cuccinelli and the gun show loophole

I saw another reason to hate politicians this morning while watching the news.

Independence USA PAC is running a new anti-Cuccinelli ad in Virginia. (IUP is funded by current NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg.) The ad puts forward how Cuccinelli opposed closing the “gun show loophole” …

Wait.

Do you actually know what the “gun show loophole” is?

When you buy a gun from a gun dealer or pawn shop or any other commercial entity that is licensed to sell guns, you have to fill out a piece of paper and prove your identity to the shop. (This post only addresses the rules in Virginia – I am not familiar with gun laws in any other state.)  The shop then takes your piece of paper and your proof of identity and they contact the state police, who run a quick check to make sure you’re not a felon or charged with certain misdemeanor crimes (drug possession, domestic violence, etc.).  If you don’t set off any alarms, the shop is allowed to sell you the gun, they do so, and you leave happy.

(Due to recent events like the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, there have been numerous attempts to get a person’s mental status taken into account in the gun purchase process, but unless you are committed to a mental institution against your will, there often isn’t any public record that can be searched by the police (or even the FBI) that will show whether or not you have a history of mental instability.)

In the state of Virginia, as a gun owner, you are allowed to engage in the private sale of your firearms if you so wish.  Whether you own 1 gun or 100, unless you are a commercial entity, you are not required to put anybody that buys a gun from you through the background check process.  You are expected to engage in some due diligence in the private sale of a firearm, such as writing out a bill of sale and getting some proof of identity that shows your purchaser lives in Virginia. This last part is important, because selling a gun across state lines requires the involvement of an “FFL” – Federal Firearm Licensee, or somebody who is allowed to sell guns commercially. Many private sellers will take this a step further, by not only asking for a drivers’ license, but also asking to see a buyer’s voter registration card, which is a pretty good way to make sure your buyer isn’t a felon, because in Virginia, felons aren’t allowed to vote and therefore won’t have a  voter registration card.

The “Gun Show Loophole” is when a private citizen rents a table at a gun show and sells part of his collection of guns.  Note the key words here – PRIVATE CITIZEN. Not a commercial entity.  Even at a gun show, a commercial seller must submit buyers to the background check process.  A private citizen is not required to do so.  This means that anybody with a VA DL can go to a gun show and probably buy a gun pretty easily – with no background check – as long as they buy from one of the collectors at the show.

“Closing the Gun Show Loophole” then would entail forcing ALL parties that sell guns at gun shows to submit buyers to the background check process.  It’s that simple.

However.

Whether you think this is a good idea or not is not the point of this blog post.  What is the point is why I hate politicians.

The new Independence USA PAC ad blasting Cuccinelli shows the photos of several mass killers, including Seung-Hui Cho (pictured at left), who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech on 16 April 2007. It also shows the Aurora, CO shooter, James Holmes, as well, and several others in a very fast montage.

I did some research into these shooters.  All either had a history of mental illness (or at least some measure of treatment for mental issues) or were suspected of mental problems in the months leading up to their murderous activities.

Every single one of the shooters pictured in the ad used legally purchased firearms, none of which I was able to determine were purchased using the “Gun Show Loophole” or in any way that was anything other than 100% legal.  Some of the shooters used guns purchased by other people, such as Adam Lanza, who killed all those 1st graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School with his mother’s legally purchased guns.

Putting the photos of these cowardly murderers in an ad about how Cuccinelli sucks because he opposed closing the “Gun Show Loophole” is specious at best.  This shows that politicians – and the high-powered lobbying collectives that support them – care more about scaring the shit out of you than actually educating or informing you about the issues and where their candidates stand on them.

In Virginia, this ad has the effect of saying “The VA Tech massacre was Ken Cuccinelli’s fault because he opposed closing the gun show loophole.”  Keep in mind that the “Gun Show Loophole” wasn’t even an issue people were talking about in 2007 when the VA Tech massacre happened.

Shame on Michael Bloomberg – who, by the way, should stay the fuck out of Virginia politics and focus on running his own city – and shame on Terry MacAuliffe and any other Democrat, Republican or Independent that supports this kind of misinformation and fear-mongering.

