What’s the deal with guns?

Again, skirting around the election, whenever the topic of guns in America comes up, usually after yet-another-mass-shooting, I simply don’t understand. I have no context.

I recently had the chance to hear Guardian journalist Gary Younge discuss his new book “Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives” (via @amazon), with BBC Radio London, broadcaster and journalist, Robert Elms.

So much rang true. It was great hearing two people discuss guns and the bizarre attitudes towards them in the USA. Among the qoutes, and the serious discussions about 10 kids being killed by guns, the best summary of their exchange was this in the opening seconds.

YOUNGE: I was there for 12-years as a correspondant, and there were two things I never got. I never got healthcare, why would you not want that? And I never got guns…
ELMS: Why would you want that?

Gary Younge on twitter

Robert Elms on Twitter

She said, he said

Friday evening we were waiting for a table for dinner, or a place at the bar, everything was looking pretty busy. I stood at the bar by a couple that looked like they were finished eating, but couldn’t get the attention of the bar staff. “She” spoke up to get the barmans attention. I thanked her and after we’d got our drinks, and cleared up that I wasn’t from Australia, the conversation went like this:

Her: How are things in Europe?
Me: Not so good, Nice sounds terrible. I suspect though at 7pm tonight, at a bar somewhere in Europe a couple were chatting and saying “what about all the gun violence in America, it’s not safe to go there anymore”.

Her: Oh, I hadn’t thought of that perspective.

Texas is an Ass

Just this week, Governor Abbott vetoed what many consider a key mental health provision, and given many of the continuing gun massacres are blamed on mental health issues, add that to guns in Texas, and a lot of people are upset with Abbott.

This post isn’t about guns, or mental health, or bashing Republicans. It doesn’t really matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, Texas pride aside. The Governor and Legislator are increasingly making Texas look like an ass.

I’m not talking about all the seemingly dumb laws on the books, or, the way and process the Governor has vetoed many key bills, or line items; or the fact the former Governor is still under indictment; or the way the current Attorney General is also facing potential federal charges. Nope, all that stuff can be passed off by one side or the other as “politically motivated”.

Nope, Texas is an ass because the world is changing, events happen at increasing velocity; social media is changing everything, and the Texas Legislature meets once every two years, passes a bunch of bills and then gets the hell out of dodge. The New York Times wrote this article about it back in 2010, nothing has changed.

Texas, like many states, has a constitution, written back in the 1876 has the legislature come to the capital every two years. Most states have moved away from that now. But here in Texas they spend 140-days prioritizing, bullying and cajoling their bills to the governors desk, assuming they can even get time to get their bills drafted and debated. Once they are done, the constitution gives them ample time to get back on their horses, in their buggys, or onto the stage coach to get back to their districts to converse with the people that elected them, before it’s time for a do-over.

As a reminder, Texas is bigger than Germany; bigger than France + large part of Spain and has almost as many people.

In a world where you can place a video call to almost anywhere, in a State where you can fly to a airport anywhere in the state in less than a day. With a legislature that raise significant amounts of money for election, don’t Texans deserve a legislative process that is on the ball, addressing issues as they arise, taking the appropriate steps to review, update and changes laws as Texas needs?

Instead what we have is an election, and then a rushed legislature that brings forward bills that pander towards just getting elected next time. As we’ve seen both from Governor Abbots ethics cry, and his veto pen, very few serious bills make it through. I get it, politics is hard, but Texans deserve more than this.

Sadly. as the New York Times report from 2010 says

The citizens of Texas inherently don’t trust government,” said Kip Averitt, who until recently served as a Republican state senator from Waco. He added, “I don’t think the public perceives it as a problem.

Who can blame them, given the problems highlighted above, and the fact that the general consensus is that the Old Boy network and pay to play are the two biggest problems with Texas Politics, perhaps if the legislature actually showed up and made a full time job out of crafting legislation, working to get traction, people would have more faith in their government?

No more riding into town, working on legislation that will get you elected next time and then leaving. Texas is an ass if they allow that to continue.

Something for the weekend – Ruby Ridge

I continue to try to get behind some the things held as “norms” here in Texas, and more broadly in America. This week has seen many examples of the gun lobby an the freedom from big government get riled up.

