Saturday, December 29, 2012

283 and counting

There was one in Harrisonburg a few days ago. And as of today, at least 283 across the United States of America since the Newtown massacre on December 14, 2012. That averages nearly 19 per day. We're talking about gun deaths. Afghanistan is safer.

Slate has partnered with @GunDeaths to, as much as possible given the haphazard national records, keep track of the toll of firearms on Americans. The murder of Ben Graessle was not on Slate's Gun-death tally, highlighting just how difficult it is to obtain up-to-date accurate information about this national tragedy.

Congress, are you awake and paying attention? President Obama, how about you? I won't even bother to ask about the folks convening in Richmond in a few weeks.

Friday, December 21, 2012

NRA floats a "good" idea

The NRA today called for "Congress today to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation."

Having an armed resource officer - a highly trained sheriff's deputy or police officer - in every school isn't such a bad idea. Malls have rent-a-cops. Government and private offices generally have security. Besides a resource officer in a school provides other benefits of community policing right in our schools. However, arming teachers or other school personnel, as some gun fanatics argue, is a horrible idea with far more potential for terrible consequences than saving a life.

The NRA didn't address how to pay the salaries and other costs for the security in schools. I suggest collecting a tax equal to 100% of the cost of the gun, to be collected at the point of sale, to be sent to an office within the Department of Homeland Security. These tax dollars will be directly distributed to local law enforcement agencies responsible for providing security in local public schools.

Of course, the NRA once again refuses to admit that guns are part of the problem and only can say that more guns are the solution. In this they totally miss the target.

So, in addition to beefing up security in our schools, how about these common sense steps:
  • Banning the sale, importation, and possession of all semi-automatic and automatic weapons
  • Banning the sale, importation, and possession of assault style weapons
  • Banning clips and magazines that hold more than 10 bullets
  • Banning armor piercing ammunition
  • Providing federal grant money for localities to buy back and destroy all of the above dangerous weapons
  • Requiring a background check on all sales of guns including private and gun show transactions
  • Implementing stiff penalties with required prison time for anyone who violates these sensible gun laws
  • Improving our mental health services in all communities
  • Putting heavy moral pressure on all areas of the entertainment industry to be more responsible citizens in depicting guns and violence.
I never expected the NRA to fully address the problem of gun violence in our society and I certainly never expected them to look within for answers. But, Wayne LaPierre's press conference amply demonstrated just how far they are into the world of self-deception. Groups like Mayors Against Illegal Guns offer a far more balanced and sane approach that has a chance of actually reducing gun violence in the United States of America.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bob McDonnell: "a coward and a wuss"

Tonight on Hardball, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell and current pundit said that, while he likes Governor Bob McDonnell, the commonwealth's chief executive is being a "coward and a wuss" on the issue of common sense gun control.

McDonnell has suggested that he has no problem with assault weapons with huge magazines in civilian hands. He also suggested that teachers with training and concealed weapons permits should carry guns on school grounds. He stopped short of proposing legisation, as the complete idiot Bob Marshall (who somehow keeps getting elected from Prince William County - are voters there completely brain dead?) that schools should be required to have staff toting weapons.

Okay, first I gotta admit that McDonnell hasn't been quite as bad as my worst fears. But, on the issue of guns it seems that most Virginia Republicans have their collective heads up the NRA's arse. When that group farts, Republicans get diarrea and spew the most vile stuff. Especially the real crazies like Bob Marshall.

Rendell is right: Governor McDonnell is a "coward and wuss" because he suspends common sense about public safety when it comes to standing up to bullies. Bob Marshall is, by contrast, stupid and dangerous. Prince William County, and the commonwealth, deserve better.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Great music, greater cause
24 great songs and an even greater cause.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Roger Waters
Bon Jovi
Eric Clapton
The Rolling Stones
Alicia Keys
The Who
Chris Martin
Billy Joel
Paul McCartney

Buy the music. Donate to Sandy Relief.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Blowin' in the wind: common sense gun laws

You can feel change, hopefully meaningful change, to enact common sense gun legislation finally has a chance to succeed in our gridlocked national capitol. This morning at 6:00 AM Joe Scarborough of MSNBC's Morning Joe, a deeply conservative (but not crazy) Republican, condemned the "toxic brew of a violent popular culture, a mental health crisis, and a mix of combat style weapons." Joe said "Friday changed everthing...." His passionate lecture to America:

Virginia Senator Mark Warner joined West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin in stepping back from their earlier support of (and from) the NRA. Warner said, "I’ve been a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights. I’ve got an A rating from the NRA. But the status quo isn’t acceptable." Opinion leaders like presidents, pundits, and senators have big microphones, but it is up to we the people to keep the wind in sails of positive change when it comes to laws on guns, mental health, and societal violence. I'll be writing Senator Warner to thank him for his change of heart and to offer my support as the lobbyists from the NRA and Gun Owners of America spew their lies and venom in what will be futile attempts of confuse the issue and Americans.

