The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

Archive for August, 2009

Permanent Second-Class Citizenship

Posted by Bill Nance on August 30, 2009

SayUncle has a tidbit that I enjoyed reading, especially the comments on the post because they pose some interesting questions that go to the heart of our criminal Justice system.

The Juice:

The North Carolina Supreme Court says a 2004 law that bars convicted felons from having a gun, even within their own home or business, is unconstitutional.

Good. Civil rights should be restored once your debt to society is paid.

I often disagree with posts on this blog but here I think he nails it.

Historically the concept of “criminal records” are a fairly new thing. Once upon a time if you committed a crime, went to prison and got out, you could move to a new town or state and start all over again. Now, once you commit any crime anywhere, that record stays with you forever.

The problem with this is that when we release someone who has served their sentence, they enter into a lifetime of second-class citizenship. They can’t vote, they can’t own a firearm for self defense and they are barred from many many jobs where “being a felon” instantly puts them out of the running, even if their crime had nothing to do with the job. With the advent of $20 internet-based criminal record searches that absolutely anyone can run you can’t even lie about your past and have any hope of it not coming up.

A felony record, or for that matter even a misdemeanor conviction can keep you from obtaining anything more than menial employment at minimum wage forever. Is that the price we want to impose for owning an eagle feather? Yes, that’s a felony. As are countless other victimless crimes.

Think about that for a minute. An 18-year-old fool does something incredibly stupid, like taking a joy-ride in a stolen car, gets caught, does a couple of years in prison (which is hardly a trivial price to pay for an hour’s stupidity that didn’t hurt anyone) and forever more is consigned to wear a scarlet letter of FELON, no matter where he goes or how he lives his life no matter how virtuous.

And people wonder why we have high recidivism rates?

What’s the purpose of a criminal justice system anyway? Would not most people agree that it’s primarily to keep people safe from people who would prey on them, serve as an example to other would-be criminals and give the public some sense that justice is being done? Beyond that I suppose you could add rehabilitation, but experience shows prison is a lousy place for that. To deter people from re-offending you ghave to offer some hope for a future. Our current system does not. Quite the opposite.

I’m not talking about being soft on perpetrators. If you commit a serious crime the penalties should be stiff. If you attempt murder I’m quite content with locking your ass up for a very, very long time, possibly forever. If you break into a house you should do years, not months. I could go on down the list, but hey, committing a serious crime and getting caught should hurt. A lot.

But keeping people who have served every day of their sentences as second class citizens forever is just plain counter-productive. If you’re still dangerous, you shouldn’t be getting out of prison. If you’re not, then it’s time to wipe the slate clean, at least as far as the general public will ever know, and letting you start out fresh with the ability to make a new life. After all, it’s not like starting out fresh at age 30 after a ten-year prison sentence is a walk in the park under any circumstances, record or no record.

I’m fine with the courts keeping records. And I’m fine with the concept of throwing away the key on repeat serious offenders. But what we’re doing with the current system is throwing away the key on people who have made one serious mistake. And think about it for a moment: If you’re to be consigned to a life of minimum wage jobs and sucking up to the boss in fear he’ll fire you and you won’t get another just as crappy job, why the Hell would you not go back into crime? We’re asking people to make entirely irrational choices and then we’re surprised when they give us the finger.

Let them do their time. Eliminate parole. But once they’re out, restore their rights. All of them. Anything else is just tyranny to no purpose an makes even rehabilitated folks want to go back to breaking the law. What the Hell, at least that has some dignity to it, risk or no risk.

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Posted in Crime, firearms, Law & Order, Prison and Justice | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gun Pr0n and Range Report: Colt Woodsman

Posted by Bill Nance on August 30, 2009

My lovely bride was surfing the net looking at guns we’d like to have but can probably never expect to afford when she stumbled over a Colt Woodsman for sale on GunBroker. There were only minutes left on the auction and no bids, so we bid the minimum to meet the auction floor ($250) and sure enough, the gun was ours. Since all the Woodsmans, even the 1973s have been declared C&R eligible we could get it sent directly to the house with our Curios and Relics FFL.