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blindly reposting political memes on social media doesn’t make you look informed

I’m not trying to offend anyone here, so keep in mind that I’m trying to help you before you get all worked up about this.

When you hit “share” or “retweet” on that pithy politically-oriented picture that somebody painstakingly put together, you’re telling all your friends or followers that you believe the content of that picture to be true.

If you’re not 100% sure it’s true – or at least funny, I guess – you should hesitate before you clickety-click.

I’ll give you an example.

72665_10202164193810299_2124226652_n

This is one of many graphics getting shared/reposted/retweeted on social media that is simply just wrong.

Let me break it down for you so you know the truth.

The president of the United States earns $400,000 a year.  He also receives another $50,000 (untaxed) for expenses related to the job – travel, holding meetings at the White House, etc.

When he’s no longer president, he gets a pension – yes, for life – that is equivalent to the pay of current Cabinet secretaries (like the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of State). Currently, that amount is $191,300.  This is called “Executive Schedule Level I” and it does increase from time to time.  This pension/salary is taxed as normal income.

There you go – the very first line of “data” in that graphic is patently and completely false. Period.  You know how long it took me to discover that?  Well, actually, I already knew it, so no time, but seriously, I looked it up anyway.  Google “presidential salary” – it’ll take you five fucking seconds. Click the first link.  Info. Bam!

Now let’s take a look at the other numbers in that graphic.

  • Senators/Representatives earn $174,000
  • Majority/minority leaders of the Senate earn $193,400
  • The speaker of the House of Representatives earns $223,500

(Please note that there is one majority leader, one minority leader and one Speaker of the House. 532 of the 535 Members of Congress receive the standard pay, as do several other non-voting MCs, like Eleanor Holmes Norton, the “delegate” for Washington, DC.)

Those numbers aren’t even transcribed 100% correctly in the graphic, which has the majority/minority leaders at $194,400, but let’s skip over that tiny error and look at the glaring error:  FOR LIFE.

Guess what?  WRONG AGAIN.

No Congressman (or woman) earns a pension unless they achieve one the following criteria:

  • Must be 62 years old AND must have served for at least 5 years (3 terms for Reps, 1 term for Senators)
  • Must be 50 years old AND must have served in Congress for 20 years
  • Must have served in Congress for 25 years (by default this means he’d be 50, as you can’t be a Representative unless you’re 25 years old)

Here’s the kicker, though: to receive the pension, the Member of Congress must have paid into the congressional pension system (which, I believe, is mandatory since 1984).  Since that is at least vaguely important, I’d like to repeat it.

To receive a congressional pension, a member of Congress must have paid into the (mandatory) congressional pension system.

The pension they receive, then, is based on how long they served and their average salary for their highest-earning three years of service.  There’s a whole confusing formula, but the bottom line is that the average pension received by any former Member of Congress is between $41,000 and $55,000.  The highest current Congressional pension paid is just over $84,000. Again, I found this with just a little searching on Google – in under a minute.  UNDER A MINUTE.

Once again using my google-fu, I found (in about 3 seconds) the Army’s website that clearly lists max pay for each grade:

  • Private, E1 – $18,194
  • Private, E2 – $20,398
  • Private First Class, E3 – $24,178
  • Specialist/Corporal, E4 – $28,840
  • Sergeant, E5 – $32,490
  • Staff Sergeant, E6 – $35,226
  • 1st Lt, O1 – $43,430
  • 2nd Lt, O2 – $55,037
  • Captain, O3 – $64,338
  • Major, O4 – $69,296    391,427

Since this is public record, you shouldn’t be surprised how easy it was to find.

You know what was also easy to find?  The combat pay differential.  A soldier deployed to a combat zone – like Afghanistan – earns $225 extra per month. This amount is prorated if they don’t serve a full month – that’s $7.50 a day.  Think about what you buy for $7.50 in any given day.  That’s what a US soldier gets – extra, mind you – for getting shot at.  How’s that $4 Starbucks mochafrappelatte taste now?

(Sorry – I apologize for getting a little soldier-righteous on you there.)

There’s also something soldiers can get called Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay (HDIP), which is an extra $150 a month.  This is based on their jobs, though, and not their location. If you want to earn this princely sum, you have to be directly in contact with something hazardous, like explosives or a flight deck, or do something hazardous, like work in the Arctic or jump out of airplanes.

