Making America Unsafe Again

In the February 18, 2019, issue of TIME magazine, page 25, Ian Bremmer (see some of Bremmer’s impressive credentials below) presents an article titled “The end of a U.S.-Russia arms treaty spells long-term trouble.” The title refers to the Trump Administration’s decision to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.

A few quotes from the article:

“Washington’s decision to walk away from the INF Treaty is yet another sign to Europeans that the U.S. can no longer be counted on as a partner.”

“In an era of stronger U.S.-E.U. Relations” there might have been a way “…to get the Russians to respect the terms of the deal rather than the U.S. deciding to do away with it altogether.”

Bremmer points out that the INF Treaty might have been a way for the U.S. and Russia “…to make the world a safer place. Now it’s yet one more point of tension.”

I’m looking forward to hearing from my many friends who support the current administration about this subject. For my part, I agree with Bremmer.

From Wikipedia:

“Bremmer is most widely known for advances in political risk; referred to as the “guru” in the field by The Economist[11] and The Wall Street Journal[12] and, more directly, bringing political science as a discipline to the financial markets.[13] In 2001, Bremmer created Wall Street’s first global political risk index, now the GPRI (Global Political Risk Index). Bremmer’s definition of an emerging market as “a country where politics matters at least as much as economics to the market”[14] is a standard reference in the political risk field.

Bremmer has published ten books, including the national bestsellers Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World (Portfolio, May 2012), which details risks and opportunities in a world without global leadership, and The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations (Portfolio, May 2010), which describes the global phenomenon of state capitalism and its implications for economics and politics.

Bremmer is a frequent writer and commentator in the media. He is the foreign affairs columnist and editor-at-large for Time, a contributor for the Financial Times A-List,[16] and has also published articles in The Washington PostThe New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalHarvard Business ReviewForeign Affairs and many other publications. He appears regularly on CNBCCNNFox News ChannelBloomberg TelevisionNational Public Radio, the BBC, and other networks.


The Missing “G” in GOP

Years ago I read “American Odyssey,” long out of print, a history of the origins and development of Michigan.  For several years, while working at the Michigan Supreme Court as the State Court Administrator, I gave copies of the book to the people I worked with, particularly those who had come to Michigan from elsewhere in the U.S.

My goal was to afford new staff the opportunity to learn about the State of Michigan and some surprising aspects of its history, one of which was the first convention of the new Republican Party near Jackson, Michigan, just south of Lansing, in July of 1854 – a half dozen years before Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican to be elected President.  A great part of the impetus behind the formation of the Republican Party was opposition to the extension of slavery.

Somewhere along the line the Republican Party became known as the GOP, the Grand Old Party.  I don’t argue about the words “Old Party,” even thought the Democratic Party is older.  But at this stage I must object to the word Grand, which is defined as stately, dignified, and highly idealistic, at least not when I think of our current Tweeter-In-Chief and many of his minions, some of whom are in the U.S. Congress.  Possibly the last straw for me was his recent reaction to the report on climate change prepared by U.S. government scientists: “I read part of it.  It’s fine.  I don’t believe it.”

To paraphrase a recent summary from an NPR news program summing up the current White House strategy: Start a fire, blame someone else for starting it, then take credit for putting it out.  One might well add: Be sure to disagree, disparage, and/or ignore most everything about former staff and much of the work of the intelligence community and other government agencies, except, of course, what is contained in the tweets emanating from the White House.  The G in GOP is missing these days.

Too Many Police Chief Generals?

Am I the only one who’s noticed that almost every police chief that shows up in a news broadcast or TV show is wearing the insignia of a military general; that is, four stars?

Note that federal law governs the numbers of general officers for all branches of our military, and that all general officers are all addressed as “general” or “admiral,” with no reference to the number of stars they are entitled to wear. Four stars is the maximum number except in times of war, when there have been five-star generals and admirals.

Police departments all over our country have long used military rank to define command structure; e.g., sergeant, lieutenant, captain, but I didn’t notice when chiefs became four-star generals. Federal law limits the numbers of four-star generals to seven Army, nine Air Force, two Marine, and six Navy (admirals).