Now, a little history. The Colt Woodsman is actually the very first pistol I shot, way back in Boy Scouts 35 years ago. For decades the Woodsman was everyone’s first pistol. Like all the truly great Icons of 20th century firearms, John Moses Browning had a hand in designing this beauty and as ever, his elegance and simplicity of design shows through. The Woodsman had an uninterrupted manufacturing run of six decades from 1915 to 1973.  Colt put out three distinct versions of the Woodsman: the 1st series, which was made from 1915 up through 1941, the second series which changed the frame slightly and which was manufactured through 1955 and the third series which was made up until they dropped the gun in 1973.

Among current firearms out there, the Ruger Mark IIs and IIIs fill the same niche, but one look at the internals tells you they are nowhere near being equals.

At any rate, when my wife first expressed an interest in learning to shoot pistols the Woodsman was the first gun I thought of. Unfortunately they can be hard to find in good condition for less than $700 and that was simply more than I wanted to spend at the time for a .22 pistol. So picking up a functioning Woodsman for $250 was a very happy surprise.

Colt Woodsman

Colt Woodsman

Our gun is a 1936 1st series. The grips pictured are aftermarket but genuine antler, not plastic. When we got the gun there was a good bit of rust on it, thankfully all surface rust, which, after my wife the gun-detailer went to work on it quickly came off. the bluing is faded in a couple of spots and rubbed off completely on a small part of the frame in front of the slide, but otherwise the gun is in quite good shape, though it’s obviously seen a lot of use. The barrel is in fair condition, the rifling being worn but clear and the crown is showing a good bit of wear as well.

Today we took it out and shot it for the first time and it shoots quite well. I didn’t get a chance to bench-rest it for an accuracy test, but free-hand it was putting bullets in a three-inch group except for when yours truly pooched the shot by jerking the trigger.

I checked with our local gunsmith and a complete refit will run about $225 which will make this little shooter as fine a .22 semi-auto as you’re likely to find outside a $1000 + target pistol. And hey, it’s a JMB design -you can’t put a pricetag on that.

If you run into a woodsman in decent condition for less than $600 buy it. It’s a great little gun and a genuine piece of American history.

Posted in firearms, Guns Dammit! | 2 Comments »

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Posted by Bill Nance on August 30, 2009

I was browsing MSNBC this morning and ran into this little gem of an article about a redevelopment of a housing project in Watts, CA.

LOS ANGELES – Juanita Sims has lived in the notorious Jordan Downs project in Watts for nearly four decades, raising eight children behind the barred windows of the cramped barracks-like apartments.

Let me get this straight: Sims has lived for free in a housing project since the age of 33ish, collecting welfare and raised eight kids there? And she’s still there?

WTF????

Watts is virtually right next to Long Beach and is a relatively easy bus-ride from West LA or northern Orange County, all places with plentiful job opportunities. Work is hard to come by in Compton, but taking the bus to work is something I’ve managed to do for years at a time. In other words, there isn’t a reason on earth why someone, even someone not too bright or very enterprising, can get a job; if perhaps not a very good one. Welfare-to-work programs have been available for decades, helping people pay for childcare, education, healthcare and even housing.

I’ve never been one to blame the poor for being poor, but at some point, it stops being the fault of bad breaks and starts being the responsibility of the people who live in poverty when there are alternatives. Minimum wage jobs suck and the pay stinks, but it’s a start. That first job teaches you how to hold a job, how to take orders and some, if not many skills. From that really crappy job you move into a marginally less crappy job, making a little more, learning some new skills and move onto another still-less crappy job. Somewhere along the way you get some training or develop some skills that are actually in demand and can live in something other than poverty if not great comfort.

