Blog Main Page

Gun Control? Really?

I noticed in the newspaper this morning that our Ohio state legislators will soon be contemplating various gun bills. I found myself very puzzled by some of them. Here’s what I reacted to:

“On Wednesday, House Judiciary Committee members will get their first look at a bill that would allow concealed weapons in Ohio churches, day care centers, government buildings, and private aircraft.”

I would hope they don’t allow concealed weapons in any of the last three. If they’re allowed in Day Care centers, would not the children potentially be at risk from a walk-in crazy? If they’re allowed in government buildings, will criminals sentenced by judges to jail time find it easier to revenge themselves? What about walk-in crazies? If concealed weapons are allowed in private aircraft, could we see more 9/11-like attacks using private aircraft as missiles?

In short, I think “conceal-carry” is being taken too far by this bill.

“House Bill 231, sponsored by state Rep. Ron Maag, a Republican from Lebanon, would also give colleges and universities the option of allowing concealed weapons on campus and limit unarmed ”victim zones” to secure areas in airports, police stations and schools.”

So, if current Psychology is on the money about young people’s brains not being fully mature until around age 23 or so, if MRI scans of younger peoples’ brains are similar to scans of mentally ill individuals, then are we playing with fire by allowing concealed weapons to be brought onto college campuses? Pushing colleges and universities to make this decision instead of the government, I think is a mistake. The simple solution, which results in uniformity across colleges and universities, is to simply ban such and avoid any subsequent problems.

Limiting unarmed “victim zones” seems extremely foolish to me too. Why limit them? Whose agenda is this . . . and why is this being advocated?

“A third firearms bill, House Bill 99, would make it a first degree felony for police officers to enforce any new federal legislation or executive order regarding further restrictions on gun ownership or registration.”

What? This bill sets the State above the Federal government, doesn’t it? It was bad enough we had a Civil War over States’ Rights. Now we’re going to resurrect that battle by actually punishing law enforcement for adhering to Federal law and Executive Order. If the State Legislature passes this one, I predict there will be unforeseen consequences–nasty ones. We shall see.

I really tire of the gun control debate. It seems to me that there are three areas that need to be addressed to minimize gun-based catastrophes: background checks, mental health, and safety training:

  • Background checks should be run on everyone purchasing firearms; anyone who’s been previously convicted of a crime using one should be prohibited from owning a gun subsequently.
  • Coupled with such a background check, there should be a mental health (MMPI-like) mental health assessment; anyone who tests abnormal should be prohibited from owning a gun. Mental Health programs across the nation need to be shored up so they can detect and help “unbalanced” individuals before they can do damage to society.
  • All individuals should be required to have the necessary training to ensure safe operation and storage of any gun(s) and ammunition they own.

In addition, anyone owning semi-automatic or automatic weapons should be permitted to use them on approved shooting ranges. However, carrying them in public should be, from my perspective, not permitted.

If we did what I propose, I’m pretty sure we’d see less catastrophic shooting incidents.

Now what I’m wondering is who proposes bills like these, and who’s motivating their submission?

What’s your take on this?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment | Edit

The Tea Party, The IRS, and Political Parties

I saw an article in today’s newspaper about the Tea Party and the IRS “scandal”. It got me thinking maybe we should be upset, not about the supposedly “unfair” targeting of conservative political support groups, but at the fact that political support groups–regardless of party associations–should be allowed tax-exempt status at all. They all should be “targeted” as far as I’m concerned.

The American two-party system (three party, if you view the Tea Party as a viable party) is not “a system”. It promotes us-versus-them politics that–all too often–ignores the will of the people unless that will aligns with party interests. Today’s congress is contentious, focused on party goals rather than the will of the people, prone to scapegoating instead of learning from mistakes made, willing to waste legislative time ( e.g., 37 attempts so far to repeal Obamacare), and is the most do-nothing congress in modern history.

It’s a congress that tends not to compromise, tends to want to adopt “throw the baby out with the bath water” strategies (e.g., repealing all of Obamacare, instead of tweaking its parts until it works well) just to get the best of the opposition party. It’s a Congress that gameplays instead of working for the public welfare.

What can we do about this?

