In the week following the Virginia Tech tragedy, in the two daily newspapers I subscribe to, plus the Sunday New York Times and Newsweek, I've read about gun control in the United Kingdom and heard quoted the victims of the Columbine, the Dunblane, Scotland, and the 1966 University of Texas shootings.

I've read a dozen calls for more stringent gun control -- a concept I favor -- and learned how much the National Rifle Association received in donations in February. What I haven't read, or heard on television either, is anything about the 2002 Appalachian Law School shootings -- also in Virginia -- where two other students used their personal firearms to disarm a demented man who murdered three and wounded three.

Tracy Bridges and Mikhel Gross who, oddly, in our violence-crazed "entertainment" media would be faux heroes, apparently have not been approached by any mainstream news organization for their take on the murder of 32 innocents. Since it is very likely that their actions prevented a Virginia Tech scenario, it seems a newsworthy decision to interview these men.

My Beloved wife tells me not to write anything because I will be immediately assumed to be an NRA-gun nut who wants to take America back to the days of the Wild West.

But since Sunday I heard an Egyptian call "cowards" the Moslem businessmen who don't say loudly and clearly that they abhor the "gundamentalists" -- his term -- who are warping their beloved religion, as a former journalism and communications professor, I can't sit silent in a culture which, allegedly, promotes "Freedom of Speech."

Though you can't prove a negative, something is wrong with our news media coverage when intelligent, thoughtful human beings like my wife say, "don't say anything." This conspiracy of silence, of truly "fair and balanced" coverage in our media, is the beginning of the end of democracy, I submit.

If we are indeed so "sure" that "our way" -- whatever that is -- is the only answer that we exclude other concepts and opinions, democracy will crumble.

I don't think concealed carry permits are a good thing. I've never given a dime to the NRA or any pro-gun organization and the only time I went hunting -- killing three innocent quail in 1974 -- I realized that shooting was something I never wanted to do again.

But our First Amendment -- those amazing 45 words that allows rappers to call women 'ho's, lobbyists to spend unbridled money, 30-second commercials to defame people who have made difficult decisions, anti-war activists to put on plays like Get Your War On -- must be open to all voices.

The whole concept is messy and I hate the fact that my grandchildren can click on "c**shots.com" but, at least on the news side of media, truth cannot prevail unless there honestly is a "free marketplace of ideas" -- the theory behind our First Amendment.

We -- those of us with the "right answer" -- must remember the wisdom of Voltaire: "I disagree with everything you say but I will fight to the death for your right to say it."

We must recognize the equivalent brilliance of Lord Ashton: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." We are not immune.

"Gun nuts" are not "gun nuts." They are people with an equally valid opinion about "The Right to Bear Arms." It's just, from our opinion, their opinion is wrong.

We can, and should, look for the holes in their arguments. We should pick apart the writings of people like Dr. John Lott Jr., who argues that gun ownership decreases violence.

But we must realize that this issue, like all issues facing America, is complex and difficult. Not simple. Not coverable in a minute and a half between commercials. Not approachable on a bumper sticker or tee shirt. We must demand full coverage from our allegedly "mainstream" news media.

I don't listen to, or like what I know of, Rush Limbaugh. Nor Ann Coulter or Al Franken for that matter. But those people make no pretense of being objective.

The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Charlottesville Daily Progress, The Associated Press, Newsweek, NPR, CNN, MSNBC -- and I didn't listen at all to Fox -- do. Yes, I could have missed the words of Tracy Bridges and Mikael Gross who likely saved lives at the Appalachian Law School but why should I have needed to search for them?

The law school in Grundy is three hours away from Blacksburg, two jet rides closer than Dunblane. The Grundy shooting was in this century. Both Bridges and Gross, as well as unarmed Ted Besen who also helped apprehend the gunman, are still alive and living in the same time zone.

Every single news value indicates that Bridges and Gross should have a say in this discussion before anyone from Austin, Colorado or Scotland.

"Democracy is the worst form of government," Winston Churchill once said, "except all other."

Those of us who love it, I think, must stand up now.

The "gundamentalists" are indeed out there and "other" is always possible.

Randy Salzman
Charlottesville, Va.


Bill of Rights Comes Due

Regarding Shorey Chapman's "Is Democracy Dying?" letter [4/15/07 TPP], we have a Democratic Congress now thanks to The Progressive Populist. Next year we need a Democratic presidency as well. We should defer defying unjust laws until a Democratic presidency and Congress is in office. The 1917 Sedition and 1918 Espionage laws are still on the books. The president may claim the Bill of Rights are suspended because of the War on Terror. The last session of Congress failed to pass the 1876 Posse Comitatus Act. Almost all of our volunteer military are being trained to be either military police or prison guards. Our governors may no longer protect us from our president.

When the "people peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances," First Amendment right is exercised, a Republican executive and judiciary may declare that the First Amendment is suspended and lock them up for sedition. While locked up they might not be able to vote in the 2008 presidential elections.

Considering what Republicans did in 2000 and 2004, it is no telling what they would try in 2008 to get elected.

Joseph J. Kuciejczyk
St. Louis, Mo.


Immigration Solution

I don't know about anybody else, but I'm getting tired of the endless arguments between those who say immigrants benefit society by the taxes they pay or those who claim immigrants take jobs from Americans and drive down our wages. I am tired of hearing Rich Fat Cats claiming that we need to bring in foreign workers because there are not enough qualified Americans and also tired of hearing stories from disenfranchised employees outsourced by cheap emigrant labor. It is time end this argument and recognize the fact that immigrants do pay taxes and provide benefits to this land and some employers exploit them to the detriment of the American worker.