In other words, it’s the same path millions of us have all taken. My first job was as a deckhand on a fishing boat in the summer. My first real job was working at McDonald’s, where I juggled that and a second minimum wage job so I could pay the rent. From there I went to another job waiting tables making a whopping 30 cents an hour over minimum wage ($3.40 an hour woot!) and made some pretty measly tips as well (It wasn’t exactly a high-class joint). I did all this before the age of 17 because I’d been out of the house since 15! That’s right, no high-school diploma. Hell I wasn’t even legally allowed to work. I lied about my age on every application. When I turned 17 I took the California High School Competency test, receiving an actual high school diploma so I could join the military. From there it was all progressive improvements.

A note to Juanita and those like her: Keep your damned legs closed and get a job. Raising eight kids in the projects and spending four decades on the dole is pathetic, not something that inspires pity.

Posted in economy, News & Analysis, Rants | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Legaly Correct, Tactically Stupid

Posted by Bill Nance on August 28, 2009

The left-wing blogosphere is going apeshit over people showing up to Obama appearances open-carrying guns of various shapes and sizes. What’s behind the hysteria? In a word: fear.

Fear of guns and fear of people who have them and far more, fear of people who carry them.

I won’t go into the hysteria of the gun-grabbers. It’s all been said before. Instead I want to talk about the wisdom of those people choosing a political meeting about healthcare as a place for an in-your-face demonstration for RKBA.

It’s stupid folks. It’s incredibly bad tactics. It scares the bejeebers out of moderates who would normally be on our side and convinces absolutely no one who wasn’t already passionate about the issue. Worse yet, it’s another thing to throw out to moderate voters, the people who decide elections, to show that those gun people are just dangerous nutcases waiting to go postal.

Case in point:

Dumbshittery in action

Dumbshittery in action

This genius shows up to an Obama meeting on healthcare with a sign that quite directly calls for the shedding of the blood of patriots and tyrants; as in, you know, Obama. There is no other way to take this kind of statement. By itself it’s an obnoxious sign. I mean seriously, you’re going to have an armed revolt over healthcare reform? pulease. Grow the Hell up. But when you add the sidearm now it’s not just stupid, it hurts me. Because now the message stops being whatever the original point was and starts being about how dangerous people who own guns are.

Now, does Mister Dumbshit have the right to open carry? Of course. He even has the right to open carry to a political meeting. But it’s stupid to do so and even more stupid to do so carrying that sign.

Let’s face it folks, I’d put the odds of Obama going through a full term without a credible assasination attempt at slim and none. And that’s without any of the hyperbole on the right. Even if the guy was a conservative, his skin color alone makes a sadly large number of people in this country think: “Holy crap, there’s a nigger in the whitehouse.”  We can pretend all day long that isn’t true, but it is. And when that happens, succesful or not, clowns like this are going to get all of us blamed. It will be all about the gun, not the racist jerk that took the shot. And the grabbers will point to pictures like this and say “See? didn’t we tell you these people are dangerous?” Of course they’d do that anyway. But everytime they say it now, they’ll show this picture and scream “I told you so!”

There is a time and a place for everything. Even stupid signs, and yes, certainly for open carry protests. They happen not infrequently in New Hampshire and generally I’m all for them. People should be made to understand that people with guns aren’t dangerous. The best protests I’ve seen have been protests where open-carry advocates have picked up trash in town. What better face to put out to the community?

But this kind of crap is the polar opposite. Carry a sign calling for armed revolt while openly armed at a presidential meeting about something wholly unrelated to guns and no one gets the RKBA message. They get a message that people with guns are freakin looneys who need to be disarmed.

Every time I hear about stuff like this I shake my head. Who needs the Brady Bunch when we have fools like this on “our side?”

Posted in Barack Obama, firearms, Guns Dammit!, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Reporting While Armed: The Horror!

Posted by Bill Nance on August 14, 2009

Patrick Appel links to a story about Afghan reporters who are routinely armed for self-defense.

