. If women want equality with men, buy a gun, and CRASH goes the 'glass ceiling.' Not really, but doesn't a woman feel safer carrying a gun in her handbag? You're damned right they do, at least according to the blogs cropping up promoting gun ownership among women.

It used to be that men owned guns to hunt. Then the NRA began getting out the message that they needed guns to fight the "jack booted thugs" of the ATF, and the FBI, and Obama's government tyranny, bent on denying them their Second Amendment rights. And men bought the message and they bought semi-automatic assault rifles (much higher profit margin) and 30-clip magazines.

The government tyranny pitch was a harder sell for women, so the NRA pushed the idea that women needed guns for protection from home intruders, murderers, rapists, and census takers. And they made designer handguns and holsters and concealed carry handbags, and knowing how women love to accessorize, NRA fashion consultants came up with concealed carry denim jackets, and 'tactical slacks,' and 'Women Shoot Too' tees, and holster bras, and sleepwear featuring gun motifs; all specially designed for the new Annie Oakley.
Display at the NRA 2013 Convention
The gun industry isn't contributing millions to the NRA to conduct safety classes. They expect the NRA to generate gun sales by whatever means necessary. The NRA has responded by appealing to a man's sense of independence, self-reliance, and patriotism -- all characteristics the male dominated NRA leadership believe their gun-toting male demographic exhibit, in addition to the paranoia that they encourage.

Not so with women. Women are still viewed by the NRA as 'the fairer sex,' basically little scaredy-cats, who, unless they have a CCW (concealed carry weapon) male companion, must substitute a sleek, compact Glock 26 to feel safe maneuvering their shopping cart in the Walmart parking lot (accessorize with a flashbang bra holster for concealed carry, ladies, and ask for a weapon with a pink grip to show you care about women's health).
The NRA's campaign to recruit more women to their ranks is eerily reminiscent of the tobacco industry's push to swell the ranks of the addicted by glamorizing smoking. The industry's sophisticated advertising transformed the image of the woman smoker as decadent slut to emancipated sex symbol, and convinced women that the way to slim down those waistlines was to take up smoking their 'torches of freedom.' And as the waistlines of women smokers slimmed and their ranks swelled, the tobacco industry could proudly proclaim, 'You've come a long way, baby.'
The NRA's campaign to recruit women gun owners has so far been less sophisticated than the tobacco industry's campaign, but given time, the gun industry will succeed in building its female demographic. They'll have a hard time, however, matching the tobacco industry's success in getting women killed -- there's been a 600% increase in smoking-related lung cancer deaths among women -- but give the NRA credit for trying.

Oh, by the way, ladies, more than twice as many women are shot dead by their spouse or intimate other, than by a stranger. So be sure you're armed around your gun-toting man, and do practice your quick draw from that flashbang bra.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart?

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. [Luke 6:27-29]

According to Brendan Fischer of PR Watch, Florida's 2005 Stand Your Ground law changed criminal justice and civil law codes by giving legal immunity to a person who, according to the statute, uses "deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm." It goes beyond the common law notion of self defense by establishing presumption in a shooter's favor. This means prosecutors must disprove a killer's assertion that they felt threatened, as opposed to the shooter having to establish they acted reasonably and in self defense. It also bars the deceased's family from bringing a civil suit.
Marion Hammer at Jeb Bush's right hand as he signs Florida's Stand Your Ground Law
Florida's Stand Your Ground law was drafted by the former president (1995 - 1998) of the National Rifle Association, Marion Hammer, the NRA's first female president, and now a lobbyist for the NRA and the gun industry. Hammer worked with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to make the Florida law a model for other states, and the NRA and ALEC have made it a priority to promulgate the law nationwide.

The NRA, with ALEC's help has been eminently successful in seeding the United States with stand your ground, or as it's called in some states,"castle doctrine" laws. Twenty-three states have such 'shoot first' laws, and all but 5 states and the District of Columbia have laws that permit deadly force against an intruder in the home or workplace, or in the case of Alaska, "any place a person has the right to be," which in effect, makes it a stand your ground law.

In 2012, the Tampa Bay Times conducted a study of Florida's stand your ground law and called its findings "shocking." Of those who invoke "stand your ground" to avoid prosecution, nearly 70 percent have gone free. Of defendants claiming "stand your ground" 73% of those who killed a black person faced no penalty compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white. In nearly a third of the cases the Times analyzed, defendants initiated the fight, shot an unarmed person or pursued their victim, and still went free.

A nationwide study by two Texas A&M researchers showed that stand your ground laws do not deter burglary, robbery, or aggravated assault. In contrast, they lead to a statistically significant 8 percent net increase in the number of reported murders and non-negligent manslaughters.

On the night of February 26, 2012, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator for a gated community in Sanford, Florida, pursued, confronted, and shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a black teenager. Martin was visiting his father's fiancee and her son at the gated community, something he'd done several times previously. Zimmerman told the police he followed Martin because, "he looked suspicious," and claimed he shot Martin in self-defense. After questioning Zimmerman, the Sanford police released him without charges based on their interpretation of Florida's stand-your-ground law.

Young George Zimmerman was raised a Catholic and served as an alter boy at his church, so why was he carrying a gun during his neighborhood watch detail, why did he pursue Trayvon Martin, and why did he shoot and kill the teenager? What happened to "Thou shalt not kill" [Exodus 20:13]. What happened to 'turn the other cheek?' And what is happening across the nation? Are we seeing a shift away from the sense of community and the common good, and towards an 'us-versus-them' mentality? Is the NRA's strident 'shoot first' message more powerful than the church's message of peace and love?

Interestingly, the states quickest to implement stand your ground laws are in the so-called "bible belt." When asked what they felt could be done to reduce gun violence, only 8% of evangelical christians said gun control. Most (36%) said putting more emphasis on God and morality was the most important thing that could be done. But apparently not the God for whom Exodus 20:13 meant what it said.

As President Obama said in an unguarded moment, the people in the bible belt do indeed "cling to their guns and bibles," but it is their guns in which they place their trust.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Senator Richard Durbin Speaks Out On Gun Violence in America, May 15, 2013

Yesterday, May 15, 2013, on the Senate floor, Richard Durbin, the Illinois Democrat, gave a nine-minute speech about the continuing gun violence in the months since Newtown, and the Senate’s inability to pass a universal background check bill. Durbin speaks with passion about the issue. This is well worth watching.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Poem of the Gun and the Children

Actual stories in
April and May
this year
in the USA
Authorities in southern Kentucky say a 2-year-old girl
has been accidentally shot and killed by her 5-year-old brother
A 6-year-old boy shot in the head by his 4-year-old playmate
died of his wounds as investigators in a New Jersey town tried
to determine how the boy got the gun
A 5-year-old girl was shot and killed by her 8-year-old brother
in Western Alaska, Alaska State Troopers said Tuesday
An 11-year-old boy shot his 7-year-old brother in the hand
A 9-year-old girl was accidentally shot in the leg by her 7-year-old brother
A 2-year-old in Georgia was shot in the back by a 9 or 10-year-old who
found a gun in a van they were all playing in
The 14-year-old Moses Lake boy arrested in the shooting
of his parents over the weekend apparently was angry
A 3-year-old boy who found a gun in a backpack
and shot himself died Tuesday night, authorities said
A 13-year-old boy accidentally shot his 6-year-old sister in Oakland Park
The girl, Angela Divin, was hospitalized in critical condition
The brother, whose name was not released
accidently pulled the trigger of a handgun he found
A 4-year-old boy in Brighton, Ala., was hospitalized in critical condition after being shot The boy and a 4-year-old girl were in a bedroom when one of them got hold of a gun, authorities said. Police were not sure which child had the gun
and the incident was under investigation.
2-year-old Caroline Sparks died after her 5-year-old brother accidentally shot her with his gun, authorities said — a weapon marketed for children as "My First Rifle"
Like the Alabama and South Florida shootings, the shooting in rural Burkesville, Ky., has not resulted in any criminal charges.
A five-year-old boy in Denton, Texas was left in critical condition
after he was shot in the head by his eight-year-old friend Saturday morning
According to the Denton Record-Chronicle, the police said the two boys were alone in the bedroom when the older child found a .22 caliber rifle, pointed it at the other boy, and shot him.
12-year old and 11-year children were in an apartment in Camden, Pennsylvania, under the care of a 19-year old, when the younger child got hold of a loaded unsecured gun and unintentionally shot the older child in the nasal area of his face luckily not killing him.
Police are working to figure out who owns the gun

Remembering My Mother on Mother's Day, 2013

Nella, 1903 - 2005

My mother, Nella, never explained, to me at least, her ambition to become a ballet dancer and later, an actress. I’ve often asked myself how it was that a girl crippled at youth and condemned by her doctors to wearing steel leg braces, would dream of dancing. But maybe it is natural. We wingless humans dream of flying.

