Enough is Enough. It’s time to seriously discuss guns

These days, it seems to be the norm in the United States that every week there is another mass shooting. Whether it’s at a concert in Las Vegas, a nightclub or a most horrific of all, schools. I for one am sickened by the violence that has consumed American society and the lack of interest by our lawmakers to take action. How many people, especially children have to die before those in Washington, including the President, start to take gun violence seriously?

Now I am by no means anti 2nd Amendment because there are a lot of good and law-abiding citizens who responsibly and legally own guns. They use them to hunt or for recreation at the shooting range and in some cases, they use them to defend their homes from intruders. The problem in itself is not guns, it is that it is too easy to get them. In states such as Texas, one only has to go to a gun show, put the cash down on the table and have a gun and we’re not talking about handguns and rifles, we’re talking about military-grade weaponry that was created to kill large numbers of people in a very short amount of time, case, and point, the AR-15 which has been used in numerous shootings as of late including the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The most disgusting issue with gun violence is that the NRA refuses to admit that there is a problem and consistently touts that more guns would make our children safer. They refuse to advocate for the ban on assault weapons and are playing along with the right-wing politicians, President Trump included and right-wing based media outlets who accuse those who want something done as “communists” or “socialists” and other words that they can’t even define without consulting Google. What sickens me, even more, is that the NRA attacks the kids who survived the most recent shooting and the grieving families who lost their child and are now demanding that something be done as paid pawns of “the left”. These people are not being paid, they are both sad and angry and for NRA President, Wayne LaPierre to talk down to these people goes to show you what kind of person he is and I guarantee you, that if somebody shot up the school that he kids attend, he would be singing a different tune, and if not, then there’s something seriously wrong with the guy. Even Republican Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio talked down to his constituents in a recent town hall meeting saying that “there are those who support my agenda” when asked if he would not take campaign donations from the NRA. What agenda are you supporting Mr. Rubio? Death?

For better or for worse, guns are a part of American culture and that is not likely to change anytime soon. But what we can change is the process of buying guns by making it difficult for those who are mentally ill and show signs of malice to purchase guns and to put an end to the legality of being able to buy and own military-grade weapons which NO civilian needs to have. The truth is that we can make guns more difficult to get, but at the end of the day it is just as easy to get them illegally as it is drugs on the streets. So until we are able to have a serious discussion about this issue and put life before politics and find a way to regulate gun purchases, tackle organized crimes on our streets, and stop listening to the propaganda of the NRA, more people including children are going to die. And with every shooting and the continuous lack of lawmakers including the President to care aside from eating from the gun lobby’s hand and wanting to arm teachers and janitors and turn our schools into war zones, the rest of the world will continue to view the United States as a country full of savages and that is not how I want my country to seen.

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A Followup on Okinawa

On February 1 I wrote a piece on this blog about the growing controversy over the U.S Marine base in the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa. That piece detailed the history of the base and the poor behavior and criminal acts of U.S Marines and staff stationed at the base over the years, as well as the recent accidents involving U.S aircraft that puts the residents of the prefecture in danger. I mentioned that the Japanese people want the base to be closed and that the base should be closed based on the grounds of Japanese sovereignty. However; it is unlikely that the base will be shut down due to the Trump Administration’s tough stance on North Korea. Recently there have been talks between the U.S and Japanese governments to relocate the base but in the midst of these talks, more aircraft accidents have taken place.

On February 9 a large piece of a U.S Osprey (photo of this craft is the featured image of this article) was found drifting near the prefecture by local police and the Japanese Defense Ministry bureau.  Not long after its discovery, the U.S Marine Corps confirmed that it was, in fact, part of an engine inlet which fell off of the tilt-rotor aircraft as it was in flight. The piece weighs just over 28 pounds or 13 kg. Once again, the prefectural government has asked the U.S to keep the MV-22 Osprey aircraft grounded. This particular craft belonged to U.S Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa’s main island.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told Japanese media that he believes the U.S military may have known about the situation prior to the inlet being discovered by Japanese officials as the Osprey in question made an emergency landing on the island that day. Later in the day, the U.S military had admitted that the landed Osprey had lost the piece in question.  Masanori Tamaki, 61, the head of the Ikei residents’ association, told the Japanese Times, “The same thing will happen again and again as long as our airspace is controlled by the U.S. military. Is Japan really an independent state?” This, of course, is not the only incident involving an Osprey as of late. The aircraft is also very noisy which is a nuisance to the prefecture’s residents.

NHK World reported that it is occurrences such as this that led to the Okinawa prefectural assembly to unanimously pass a resolution that calls for the U.S military to cease all flights over private property. The resolution also calls for any accidents to be publicized and that the U.S military should be removed completely from the country. The prefectural assembly will be sending the resolution to the US embassy, the US military in Japan, and the commanders at the Futenma base.