Patrick’s selected quote:

[If] a local journo writes a story that burns a big-shot in government or the drug trade, the reporter will be looking over his or her shoulder (to say nothing of their family’s) for years to come. I don’t know any reporters who carry a gun in the US. Here, I know more than a few reporters who won’t leave the newsroom unless fully strapped.

The original story is about Afghanistan’s dangerous environment, which is hardly a surprise. But the notion that reporters might need to be armed is something that only happens in third-world pestholes is stupid beyond words.

Let me share from my personal experience since I  was a crime reporter for several years.

For a couple of decades now, any crime reporter who actually does their job, as opposed to simply taking dictation from the local police department and talking with the occasional victim, is in serious danger more than occasionally. I’m not complaining about the danger, the streets in crime infested neighborhoods are more violent places than they used to be. But that’s far truer for the residents than for reporters who don’t live there.

If you’re following the scanner, going to crime scenes, talking with neighbors and witnesses etc. in Crack Central at 3am, you’re not unlikely to be accosted by people who really really don’t want the press there asking questions and taking pictures. This is one reason why you almost never see pictures and read interviews with witnesses that were taken at the time unless they happen to be at the scene with a dozen cops around. There are plenty of places where reporters are missing good stories because they aren’t safe for an unarmed person to walk around snooping, even in broad daylight.

The reason all this is bad for newspaper readers is you miss the actual facts, which are often quite different from what the police are saying. As a reporter, you fail to get a genuine understanding not only of the event, but of trends, gang affiliations and lots of other things that give you a depth of knowledge which allows you to inform your readers about what’s going on on a larger scale. In other words, you have no perspective.

Crime sells, so reporters are always going to write about it. It’s also interesting because it’s conflict, which fascinates almost everyone on some level. But how often do you read or hear that crime levels nationally are going down, but in one district, or small subsection of a city the crime rate is 30% above the state’s?  That’s a not infrequently the case and the overall number of murders in a city can be a meaningless statistic. Many police departments don’t keep statistics by neighborhoods and the ones that do don’t share “intelligence information” (not subject to freedom of information act requests) with reporters. If you live in Chicago, the murders in one or two sections may make up 50% of the city’s total. That indicates one area has a crime problem, not the city as a whole.  But reporters who just report blood and take dictation from the cops will never grasp that very important fact.

So if you’re going out there and hustling and taking a few risks (it’s still 10 times safer than being a steelworker) it’s prudent to be armed. I was able to avoid a serious confrontation or assault simply by warning several gang members that I was armed. Who knows how many problems this saved me with other people they talked to.  Criminals don’t like to mess with people who are armed and ready to defend themselves.  Absent a very good reason (like being a rival gang member) they leave you alone.

So I know it’s taking a different tangent from the story Appel linked, but I think the point remains a valid one. That the writer in question doesn’t know any reporters in the ‘States who carry speaks to American reporter’s timidity and hoplophobia, not just that Afghanistan is a dangerous place. I mean seriously, we already knew Afghanistan was dangerous didn’t we?

Posted in afghanistan, Crime, firearms, hoplophobia, International, Journalism | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Personal Responsibility? …Nah!

Posted by Bill Nance on August 14, 2009

This one is a beaut:

LOGAN, Utah – The parents of a Utah State University freshman who died from alcohol poisoning at a fraternity activity have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school.

Attorneys for George and Jane Starks say in the lawsuit filed Tuesday that the university’s “benign neglect” contributed to the Nov. 21 death of Michael Starks.

Police said the 18-year-old’s blood alcohol content was higher than 0.35, more than four times the legal limit to drive an automobile.

It’s always tragic when a young person dies, but not all young deaths are victimization.  This kid was 18 years old. That’s well over the legal age to drink in most countries in the world and is the age of consent in the United States. Starks was old enough to vote, join the military, enter into contracts and every other activity allowed to adults except the stupid over-21 drinking age, which is only a remnant of prohibition and the previous 21-year-old voting age anyway.

In other words, this adult person made a really stupid decision and sadly died as a result of his own stupidity.

