People kill people, guns make it easier.

October 3, 2015
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Weapons. photo RCMP seizure.

The gun violence and mass killings taking place in the United States shocks us all. It is gut wrenching to read about the victims of this violence. A solution is elusive.

Every time these shootings happen a cry for gun control begins. Better gun control may or may not help. Some argue that guns kill people, others that people kill people. People may kill people, but guns make it far too easy to kill people, and too easy to kill many people. It is too easy to just scream for more gun control.

So what is the answer? First gun control measures are in place in most States now, but it still seems too easy for people with mental problems to obtain these weapons. The problem of gun violence will not be solved overnight. Gun culture is prevalent in American society and has been since the country was founded.

Guns are not inherently bad, but they are deadly weapons that must be treated with respect and not abused. Responsible gun owners know this and they are not the problem. The problem begins when these weapons get into the hands of criminals or disturbed individuals.

Predicting when these events will happen, that is when a disturbed individual will snap and go on a shooting spree, is almost impossible. Gun control laws are only a half measure if some effort is not made to identify and to help individuals with mental illnesses before they strike.

Right now the two sides, the gun lobby and the gun control advocates are just going around in circles with no consensus. The facts as I see them are,
– guns will be part of the American culture forever.
– effective gun control in some form or another is needed.
– mental illness is part of human health concerns.

An attempt must be made to resolve this issue. My suggestion is the formation of a bipartisan Congressional or a Presidential commission on Gun Culture and Gun Control. This commission should be made up of all affected parties, gun owners, gun manufacturers, law enforcement, mental health experts, victim advocates, and legal experts. The mandate should be to investigate all sides of gun ownership and gun violence, what is working and what is not working, summarize their findings, and make recommendations for improvement (changes or new measures).

The primary thing this would accomplish would be to get a national dialogue started on all aspects of this violence. In my opinion the American people must attempt to resolve and mitigate this cancer in their society.

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Suffer the little children: The Oklahoma City Bombing 20 years later.

April 19, 2015
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Fireman Chris Fields removing infant Baylee Almon (who later died) from destruction. Photo by Charles H. Porter IV. (smaller size than actual photo to conform to Fair Use) Won the Pulitzer Prize for its impact. Loction of actual photo http://www.pulitzer.org/works/1996-Spot-News-Photography

Just after 9 am on Wednesday April 19, 1995 a massive explosion destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This was a work day and the building was full of office workers just starting their day. The lower level had a daycare centre where employees could leave their children to be looked after while they were at work.

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Alfred P. Murrah Building after the bombing. Photo by US Army Corps of Engineers.

The bomb killed 168 people and injured more than 680 others. Included in the death toll were 19 children under the age of six. A massive rescue operation took place over the next days to find and help others trapped in the debris of the building.

The explosion destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a 16-block radius. Glass was shattered in 258 other buildings and 86 cars were destroyed. An estimated $652 million dollars damage resulted.

The Oklahoma City Bombing was the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history. Timothy McVeigh the mastermind behind the terrible crime was captured within 90 minutes. Oklahoma State Trooper Charlie Hanger stopped him for driving without a license plate. The officer arrested him for illegal weapons possession. Investigators used forensic evidence to link him to the attack. Terry Nichols, Michael and Lori Fortier were identified and arrested as accomplices.

The bombers rented a large truck from Ryder, packed it full of explosives and parked it in front of the building. The bomb was timed to detonate just after the start of the work day when the maximum number of people would be in the building.

The bombers were tried and convicted in 1997. The Federal government executed McVeigh by lethal injection on June 11, 2001. Terry Nichols received life in prison without parole. The Fortiers testified against McVeigh and Nichols. Michael got 12 years in prison with Lori receiving immunity for her testimony.

Today the Oklahoma City Memorial sits on the site and annual remembrance services are held on the day. The memorial consists of a chair for each victim. There are 19 small chairs representing the children.

Reading about this event and seeing the pictures I know that evil exists. The victims in this bombing weren’t soldiers, but office workers and children. Innocents going about their everyday routines. Tragically this day they never returned home to their families and friends. The shockwave of the blast still echoes today 20 years later.


Growing up in the Cold War

December 14, 2014
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The museum in Albuquerque, NM. photo by Steve Davis

During a recent road trip I visited the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, New Mexico. More about the museum itself in a future post, but the gift shop had some old government publications for sale. I picked up one titled, “Survival Under Atomic Attack”. This is a printed by the Office of Civil Defense, State of California in October 1950. California reprinted it from a federal government brochure.

It is an extremely interesting document from the Cold War era. The government tried to prepare and reassure the populace by telling them it was actually possible to survive an all-out nuclear exchange between the USSR and the United States. Not only that they actually told people that life would go on much as before. Reading this brochure I found it so asinine that I actually laughed out loud at a lot of the contents. I thought I’d share some of the ‘deep thoughts’ found in the booklet.

