I Have a Gripe

June 18, 2016

My Take on the Gun Debate

An Orlando club was attacked this week by another radical Islamic terrorist. He gunned down 49 patrons at a gay club before the police shot and killed him. It was a terrible tragedy that has brought the country together to grieve and pray for the victims and their families.

It has also kicked up the gun debate and what should be done to curb violent acts in this country. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what should be done and they vary widely. Well, of course I felt the need to add my two cents. Here is my solution for federal gun legislation.

  1. No fly, no buy: If someone is on the terror watch list (no fly list), then you shouldn’t be allowed to purchase a gun of any kind. If someone is on the no fly list and it is incorrect, they need to follow up with the FBI to resolve the issue.
  2. Required training: When applying for a permit to purchase a weapon, the applicant should be required to complete a safety course. Gun ownership is serious and should be treated as such.
  3. Safety lock with every weapon purchase: When a weapon is purchased, the purchaser also needs to buy an appropriate gun lock at the same time. Before they leave the store, the gun lock must be in place.
  4. Waiting period: Some people want to make a gun purchase out of fear or anger. Maybe they were attacked and are scared. Maybe they are angry and want revenge. Whatever the reason, there should be a three-day waiting period between the time that a purchase is made and when the weapon is picked up.
  5. Background check: This point goes hand-in-hand with my previous suggestion. During the three-day waiting period, the gun shop can complete a background check on the person. This gives them enough time to collect any necessary information to make an informed decision as to whether or not an individual should own a gun.
  6. Mental-health assessment: This is a touchy one. Everything else so far has been based on “hard data.” This definitely falls under “soft data.”  I would never want a government bureaucrat to make a decision about someone’s mental health and if they are able to understand the seriousness of owning a gun and how to properly store and use it. I believe there should be some kind of check as to mental competence, but it needs to be in line with HIPPA law and not further stigmatizing “mental illness.”
  7. Ban the sale of “auto” kits: Many Americans are not aware that it is already illegal to ar-15own an automatic (“full auto”) weapon. In 1934 Congress passed the National Firearms Act, making it illegal for Americans to manufacture fully automatic weapons for personal use. In 1986, it became illegal for civilians to own newly made machine guns. When the media shows a weapon, such as an AR-15, after one of these horrible events there is an insinuation that it is an automatic weapon. It isn’t. And I think it is inflammatory for the media to do so. What needs to be outlawed are kits that allow someone to make their weapon an automatic weapon.
  8. Knowledge sharing: Every time one of these horrific acts takes place, I always hear from at least one professional, “if I had seen xyz information from such-and-such organization (FBI, local police, etc.), I wouldn’t have sold him the gun.” There needs to be better sharing of information between businesses and the government.

Obviously this is just the beginning of a larger issue, but when it comes to complex issues with high-charged emotions, it is easy to muddy the waters. My suggestion to politicians has always the same: take big issues bit-by-bit. Don’t handle a huge issue all at once. Let your constituents see you working and gain their trust. As you continue to move forward, cooperation will continue as long as everyone checks their ego at the door. By taking a common-sense approach to big issues, we can start to move forward.

September 11, 2015

Fourteen Years Later – Do We Really Remember?

So here it is. The night before the world changed. I’ve been watching my Facebook feed fill up with photos of New York, Washington DC, and Shanksville. Photos of the World Trade Center, New York firefighters and police officers. Comments that say “we will never forget.”

This year, I ask one question – do we really remember?

I get very melancholy as “the day” approaches. I usually ask myself why. Do I have a right to feel this way? I didn’t know anyone who died. I know “people of people.” I wasn’t even in New York. I was in my office in Jersey.

I left work almost immediately. As I drove back to Belleville, and came closer to the smoke – and that smell – it really started to hit me. I felt numb, like thousands of others did, I am sure. I drove directly to the school where my friend’s mother worked. Her husband worked in the Twin Towers and I was worried for him. I had no idea what I could do, but I felt like that’s where I needed to be. I tried to get her to come back to my house, but she wanted to stay put. Thankfully, he was found alive.

