Nov 17 15

Back in the Day

by Calum MacKenzie

Back in the day, all weapons, armaments, and explosives were very hard to come by and protected from mass distribution by treaties which banned the proliferation of arms. To a large extent those treaties are now ignored. It would seem that gun-runners are now having a field day as the wild west is evidenced on all continents. Even the entertainment culture appears to include violence and lawlessness as a raison d’etre and includes scenes of carnage like those depicted in Paris, France mid-November.

Back in the day, all weapons carried identification information such as the manufacturer’s name, production serial numbers, and date of manufacture. The same controls applied to the ammunition used in the weapons. Special licensing and other restrictions were imposed so that the distribution of killing machines was under strict control. Nowadays such controls are so fraught with loopholes and dispensations that the so-called rights of manufacturers to produce and sell is called a freedom to be religiously upheld and cherished. The same arguement is trotted out by gun owners and their cohorts as if possession were a security blanket. So weapons and ammunition are easily available to the mentally challenged, criminals, the careless and those who harbour religious fanaticism.

Those jurisdictions, which introduce and legislate tough controls over possession, storage and/or use of weapons, receive brickbats from every quarter. The police forces, world wide, are facing an impossible task of trying to uphold laws which are easily circumvented. While one state manages to curtail and control some sales, a neighbouring state may have an open season on sales. Proliferation is so rife that the forces of law and order are fighting an uphill battle in order to stem the tide. Police often find themselves out-gunned and under siege. Who would want to be an officer of the law under such conditions?

How often have we heard that “Enough is enough.” I would go much further and aver that enough is more than enough, much more. The damage is done and it’s time for a new anti-violence regime to be heard loud and clear. If a car manufacturer produced a vehicle which killed people there would be all hell to pay; just ask GMC or VW. Let’s apply the same logic to those who manufacture arms and ammo. It is now possible to identify weapons from codes built into their firing mechanisms. Using modern technology ammunition could also be coded so that identification is safeguarded. In this way the illegal acquisition of armaments could be traced at each stage back to source and if laws are enforced, remedies would be handed down to make the perpetrators face justice.

Realising that some political goodwill would be required to bring such a regime about, the naysayers will gripe about amendment rights, freedoms, hunting, sports, and the plethora of usual excuses. It is long past time for the political class to grow some cohones if not spinal tissue and do what is not only politically right but morally defensible.
Scenes such as those from Paris will be repeated unless we show leadership and international cooperation in order to curtail the international proliferation of arms and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Jul 20 15

Sanity Once More

by Calum MacKenzie

It’s getting to be a habit, a very welcome habit to my tired eyes and ears. The announcement that the US is not only talking to Iran but has actually joined an international partnership to reach a deal which limits the proliferation of nuclear weapons, is a joy to all who value peace, tact, and diplomacy. The announcement follows on the heels of an opening dialogue with Cuba leading to a partial normalization of relations there, too. The trifecta is complete with the announcement from the Hillary Clinton campaign that all Americans should be automatically registered to vote on attaining the age of eighteen and that she will push for such registration. Other progressive actions seem to be surfacing to the benefit of the citizenry and to the relief of minorities. Although there is a long way to go, such moves are so welcome that sanity is seen to emerge.

Elected representatives quickly forget that all of the accusations levelled at Iran can and should equally be levelled at the US. They say Iran can’t be trusted but the Iranians remember how the US was instrumental in usurping Iran’s democratically elected government and installing the Shah, a terrorist puppet regime, in its place. They say Iran is a sponsor of international terrorism by supplying arms and support to some of Israel’s neighbours. Is the US conscience clear in every Central and South American nation on the same topic? The US considers it appropriate to tap into the communications of nations on every continent. The latest known victims are Brazil and Germany. Republican and Democrat spokemen alike castigate Iran for actions that the US has repeatedly modelled. The good news is that Iran has risen above the US paranoia and their people rejoice in the outcome.

