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EditorBlog (1654)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT  gunstore    A teacher in every gun store? (Photo: Paljoakim)

Wayne LaPierre is the number one example of why there is no such thing as a "good gun owner," only over-the-top zealots who appear overdosed on out of date anti-psychotics. One of the great ironic paranoid fixations of the FOX cult is that they are victims: victims of the government, victims of minorities, victims of Hollywood, victims of transmissions from Mars for that matter.

Of course, it's all some fantastic Gothic psychosis.  After all, what is the federal or local government telling any of these wingers to do?  What is so oppressing them?  Tell us about it, but we want a psychiatrist and an armed teacher on hand just in case one of the LaPierre "good guy" nut jobs goes whacko and with an AK-47.

I remember many years ago one particular incident that occurred when traveling the circuit debating on gun control. An incident that occurred appears in retrospect to be emblematic of the "good guys" that we are up against.  After the discussion was held before a couple of hundred people (most of whom booed me before I uttered a word) a guy came up and asked me to "take back" my statement that almost any person with a gun has threshold moments when they are capable of using the firearm to harm innocent people in moments of rage.  This is particularly true in the United States where many gun owners – particularly the LaPierre acolytes -- see themselves as victims and harbor deep resentment and often a thirst for vengeance toward anyone not in their cult.

Not one to be intimidated, I repeated my statement.  At that point the "good gun owner" became unhinged, flung himself forward and began to try and strangle me as he yelled, "You are saying that I am insane."  Another guy with him (in a red flannel shirt, I swear) pulled him back and protectively advised him to "ease up," as I kept the "good guy's" hands from throttling me.  In a few moments it was over, and the friend hustled the "responsible" gun owner out of the room.

I bring this up not just because this has been a week of writing commentaries on the gun lobby, gun culture, and gun control (which I invested 25 yours of mostly volunteer time in as a national leader), but because whatever gun control we pass needs to be accompanied by a change in America's gun culture – which is fueled by an infected pustule of self-reinforcing corrosive claptrap.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT   nraThe NRA is a religious institution for gun worshippers

You might think that the National Rifle Association (NRA) is the most extreme gun advocacy group in the nation. After all, the NRA is behind the infamous "shoot first" license to murder laws in many states.  They have successfully lobbied for the right to carry guns into bars, churches and hospitals – well let's just say anywhere – in a number of legislatures.  They defeated an extension of the assault weapons ban and support the continued sale of military sniper rifles that could be used to take down a plane when landing or taking off.

Today, the NRA shooter-in-chief, Wayne LaPierre, indignantly brushed aside calls for more gun control. As reported on NBC online:

LaPierre, who was interrupted by Code Pink protesters twice during a statement (during which he refused to answer questions), said that the students in Newtown might have been better protected had officials at Sandy Hook Elementary been armed. He said that putting a police officer in every single school in America might make schools safer.

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he said, asking Congress to immediately appropriate the money to put a police officer in every single school in the country.

The NRA executive's statement was nothing short of defiant in the face of mounting discussion of the need for tighter restrictions on guns — including renewing a ban on assault weapons — in the wake of last week's shooting.

The NRA has even held up an international treaty to stem the flow and profiteering from small arms traffic to war lords and rogue regimes, falsely claiming that it would lead to gun confiscation in the United States. According to The New York Times, "The treaty’s backers say it will stem the flow of arms to abusive regimes and warlords in conflict zones and reduce the level of violence in a world where one person dies every minute as a result of armed violence."

(Photo: Chris Waldeck)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT    eastwood Clint Eastwood berating an empty chair

There was Clint Eastwood pulling the last plug on a sinking Mitt Romney Republican convention.  There's no easier debate opponent to knock down than fatuously chastising an empty seat. Of course, when the chair gets the best of you, it might be time to hang up your spurs.

Eastwood is the iconic image to many gun owners as the man who can "make your day" with the wide barrel of a .357 Magnum cocked to your head.

Of course, that's the movies – and the .357 Magnum is now surpassed in lethality by semi-automatic handguns and assault rifles to name a few, as the gun industry ramps up its high-tech appeal to gun fetishists.  But it's still a powerful symbol to the John Wayne cult of virility, the guys who comprise the firearm defense league against the hordes of non-white, non-male aliens psychologically threatening their maleness.

Nate Silver analyzed figures the other day in the New York Times and discovered that more Republicans than Democrats own guns – and the gap is increasing:

Gun ownership has declined over the past 40 years — but almost all of the decrease has come from Democrats. By 2010, according to the General Social Survey, the gun ownership rate among adults that identified as Democrats had fallen to 22 percent. It remained at about 50 percent among Republican adults.