I've signed the petition and made a donation to Demand a Plan to End Gun Violence, an initiative of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Co-founded in 2006 by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, the coalition has grown to more than 725 mayors, including Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, from major cities and small towns around the country. It has more than half a million (and growing) grassroots supporters and is the largest gun violence prevention advocacy organization in the country. Mayor Bloomberg, who is one of the more thoughtful people in the country on this issue, discounts the political power of the NRA and calls on Congress and the President to "stand up and do what is right for the American public."


"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality." It is time for common sense Americans to get off the sidelines and demand real action for real change.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Report: Coal Has Negative Impact on VA Budget

A recent report, The Impact of Coal on the Virginia State Budget released by Downstream Strategies, takes an in-depth look the costs and benefits of the coal industry in the Commonwealth. While coal plays a fairly small role in the overall Virginia economy, it does contribute revenues and provide jobs in the southwestern part of the state, primarily in Wise and Buchanan counties. Coal production in the state peaked in 1990 when it represented about 4.5% of the total U.S. output. Since then Virginia's contribution has declined to 2.2% of national output mostly because of a reduction in underground mining. Destructive mountaintop removal coal mining, which is cheaper and requires fewer employees, has increased 23% since 1990 but has declined some in recent years.

So, what is the impact of the coal industry on Virginia's budget? Downstream Strategies' report concludes:
Overall, when taking all revenues and expenditures into account, we estimate that the total net impact of the coal industry on the Virginia state budget in Fiscal Year 2009 amounted to a net cost to the Commonwealth of $21.9 million.
Of course, this net cost to the Commonwealth's budget does not factor in the lasting impact and damage to the environment and our health caused by mountaintop removal coal mining and of the degradation of air and water quality caused by burning coal to generate electricity.

During this session of the General Assembly lawmakers should eliminate tax and other budgetary provisions that make a shrinking coal industry a drain on state finances and concurrently legislators must move Virginia ahead in renewable wind and solar energy. My hopes are not high - typically in Richmond more effort is spent looking backwards rather than forwards - a view promoted by lobbyists of King Coal and Dominion Resources.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Grassroots Momentum Growing to Keep the Ban
In spite of the lack of transparency (and objectivity?) of Governor Bob McDonnell's Uranium Working Group, there seems to be some momentum building to Keep the Ban on uranium mining in the Commonwealth. This fall several influential lobbying groups - the Virginia Municipal League, the Virginia Association of Counties, and the Virginia Farm Bureau - all stated their opposition to uranium mining in Virginia.

The mayors of both Virginia Beach and Norfolk expressed their strong opposition to uranium mining because of threat to drinking water sources for over a million residents. As they noted in their editorial in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
While we have confidence in Virginia’s regulatory agencies, we understand the difficulties associated with implementing new processes in an area less than hospitable for uranium mining. This is not an appropriate project for our regulatory partners to learn "on the job." There simply is too much at stake and too much to risk. No amount of regulation can prevent the unexpected.
 And just this week, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling broke GOP ranks by announcing his opposition to uranium mining in the state. Among the reasons he cited in his official statement are the potential for adverse and chilling economic and environmental impacts as well as the strong opposition of officials in Pittsylvania County and the region.

But, there is big money on the side of the proponents of and the battle will be joined during this session of the General Assembly. Many legislators say they are undecided but "our representatives" are being lavished by the industry with huge campaign contributions and perks provided by their lobbyists. The corrupting and anti-democracy influence of money is estimated by the Southern Environmental Law Center to have reached nearly $750,000 already!

Keep the Ban - what YOU can do!
UPDATE 12/20/12 - Senator Mark Herring (Loudoun & Fairfax) announced his opposition to uranium mining in Virginia saying, "I will oppose legislation during the upcoming 2013 General Assembly session that would lift the ban. Additionally, I plan to introduce budget language that would prohibit any state funding from being used to promulgate regulations designed to circumvent the ban."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Open letter to Goodlatte, Warner, Kaine

December 14, 2012

Dear Congressman Goodlatte, Senator Warner, and Senator-elect Kaine:

How many more tragedies have to touch American families before Washington gets serious about gun violence? As we have seen, guns and crazy assholes transcend state lines. It is a national cancer that must be treated with national, bipartisan action. Now!

Your flock is watching,
Belle Rose

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bland white guy with glasses...

Colbert would have
roasted Bobblehead Bob
Over the years I'd hoped that Representative Bob Goodlatte would join Stephen Colbert for his Better Know a District segment. It would have been fun to hear the congressman describe Virginia's sprawling 6th District and see our area emblazoned in gold on the big board map of the U.S. The fightin' 6th - or not. I imagine we all knew that Bobblehead Bob's staff would never in a million years permit such a stunningly unequal match of personality and wit to grace our TV screens.

It isn't quite the same as an interview, but there was a little justice (pun intended) as Bobblehead Bob and 18 of his clones, a.k.a. the House Committee Chairmen, came under the intense scrutiny of Jon Stewart on last night's The Daily Show:

As Stewart points out, House Republicans chose their chairs based on its badly worn out but time-honored tradition of seniority. “So it’s seniority. "Let me get this straight. The party that hates the teachers union gives chairmanships based on tenure?” Stewart asked.