Is America flying too close to the gun?

Author’s note: This is a repost of my article of December 15, 2012 following the events at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut.  It is still very relevant today as common sense gun management movement indeed rallies around and grows out of Newtowns’ pain, frustration and anger. 

Sandy Hook Rose
To those who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. The red rose cries for you. May your God bless and take care of each and every one of you.

It seems another day and another tragedy. More tragedies and each time it seems to be more tragic.  I sat here the whole time watching the breaking news live in Newtown, Connecticut as it unfolded. The school childrens’ tears. Their blood. Their blessed dreams and futures all spilled and drained away. As Eric Clapton’s song so mournfully sings: will there be tears in heaven?

Wasn’t it Icarus who flew too close to the sun? Well, is America flying too close to her guns? And ignoring her innocent children. Do her huddled masses, yearning to be free have to all buy guns? And how ‘free’ is that in reality? Free to shoot someone else? Certainly not safe and free of fear. As Joan Vennochi says in her article “Gun Control: Vital Curse Words”, it seems there is no longer any place in America that can be taken for granted as peaceful and safe. Not in a shopping mall, a theatre, a temple, or a school. Not on many streets, and I would add not even in the grassy yards around Florida gated residential complexes.

I don’t know about you, but the guns and their politics in America today are not contributing to your freedom. They are taking it away. Like the Sun melting the wax on Icarus’ wings. Even if you accept that somehow men and women must buy guns because the other guys all seem to have them. And that’s the only way to be safe. How then to protect the youngsters and especially the children? Build steel fences and lock down the schools permanently? Buy them multi-coloured bullet proof vests? Oh, and matching helmets? And bring in the armed guards at the gates? Freedom indeed.

This is not funny. This is not right. This is ridiculous and simultaneously gut wrenching vile and evil. Is there not a moral obligation to each other to make sure that nothing like this happens? Especially to innocents? Please don’t try to tell me that its just that some people are breaking the laws already on the books and its just a minor problem with enforcement.

It is not just the broken laws that kill people. It is not just crazy and addled minds that kill people. It is the flagrant and rampant availability of guns and full accessories for them; and the lack of any rigor in the vetting or accountability for their use. That is what kills.

Look here at this Chinese tragedy if you don’t believe me. And read this by Nicholas D. Kristof OP-ed “Do we have the courage to stop this?” And I note it will take courage. He states that children 5 to 14 years of age in America are 13 times more likely to be murderd with guns as children in other industrialized countries. This is no way to show exceptionalism.

If you want to have a gun, fine. You and the person who created the gun, and the person you bought it from and the person who you might sell it to should all bear full responsibility for its use in any illegal or accidentally harmful way. I mean joint and several responsibility. Sound harsh? So be it. You want to play with a gun? Fine. You pass tests on how to use it and you register it and re-register it every year. And if you sell it to anyone, they must do the same. Anyone out of line and anyone gets hurt and you all face the consequences.

What is it with America that it needs to pack heat everywhere? And now the effort to be able to “show” it and bring it into all the stores and public places? It seems like the hubris of Icarus. What is with this logic that the answer to gun tragedies is more guns? As if everyone has to be their own super man. Or their own Wyatt Earp? Or Clint Eastwood hero of choice. Boys and men gone wild? Or worse? This is not God’s work, that’s for sure.

God doesn’t condone guns. A society that allows the savaging of its children, is itself dying. This must stop now. It can’t be left in the hands of politicians. It has to be taken up by the good and the wise right thinking majority of American people. I say that gun owners and the politicians, mostly on the far right, have their NRA. Or is it the other way around I suppose.. America’s children ALSO need power: as in an American LifeSafety Organization. There should be one. Dedicated to fighting back against those pushing America to fly too close to her guns and away from her sons and daughters. Dedicated to fighting to make a child’s life safer. Indeed, everyone’s life safer.

And in fact freer too. As Joan says in her article: “does the right to own arms, per the Second Amendment, framed centuries ago I might add, trump the little children and their rights to make it out of Kindergarten?

So let me see. Serious gun control or more children massacred? Easy choice. All rise! The Movement starts now! Take back the streets, schools and public places of America and make them safe. Outlaw guns so those who carry them without proper licences and training are outlaws.

The kids are not coming back. The other innocents killed in random places by random people; no return either. Are they dying in vain? Just so much collateral damage as America flies too close to her guns?

Americans must rise up, way up! Put on your SuperPower suits. Stare down the barrel of them NRA guns. Stare down all those who oppose proper gun controls. It is time the majority of right thinking Americans stood their ground.

