Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Guns, People, and Laws/Pickles Cartoon/When People Die/Smoking

(P1) Political

Banished for questioning 2nd Amendment gospel

This headline appeared in the January 5, 2014 NY Times and contained a subhead "Fired Guns & Ammo columnist: 'Compromise is a bad word' in debate over U.S. firearms policy."

Here are some excerpts:

In late October, Metcalf wrote a column that the magazine titled "Let's Talk Limits," which debated gun laws.  "The fact is, " wrote Metcalf, who has taught history at Cornell and Yale, "all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be." 

The backlash was swift and fierce.  Readers threatened to cancel their subscriptions.  Death threats poured in by email  His television program was pulled from the air....

...I've been vanished, disappeared," Metcalf, 67 said in an interview...fears he has become a pariah in the gun industry, to which, he said, he has devoted nearly his entire adult life.

....His experience sheds light on the close-knit world of gun journalism, where editors and reporters say there is little room for nuance in the debate over gun laws.  Moderate voices that might broaden the discussion from within are silenced....

...Richard Venola, a former editor of Guns & Ammo (said) "The time for ceding some rational points is gone."...

...In 2012, Jerry Tsai, the editor of Recoil magazine wrote that the Heckler & Koch MP7A1 gun, designed for law enforcement, was "unavailable to civilians and for good reason."  He was pressured to step down, and despite apologizing, has not written since.

...Metcalf says his only regret about the column is that it was too short.  "Some topics you should never try and discuss too briefly, because they can't be dealt with like that..."

Therefore, please consider taking a look at the full NYT article now.

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 Gun Laws Actually Have Loosened Since Sandy Hook

This from The Daily Koz of December 12 2013

There were high hopes among gun-control advocates after the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, last December that the United States would finally get serious about reducing firearm violence by requiring every would-be buyer of a gun to undergo a criminal and mental health background check and restricting the type of weapon individuals can own as well as the ammunition capacity of those weapons. New organizations were founded, older ones reinvigorated.
The effort failed spectacularly at the federal level. At least in part, that's because of Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's doomed-to-failure-from-the-start effort to reinstitute a 1994-2004 ban on certain semi-automatic rifles with big ammunition magazines like the one Adam Lanza used in Newtown that are capable of firing scores of bullets in a few seconds.

Not only did Feinstein's proposal go down in flames, with large numbers of Democrats opposed, the assault weapon ban's introduction as the first new gun proposal after Newtown may well have hurt the chances for enacting a background check law covering private gun sales. A universal background check has overwhelming support among citizens in general, among gun owners and even among members of the National Rifle Association. But the debate over the background-check proposal was tainted with the assault weapons ban by the NRA, the more extreme Gun Owners of America and many NRA favorites in Congress. Ultimately, that proposal also went into oblivion.

There has been more success for advocates of tighter controls at the state level in the past 12 months. As The New York Times pointed out Thursday, 109 new gun laws have been enacted in the wake of Newtown. However, 70 of them have loosened restrictions.

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(P2) Poetical

My Four-Year-Old Asks What Happens 
When People Die And When I Hesitate
     She Answers Her Own Question

First they wake up on the day they're going to die
And they pack up all their clothes
And they say goodbye to their mama and goodbye
To their daddy
They go to a different state and find a nice empty
House that's quiet and a good soft bed
And they lie down. 

- Tina Parker in Rattle Winter 2013 

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(P3) Philosophical

Cigarette smoking is a fast track to an early deathAn excellent column and a very interesting read follows.  Perhaps it can save a life or two.

by Richard Cohen, Washington Post (January 20, 2014)

On Jan. 1, Colorado began permitting the legal sale of marijuana. Even before that, the nation’s news media had swung into action, arguing just about everything — marijuana is dangerous or not dangerous, a gateway drug or just a lot of smoke. Nothing I saw mentioned why I, for one, will not smoke marijuana. I’m afraid it would lead me back to cigarettes.

Once I was addicted to cigarettes. (I suppose I still am.) I tried to quit numerous times — hypnotism, acupuncture, hypnotism again, willpower and shame and mortal shame — but for the longest time, nothing worked. I felt enslaved — sucking this poison into my body, soiling my lungs — and enraged at an industry that encouraged me as a youth to smoke and, despite all the health findings, continued to give me that encouraging wink: Smoke. Go ahead. Such sweet pleasure!

Now the latest surgeon general’s report shows that cigarette smoking is even worse for us than we once thought. To all the usual diseases — lung cancer and heart disease — can be added diabetes, colorectal and liver cancers and, irony of ironies, erectile dysfunction. The Marlboro Man needs some help.
Boris D. Lushniak, the acting surgeon general, tacked on some more horrors: vision loss, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, impaired immune function and cleft palates in children of pregnant women who smoke. Did I mention bladder cancer? How about cervical cancer? They, too, can be caused by smoking. Can you imagine anything more economical? Almost any disease you can name is in a single package.

The managers and directors of tobacco companies must wonder at their good fortune. The nation is engaged in a great debate about marijuana — is it dangerous, addictive? — while tobacco is not only legal but widely available and not discussed. Smoking, the surgeon general says, is responsible for 480,000 premature deaths a year. That’s a bit more than the population of Kansas City, Mo. — dead, dead and very dead every single year.

About 18 percent of Americans smoke, down from 42 percent in 1965. The decline has leveled off, but with it has come an appreciation of just how unhealthy smoking is. Tobacco is about the only product you can think of that, when used as directed, can kill you.

To my knowledge, Karl Marx never considered tobacco companies in his criticism of capitalism. Yet almost 150 years after he published “Das Kapital,” these companies are selling a carcinogenic delivery system to what are, after all, nicotine junkies. How’s that for exploitation, Karl baby? What other industry can claim so many lives and so much misery? Beginning with its early efforts to suppress medical findings, what other industry has such a splendid history of lying to the public?

Yet the people who run these companies are not shunned, denied membership at the country club and appropriately reviled. Instead, they are welcomed and respected and, of course, well compensated. If you read the Web sites of the various tobacco companies, you would think that they are in the business of fighting smoking and that new smokers somehow materialize out of thin air. The word “responsibility” is a leitmotif. This is an outrageous restraint of trade; these companies leave little hypocrisy for anyone else.

I started smoking as a kid, 13 or 14 years old. After some years, I tried pipes and cigars as a cigarette substitute. No good. Pipes were impractical when I was in the Army — I couldn’t light them up or put them out fast enough to suit the average sergeant — and cigars were no improvement since I tended to inhale.
The truth is I loved to smoke. But now I can hardly bear to watch Bogie light up in some film-noir classic without seeing it as foreshadowing his death from esophageal cancer at the age of 57. And when I see kids on the street smoking, flipping off health concerns with the arrogance of youth, I want to slap them silly or, at the least, delay their walk with a lecture on what the surgeon general has found. But mostly I want them and everyone else to ask how we can have a national debate on marijuana and ignore the annual mountain of cadavers from smoking cigarettes. It, for sure, is a gateway drug — to an early grave.

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