Tag Archives: gun violence

Best Quotes of the Week – February 19, 2022

“So now his accountants have fired him and investigations draw closer to him and right on cue, the noise machine gets turned up.  Fox leads the charge with accusations against me, counting on their audience to fall for it again.  And as an aside, they’re getting awfully close to actual malice.”

Hillary Clinton, in a speech during the New York State Democratic Party convention

Clinton was apparently making a connection between the legal troubles of former President Donald Trump and the FOX News network’s repeatedly negative coverage of her.

“These nine families have shared a single goal from the very beginning: to do whatever they could to help prevent the next Sandy Hook.”

Josh Koskoff, the attorney representing 9 families who sued gun maker Remington over the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting massacre

Adam Lanza had used a Remington firearm to kill 20 children and 6 educators at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012.  Koskoff also noted, “It is hard to imagine an outcome that better accomplishes that goal.”  The families went up against the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which made it nearly impossible for gun makers to be held responsible for the use of their products in criminal acts.

Remington Arms will pay the 9 families $73 million to settle the lawsuit.  It is the first time a U.S. gun manufacturer has been held liable in a mass shooting and a legal outcome that could open the door to future lawsuits against gun makers.

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Book Less

“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [‘hard-core pornography’], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964

You know the old puzzle: if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around, does it make a sound?  Using that logic, if a book is published, and no one finds its content offensive, is it obscene?

Obscenity seems to be subjective.  Right-wing extremists certainly feel that way, as they have (once again) assumed the role of moral overseer and decided they have the authority to determine what books are and are not appropriate for others to read.  To we writers and other artists, the term censorship is like holy water to a devil worshiper: it’s terrifying!  Whenever we learn that some people are challenging the presence of certain materials in a public venue, such as a library, we bristle.  But, instead of running and hiding, we’ve been known to stand and fight.

In the latest battle, the school board in McMinn County, Tennessee decided to ban the 1986 Art Spiegelman book “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” from its library.  The illustrated tome is Spiegelman’s recounting of his parents’ experiences as prisoners of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp.  It won Spiegelman a Pulitzer Prize and, in 1992, the Museum of Modern Art mounted an exhibition displaying his original panels for the story“Maus” had been party of the school district’s lessons on the Nazi Holocaust.  The McMinn school board’s complaints about “Maus” are the usual gripes: language and nudity (animal nudity in this case).

It’s worth noting McMinn County, Tennessee is near the location of the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial, where the concept of evolution became intensely controversial.  In 1925 the state of Tennessee passed the Butler Act, a bill banning the teaching of evolution in its schools.  Evolution, declared legislators, contradicted the Christian Bible as the single standard of truth in public arenas, such as schools.  The move astonished – and frightened – many across the country.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) responded immediately by vowing to support any educator in the U.S. who dared to teach evolution.  A popular young high school teacher in – of all places, Tennessee – named John Scopes offered to be the defendant, if the state decided to make good on its promise.  They did.  On May 7, 1925, Tennessee authorities arrested Scopes and charged him with violating the Butler Act.

The ensuing legal battle made headlines across the country and the world.  The judge in the case showed his deference to the state by opening each session with a prayer and refusing to let Scopes’ defense call any scientific witnesses.  Ultimately Scopes was found guilty and fined $100.  The ACLU hoped the case would make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the Tennessee State Supreme Court reversed the decision on a technicality.  Still, the repercussions were widespread.  The Butler Act was never enforced in Tennessee again, and similar measures in other parts of the U.S. met with failure.  But progressives realized they could never relax in the face of extremist ideology.

So, here we are in the third decade of the 21st century, where the U.S. has come out of two brutal Middle East wars and is now facing an onslaught of urban violence.  We experienced 36 mass shootings in the month of January, resulting in 101 injuries and 42 deaths.  That’s just in the month of January 2022 alone!

But, as usual, social and religious conservatives are more upset with books.  In October of 2021, Texas State Representative Matt Krause asked the Texas Education Agency for information about 850 books in school libraries.  He wanted to know how many copies of these books were in each library.  It didn’t surprise observers that the majority of the books are by women, non-Whites and/or LGBT authors.  The imperial Krause is concerned that taxpayers are funding the presence of these books in school libraries.  Yet, my tax dollars are wasted if those books are removed because he and other like-minded folks find them unacceptable.

