Category: Security

Colorado Ballot Initiative Puts Rights of People Over Corporate Rights

corporate_logo_flag_new-500x333Think businesses have too many rights over citizens? Then attend a free informational session Tuesday, April 29 in Grand Junction about the groundbreaking Ballot Initiative #75, the “Right to Local Self-Government,” also known as the “Colorado Community Rights Amendment.” Initiative #75 would amend Colorado’s constitution to make the rights of people superior to corporate rights. It is now moving to the petitioning stage, and if it passes, will give local communities “the power to enact local laws establishing, defining, altering, or eliminating the rights, powers, and duties of corporations and other business entities operating or seeking to operate in the community.” Initiative #75 would bar the state from forcing unwanted for-profit corporate projects onto unwilling communities. It would let communities have the final say in whether they want to allow pursuits like hazardous waste dumps, factory farms, fracking, GMO crops, etc., near houses, schools, playgrounds, etc. Communities would be able to make these decisions freely, without the threat of lawsuits by the state or by corporations or their lobbying groups..

What: Informational session on Ballot Initiative #75
When: Tuesday, April 29 at 6:00 p.m.
Where: Mesa County Public Library, Central branch (5th St. and Grand Ave.)
Who: By the ballot initiative’s main listed proponent, Cliff Willmeng, a registered nurse from Lafayette, CO.

To the GOP: If Gun Control Doesn’t Work, Try This Instead

Op-Ed

Camden County, New Jersey gun buyback program brought in 1,137 firearms. Photo credit Tim Hawk, South Jersey Times

Camden County, New Jersey gun buyback program brought in 1,137 firearms. Photo credit Tim Hawk, South Jersey Times

Laws to regulate guns just don’t work. At least that’s what many prominent Republicans say.  In the mean time, the U.S. is awash in guns, judging from the piles of them turned in at buyback programs across the country. While it is unclear whether these programs actually reduce gun deaths, they do prove one thing: Americans have more guns than they know what to do with. Add to this emerging technology that, when gun nuts perfect it, will allow people to manufacture guns using 3-D printers, and we may be so deep in trouble we’ll never dig out. This distribution method will make it completely impossible for government to regulate who gets a gun and who doesn’t. Gun owners and pro-gun legislators repeatedly tout the portion of the Second Amendment that talks about their right to bear arms, but universally ignore the part indicating gun owners are expected to be part of a “well-regulated militia.” All these factors point to one conclusion: the time may  have already passed when we could realistically regulate guns to any desired effect.

So now what?

America’s Biggest Terrorist Threat? “Patriotic” Americans

Chart showing the growth of militant "patriot," anti-government groups in the U.S.

Chart showing the growth of militant “patriot” anti-government groups in the U.S.

Forget Muslims. In 2013, America’s biggest terrorist threat is from “Patriot” groups, those radical militias and anti-government groups whose members think the federal government is conspiring to take away their guns, destroy their liberties and pave the way for a global “one-world government.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the only group that tracks the growth and activities of American domestic hate groups and extremists, the re-election of President Obama coupled with the president’s pursuit of gun control legislation has led to explosive growth in the number of anti-government conspiracy groups, which in turn has dramatically increased threat of domestic terrorism. The number of right wing anti-government groups in the U.S. reached an all-time high in 2012, the fourth year of explosive growth in this increasingly militant sector of the U.S population. In 2012, the SPLC counted 1,360 so-called “Patriot” groups — an increase of 813 percent since just 2008. On March 5, 2013 the SPLC sent a letter to Department of Justice Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano warning of the threat. The SPLC wrote a similar letter in 1994 to then-Attorney General Janet Reno warning of a growing threat of domestic extremism.  Just six months later, Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City federal building in the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in the nation’s history at that time. SPLC reports that over the last few years, law enforcement officials have discovered and thwarted numerous terrorist plots being formed within the militia subculture, including plans to spread poisonous ricin powder, attack federal installations and murder federal judges and other government officials. The same day it sent its letter to the DOJ and Department of Homeland Security, the SPLC issued its 2012 report on the anti-government movement. The SPLC’s website also has an interactive, state-by-state map of hate groups currently existing throughout the U.S., with their names, locations and the objects of their hatred.