I certainly admire and respect men and women who have risen to the rank of police chief, but four stars? “The Crossing,” a TV show we tuned into recently, not only has a four-star chief but also a three-star (lieutenant general) as an assistant chief. I think the two of them supervise about five other police officers.

Several police chiefs on national news programs lately, and I hate the thought of what caused them to be on the news, have shown up with collars sagging from the weight of four stars.

Can’t help wondering when and why the four-star fixation got its start. It’s certainly good for the companies that manufacture insignia. Found one company that sells the shiny silver four-star collar item for $41.50. Police departments could save some money just going for one or two stars. Tom Selleck plays the role of the Commissioner of the New York Police Department, and he doesn’t even wear one star.

Fantasyland: Transforming Belief Into Truth

A review of Fantastyland – How America Went Haywire – A 500-Year History, Kurt Andersen, Random House, 2017.

Where to begin and end? As a pal in my book club put it, this book is “so rich” with content we may need two meetings to discuss it.

From 1517 to the present time, the author relentlessly exposes how and why Americans tend to believe what we want to believe, regardless of the facts. Americans, free and independent, have built a nation in many ways on a foundation of fantasy – Fantasyland.

The author doesn’t conclude that all beliefs, conspiracy theories and dreams are irrational, just the ones that go “…overboard, letting the subjective entirely override the objective, people thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings were just as true as facts.”

From beliefs in recent trips to and from Heaven to government conspirators hiding all manner of truths and conspiracies from us; from Satan on Earth today to real estate prices that would always increase; from believing risky debt isn’t risky to extraterrestials among us; from the dangers of vaccines to life’s creation several thousand years ago; from the phony moon landing to the government’s 9/11 plot; from hoarding firearms to thwart thugs and terrorists to the origins of AIDS; from pretending we’re soldiers “…or elves or zombies….” to sitting at our personal computers to engage in virtual battles; from believing the vapor contrails formed by aircraft at altitude are really secret gasses emitted to control us to believing Satan recruited Indians from Asia to North America to impede Christianity – in Fantastyland many have believed all this and more, and in some cases still believe, therefore it’s true.

In a footnote on page 7 the author discloses the source of survey data that tell us only a third of us believe emissions from cars and factories are causing global warming; only a third of us don’t think telepathy and ghost are real; a fourth of us believe Donald Trump won the popular vote in 2016; a third of us believe the government is keeping natural cures for cancer a secret so “Big Pharma” can make more money – the list goes on.

We have facts and access to facts in America, but in many aspects of our lives we are exposed to misrepresentations, made-up stuff, spins, alternative facts, misdirection, and outright lies, and we’ve had all of it in varying degrees since the first “settlers” arrived.

In its 462 pages, including an index, this book offers an opportunity to discover how the differences between opinion, belief, and fact all got blurred in America from the very beginning of the country, and how by now have all but disappeared.

“You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts,” Daniel Patrick Moynihan

The 2nd Amendment and Gun Control

United States Constitution, Amendment II: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

I recently saw on the news (CNN, June, 2017) that nearly 1,300 children were shot and killed in our country every year. I don’t want children killed with a gun at school or anywhere else.

First, a bit of what the media like to call “Breaking News.” Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has called for a repeal of the 2md Amendment (Raleigh News and Observer, March 27, 2018). I agree, mostly because I’m convinced the 2nd is, as Justice Stevens notes, “…a relic of the 18th Century….” and hasn’t been correctly interpreted since roughly 1850. Here is my take on understanding it.

Let’s begin with the first clause: “A well regulated Militia….” Those are the first four words, and as my education in the subject of the English language concludes, they are the basis for the rest of the sentence. Everything that comes later in the sentence relies on and refers to “A well regulated Militia….” (Dictionary definition of a militia: a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency.)

Next comes: “… being necessary to the security of a free State….” When that was written, the “free State” had not much of an army, navy, air force, coast guard, or merchant marine. None of those were at all enough to ensure the security of a free State. In fact, a couple of them (air force, coast guard, and merchant marine) didn’t even exist. Hence the need for “A well regulated Militia,” intended to be what was needed to secure the “free State,” not unregulated hundreds of thousands of individual gun owners, but “A well regulated Militia.”