Some disputes have become hostile.  Police in Leander, Texas got involved in a controversy over one book, “Lawn Boy” in 2021.  Author Jonathan Evison says he received death threats because of it.  Texas – where any restrictions on guns is considered anathema – isn’t the only state under siege by moral zealots.  Similar attempts at censorship and assaults on free speech have played out in Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

“If I had a statement, it would be ‘Read the book or sit down,’” says Evison. “I feel like these people are frightened because they’re losing the culture wars.”

Yeah!  Sit down and read – more than the Bible or the TV guide.

I will concede parents have the right to be concerned by what their children view and read.  But I feel banning books from a school library is just one step away from banning books in any library or elsewhere.  It’s truly not an unrealistic stretch to envision such a scenario.  The world has witnessed such activities in totalitarian societies, and the results are often sanguineous.

Once again, though, what is obscene?

The 1920s was a decade of both progress and excess, particularly for the growing film industry.  Although silent and in black-and-white, movies had begun to show a variety of mature content – mainly heavy alcohol consumption and sexual behavior.  Concern over the material became so intense that, in 1934, Will H. Hays – then head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) – introduced his personally developed “Hays Code”, a standard production guide for what is and what is not acceptable content for motion pictures.  The code remained until 1968, when the MPAA introduced its film rating system: G (General Audiences), PG (Parental Guidance recommended), R (Restricted) and X (mainly for sex, but also for violence).

By the 1960s, films were presenting increasingly controversial subject matter – and headaches for the MPAA.  The 1966 film “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” shocked audiences with its blatant use of foul language and served as one catalyst for the rating system.  The 1968 film “Vixen” became the first movie branded with an X rating.  The following year John Schlesinger released “Midnight Cowboy” with Jon Voight in the titular role.  It, too, was branded with an X rating.  Despite that, it went on to win the 1969 Academy Award for Best Picture – the first and (to date) the only X-rated film to win such an honor.  Viewing both “Vixen” and “Midnight Cowboy” now might make somebody wonder what the fuss was all about.

The film rating system took an odd turn in 1983 when a remake of the classic film “Scarface” came out.  The MPAA initially granted the movie an X rating because of its excessive violence.  Director Brian DePalma reluctantly trimmed some of the footage, and the film was rebranded with an R.  If it had gone out with the X label, “Scarface” would have been the first movie released as such because of violence.

Another X controversy arose six years later with “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover”.  The film’s gratuitous sexual content garnered an X rating from the MPAA.  As with DePalma and “Scarface”, director Peter Greenaway reluctantly agreed to edit out a small portion of the sexual matter – small as in some 5 minutes – and the film was upgraded to R.  The fiasco upset many in the entertainment community – not just in the U.S. but across the globe.  If the difference between an R and an X rating is a paltry 5 minutes, then how valid is a film rating system?

What is obscene?

In the 1950s, the Hays Code was applied to a growing new medium: television.  In motion pictures, the code, for example, dictated that people of the opposite sex could not be filmed in bed together, unless one of the duo (usually the man) had at least one foot on the floor.  In TV, however, even married couples couldn’t be shown in the same bed.  The rule went into effect after a 1947 episode of “Mary Kay and Johnny” showed the title characters hopping into the same bed.  But that taboo dissolved completely in 1969 with “The Brady Bunch”.  Bathrooms also were generally off-limits in television.  One exceptional first was a 1957 episode of “Leave It to Beaver”, when the boys tried to hide a pet alligator in the tank of a toilet.  An early episode of “All in the Family” produced another first: the sound of a toilet being flushed.

As mundane as all of these events are today, they each sparked a ruckus at the time.

Personally, I find excessive violence offensive.  I never laughed when I saw men and boys get struck in the groin in slap-stick comedy scenes in films and on television.  I grimace at bloody acts in similar venues, while others react as if nothing more than a sharp wind blew past them.  Conversely, many of these same individuals are horrified by the sight of blatant nudity, especially if the nudeness is that of a male.  It’s difficult to imagine now, but even as recently as the late 1960s words like pregnant and diarrhea were forbidden on television.