I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night, but I remember every minute of that day. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

But by next week, with September 11th in the rear view mirror for another year, I wonder if people really remember or if it is just one day out of each year and that’s it.

I remember a country truly united. I remember standing in line to buy desk flags for every person in my department. I remember seeing flags absolutely everywhere. I remember people bringing food to their emergency responders and saying “thank you.” I remember people being proud to be American.

Now? Not so much.

I feel like we are a country more divided than ever. That this horrific day is nothing more than a political football to push forward whatever the “agenda of the day” is. That there are people who have tried to take advantage of this tragedy for personal gain.

This year I am bouncing between sickened, depressed, and angry. Each emotion for a different thought. A different memory. A different feeling. Even as I write this I know this post is more of a ramble and far less organized than posts in the past.

This year, I’ve seen this graphic going around Facebook:

AtThisMomentMaybe this is part of what got me really thinking. I always think about “that day,” but not really what was going on the night before – all the normal things people do on any given evening. Everyone was worried about their day-to-day crap. The next day none of it mattered.

This morning I had some jerk try to run me off the road because he didn’t like how I merged. I was angry and shaken. You know what? As I sit here writing this, it doesn’t matter at all. I was able to come home at the end of the day, kiss my husband, and say hello to my bird.

The people who were killed by the men (and I don’t even like to call them “men”) who represented pure evil prevented those innocent souls from getting home, kissing their loved ones and having a normal day.

Maybe that’s what it is all about when people say “never forget.”

Never forget what happened that terrible day. Pray for those families who wake up every morning without their loved ones. Remember those who knowingly gave their lives so a plane would go down in a field in Pennsylvania instead of the Capitol Building or the White House. Pray for those who lost their lives due to their service on “the pile.” But also remember to live a good life. That our being here is a gift that should not be squandered, because you never know it will all be over. Live a life your family would be proud of. Try to do something good every day and expect nothing in return. Be a good American.

I think that’s the best way to “never forget.”

October 6, 2013

The Capitol Shooting & Deadly Force

This week there was an incident with a woman who was shot and killed by law enforcement after ramming the White House gates with her car and hitting a Secret Service officer.

After the fact of course, all the second guessing began. Did law enforcement need to fire on the vehicle? Did they know there was an infant in the car? If they did feel the need to fire, why didn’t they shoot out the tires?

The family of the woman came out and said that she was suffering from postpartum psychosis and they felt law enforcement didn’t have to shoot.

As always, there are three sides to every story; one side, the other side, and the truth.

While I am sorry this woman had mental and emotional issues, I must stand  behind law enforcement. These men and women put their lives on the line every day. Law enforcement in DC have an even more difficult job as they not only have to protect civilians, but Capitol landmarks, politicians, and more. They need to make split second decisions. This woman had already crashed a White House gate and rammed into a Secret Service officer, sending him onto her windshield. Another police officer was injured during a chase down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capitol. While she did not have a firearm, her car at that point was a deadly weapon. Did they know there was an infant in the vehicle? I don’t know. But she put her child in that vehicle and drove from Connecticut to DC that day.

I have never had a child and never suffered from postpartum psychosis. I am obviously not a doctor, so I really don’t understand all that encompasses this condition. I understand the woman’s family defending her situation and feeling the police should’ve done more to preserve her life. And I am sorry this woman lost her life.

I have many friends and family members in law enforcement and I can say with confidence that police do not use their weapons lightly. It is not something they look forward to doing and understand the ramifications of using their weapon. Did they know she didn’t have a weapon? No idea, but I doubt it. Again, the moment she sent a Secret Service officer flying, she used her car as a deadly weapon.

I will always give law enforcement the benefit of the doubt. Period.

I ask the questions to those second-guessing law enforcement, did you know if that woman had firearms in that vehicle? Did you know if her car was loaded with explosives and could’ve been a terrorist attempting to take advantage of the government shutdown? What would you have done if you had a weapon and had a car coming towards you at full speed?

