Archive for February, 2011

Some Sensible Gun Laws for a Change

Hooray for the western states!  Many of them are in the process of enacting long overdue and sensible gun laws.  Perhaps spurred on by the unstable times we live in or just a sense that people should have the ability to defend themselves, states from Wyoming to Arizona are about to pass laws which will allow gun owners to carry their firearms on college campuses and carry concealed weapons without a permit.

In light of the Tucson shooting in which Jared Lee Loughner shot and wounded thirteen people, including U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, and killed six others, these laws are just common sense.  After all, one of the individuals that apprehended Loughner and terminated his shooting rampage was Joseph Zamudio who himself was carrying a 9mm semi-automatic pistol at the time of the attack.  According to Zamudio, when he heard the shots outside the Safeway supermarket he immediately rushed to the scene to help.  While most bystanders would have hit the deck or run in the opposite direction, he claims his carrying a gun emboldened him to act.  This episode makes one wonder how many lives could have been saved if Virginia Tech students had been allowed to carry firearms on campus in  April 2007 when Seung-Hui massacred 32 of them?

Of course, stories of armed private citizens saving life and property happen all the time.  Back in 1995 the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology at Northwestern University School of Law published a study that indicated that law abiding gun owners use their weapons for defensive purposes as many as 2.5 million times a year.  This calculates to guns being used 60 times more to protect innocent lives than being used to shoot in the commission of a crime.  Thus, loosening gun laws will only make us safer because they will give responsible gun owners more of an ability to intervene in crisis situations like the Tucson and Virginia Tech Massacres.

Of course, one of the criticisms of the anti-gun movement is that we would be less safe if everybody in society carried a gun.  But, that is not what these laws would do.  People and private property owners should and would have choice in the matter.  Nothing would force an individual to carry against their will or a private entity to allow firearms on their premises.  Most folks who own guns understand the enormous responsibility that comes with it.  Our hero Joseph Zamudio was empowered by his gun to act, but he didn’t shoot it off wildly and endanger others.  As a matter of fact, he ran into the face of self-sacrifice and didn’t fire a shot.  Zamudio is indicative of most gun owners – they are ready and willing to help in time of emergency while maintaining the utmost care for public safety.

At the end of the day, government cannot be everywhere to protect us against bad guys.  U.S. citizens have a natural right to self defense.  In light of the violence from Mexico’s failed drug war spilling over our borders, the loosening of laws to carry a concealed weapon in America is indispensable to our self-defense.  Additionally, as the Founding Fathers knew well, the best defense against tyrannical government is an armed citizenry.  This is a lesson all too many people around the world know well.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

Read Full Post »

Drastic Cuts in Spending are Needed Now!

The Treasury Department has revealed that sometime in late April or early May the federal government will eclipse the current national debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion.  Of course, this means that Congress must act before then to either raise that figure in order to continue spending to meet its budgetary requirements or cut spending to keep from exceeding the limit.  Needless to say, the battle lines are drawn.  Democrats are on one side appealing to the emotions of Average Americans by claiming that Republicans hate them because they intend to vote against raising the debt ceiling thereby forcing a shutdown of the federal government and consequently denying them of their federal largess which in the last few decades has become their birth right.  For their part, Republicans are proposing, a whopping $60 billion in federal cuts.  This must be a cruel joke – $60 billion out of a $1.6 trillion deficit?  The reaction of both to the current situation is indicative of the fact that we are in real trouble.

There is only one course of action our overlords in Washington can take and that is to cut federal spending by $738 billion over the next six months thereby making raising the debt ceiling a moot point.  We have no choice and here is partially how it could be done.

First of all, whoever said that government jobs should be recession-proof was a fool.  The private sector has laid off millions in the last three and half years, there is no reason why Uncle Sam shouldn’t significantly cut his workforce as well.  The average bureaucrat makes between 30-40 percent more in salary than their private sector counterparts.  They have more generous benefit packages and pay next to nothing for their retirement and health care packages. By cutting 100s of thousands of paper pushers, we can save money and free up resources for the private sector to create real jobs.

We can cut the federal payroll by eliminating several departments and agencies.  Take the Department of Education for instance.   Since its inception in 1980 Uncle Sam has appropriated over $1 trillion to the department.  What has it accomplished?  We are still dissatisfied with our education system.  Eliminate just that one bureaucracy now and we save – $37 billion over the next six months.

Then there is the Defense Department.  As a nation we spend the most on our defense.  As a matter of fact, we spend more than the next six highest countries combined.  In his most recent press conference, President Obama said tough choices have to be made in the budget debate.  But, he questioned whether we really wanted to be a nation that cuts funding for baby formula to poor families.  He should also be questioning whether we want to be a nation that spends hundreds of billions on a war machine that kills millions and ties up capital at the expense of millions of Americans needing jobs.  At around $750 billion a year, we should end the Empire, bring the troops home, and restore sanity to our defense spending.  We can no longer afford it.

