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This week: Citizens Treated as Terrorists?; Why Pillory Olbermann?; FBI: Mission Distorted;

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Citizens Treated as Terrorists?

In "A Double Standard in Terrorism Response?" [January 20, 2011], Tom Sturm asks us to imagine a world where everyone resembling the Tucson shooter is treated the way U.S. government has treated Muslims for a decade.

Actually, this world already exists. People in this country are routinely detained without warrant or criminal charges, sometimes for years, for acting bizarrely, or for wanting to die, or for making "irrational" threats. (Not political threats, which are First Amendment protected speech, or regular domestic violence threats, which are handled with restraining orders, but threats made by someone already diagnosed as being incapable of rational thought.)

The fact that this detention is in mental hospitals and is done by psychiatrists, rather than in jails and done by police, allows many to delude themselves that it "helps" people. That does not make the practice any less unconstitutional or horrifying.

Sarah Harper
The Freedom Center

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Why Pillory Olbermann?

Of all the things Tom Vannah could have written about in the week after the tragic shootings in Tucson, how he decided to turn [his article "Talkers' Talk," January 13, 2011] into a diatribe against Keith Olbermann is beyond me.

First of all, calling Olbermann a hypocrite when he was one of only two public figures to apologize for any overly provocative speech (the other was Senator McCain) is just plain wrong.

More importantly, it is much more than political speech that has led to a climate of fear and intimidation in this country. Democratic senators like John Lewis, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, were spat on after the health care reform bill was passed. Democratic congressional offices like Gabrielle Giffords' were vandalized. Demonstrators at Republican rallies, like those of now-Senator Rand Paul, were shoved down and stomped on. Death threats against Democratic leaders reached record levels. As Tea Party Republicans have urged constituents to keep their guns in hand to defend "against the government," there have been an increasing number of politically motivated killings, from the Holocaust Museum in Washington to the murder of police who have stopped right-wing militants who view our federal government as the enemy.

The Advocate could have used the tragic shootings in Arizona to open a debate about gun control: should anyone be allowed to buy a magazine clip with enough bullets to kill six and wound countless others in about 10 seconds? Should those who have been rejected from military service because of drug use be allowed to buy guns? Or about mental health care: how do we better provide for involuntary psychiatric commitment for those who are mentally ill and a threat to themselves or others?

Or the Advocate could have taken the lead from our president, politicians of both parties and the national media in praising the heroism of those who came to the aid of the shooting victims, who saved countless lives by tackling the shooter at great risk to themselves. He could have talked about Gabrielle Giffords, a strong, courageous, remarkable woman who is making an amazing recovery from a bullet wound to her head with the help of her devoted husband.

But instead you chose to write a column that rivals Sarah Palin's whining about "blood libels" against her in its sheer pettiness. What a disappointment.

David Gottsegen, M.D.
Belchertow

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FBI: Mission Distorted

As we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., we should also remember who failed to protect him from assassination on April 4, 1968. Dr. King would likely still be alive today had the FBI done its duty to protect him, instead of assaulting him with wiretaps, covert surveillance and hundreds of pages of documents about him that they gathered.

Imagine how much better our world would be if Dr. King had not been shot, and his movement for justice and peace and to end the war in Vietnam had continued with his powerful leadership.

Today the FBI is breaking into homes on a daily basis to conduct searches against people's will and without a court warrant. They also are putting GPS tracking devices on people's cars without their permission or a court order (see www.repealthepatriotact.org).

With hundreds of thousands of documents and numerous covert surveillance operations done on Dr. King, why could the FBI not have worked on protecting the great civil rights leader, rather than assaulting him?

I propose the repeal of the Patriot Act (which is already unconstitutional) and the complete rebuilding of the intelligence community from the ground up, with transparency and public involvement at all possible levels and a powerful civil liberties review of all activities. The FBI was founded on tyranny and oppression, with its creator, J. Edgar Hoover, being a known terrorist. The entire agency needs to be eliminated.

Being an author and scholar of Dr. Martin Luther King, I believe he would demand a massive reform and imprisonment of the terrorists in the police state that the United States has become. It is a police state that failed to protect him from harm, despite the massive number of death threats that he received—if [agents of the police state] were not the ones who killed him.

Chad Kister
Nelsonville, Ohio

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Why Such Sophisticated Guns?

This letter is in response to the articles covering the shooting tragedy in Arizona.

The second amendment of the United States Constitution states: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Obviously the need for a state militia has been replaced by the National Guard and Coast Guard wherein trained military personnel are entrusted with the defense of this country against domestic enemies. Their weapons are tightly controlled and safeguarded.

The only two reasons for a citizen to own a firearm are for hunting or defense of the household from intruders. In either case, ownership of a handgun, shotgun or rifle is more than adequate to satisfy these purposes. There is absolutely no need for any U.S. civilian to own any weapon more powerful or sophisticated than these. Accordingly, all handguns, shotguns and rifles must be licensed and registered to the degree necessary to match weapon to owner at the click of a computer key.

Furthermore, if we had prohibited the purchase of more sophisticated weapons [i.e. a Glock 19 semiautomatic pistol with an extended magazine], several innocent victims would not have died or been harmed during this tragedy, as well as in shopping malls and on college campuses.

The shooter is obviously disturbed by mental illness; it appears that those defending the right to own sophisticated weapons show a callous disregard for the safety and protection of their fellow citizens. Mental illness and guns are as bad a combination as alcohol and driving. Evidently we have the money to fight two wars overseas but not the political will to treat the mentally ill, who are not only a danger to themselves but to everyone else as well.

Joe Bialek

Cleveland, Ohio

 

 

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