Friday, February 22, 2013
Thursday, February 21, 2013
MOSCOW -- Russian warships are returning to the waters near Syria in a new demonstration of the Kremlin's interest in the outcome of the crisis there.
The Russian Defense Ministry told the RIA-Novosti news agency on Tuesday that four large landing vessels were on their way to the Mediterranean near Syria, three weeks after the Russian navy conducted its biggest maneuvers in the region since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
"Based on the results of the Navy exercises in the Black and Mediterranean seas from Jan. 19 through Jan. 29 ... the Ministry leadership has taken a decision to continue combat duty by Russian warships in the Mediterranean," the ministry said in its statement. “In the future the number of warships in the group and types of vessels acting in the said region will be defined in accordance with the given situation."
Russia has been a close ally of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad and has strategic and economic interests in the country.
Russia's only naval base in the Mediterranean region is in Syria, in the port of Tartus. Naturally, this means Russia sells an awful lot of materiel to Assad. Partly in retaliation for US interference in the Ossetia uprising, Russia negotiated an expansion of that base in exchange for debt forgiveness to the tune of $10 billion or so, as well as arms sales.
Not a bad deal, if you ask me. Add to that the fact that Syria is one of the nations Russia is routing a natural gas pipeline through to reach the Middle East, and you have a pretty firm relationship, one Putin will be eager to protect and possibly exploit.
If you've been wondering why Obama has been very reluctant to step on Assad's toes in this civil unrest, here's why.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
“Any person in this state who shall own a firearm shall, prior to such ownership, obtain and continuously maintain a policy of liability insurance in an amount not less than one million dollars specifically covering any damages resulting from any negligent or willful acts involving the use of such firearm while it is owned by such person,” the measure, dubbed S2353, reads.
Any person who has not purchased insurance in compliance with the law within 30 days of its passing would be in violation of the law.
Such an occurrence “shall result in the immediate revocation of such owner’s registration, license and any other privilege to own such firearm.”
“The legislation proposed in the Assembly today is a shot at all legal, responsible gun owners and sportsmen,” said Barclay. “Requiring this outrageous insurance policy is yet another way to try and limit sportsmen and deter people from owning any firearms. This legislation runs counter to the Second Amendment right of all our residents.”
“The fact of the matter is that the majority of gun owners are not involved in any crime. This bill again fails to address the real issue behind gun violence, which is the prevalence of illegal guns in this state,” he continued. “There is a long and storied tradition of sportsmen and gun ownership in our state that is being ignored in favor of political expediency. I strongly oppose this legislation and will continue to work to protect the rights of all responsible, legal gun owners.”
This is possibly the best argument against forcing liability insurance on gun owners.
And it's an EPIC FAIL. For one thing, the vast majority of homeowners don't have their houses collapse into a puddle but they carry homeowners' insurance. The vast majority of drivers don't have accidents each year, but they carry automobile insurance.
And those are things that have utility. A gun's primary focus is to kill. It's a hazard and like any hazard, ought to have some protections available to those it wrongly harms.
Look, I SCUBA dive. This means, I pay higher premiums on my life insurance policy for engaging in a risky activity, despite the fact that mortality rates for divers in general, and divers specifically engaged in the sport, are far lower than for bowlers (who do not pay a surcharge, believe it or not.)
And that doesn't include the small but not insignificant number of deaths caused by driving after a few beers at the bowling alley.
It's part of the price I pay to indulge myself.
Owning a gun is an option. We aren't in a state of war, and we do not have to kill our food. The last studies done...and they are grossly out of date because Republicans banned the CDC from performing anything more recent -- even if Obama has now freed them to do so -- show that a gun in the home is 43 times more likely to be used against a family member or friend in anger than to repel an intruder. A gun is ten times more likely to be used against a woman in an act of domestic violence than by a woman, either in an act of domestic violence or against an intruder, inclusive. And if I recall correctly, 22% of all domestic violence gun deaths are children.
Too, because of Republican efforts, gun manufacturers are exempt from civil liability statutes. This is outrageous. If a tobacco company puts out a product that, used correctly, kills you, then they are liable for putting that product out there, particularly if they do not take the proper steps to ensure you understand the risks involved from the get-go.
Which is what that tobacco settlement a few decades ago was all about: the blatant cynicism of the cigarette industry to push a product that kills.
Does anyone see a difference between that and guns? Because I sure don't.
If you own a gun, you'll be expected to take responsibility for it. Period. No more leaving the safe half-unlocked, no more letting it lie around with bullets in the clip or magazine. You bought it. You own it. Learn how to use it and keep it safe. I imagine insurance companies will fall all over themselves to find ways to offer discounts, like those five hour driver safety courses that get you ten percent off your car insurance.
This will not be expensive, but it will protect responsible gun owners who take great care of their weapons at the expense of the knuckleheads who do not. Because, frankly, those are the people we need to target.
It will take time and arm-twisting for the Federal law exempting gun manufacturers from liability to be overturned. In the meantime, imagine how much more thought George Zimmerman would have put in if he had a premium spike on his mind as he stalked and then murdered Trayvon Martin.
This is a great idea and I endorse the effort, and urge my legislators to pass it quickly. The time has come.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
TUCSON — It's routine for immigration officials in Arizona to detain people suspected of being in the country illegally.
Monday, however, the detention of two men — an immigrant rights activist and a father of six in Tucson [Rene Meza] — sparked protests, frustrated local authorities and illustrated the difficulties of complying with SB 1070, the state's controversial immigration enforcement law.
"This is unjust," Alma Hernandez yelled in Spanish to a crowd of about 300 that gathered in front of the Tucson Police Department to protest the detentions. Hernandez, a spokeswoman with the civil rights organization Corazón de Tucson, riled up the crowd by introducing immigrant rights activist Raul Alcaraz Ochoa, who had just been released from immigration detention.
"We need to fight for all those who are detained," Alcaraz Ochoa said.
Now, the father of six, to be fair, was in the country illegally, and was narced on by area residents who noticed that there were five children in his car, and none buckled in.
Think about that the next time someone busts you for talking on your cellphone, and you whine about privacy and stuff.
Ochoa rolled up on the scene after INS agents showed up to re-deport the father, abondoning the children to the care of his girlfriend. When he ascertained there was little he could do to get the father released and back to Mexico without arrest, he slipped under one of the vehicles where he was pepper-sprayed and forcibly removed.
You'll note: the girlfriend, Perla Lopez, was not arrested. She is a United States citizen.
Let that roll around in your head for a moment: a boyfriend visiting a girlfriend in the US is arrested and deported...for a traffic violation.
If the story told by Lopez's mother is accurate, the children were not restrained because the car had just been purchased privately and the car seats had not yet been installed.
We can get into the legalities of immigration law here, and whether SB1070 is even fair, but I want to focus in on a couple of larger points:
1) Had Meza been white, would this stop even have occured? Remember, it wasn't the cops seeing him, they received tips from "concerned citizens." Would the citizens have offered the benefit of the doubt to the driver or would they have become all "George Zimmerman" with him, too?
2) If a minor traffic offense can create such an uproar, where are the gun nuts with their "They is coming to violate my Constitutional rights!" yammerings on this?