Let’s do a little math.  Let’s say a Private First Class (PFC) is both an explosives tech and deployed in Afghanistan.  He’s there from 1 Jan to 31 Dec – 12 full months – so he earns the full combat differential for one year – that’s $2,700.  His HDIP for the year is $1,800, bringing his total extra pay to $4,500.  Add that to his salary – provided he has 4+ years of experience, he’s earning the max pay for a PFC – and he’s making a grand total of $28,678.

Based on a 40-hour work week, a PFC in Afghanistan who handle explosives every day earns $13.78 an hour.

(By the way, based on a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks a year, a rank & file Member of Congress earns $83.65 an hour. Yes, I realize they often work more than 40 hours a week, but they don’t work 52 weeks a year, so let’s just agree that it evens out.)

To figure out the average pay for soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, you’d have to know some specific data points, including how many soldiers are there and what grade each of them is.  Even if you just do a straight average on the listed max pay (without differentials) for 1 of each soldier from the list above, the average isn’t $38,000 – it’s just over $39,000.  When you take into consideration that there are dozens of privates in the field for every major, I have a really hard time accepting the $38,000 average stated in the graphic. I’m sure it has to be lower than that.

(A typical US Army rifle platoon – the basic unit of an infantry formation – has 36 riflemen (privates & corporals), 4 staff sergeants, at least one sergeant first class (E7), and at least a 2nd lieutenant.  Soldiers at the bottom of the pay scale outnumber soldiers at the top of it by a ratio of 6:1.)

Last but not least, let’s look at the very last number – the assertion that the average Social Security income for US seniors is $12,000.

According to the Social Security website (shit, I didn’t even need Google for that!), the average monthly benefit for a retired senior citizen is $1,230. Simple math tells us that, extrapolated to a full year, that number is $14,760. It’s not a lot more than $12,000, but my point being that the numbers are just wrong is upheld thanks to a little googling and a little math.

How far these numbers are off isn’t why I wrote this post – I wrote it because these numbers – and their assertions – are just plain fucking WRONG.

Educate yourself before you repost something. Stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution.

don’t be alarmed – it’s happened before

Of course, since I live in the Washington, DC area, nearly everybody I know is affected in some way by the government shutdown.

I’m here to tell you it might not be that big a deal.

CLOSED

If you’ve got a short memory – or weren’t born yet (hey, I suppose that could be the case) – you’ll clearly remember that the last government shutdown was the longest (and worst) in US history.

Government shutdowns have only been a part of American life since 1976, when the first one lasted a grand total of 10 days.  Americans thought that was it, only to find themselves undermined by their leaders again the following years.  These shutdowns tend to happen at the same time of year – October/November – because of the fiscal year the federal government uses for its accounting practices.  The fiscal year starts on 1 October, so any time the budget isn’t squared away by then due to some disagreement between Congress and the president, bang! shutdown.  Sometimes they’ll reach a last-minute compromise at the end of September to extend the accounting trickery for 30 days (or even 60), which pushes the shutdown into November (or even December).

Let’s take a look at when & why the US government has closed its doors since 1976.

1976 – 1 closure for 10 days.  President Ford said Congress’ bill to fund the Department of Labor & the Dept of Health, Education & Welfare (DHEW) was too rich; he vetoed it, which partially shut down the government.  It took 10 days for the Democratic-controlled Congress to override the veto.

1977 – 3 closures for 28 days.  The Democrats still controlled both houses of Congress & wanted Medicaid to cover abortions in the case of rape & incest or when the health of the mother is at stake. This funding was tied to DHEW & the 2 houses of Congress couldn’t come to an agreement over the exact terms.  After a 12-day shutdown, they passed a temporary funding bill, which expired, leading to the 2nd shutdown, which lasted 8 days.  They did another temporary bill, which also expired, leading to the 3rd shutdown – another 8 days – before they finally reached a compromise neither side was terribly happy about.

1978 – 1 closure for 18 days.  President Carter vetoed two bills, one funding massive public works projects & another funding the construction of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The Medicaid-paying-for-abortions issue was also part of the problem.

1979 – 1 closure for 11 days.  The House wanted to give Members of Congress (MCs) & some high-ranking federal employees a 5% pay raise.  The Senate disagreed.  The House & Senate also continued to disagree on exactly when Medicaid should pay for abortions; the House said only when the mother’s life is at risk, but the Senate insisted on only in cases or rape or incest.

1981 – 1 closure for 2 days.  President Reagan wanted $8.4 billion in budget cuts.  The House wanted more of the budget cut – in defense spending – as well as pay raises for MCs.  Reagan vetoed the bill Congress sent him.

1982 – 2 closures for 4 days.  For the first closure, Congress took an extra day of arguing to pass the budget bill.  The 2nd closure came from another fight between Congress & President Reagan.  The Democrats controlled the House & the Republicans controlled the Senate, but they were able to (more or less) get along with each other & united against Reagan, who wanted more money spent on nuclear missile programs & aid to Israel.

1983 – 1 closure for 3 days.  Once again, Congress & President Reagan couldn’t come to an agreement over spending, this time fighting over budget items related to education, nuclear missiles, foreign aid, oil & gas drilling in federal wildlife refuges, and whether or not the government’s employee health care plan should cover abortion costs.

1984 – 2 closures for 3 days.  The first closure was – surprise! – due to a fight between Congress & President Reagan.  This time, the issues were related to crime and public works.  The 2nd closure was due to the expiration of a temporary budget bill.

1986 – 1 closure for 1 day.  The Democratic-controlled House is once again fighting with the Republican-controlled Senate, which is (of course) backed by President Reagan. The House eventually gave in.

1987 – 1 closure for 1 day.  The Democrats took control of the Senate in the mid-term elections in 1986, and wanted foreign aid programs in Central America defunded or significantly altered.  President Reagan disagreed, but eventually gave in when Congress promised to continue sending non-lethal aid to Central American groups like the Contras in Nicaragua.

1990 – 1 closure for 4 days.  President First George Bush (basically an extension of Ronald Reagan in a more pleasant package) followed through on a promise to veto any spending bill that didn’t include budget cuts related to deficit reduction. The House tried – and failed – to override the veto, leading to an eventual compromise.

1995-96 – 2 closures for 26 days.  The first (5-day) closure came from President Clinton vetoing a bill passed by Congress – controlled by Republicans – that put off the budget battle for another time.  The second shutdown – at 21 days, the longest of all of them – stemmed from a fight between Clinton & Congress.  They both agreed that the US needed a balanced budget & that we should have a law saying so.  However, they disagreed on which set of statistics to use to achieve that balanced budget bill. Congress wanted to use numbers from the supposedly nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, while Clinton wanted to use numbers provided by the Office of Management & Budget, which is not only part of the White House, but at the time was run by Clinton appointee Alice Rivlin, who went on to work as governor of the Federal Reserve after this crisis was resolved in January 1996.

As you can see, the idea of shutting down the government is a relatively new one.  Since the first shutdown in 1976, there have been a total of 18 shutdowns (including the one that started today) for a total of 112 days (including today).  That’s a pretty slim number of days, considering it’s been 13,515 days between 30 Sep 1976 & 1 Oct 2013.  Most of the closures are 4 days or fewer, with only 5 of them lasting 10 days or more.

Statistically speaking, the likelihood that this closure will run relatively short is high, but the possibility that it could drag on for weeks is, I fear, also very high.  From an ideological standpoint, Democrats and Republicans are dug in over the various issues each holds dear, and few on either side – including President Obama – seem willing to give any ground.

I’ve said this before & I’m sure I’ll say it again:  We need a revolution.  We need an all-new set of leaders in government, leaders that truly have the best interest of Americans at heart.

If you aren’t happy with the way government is being run, I urge you to write a letter to your representative, your senator & the president.  Tell them to get their shit together & stop acting like children fighting over a ball on the playground at recess.

In 2014, we’ll face mid-term elections.  Don’t forget then what your MCs are doing to you now.  In 2016, we’ll get another presidential election.  Don’t forget then what your president is doing to you now.

Two words:  CLEAN SLATE.  Vote every incumbent out of office!!

totalitarianism

FistFrom an operational standpoint, there’s not a lot of difference between totalitarianism of the left and totalitarianism of the right. The look, sound and function much the same. It’s the underlying ideology that’s different – and generally, how they come to power is different.