Even as a Brit’ I watched with amazement the FBI “invasion” at the Siege of Waco on UK TV. But the whole episode waas too easily dismissed when you stand back and look at those involved, almost as easy as “nut jobs!”.

I came across the story of a Texas Resident John Joe Gray, who is still holed up as a fugitive after 15-years, in his wooded, 50-acre ranch about 100-miles southeast for Fort Worth. I read into his case to see if that would show how many of the gun, freedom fighters had drawn their fear of being disarmed. Nothing really, if this report in the Houston Chronicle is true, not the cause célèbre I was looking for the cops are ignoring him.

11487373-standard[1]After reading an article on John Joe Gray, I came across a link pointing to the Retro Report and their video on the American Standoff at Ruby Ridge in 1992. Fascinating stuff. Ruby Ridge preceded the Waco Siege by almost a year, and at least for me, was unknown.

Having watched through to the end, I can certainly see the seeds of mistrust in the Federal Government, government overreach etc. It’s easy to extrapolate from there. Hundreds of smaller incidents, someone constantly telling you about the bogeyman, eventually you believe it.

Watch along, if you hadn’t heard of Ruby Ridge Idaho, you will after that. Something for the weekend?

Ruby Ridge: American Standoff from Retro Report on Vimeo.

Clinton’s line was true: The sad facts about assault weapons and voting

“A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon.”

“A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon.”

 Are there really places in America where it’s easier to buy an AR-15 than vote for president? ALEX SEITZ-WALD writing for Salon.com has the details, and yes, Texas is one of them. For my part, I’m not entitled to vote but would, and never considered buying a gun.

Bullets gone wild

So here is one for the conspiracy theorists. According to Jim Hightower, writing in the Austin Chronicle, the DHS has puchased 100 years worth of bullets.

That equates to 1.6 billion bullets. Buying in bulk always gets a good price, how else can you explain the rise of Costco?

The agency currently uses some 15 million bullets per year, which I presume are all for target practice. At the peak of the Iran war, our Army was shooting 6 million rounds per month, so that would allow the TSA to wage a 20-year war on us.

The good news is based on my experience, ineptitude rules. They would more likely shoot themselves in the foot before working out who the enemy was, much less aim, shoot, point.

Civilians, the Vietnam War, gun control

I didn’t move to America until 1982, the almost 20-year war was well over by the time I got to NY. I worked with a few managers who’d been in various services roles, allegedly my favorite VP was in a navy seal underwater demolition expert. The war was mostly never discussed.

I saw the films, as far as I recall I slept through most of Apocalypse Now not once, but twice. Last night I sat gripped through Zero Dark Thirty, as a docu-drama it was pretty good, didn’t waste time glamorizing the death of Osama bin Laden, and seemed at least to present most of the major talking points.

Afterwards when discussing the film, I said that “it presented a number of legal, social and international issues. Although on balance, I agree with the decision to go assassinate UBL in a foreign, nation state.”

Tonight I got to listen to Fresh Air, a NPR radio series. This show covered in large part the release of a new book, Nick Turses’ Kill Anything That Moves, about the Vietnam War. You can listen to, or read a transcript of the interview here

On balance, the juxtaposition of the film, and the NPR interview, especially with the harrowing description and discussion about the US armed forces killing more than 2,000,000 (yes two million+) civilians during the Vietnam war, that it’s not surprising the reluctance of many to give an inch on gun control.

Perhaps they are worried, not that their own government will be coming to get them, but that a small band of trained, government authorized Vietnamese assassins will fly in under the cover of darkness, come into their homes and assassinate them and their family?

Yes, it’s an extreme view, but you have to wonder with so many in positions of authority, in the government, the NRA and other organizations that were old enough to have served, or to have known first hand, or heard, the harrowing stories of the Vietnam war, why they they are resistant to any form of gun control?

[Update 1/30/12] Apparently this isn’t such an extreme view. Conflicting reports have this Vietnam vet. either defending himself, or assassinating someone for driving into the wrong driveway.

Gun for sale?

License Some rights reserved by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
License Some rights reserved by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Friday up the road in Georgetown Texas a man in dressed in camouflage clothes walked through a neighborhood and was openly carrying a rifle. He was duly arrested without incident according to this report in the Austin American Statesmans Blotter blog.