To address this dual issue I propose that progressives get behind a some sort of "Foreign Workers Exploitation Protection" laws. We should have laws that grant immigrant labor specific "rights" which they can claim against employers. These laws should also grant them the right to enforce these laws in our Federal Courts. My first suggestion would be to set the minimum wage for the so called "illegal" or "undocumented" emigrant labor to TWICE the US minimum wage or TWICE the equivalent wage paid to an American Citizen for equivalent work. Even if the "undocumented" or "illegal" worker gets caught and deported, he or she would still have the right to enforce those wages even if they are outside the country. In addition the government will have the incentive to go after any unpaid income and Social Security taxes.

In those cases where an immigrant arrives and works legally in America under either a green card, work permit or visa, then the foreign worker shall have the right to be paid at 1.5 times the minimum wage or 1.5 times the equivalent wage paid to an American citizen for equivalent work. This right must be enforceable at any time during or after employment and cannot be waived. Then those companies who honestly cannot find Americans to work the various low-tech or high-tech jobs will be able to hire and bring into this country foreign labor. The mandated higher rate of pay will encourage employers to train and develop the "cheaper" native workforce, discourage immigration that weakens the labor market, and increase the taxes immigrant labor pays to the government.

Ned Harrison
Omaha, Neb.


Hope for Edwards

The article "John Edwards Live" by Walter Shapiro [5/1/07 TPP] attempts to show that this time John Edwards will boldly follow his domestic agenda. He is the only presidential candidate who has already laid out his healthcare plans in detail, has voiced his support for creation of a million public service jobs and is on the right side in the fight against global warming. This time around John Edwards promises to act independently for the right causes without being overly cautious which is refreshing to hear from a presidential candidate. Mistakes, like his initial support for the Iraq war, which was a "politically popular stance," will not be repeated. Good. It seems so far he is on track except for one appearance in front of an AIPAC audience where for political expediency he threatened Iran. Mr. Edwards may be part of the prevailing "groupthink" that Iran is not enriching uranium for energy use but for nuclear bomb and should be "discouraged," etc. He may be right but it still does not call for threats like "all options are on the table." Mr. Edwards should know that such threats carries with it the same negative ingredients that started the Iraq war. Furthermore Iran so far has not been influenced, by pressures brought upon her by the UN Security Council and nor by the presence of US aircraft carrier group in the Gulf so where was the need for Mr. Edwards to also get into this "saber rattling" role? Independent thinking? Naah.

G.M. Chandu
Flushing, N.Y.


Imus Oxymoron

It's so good to know that a progressive like Gene Lyons can soften the impact or even rationalize the admittedly "offensive remarks" of Don Imus ("Bring Back Don Imus, 5/15/07 TPP). Now we can relax, knowing that (1) the Rutgers women basketball players were really being trashed for being "unattractive, masculine ho's" rather than more feminine, or just regular black, ones; (2) the offensive term "Jigaboos" was lifted by Imus' mud-mouthed producer from a Spike Lee movie; and most powerfully, (3) "[e]thnic insults are a New York/New Jersey art form," and therefore should be viewed in that context.

Sorry, Mr. Lyons. I've lived or attended school all my life in the states of New York and New Jersey, and I guess I have a different aesthetic perception. "Ethnic insults" and "art" being used in the same phrase, even semi-satirically, constitute an oxymoron. Don Imus becoming a martyr to some misguided or insensitive people is worth the price of seeing that finally in America, maybe bigotry does not pay.

Stephen E. Appell
Brooklyn, N.Y.


Give LBJ Credit

The article by Norman Solomon in the 5/1/07 issue is an insult to the memory of LBJ. He did not "launch a faraway war" based on false claims. It is true that he increased the level of troops immensely, but the Vietnam War started in 1959 and he became president on Nov. 22, 1963. Furthermore here are some of his achievements:

a) Great society

b) Civil Rights

c) Medicare(!)

d) Aid to education

e) War on poverty

The idiot now in the White House can claim exactly the opposite of all these achievements.

LBJ had the honesty of recognizing his failure in Vietnam and withdraw from the presidential race in 1968, exactly the opposite of the 2004 presidential election, in which a candidate who had fought for his country in Vietnam was "swift boated" by a deserter who did not have the guts to fight for his country.

Rafael M. Inigo
Charlottesville, Va.


Vets Mistreated

First Walter Reed. Then two VA facilities are being investigated. And the number of wounded from Afghanistan and Iraq grows. And those who have served in this regime's misadventures are now being treated like they don't exist. Many vets are separated under Regulation 635-200 Chapter 5-13, Separation Because of Personality Disorder. This is a terrible way to treat our vets. The Shrub must go.

Saul Einhorn
North Babylon, N.Y.


Everybody But Bush Knew

I would like to call your attention to a recent column in Le Monde 4/17/07 entitled "September 11, 2001: The French Knew About It." The writer refers to the French secret service intelligence data on al Qaeda, The document composed between July 2000 and October 2001 consisted of 328 pages highlighting al Qaeda's leaders, training camps, financial supports, etc. It included a 5-page summary, "Airplane Highjacking Plans by Radical Islamists" dated Jan. 5, 2001 (sic).

According to the document, however, bin Laden and the Taliban had discussed highjacking planes as early as the beginning of 2000.

Where were we?

Sidney Moss
Elkins Park, Pa.


Missing Something

I am continually amazed at how we can call ourselves a beneficent Christian nation when we violate on a grand scale one of Jesus' main precepts: "Love thine enemy."

We claim to be imbuing them with democracy, yet murder them by the hundreds of thousands. True, we are giving them a quick send-off to Heaven, where there are no taxes.

Losers are the survivors: the jobless, maimed and homeless.

When will we practice what we preach?

Stanley Cobb
Sacramento, Calif.

From The Progressive Populist, June 1, 2007

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