In general, a fascist government will rise from within – it will come up organically, working through established (and generally legal) methods to gain influence and positions of power, then act (again, through generally legal means) to change the system to reinforce its own power.

The typical socialist/communist government takes power with a revolution – it may start with a movement, but in general, the mechanism of control comes through a violent (and perhaps even popular) uprising that wipes out the old regime and replaces it completely. It then establishes a new system, one that is designed at reinforcing its own power and – ironically – preventing any new rebellion.

Let’s look at each of these systems/methods in turn, starting with fascism.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aesop gives us a parable that helps define the term fascism – his story The Bundle of Sticks. Gather up a bundle of sticks and tie them together. Now try to break them. Doesn’t work, does it? Untie the bundle and try breaking the sticks one at a time. Super easy to do, right? That idea carried through to Roman times, where that developed into something called a fasces, rods tied around an axe handle – a symbol of legal power in the Empire that represented punishment (being beaten with the rods or executed with the axe). Fasces –> fascismo –> fascism.

Like many forms of government, there are many types of fascism. We tend to associate fascism with Benito Mussolini/Italy & Adolf Hitler/Germany in the 1920s-40s, but the truth is nearly every western nation – including the United States – had fascist movements in that time period and many of them were politically powerful. Following the collapse of most fascist movements at the end of World War Two, Portugal & Spain managed to maintain their fascist governments into the 1970s under Antonio Salazar & Francisco Franco, respectively. (You could, however, argue that radical elements of the Catholic church co-opted Franco’s fascism, marginalizing it, but that would be a topic for a separate post.)

Fascism is easy to peg as radically right on the political spectrum. Fascism is socially very conservative and should be considered anti-egalitarian, as in “under fascism there is no such thing as equality”. It derives a lot of its inspiration from ultra-conservative ideologies such as nationalism and romanticism and as such, can be considered as a movement that wants to purge modernism and egalitarianism from all aspects of society. It is the ultimate backward-looking socio-political ideology and idealizes the “good old days” when we (whoever “we” are) all spoke the same language, practiced the same religion, celebrated the same heroes and obeyed the same leaders.

Because of its idealization of the “good old days” when we all followed the same rules, a fascist movement will not take the form of a traditional armed revolution. Instead, fascists will generally work from within the system to reach positions of power and influence, THEN change the system to better suit its ideology. Most fascist leaders – such as the aforementioned Mussolini and Hitler – achieve positions of power through completely legitimate (if unduly influenced) processes such as appointment (Hitler) or election (Mussolini). Once in power, though, the fascist leader will drop the pretense of democracy and start altering laws and processes to ensure that fascism is the only legal political system, thereby cementing its power and influence and marginalizing all other political ideas and practices. Look up the Acerbo Law (Italy) and the Enabling Act (Germany) to see how that works.

The point here is that fascism works from within to get power, then reorganizes the way power is held to ensure nobody else can have any power. That’s not a revolution.  It starts with people saying “Remember how things used to be? Everything was so much better then & we should go back to that simpler way of life” and ends with “Thanks for electing/appointing me President/Prime Minister/Chancellor, now do what I say or I’ll have you executed.”

Socialism, then, and its more sinister sister Communism, are ideologies of the left. To gain power, a true Socialist movement will foment a popular uprising, which we commonly refer to as a revolution. Many of these ideologies are based in Marxism. Marxism is a very complicated socio-political theory, but it can be distilled down to some basic points.

1. There are two types of people – Capitalists, who own everything, and Workers, who own nothing.
2. The economy functions due to the transaction between Capitalists and Workers – the Capitalist pays wages to the Worker in exchange for his time, which is spent laboring to produce something.
3. Products themselves have no inherent value; that value is attached through the labor of the Workers.
4. Profits made by Capitalists are an exploitation of the labor of the Workers.
5. Capitalists and Workers exist in a constant state of struggle because Capitalists always want higher profits while Workers always want higher wages. (This is called the Materialistic Dialectic and is where the term Class Struggle originates.)
6. The Class Struggle has driven past events and all economic systems can be described in similar terms.
7. Governments exist solely to enforce class differences.
8. To eliminate the Class Struggle and therefore the Capitalist/Worker conflict, the Workers must rise up in rebellion and destroy the Capitalists.
9. After the revolution, a temporary state/government must take over; this new government will enforce the will of the Workers over the will of the Capitalists. (Remember, all governments exist to enforce class differences!)
10. Once the Capitalists are destroyed, a classless society can exist – a society without social stratification, government or even nations.