The word “bitch” is used frequently on TV today.  But, in 1983, a musical group called Laid Back released a song entitled “White Horse”, which features the line: ‘If you wanna be rich, you got to be a bitch.’  MTV played the video, but bleeped out the term “bitch”.  In 1994, Tom Petty released “You Don’t Know How It Feels”, which contains the line: ‘But let me get to the point, let’s roll another joint.’  Music video networks deemed the ‘roll another joint’ verbiage unacceptable and bleeped it out whenever they played the video.

In 1989, rap group 2 Live Crew released two versions of their song “Me So Horny”: what they dubbed the G-rated version and the R-rated version.  Radio stations played the G-rated version frequently, but the R-rated version generated the most strife.  At the start of 1990 a federal judge in the state of Florida considered the group and their music obscene and in violation of community standards – whatever that’s supposed to mean – and forbid local radio stations from playing any of their music.  Consequently, 2 Live Crew’s reputation and music sales skyrocketed.

I remember the controversy that erupted with the video to Madonna’s 1990 song “Justify My Love”.  Once again, music video networks assumed the role of moral protectorate and either refused to play the video or played it late at night, when children and other fragile souls – such as moral crusaders – were asleep.  Undeterred by the skirmish, Madonna packaged the video and sold it independently.

In 1965, The Rolling Stones made their debut appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show”, during which they performed a sanitized version of “Let’s Spend the Night Together”.  Producers convinced the group to sing ‘Let’s spend some time together’ instead.  Lead singer Mick Jagger leered at the camera – in the way only Mick Jagger can – when he spat out the words.

Two years later The Doors were presented with a similar option when they made their appearance on the show and performed their already popular and now seminal hit “Light My Fire”.  Sullivan’s son-in-law, Robert Precht, suggested they alter the line ‘Girl, we couldn’t get much higher’ to ‘Girl, we couldn’t get much better.  The group refused and performed the song as it was.  Their act of defiance resulted in their permanent ban from the show – a move I know upset them to no end.

I’ve noticed social conservatives haven’t raised concerns about inappropriate material in books like “The Anarchist Cookbook” and “The Turner Diaries”.  The latter served as a blueprint for Oklahoma City bomber (domestic terrorist) Timothy McVeigh.  If conservatives really want to ban books with sexual references and violence, they should start with the Christian Bible, which is rife with salacious and unsavory behavior.

Meanwhile, “Maus” has experienced a surge in sales as a result of the squabble surrounding it.  If there’s one way to ensure something’s popularity or success, it’s to try to ban it.  In other words, censorship always backfires.

Yet, censorship will always remain a threat to freedom of speech, expression and the press.  The war will never be won – by either side.  But those of us on the side of true freedom can win individual battles by standing up to self-righteous demagogues.

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Worst Quotes of the Week – April 10, 2021

“When a group of sad, disenfranchised people who have been left out of the modern economy show up at your office, you don’t have to listen to their complaints.  Not for a second. Why would you?”

Tucker Carlson, in a mocking rant about the January 6 Capitol Hill riots

April 6 marked exactly three months since the event.  Carlson added: “For those of you are not good at dates or don’t have calendars, this is the day that we pause to remember the White supremacist QAnon insurrection, that came so very close to toppling our government and ending this democracy forever.”

“We have a major under-incarceration problem in America.  And it’s only getting worse.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, presenting his solution to rising crime in the U.S.

The U.S. has approximately 2.3 million people incarcerated, or roughly 698 people per every 100,000; the highest rate in the developed world.

“They simply let me use it as a security retreat because they knew the threat that I was under. And I was basically under presidential threat without presidential security in terms of the number of threats I was getting.”

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice-president of the National Rifle Association, describing how he often sought refuge on a friend’s yacht after notable mass shootings

LaPierre made the revelation in a deposition during the NRA’s bankruptcy hearing.

“When I see people walking outside, often alone with no one anywhere near them, wearing a mask, my primary reactions are disappointment and sadness.  I am disappointed because I expected better from my fellow Americans. I never thought most Americans would be governed by irrational fears and unquestioning obedience to authority. I have come to realize that I had a somewhat romanticized view of my countrymen.”