Main Source: Southern Poverty Law Center, Letter to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, March 5, 2013

They Said It Couldn’t Be Done: NY State Passes Comprehensive Gun Safety Bill

Sandy Hook victims

Sandy Hook victims

With lightening speed for a state legislature, New York became the first state to pass a comprehensive gun safety bill since the massacre December 14, 2012 at Newtown, Connecticut. New York’s gun control bill, passed and signed today, is the toughest in the nation. It expands the definition of “assault weapon” to include semiautomatic weapons to include those with just one feature commonly associated with military weapons, like a bayonet mount, flash suppressor or pistol grip. Previously the definition required two features. New York’s bill also revokes or suspends gun licenses held by people whom mental health experts determine to be a danger to society. The new law limits magazines to just seven rounds of ammunition instead of ten, and provides for enhanced monitoring of ammunition purchases to flag high-volume buyers. Gun licenses must be re-certified every five years. (They used to never expire.)  The law increases penalties for illegal gun possession and for using a gun against emergency responders. “Common sense can win,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as he signed the bill, less than an hour the New York State Assembly passed it by a vote of 104 to 43 . “You can overpower extremists with intelligence and with reason and common sense,” Cuomo said. The National Rifle Association called the law “draconian,” and said it was passed “under a veil of secrecy in the dark of night.” The bill passed on the second day of New York state’s 2013 legislative session.

Main source: Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2012

NRA Puts President Obama’s Kids in the Political Crosshairs

The National Rifle Association (NRA) posted a 35 second Internet ad called “Stand and Fight” that takes aim at President Obama’s children over the issue of gun safety regulations. The ad accuses President Obama of being an “elitist hypocrite” for accepting armed secret service protection for his children, Sasha, age 11, and Malia, age 14, while other children attend school without armed guards. The voiceover in the ad asks “Are the president’s kids more important that yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when HIS kids are protected by armed guards at THEIR school? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security. Protection for their kids and gun-free zones for ours.” There were reports on MSNBC that the NRA pulled the ad almost as quickly as they posted it, but as of this evening the ad was still visible at the NRA’s new website, NRAStandandFight.com.

NRA Uses Classic Corporate PR Dodge

Wayne LaPierre, Executive VP of the National Rifle Association

Wayne LaPierre, Executive VP of the National Rifle Association

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre gave an instructive lesson in PR techniques during his talk last Friday about NRA recommendations to prevent further machine-gun massacres of innocent people. LaPierre completely dodged the central safety issues on everyones’ mind — the rise of public massacres and massive numbers of gun deaths in the U.S., — and instead switched the subject to video games, a lack of armed guards in schools and other topics well-removed from the central issues at hand. In so doing, La Pierre applied the classic PR playbook techniques of changing the focus and broadening the issue. It goes like this: If you can’t wage a successful battle on the issue you currently face, then change the issue to one you think you can win more easily.

PR techniques like this were first used to great effect by tobacco industry, which provided a model for other industries to follow. Back in the 1990s, when the EPA labeled secondhand smoke a Group A Known Human Carcinogen that kills 3,000 people a year, the cigarette industry reacted by redirecting public concern at great cost onto entirely new, previously-unknown issue called “sick building syndrome,” that focused on poor building ventilation and the supposed off-gassing of new carpet, drywall and other building materials. Thus it was no longer secondhand smoke that was making people sick in their homes and workplaces, it was bad construction materials and poor air circulation. Proposals to ban smoking in restaurants and bars were portrayed as threats against private property rights. Cigarette taxes became issues of fairness and effective tax policy, cigarette marketing became an issue of freedom of commercial speech, cigarette-related fires become an issue of fire safety programs, and so on.