In the meantime, Jesus loves those little children; he will keep them safe. And pray to God they suffer no more tears in heaven.



Message to Congress – that’s it for you filibuster!

In viewing the remaining landscape in this election, I was thinking what is the right prism through which to view the presidential debates and the remaining part of the campaign. And what is the right frame of mind in the ballot box come time to vote. I am sharing this opinion piece with this in mind. I also think it might put Vice President Joe Biden‘s comments in context.

Today, at this very moment, America needs leaders who are not first a Democrat or a Republican; but American. I see that in President Barack Obama. I see he is leading from his heart, from an inclusive vision deep within. From his belief in America, being himself on an historically improbable path, fulfilling an American Dream. A man rich in character, able as a young man to work through personal challenges about his roots, his father, and his very being. Emerging in a positive, uplifting place with an amazing grace.

Obama is doing what is right, despite being fettered by current American politics; shackled as it were to the ground, by the Lilliputian right, the little men trying to contain a giant. Obama and America are also challenged by America’s electoral and political system too. The main challenges are twofold; (1) Congress is broken and (2) there are only two ideologies; crafted precisely as opposing ones by only two opposing parties.

These politics weigh on America, weaken her; and afford Lilliputian tragedy, at the expense of Americans who, as Biden so aptly stated, remain “buried” these past four years. Under the economic and financial sins of the fathers, the next generation(s) shall struggle if amends can not be made. Amends that demand a strong program and a strong mandate from this election. Even if Americans can ‘t put their finger on it or articulate it; these challenges reflect in America’s unhappiness with its Congress and concern about its direction.

Beginning with the latter of the two, America has only two political parties. Entrenched parties; a power duopoly with insurmountable barriers to entry for any other. Mostly, the barrier is money; but also political process, and political culture. In terms of the process, you just have to look at Gov. Mitt Romney, the perennial Presidential contender; it’s a personal marathon consuming years of time, oceans of money, and galaxies of energy. Plus requiring personal strength and deep reserves of equanimity and confidence to endure personal attacks and insults, and withstand the sledgehammer of character destruction. Just to become a party’s nominee; then comes the election race!

In terms of the political culture, the visibility and importance placed on party affiliation is beyond reason. For example, “declaring” your party when voting; it’s like declaring your religion when introducing yourself. Maybe worse. And changing it is perhaps harder, even for a single vote. It is pervasive in American politics; yet think about it – why is your party affiliation asked when you vote? To remind you of your allegiance to your party before you vote for your nation? To remind you of your ideology? While it is there to support the primary voting system, this can be handled in other ways. It is not really any part of what you do at the ballot box. When you are there, you are simply an American, seeking what is right for you and your country.

Now also let’s think for a moment about “independents” who are the bane of the political parties; the ones being chased this moment and until election day. Yet they are the truest practitioners of democracy. What’s happened to individual political freedoms? You should have your personal, private, undeclared choice of vote for whoever and whatever. Any time, all the time and on every issue! Do not vote one party or the others philosophy, principles or I dare say, propaganda; and certainly not on wedge issues. It is not right for politicians to draw imaginary dividing lines through the country along old civil war fault lines, for political gain. And stoking the flames. Not right at all! Vote your belief about what America needs at this moment for her best future. Your patriotism comes here in the ballot box, to your Nation, not your party.

Now to discuss the other major challenge of Congress. Just think filibuster. It’s tantamount to a four letter word, actually. Some may not grasp precisely what it is; all understand what it does – nothing; big time! As witnessed these past four years. It has been the darling of Congressional leaders, too many Lilliputian little men with little strings. Trying, trying, and ultimately tying Obama, the Nation, and you, to the ground.

Add to that the modus operandi of both parties’ congressional leaders. This includes obstruction through filibuster and other tactics, slander, stretched truth and outright lies (mis-leaders as much as leaders?), and blind ideology. Such ideology spouted so often for so long, the parties and partisan hacks start to believe the fiction and start making decisions with it – Ayn Rand anyone? This obstructionism is more reflective of the GOP, in my opinion. Indeed, I think it’s been done to an extent unheralded these past four years. Brazenly. Overtly. Proudly, and fully on record. For a stated single inexplicable purpose – to stop Obama, whatever it is he is doing. Lilliputian small men indeed.

Now add to these political process and culture issues, the literally limitless money flow from narrow pools of people and yet narrower pools of interest. The money is wrapping round the politicians, warping their decisions and the nation. The red states and blue states notion that Obama has for some time been decrying? This is a symptom of the underlying problem and hopefully can be changed. But how? For one thing, bust the filibuster; kill it, make it a ghostbuster. The partisan minority must not thwart the will of the majority, by definition, that is “anti-democracy”. The other thing is more political parties; democracy must enable and support a more open political arena. This must be at the heart of the American way, the democratic way for an enduring civil society. Of course, this takes more time than the blink of an eye left until election day!

So what can you do now? Simple. Vote out obstructionist politicians. That’s it, just vote against any politicians more focused on limiting Obama’s future, than expanding America’s and yours. Do it right now! Let’s go! Just say “That’s it for you (fili)buster”! This will send Congress a message. A strong one. American’s are not going to take this any more!

This gives Pres. Obama‘s good efforts leverage to propel the country Forward. Obama deserves another 4 years to move America along his well defined, worthy path and direction. I think he is focused more on doing right by America and Americans than most politicians in living memory. President Reagan is perhaps a good comparison.

So you can do it. It’s in your handsThe change is you!


See Building a Nation; the change is you for a larger discussion of the challenges in American politics.

Building a nation; the change is you.

Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty by Maria Bell
Statue of Liberty by Maria Bell
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”

The Corrosion of Money on the Politics of America

Votes are the currency of democracy. However, as is well known, there is a counter current to votes in the way of money – the American dollar. Indeed, this currency is no longer just American, it is global. Historically, the dollar’s counter current to votes has not seriously threatened America’s democracy. Today, I believe that it does; it is shaking her to the roots and breaking her foundation. To explain, let me start with some background.

America’s forefathers established the United States of America based on freedom and self governance with representatives selected by vote. The vote decided the successful representatives of the people from various geographic areas. Decisions about who would vote and the mechanics of voting was managed by the states. It is little different today, except its now guided by some federal laws that ensure eligible people get to vote.

This is “government of the people, by the people, for the people” to quote Abraham Lincoln, or alternately, and I think better yet “government of all the people, by all the peoples, for all the people” to quote Theodore Parker. Yet only in recent history, are representatives chosen equally by the voting right of each and every American citizen of the age of majority. Standing here now, such equality is obviously fundamental and appropriate. Yet, as Americans know, looking back, the voting formula was at first far from perfect. It fell short; as it was not broadly inclusive. To the contrary, it was exclusive.

The first principle voter segment was free white male landowners; the wealthy class. Excluded were white working men, almost all women, and most people of color. This has of course progressed to the modern day more perfect union. Getting here today though, was a long, difficult and at times bloody struggle for many segments of Americans. Many battles were fought, culminating only in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Gaining finally, at long last, the truly democratic equation of: one person = one vote. I note the Presidential election is complicated by an overlay of the electoral college system. However, this does not change the underlying principles to which I speak of here.

In past centuries, I believe the “exchange rate” between dollars and votes was prohibitive for individual influence on an election changing scale. This reflected the diffuse nature of the population, and barriers of perhaps a stronger sense of morality, greater respect for the vote and more transparency. Also, the lack of real time and practical distribution channels for reaching and influencing the vote of every person in the nation; influencing either with money, or with ideas.

Today, I think that exchange rate is no longer prohibitive. It is perhaps affordable principally because of the amazing American wealth and its concentration in so few hands; fuelled by a political duopoly, the Citizens United decision on SuperPAC’s, and cutthroat politics that have grown more aggressive each electoral generation, culminating today in what I would call the “Rovian” extreme. Of course, most will know where I’ve coined that phrase from – the brilliant and inimitable Karl Rove former Senior Adviser to former Pres. George W. Bush.

Now add to that, the loss of transparency, and the present day ability to push political propaganda and personal attacks through the media and through the highly paid self-serving mouths of people like Rush Limbaugh, Bill Hannity, Ann Coulter and others who will say just about anything to build their Party and their following. These are people who will call the spade a heart and the club a diamond. Fuelling this fire, is what I would call the intentional dumbing down of America, a notable portion of which eats this up like reality TV. This dumbing down is a whole separate article, however, it has to do with the affordability, quality and also in the eyes of far too many, disdain for education such as for example by Rick Santorum at Values Voter Summit, as reported by Frank Balsinger at Scholars & Rogues among other sites.

I believe the corrosion of voter intentions by money in elections starts fundamentally with the political duopoly: the Republican Party and Democratic Party, in America. Couple that with Rovian extremism. Spike it with political propaganda, lately including multiple straight faced smiling Pinocchios; and stir it in a large opaque vat of self-interested money from undisclosed super wealthy individuals and corporations. It is a cocktail that has managed to dull reality from the typical American voter’s mind.

USA as the US flag
Red States & Blue States or the United States?

The political duopoly is just that – there are now and perhaps forever may only ever be two parties. This is so because of barriers to entry. Principally, these are the time and energy and the enormous costs involved in running for office, particularly for the presidency. In recent decades the two parties have hardened and ingrained their political philosophies, particularly the Republicans under former Pres. Bush and Rove. The latter with his outsized motivation to not just win Bush’ elections, but also establish a permanent Republican majority to govern for a generation(s). Sounds almost communist, no?

The basic strategy is straightforward. The core idea, still very much in force on the right today, is to develop and maintain a loyal party base. People whose first allegiance is to the Party, at least when voting. This is accomplished by a combination of heavy propaganda for Republican principles and against Democratic principles – real, imagined and even created. As per the Rovian formula, add in “wedge issues” such as abortion, gay marriage, aspects of immigration, and, to some degree national security. Maybe a few wild cards like birth certificates and patriotism. Plus aggressive viscous personal attacks; taking you down on what are actually your strengths. Sound familiar?

Now, on top of this is a second core idea. It is the simple math that power in America can be had with 50% of the voting population +1 vote. With only two parties, half should not be too hard, and you can look to divide rather than unite! Talk about leverage! Never mind that this math scratches that good word “all” from “all the people” of whom Theodore Parker spoke. There can be little doubt that Abraham Lincoln intended it be “all” and if not, then he was certainly nowhere near doing Rove’s calculation. Why are Republicans so good at this math when, as Pres. William (Bill) Clinton mentioned the other day, they don’t seem to get it on deficits and debt; but I digress.

This “all of the people” is fundamentally the root of democracy. I note in passing that democracy was invented in Greece. Delicious irony, no? Given the right wing’s love for that country. Plus, a further plank of strategy that I call “anti-democracy”. It is a democracy limiting strategy, intended as part of the right’s broad effort to obstruct and exploit, some of which columnist Paul Krugmam well explains. This is basically jamming a wrench in the unintended loophole in America’s “three branch” check and balance governing system of Executive, Courts and Congress.

The wrench? You know – filibustering and blocking legislation and government appointees and what have you. Sounds like football or hockey, but actually its a blood sport – and its your blood! Of course, somehow, I don’t think it was meant to grind things to a halt; particularly not at times of crisis. Just give pause for due consideration. And when this was conceived, it was not meant to be reciprocated by the left!

The American government must represent all of the American people. How could it be otherwise? The system divined by the founders intends a simple majority vote carry the day on most matters. Only special matters need two thirds or three fifths super majority including changing the constitution for example. However, the casualty of this blood sport is a negation of the will of the majority, in favor of the will of the 50% +1, and arguably even less. This to me is what people like Congressman John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan, have come to represent. Leaders in this blood sport. To be fair and clear, Mr. Rove didn’t start all this, but rather he brought it to its logical ugly conclusion. And so here we are!

So today, things have really changed and it is possible to buy those votes. I think the election effectively can be so heavily influenced that if Americans are not looking and weighing things carefully, they will have effectively bought damaged goods. Both parties vying for a small difference in votes. Yet, each party with a vastly different ideology, interests, platforms, and policies.

Money has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of few. These people, by this very same concentration, grow more powerful and diverging personal interests, from those of the American people at large. I won’t bore you with statistics here, we are all familiar with the extent of this concentration. A low single digit percentage have the super majority of wealth and income. I will though, point you here to this relatively simple set of explanatory graphs from Michael Snyder on Business Insider.

I mentioned earlier the global nature of the US greenback. In addition, of course, US trade is global as are many American based corporations. The scale of these beyond American boarders businesses are impressive, larger than some good size countries. They are entities unto themselves, beyond democracies and other forms of local governments. And money generally has the propensity to go global to where it is least scrutinized, least taxed, and least controlled. Money is not patriotic. It is not moral, or amoral I suppose either. I don’t think it is Christian of Muslim either, but again, I digress… It is just a current of power flowing into the hands of fewer and fewer owner(s).

In terms of individuals, the concentration of American wealth is in the hands of perhaps several hundreds and at most a few thousand. People such as Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett, Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers among others. Add to that, the control of instantaneous, far reaching media by some of these self same people. The power of the monied to target blocks of people and manage perceptions on that scale, has been here for a while. Started with radio; now the internet and TV. This of course helps drive the language and propaganda of the parties and the campaigns too. For the typical voters, if they hear the same thing coming from multiple sources, it seems it must be true, even if it is not.