In any case, Nella had been crippled with rickets as a young girl in Italy. Doctors at the time declared that Nella would have to wear steel leg braces for the rest of life. Her mother, Cesira, wouldn’t have it, and placed Nella with the nuns at a sanatorium, probably in Montecatini. I’ve written about this in an earlier post.

Nella, age 12, walked unaided off the boat at Ellis Island in 1915 and started a new life in America, in Chicago, “hog butcher for the world,” where her father, Ugo, worked for a time at a cattle and hog butchering factory.

After he’d washed the blood and offal off his boots, Ugo would take Nella to the Chicago Civic Opera house, which was ten blocks north and west of where they lived on South State Street. My mother said they stood in the back of the balcony and Ugo would whisper to his star-struck daughter about what was happening in the story. Nella remembered getting goose bumps as she’d listen to the tenors perform their arias. Maybe Nella saw Ana Pavlova, the famous Russian ballerina, dance at the Civic Opera House, or somewhere there in Chicago, during those heady years. Maybe that was her inspiration.

Pavlova was a marvel of her time. But Pavlova was more than a great dancer. She was a determined person who willed herself to succeed at ballet, as classical ballet did not come easily to her. Her arched feet, thin ankles, and long limbs seemed unsuited to ballet dance, where a small, strong, and compact body was favored for the ballerina at the time. Her fellow students made fun of her with nicknames like 'The Broom' and 'La Petite Sauvage.' Undeterred, Pavlova simply worked harder than her rivals.

This determination and strong will was a hallmark of Nella’s personality. I’m convinced she ultimately walked not because the nuns had her move through the mineral waters of the spa, or because they buried her legs in warm sand, but because Nella simply decided she would walk and kept trying until she did.

When she started school in Chicago knowing only these words of English, “I doan stan English,” her fellow students made fun of her. Nella never backed down, and even became the defender of another girl who was constantly picking fights and then running to Nella for protection.

Nella learned to read and write English in record time and throughout her life never stopped trying to improve herself through night school and self-study. After completing secondary school, she went on to business school and her native intelligence and education were immensely useful ultimately when she became, in essence, my father’s office manager. I’m convinced my father’s flower shop, despite having an extraordinary clientele of wealthy Beverly Hills bankers, doctors, and actors (who weren’t always eager to pay their bills) would have floundered if not for Nella’s sensible, tough direction.
I believe Nella decided to go to California to pursue a Hollywood career. Here again, I don't know for sure. But why else? People came from all over the world and went to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune, including Rudolph Valentino, who immigrated to America from Italy. Whatever the case, Nella gave her Hollywood aspirations a fair chance before deciding on another direction for her life. I’ve written about this elsewhere.
Once Nella decided to marry Steve and bear his children, she did all she could to be the best wife and mother she could be. She did this despite her own mother being a poor example, essentially having abandoned her to a neglectful aunt when she was growing up in Italy. I remember finding the books my mother used to read to learn about taking care of infants and raising children. These things didn’t come naturally to her, yet she was determined, as always.

She handled all the feedings, the changings and cleanings, the special diets, the doctors’ appointments, and the dolling out of medicine. She kept baby books on my brother, Ronald and I, “Our Baby’s First Seven Years.” It contained time and date of birth, length and weight at birth, the baby’s condition (blue? – “no”), and lots of other data, including the “number, consistency, and color of stools.”

Mom kept up the baby books up for several years and made notes in her neat, flowing handwriting; “Will not eat soft boiled eggs.” She also sat my brother and I down one day in perhaps my tenth or eleventh year and told us about the birds and the bees. Nella used a book for that, which, if memory serves me, was titled, “The Birds and the Bees.” I don’t know if my brother grasped the significance of that lesson (he was three years older than I) there on the couch in our living room at 347 Parkman Avenue. I didn’t. But it did seem significant to me that this was a subject that women knew a lot more about that men. I haven’t changed my mind about that all these many years later.

