Bob Broughton's Blog about British Columbia politics

A major additional benefit of banning gun sales at gun shows

In the aftermath of mass murders in Newtown, CT, Aurora, CO, and Clackamas County, OR, several sensible ideas have become topics of public discussion: banning the sale of assualt weapons, banning the sale and ownership of clips that hold more than five bullets, and banning sales of guns to purchasers who have not had a background check.

It's the last of these ideas that I'm writing about here. It's about what's commonly referred to as the "gun show loophole". Although background checks are required for retail sales of guns, they are not required at gun shows.

This obviously makes it easy for convicted felons and mentally ill people to purchase guns. However, another class of people that takes advantage of this are Mexico's narco-terrorists. They simply hire people to purchase assault weapons at these guns shows (usually in Texas and Arizona) for them, then transport them into Mexico.

According to a report issued by the US General Accounting Office in 2009, "While it is impossible to know how many firearms are illegally smuggled into Mexico in a given year, about 87 percent of firearms seized by Mexican authorities and traced in the last 5 years originated in the United States, according to data from Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). According to U.S. and Mexican government officials, these firearms have been increasingly more powerful and lethal in recent years. Many of these firearms come from gun shops and gun shows in Southwest border states."

Current TV aired an expose on this, the Vanguard documentary Arming the Mexican Cartels by Christof Putzel.

For the mostly peaceful people of Mexico, this is a tragedy. The number of deaths from the civil war that has been going on in Mexico over the past six years has been at least 57,500, and estimates run as high as 100,000. The parents, children, brothers, sisters, and friends of the people who have been killed are just as unhappy about it as the parents, brothers, sisters, and friends of the of the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The high-paid employees and the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association have blood on their hands. Put a stop to unlicensed gun sales in the US, and Mexicans will benefit, too.

How to use your smart phone in Mexico

I knew before I went to Mexico that smart phones would work there, but there wasn't much information on specifics. So, here's my story.

First, you're not going to get much help from sales people. They make money by selling phones and recharges.

Yes, your phone will work if you swap the SIM chip, but you have to unlock the phone before you do this. This isn't as big a deal as it sounds. I went to http://www.foneszone.co.uk/ and paid them ten euros. The unlocking code arrived a couple of days later, with some easy-to-follow instructions on how to do the unlocking. This worked with no problems.

The next step was buying a SIM chip, from Movistar. A lot of internet cafes sell SIM chips, and I went to one of them because the people who work there are more tech-savvy than the sales people you find in stores like Coppel and Elektra. The chip cost 120 pesos, and the phone connected to Movistar, and gave me a phone number, as soon as the chip was plugged in. Of course, this is useless unless the phone has time on it, so a bought 60 pesos worth of time. A day or two later, I set up an account on Movistar's web site, and used a credit card to purchase more time. When I did this, Movistar gave me some free minutes, and ½ GB of free data transfer.

I learned later on that you can mail-order Telcel, Iusacell, and Movistar SIM chips from www.mexicosimcard.com.

A Linux adventure in Mexico

Tux the Linux penguinI had been using WiFi connections all over the US and northern Mexico for the previous six weeks, and was looking forward to getting an almost-permanent residence so I would be able to get a reliable connection with DSL or a cable modem.

The house I now live in has a DSL connection, but as any geek knows, things don't always work as expected.

When I connected my laptop running Kubuntu 12.04 to a Telmex DSL connection, things looked OK for the first few minutes. I soon discovered several nasty problems:

  • While some web pages displayed OK, some did not, two examples being crooksandliars.com and progressivebloggers.ca. (Interestingly, these sites still displayed with Rekonq.)
  • I was unable to upload pictures to the photo gallery on this site.
  • I was unable to add or change articles on Wordpress and Joomla sites.
  • Incoming email worked fine, but most outgoing email didn't work. And when they didn't work, it was impossible to save them to the IMAP draft folder.

So, how do I fix this? Some Googling indicated that Telmex, Mexico's largest ISP, caps upload traffic. So, I phoned them. Fortunately, they have English-language support.

The King of Versailles

I watched the documentary "The Queen of Versailles" when it was in the theatres. It's a powerful piece of work. I had several reactions to it, but I'm going to discuss only one of them here: that North America might not be that far away from a major torches and pitchforks scene.

The subjects of "The Queen of Versailles" are David and Jaqueline Siegel. Jaqueline is the trophy wife, and David made a fortune selling time-shares, but got burned badly during the 2007 crash.

David Siegel got his name in the news during this past week. At the request of Mitt Romney, he sent out a letter to his 7,000 employees telling them that if Obama wins, he will have to fire some of them.

