Thursday, April 19, 2007

D.C. representation

I just watched on C-SPAN as the House passed a bill giving the District of Columbia a representative with full voting rights in the House. The Legislation also gives Utah an additional Congressional seat as part of a bi-partisan compromise, thus raising the total number of House members from 435 to 437.
Despite this show of good will and the obvious merits of giving the more than half a million D.C. residents full representation in our government, the majority of Republicans in Congress voted against the bill. Jerks.
The last time this issue came up, they succeeded in defeating it by tying the bill down with an NRA-backed measure to undermine D.C.'s ban on semi-automatic weapons.
I’m not sure what happens next - whether the bill faces a Republican filibuster in the Senate or a veto threat from our illustrious Commander-in-Chief. But hopefully this will mark the long overdue culmination of an effort to grant D.C. citizens their full rights under the Constitution.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lax gun laws

Today my friend Bill Crawford says:
The question on everyone's mind today is, do stricter gun laws prevent crime?

While I disagree with his answer, I think it is also the wrong question to ask.
This is the question on most people’s minds today:

The Big Question: Is there a link between America's lax gun laws and the high murder rate?

The answer, unfortunately, is yes.

The massacre at Virginia Tech has, yet again, focused attention on the culture of guns and the ease of obtaining firearms in America, an unending source of amazement to most of the rest of the world. Roughly 29,000 people are killed by firearms every year - 10 times as many as died on September 11, 2001. Of the victims, some 11,000 are murdered, 17,000 use a gun to commit suicide, and almost 1,000 die in accidents. Some sub-statistics are even more disturbing. Every day three children under 19 die from a gun wound. Across the country, roughly 1,000 crimes involving firearms are committed every 24 hours. The rampage of Cho Seung-Hui, the deadliest mass shooting in US history, will merely add one suicide and 33 murders (at the latest count) to these grim totals.

Robert Reich made this astute observation today juxtaposing the easy access to semi-automatic handguns with strict regulation for anti-depressant medications:

In the United States, if you are seriously depressed, you can purchase anti-depressive drugs like Prozac, but only if you have a prescription from a doctor. Anti-depressants are enormously beneficial to millions of people but they are also potentially dangerous if used improperly. So you have to see a doctor and get an assessment before can go to a drug store and purchase one.
But in the United States, in places like Virginia, a seriously depressed or deranged person can walk into a gun store and buy a semi-automatic handgun and a box of ammunition. The only limitation in Virginia is you cannot buy more than one handgun a month and you must present two forms of identification. You don’t need permission from a doctor or counselor or anyone in the business of screening people to make sure they’re fit to have a gun.
We can debate the relative benefits and dangers of anti-depressants and semi-automatic handguns, but if 30,000 Americans were killed each year by anti-depressants, as they are by handguns, it seems likely that anti-depressants would be even more strictly regulated than they are now.

I would support a ban on semi-automatic handguns similar to the one they enacted in Australia back in 1996.
There is absolutely no need for anyone in the general public to own a semi-automatic handgun. They are not used for hunting. You don’t need one to defend your house against a burglar. The only thing they are really good for is committing mass murders. At the very minimum, access to these types of weapons should be heavily regulated requiring licensing and extensive background checks so that collectors and sporting enthusiasts might still have access to them, but not so that a mentally deranged college student can walk in on a moment’s notice and walk out with one plus a box of 50 cartridges in under 20 minutes.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Do you want to fight?

Before I heard about the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech, this is the story that had me upset.

Sounding almost as amused as frustrated, Duncan accused Crawford of having a "personal vendetta" against him and said the veteran referee asked him whether he wanted to fight.
"Before he gave me the two technical fouls, he made a call and I was shaking my head, and he walks down and stares at me," Duncan said. "He says, 'Do you want to fight? Do you want to fight?' I didn't say anything to him there, either."

This ref apparently has a history of these types of incidents and a reputation as being a hot-head. I hope it is not too much to expect that he WILL NOT be officiating any Spurs games during the play-offs.

Who won in Iraq?

Foreign Policy Magazine’s March/April 2007 issue asks the question “Who Won in Iraq?” and comes up with a Top Ten List of people, nations and ideas that can claim victory. Needless to say, George W. Bush isn’t listed in there anywhere.

1. Iran: After nearly 25 years of wrestling with Saddam Hussein, Iran’s Shiite rulers have the war to thank for their newfound power.
For Iran, the war in Iraq turned out to be a strategic windfall, uprooting Baathism and pacifying a nemesis that had been a thorn in its side.

2. Moqtada al-Sadr: How a radical Shiite cleric became the most powerful man in Iraq.
The Americans would like to see Moqtada off the scene; many moderate Shiite leaders would like to see him dead. Yet Sadr appears unassailable.

3. Al Qaeda: The terrorist network was on life support after Sept. 11 — until a new front opened in Baghdad and revived its mission.

4. Samuel Huntington: The man who envisioned a clash of civilizations looks more prescient than ever.
Paul Wolfowitz has lost. Sam Huntington has won.

5. China: The United States’ missteps in Iraq have given a rising superpower in the East room to grow.
Commitments in Iraq mean the U.S. military now has fewer resources to build up the capabilities to win a potential war with China over Taiwan.

6. Arab Dictators: The Middle East’s strongmen were under pressure to reform. Now, they rest easy.
As the U.S. has become mired in bloody chaos in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have wound up back in Washington’s good graces. But it’s not because they’ve become more democratic.

7. The Price of Oil: The war in Iraq triggered record oil prices, and the region’s petrostates will enjoy the windfall for years to come.

8. The United Nations: Suddenly, the global body’s brand of multilateral diplomacy doesn’t look so bad.
The United Nations is likely to be more effective than the spasmodic interventions of a solitary and inattentive superpower.

9. Old Europe: Four years on, Europe’s naysayers are looking wise beyound their years. But can they do any more than sit back and gloat?
Old Europe’s ambassadors crisscross the globe politely suggesting, “Well, we told you so.”

10. Israel: The war in Iraq eliminated several of Israel’s biggest enemies — even if it made a few new ones along the way.