Obama Takes on America’s Gun Violence Epidemic

In keeping with his track record of tackling tough political issues during his time in office, President Obama today took steps today to address what he and many others are recognizing as an epidemic of gun violence in the United States. The mass slaughter of innocent people, including 20 six and seven year old children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last Friday has spurred President Obama to make addressing gun violence a top priority for his second term in office. In lightening-quick time by Washington, D.C. standards, the President established an interagency task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden that is is charged with immediately developing a comprehensive strategy to reduce gun violence and address mental health care issues in the U.S.  Mr. Obama also said he supports efforts in Congress to revive the lapsed ban on military-style assault weapons and enact restrictions on high-volume ammunition clips, noting a majority of Americans support these policies.  In giving his talk, President Obama listed off all the gun deaths that have happened across the U.S. just since the Sandy Hook incident on Friday, noting that 10,000 Americans each year die from gun violence. He sought the help of the American people, including responsible gun owners, to help him change things in the U.S. for the better, challenging lawmakers to summon a fraction of the courage that the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary summoned last Friday as they tried to protect their students.

Gun Backlash Gathers Steam

Protesters mass in Washington, D.C. to demand action against  gun slaughter (Credit:Fox News, D.C.)

Protesters mass in Washington, D.C. to demand action against gun slaughter (Credit:Fox News, D.C.)

The National Rifle Association has gone dark, shutting down its Facebook page, going silent on Twitter and staying silent on it’s blog as it hunkers down in face of anti-gun protesters marching on its Washington, D.C. headquarters in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.  WalMart, one of the world’s largest sellers of both guns and kids’ toys, announced it is pulling Bushmaster rifles off its shelves nationwide. And another large gun seller, Dick’s Sporting Goods, tastefully removed all guns from view at its store closest to Newtown, Connecticut, where the mass killing took place last Friday, and announced it will stop selling “modern sporting rifles” at stores nationwide. The California state treasurer is considering purging the state’s pension investment funds of stock in companies that manufacture guns, and Cerberus Capital Management, a big investment firm, divested itself of holdings in Freedom Group, which makes  Bushmaster rifles like the one the shooter used at Sandy Hook. The California State Teachers’ Retirement Fund is also looking to divest itself of funds invested in Freedom Group. Meanwhile, online petitions demanding legislators move quickly to better regulate guns and gun purchases are gathering signatures at phenomenal rates. One petition we’ve been following on SignOn.org — the biggest one so far — continues to gather hundreds of signatures every hour and is currently up to almost 380,000 signors. Another petition on the White House’s “We the People” petition website that sprang up demanding the Obama administration take immediate action to limit access to guns has gathered 184,202 signatures. It needed just 25,000 signatures to get serious consideration by the Obama administration.

Petition Demanding Common Sense Federal Gun Safety Laws Gathers Quick Support

A Bushmaster .233 semiautomatic rifle, the kind that was used to slaughter 20 children in Newton, CT. The National Rifle Association has campaigned to keep the gun legal.

A Bushmaster .233 semiautomatic rifle, the kind that was used to slaughter 20 children in Newtown, CT. The National Rifle Association has campaigned to keep the gun legal.

In almost the blink of an eye, an online petition demanding sensible federal-level gun safety laws has gathered more than 230,000 signatures, and is continuing to gather signatures at a rate of almost 2,000 per hour. The response to the petition was so overwhelming that shortly after starting it, the woman who began the petition changed the goal for the number of signers to 250,000. The petition’s impetus was the December 14 bloodbath at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in which a 20 year-old gunman entered the school and slaughtered 20 six and seven year old pupils and six adult employees who tried to save the children. The petition seeks closure of gun show loopholes that allow people to buy guns without background checks, an end to the online sale of ammunition, mandatory waiting periods for gun purchases during which thorough background checks are conducted, and mandatory psychological and medical evaluations prior to making gun purchases. The petition also requests that character references be provided and evaluated out prior to gun purchases. More accountability should be placed in the hands of retailers, the petition says. When patrons refuse wait periods, authorities should be notified. Gun handling training and testing should be mandatory, as should a renewal process that includes many of the above-mentioned evaluation terms. “Our second amendment rights are long overdue a reevaluation. How many more senseless and entirely PREVENTABLE shootings have to occur before we do something about Gun Control,” asks Staci Sarkin, the petition’s creator.  The petition will be send to the House of Representatives. “As a citizen and constituent of this great country, I am asking that you take a firm stand and make a positive change by restricting access to guns and saving lives,” Sarkin’s petition states. Sign the petition here.