We need to put pressure on politicians to legislate rules limiting campaign funding–no organization with political ties can get tax exempt status. The IRS should target ALL such groups, not just one subset.

We need to put pressure on politicians to follow the “will of the people”. If 61% of the people, for instance, think additional controls on guns are necessary, the interests of any one group should not be allowed to influence a vote to the contrary. Minorities should not be permitted to dictate policy. They should be heard, and their input should be considered in any action taken by Congress, but they should not be allowed to effect change contrary to the will of the majority.

How do we put pressure on politicians? We can do this–

• By inundating them with letters, by talking with them directly–in person or via phone or computer, and by public demonstrations.

• By threatening to vote them out if they don’t vote in the public interest; and then voting them out if they insist on pursuing a course contrary to the public interest.

• By stopping donations to political groups supporting parties

• By stopping donations to the politicians who vote solely along party lines.

• By donating funds to politicians who think for themselves and work for the public interest.

Are these strategies feasible? Can we really do this?

Maybe . . . If people stop buying into the “my team is better than your team” aspects of political parties. Maybe . . . if people actively educate themselves on today’s issues and support candidates, not parties. Maybe . . . if people listen less to media hype on the issues and think for themselves more.

What do you think?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment | Edit

Changes I’d Like to See to Our Political System

This morning I was contemplating how we might change the US political system for the better. Here’s what I’d like to see changed:

The Electoral College (EC) should be revised or abolished. Currently, it really doesn’t reflect what most of the country wants. Check out the following videos to get a clear picture of the problems inherent in the EC:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUS9mM8Xbbw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wC42HgLA4k&feature=endscreen&NR=

PACs should have limits placed on them. An obscene amount of money was spent by both parties on election campaign ads. All contributors to a PAC should have the same limits placed on them as an individual contributor to a political candidate. Why should PACs have more influence than a comparable group of non-PAC individual contributors?

No negative ads should be permitted. Direct attacks on a candidate should be outlawed. Only issues should be discussed in ads, and a fact checking organization should monitor all ads before they air; if the ad’s “facts” can’t be verified, the ad doesn’t run.

The President should have the line item veto.

No bill should have riders that don’t directly pertain to it.

Parties should foot the bill for the total cost of their primary elections. As it stands, Independents can’t vote in a primary unless we declare a party affiliation. To some of us, that’s not an option, and we shouldn’t have to help foot the bill for a party’s primary.

Independents should have equal representation as poll workers. In some locales, my town is one of these, there are Republican and Democratic phone numbers you call if you want to work the polls. There is no such number for Independents. Aren’t we allowed to work the polls? Again, why should an Independent have to declare a party affiliation? It’s abhorrent to some of us.

Gerrymandering needs to be curtailed. Each state could have a committee consisting of at least an equal number of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents that would determine the districts. Some provision could be made to include some members from third parties. Or we could just divide up a state into “n” square mile blocks that are all the same size, and end the never-ending, post-election redistricting manipulations that occur.

The Federal Government should oversee all elections. Rules for early voting, absentee voting, and the in-person voting process itself should be set by the Federal Government so they’re consistent across all states.

What do you think? Do you have any other suggestions for improving our government?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment | Edit

Italian Madness Over Quake Forecasting

This morning’s newspaper contained an article entitled, “Italian court convicts experts for failing to predict quake”.

Essentially, the court—based in L’Aquila, Italy—convicted seven Italian scientists for manslaughter, based on their failing to warn residents before a quake struck central Italy in 2009 which resulted in 308 people dying. The court sentenced them all to six years in jail for this “crime”. The six scientists convicted were some of the world’s most prominent seismologists and geological experts.

