Hip…Hip…Hooray! It’s Gun Appreciation Day!

Mobi-Snaps: The Hills of Petchabun

Off the tourist radar - the unspoilt hills of Petchabun
Off the tourist radar – the unspoilt hills of Petchabun
ccc
Picturesque Petchabun
ddd
The ‘hills are alive…’
eee
‘The Long and winding road…’

ggg
Communist encampments – still preserved in the Petchabun hills.

Mobi-Babble

It’s been a funny old week, one way or another.

Down here in Pattaya, the ‘cold season’ seems to have largely passed us by this year, and we are still getting afternoon temperatures in the high 30’s centigrade.

Sometimes – but not every day – the early mornings it is a tad chilly, occasionally with a cool breeze blowing, and today, right now, as I am writing this at 8.30 a.m, it is still cool enough to sit at my desk without a fan. But by midday it will have heated up and the afternoons are normally as hot as they are at other times of the year.

Most years I never go near my pool during December/January as the water is too cool, but this year it is still warm enough for the intrepid Mobi to dip his gnarled, ancient feet.

It hasn’t rained since early December, yet the lake is still overflowing with water, such was the volume of rain collected during the almost non–existent, dry season of October and November.

When I first moved to Mabprachan Lake, back in 2004, the water level in the lake was so low, that there were many places where you could actually walk across on the dry mud flats. Now, it looks like a  Swiss mountain lake, in full summer flood.

Climate change … or what?

*

Things appear to be on the up and up on the health front. I have more or less thrown off my latest chest infection and have started walking again, and I have even succeeded in getting rid of my chronic diarrhoea, which has been plaguing me off and on for several months.

In desperation I decided to start eating natural yoghurt – which is a well-known method of putting natural bugs back in your stomach that excessive antibiotics have removed – and nobody was more surprised that me when it actually started to work. Within 24 hours, I noticed a difference, and now, several days later, I really seem to have it licked. Fingers crossed.

I saw my cardiologist last Wednesday and my blood pressure and blood test results are looking good, so he doesn’t need to see me again for 6 weeks.

*

I have booked and paid for my tickets for me and Lek to fly to England to visit my family in late July and we will be over there for 3 weeks. We will then return with my youngest daughter and her husband for a 2 week holiday. So that’s a nice 5 week period to look forward to.

*

On the creative front, I have been ploughing along with the final edit of my novel, ‘A Lust for life’, but I confess that it is taking a fair bit longer to complete than I had originally expected. The plain fact of the matter is that much of the text is simply not up to par and I’m having to do a fair amount of re-writing. Right now, I am about half way through, and at the present rate of progress, I doubt it will be finished much before the end of February, which is a really pain as I thought that I had more or less reached the end of this massive project.

However, a quick glance at the later chapters has led me to hope that maybe the extent of the re-writing will not be so onerous towards the end of the book, as I seem to have made a better fist of it. Here’s hoping.

A few days ago I recovered a box of old files from my house in Pong, and was delighted to discover that amongst its contents, were 10 floppy disks which contained the text of all my earlier creative efforts, that were completed before I moved back to Thailand in 2002. This includes the text of my short stories that were published in 2002, as well as another, unpublished novel, a novelette which is a crime story, and a children’s story. Although I had most of this material printed out on hard copy, I thought that the original data had long since been destroyed in some drunken stupor.

My good friend Rick lent me a floppy disk/USB adapter, and I have now backed up all the text onto hard disk. More about this later, but my intention is to publish most if not all of this work on my blog over the coming months.

*

I am also plugging away at copying over my ‘Mobi-Babbles’ since July 2009, and my ‘Mobi-Bytes’ (articles on current events etc), which I started in April 2010. This is a bigger job than I had originally thought, so please bear with me. I will get there soon.

*

Yesterday, Noo and her son had to rush back to her home in Nong Khai as her father is dying. The poor man has been terminally sick for quite a while and I am surprised that he has lasted this long, as the last time I saw him I suspected that  he only had weeks to live. Anyway, she wanted to see him before he died, so off she went, and right now, I have no idea how long she will be away.

These things can drag along for days – even weeks- so I’ll just have to be patient. The problem is that I really don’t do ‘being alone’ very well. I’ve made huge progress in my mental state since I first met Noo back in 2010, but I am the first to admit that I still get some pretty bad moods – bordering on depression – when Noo is with me and taking care of me, so I am a little concerned about how I’ll manage if she is away more than a few days – which I fear she will be. Only time will tell how I get on.

*

The good news is that I’ve got my piano back after a three and a half year absence. It was gathering dust at my house in Pong and yesterday, after numerous requests, my wife finally got her brother to load it onto his pick up and drop it round. I say ‘drop it round’, but it actually weighs a bloody ton. It is a 90 year old, upright Yamaha, imported from Japan, and I originally bought it from a dealer in Bangkok, back in 2002.