The parents should be told to go to Hell in no uncertain terms. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes; Darwin is not merciful.

For what it’s worth, it’s extremely rare for a person to die from alcohol poisoning at a BAC of 0.35. It’s getting likely once you go over 0.4 and nearly certain once you get near 0.5.

Posted in education, Law & Order | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

How the American Healthcare System Is Broken

Posted by Bill Nance on August 9, 2009

The healthcare system in the U.S. is broken in dozens of fundamental ways. Over dinner last night, a friend said: “We have the best healthcare in the world with the worst delivery system in the world.” More accurate words could hardly be spoken.

Another way in which the system is fundamentally broken is the way defensive medicine adds billions of dollars to the cost everyone pays in increased insurance premiums and tax dollars.

I thought I’d share a personal story on this subject that happened to me not too long ago.

I have what is called Cystic Acne. I’ve had it since my early 20s. I don’t get many pimples, but every few years I get a Sebaceous Cyst. These are large, unsightly and usually painful boil-like pimples that will harden into a large nodule.

Two things can be done about these. One is antibiotics, which sometimes helps. But in my personal experience, I’ve never had success. The other way to treat these is to lance them and drain them, and on occasion, cut out the infected tissue.

Now treating a cyst like this is something that until relatively recently was done by your general practitioner. The process is quite straightforward and technically speaking, is well within the capabilities of any first-year resident, much less someone who’s completed residency.  I’ve had these removed by a GP before and it’s about a 15 minute process.

I hadn’t had one of these in almost 20 years, so I was amazed when I went to my excellent GP and was told yes, it was a cyst, but no, she couldn’t treat it. Apparently the medical board and her malpractice insurance insist that anything more complicated than a fever be treated by a specialist. That office visit was $50.

My next stop was at the dermatologist, who looked, remarked that it was a cyst and a rather large one at that, but then shook his head and said he couldn’t treat it either, because it was someplace he thought yet another specialist was better qualified for, due to the regulations and malpractice insurance requirements. That visit was billed at $200.

My next stop was the “specialist.” Yet again I was told that my observation was 100% correct. HE could treat the thing. the consultation was $350, the fee to do the 15-minute procedure was $900.

So the end result was that I completely wasted my time, and wasted the time of two specialists who could have been treating people with far more complicated and serious medical conditions, and paid $1500 for a procedure that my GP could have performed effortlessly for perhaps $200 at most.

Fortunately, I have rather good insurance and the out-of-pocket expense was minimal. But I didn’t get away without paying for the entirety of that procedure, and if you have Blue Cross, neither did you.  I didn’t pay it all up front, and you won’t either. What will happen is that this situation will be played out thousands and thousands of times and for each one of those, the cost of insurance premiums will rise. Since 1999 employer-based plans have had their premiums rise by 120%, compared to an average 44% cumulative rate of inflation.

Medical costs aren’t magically “absorbed.” Whether it’s my $1500 cyst or the $800 emergency room visit by an uninsured person with the flu complications, someone has to pay, and that someone is you and me.

So there is my story. And I personally want to thank each and every one of my friends opposed to serious reform of the system for paying their share of the $1,500 cyst removal that should have cost $200.  Get used to it, it won’t change unless the system itself gets an enema.

Posted in healthcare, Le Snark, Politics | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Healthcare Hysteria Part Deux

Posted by Bill Nance on August 8, 2009

My friend Jay G and I have got into a rather heated discussion on the comments section of his blog over healthcare, and in particular, about his assertion that the left in general and the Democrats in particular are inciting violence at town hall meetings being held by congresspersons this month on healthcare reform. His case rests upon this article, in which Whitehouse staffers Jim Messina and David Axelrod told Democrat Senators and their staff members: “If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard.”

Of course this single quote leaves out the context of the quote:

Senior White House adviser David Axelrod and deputy chief of staff Jim Messina told senators to focus on the insured and how they would benefit from “consumer protections” in the overhaul, such as ending the practice of denying insurance based on preexisting conditions and ensuring the continuity of coverage between jobs.