Dennis Prager, expressing frustration that so many people continue to wear masks

He also declared: “If you wear a mask, you do so in the belief that you are protecting yourself (and others) from COVID-19. So, then, why do you care if I don’t wear a mask?”

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Best Quotes of the Week – April 10, 2021

“Enough prayers.  Time for some action.”

President Joe Biden, announcing new gun control measures

Calling gun violence in the U.S. an “international embarrassment”, Biden has directed the Justice Department to draft model legislation that would make it easier for states to pass gun control laws, meant to bar people from accessing firearms if they pose a threat to themselves or others.

“I heard the governor of South Dakota recently saying, ‘This isn’t infrastructure – it’s got money for pipes.’  Well, we believe that pipes are infrastructure, because you need water to live, and too many families now live with the threat of lead poisoning.”

Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation, regarding efforts by the Biden Administration to start rebuilding all features of the nation’s infrastructure

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Worst Quotes of the Week – April 3, 2021

“I own an AR-15. If there’s a natural disaster in South Carolina where the cops can’t protect my neighborhood, my house will be the last one that the gang will come to because I can defend myself.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, during a discussion with FOX News’ Chris Wallace about last week’s mass shooting at a supermarket in Colorado

“But the last vestige of the pro-American meritocracy still standing was the U.S. military. From the progressive perspective, the military was too masculine, had way too many Republicans, and a dangerous knack of turning minorities into patriotic, self-reliant conservatives. This could not stand.  Michelle Obama’s decision to make military spouses her top initiative as First Lady was the first clue that they had their sights set on the U.S. Armed Forces.”

Rachel Campos-Duffy, on FOX News Primetime, April 1

Campos-Duffy was a member of MTV’s “Real World – San Francisco” cast in 1994 where her conservative views often put her at odds with her housemates.  I actually recall seeing her on that show.

“It’s time to teach corporate America that if they attack Georgia or any state like it for doing what they did to secure their right to vote, these corporations are going to face the wrath of GOP officials as well as the tens of millions of American consumers who support them. That means lobbyists and CEOs, they need to be told in no uncertain terms if you try to help the left rig elections, we’re going to punish you.”

Laura Ingraham, reacting to protests by corporations over Georgia’s new voting restrictions

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Tweet of the Week – March 27, 2021


Sen. Mike Rounds

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Best Quotes of the Week – March 27, 2021

Protestors in Atlanta earlier this week

“If racism and acts of violence are prevalent, we need to bring that to the forefront and not sweep it under the rug.”

Margaret Ann Kercher, a lawyer in Austin, Texas, on recent attacks on Asian-Americans

“We live here. We pay taxes. We work here. This is our life.  This is a country of immigrants, all of the immigrants, so there is nothing we can do better than love each other, than work together.”

Xiaoxu Zheng, a 36-year-old medical researcher at Georgia State University, commenting on the rise in anti-Asian violence over the past year

Zheng who has been in the U.S. for 10 years and lives in suburban Atlanta with his wife and two children, said the protest was his first political event.

“They had lived through an unprecedented planetary pandemic, but they could not survive this: they could not outlive America’s gun epidemic. That proved more fatal than the virus.”

John Pavlovitz, in an essay on the recent gun violence in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado

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Video of the Week – January 30, 2021

Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Green stalked and verbally assailed David Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, earlier this week.  The alphamore congresswoman from Georgia ran and apparently won on her far-right extremist views, including that recent school shootings were hoaxes designed to restrict gun.  Like most right-wing idiots, Taylor-Green puts guns above the value of human lives.  For his part, young Mr. Hogg showed true character by ignoring the screeching banshee following him.

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Video of the Week – August 22, 2020

In one of the most powerful moments during this week’s Democratic National Convention, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot and almost killed during a mass shooting in 2011, describing her long road to recovery and likening her challenge to what’s ahead for the country while endorsing Joe Biden.

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How a REAL President Responds to a Tragedy

This is the official response President Barack Obama issue to the dual tragedies in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

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