It took four ‘stout men and true’ to manoeuvre it off the truck, and now, at long last, it has pride of place in my lounge. Amazingly, it doesn’t sound too bad and it’s not too far off being in tune – difficult to believe, after all those years of being in a very hot, humid house. I’ll have to track down a piano tuner, but in the meantime I can get back to my amateurish tinkling of the ivories. That might keep me amused, while my family is away….

 

The fan is older than the piano...
The fan is older than the piano…

 

 Mobi-Bytes

Hip…Hip…Hooray! It’s Gun Appreciation Day!

Yes, folks, you couldn’t make it up, could you?

Firearms owners and their advocacy groups headed to gun shops, shooting ranges other places Saturday as part of “Gun Appreciation Day.”

Organizers are encouraging gun-rights supporters to “send a message” to President Obama two days before his second inauguration by “lining up around the block” at gun shops, ranges and shows with a copy of the Constitution, U.S. flags and a “Hands off my Guns” signs.

“We’re just supporting the second amendment,” said John Kenney, who went to Clark Brothers Guns, in Warrington, Va., where the parking lot was full for much of the day.

Kenny said he visited the shop-shooting range in part to try to reverse recent efforts to make gun ownership “look ugly,” instead showing Americans owning a firearm is “a fabulous thing.”

In 2011, 32,000 Americans died as a result of gun violence.

The per capita rate, at over 10 homicides per 100,000 people, is about 20 times higher than in other advanced nations. In the UK, the per capita death rate is 0.25 homicides per 100,000 of population.

In the USA, there are roughly 300 million firearms owned by civilians in the United States .Of these, about 100 million are handguns. About 45% of all households (50 million) have guns, and over 80 million individual adults own some kind of a gun.

In 2010, there were 800,000 registered gun owners in the UK.

The people in Britain seem to be living in a totally different universe to their American cousins. Sure, the difficulty of obtaining guns, together the fact that the general public do not own guns, has led violent criminals to use other weapons to commit crimes, and in 2011 there were 29,500 knife crimes. Britain is a very long way from being a crime-free country, but in 2011, there were only 232 deaths from knife crimes and a mere 61 deaths from guns.

Don’t forget the USA statistic of 32,000 deaths is for gun deaths alone – and don’t kid yourselves that they don’t also kill and maim each other with knives and other weapons – because they do.

So what’s to be done about it?

If the NRA gun lobby were to have their way – absolutely nothing – save put armed gunmen in every school and possibly let each teacher have an assault rifle under their desk. There are around 100,000 public schools in the USA, so having an armed guard and arming every teacher at every public school would provide a very nice little earner to the hard done by gun makers.

It would seem that the main impediment to doing anything about the appalling number of gun deaths in the ‘greatest nation on Earth’ is the Second Amendment to the American constitution, which ostensibly guarantees the right for every citizen to bear arms – or does it?

Here is the exact wording of the amendment, which was enacted in 1791.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

It’s a very short and somewhat cryptic justification for the existence of 300 million weapons and a death rate of over 30,000 souls per year, wouldn’t you say?

So let’s examine the history and the actual thinking that lay behind the drafting by the founding fathers of this constitutional amendment.

Firstly, let’s see what is exactly meant by a militia. According to the American dictionary, Merriam Webster, militia is defined as:

a : a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency

b : a body of citizens organized for military service

So it would seem to most sensible thinking people that the amendment is actually referring to a need at the time to ensure that the people should have the right to bear arms, so that they could form part of a militia, whenever required.

This theory is further enforced when we look at the way militias were established and constituted during the period when the amendment was enacted. The Militia Act of 1792 provided, in part:

…That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, … every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock….

And further we learn that:

…..Militia persons were normally expected to provide their own weapons, equipment, or supplies, although they may later be compensated for losses or expenditures….

If we study the discussions and debates that went on between the founding fathers and state representatives, prior to passing the second amendment, we find that almost the entire discussion centred on the need and the legality for states and/or federal authorities to have the power to call up a militia. There is not a single reference to the people being allowed to bear arms to defend themselves or their property, but purely so that they can become part of a militia as and when required.

In fact there was even a proposal – subsequently rejected – that poor people, who could not afford to buy arms, should be provided with them out of the public purse so that they could become functioning members of a militia.

Until relatively recently, there has been little meaningful activity in the courts with regard to interpretation on the meaning of the second amendment. One such, is the supreme court’s overturning of a statute in Illinois and Chicago which banned the wearing of concealed weapons – though this is still subject to further appeals.