CO Gov. Hickenlooper Says the Time is Right to Talk About Gun Violence in U.S.

John-Hickenlooper

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper courageously said the time is right to talk about guns and gun violence in the U.S. and what can be done about it.

Op-Ed

Last Thursday, ironically just one day before the latest tragic school massacre in Connecticut, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper became a lone voice of political sanity on gun issues in the U.S. when he said it’s finally time to have an open discussion about guns and gun control in Colorado. Hickenlooper said he wanted to wait until a few months had passed after the Aurora Theater massacre to raise the issue, and no sooner did he mention it than yet another horrific mass shooting took place in an elementary school in Connecticut, killing 20 very young children and seven adults. Today, on the day of that tragic massacre, President Obama backed up Hickenlooper. Obama, reacting at a White House briefing as many of us do to such shootings, with great sadness, uttered a statement that it is finally time for action to be taken to reduce gun violence in the U.S.:

 

“As a country we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. We’re going to have to come together to meaningful action on this, regardless of the politics,” Obama said.

Republicans Block Bill to Help Unemployed Veterans

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan

Republicans have long had the reputation of being the party most supportive of the military and of veterans in particular, but no more. On September 19 Senate Republicans, in their continued effort to oppose any idea introduced by President Obama, used a technicality to kill a bill that would have helped American veterans’ dire unemployment situation. The Veterans Job Corps Act, introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington), would have trained and placed veterans in jobs on federal public lands like national parks, wildlife refuges, veterans’ cemeteries and forests. The bill would have cost  about $1 billion over five years — the equivalent of less than four days of the war in Afghanistan.  The Act would have been funded through the collection of delinquent taxes from Medicare suppliers and providers, and from individuals who have over $50,000 in unpaid taxes.  Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida), a co-sponsor of the bill with Sen. Murray, said Republicans’ opposition to the bill stemmed from the party’s refusal to support the Veterans Job Corps Act because the idea for it came from President Obama, who proposed the Act during his State of the Union address in January, 2012. Republicans killed the bill in a 58-40 procedural vote to waive a budget rule which would have allowed the bill to go to a vote of the full Senate. Sixty votes were required. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which supported the bill and appealed to Senators to pass the measure, expressed outrage that “This Congress let partisan bickering stand in the way of putting thousands of America’s heroes back to work.” Among those voting “no” was Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), himself a veteran, albeit one who has a job. A full list of senators’ votes on the bill can be found here.

Main source:  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, September 19, 2012

Gun Laws Determined by Those Who Participate in Democracy

Guest post by Ken Gordon, former Majority Leader of the Colorado Senate

Former Colorado Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon

It would take you less than an hour to drive from Columbine High School to the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora. Both venues are in the suburbs of Denver and subject to the laws created by the Colorado Legislature.

Few politicians have mentioned laws when talking about the shooting in Aurora. The following story will help explain this reluctance.

I was the Minority Leader in the Colorado House when the Columbine shooting occurred.

Most of the guns used at Columbine were bought at the Tanner Gun Show in Adams County. Robyn Anderson, a friend of the Columbine shooters, Harris and Klebold, went with them to the show, and helped them buy the guns. She testified in a House hearing that they purposefully bought guns at tables that were not federally licensed dealers, because they did not want to give their names and addresses for a background check.