It’s obviously more complicated than that, but those are the basics. As you can imagine, creating any kind of classless society would require great upheaval, as nearly the entire stretch of civilization has been constructed of class-based societies. This would necessitate a violent revolution, because the Capitalists will not willingly give up power.

It’s the stage between points 9 and 10 where most Communist governments exist, and they never move past it. The former Soviet Union was exactly this type of government – theoretically using its power to suppress the Capitalists by creating a series of nationalized industries that feed their profits to the state rather than to individual Capitalists. Yet they never managed to move on to step 10 and create a truly classless society – to its end, the USSR was a 2-class society – those with power and those without power.  Those with power grew rich and fat; those without power went hungry and drank vodka.

Many would say this is the true failing of China’s “Communist” government, because it embraces the power of profits and may never abandon the very system they claimed to have rebelled against. Chinese Communism is not true Socialism, but it is a system that exists as an totalitarian regime.  In the 21st century, China is every bit as capitalistic as the United States.

Anyway, to gain their status, Communists must eliminate the old regimes completely. It is for this reason that we classify Socialist/Communist governments as left or Liberal (in the abstract sense), because Liberalism is predicated on massive change – exactly the opposite of classical Conservatism, or rightist ideology, which requires the maintenance of the status quo.

Totalitarian governments are easily identified by some common markers – a (sometimes highly) charismatic dictator as leader, claims that political power stems from the people when we can all clearly see that it doesn’t, a highly organized official ideology, low levels of official corruption, just one political party, a total monopoly on mass communication, strict control of the military, rule enforced by terror (secret police) and a near-complete nationalization of industry in order to meticulously plan out the economy.

When you look at it in that light, the fascist government of Adolf Hitler isn’t terribly different from the communist government of Josef Stalin.  One big difference was that Hitler didn’t nationalize industry – he did, however, force German industry to do his bidding.

What brought this up is the rule of Bashar al-Assad, who runs Syria. His government isn’t totalitarian, it’s authoritarian. What’s the difference? Simple. Authoritarian governments are usually led by “regular” guys that aren’t particularly charismatic, but ironically rely on the “cult of personality” concept to maintain power. The dictator (and it will be a dictator in charge) gains power through his own effort (sometimes a coup or other seizure of power) and while some authoritarian governments allow elections – feigning democracy – the dictators tend to win those elections by unrealistic margins (99.9% of the vote for Saddam Hussein, for example). Authoritarian regimes are cut through with corruption, much of which is tolerated by the dictator because the people benefitting from that corruption get rich and are therefore interested in keeping the dictator in power. Authoritarian governments also will have an iron grip on the military and a high level of control over the economy, though they don’t typically nationalize everything, because then nobody that supports them gets rich. Last but not least, authoritarian rule isn’t based on any cohesive ideology other than “I want to be rich and powerful! I am the dictator! OBEY AND WORSHIP ME!!!”

As a side point, totalitarianism is generally accepted, while authoritarianism is nearly universally reviled. Nobody says the USSR’s government wasn’t legitimate, but everybody says Saddam Hussein had to go. The communists are allowed to rule Venezuela without any outside intervention, but Robert Mugabe (leader of Zimbabwe) has had sanctions leveled against him by the US & EU for decades.

Totalitarian regimes, when they do disappear, are usually eliminated by war. Authoritarian regimes are usually ended by the death of the dictator.

use of chemical weapons since 1961

Image

1961-71: US uses 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid & 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (collectively known as Agent Orange) in Vietnam.  While technically classified as an herbicide and used as a defoliant (to kill plants & vegetation in large quantities), its effects on humans is widely documented & was well known, even in the 1960s.

UN reaction: NONE
3 June 1963: South Vietnamese soldiers attack Buddhist monks in Hue with concentrated, liquid tear gas. 70 people are hospitalized.

UN reaction: NONE
US reaction: threat to reduce/withdraw support for ruling regime; subsequent reduction of financial support from the South Vietnamese ruling regime leads to a US-supported coup

1980-88: Iraq uses a variety of chemical weapons against Iran in their 8-year war.

UN reaction: condemnation, investigation(s)
US reaction: no public reaction; privately allegedly supports the use of chemical weapons against Iran – this support is partially confirmed by recently declassified CIA documents. The CIA is also suspected of actively suppressing information & hindering UN investigators

16 March 1988: Iraq massacres Kurds in Halabja, killing up to 5,000 people & injuring up to 10,000 immediately. While there’s no official confirmation, from eyewitness accounts, it is believed the attack used mustard, sarin, tabun & VX gasses, as well as hydrogen cyanide, delivered by artillery, rockets & bombs.

UN reaction: NONE
US reaction: accuses Iran of perpetrating the attack

March-April 1991: Iraq uses chemical weapons of an undetermined nature, most likely mustard gas, against a combined Shia/Kurd uprising. Numbers of dead & wounded are not known but are estimated as being near 100,000. US forces in the region informally (and unofficially) confirm use of chemical weapons.

UN reaction: after investigation, denies chemical weapons were used
US reaction: President Bush issues stern warning
Delayed reaction, 2008: “Chemical” Ali Hassan al-Majid gets a 2nd death sentence for his participation in chemical weapon use against civilians, including this event.

15 May 2007: Terrorists set off a chlorine gas bomb in Abu Sayda, Iraq, killing about 50 people & wounding about another 50.

UN reaction: NONE
US reaction: denies use of chlorine in attack

21 August 2013: Syrian gov’t uses sarin gas, a potent nerve agent, in a rocket attack against rebels near Damascus. 1,400 are reported dead, including several hundred children.

UN reaction: investigation, report not issued yet; UN officials say report will only determine IF chemical weapons were used, not who was responsible for their use
US reaction: calls for attacks against the ruling regime

What lesson can we learn from this?

When chemical weapons are used in a way that furthers US interests, it’s fine. If not, well, obviously we must bomb them.

The Americans I’ve talked to in the last week overwhelmingly do not support US military intervention in Syria, chemical weapon use or not. They say almost the same thing: “Aren’t we already fighting 2 wars?”  The ones that support US intervention also say nearly the same thing: “Assad must be punished for using chemical weapons.” Where was this desire for justice or punishment when it was Saddam Hussein killing Kurds & Iranians?  Nobody seemed to give a shit back then.

I find it very interesting that the same politicians (Obama, Pelosi, Kerry, Schakowsky) who not only opposed the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan but also contributed mightily to the budgetary clusterfuck that led to sequestration are the ones supporting the idea that we spend even more money & possibly more American lives by getting militarily involved in Syria.

We barely have enough money to run this country, but the president wants to start dumping a shitload of money into a THIRD war?

I’ve supported President Obama on some of the things he’s tried to accomplish in his time as our nation’s leader, but I’ve got to draw a red line on sending our troops after Syria. It might start with smart bombs and cruise missiles, but it’s not beyond the realm of imagination that those things can easily be followed by enforcing no-fly zones, advisors & later, troops on the ground.  It’s happened before.

I also find it very interesting & more than a little suspicious that many of the celebrities that have been quite outspoken against the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan haven’t said a goddam word about the prospect of war in Syria. I’m talking about Martin Sheen, Danny Glover, Madonna, Sean Penn, Martin Scorsese, Dustin Hoffman, George Clooney, Janeane Garofalo, Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore, Tim Robbins, Andy Serkis, Kim Basinger, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Samuel L Jackson, Richard Gere, Jessica Lange, Natalie Maines, Sheryl Crow, Bruce Springsteen & more. They raised a hue & cry about going to war in Iraq or Afghanistan, but they’re keeping their mouths shut about going to war in Syria.

Maybe, like many Americans, they’re just sick & fucking tired of talking about war.

(don’t) stand by your man

During an interview with CNN, New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner said his sexting scandal has hurt his wife’s career. Of course my first reaction to hearing that was “DUH!!! YA THINK???!!!”

His wife (and mother of his child), Huma Abedin, was a top aide for ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when the first sexting scandal emerged, the one that forced Weiner to resign from Congress.