When Israel acts as the aggressor, creates apartheid conditions and destroys homes and infrastructure in Gaza, they are praised in the US as freedom fighters. They receive funding and armaments from the parent source and do not discriminate in how those arms are used. On several occasions the UN security council has condemned Israel as war criminals and for crimes against humanity. Yet those resolutions do not see the light of day because the US exercises its veto. Despite three years of negotiations (culminating in the day old agreement to limit Iranian nukes) there is not a peep about putting the same screws to the Israeli stockpile. The hypocrisy continues. When will Russia, China and the US trust each other enough to really show leadership in nuclear disarmament?

The thawing of relations with Cuba has been dealt with elsewhere but the third item regarding voter registration requires an airing. The governor of Wisconsin recently announced his running for president in the 2016 election. Part of his platform was a boast that his state now requires government issued photo ID in order to vote. By so doing he has effectively cut the voter rolls for those who can’t obtain a government issued photo ID. A Student card is not good enough. Neither is utility bills, shopping cards, and any of the other myriad ways usually accepted as proof of identity. He is not alone in imposing such restrictions. It is a measure of insanity to make voter registration and ID difficult in a democracy. That is why Hillary Clinton’s announcement was so welcome. If enacted it would cut across the voter registration and ID fiasco and bring a standard requirement to all states for every election.

Jun 19 15

Are Mass Shootings Trending?

by Calum MacKenzie

To call the most recent tragedy in South Carolina a hate crime – as some media types have done – or to treat it with inward looking labels of intolerance, man’s inhumanity to man, racial bigotry, severe prejudice, class bias, etc., is to cover the ordeal with soft soap and furnish a snow job. The mass shootings that have made startling headlines not just in the USA but around the globe all seem to be aimed at those who can’t fight back; church-goers, school children, students, all unarmed and unprepared for gun violence. It follows that the perpetrators are not just mentally unstable and lacking human decency but the lowest in the ranks of cowards.

A similar class of cowards is being recruited by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Given that they are armed with American weapons granted to Iraqi forces and then abandoned, it would seem that a new wild west scene is being opened up with some delight in the Middle East. The question arises as to how the ISIL recruits are to be treated when they are eventually brought to justice. Those same recruits are labelled terrorists and guilty of public beheadings (to mention but one international crime).

As in the original wild west, law enforcement – using brave souls, the rule of law and posses – eventually brought some order to the west. Would the “eye for and eye” old testament justice suit in the Middle East? Why are those perps who resort to gun violence against the unarmed in churches and schools not labelled homeland terrorists? Are they not every bit as guilty of terrorism and crimes against humanity as their ISIL brethern? Semantics? Perhaps. The children of Sandy Hook and the congregation at the Emanuel church felt terrorised!

It is variously reported that the perps are recruited via internet sites such as KKK, Aryan brotherhood, etc. and that there are some 800 such hate groups plying their poisonous doctrine world wide via those sites. Are they not all offering a route to terrorism? Free speech mantras are one thing but such freedoms surely carry some responsibility and accountability to recognise that not all free speech is good or welcome. So much is known to law enforcement entities about those groups at federal, state and local levels that it should be a no-brainer to shut them down permanently. Just as ISIL is treated by the international community, so too should like remedies be levied against our homegrown terrorists.

The ranks of cowardice also extend to the legislative branches of government. To make armaments available to the mentally unstable and registered felons sans background checks and to offer the nonsensical audacity that the availability is a right is to invite chickens to come home to roost.

In the 1950s and 60s, the UK was forced to face up to racial profiling and prejudice. The national conversations that followed brought stringent laws to bear on all cases of discrimination in the workplace and in rentals and sales of properties: People of colour were offered the same rights in public as their local born citizens. Perhaps a similar round of conversations is long past due in the home of the brave.

Apr 8 15

Despite Netanyahu’s pre-emptive strike

by Calum MacKenzie

It was with some surprise and a smidgen of disbelief that I listened to the local news and learned that not only was a nuclear deal with Iran in the offing, but the military was not involved. There were no boots on the ground, no aerial bombardment, no collateral damage, no killing of innocents, and no damage to schools, hospitals, churches, and civilian infrastructure. No f****** semper fi! Those tactics that the US and NATO had used mercilessly and with impunity since world war two were mysteriously absent. Hoo-bloody-ray!