There are also many programs of the federal government that should be abolished immediately to save money – for example farm subsidies and NASA.  Farm subsidies should be killed because they go mostly to large agribusinesses anyway and are immoral in these times of increasing food prices and possible worldwide food shortages.  NASA should face the axe because whatever worthwhile benefits it produces can be provided by the private sector for a lot less money.

And speaking of increasing food prices, they are with us and a major reason for getting our fiscal and monetary house in order.  Because the world’s commodities are purchased in dollars, a devaluation of our currency has caused prices to spike worldwide.  In the last year the price of wheat has skyrocketed by 114 percent and corn has soared by 88 percent.  That is what all the fuss is about in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain.  If Congress decides to monetize more debt, prices will only rise further.  At some point, unrest could spread to the U.S.

It is a sobering circumstance to say the least.  Now is not the time for class warfare or ridiculous proposals to cut spending.  What is needed is statesmanship.  Nothing less than peace and tranquility worldwide is at stake.

Article first published as Drastic Cuts in Spending are Needed Now on Blogcritics.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

Read Full Post »

U.S. and Israel Unfortunately Share Common Values

Dictionary.com defines values as “the ideals and customs of a society toward which the people of the group have an affective regard.  Values may be positive, as cleanliness, freedom, or education, or negative, as cruelty, crime, or blasphemy”.

Our leaders often tells us that the main reason the U.S. supports Israel, it often seems unconditionally, is because more than any other country in the region we share important values.   We are led to believe that these values include a respect for human rights and adoration for democracy.  Given both governments’ handling of the Egyptian crisis it does seem the U.S. and Israel have common values, but unfortunately not positive ones.

Israel’s position on whether Egyptians should enjoy the same civil rights and democratic government that Israelis enjoy was expressed last week in an urgent message Tel Aviv sent to its allies encouraging them to save Mubarak and his dictatorial regime.  In spite of Mubarak’s anti-democratic, anti-human rights measures the Netanyahu government has become his biggest fan club.  I mean we are talking about a man who has brutally squashed dissent, tortured people sometimes at the behest of our own government, and stolen elections by intimidation and fraudulent vote counting.  Just recently he sent his goons into Tahrir Square to harass and beat protesters and journalists.  By all definitions Mubarak’s 30 year reign in Cairo has been a dictatorship.  But Israel, who allegedly cherishes democracy, not only would like to see Mubarak remain in power in Egypt but is leading the foreign efforts to make it happen.

The Obama Administration’s response to the crisis has been more subtle but no less egregious.  Why we just can’t leave Egypt’s affairs for Egyptians to decide is beyond me?  But, of course the U.S. government has to get involved.  Currently it is attempting to broker a deal whereby Mubarak steps down immediately and eventual constitutional reforms, free and fair elections, and a renewed respect for civil rights would take place.  This sounds good, however the U.S. plan is unacceptable because the man chosen to take control of the government in the transitional phase is Mubarak’s handpicked vice president Omar Suleiman.  Suleiman is the former head of Egypt’s spy agency, an alleged “CIA point man” and the go to guy for Egypt’s rendition program – whereby terror suspects caught by the U.S. were taken to Egypt for extraordinary interrogation sessions.  In other words Suleiman is even more of a thug than Mubarak and could not be trusted to follow through on reforms.

At the end of the day this whole situation is the same old same old.  You can hardly fault Israel for supporting Mubarak.  He is a brutal dictator to Egyptians, but he has been a loyal friend to Israel.  He has adhered to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.  He has protected Israel politically from demands that Tel Aviv obey international law and halt new settlements in East Jerusalem.  Lastly, he has worked closely with Israel in its campaign to eradicate Hamas in Gaza.  Thus, in the name of self-preservation Israel is acting like any other self-respecting nation-state.

But what justifies the actions of the U.S. government?  Nothing.  Our government is once again looking at a major world crisis through a narrow black and white lense.  You are either for us or against us.  What’s a shame is that this could have been Obama’s big chance to actually bring promised “change” to our foreign policy.  But, once again Washington is supporting the wrong side in a pivotal crisis.  Like Tel Aviv, Washington speaks with a forked tongue.   We talk a good game about supporting democracy, but when push comes to shove we support the next brutal dictator in waiting all because he can be purchased to fall in line behind the so-called “War on Terror”.

So, yes, Israel and the U.S. share common values and unfortunately they are not good ones.  All the verbiage about respect for human rights and adoration for democracy is just rhetoric.  The bottom line is that both governments support despots at the expense of democratic movements.  Israel has an excuse.  It’s called self preservation.  The U.S. has no such excuse.  We pursue policies that support only Israel to our own peril.  And we wonder why we have a terrorism problem.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: