Hooked on Violence

Those who are interested in the safety and well-being of children should keep in mind that only motor vehicle accidents and cancer kill more children in the U.S. than firearms. A study released a few years ago by the Harvard School of Public Health compared firearm mortality rates among youngsters 5 to 14 years old in the five states with the highest rates of gun ownership with those in the five states with the lowest rates.

The results were chilling. Children in the states with the highest rates of gun ownership were 16 times as likely to die from an accidental gunshot wound, nearly seven times as likely to commit suicide with a gun, and more than three times as likely to be murdered with a firearm.

Only a lunatic could seriously believe that more guns in more homes is good for America’s children.

Bob Herbert | The New York Times

Bowing Down to Our Own Violence

When a mentally unstable person goes on a shooting rampage in the United States, no one questions that such actions are intrinsically, fundamentally and absolutely wrong. The media condemnation is 100 percent.

However — even after four years of a U.S. war in Iraq that has been increasingly deplored by the American public — the standard violence directed from the Pentagon does not undergo much critical scrutiny from American journalists. The president’s war policies may come under withering media fire, but the daily activities of the U.S. armed forces are subjected to scant moral condemnation. Yet, under orders from the top, they routinely continue to inflict — or serve as a catalyst for — violence far more extensive than the shooting sprees that turned a placid Virginia campus into a slaughterhouse.

News outlets in the United States combine the totally proper condemnation of killing at home with a notably different affect toward the methodical killing abroad that is funded by the U.S. Treasury. We often read, see and hear explicit media commendations that praise as heroic the Americans in uniform who are trying to kill, and to avoid being killed, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In recent decades, the trends of war have been clear. A majority of the dead — estimated at 75 to 90 percent — are civilians. They are no less innocent than the more than 30 people who suddenly died from gunshots at Virginia Tech.

Norman Solomon | CommonDreams

A Volatile Young Man, Humiliation and a Gun

But a close look at the patterns of murderous violence in the U.S. reveals some remarkable consistencies, wherever the individual atrocities may have occurred. In case after case, decade after decade, the killers have been shown to be young men riddled with shame and humiliation, often bitterly misogynistic and homophobic, who have decided that the way to assert their faltering sense of manhood and get the respect they have been denied is to go out and shoot somebody.

Dr. James Gilligan, who has spent many years studying violence as a prison psychiatrist in Massachusetts, and as a professor at Harvard and now at N.Y.U., believes that some debilitating combination of misogyny and homophobia is a “central component” in much, if not most, of the worst forms of violence in this country.

Bob Herbert | The New York Times 

What I Think About Guns

Guns have no other purpose than killing someone or something. All the other murder weapons Americans use, from automobiles to blunt objects, exist for another purpose and sometimes are used to kill.

But guns are manufactured and bought to kill. They invite their owners to think about killing, to practice killing, and, eventually, to kill, if not other people, then animals.

They are objects of temptation, and every so often, someone comes along who cannot resist the temptation — someone who would not have murdered, or murdered so many, if he did not have a gun, if he were reduced to a knife or a bludgeon or his own strength.

I wish that the right wing would admit that, while people kill people and even an “automatic” weapon needs a shooter, people with guns kill more people than people without guns do.

Jane Smiley | HuffingtonPost 

The Fantasy Behind the Scandal

Last week, we learned that the administration edited a government-ordered report on voter fraud to support its fantasy. The original version concluded that among experts “there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud.” But the publicly released version said, “There is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud.” It’s hard to see that as anything but a deliberate effort to mislead the public.

Sound familiar? In President Bush’s first term, a White House official, who had been the oil industry’s front man in trying to discredit the science of global warming, repeatedly edited government reports to play down links between climate change and greenhouse gases. And then there was the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which turned reports on old, dubious and false tales about weapons of mass destruction into warnings of clear, present and supposedly mortal dangers.

It’s obvious why the Bush administration would edit those documents, but why the voting report? Because charges of voter fraud are a key component of the Republican electoral strategy. If the public believes there are rampant efforts to vote fraudulently, or to register voters improperly, it increases support for measures like special voter ID’s, which work against the poor, the elderly, minorities and other disenfranchised groups that tend to support Democrats. Claims of rampant voter fraud also give the administration an excuse to cut back prosecutions of the real problem: officials who block voters’ access to the polls.

The New York Times | Editorial 

Say it loud: I’m elite and proud!

So there you have it: It turns out that the Justice Department is entirely staffed with Jesus freaks from a televangelist diploma mill in Virginia Beach. Most of them young women with very little knowledge of the law, but a very strong sense of doing what they’re told. Like the Manson family, but with cleaner hair. In 200 years we’ve gone from “We the people” to “Up with people.” From the best and brightest to dumb and dumber.

Bill Maher | Salon