So many pundits were against any sort of deal with Iran that such an event entered the realm of impossible. Those pundits showed their brass necks by noting at some length that Iran was not to be trusted. A short course in recent Iranian history would have taught them that any animosity on Iran’s part would have shown that Iran had multiple reasons for mistrust of US and NATO and their clients. Have the Israelis always treated Iran fairly? Did Iraq have US backing for its military adventures in Iran? Did the US shoot down an Iranian civilian aircraft over Iranian waters? Did agents of the US usurp the democratically elected government of Iran and install the Shah as their puppet?

US and NATO spokesmen have a terrible habit of rewriting history boasting that they are the good guys. War crimes do not apply to them and international criminal courts are only recognised when it’s to their advantage. Even the present incumbent in the White House regards the US as the shining city on the hill and its systems and players as exceptional. The naive might ask, ‘exceptional in what way?’ Surely not exceptionally violent, exceptionally aggressive, exceptionally greedy, exceptionally hypocritical, and the list of negative character traits goes on? How about exceptionally paranoid on a daily diet of media inspired fear?

It’s the Iranians who have reason to be paranoid. They had been caught between a theocratic rock and the hard threat of nuclear annihilation. Their choices were hell or hell!

Has the US and NATO actually listened to the oceans of criticism arising from their decades of misadventures and decided to seek a better solution for foreign policies? There are 47 so-called republican traitors who adamantly adhere to the previous bullying tactics and would disrupt the administration’s attempts at joining the human race and the side of good hearted folks world wide. Freedom of speech is good. Freedom of speech with accuracy and responsibility is better. Hopefully those brain addled clowns will always be in a distinct minority whether they are charged as traitors or not.

While today’s news is uplifting, it is not yet cast in stone having a 3 month respite to dot the I’s and cross the T’s. It does however, auger extremely well for the future of diplomacy. The reasoned talk, debate, tact and courtesy, as shown to a world wide audience, has exemplified that there is hope yet for the future of the human race. Mr. Netanyahu’s pre-emptive strike in his dubiously illegal, certainly discourteous, speech to the US Congress, may have earned him a few votes on the extreme right of Israeli politics but it earned him little, if any, brownie points with the larger audience. Just imagine the furore if Mr. Obama had been invited to address the Knessett behind Netanyahu’s back!

Dare we imagine that as Iran foregoes being a holder of nuclear weaponry, that all other nations will follow their lead? Will Israel and the US, to mention but two such candidates, also follow UN resolutions on nuclear proliferation? If the world is safer when Iran toes the line, doesn’t it follow that further safety is ensured when all nations do the right thing?

But why stop with nukes? The UN has resolutions on its books relating to the proliferation of all arms. Where is the leadership to take up those challenges? Surely there is a strong desire in China, Russia, and the US to make all nations safer? If those nations led the way, the other nations such as Israel, France, Britain, Italy and Germany would be obliged to follow suite. What a gift that would be to the peacemakers; to see the supply of arms dry up. Police forces would begin to sleep soundly once more and smiles would come back into fashion.

Today’s news was huge. It was not only welcome in our household, it removed a large cloud of cynicism from my shoulders and restored a large unit of trust in my fellow humans. Thank you.

Jan 16 15

Je Suis Charlie: The CyberWar is now MainStream

by Joseph Carrabis

The Washington Post recently published Anonymous hacks terror website in retaliation for Charlie Hebdo attack.

It’s a fascinating read on so many levels.

The cyberattack wasn’t on a nuclear station, a power grid, a military base, an operations center, an intelligence command depot.

The cyberattack was on an idea, a belief, a way of doing things.

I remember an IRA member talking about an extremist attack on the London subway system. He said, “Those people are f?cking nuts. They’re not doing this right. We’re getting out of the terrorist business.”

And when was the last time you heard about an IRA attack? They may still be happening, we’re just not hearing about them.

And I’m not condoning the cyberattack, only recognizing it as a new level of warfare and a new type of warfare, a Censorship warfare. Or maybe not censorship as in “I won’t let you get your message out”, more like “I don’t care what you say, just don’t act on what you say…at least not in a way that’s going to hurt people.”

I don’t know where to place this, really.

Thoughts, everyone?