There isn’t much detail, but in the rush to publish, along with lack of likely follow-up, since there was no incident, the Statesman and the other mass media outlets are missing a useful opportunity to inform people about the gun control debate.

I think what would be really useful for gun arrests/incidents now would be the answer to the following questions when it is reported or in follow-up.

1. Was there a license/permit for the weapon?
2. When was the permit obtained ?
3. When was the gun obtained?
4. Where was the gun obtained?
5. Was their a background check?

If the weapons are all obtained legally by people who underwent background checks, obtained permits and bought the weapon at Wal-Mart we have a number of problems that need to be addressed.

If the guns were all illegal, the owner had no permit, and the weapon was bought black market, we have a different set of problems. Any variation of either and the problem is the same, but the solution becomes easier.

Texas, It’s not like anywhere else

austin_bumper_stickerLiving in Austin it’s all to easy to think you are in Texas, but really like it’s often said “Austin is a liberal oasis in Texas“. More often, Austin isn’t in Texas, but you can see it from here!

One of the first things I had to get used to is the Texas Legislator only being in town once every 2-years. That’s right, in what seems a total anomaly  the elected officials of the State of Texas are only in the capital to make/pass law every two years.  I’d guess this stems from the days when they had to ride horses to get to and from their constituents?

So while they work on the bi-annual budget as a key part of their initial work this year, there are a few key things that Texas does differently…

  • The Texas execution machine took a break over the year end, with near-weekly executions scheduled and most carried out. In all, Texas put to death 15 men in 2012. The state will kick off 2013 with the rare execution of a woman, Kimberly McCarthy on January 29th.
  • In all, Governor Rick Perry has presided over 239 execusions, surpassing all modern governors and marking the 478th Texas execution since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976.
  • While we await the outcome of Vice President Joe Biden to report back on gun control, Texas and Austin resident Alex Jones demonstrated perfectly why people are right to be concerned about “nut jobs” with easy access to legal guns when he “discussed” it with Piers Morgan on cnn.com.
  • Talking of “nut jobs”, over in Lubbock County Texas, Judge Tom Head claimed on local TV that a proposed tax increase would be needed to put down civil unrest and defend the country from invading UN forces should President Obama be reelected.
  • Down the street from me is a closed restaurant, Jovitas. It’s waiting the return of its owner, Amado Pardo. The restaurant was closed when Pardo was arrested by the FBI with 15-others for allegedly running a longtime heroin-dealing operation out of his eatery. What was really surprising was that Pardo was a twice convicted murderer, even more of a surprise was that Pardo was released on bail today, he has terminal cancer. Where’s the tough on crime, three strikes and you are out, when you need it?
  • Not quite as close to home, across Austin, in the Hot Bodies Mens Club, Victoria Perez, 21, was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon following a fight among seventeen women in the dressing room. A Male strip club employee was seriously injured when Perez hit him in the face with a spike heeled shoe and may have blinded him. As Alex Jones might have it, should we ban high heeled shoes? Hell no.
  • As a final vote of confidence, Buzz Bissinger, author of the book, Friday Night Lights about an Odessa Texas high school football team, tweeted that “if Dallas slid into a sinkhole, nation’s IQ would raise by 50 points”.

So, much for calm, rational people with legal access to guns. It’s interesting now that Texas has stricter controls over a womans uterus than guns. Texas now prescribes invasive gynecological procedures for Texas women, while at the same time making even harder for many thousands of Texas women to even visit a gynecologist.

And finally, it looks like the governor and the legislator don’t read my blog, otherwise they might have focused on what’s going to happen to all those children that are going to escape an unwanted death in Texas. The Governor continues to make it clear he is diametrically oppossed to any expansion of Medicaid in Texas, that pays for most of these births, and will do everything in his power to undermine national health care in Texas.

@pointaustin, writer and Editor Michael King points out that in Governor Perrys political universe, “Fetal pain” has an expiration date. Once that new Texas citizen takes his or her first breath, they are on their own. Writing in the Chronicle, King says “When the Governor says Suffer the little Children – he really means it.”