Relocation

On February 4 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that he plans on going ahead with the controversial move to relocate the U.S Marine base from Futenma to nearby Nago which has a population of 60,000. The call from Abe to move ahead with this plan comes after the election of Nago Mayor  Taketoyo Toguchi who was backed by Abe’s ruling party and has supported the plan. Toguchi took office on February 4 defeating his opponent, incumbent Susumu Inamine who opposed the relocation of the base and called for its closure. The Nikkei Asian Review reported that exit polls showed that 30 percent of Nago voters were against the base being moved to their city, but may have voted for Toguchi due to the fact that they are exhausted and tired of fighting a losing battle to oppose it.

Calling for a nation’s sovereignty and the removal of a foreign military is difficult when the country’s own government is in favor, for whatever reasons of that military remaining and when the country’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the base’s relocation in 2016. The Japanese and American governments are not listening to the wishes of the people who call the island home and whether or not Japan is a sovereign nation due to the decade’s old American occupation still remains a question.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/02/10/national/part-u-s-osprey-found-floating-off-okinawa/#.WoXrgiXwbIV

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180119_18/

https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Policy-Politics/Okinawa-local-election-signals-fatigue-toward-fighting-new-base

image retrieved from http://www.boeing.com/defense/v-22-osprey/

A Breakdown of the Nunes Memo and What it Taught Us

Since the Nunes Memo has been released, the Republicans have been holding it up in every House and Senate discussion, on every Sunday morning news show as definitive proof that the probe into President Trump’s ties to Russia is nothing more than a smear tactic or as the President himself has called it, “a witch hunt” by the Democrats and their bitterness over the fact that Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. As far as I can tell, the memo doesn’t prove that Trump or any of his aides had any communication with Russian officials or Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, nor does it prove that Trump didn’t have Russia’s assistance.  However; the memo does tell us a few things.

  1. Campaigns and political parties hire people to dig up dirt. This may not be new information to anyone nor would it be any surprise if it is. According to the memo, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Clinton Campaign, along with  Perkins Coie and research firm Fusion GPS paid Christopher Steele, a longtime FBI informant over $160,000 to compile a derogatory dossier on Donald Trump during the campaign.
  2. The FBI is fair when informants break the rules and this is evident when Steele was fired as an informant when he disclosed to the media his relationship with the FBI in a Mother Jones article by David Corn, as the memo states. Nunes argued that this firing was biased as Steele should have been fired earlier for disclosing information to Yahoo news and other outlets in September and for concealing his speaking with the media from the FBI. Nunes argues in the memo that is it for this reason that Steele was an unreliable source as he broke the unbreakable rule of “maintaining confidentiality”.
  3. Those who work in the DOJ have opinions too as is evident according to the memo as then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ official who worked closely with Deputy Attorneys General Yates and later Rosenstein was Steele’s connection to the DOJ after his termination. Nunes claims that shortly after the election, Ohr began to document his communications with Steele and admitted in September 2016, he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not, being president.” At the same time, Ohr’s wife was paid by Fusion GPS to assist in the opposition to Trump and Nunes states that this fact was concealed from the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court  (FISC).
  4. The FBI didn’t try to hide anything from Trump as before he even took office then- FBI Director James Comey briefed the President-elect on the Steele-dossier and even testified in June 2017 that the dossier was “salacious and unverified.” To this point, Nunes argues that the FISA either ignored or concealed Steele’s anti-Trump “financial and ideological motivations”.
  5. FBI agents have preferences in who they would like to be President as shown in the text messages between FBI agent Pete Strzok and his mistress, FBI Attorney Lisa Page as they showed that they were both opposed to Trump and that they favored Hillary Clinton however: Strozk also investigated Clinton. He may have had a preference but he did investigate the candidate that he favored—what got him in hot water was that he and Page had extensive discussions about the investigation,  plans to leak to the media and to have a ” meeting with Deputy Director McCabe to discuss an ‘insurance’ policy against President Trump’s election”.

The only thing that seems to be wrong is how the investigation initially started out, and that was the fact that according to the memo “On October 21, 2016, DOJ and FBI sought and received an ISA probable cause order (not under Title VII) authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page from the FISC”. The memo claims that at first the application was certified by the Director or Deputy Director of the FBI and was followed up with approval by “the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General (DAG), or the Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division”. Nunes argues that the three renewals of the surveillance which are to occur every 90 days and requires new findings for probable cause did not take place and that then-Director Comey signed off on three, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one and Sally Yates, then-Acting DAG Dana Boente, and DAG Rod Rosenstein also signed one all on behalf of the FBI. The memo states that this violates ISA rules for surveillance on American citizens which Carter Page is. He was also an unpaid aide to Trump during the campaign. I don’t think that this shows bias towards Trump from the DOJ or FBI. What it does show is that everyone has an opinion and that procedure was not followed, not due to opposition to Trump but the FBI not following protocol.