They showed video clips of the confrontational town halls that have dominated the media coverage, and told senators to do more prep work than usual for their public meetings by making sure their own supporters turn out, senators and aides said.

And they screened TV ads and reviewed the various campaigns by critics of the Democratic plan.

“If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard,” Messina said, according to an official who attended the meeting.

First, I just think Jay is flat wrong in his interpretation of the article in question. It seems crystal clear to me, that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, who was speaking to Democrat Senators about strategy, was referring to political tactics, not violence. That is, unless you think he was suggesting that U.S. senators punch out protestors at their town hall meetings, an assertion that’s frankly silly in my opinion.

I said later that in my opinion, the protestors are, by and large, being manipulated and organized by very well paid lobbyists and front groups for the GOP and people with vested financial interests in the outcome of the debate over healthcare reform. Jay asked for verification of this and I’m happy to provide a couple of examples:

First, lets start with an organization called FreedomWorks.  This organization’s Board of Directors is a veritable who’s who of GOP insiders including Dick Armey, Jack Kemp and C. Boyden Gray, Legal Counsel to GHW Bush from 1981 to 1993.

In addition to being a fairly thinly veiled front organization for the GOP, Armey went from congress and his position as HUD director directly to one of the most high-powered law firms in the world called DLA Piper, which has a “strategic alliance” with the lobbying firm, The Cohen Group.The Cohen Group is a giant lobbying firm.

FreedomWorks boasts that: “This past week, FreedomWorks helped to organize “Taxpayer Tea Party” protests around the country, in the wake of Rick Santelli’s (CNBC) call for a “Chicago Tea Party” to protest the ridiculous economic policies of President Barack Obama. These protests were a huge success around the country! Thousands of Americans showed up and made their voices heard.”

To call FreedomWorks a legitimate bottom up grassroots organization is simply a joke. It’s a paid subsidiary of the GOP.

Another organization is called Conservatives for Patients Rights. This organization, which calls for people to go to town hall meetings and has a convenient list of all the scheduled town hall meetings, acts as though it’s another grassroots organization. It is anything but.

What the website doesn’t tell you is that the head of this organization is none other than Rick Scott, owner and co-founder of Solantic, a Florida based large chain of walk-in urgent care facilities. Scott also has the dubious distinction of:

Scott founded the Columbia Hospital Corporation in 1987 and later merged Columbia/HCA along with the brother of Senator Bill FristThomas J. Frist in 1989, but was ousted by the company’s board of directors in 1997 in the midst of the nation’s biggest health care fraud scandal in which the company ultimately plead guilty to the nation’s then largest Medicaid and Medicare fraud and paid a record fine of $1.7 Billion dollars.

Nope, no vested interest in the topic here at all. And of course it’s purely coincidental that Scott is joined by disgraced former Bush administration Administrator of Medicare, Thomas Scully, who left office under a cloud after he was found by a Bush Administration internal investigation of threatening to fire a Medicare auditor who was about to go to congress with the actual cost of the Bushie’s medicare prescription drug plan. A plan that was so botched on the part of the GOP and their willing Democrat co-conspirators that it amounts to a welfare program for pharmaceutical companies.  Scully is now on the board of directors of Solantic.  If that’s who you want to ally yourself with, fine. But know who you’re sleeping with.

I don’t doubt that many Americans are unhappy with the Obama administration. After all, forty some-odd percent of the people voted for McCain. I also don’t doubt that in a time of serious economic uncertainty, that people are afraid.  Fear is easy to manipulate. And right-wing big business has been doing an excellent job of this stuff for decades. It happened in 1993, helped in large measure by a hapless effort on the part of the Clintons at heealthcare reform.

I also don’t doubt that the Democrats plans are flawed. They aren’t even discussing serious malpractice reform, which is an absolute requirement for reducing the ruinous inflation of healthcare costs in this country.