(Photo: DonkeyHotey)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT        playgroundsmall Playgrounds Not Burial Grounds

In a former life, I worked at a physical medicine and rehabilitation hospital in Chicago, Schwab, as executive vice president. In that capacity, among other responsibilities was my overseeing public affairs, government affairs and advocacy.   Professionals who specialize in rehabilitation care are most often optimistic, caring people who take great pleasure in the small progress patients make after strokes, head trauma, and spinal injuries.  

Even when so many children and teenagers came through the hospital with devastating injuries for care after being shot, the rehab staff looked at the possibilities for regaining and adapting to a new physical condition. Life wasn't going to stop for a disability.

But for me, a non-medical professional, seeing the young people in wheelchairs, the teens with head wounds, the former athletes on crutches would hit me in the gut.  It was the inexplicable malicious underside of the American dream; its flip side was the American nightmare.

Because of a gutsy CEO who was a former rehabilitation nurse, Schwab became a leader in the late '80s and early '90s on behalf of reducing gun violence.  The hospital was involved in everything from doing two events with President Bill Clinton to getting hospitals to adopt gun control as part of their mission.  Elected officials and community leaders regularly held news conferences at the hospital – and even a couple in the Cook County morgue.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT                  SIG Pro by Augustas Didzgalvis75 The killing grounds of America

In front of me on my desk is a March 19, 1992, copy of Newsweek. The cover photograph shows a student who had been shot being rushed to emergency care underneath the headline, "Kids and Guns: A Report From America's Classroom Killing Grounds."

It quotes me, since I was a leader in the national movement to reduce gun violence for more than 20 years, and was often sought out for comments on the latest mass kilings or daily shootings.  This is my quotation:

"The school setting is almost impossible to police without tyrannical dictatorship," says Mark Karlin, President of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.  "At what point do we create such a hostile environment that these are no longer schools?" The schools, Karlin says, "are in an impossible situation…we expect them to do what the rest of us cannot."

That was more than 20 years ago, but nothing really has changed, including the cycle of mass murders and the routine garden variety killings at home, in the workplace, in bars…at just about any setting in America. In those 20 years, more United States citizens have been killed with guns to the point that the death toll on 9/11 looks like a footnote in the annals of murder.

There was an assault weapons ban for 10 years, but the NRA made sure that it was phased out during the Bush administration. The shooter in Newtown used a Bushmaster semi-automatic assault rifle, a favorite among mass killers (including the DC sniper and narcos in Mexico).

(Photo: Wikipedia)

Thursday, 13 December 2012 10:02

The New 007 License to Kill: HSBC and Big Banks

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT money7556 HSBC is an accessory to murder

What a hyperbolic, over the top headline many readers must think: "The New 007 License to Kill: HSBC and Big Banks. "

Has BuzzFlash gone scampering up the hill of reason and madly fallen into a pit of pathological paranoia and knee-jerk conspiratorialism?

Not really, not really at all.  

Yesterday, BuzzFlash at Truthout wrote about the largest fine levied against a bank – in this case HSBC – for money laundering on behalf of narcos and nations that the United States government in DC considers a threat to the national security.  Not a person at HSBC will be indicted or prosecuted, as we noted, and the Department of Justice defended its actions by, you guessed it, basically saying that HSBC is too big too fail, and that prosecution might lead to the bank's activities being disrupted.

As BuzzFlash noted in its commentary yesterday:

Recently, Truthout posted an article on the strong possibility that intentional homicides in Mexico (most related to the so-called war on drugs, and many committed by Mexican military and police) will rise to more than 120,000 during the just-ended (December 1) six-year reign of ex-Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

HSBC didn't just launder countless dollars and pesos for profit by accident. According, to the Department of Justice report, it played an active and knowing role in facilitating the money laundering, which allows the narcos to safely bank – and move around -- their billions of dollars in sales.

(Photo: 401(K) 2012)


MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT  money75 If you are too big to fail, you don't get prosecuted

A December 11 headline in the The Guardian UK blared, "HSBC's record $1.9bn fine preferable to prosecution, US authorities insist."

According The Guardian:

The bank processed cash for Mexico's Sinaloa cartel, regarded as the most powerful and deadly drug gang in the world, among others. At least $881m in drug trafficking money was laundered throughout HSBC accounts. In order to handle the "staggering amounts of cash", the bank even widened the windows at some branches to allow tellers to accept larger boxes of money.