What disturbs me about this situation are the following points:

  • Forecasting, in general, is based on probabilities, not certainties. Most forecasts deviate from actual results by some margin of error.
  • Based on current statistical and scientific knowledge, quake forecasting is “iffier” than most other forms of forecasting. We know more about weather forecasting than we do about quake forecasting. Quake forecasting is tougher to do because scientists have yet to figure out all the salient or causal variables linked with earthquakes. Then there’s the question of just how much accurate data is actually, currently available with which to arrive at a reasonable forecast.
  • Wouldn’t you think these scientists—if they were highly confident of their forecasting methodology—would have warned the public? Clearly they weren’t confident . . . and rightfully so. I know of no scientists or group of scientists in the world today who can consistently and confidently forecast the future occurrence of an earthquake.
  • The consequences of warning the public of a forecasted event that ultimately doesn’t occur has apparently been ignored or pooh-poohed by the Italian court.
  • By incarcerating these scientists,Italywould deprive their country and the world of the very expertise that might develop better quake prediction in the future for the next six years.
  • The reason a lot of the victims of the quake died was building construction that was not “quake proof”.

To me, this is a prime example of scapegoating and finger pointing to misdirect the public’s ire away from governmental laxity to bring building codes into the modern era as far as quake-proofing is concerned. It’s an example of “politics” at work.

I would hope, that in the appeal process, the Italian judiciary reverses these convictions. I also hope that Italian politicians are pushing for more adequate quake-proofing of buildings.

Why is it that people—both here and in Italy—tend to focus on assigning blame rather than working to energetically solve problems which have been uncovered?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment | Edit

Ohio School Levies–A Recurring Nightmare

With regard to school levies, I’m puzzled as to why schools persist in promoting such a win-lose strategy for funding their operations, and I think it’s time to look for new solutions that accommodate the needs of students, younger adults, seniors, and the school systems . . . especially seniors (those aged 62 and older) and those with poverty level incomes.

Currently, when a school levy passes, seniors on a fixed income and adults with poverty level incomes lose something. The additional expense may cut into what little money they have for food, clothing, and bill paying. These are “survival expenses”.

Or worse yet, if they own a home, they may be forced to choose between meeting their survival expenses or losing their homes because they can no longer pay the property tax. Is this fair? Is this right? Is it just? Should today’s children’s needs trump the needs of seniors and those on poverty level incomes?

I believe it’s time for the “Powers That Be” to find and adopt win-win solutions instead of opting for the status quo which will continue to result in school levies failing. Since levies generally haven’t been passing, there’s no win for the schools using the current property tax levy strategy as long as so many have so much to lose.

There’s got to be a solution that protects seniors and low-income adults from catastrophic consequences while guaranteeing that future generations of children get the education they should have. How might we do this?

POINTS TO PONDER

  • Everybody who lives long enough eventually becomes a “senior”. So actions taken “against seniors”now are, ultimately, “shoot yourself in the foot” solutions. The fighting over property tax increases and any rancor directed at seniors take on new meaning if you realize the any action targeting seniors now eventually targets those of you who are younger later when you hit age 62 yourselves.
  • Who are these “seniors”? They’re your or someone else’s parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and friends who are over age 62.
  • Most senior citizens have been paying property tax either directly or indirectly (through monthly rent) for 41 years or more. In other words, they’ve been supporting schools for most of their adult lives. They’ve paid their “fair share”, haven’t they?
  • The current system for property tax funding was declared unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court in 1997 (DeRolph vs.Ohio). Yet the system has not been replaced or overhauled. The state ofOhio has blatantly ignored this judicial ruling. School boards, politicians, and voters have done nothing to replace the current system. Why is this?
  • For those on fixed incomes, an increase in property tax could result in some adults having to choose between losing their homes or finding themselves unable adequately care for themselves. Should seniors have to pay such a price, especially since they’ve probably already paid into school support for 4 decades or more? Is it any wonder school levies fail in cities and towns where seniors make up a large portion of the voting population?
  • Several months ago a woman in the city in which I live, at a school board meeting, complained that our town was “overrun with seniors”. (According to the 2010 census, our town’s voting population is comprised of 52 % adults who are seniors.)
    Are seniors vermin that need to be stamped out because school levies aren’t passing?
    She went on to blame seniors for the failure of recent school levies at the ballot box.
    This same young lady was upset because $600 was too much for “pay to participate” extracurricular activities for her children since she only had a $15,000 a year salary to live on. As it turns out, seniors, all too often, make no more than that in a year, yet she would have the property tax burden on senior citizens with fixed incomes increased to fund the extracurricular activities of her children. How fair, right, and just is that?

