Shame in Wisconsin and Washington

Wednesday ended with shame in Wisconsin. When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker got punked by a fake David Koch, he shared a plan whereby he would trick the Senate Democrats into showing up in the capitol just long enough to establish a quorum whether they stayed during the entire session that day or not. It was a technicality that Walker would use to push his union busting legislation through. Of course, after sharing the plan in the recorded conversation with fake Koch, he had to abandon it. The deviousness of this Governor should have made what transpired Wednesday night predictable. The Senate Republicans stripped all budget language from the controversial bill and then rammed through a vote on the bill, claiming that without any budgetary content, a quorum was no longer needed.

The great shame here is that everyone was willing to compromise on the budget portions of the bill. Concessions on salary and benefits were going to be made. It was only the elimination of collective bargaining that was the issue. And it was that very issue that the Republican Senate rammed through by voting on that in isolation. If the majority of Wisconsin citizens were behind this, the legislative shenanigans might not be so bad. However, Wisconsin voters don’t want this bill passed. Walker is playing dictator. Hopefully the vote will be reversed on legal grounds. Hopefully, Walker will be impeached before he can be recalled.

Sadly, this week there is much shame to go around. Today, Peter King, a House representative from New York will launch an investigation into the radicalization of American Muslims. What purpose could this possibly serve except as a witch hunt against a particular religion? There is no doubt that Muslim radicals abroad have influenced the behavior of some American citizens, most notably Nidal Hasan in the Fort Hood shooting. However this is a law enforcement issue. It is not an issue for which any legislation is necessary. So why waste time on the legislative calendar to “investigate” the phenomenon? It’s pure grandstanding on the part of King who wants to appeal to the paranoid base of the Republican party.

You need to know only two things about King to know he is the wrong man to be launching this witch hunt. Back in the 1980’s King supported the terrorist actions of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). So much for his disdain for violence in the name of a cause. More recently, before the dead body of singer Michael Jackson was barely cold, King saw fit to call the musician a “low-life” and “pervert” because of past allegations of child abuse. While King had every right to his opinion about Jackson, his timing for speaking publicly could not have been worse. It established King as a first class jerk.

So now King enjoys the distinction of launching hearings that mark a new low precedent for our country, namely hearings that single out a particular religion as susceptible to violence and terrorism. Did we launch hearings about Irish-Catholics after Timothy McVeigh bombed Oklahoma City? Did we start a Congressional investigation into American Jews when bankers brought our economy to its knees? Up until today, our government hasn’t sanctioned singling out a particular religion for the actions of some of its members. Thanks to Peter King, those days are gone.

The events in Wisconsin and Washington this week illustrate that we live in sad times. One can only hope there will be political retribution for Walker and King who have brought shame on our democracy.

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance


“Guns Don’t Kill People. People Kill People” — Still Stupid

The old phrase goes “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” No doubt whoever said it first thought it was quite profound. It was stupid then and in light of last Saturday’s massacre in Tucson, AZ, it is all the more stupid now. So let’s see, someone needs to defend the poor innocent little gun. It’s gotten a bad rap. It’s not the gun’s fault that it falls into the hands of criminals, lunatics, suicides and klutzes who accidentally shoot their own foot off or worse. This is an absurd asinine argument. The fact is the way you control misuse of guns is to limit people’s access to them and control by legislation, their allowed use of them in a civilized society.

In the aftermath of the attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson last Saturday, several remedies have been proposed by law makers.

  1. Two law makers have said they will “pack heat” from now on when they give town hall meetings. Yeah, that really solves the problem to have politicians shooting civilians.
  2. Peter King of New York wants legislation that bans the carrying of a firearm within a certain perimeter of the President, Vice President, Congress member or Federal judge. This is a more reasonable solution although it explicitly protects only elected officials, which comes off a bit self-serving.
  3. Carolyn McCarthy of New York (who lost her husband to gun violence) has suggested banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips. The gun used in the Tucson killings had a clip that allowed for 33 rounds to be fired. For what normal legal purpose would such a clip be necessary? Ms. McCarthy’s suggestion seems to me quite reasonable. She is also for reinstating the ban on assault weapons that lapsed during the Bush administration.

Last Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Arizona Republican Representative Trent Franks argued that we should not be disturbed by the type of gun Jared Lee Loughner used in the mass murder because that is a standard gun used by police. You’ve got to be kidding me right? Used by police is the key phrase here folks! You don’t justify what the average Joe can carry on his hip by what police carry on theirs. Police are entrusted with the protection of the public. Jared Loughner and folks far less crazy than he, are NOT entrusted with the protection of the public. Very simply, there are folks who should, by the nature of their job, have a gun and those who should not.

This brings us to the concerns of hunters. Do hunters need a 9mm Glock? Wouldn’t a good old-fashioned rifle do the trick? And wouldn’t it have been a lot harder for Loughner to get that close to Ms. Giffords carrying a rifle than carrying a Glock? Surely we can limit the type of guns sold to average citizens such that they can enjoy “gun sports” and not be as great a danger to the general public.

Of course the other issue with the easy availability of guns is the difficulty of doing adequate background checks. Loughner obtained his gun legally. This despite the fact that he had been rejected by the army and suspended from community college for bizarre behavior AND had run-ins with the law. We Americans love our guns almost as much as we love our dogs, so heaven forbid a little more regulation keeps guns out of the hands of a Loughner because it might impact the cultural values of Billy Bob who wants to carry his gun wherever he damn well pleases.

Gabrielle Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, is an astronaut and her brother-in-law is one too. Scott Kelly made the following statement from the International Space Station this week:

We have a unique vantage point here aboard the International Space Station. As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not.

These days, we are constantly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions, but also with our irresponsible words.

We’re better than this. We must do better.

via Astronaut Scott Kelly’s Tucson tribute from space.

Scott Kelly saw one world, seemingly without division and without conflict. A beautiful sphere where land yields to water and then back to land again, beneath a panorama of blue and white. For some reason, his comment reminded me of an old episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone called “To Serve Man”. In that classic episode aliens from space come to Earth and offer us peace and advancement. As the episode ends we learn their motives are far more sinister. As I thought about Kelly’s observation, I decided Serling got it wrong. Any alien race that visited here would be shocked to find out how quickly the beauty seen from space transforms to the violent ugliness seen on the ground all over the world every day of the year. A large part of that ugliness involves how easy we make it for one man to kill another.

The fact is people kill people with guns. If we control the guns, we control the people who might misuse them. A nine-year old girl was killed on Saturday attending Ms. Giffords’ rally. You have to ask yourself, is a nine-year old’s life the price you’re willing to pay for your “2nd amendment rights”?

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance