Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – December 28, 2012

It is understandable that the Newtown tragedy would cause this country to at least take another look at the issue of guns in American society. What is incomprehensible is arming teachers and principals as a rational response. Lost in the holiday news was the announcement of the departure of Lisa Jackson as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency – despoilers of the environment are already celebrating their “victory”. And finally, as this country lurches towards the fiscal cliff it is also starting to sound like a very bad movie plot.

More Guns and More Guns

The Newtown tragedy led many to believe that there might finally be a sane discussion about guns in American society. It seemed reasonable to think that after yet another unthinkable, unspeakable massacre that it was finally time to figure out a way protect us and our children from the absolute tsunami of firearms that has swept across this country.

It may be time to think again. In the state of Arizona there is a legislative proposal to arm teachers and principals in all public schools. In the state of Ohio a program has already begun to be implemented to provide firearms training to public school principals.

What could possibly go wrong with such insane initiatives?

The specter of high powered gun battles in school hallways is not hard to imagine. Blood soaked schoolyards in the aftermath of a mistake made by an armed principal who may have firearms training but not law enforcement or combat training.

If we follow the logic that the answer to the gun problem in this country is more guns we are going to be swimming in blood…..and drowning in our own tears.

Danger Signs at the EPA

This past week Lisa Jackson announced that she will resign as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. An excellent administrator and an extremely competent advocate for actually protecting the environment, Ms. Jackson has been subject to withering critical assaults from the right wing of the right wing, the Teapublicans and every industrial interest that could be more profitable with less environmental regulation.

It is understandable that after four years of daily attacks that Ms. Jackson may want to lead something like a normal life. But it should be clear that the attacks on Ms. Jackson will now be directed towards the next head of the EPA. And we should not forget that part of the Teapublican dogma included proposals to disband the EPA.

In the brave new Teaparty world there would be no need for an EPA since the American people can rely upon the tender mercies of the oil industry, the chemicals industry and, of course, the coal industry. The Koch brothers are happy that Lisa Jackson is leaving – their next target is the EPA itself.

Cliff Notes

As you are reading this the United States government is hours away from having this country careen off a fiscal cliff of its own making. The immediate impact – loss of unemployment insurance payments, elimination of tax deductions, reduction of vital public services – have all been recounted.

But we should be concerned about the long term impact of a representative government being wagged by the tail call the Tea Party as less than fifty Teapublicans in the House of Representatives seem to have the power to turn the United States into a 21st century version of a banana republic.

Unless and until Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate take a stand against these near-maniacal zealots going over the fiscal cliff will be only the beginning of the self-inflicted calamities that this country will endure.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – December 21, 2012

Trying to peer through the clouds of gun smoke that is hovering over this country it is very easy to lose sight of the tragic and cruel treatment to which Susan Rice was subjected. Meanwhile House Speaker John Boehner has blundered badly with his horrible Plan B budget proposal. So badly that come 2013 he may no longer be House Speaker – but who would want to lead the Teapub yahoos in the House anyway? And finally, as the shattered bodies of the children slain in Newtown were being buried the NRA announces a proposal to put armed guards in all schools. How stupid. How cruel and insensitive. How soon can the NRA go to hell?

Revisiting Rice

It is understandable that the Newtown tragedy would dominate the national news for the past week. Nevertheless it must be noted that Senate Republicans led by John McCain with their efforts to mash and mangle the reputation of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice managed to force Dr. Rice out of consideration for the role of Secretary of State.

With trumped up claims that Ambassador Rice somehow engaged in the deception of the American people with respect to the Benghazi incident, John McCain and his fellow deceivers managed to muddy the waters surrounding her performance in office as well as her character. That John McCain could engage in such shameless and vindictive grandstanding should not be surprising, because he has proven himself to be a small man, not only in stature but in character.

After all, it was John McCain who, in the name of naked political expedience, chose Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate. In choosing such an inexperienced, unprepared and not particularly talented person to be next in line to be president showed that John McCain had complete and total disdain for this country and its citizens. For him to assail Dr. Rice’s competence or qualifications to be Secretary of State is hypocrisy of the highest order.

It is also useful to note that in his series of personal attacks against Ambassador Rice John McCain said that she is “not very bright”. Considering the fact that John McCain graduated at the absolute bottom of his class at the U.S. Naval Academy one would think that he might pause before impugning anyone’s intelligence.

But he showed once again exactly why he graduated at the bottom of his class.

What Comes After Plan B?

In his fiscal cliff duel with President Obama House Speaker John Boehner came up with what he believed to be a cunning maneuver. He proposed a “Plan B” which would only raise taxes on people earning more than $1 million. This plan would also eliminate unemployment assistance for millions of Americans as part of a number of other drastic draconian measures that would inflict pain on Americans who are already suffering.

One problem though. The Teapublican wing of the House refused to go along with the plan because it entailed raising taxes on millionaires. And so the plan didn’t even come to a vote. The Teapublicans are prepared to defend the tax plantation of millionaires and billionaires no matter how much pain is inflicted on the rest of us.

And John Boehner has got to be wondering how he is going to be reelected Speaker of the House in January when he can’t even get his members to support his Plan B. Quite soon John Boehner may be relegated to Plan X status, as in Ex-Speaker.

More Guns, More Blood

Exactly one week after the Newtown massacre and one week after an average of 34 Americans were killed daily by gun violence; the NRA announced their response to these tragedies. Incredibly and horribly, the NRA proposed to place armed guards in all schools throughout the country.

That any sane individual would think that the answer to 300 million guns in America is more guns is stunning. That any responsible organization would make such a bizarre proposal as children from the massacre are being buried is vile and reprehensible. The only thing worse is that in a spot poll over 40% of Americans seem to think that armed guards in schools is a proper response to the tsunami of gun violence that sweeps across this country like clockwork.

There has to be a special place in Hell for people who, in their blind romance with rifles, handguns and shotguns, want to see even more guns in schools. And the gun manufacturers who shield their love of profit by twisting the Second Amendment to the Constitution should be ashamed. But, of course, they are not. They never are.

What will be enough to change the gun-worship culture in this country? Clearly the horrific spectacle of Newtown is not enough. Clearly the daily death toll of gun deaths is not enough.

What will be enough?

Point of View Columns

Follow the Blood – Follow the Money

The horrific Newtown Massacre is all the more terrible because it is a regular part of the American news cycle. Every three to six months the national eye focuses on the blood and gore in Tucson or Aurora or Columbine or……Newtown. This country’s gun madness is maddening but to try to understand it follow the numbers written in blood and, of course, follow the money.

Some simple numbers need to be kept in mind when looking at the United States of Gun:
-Since the Columbine Massacre in 1999 there have been 181 multiple gun killings at schools
– Every day there is an average of 34 gun murders in the United States
-There are over 60,000 gun killings in the United States every year

Incredibly, with private gun carnage being at such a high rate, this country has the most lax private gun control laws in the world. As a result, in a country of approximately 330 million people there are over 300 million privately owned guns.

The numbers cited should be no surprise considering the fact that the national private armory is overflowing with weapons of individual mass destruction. And yet, there is more.

Because in addition to “personal” weaponry (hunting rifles, small caliber pistols, target weapons) being freely available, monstrous killing machines that belong only in the hands of the military and law enforcement are also freely available.

A company called Bushmaster makes the AR-15 .223 caliber rifle which was used in the Newtown Massacre to obliterate the lives of small children and their teachers. Coincidentally, this same weapon was used by the infamous D.C. sniper in 2002 to kill 10 people.

This weapon fires over 5 bullets per second its bullets can chip concrete and tear the head off an adult. With the hollow tip bullets used in Newtown, a shot from this weapon will cause instant death if the victim is hit just about anywhere. And when you finish reading this column you can go to a gun show in most states in this country and buy one.

The notion that the Second Amendment advocated massive personal arsenals is ludicrous and historically wrong. But in any event, the Constitution has been effective because it is flexible and in a time when incredibly destructive weapons are so freely available, reasonable controls on the possession of weapons only makes sense. To paraphrase President Obama, the death of thousands of innocent people every year should not be the price for exercising the right to own a gun.