On the very first page it states,

“YOU CAN SURVIVE,

you can live through an atom bomb raid
and you won’t have to have a Geiger counter,
Protective clothing, or special training in order to do it.

The secrets of survival are:

KNOW THE BOMB’S TRUE DANGERS.

KNOW THE STEPS YOU CAN TAKE

TO ESCAPE THEM.”

Forgive my skepticism but okay folks whatever you say.

Then there is a page titled “Kill the Myths” I found this just absurd. Here it is,

Myth #1 “Atomic Weapons will not destroy the Earth. Not even hydrogen bombs will blow the earth apart or kill us all by radioactivity.”

Yeah right they’ll just kill most humans, animals, and all other life and leave the planet uninhabitable.

Myth #2 “Doubling Bomb Power does not double destruction.”

This is total bullshit. Nuclear weapons would be detonated above their targets causing enormous damage. The governments who control these weapons have done extensive testing and know full well that this statement is an outright lie.

Myth #3 “Radioactivity is not the bombs greatest threat.”

Maybe not over the short-term, but over the long-term it is the greatest threat. It would linger and as proven by studies of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagaski, do damage for generations. Why do you think those x-ray techs in the dentist’s office run out of the room when they take those shots of your teeth? Why do they drap that lead vest around you and your vital parts? It’s because of the radiation. Granted it’s only in small dosages from x-rays, but nuclear weapons emit massive amounts of radiation when they explode.

Reading this document at this time in our history is an amusing peek into the mindset of those in power during one of the most frightening periods in recent history. As a child who grew up during the Cold War the contents of this document are beyond comical. It shocks me that we actually believed this stuff. I guess it reassured us that we shouldn’t have been scared. Hell no in reality most of us were scared shit-less!

My personal philosophy in the event of an all-out nuclear exchange was simply that I would prefer not to survive thank you. Let others deal with the nuclear winter and fall-out that would affect the Earth for thousands of years. Let others try to live on without law and order. Let others live on without the benefits of modern civilization like drinking water, heat in winter, and food. The dead would be better off, of that I have no doubt.

Reference::

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History
Alburquerque, New Mexico
http://www.nuclearmuseum.org


Canada 7, Russia 3 – Olympic Hockey

February 25, 2010

Canada goal on the way in

Hockey in Canada is a religion. Last night one of the heated rivalries Canada vs Russia played out, with Canada winning 7-3 to advance to the semi-finals. 

“They came out like gorillas out of a cage,” Russian backup goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov said.

Prior to 1998 pros were not allowed to compete in the Olympics, unless you were Soviet. They fielded a team consisting of their best. The players were all members of the military and paid to train and compete 24/7. This is how they circumvented the rules. 

In 1998 the NHL allowed its players to compete for their respective countries. This leveled the playing field and the Russian monopoly on the Gold Medal ended. 

The top two teams in Vancouver are Canada and the USA. It appears likely they will meet in the Gold Medal game later this week. The USA defeated Canada in the preliminary round, but lately Canada have found their game and are playing much better. It should be a classic game with all the ingredients for the best game to date. Stay tuned. Go Canada Go.


Presidential Inaugural Firsts

January 4, 2009
Reagan Inauguration 1981

Reagan Inauguration 1981

With the inguration of a new president coming up on January 20th, I did some research and found some interesting “firsts” for this event.

January 20th is the constitutional date specified for the end of a president’s four year term. The swearing in of a president is a symbol of the smooth transistion of power in the case of a new president. In the instance of a re-elected president, it is the end of one elected term and the beginning of a new one. The Constitution also specifies the “oath-of-office” is to be taken  by the president-elect.

 Here are some of the tidbits I found,

1837 – Martin Van Buren was the first president to call on his predecessor, Andrew Jackson, at the White House, and ride with him to the Capitol for the swearing in. He was also the first president who was born an American citizen.

1841 – William Henry Harrison was the first president to arrive in Washington by train for the inauguration.

1841 – John Tyler was the first president who was sworn in after the death of a president. He was never elected to his own term so didn’t have an inauguration of his own.

1845 – James Polk’s inaugural address was the first one relayed by telegraph (to Baltimore).

1853 – Franklin Pierce was the first, and so far only, president to “affirm” rather than swear his loyalty to the Constitution.

1865 – Black soldiers marched in the inaugural parade for the first time.

1897 – William McKinley’s first inauguration was filmed by motion-picture cameramen.

1921 – Presidential party rode in automobiles to the inauguration for Warren Harding’s inauguration.

1925 – Calvin Coolidge’s inaugural address was broadcast on radio.

1929 – Herbert Hoover’s address was recorded for “talking pictures”.

1949 – Harry Truman’s inauguration was first to appear on television.

1961 – John F. Kennedy’s inauguration appeared on color TV.