Again, the memo does not prove that Trump is guilty of working with Russia to win the election, nor does it show that he’s innocent. What it does show is negligence on behalf of the FBI and that the Republicans will use any little detail that comes to the surface to defend Trump and that the blame game from both sides is only beginning in Washington. The only thing that will tell us whether or not Trump worked with the Russians to steal the election is the results of the ongoing investigation by Robert Mueller.

You can read all 4 pages of the memo here: https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/02/politics/fbi-nunes-memo-full/index.html

Image Source retreived from nbcnews.com

It’s Time to Shut Down the U.S Marine base in Okinawa

In all reality, the U.S Marine base officially named Camp S. D. Butler named for a former marine located in the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa just outside of the Japanese mainland, is not going to close anytime soon, especially with the Trump Administration in power and its ongoing rhetoric and hostility towards North Korea. If the United States were to take military action against North Korea, Camp S.D Butler would be the primary launch site of an attack, just as it was during the Vietnam War, due to its close proximity to the Korean peninsula. Despite any strategic benefits that the base may provide the U.S, the Japanese people especially those who live near the base are calling for its closure due to the behavior of U.S Marines stationed at the base and the accidents that have been occurring as of late, putting civilians in potential harm. The base is a result of the American occupation of Japan following its surrender in World War II and today, is nothing more than a direct violation of the nation’s sovereignty.

Following the end of World War II, Japan was under an international occupation led almost entirely by U.S forces under the command of General Douglas McArthur from 1945-1952. During this time, arms manufacturing was dismantled, political prisoners were released and wartime leaders were brought to trial for war crimes. Japan would draft a new constitution establishing a democratic government, reducing the emperor to nothing more than a ceremonial role and shift its economy from one based on farming to one that focused on manufacturing. In addition, it split up the business monopolies that ruled the economy and even encouraged labor unions until the fear of communism struck the nation just as it had in the U.S and elsewhere. The education system which was viewed as one that benefited the elites was also dismantled and reorganized to mirror the U.S model. Following the end of the occupation, the United States began construction of what would become Camp S.D Butler in 1955 on the island of Okinawa. Today Camp Butler is made up of four bases that are scattered throughout the prefecture.

For years the base has been a nuisance for the civilians who live nearby. Everything from the noise and emissions which are a result of aircraft overhead, the behavior of the marines stationed there and recent accidents involving aircraft has caused concern among those who call the island home. In 2008 Condoleeza Rice, then Secretary of State under George W. Bush apologized for a string of crimes that had been committed by U.S Marines on the island, including the arrest of one marine who was charged with the rape of 14-year-old girl on the island which comes after the 1995 gang rape of a 12-year-old girl by U.S serviceman, which led to riots and protests among the Japanese who demanded that the base be closed and the Marines be moved out. Other crimes that have led to arrests of U.S military personnel are drunk driving and trespassing which forced the U.S military to set an indefinite curfew for the serviceman and their families living on or near the base.

Recently a number of U.S aircraft accidents once again has nearby civilians concerned, however; accidents involving aircraft date back to 2004 when a helicopter crashed into the main building of the Okinawa International University and burst into flames. In November 2007, while drunk driving, a Marine whose blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit collided a with another vehicle killing the 62-year-old driver. Following this incident, U.S military personnel and contractors working for the U.S military have been restricted from leaving the base or their place of residence. In January of this year, NHK reported that a helicopter made an emergency landing on an Okiwanian beach due to a faulty rotor. Another helicopter made an emergency landing on the grounds of a hotel, another burst into flames after crashing in a field, and a helicopter window fell out and landed in a schoolyard where children were outside exercising. U.S Secretary of State James Mattis has apologized for the recent accidents saying that they “cause fear on the part of local residents and should not happen.” Mattis also stated that the U.S would take all of the appropriate steps to avoid accidents in the future.

How many times can the United State apologize for the wrongdoings of its military personnel on the island? How many apologies can it offer regarding crashed military aircraft that puts the locals in direct danger? How much longer are we going to ignore the calls of the locals and citizens all over Japan that we shut the base down and leave? If we are to truly call Japan our ally then we need to respect their wishes and end our military occupation if that is their wish. Be certain that if another country had a military base on American soil and their troops were committing crimes in our communities or crashing aircraft where we live and where our children go to school, putting them in danger, we too would be furious and demanding the base be closed and the military leave. What makes the United States so special that we have the right to violate another country’s sovereignty and ignore the cries of its people? It’s time to close the base in Okinawa and return the island to the Japanese people.

Header image retrieved from https://paxchristiusa.org

 

  1. https://www.britannica.com/event/occupation-of-Japan
  2. http://www.militarybases.us/marines/mcb-camp-s-d-butler/
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/feb/28/japan.usa
  4. https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/19/asia/okinawa-american-drunk-driver/index.html
  5. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42618777
  6. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-japan-helicopter-okinawa/japan-calls-on-u-s-to-take-safety-steps-in-wake-of-okinawa-military-incidents-idUSKBN1EY099