HSBC also helped rogue states including Libya, Sudan, Burma and Iran to work around US rules banning them from using US financial system in a scheme that went on for decades.

Truthout published a ten-part series this spring on the failed, cynical show war on drugs that the US is sponsoring in Mexico.  One of the installments began with a discussion of the profits banks make – blood money. Many of the largest banks appear to willingly welcome drug money with a wink and a nod:

A recent article in The Guardian UK offers evidence that "while cocaine production ravages countries in Central America, consumers in the US and Europe are helping developed economies grow rich from the profits."

According to The Guardian UK story, [a] study by two Colombian professors found that "2.6% of the total street value of cocaine produced remains within the country [Columbia], while a staggering 97.4% of profits are reaped by criminal syndicates and laundered by banks, in first-world consuming countries."


(Photo: 401(K) 2012)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT medicare32 Medicare beginning at 67 will result in more senior deaths

Yes, remember when Sarah Palin and the Republican amen choir were claiming that the Affordable Healthcare Act was creating death panels for Americans?  It became the meme with Rush Limbaugh, other members of the right wing media echo chamber, and the members of the FOX News political farm team.

So now, as the National Journal points out, John Boehner and his band of Tea Party brigands and his corporate cheerleaders for the plutocracy want -- it appears -- to raise the Medicare qualifying age to 67.  

Now that would be creating a real de facto death panel. 

Many seniors find it hard or don't make it to the finish line of reaching 65 and being on Medicare.  The cost of health insurance for those over 50 rises to nearly the cost of a condo in Trump Towers by the age of 64, let alone 66 (the year prior to the GOP House proposed enrollment age of 67 for Medicare).

(Photo: José Goulão)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT          mariju75pierce Why is Obama prosecuting marijuana?

The shark teeth writing of Charles P. Pierce got its jaws-like grip into the Obama administration for its inexplicable continuing crackdown on state and municipal laws legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana use:  

If nothing else, the results in Colorado and in Washington state — and, to a lesser extent, in Massachusetts — indicate that the political salience of the "war on drugs," as applied to marijuana, at least, almost has completely evaporated. It can be argued that there is no more political risk to the president of changing his policy on marijuana now than there was in his "evolving" on gay marriage last year. In both cases, the people out in the states are out ahead of the national politics of the issue.

But, as Pierce points out, the White House and Department of Justice are not only going to likely continue their wasteful prosecution against marijuana, despite laws passed on cities and states, it may very well expand the baffling war on weed, according to a New York Times article:

Senior White House and Justice Department [DOJ] officials are considering plans for legal action against Colorado and Washington that could undermine voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in those states, according to several people familiar with the deliberations….

(Photo: Warrantedarrest)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT                      boehner35 Driving the GOP off the Fiscal Cliff

In the '90s, Newton Leroy "Newt" Gingrich tried playing a game of chicken with Bill Clinton to see who would blink first – and Gingrich lost badly.   

The federal shutdown precipitated by a GOP effort to cut Medicare benefits, among other austerity measures, resulted when Clinton vetoed a Republican budget that would impose hardships on public services and the earned benefits of seniors, among others. The federal government general closure occurred during two periods in late 1995 and early 1996.

The so-called "fiscal cliff" (although it differed in details from the current one) was eventually resolved with Bill Clinton's popularity soaring, while Gingrich was generally perceived as playing a losing hand.  Clinton went on to easily win a second term against GOP candidate Bob Dole in 1996.  In 1998, when the House Republicans lost seats in a mid-term election – the first time in more than 50 years that the party not holding the presidency lost House seats in an off-presidential year election – a GOP House coup occurred and Gingrich (who had other ethical issues weighing him down) resigned amidst, ironically, the Clinton impeachment.

Clinton completed his second term after the Senate rejected the impeachment effort; meanwhile, Gingrich was not only no longer the Speaker of the House, he was gone from Congress.

That's something to keep in mind as John Boehner wrestles with a split caucus while vowing to, in effect, close the government down over keeping tax cuts for the rich and imposing an austerity agenda, along with increasing payments on those Americans with earned benefits (given the negative name of "entitlements" by the DC insiders who passively accept the Republican "frame").   

But Barack Obama, even if he is allegedly willing to increase Medicare burdens to those who have earned it, has Boehner in a bit of a box.  The tax cuts on the rich expire on their own at the end of 2012. No vote needs to be taken.  But with their demise, the tax cuts on the working class also expire.

(Photo: DonkeyHotey)

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