In this country an individual requires a government permit to possess high explosives. One cannot possess a wide range of drugs and pharmaceutical products without government approvals. Yet it is possible to amass incredible destructive firepower without limit – all in the name of some skewed interpretation of the Second Amendment. And that’s how massacres are born.

And it is also important to follow the money. Bushmaster is owned by Cerberus Capital Management – http://www.cerberuscapital.com, a private equity firm based in New York and owned by one Steve Feinberg. Cerberus and Mr. Feinberg clearly have no problems profiting from an enterprise that actively advertises the murderous killing capacity of its products. One can assume that the blood of the innocents of Newtown is just seen as an unfortunate collateral aspect of this Cerberus portfolio company.

And Cerberus and Mr. Feinberg are not alone. Investors in Cerberus include prominent government and private pension funds, insurance companies, universities, charitable foundations as well and sovereign and family wealth funds. Clearly, if you follow the blood spilled at Newtown and from so many other venues it will lead to the money that will in turn lead to leading financial institutions and their investors.

In other words, the blood and the guilt of this national tragedy are spread far and wide. And it is this national conspiracy of gun mania and profit at any cost which explains the seeming impossible task of getting reasonable gun control laws in this country.

And one more thing – In Greek mythology Cerberus was the three headed dog that guarded the gates of Hell.

Point of View Columns

Special Weekend Edition – December 14, 2012


As you are reading this the final body count after a shooting rampage at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut is being finalized. Because we are all so anesthetized and acclimated to gun carnage I will repeat: “As you are reading this the final body count after a shooting rampage at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut is being finalized.

Like every parent with a pulse when I first heard the report of the shooting at a school my very first thought was of the life and safety of my child. Then, learning that my son was safe I tried to comprehend the news reports of the inevitable suicidal lone gunman shooting twenty small children with an assault rifle typically used by urban SWAT teams.

We have to wonder about what this country will look like in another decade without some dedicated strategy to control the amount and type of guns that are available in this country. It is unthinkable that a third grader cannot go to school safely without body armor – but Kevlar may be part of the 2022 school dress code at the rate we are going.

The gun-loving maniacs of the National Rifle Association have their canned response to this tragedy at the ready. That’s because in the NRA universe there is no need for gun control. The daily tragedy of bloodshed on American streets has nothing to do with the readily availability of lethal weapons. After every Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora and now Newtown, the NRA and the supporters of gun madness would have us believe that rational gun control would not have saved a single life.

But I wish that the NRA representatives would fly to Connecticut and explain to the bereaved mothers and the anguished fathers in Newtown that there is a constitutional right for private citizens to have .223 caliber assault rifles. And then they can do a national tour to Brooklyn and Chicago and Washington and Oakland and New Orleans and explain to the mourners of gunned down Americans why it makes sense to have even limited controls on gun ownership.

House Speaker John Boehner was quoted as saying that he “stands with the citizens of Newtown”, whatever that means. But it is a safe bet that neither he nor any of his Teapublican colleagues who moonlight as NRA lapdogs will do anything about gun control.

President Obama was quoted as saying that it is time for new strategies without a concern for politics. One can suspect that this is a call for gun control in Obamaese. But in these United States of the Gun, President Obama is going to have to be a lot clearer and a lot more vocal.

One wonders what is the body count in a single incident that will finally turn this country in the right direction when it comes to guns. In 1911 146 people (mostly young women) died in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. The enormity of that tragedy led to workplace safety laws that have saved millions of lives during the past century.

We know that 27 people died in Newtown. We know that 32 people were slaughtered at Virginia Tech. We know the numbers in Columbine and Aurora and in the streets of urban America. John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X., John Lennon and so many more iconic individuals have been swept away in gusts of gun smoke. Incredibly and sadly the numbers and the horror have not been enough to bring about any kind of reasonable restraint on guns.

And so we close the day and the week with the wails of sirens and the weeping of parents as fresh blood is washed away until the next massacre. And while it is horrible to say, it is true, there will be a next massacre and another and another until this country becomes sane on the subject of guns.