It is important that law enforcement review every situation and determine if anything could be learned from the response. However, when an officer is put in that situation, all their training kicks in and they will do what they feel is the right thing to keep the area safe and protected.

Just like no one knew what was going through that woman’s mind, no one knew what was going through the minds of law enforcement on a second-by-second basis in a fluid situation in one of the toughest places to protect in the country.

September 4, 2013

The Nuances of Syria

Anyone who knows me knows I do not do subtle. I am about as subtle as a truck. I am guessing this is why I am so confused by all the nuances of the Syrian issue that has hit a boiling point this week.

Anyone with a brain knows what al-Assad has done to his own people is reprehensible. And I think as Americans we will always side with those seeking freedom. I once heard the comment “freedom from tyranny is in the DNA of Americans.” I would say that pretty much hits the nail on the head.

I also think after Iraq and Afghanistan, we have learned the importance of avoiding “mission creep” and having an end-game and goals in mind at the beginning of any campaign.

This is where my confusion starts.

If we stick our nose in Syria’s issues – essential a civil war – what is our goal? Is it to take out al-Assad? Is it nation building? If the answer is “yes” than I suggest you take a good look at Egypt and see what that got us. Utter chaos.

In my opinion, this has been handled poorly from the get-go. The moment President Obama went off the teleprompter and made an off-the-cuff comment about crossing a “red line” we as a nation basically dared this guy to go batty. Well, mission accomplished.

Then our President has all kinds of tough talk about “going it alone” and then he once again changes course and asks for Congressional approval. Even the UK isn’t touching this one. Don’t sweat it though – France is going to cover us. Um, what? France??? Seriously?

Again, confusion for me.

Then we have Israel. The one staunch ally we have in that part of the world, which I am honestly stunned they still stand by us. How can Obama continue to treat Israel they way he does while trying to suck up to the rest of the Middle East, which basically wants to blow them off the face of the map? If we strike Syria, does this bug Iran enough to hit Israel? I swear, following this mess is worse than the plot of a daytime soap.

On the way home from work yesterday I listened to the debate between Senator Rand Paul and Secretary John Kerry and was thankful that the Senator was hitting on a lot of the questions that have been rolling around in my head. After all that, however, I still had no idea what the right answer should be for this cluster. And while I love that our issues are debated for our citizens  in public, I am sure our enemies are watching us and laughing. We are basically giving them the playbook before we hit the launch button. I’m sorry, but if you have to really define “declaration of war” versus “military action,” versus “isolated strike,” I feel like we are going down the road of Korea again. Remember, that was a “police action.”

While I am pleased he decided to seek Congressional approval, as I thought he kind of needed approval, I have learned since he has Constitutional authority to take action. He seems to take action on plenty of things that he shouldn’t, so why the hesitancy now? I believe it gives him an easy out to not act and blame Congress for something else. I mean, right now Congressional approval and likeability is somewhere around the same level as used car salesmen and lawyers, so it makes a nay vote makes it easy for him personally to back down. But there’s more to it than that.

Again, more nuances.

To my understanding, we can’t actually bomb chemical weapons because all it will do is disperse them into the air potentially killing even more people. If we provide weapons to “the resistance,” who are they exactly? Anyone remember the Afghan “freedom fighters” of the 1980’s? Fast forward a few decades and you will quickly remember.

The President also keeps saying that Syria won’t be another Iraq or Afghanistan. How do we know? Again, what will a “strike” get us? We are being told there won’t be any “boots on the ground.” Wait, weren’t we told that about Pakistan? Oh yeah, that was never made official. This whole thing screams powder keg. Do we really want to put more of our military into situations where they can’t tell who the enemy really is?

According to Einstein the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. After looking at Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, and more, this definitely seems like the textbook definition of insanity to me.

So now we sit and watch the political theater that is Washington. See why I’m confused?

Welcome to a nation of nuances.