Following Columbine, I sponsored the legislation to require background checks for any purchase at a gun show. We referred to it as “closing the gun show loophole.”

Family of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. Files $21 Million Civil Rights Lawsuit Against White Plains Police

Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.’s family (Screen capture from Democracy Now! video)

The family of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. has filed a $21 million civil rights lawsuit against the City White Plains, New York and the White Plains Police Department. Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., 68, was shot dead inside his own home in the early morning on November 19, 2011 by White Plains police after he accidentally set off his life aid medical alert pendant while sleeping. Police arrived at his apartment, but responded as though a crime was in progress instead of as if responding to potential medical emergency. The police knocked in Chamberlain’s door and demanded he open it. Chamberlain told the police he was okay, and didn’t need their help, but the police continued to pound on Chamberlain’s door, yelling racial slurs and demanding Chamberlain open the door.  Afraid, Chamberlain refused. Police then broke down Chamberlain’s door, shot him with a taser, then fired beanbags at him. Finally, White Plains Police Officer Anthony Carelli shot Chamberlain dead. Police claimed Chamberlain tried to attack them with a knife. Video from a camera on the taser gun surfaced in May, showing police breaking down Chamberlain’s door and shooting him with the taser. Chamberlain is seen standing inside his apartment, shirtless and wearing boxer shorts. The family filed the lawsuit just under two months after a Westchester County grand jury refused to indict Police Officer Anthony Carelli for the shooting.

Source: Democracy Now! July 2, 2012

Progress in Fuel-Free, Pollution-Free Flight

The spectre of fuel- and pollution-free air travel drew closer this month as the first airplane powered completely by solar energy completed its first intercontinental flight. The Solar Impulse left Madrid, Spain in the early morning hours of Tuesday, June 5 and flew across the Strait of Gibraltar to Rabat, Morocco, where it made a spectacular landing 19 hours later. The plane has the wingspan of a jumbo jet, but weighs only as much as a medium-size car. In 2010, the Solar Impulse earned a place in history after it became the first airplane to fly for more than 24 hours straight using only solar energy. The aircraft stayed aloft for 26 hours, 10 minutes and 19 seconds, and also set a record for altitude, having flown at an elevation of 30,298 feet. Technology now allows the solar-powered plane to fly both day and night. The landing in Morocco’s capitol of Rabat was also symbolic for another reason: that country’s progress toward development of viable amounts of renewable, non-polluting energy. This year Morocco will award a contract to build a power facility that will generate 160 megawatts of solar power — the first step in an ambitious and progressive national plan to generate 38 percent of the country’s electricity from solar power by 2020. The goal of the Solar Impulse Project is to prove that progress is possible using clean forms of energy, and that it is possible to eventually free societies from dependence on fossil fuels. You can follow the Solar Impulse’s progress at the project’s website,  SolarImpulse.com.

Source: Ottowa Citizen, June 6, 2012

TSA Complaints Reveal Travelers’ Humiliation and Torment

It took four years, but the Transportation Security Administration finally fulfilled a 2008 Freedom-of-Information-Act (FOIA) request by the investigative journalism group ProPublica for documents detailing complaints against the agency. The information ProPublica received revealed some extraordinarily intrusive searches that caused the subjects substantial humiliation, pain, and in some cases physical injury. In one case, a female traveler complained that a TSA screener asked her to remove her prosthetic breast so they could swab her for explosives. Another traveler accompanying her wheelchair-bound mother reported that TSA screeners made her mother get out of the wheelchair and walk during security screening. As a result, the woman fell and was injured. Another traveler reported packing a full bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey in his luggage, only to arrive to find the bottle almost empty. Other travelers complained that after TSA searches they were were missing money, jewelry and laptop computers. When ProPublica asked TSA why it took four years for them to send the documents, they received an apology and were told the agency gets 800 requests a year for similar information. TSA also blamed the volume of records they had to review to fulfill the request, even though their total response turned out to be only 87 pages long.

Source: ProPublica, May 4, 2012