Weiner swore he’d ended the salacious behavior, but sure enough, when he started running for mayor of New York City, allegations came out that he was not only still doing it, but he had kept doing it after he resigned from Congress.

I’ve read a lot of feminist rhetoric recently about how important it is for Abedin to stick by him, and that her doing so in no way diminished the cause of feminism or her place in that long, honored chain of activism.

At this point, though, I have to call bullshit on that. I’m sorry, I just can’t stand it any longer.

I disagree that staying with a lying bastard who sends photos of his dick to women he’s not married to is a positive aspect of feminist behavior. A real feminist would have kicked his lying ass to the curb the second time he got caught sending pictures of his dick to other women. Why the second? Because everybody deserves a chance to correct inappropriate behavior.

Caught once? “Don’t do it again.”

Caught twice? “My lawyer will be in touch.”

Staying married to this piece of shit is a slap in the face to every woman that fought for women’s rights. I’m sure she loves the guy, that much is obvious since she didn’t leave him the first time he got caught. I get it. Sometimes our heart is more powerful than our brain. In this case, though, it’s time Abedin listened to her brain and told her heart to shut up.

Standing by your spouse, partner or significant other when they screw up is a time-honored tradition, but the inference is that they have learned from their mistake and don’t do it again. Weiner has clearly fallen short of that expectation and needs to be free to sign up on eHarmony in the very near future.

I’m not alone in that I judge people by the decisions they make. Should Abedin ever show up on the national political scene, I’d vote against her in a heartbeat if she was still married to Anthony Weiner because staying with him clearly shows that she doesn’t make good decisions.

Danger is my *middle* name

The nerve of some people never fails to amaze me.

Normally, you’d think I’d be talking about Anthony Weiner, former Congressman and current candidate for mayor of New York City.  This is the guy that resigned from Congress in disgrace a couple years ago after word (and photos) got out that he was “sexting” – sending sexually explicit text messages – with women other than his beautiful and then-pregnant wife.

He’s back, and he thinks he’s the man for the job of mayor of the United States’ largest metropolis.  Being a denizen of the greater Washington, DC area that for some inexplicable reason continues to worship at the crack-littered shrine of “mayor for life” Marion Barry, I say New York City will get the mayor they deserve.

It’s that deserving I want to talk about today – and the balls, excuse me – nerve – some people display.

This morning I was watching the news on BBC America (best news in the country – your local news SUCKS in comparison if you’re at all interested in anything – ANYTHING I TELL YOU – that goes on outside the confines of your little town, wherever it may be). I was a little surprised that Weiner made BBC, but what really stunned me was a interview they did with a random young woman on the street.

(I’m paraphrasing here) “I think the sexting thing has no bearing on his ability to be a good leader.”

What the fuck, over?

Let’s look at the sexting thing.

In May 2011, Weiner took a photo with his cell phone of his underwear-obscured boner and sent it to at least one woman, a 21-year old college student in Seattle. There were reports that he sent similar photos to at least 6 other women. In the meantime, the photo “leaked” onto the internet and Wiener claimed his account/phone was hacked.

Weiner soon admitted to sexting with several women, both before and after he got married. At the time all this came to light, his wife was a highly-placed advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and – I think I mentioned this above – pregnant.

Now Weiner is admitting that he continued sexting with women other than his wife AFTER he resigned from Congress and AFTER he claimed to be getting “treatment” for his sexting problem.

Follow me on this, woman-on-the-street-interviewed-by-BBC: If a man can’t be trusted to be faithful to his pregnant wife EVEN AFTER GETTING CAUGHT AND EXPOSED IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE NATION FOR HIS LASCIVIOUS BEHAVIOR, then he can’t be trusted to help run the country or, indeed, to even run its largest city.

Anthony Weiner has consistently shown he is eminently untrustworthy. By ‘untrustworthy’ I mean ‘not deserving of trust,’ as in he cannot be trusted.

I have to wonder what his wife sees in him that she continues to support, defend and even speak out for him when he consistently shows he disrespects her. Anthony Weiner isn’t just a bad husband, he’s a bad choice for political leadership no matter the level. I wouldn’t trust the bastard to run a parking commission.