My mother would tell me, "You can do anything you set your mind to." I knew she was right, because I knew how important her determination and strength of character had been in her life. Whatever I've achieved in life is almost certainly because my mother convinced me of that.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Reclaiming Our Representative Democracy

Want to reform our gun control laws, expand background checks to close the gun show loophole, limit the size of gun magazines, prohibit assault-stlye semiautomatic weapons, generally reduce gun violence in America? Then it may well be that you have to fix this first.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Culture War: Taking the Fight to the NRA

Jim Porter, the NRA's New President
I hardly ever agree with anything the National Rifle Association says, but the organization has elected a new president, James W. Porter II, an Alabama attorney, and he said that the NRA and its masters and minions are in a “culture war” with the rest of America. I agree with that.

The culture that Porter is defending is one that doesn’t accept the result of the last two presidential elections and sees Barack Obama as a “fake president” intent on imposing a “European socialistic, bureaucratic type of government,” and denying patriotic Americans their constitutional rights. It is a culture that tellingly, doesn’t accept the result of the Civil War, or as Porter calls it, “the War of Northern Aggression.”
Porter is rallying to the defense of a culture that believes the Second Amendment means exactly the same thing today as it did more than two centuries ago when, lacking a standing army, a federal law, the Militia Act of 1792, mandated every eligible man purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia. The purpose of the militia was to protect the United States from invasion from any foreign nation or Indian tribe. Today, the NRA promotes itself as arming its members with “standard military firearms” not to defend our country against foreign aggressors, but to use against our own “tyrannical” government. No wonder they won’t accept any limits on what firearms they can own.
The NRA is well known for its ability to mix myth with faulty logic to argue against any incursion in what they see as the inalienable right any individual American to bear arms of any kind, anytime, anywhere, and ‘stand their ground’ no matter how many Americans are killed every year (about 32,000). It doesn’t matter whether it’s a mass shooting of children at Sandy Hook, or an accidental shooting by one 5-year-old of his 2-year-old sister in Kentucky, the NRA’s response is always the same. This deplorable gun violence is a necessary cost of the right to bear arms unfettered by even the most reasonable gun control measures. Dead kids are collateral damage for the NRA and members of a culture where facts are considered a hindrance to a belief system permeated by paranoia.
From a Children's Defense Fund Report
But it would be a mistake to see the NRA as crazy extremists. They are more than that. The NRA is a shill for a gun industry whose only moral imperative is profit. That’s one of the reasons the NRA opposes the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty. Despite NRA rhetoric, the treaty doesn’t dictate domestic gun laws and would have no bearing on Americans’ Second Amendment rights. But it might effect the $70-billion international arms trade, and American arms dealers, who dominate the market, don’t want to have their dealings with warlords and their child soldiers, and terrorists who turn their US weapons back on Americans, subject to governmental scrutiny.
So I say, yes Mr Porter, we Americans who believe in ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ who want to see our children grow to be productive members of a society of people who care about each other, rather that a society of ‘us against them,’ we Americans are in a war with you and your organization and we intend to win. And we’ll win at the ballot box, without guns, because that’s the American way, Mr. Porter.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The NRA Now Fighting Wars on Two Fronts

The NRA elected a new president last Monday (4/29/2013), James Porter, an Alabama attorney and former NRA first vice president. Porter immediately announced that the organization was now fighting a "culture war" against those who would deny patriotic Americans their right to possess any kind of damned firearm needed to fight tyranny. He claimed that it was "revenge" that was motivating President Obama's "unremitting attacks on gun owners today."

This means that the NRA will now be fighting a war on two fronts, because in a speech in 2012, Porter indicated that the "war of northern aggression,"which most Americans thought of as the Civil War, was apparently still going on. Most Americans thought we, the United States of America, won that war. Apparently not. Porter was speaking against the reelection of Barack Obama, who is one of the unfortunate consequences of the north winning that costly war.
 Porter told the audience at a 2012 New York Rifle and Pistol Association that the NRA was "fightin, scratchin, head buttin" to protect Second Amendment rights. He stood there on the platform looking as if his pants, straining to constrain his ample girth, were on fire, telling his noisy audience that the NRA was established to "teach and train civilians in the use of the standard military when they're ready to fight tyranny they're ready to do it." Tyranny being the black guy in the White House.

Porter told his appreciative audience that he gets "sick and tired of all these people with this fake president," saying that Obama hasn't done anything harmful to gun owners. "Let me tell you," he said, "his entire administration is anti-gun, anti-freedom, anti-Second Amendment." Porter went on to claim that the president believes that animals have rights and "if you go out there and hunt them they oughta have the right to sue you for aubusement (sic); that's the kinda thinkin they are" (I'm not making this up -- look at the video, if you can stomach it).