Well, isn't that special? Siegel's buddy, George W. Bush, was President in 2007, when the same David Siegel laid off thousands of his employees. So, if you happen to be an employee of Westgate Resorts, it would be a good idea for you to be looking for alternative employment regardless of who wins the 2012 election.

And here's two more reality checks:

Anyone who would attempt to build a 90,000 square foot house is a fool.

Siegel made his fortune off suckers, so it's not surprise that he and Romney are buddies. If you don't believe this, go to Craigslist and check some resale prices for timeshares. For example, the asking price for timeshares in Punta Gorda, FL is $600. That's one-tenth of what units like this cost when they are new.

Fact of the matter is, Siegel is a scam artist, and he falls in the same category as Lehman Brothers. When they talk about limited government, what they really mean is, let's protect our right to fleece people. And Mitt Romney is totally on side with this.

Article by Edward Murray at Daily Kos: Obama Creating Unemployment Creators

Mitt Romney’s Bain Made Millions On Big Tobacco In U.S., Russia

Jason Cherkis and Zach Carter of Huffington Post put together this story from the University of California at San Francisco's Legacy Tobacco Documents library: Mitt Romney's Bain Made Millions On Big Tobacco In U.S., Russia

Romney has also said that Russia is the "number one geopolitical foe" of the United States. It seems that this is meaningless as long as there's money to be made from Russia. Or was this part of a secret plan to make Russia a weaker "geopolitical foe"?

Update on October 16: The same two authors have published another story about the United States' most prominent anti-smoker: Mitt Romney's Bain Helped Philip Morris Get U.S. High Schoolers Hooked On Cigarettes

What the Republicans really believe about abortions

The Republicans have stepped into it on the issue of abortion, and don't let the Republican down the street or the Republican at your office water cooler get away with saying, “Todd Akin doesn't reflect the views of the Republican Party”, or “Romney was pro-choice when he was Governor of Massachusetts.”

The fact is, the Republicans approved a platform at their national convention in Tampa, and in that platform, it says, “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” There's nothing in there about exceptions for rape or incest.

The same platform also includes this curious sentence: “The Pacific territories should have flexibility to determine the minimum wage, which has seriously restricted progress in the private sector.”

What's that about? It's about the Mariana Islands, which includes Saipan. The minimum wage there $5.05 an hour, and it is scheduled to increase to $5.55 on September 30. When the Republicans use the word “flexibility” here, they mean the flexibility to lower it.

And why do the Republicans think that this is important enough to put it in their platform? The Marianas are important because goods manufactured there are labeled “made in USA”, and can be sold as such by companies such as Tommy Hilfinger, Nortstrom, and Wal-Mart. The sweatshops are represented in Washington by Jack Abramoff, and Abramoff has been assisted in lobbying efforts by another Republican heavyweight, Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay was their representative in the House of Representatives; he described the low-wage, anti-union conditions of the Marianas constituted "a perfect petri dish of capitalism. It's like my Galapagos Island." Their representative in the Senate was Rick Santorum.

There's a lot more to this than minimum wage, however. Women who work in these sweatshops have been forced into prostitution, and when they get pregnant, are forced to have abortions.

You read right: the same Republicans who believe that women shouldn't even be allowed to have abortions in cases of rape and incest have no problem with forced abortions if there's a few bucks to be made off cheap labour. And by putting the Mariana Islands plank in their platform, they've chosen to wear this on their shirtsleeves. The lesson we can learn from this is, Republicans don't want women to have control over their own bodies, period.

Article by Bill Moyers: Ralph Reed in the Marianas Trenches

Article by Rebecca Claren: Paradise Lost: Greed, Sex Slavery, Forced Abortions and Right-Wing Moralists

Book Review: The Darien Gap

In the 21st Century, we have maps of the Moon and Mars, with names assigned to mountains and canyons. In this era of Google Maps and GPS's, I find it refreshing that there are still areas of this planet that are as terra incognita now as before Columbus' voyages.

The Darién Gap is the area of Panama adjacent to the border with Colombia, and it is called a "gap" because of a 100-km. gap in the Pan-American Highway. Completion of the Pan-American Highway was a goal of the Kennedy Administration's Alliance for Progress, but construction stalled in the 1970's, due to escalating costs. The last extension in the 1990's caused severe environmental damage.

I first became aware of the Darién Gap at about the same time as my first visit to Peru in 1986. I read an account in the South American Explorers Club magazine by a person when went through the Darién Gap by bicycle, which was possible because he was able to use dugout canoes as ferries. During my travels, I have met many people who want to ride their motorcycle or drive their camper van to Tierra del Fuego, and I get a mild sadistic pleasure from telling them about the absence of a road. There has been on-again, off-again ferry service between Colon, Panama, and Cartagena, Colombia. (Currently on; see Expedition Portal.)