September 11, 2012

September 11th – 11 Years Later

Filed under: New Jersey,New York,Politics,Security,Terrorism — alvb1227 @ 1:58 am
Tags: , , ,

Tomorrow is the 11th anniversary of the day that changed America. Last year, on the 10th anniversary, the New York City memorial opened. It was an amazing structure and a beautiful way to remember so many on such a heart breaking day.

Well, since then, many have equated the memorial to an amusement park. People have been seen leaving their Starbucks cups, letting their children throw stuff in the reflecting pool, and my personal favorite, seating toddlers on top of the plaques holding the names of the fallen. To me that is like someone standing on a headstone in a cemetery. While I am sure this poor behavior is a minority, I think it is important for visitors to remember this isn’t a tourist spot. It is where 3,000 lost their lives and to treat it with the proper respect it deserves.

I think it is also important that during this year’s ceremonies politicians aren’t going to speak. I believe these events shouldn’t be politicized. No matter what a person’s political affiliation, this is an American event. Politics should stay out of it. When Usama Bin Laden was killed and the President, the New York and New Jersey Governors, and the New York City Mayor went to lay a wreath at the memorial, before the event began, and I am sure they didn’t know they were on camera, they were laughing and joking. The moment they realized they were on camera, they became serious. It left me feeling icky.

Many worry – and I am one of them – that as time progresses and people move forward, people may forget. I hope that isn’t the case. The moment we start to forget, the dragon goes back to sleep and we are vulnerable.

I pray we never forget.

 

September 11, 2011

9-11: Ten Years Later

Today is a cool, cloudy morning here in New Jersey, much different from that fateful day 10 years ago. Each year on this day I have tried to provide stories and impressions of that dark day and the light that came of it. As I sit here watching the reading of the names, I am reminded of every moment of that day. As a friend on Facebook said the other day, I can’t remember what I had for lunch two days ago, but I remember every minute of that day.

I am reminded of the acts of heroism by everyday people at I am sure they never expected to do. They are people who went to work, got on a plane, committed their lives to protect us as fire fighters, police officers and members of the military. They never expected to be tested to that extent.

Last night I saw a television program about two men who worked at the World Trade Center who could have easily survived, but they chose to continue to go up the steps of the North Tower, saving the lives of 77 individuals. Architect Frank De Martini and construction inspector Pablo Ortiz are true heroes that came out of that dark day, showing what the American spirit is all about. What those animals could never take.

Yesterday was the dedication of the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA. Those 40 people took the information they collected, took a vote, knowing full well they would perish, and thwarted the plans of the fourth hijacked plane that was likely headed to the United States Capitol. Again, people put in a position they never expected became heroes and are a shining example of what the American spirit is all about.

These are only a few examples of the heroic actions taken by many on that day and the days following. There are many more we will all come to know as time progresses.

We can all learn from those who lived through – and those who did not – on that day. We can make sure to stay alert, help our service members, fire fighters, police officers, EMS, and other first responders whenever possible.  Most importantly, we can never forget. Never forget what those animals took from us. And what we have gained.

May God continue to bless the United State of America.

May 3, 2011

Two Words: Thank You

Less than 24 hours ago we heard of the death of Usama bin Laden by special ops, including Seal Team Six. This is something Americans, as well as many around the world, have wait to hear for a long time.

First, I want to thank…

The Intel community for their relentless pursuit of this piece of trash.

Presidents Obama and Bush for continuing to support this pursuit and for President Obama having the guts to give the OK to proceed.

Our military, and our special forces for taking on this mission and carrying out it flawlessly. We will never know who you are because of the type of work you do, but I hope you know you have the profound thanks of a grateful nation.

To those who have suffered at the hand of this monster, you have my profound sympathies. I know this will never bring your loved one back, but I hope this helps you move forward a little.

What I would really like to know is how this piece of dung could be hiding in plain sight in Pakistan less than 50 miles from this nation’s capital? Anyone want to riddle me that Batman? And why are we giving them aid? I say it is time to cut them loose. The Pakistani government has been talking out of both sides of their collective mouth for years. Oh yeah, that’s how an ally works.