But there is no way in Hell that a loud, disruptive appreaance at town hall meetings, shouting down your representatives and screaming insanity is a good way to approach it. That’s exactly what the lobbyists and the healthcare industry wants you to do. They want to scare the living bejeesus out the American public so they can continue to make a killing without any sort of regulation.  They don’t have anyone’s interests at heart except their own.

I’ve said repeatedly that I would dearly love to see the GOP take part in a serious debate on this issue. But they haven’t and they aren’t now. Only yesterday I was able to see the first signs of anything serious in the way of policy proposals from the right, which was an article in the Washington Post by conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, where he advocated for the elimination of civil malpractice.  Good for him, let’s see more serious proposals.

But the teabagger movement and the folks showing up at town halls hysterical over commie programs and forced euthanasia are nothing more than useful idiots for moneyed interests who are very adept at manipulting people’s fears.  You’re being lied to folks, by the same people who’ve been selling you snake oil for 20 years.  The Democrats truly suck as a party. But what’s coming out of the GOP and their corporate sponsors is pure baloney. And worst of all, it’s baloney paid for with corrupt money.

Posted in healthcare, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Healthcare Hysteria

Posted by Bill Nance on August 7, 2009

Unless you’ve been living in a cave these last few weeks, you cannot have failed to hear about the hysteria from many on the right about the proposed healthcare reform bills circulating around congress.

Now normally I’m all for confronting your elected officials about policies with which you’re unhappy .  I still think that’s a good thing. But confrontation and mob hysteria are two entirely different things, especially when the hysteria has been fed by highly paid political operatives from the GOP and slick campaigns of blatant lies by people with a vested financial interest in the status quo.

Rachel Maddow has done an excellent job recently exposing this fraud.  Whatever you may think of her politics, she has the facts straight. Before you head out to your congressperson’s next town hall meeting with a pocket full of outrage, be sure to watch this segment. It’s a microcosm of the fraud being perpetrated by vested interests to stop any and all progress on healthcare reform.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I’d love to see the right get actively involved in a real debate on the issues with some concrete ideas that would seriously address the issues of why we pay 175% of what Canada pays for healthcare, have a life expectancy that’s 3.8% less than Canada’s, have a death rate that’s 8.4% higher than Canada’s and a system of health insurance and malpractice that’s literally putting American companies out of business.

What’s been proposed by the GOP has been so close to nothing as to be meaningless. It’s been at best a rehash of the McCain campaign’s proposals, which, in case you missed it, didn’t win the election. One reason for that is that the proposals he put forth, including taxing health benefits paid to employees, are non-starters.

I’ve recently been hearing Obama’s plans to reform healthcare compared to the Soviet Union.  It’s funny, but the friends I have in Canda, Australia, Holland and other places with some form of government assisted or administered healthcare don’t seem to think they live in the Evil Empire.  In fact, most of them are pretty pleased with the quality of their healthcare. Which is certainly more than I can say for most people I know in this country.

The Democrats really need serious input from people with alternative views. But mob hysteria and “NO” is not serious input. It’s plain old obstruction.

Posted in healthcare, Politics, Right-Wing Nut-jobery | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hiroshima, Holocaust Denial and Hypocrisy

Posted by Bill Nance on August 7, 2009

Today is August 7. As usual, this is the day my anger over the previous day’s marking of the bombing of Hiroshima subsides.

On August 6, 1945, Colonel Paul Tibbets and his crew dropped a single Atomic bomb, code-named “Little Boy,” on Hiroshima, instantly incinerating some 50,000-70,000 Japanese and injuring another 100,000, resulting in an estimated 60,000 additional deaths over the next five years or so. This bombing, and the one of Nagasaki three days later, resulted in the Japanese’ unconditional surrender to the allies and the end of world War Two.