The NRA's agenda under Porter won't be limited to protecting Second Amendment rights, not by a long shot. And speaking of shot, Porter tells his audience in 2012 that the organization is on the war path with the EPA (a third war front?) to protect hunters' right to use lead shot. Lead shot is deadly to wildlife in ways that have nothing to do with sport hunting, but the NRA doesn't want anyone telling them what kind of ammunition they can or can't use -- it's the principle of the thing.

Porter also took US Attorney General [and African-American] Eric Holder to task as "rapidly anti-gun, rabidly anti-American." And Porter went on to include on the NRA's enemies list the United Nations and [at the time] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who signed the UN arms trade treaty, which arms traders vehemently oppose, because it hurts business. The NRA claims the treaty will deny Americans their Second Amendment right to bear arms. In fact,the treaty applies only to international transfers of conventional arms and specifically reaffirms “the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms” within its territory. In other words, the NRA is lying (surprised?), but why? Because they are in bed with the arms industry. The gun lobby is not just a bunch of paranoid Second Amendment crazies, it’s a coalition of organizations that make a lot of money manufacturing and selling guns and ammunition, including to kids.

I have to agree with James Porter on one thing. The American people are in a culture war with the NRA and their minions, and cohorts, and promoters, and backers, and those who only stand and wait with their hands out, the complicit Congress. It's a war against fear and paranoia, against belligerence and intimidation, against greed, racism, ethnocentrism, and ignorance. It's a war that must be won to prevent the senseless slaughter of thousands of Americans -- men, women, and children -- who are shot and killed or injured every year, year after year, because those of us on the side of light have been so far unable to overcome the forces of darkness. That has to change.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

RIP Caroline Sparks

A single bullet to the chest killed Caroline Sparks, a 2-year-old Kentucky girl shot by her 5-year-old brother, Kristian. Kristian used his “My First Rifle,” made by Crickett, a component of Keystone Arms. KSA specializes in guns made for children as young as 4-years-old. On their web site they say, "Our single shot .22 rifles sold under the Crickett and Chipmunk brands continue to be the industry leader in safety...we look forward to having you as a customer for life!"

Not you Caroline.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Genocide and Gun Control

Let me get this straight. If the people of United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave (and well-armed), allow any further regulation of the gun industry and gun owners, we will become Cambodia under the Pol Pot regime. Or the Jews under Nazi Germany, or the kulaks under Stalin, or, you name it, any group in any society in any country that suffered mass murder, purges, or genocide under the authoritarian regime of some brutal dictator. That’s the message of today’s NRA and its Second Amendment ideologues. Genocide is the gun lobby’s Patronus Charm, the positive energy force that defends against the dark forces of gun control.

Clearly, the people who make these claims are bat shit crazy, but a lot of gun nuts who aren’t crazy believe them. Why? Because they’re stupid, ignorant (there is a difference), or obstinate, i.e., they’re going to believe what they believe. Period.

Of course there are people who make these claims who are neither stupid nor crazy; they’re actually quite crafty, if undeniably crass.These are the people who manufacture and sell guns, and the people, like Wayne LaPierre, who make a lot of money helping them to continue their chosen field of endeavor, unfettered. And let’s not leave out the members of Congress who pander to the legions of gun freaks who buttress their voting base.

A considerable amount of effort has gone into refuting and defending the view that gun control leads to or sets the groundwork for genocide, especially regarding Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Any person even superficially knowledgeable about the Holocaust would laugh off the argument that gun control “played a major role” in the “eradication of German Jewry,” as argued by one pro-gun lawyer (Stephen Halbrook, 2000). Still, others have gone to great lengths to examine in detail the firearms policies of Germany under the National Socialists (Nazi Germany), and those of the preceding Weimar Republic (which actually had more restrictive gun control laws; see Bernard E. Harcourt, 2004).

All of this literature and rhetoric is “sound and fury signifying nothing.” Any attempt to distill genocide into any single cause or constituent is an exercise in absurdity. The only constant in the historical context of ethnic, religious, tribal, societal, or sexual genocide is man’s inhumanity to man. But the debate plays nicely into the hands of the NRA and gun lobby.

The juxtaposition of genocide and gun control is a red herring thrown into the gun control debate in order to deflect attention from the real issue of how to reduce America’s appalling prevalence of gun violence. This fish is well past its ‘use-by’ date, it stinks, and it should be thrown in the garbage along with members of Congress who refuse to address the will of the people on strengthening gun control.