Next comes: “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms….” The long accepted use of the phrase “the people,” as in “We the people…,” the first words of the Constitution, is that “the people” means the total population – “the people” equals the entire country. “The people” refers to all the people, the entire population, not individuals who just want a gun, or a collection of guns.

The last few words of the 2nd, “…shall not be infringed” means that the people, the country, shall not be forbidden, precluded, disallowed, to form those well regulated militias to protect and defend the free State. It does not mean individuals stocking up on guns and stockpiling ammo for target practice, amusement, drive-by shootings, school shootings, night club shootings, or any of the other horrible shootings that taken the lives of children and other innocent people, shootings that happen more in our America than in any other country.

Here is what I would include in a new Constitutional Amendment. The right of individuals who have reached a minimum age of 21 to purchase and own guns for limited and legal uses; however, I would ban private ownership of any automatic, military-style weapons. I also support rigorous background investigations, waiting periods, firearms training, and limits on the number of rounds in a magazine for a semi-automatic weapon. After background investigation, training, and a waiting period, I would require a license to complete all purchases of guns, said background investigations and licenese(s) to be renewed on an annual basis. I would make ownership transfers between individuals, including family members, subject to the same requirements as those transfers and purchases from a gun dealer. There should be due process required of anyone to obtain and keep any gun from any source.

Some will say I’m proposing too many safeguards, too much cost, and too much regulation that will never work. Some will say it’s too late, that too many weapons are already in the hands of people who have no business owning them. I know this article will be met with those criticisms and more, but I am sick and tired of learning about shootings, dead and injured children, dead and injured innocent people. We cannot simply hope another shooting won’t happen. We cannot just offer thoughts and prayers to families that have lost children and other family members. We must act now. We must convince our elected officials to act now. Americans can and must do better.

I don’t care how much time and money and regulation it takes. I don’t want children killed with a gun at school or anywhere else. I don’t want innocent lives lost by gunfire no matter what and how long it takes to achieve a safer democracy. I don’t want to minimize the risk of mass shootings; I want to eliminate that risk.

Guns for Teachers?

This morning’s newspaper described how our NC legislators might be considering arming teachers as a method of preventing or at least discouraging school shootings. An NC School Safety Committee is being formed and requested to produce recommendations to the Legislature.

One NC legislator was quoted as referring to the reactions of people in favor of better methods of gun control as “useless hysteria” that “we have to get over.” One can only hope he won’t get up in front of a group of grieving parents and classmates of murdered fellow students and tell them they have to get over their useless hysteria.

Heard another NC legislator on NPR state that she didn’t think there would be much action on school safety in NC unless and until we experienced a school shooting in NC. Reminds me of a comment from a long-time Wake Forest resident who once told me NC wouldn’t install a traffic light “until 2 or 3 people were killed at the intersection.” Good grief.

Never mind that roughly 7 of every 10 Americans think there should be more strict background investigations and a ban on privately owned automatic, semi-automatic weapons, and the “bumpstocks” that make semi-automatics fully automatic (all hereinafter referred to as “military-grade weapons”).i   As a certified geezer with experience as a teacher, coach, FBI Agent, legal administrator, and real estate instructor, I can think of more reasons than I’ll have the time and patience to include here about why arming teachers is not a good idea, but here are a few:

  1. Arming teachers means there will be guns in our schools, lots of guns, every day, available for misguided people to figure out ways to get at and use them.

  2. Shooting at targets, no matter how much one does that, is not the same as shooting at someone who is trying to shoot others, especially if that someone is shooting at you. Odds are that an armed teacher would be sending rounds into unintended people and other targets; e.g., the classroom across the hall.

  3. A teacher with a handgun has no chance against someone with a military-grade weapon.

  4. Teachers are not law enforcement officers, and no amount of training will transform them into law enforcement officers.