So with the advent of SuperPAC’s and the incredible cost of running for office, these wealthy few and special interest corporations are well positioned. They are able to materially influence who is the candidate as well as who wins elections. In this, there is growing danger. Any candidate who wins like this is beholden to their benefactor(s). That candidate is conflicted away from American’s interests.

Pres. Obama to me stands out as one who built his support as much as possible from all the people. We know he has always worked on a grass-roots level to gain funding and votes. I believe he is looking to govern for all the people, as intended. I think in his improbable rise to his office, he is a principled, intelligent man, focused on executing the Presidency in a way befitting all the American people. I cite here an article by Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair that is inciteful and fits with what glimpses we see of Pres. Obama.  This election cycle, he has had, as a matter of necessity, to work with the SuperPacs to bolster his fund raising. The other side is unrelenting.

On the other hand, I believe it is not too far out to use a Bain & Co. analogy for Governor Romney’s situation. If elected, what we may be witnessing is a highly leveraged reverse take over of America’s White House. His SuperPACs are well funded by anonymous and mostly silent donors and donations. Should Gov. Romney win the White House, the people who largely put him there don’t view their money as a donation though; its an investment, thank you very much! So expect the billions paid in, to be subject to a notional first mortgage.

Money can be found in all the cracks and crevices of the political system. From earmarks and pork barrelling in general, to earmarks for those bridges to nowhere, from lobbyists for those earmarks, to the oddly higher percentage of wealthy people in Congress, compared to the population at large. Another whole arena of money in politics is the American debt, deficit and the management of its Treasury. All of them politcised, and weaponized in today’s politics. This is a right wing strategy, the earlier mentiond Congressional trio at the heart of much of the damaging things being done with this at the expense of Americans at large.  I will leave all these to another day.

However, there is one further money in politics matter that I think worthy of note to you now. When considering for whom to vote.  It may seem small in the scheme of things. Yet, it looms large in my mind because it underscores the system of beliefs that point to underlying moral character for Pres. Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney. This is there own personal financial management.

In the case of Pres. Obama, he has been open about his money. Indeed, has shared full details. It is also possible to construct what he has done / is doing with his money. What do we see there? Well, here is an interesting breakdown by Walter Hickey on How Barack Obama made His Fortune. I think its worth a read. In short, Obama has bet on America. He is playing it straight up, and safe. No creative and exotic tax minimizing strategies, “blind trusts” or the like. Plain vanilla, or is it plain chocolate? Whatever….

As for Governor Romney, well, it is not clear and as we all know, much of it is secret and will never be shared. Tough potatoes to the masses – “you people”. I think though that the business of Bain is a good reflection of his personal strategies too. What we know, is that a good deal of his wealth is buried, like treasure, offshore in the Caribbean. His approach has been to spend much time and money looking for ways to not pay taxes to the American treasury.

Yet, I can’t help but think of GM@Janesville and the people out of good jobs there since 2008/2009. You know, in Paul Ryan’s hometown, the factory that we hear so much about. Why is Gov. Romney’s money sitting on the beach so to speak, as far as America’s treasury is concerned? It could be in Janesville, invested in America and Americans.

Karl Rove’s American Crossroads GPS, the SuperPAC, is aptly named for this election. America is indeed at a Crossroads. She is facing perhaps one of the greatest decisions of her life. Will she choose the path to recovery and I think also to reinforcing the roots of her democracy? To raising the exchange rate between money and votes, reducing corrosion of the political system? Or the path of a leveraged reverse take over of the White House? Bought with a little bit of promised trickle down “cash back” to you, and a notional mortgage on your American Dream?

Pres. Obama mentioned at the DNC the words Hope and Change. There he goes again! In a different vein though than in 2008. He said, you are the change. The American people. I too believe it is you who powers change. You still have that power. Why don’t you use it to give him a mandate for real change that you can believe in?

Change in the way of voting in a new Congress! Enable greater movement Forward!

Forward with a faster paced recovery!

Forward on social issues!

Forward on keeping the franchise intact and money out of politics!

Forward to yet a more perfect union!

I am excited and looking forward to see what direction Americans choose election day. Indeed, it is your choice, what will you choose?

This is a watershed year in America – what ever you do, make sure you vote!


References twofold/2010/11/government-of-people-by-people-for.html,8599,107219,00.html…1c.1.CZy-4pPCE20