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

I’ve “brainstormed” some possible solutions. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Exempt Seniors from additional property taxes at age 62. Alternatively, require seniors to pay a flat fee which never changes after age 62.
  • At age 62, school levies applied to property taxes no longer apply. Only those younger than 62 support the schools.
  • Exempt those with poverty level incomes from paying property taxes.
  • Prorate tax for seniors based on their income level such that they’re paying some percentage lower than younger people below age 62.
  • Let the schools be solely supported by the property taxes of those with children in school.
  • Remove the “caps” on school levies. Let the percentage remain the same throughout the life of the levy so that total levy monies actually increase with more property tax payers in the region where the tax applies. This would help minimize the need for school systems to incessantly pursue levies.
  • Increase the income tax. This more naturally prorates contributions to the schools based on a person’s ability to pay.
  • Increase “sin taxes”.
  • Revamp the current lottery laws to ensure that all or most of the monies go to the schools, as was originally intended, instead of being used as a way to support the rest of the state’s budget.
  • Or adopt some reasonable combination of two or more of the above strategies.

Can you think of any others?

THE STRATEGY I LIKE . . .

is actually a combination of the following strategies:

  1. Revamp the current lottery law to ensure that all or most of the monies go to the schools, as was originally intended, instead of being used as a way to support the rest of the state’s budget. State legislators have deviated from the intent of the lottery as it was originally “sold” to taxpayers.
  2. Remove the “caps” on levies. Let the percentage remain the same throughout the life of the levy so that total levy monies actually increase with more property tax payers in the region where the tax applies. Currently, the levies are capped at a set dollar amount.
  3. Exempt Seniors from additional property taxes at age 62. Whatever their property tax rate (or should this be property tax amount?) is at 62, it remains that for the rest of their lives. This strategy alone, I suspect, would result in the passage of more school levies. And no seniors would experience a loss in their quality of life or would lose their homes due to property tax increases.
  4. Increase the income tax. This more naturally prorates contributions to the schools based on a person’s ability to pay. It also would augment property tax nicely.
  5. Increase “sin taxes”.

Feel free to comment. I’m sure I’ve probably missed something. Might there be a better combination of strategies that might work better than the one I like?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment | Edit

IT’S ONLY POLITICS . . .

I just read in this morning’s Cleveland Plain Dealer that, between 2007 and 2011, many health care insurers gave money to members of Congress who were attempting to get rid of health care reform. In and of itself, this is no big deal. Those firms are entitled to support any cause they please.

But here’s the catch: during the same period of time, those same insurers were presenting themselves as allies to President Obama’s health care reforms.

In other words, their behavior did not match their words–they lied. That’s very disturbing.

But it seems to happen all the time in politics, doesn’t it? Lying seems to be one of the main prongs of political manipulation. Anything seems to be okay behavior since “it’s only politics”.

Makes you wonder what politics is really about, doesn’t it? Is it a game?

Sure does look like it, doesn’t it?

During the primary season, for instance, candidates furiously attack one another in “debates”, and then, if they belong to the same political party, just after the primary occurs, the “losers” declare themselves “strong supporters” of the winners. How can that be when they so furiously attacked one another during previous public debates?

Winning at any cost seems to be the main purpose of both the GOP and the Dems. Neither party seems to really care about what might be good for the majority of the country. They seem only to care about whether they beat their opposition, whether they “win”. As a result, this Congress is one of the greatest–if not the greatest–“do nothing” Congresses ever to hold office.

Why? Because they no longer have intelligent discussions of issues in order to reach a viable compromise that would profit the nation at large.

Complicating current politics further, Business and other special interests spend a lot of money to influence the votes of both parties. Today’s Plain Dealer article is just another example of this . . . and how lying is acceptable in the name of winning.

Is this really what our Founding Fathers intended? Is this really the way our government should be run? Are political parties really good for the country? Should they be gaming over the future of our country the way they seem to be doing?

I think not.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment | Edit

What This Blog is About

When a person has lived as long as I have, he or she tends to have a lot of life experience . . . and some unique perspectives on world and life events. This blog is an attempt on my part to explore my own perspectives and to establish some sort of dialogue with others on issues that beg exploration, discussion, and possibly subsequent constructive, corrective action.

Leave a Reply