Time for us to stop being everyone’s sucker and be the great nation we are!

February 11, 2011

Mubarak Resigns (Finally) – What’s Next?

Filed under: International News,Security — alvb1227 @ 5:17 pm
Tags: , , ,

It appears the protesters in Egypt have won. It has just been announced that Mubarak has resigned.  As I watch the news and read posts on social media, I am seeing mixed emotions. Just like everyone else, I feel compelled to put in my two cents.

What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?-Thomas Jefferson

I know many worry that this is going to be an opportunity for extreme groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, to take over and yes, that is possible. But I have to tell you, I don’t see that happening. Let me explain why.

In my opinion one of the reasons Iraq has become such a nightmare is because you can’t just hand someone their freedom. Freedom needs to rise up from the people, just like it did here in the U.S. over 200 years ago. I really believe they are going to watch diligently to see who tries to rise to power and will not allow extremists to take over.

This rise up in Egypt has came from the people. They have taken control of their neighborhood with checkpoints and watches. They have protected the elderly. They fought back thugs sent in by the government. They have created a “tent city” which could almost be considered a microcosm of a new society.

It also seems that the Egyptian people trust the military, so I think for now, the people will be comfortable with that while change is taking place.

So what should we do as Americans to support this change? First – pray. Pray for the people of Egypt that they will stay diligent and understand that this is the beginning of a long process. Second, as K.T. McFarland put it, “one election does not a democracy make.” Like we did when the wall fell, we should send individuals, not to dictate, but to advise only. Let the Egyptian people know we support them and will help them through this. The U.N. should send in people to help, but we all know they are useless and corrupt, so it is probably best they stay out of it.

So who could rise to power? I think Google Exec Wael Ghonim might be a good place to start. He was a major factor in the “social media uprising” and seems to have a calm and even head.

We can only hope that this is a first step for those who have been suppressed, especially in that part of the world, will see all of this as an inspiration that they can be free as well. Ultimately, this will make the world safer, if successful, because it could potentially minimize the influence of extremists and let the “common man” take control of their own destiny.

God Bless the people of Egypt.

January 26, 2011

2011 State of the Union Address

So last night was the 2011 State of the Union Address. I will admit that my eye wasn’t twitching quite as much as last year, but I still have issues with a number of the items that were discussed.

I think the President started out well by acknowledging the empty chair for Gabby Giffords. The ribbons everyone wore I thought was a nice touch. He also discussed a new level of civility in light of the shooting in Arizona. Call it the Jersey cynic in me, but the “date night” and new bipartisan effort just felt fake to me. I still get the feeling of a “hand slap” by the left and blaming the Tea Party movement, even though the nut job in Arizona didn’t appear to have a political affiliation. I find it funny that now the President wants to not think about winning an election, but doing what is necessary to pull the nation together.

I liked what the President said about simplifying the tax code, but fell short of calling for a flat tax, which would ultimately save billions by either cutting or completely eliminating the IRS. I really believe that moving away from the current complicated tax code will both save money on the federal level while making sure everyone pays their fair share.

He cited a quote from President Kennedy that “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Well, I disagree with that sentiment. The future is a responsibility; first and foremost. I think we as a nation have really lost the concept of personal responsibility. Should we take care of those who need assistance? Yes. Should there be a level of personal responsibility associated along with that? Absolutely!

I found his more business-friendly tone encouraging. Again, I hope it isn’t just rhetoric and real action will follow. This means getting the government out of the way of private industry and let them do what they do best; innovate and create jobs. Remember, it is not the job of the federal government to create jobs. It is the job of the federal government to create conditions that are favorable for private industry to create jobs.

The President is still pushing green technologies, which is certainly laudable, however, I again wonder if this should be the business of the federal government. I point to California’s recent light bulb issue as the exact type of government intervention that while positive in concept can be negative in the long run.