Consider these questions. Would teachers be required to arm themselves? Would teachers have a right not to bear arms? And suppose a disgruntled teacher decides to open fire at school? More “useless hysteria” to follow? And more “thoughts and prayers?”

It has become quite a distasteful burden to listen to our leaders offer “their thoughts and prayers” to the families of murdered school children and teachers, who have lost everything they were and everything they were yet to be. My thoughts and prayers are that our government officials at all levels will ban private ownership of military-grade weapons and not allow sale of any kind of gun to anyone under the age of 21, require extensive background checks and waiting periods and licenses for all purchasers of any gun of any type, require regular of issued firearms licenses, and that the NC School Safety Committee will consider the above and much more, and will produce better ideas than arming teachers.

Some say it’s too late, that too many military-grade weapons are already out there, privately owned.. Others say under the 2nd Amendment we have the right to own those weapons. I say it’s not too late to attempt action that will rid this country of mass shootings of all kinds. I also say that the authors of the 2nd Amendment could not have predicted the killing power of the weapons that would be available to anyone 200 years later.

In the meantime we need much better security at our schools, security provided by trained police officers. I would allow only two entrances that provide access to any school facility; lots of exits, but only two entrances, each of which would be staffed by trained police officers and equipped with metal detectors.

If I’m engaging in “useless hysteria,” so be it. I don’t want any more students, teachers, or anyone else murdered with military-grade weapons.

i People, including the media, often confuse the different types of military-grade weapons. To clarify, with a semi-automatic the trigger must be pulled for each shot; with an automatic (or with a bumpstock on a semi-automatic) the weapon continues to fire as long as the trigger is held in the firing position and there are live rounds in the weapon’s magazine. Both automatic and semi-automatic weapons use magazines loaded with bullets, called “rounds,” although as a general rule the magazines for automatics hold more rounds because they can fire more of them in a brief time. As either type is fired, the round in the chamber is on its way, the empty shell is ejected from the weapon, and a new round is slipped from the magazine and inserted in the chamber for the next shot. To fire 12 rounds from a semi-automatic, the trigger would have to be pulled 12 times; from a fully automatic the trigger need only be held in the firing position until the magazine is empty. There are automatic weapons that are capable of firing upwards of 100 rounds in a matter of seconds.

Nobody Asked Me, But…..Volume 3, No. 6

Nobody Asked Me, But…..Volume 3, No. 6

Some friends asked me why I write these blog articles. By the way, is “blog” an acronym, and if so, for what? Anyway, I write because I like to write, I’m interested (if not anxious these days) in current events, and I enjoy trying to come up with interesting and informative articles to send to family and friends.  In the “Nobody Asked Me, But…..” articles I try to point out a few of the zany if not crazy stupid news articles that appear on social media, my newspaper, and other outlets; e.g., my daily quote calendar. Here are some examples:

First, I saw a post on Facebook the other day that claimed Ben Carson, our HUD Secretary, said: “I think illegal immigrants who commit crimes should have their citizenship revoked.” Probably generated by some Russian hacker, so I’ll ignore that one. Besides, nobody with a high school diploma would make that mistake.

Next comes a statement from today’s newspaper about a poor guy who lost several toes and part of his foot due to an infection. He has diabetes and is on disability, and is worried that a federal heating assistance program is about to be wiped out by our Leader and other leaders in Washington. He lost his job and is struggling to heat his home for himself and his fiance and their five children. Never mind that, the important part of the article states that he won’t vote for Trump again if this heating assistance program is eliminated. Wait – fiance and five children? Somebody call a pastor, priest, or civil servant who is allowed to perform marriage ceremonies.

And finally, there is the NC State Legislator that is trying to figure out a way out of his comments about “communist democrats.” He says he didn’t mean all Democrats, just the Communist ones. Comparing himself with General George S. Patton, who once apologized for slapping a soldier, noticed that regular Democrats might have felt somewhat miffed. He went on to recall how “Nikita Cruchev” had long ago predicted that “…Communists would conquer America without firing a shot,” and that a major part of that strategy would be disarming “our people.”

Can’t help being astonished about these little stories…..good grief.