Interestingly, it was only in 1939, in United States v. Miller that the high court addressed the Second Amendment, and even then, only in rudimentary form. The case concerned the ‘right’ to own a ‘sawed-off shotgun’ and the court ruled that there was no evidence that such a weapon…

 “at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia… The test is not whether the person in possession of the arm was a member of a formal militia unit, but whether the arm “at this time” is “ordinary military equipment” or its use “could” potentially assist in the common defence.”

Again, note the court’s reference to the need to own arms for the purposes of belonging to a militia.

Yet the gun lobby would have you believe that the ‘militia’ is the ‘people’ and all ‘people’ are ‘the militia’ and that the second amendment gives everyone the right to own anything from a luger to a bazooka to blast each other to pieces on the flimsiest of excuses.

Never mind the fact that long gone are the days when private citizens are called up into militias and asked to provide their own firearms – which was clearly the express intent of the second amendment.

Even if there is any doubt about the real meaning of this badly worded piece of law, you would think that most right minded individuals, (i.e. all those who aren’t getting rich on the back of gun sales), would conclude that the amendment is about 200 years past its ‘sell by date’ and either needs to be amended or repealed in its entirety.

‘What! Take away our unalienable right to kill each other at the rate of over 30,000 per year? Never! How can you…a pontificating… limey, dare to suggest such a treasonous course of action!’

Many of you know that I am not a lover of President Obama, but on this subject he has got it bang on. Here’s a summary of what he proposed a few days ago:

  • Reintroduce an expired ban on new purchases of “military-style” assault weapons, such as those used in several recent mass shootings
  • Limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and pass a ban on possession and sale of armour-piercing bullets
  • Introduce background checks on all gun sales; currently private purchases and some transactions at gun shows are exempt
  • Introduce harsher penalties for gun-traffickers, especially unlicensed dealers who buy arms for criminals
  • Approve the appointment of the head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

He also announced the signing 23 unilateral orders, including an end to a ban on gun-violence research by a prominent federal agency, and a measure promoting responsible gun ownership.

Not exactly ground breaking stuff is it? It’s not exactly the ‘beginning of the end’ for America’s love affair with guns.

Yet the truth is that the chances of getting the above relatively modest measures through Congress are extremely slim. It is quite possible that not only will most Republicans vote against it, but also a substantial number of Democrats will also vote against some or all of the proposed measures. Why? Because the gun lobby is so powerful that they will use their massive wealth and influence to threaten anyone who votes against them that they will not get re-elected to Congress.

The system is so corrupt, that even that bastard, Harry Reid, the Democratic leader of the Senate, voted against the last attempt to pass gun control legislation for fear of losing his seat in Nevada. I wonder what will happen this time around and how he’ll explain it to his mate in the White House.

It’s such a dirty business that upwards of 30,000 lives a year are being lost; which makes the loss of American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan pale into significance by comparison.

I’m also not a fan of Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, but I have to say that despite his general toeing of the Republican line on the subject of unfettered gun ownership for all, from cradle to grave, he was surprisingly supportive of Obama’s gun control proposals. For a gun-toting conservative, I’d give him an 8 out of 10 for his pronouncement on the President’s proposals.. The only area where he had some disagreement with Obama concerned the proposal to ban assault weapons.

O’Reilly wasn’t against it per se, but he insisted that this matter should be a decision for each state and not for Washington to enforce nationwide. His logic on this was quite perverse; especially when he went on to say that he thought that illegal gun ownership should be a federal crime and not a state crime. This is a great idea and is to be commended, yet where, in all that is logical can you make gun crimes a federal offence but allow individual states to have their own gun laws? Come on O’Reilly, you can do better than this, although I do applaud your generally supportive attitude.

But whether or not Obama’s new measures are passed into law, it is still a million miles away from bringing the USA and its gun-obsessed electorate into the 21st century and in sync with the rest of the civilised world. Maybe it’s time to start fostering a more enlightened attitude on a new generation of Americans who don’t have their brains stuck in Deadwood and America’s 19th Century Wild West.

A post script, and hopefully my final comments on this matter comes yet again from O’Reilly – who else?

He was reacting to the news that the film ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D’ had overtaken ‘The Hobbit’ as the number one box office hit throughout America.

‘At least most horror films have a degree of humour, but I ask you: what is America coming to when millions flock to see a film which is full of gratuitous, sadistic violence, and has absolutely zilch in the way of literary merit?’

His words, not mine.

Finally, back to ‘Gun Appreciation Day’.

An event spokesman said last weekend:

“It’s in our Constitution to come out here to shoot a weapon,”

 

In 2011, 32,000 Americans died as a result of gun violence…..

 

 Click here for this week’s  Mobi-Pics