From an education standpoint, I was very encouraged to finally hear someone (and I mean anyone) acknowledge that parents need to take a more positive role in the education of our nation’s children. For far too long, schools have been trying to be both educator and parent. Ultimately, they will fail as both. I also ask that while math and science are incredibly important, that the arts and music are not left on the side of the road. There has been study after study citing the importance of music and the arts in fostering a child’s creativity and improving math, science and language skills. I am the adult I am because of my involvement in the music program in my public school system.

It was also nice to hear there should be more respect for teachers. As someone who is married to a public school teacher, I say it is not as easy as many may think. We should be encouraging our teachers, not putting them down. Otherwise, no young individual will want to become a teacher. And that will be truly sad and detrimental to our future.

I almost fell off the couch when the President actually used the term “illegal immigrant” and not “undocumented” or other term. Whether the individual is a child or an adult, they are here illegally and thus breaking the law. They shouldn’t be here sucking up resources like locusts they have no right to access. And these aren’t all the wonderful young individuals looking to better themselves the President mentioned. They are often gang members trying to sneak people and drugs into our country. This is the single issue that will kill us as a nation if it is not dealt with, and I mean NOW.

Infrastructure “investments.” OK, moving on…

Social Security? Well, let’s just say I believe that Area 51 exists. I don’t believe the money I have been paying, and will continue to pay, into Social Security will ever come back to me. My eye is starting to twitch, so moving on…

I also agree the federal government should reorganize and streamline, however, again, call me a cynic, I really don’t see this happening. I hope I am wrong.

I found it interesting that the President is open to make some of the very healthcare bill changes the GOP suggested originally and he wouldn’t he even consider. Amazing what a shellacking can do for bipartisanship. And by the way, I hadn’t heard that word since I was a kid and my Uncle Sonny would threaten us with a shellacking that would never appear. If anything, he was the one to protect us all from the shellacking.

Of course, no State of the Union would be complete without a discussion of our military. Again, I refer back to my previous thoughts about illegal immigration. These two issues go hand-in-hand in my opinion. Illegal immigration is a serious national security issue.

So, as usual, I am hopeful, but not betting the house on it. The only reason the President has moved to the middle, I believe, is because he got beat and I mean seriously beat. I would like to see him not spend on infrastructure and instead let private industry develop tomorrow’s high speed railways. Again, just allow for private industry to do what they do best and get out of their way.

Only time will tell…

January 13, 2011

The Tucson…Memorial?

Filed under: General Annoyances,government,Politics,Security — alvb1227 @ 2:31 am
Tags: ,

So, I just sat through the “event” in Tucson. I am hesitant to call it a memorial because, well, it felt more like I was watching a college pep rally.

First of all, let’s start with that opening blessing. It should’ve just been a blessing, not a history of the individual’s family. Also, I thought it would make more sense to open with a blessing from a Rabbi, since the Congresswoman is Jewish.

We had our country’s Homeland Security Secretary start her remarks with what sounded like the start to a rock concert; “thank you Tucson.”

We had the student government president speak? Um, why? And while we are at it, why was Congresswoman Pelosi there? Oh, let’s also not forget the falling all over the President done by the college president.

Governor Jan Brewer, I felt, struck a better tone in her remarks. The President started to attempt to tone down the cheering a bit, but it quickly turned into what sounded like a stump speech to me. He then turned to the “tone of the discussion,” which I really thought he would stay away from tonight. This just wasn’t the place.

All the time I am watching this, I am thinking about those who were killed. The families of those left behind. The Congresswoman’s husband who probably had to be torn away from his wife’s side to attend this.

Call me old fashioned, but I really think a memorial should be a bit more subdued. I am thinking of the memorial service for those lost after the West Virginia mine disaster. That was a memorial that struck the right tone. This was along the lines of a political rally or college basketball game. A memorial is to remember those who have perished and to comfort their families. It is important to recognize those who were injured and recovering, as well as those who tried to help and the first responders that came to aid the injured and dying.

This whole evening was just wrong.

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