1977 – Jimmy Carter walked back to the White House with his family after taking his oath at the Capitol.

2009 – Will this be the first broadcast live on the internet? Most likely.


The Democratic Party – A Short History

August 25, 2008

Modern Democratic Party logo

This week the Democratic Party will hold their convention in Denver. History will be made in the Mile-High city this week. The first black candidate for president will be nominated by a major party. Barack Obama will officially become the nominee of his party for President of the United States.

The Democratic Party came out of the Democratic-Republican Party which was organized by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the early 1790s. The party favored states’ rights and strict adherance to the Constitution. It also opposed a national bank and wealthy, moneyed interests. In the election of 1800 the Democratic-Republican Party ascended to power with the election of Thomas Jefferson.

In 1828 led by Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren the Democratic-Republican Party split and the faction supporting the old Jeffersonian principles became the Democratic Party. In 1844 the name was officially shortened to the Democratic Party.

Before and during the Civil War the party split along Northern and Southern lines, but still remained one party. Today the Democratic Party remains one of the two major political parties in the United States along with the Republican Party.

Factoids:

  • Mascot symbol commonly associated with the party is the donkey. This has never been officially adopted by the party.
  • Since election night 2000 the color blue has become the identified color of the Democratic Party. This is because all major broadcast networks used those same colors to identify the parties, blue for Democrats and red for Republicans.
  • The song “Happy Days Are Here Again” is the unofficial song of the party.

Notable Democratic Presidents:

  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Harry Truman
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Lyndon Johnson
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Bill Clinton

This week no matter what your political persuasion watching the convention is observing democracy in action.


RFK: Death of a Dream June 6, 1968

June 5, 2008

The year was 1968. It was a contentious presidential election year. The incumbant president Democrat Lyndon Baines Johnson had bowed out of the election with a shocking announcement in March. The Vietnam War was tearing Americans apart. Johnson’s popularity was at an all-time low. The Republican frontrunner for the nomination was former Vice President Richard M. Nixon who promised peace with honor in Vietnam if he was elected. (Above: Photo taken from RFK funeral train. Paul Fusco photo.)

On the Democratic side President Johnson had lost the New Hampshire primary to little-known Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota who promised unconditional withdrawal from the war. After this primary loss President Johnson suddenly announced that he would not stand for re-election. The sudden withdrawal of Johnson opened the field. Vice President Hubert Humphrey entered the race late, after the primaries (only thirteen states had primaries at this time), and promised to continue Johnson’s policies. He proposed to negotiage a peace, but not at any cost.

Senator McCarthy was winning primaries and support as the anti-war candidate. Sitting on the sidelines was Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York. At the urging of supporters he entered the race and he too began winning primaries and support as an anti-war candidate. He brought the Kennedy name and support to the race. McCarthy did not have a national base and began losing ground to Kennedy. Humphrey was the party favorite, except he didn’t enter any primaries and Kennedy began gaining in delegate support and in public support. Kennedy hoped to force McCarthy out of the race by winning the delegate-rich California primary, then it would be just Kennedy and Humphrey at the convention. By the time the California primary came on June 4th, it was obvious the nomination would have to be decided at the convention in Chicago in August.

The California primary was the biggest and most delegate-rich for any candidate. Senator Kennedy won it overwhelming. It was also the last primary. The next event to determine the Democratic nominee was the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

In the early hours of June 5th, after his primary victory, Senator Robert F. Kennedy went to the Ambassador Hotel ballroom in Los Angeles and gave a victory speech to his supporters. Shortly after midnight, he concluded his speech with the words of encouragement to them, “Now on to Chicago and let’s win there.”

He planned to go into the crowd and shake hands, but his friends directed him to leave backstage through the kitchen area to avoid the crowds. Kennedy was shaking hands with kitchen staff on his way out, when a Palestinian immigrant Sirhan B. Sirhan stepped forward and at point blank range emptied his eight-shot Ivor Johnson revolver at the senator. Kennedy slumped to the concrete floor of the kitchen and lay on his back bleeding profusely from his head. One of the kitchen staff cradled his head as friends and supporters wrestled with Sirhan and finally subdued him. Several others were wounded.

Senator Kennedy was rushed to the hospital where doctors performed surgery, but in the early morning hours of June 6, 1968 Robert Francis Kennedy died of his gunshot wounds. The hopes and dreams for real change died with him.

Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic nominee without virtually any opposition, and Richard Nixon was the Republican nominee. Nixon was elected in a landslide in November 1968. A peace was negotiated in Vietnam after several more years of fighting. Nixon and Spiro Agnew, his Vice President, were re-elected in 1972, and both subsequently resigned in disgrace.

I still remember Bobby’s inspiring words,

“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were and ask why not.”


U.S. postage stamp issued in 1978 to honor Robert Kennedy.


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