No one would argue that the loss of some 580,000 Japanese civilians during the war was anything but tragic. Most of these died as a result of the US strategic bombing of Japan, though at least 100,000 were killed in the bloody house to house and cave to cave fighting on Saipan and Okinawa, including at least 5,000 Japanese civilian suicides on Saipan alone.

The civilian death toll during the Second World War was apocalyptic in scale, probably reaching forty million souls.  some of these were inevitable “collateral damage.” That is, civilians inadvertently killed during combat operations.  Some were killed as a result of strategic terror bombings on all sides, designed to sap the enemy’s will to fight.

But the vast majority, estimated to be at least 30,000,000 people, were killed deliberately or from a purposeful policy of neglect, brutality or  murder, to say nothing of the murder of helpless military captives, notably by the Japanese, Germans and Soviets.

Much ado has been made over the German perpetration of the Holocaust against the Jews, Gypsies and others during that war. Museums on the subject dot the world. And rightfully so. But the world has acquiesced to a conspiracy of almost total silence on the Holocaust perpetrated by the Japanese in every land they occupied, as well as in Japan itself, where until the very end of the war, the Japanese government was actively pursuing germ warfare weapons to be used against US civilians and where prisoners of war were vivisected whilst still alive.

If you live in Germany for a while, you will be struck by what even now, some 60 years after the fact, remains a collective consciousness of guilt and shame over the Nazi years and the atrocities of that period. There is of course, no reason for young people, who’s parents weren’t even born until after the war to feel any sense of shame, and many have rejected this with I think a justifiable sense of having paid whatever debt is owed. And collectively, Germany remains a deeply pacifist nation as a result of the memory of those horrible years.

The same sense of Pacifism remains in Japan, but for an entirely different reason.

While I have not lived in Japan, I do have many friends and several relatives who have lived there for years.

In Japan there is little in the way of shame. In fact, Japanese children aren’t even taught about the extent of the atrocities committed by their forbears. The entire nation, from the end of the war until this day have and continue to be in utter denial about both their own guilt in launching an imperialist war of aggression and the horrors committed by their armies, the worst of which was the genocide committed against the Chinese, in which an estimated 20,000,000 Chinese civilians were slaughtered.

In the last few years, Americans, notably the Neoconservatives, have noted with horror that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a holocaust denier. In fact, to be a holocaust denier is counted by most people to be a grave sin.  Yet Japan is an entire nation in utter denial of the systematic butchery and unprovoked aggression perpetrated by their country and no one says a word.

Which leads us back to yesterday, August 6, where the usual somber remembrance of the Hiroshima bombing took place all over the world in a sign of collective guilt over the killing of Japanese civilians in that city.

Enough. I’m sick of hearing about it. It was without doubt, a brutal act in a brutal war. but it pales in comparison with the deliberate mass murder perpetrated against helpless civilians in an unprovoked war of aggression. Hiroshima was bombed because the alternative was a bloody invasion of Japan in which many many times the numbers killed in Nagasaki and Hiroshima combined would have been killed. Alternatively, a blockade of the islands would have resulted in the death by starvation of millions of Japanese. In comparison, the bombing of Hiroshima was a trivial price to pay for ending the war.  The fact that the Japanese and their willing co-deniers of history across the globe continue to forget the atrocities of the Japanese, the utter unwillingness to surrender under the terms offered by the Allies and the comparative death tolls of the alternatives to the bomb disgusts me, and it should disgust you as well.

On the day the Japanese government starts printing the unadulterated truth about those years in their school textbooks and officially acknowledges, without equivication or excuse, the crimes they committed, I will begin to have more sympathy for the civilian casualties of the Second World War. But even with compassion for civilians caught up in an awful war, August 6 should rightfully be remembered as the day that led to the end of a nightmare, not as a day of mourning.

The Japanese were victims of their own evil. They were not and are not martyrs.

*For two excellent scholarly works on the subject of the bomb, I reccommend Weapons for Victory, and Hiroshima in History: the Myths of Revisionism by Prof. Robert J. Maddox.

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