Greater Krueger National Park

Greater Krueger National Park
An image from a recent trip to South Africa. Clcik on the image for more on this trip.

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Monday, January 31, 2011

Polling and Elections

Politicians on both sides of the political spectrum are attempting to use polls to prove what the American public is thinking and what it wants our government to do going forward.  To the extent that anybody in authority bases their decisions on these polls, to that extent they are proving that they should not be in office.  We are all aware that it is possible to frame a poll question in such a way as to get the answer that the poll taker wants.  And the problem does not stop there because the next thing that happens is that the poll results are then "analyzed."  Today, both the left and the right are skewing polls to make their case and influence government decisions.  In my mind, the only poll that really counts is the one that is taken at the electoral polling place.  In 2008, the American public said that it liked what Candidate Barack Obama was promising.  In 2010, the same public said that it did not like what President Barack Obama delivered.

Today, we are facing massive debt that is threatening to bankrupt America.  Some on the left are using polls to argue that the public does not want to cut spending.  In my mind that is inexcusable as well as wrong.  We know that we have to cut spending, but understandably we are very concerned about where we cut and by how much.  When a poll taker asks someone if they want to cut social security and they say no, it does not mean that they want to continue to pile up debt.  It does mean that they don't want to cut social security.  The same is true for any other specific question that can be conceived.  Heck, even the President of the United States has agreed that we have to get our deficit under control.  The problem is that he does not know how to do it and wants the Republicans to force his hand so that he can be popular in 2012 as having fought against the very cuts that are necessary to save our economy.  If America permits these folks to get away with this kind of shenanigans we unfortunately deserve to go the way of Southern Europe.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cancel the credit cards - please!

There are a lot of very important things happening in the world right now and it is understandable that we should be looking hard at events in Mexico, North Africa, the Middle East, and other hot spots around the globe, but one of the most important things going on anywhere in the world today is occurring right here at home.  President Obama and the Congress are entering into negotiations about raising this country's debt ceiling.

If the United States were to default on it's obligations it would not only destroy our country, but would throw the entire international economic system into chaos.  Obviously, we can not permit that to happen and obviously it means that the Republicans in the Congress will have to support legislation that dramatically increases our national debt.  Today, our debt increases by four billion dollars every day.  The fact that we have no choice, but to increase that astronomical figure is all by itself an indication as to just exactly how bad our national finances are.

The Speaker of the House has a clear understanding of the situation.  He said that defaulting on our obligations is not a way to create jobs, but we must reduce spending if we are to dig ourselves out of the economic hole that we are in.  The Senate Minority leader said much the same thing.  Meanwhile, the president is preparing a budget request that is expected to ask for massive increases in spending.

The fact that there are folks in this country that do not see the need to reduce spending amazes me and, to some extent, disheartens me.  How can we be so stupid?  I understand the need to argue about where we cut and by how much, but I honestly do not understand someone like our president who wants to ignore our debt and pile on even more spending that will significantly worsen it.  It does indeed remind me of the teenager with the credit card problem.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Obama Care - Replace it or else

According to news reports, the Federal Government has granted over 700 waivers to employers who cannot meet the requirements of Obama Care.  Conservatives point out that this proves the unworkability of the program, particularly since many of the recipients of these waivers were supporters of the program in the first place.  If they can't make it work nobody can. 

I oppose Obama Care and agree with this criticism, but I want to caution my fellow conservatives.  We must remember that Mr. Obama's real objective is a national health care system that is completely controlled by the government.  In the give and take on health care over the next months, he and his allies can be expected to offer these types of problems as proof that a market based health care system is unworkable.

We have two choices.  We can continue to argue with him about Obama Care or we can propose specific new legislation to replace it.  With 2012 approaching I suggest that we best get busy with our new ideas.  Let's immediately take him up on his offer to reform medical malpractice legislation - tort reform.  Let's propose specific legislation that permits folks to buy health insurance across state lines.  Let's harness the whiz kids in the IT world to develop a nationwide digital health records system.  Etc.

It is important that the House defund Obama Care and use it's investigative powers to illuminate it's failings, but we can not stop there.  If we do, the public will turn against us - and they should because we are no more able to deal with real problems than the liberals are.  If we do have the ideas that can get the job done better than this president we had better get them out in the open right now.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tax Code Dangers

A month or so ago we had a great national discussion about taxes and we came to a bipartisan decision that nobody liked, but most of us accepted.  We decided to continue the Bush tax rates without change in return for a large dose of additional spending.  During the debate much was made of the fact that increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans would adversely impact small business.  Many liberals believe that is as it should be.  The wealthy should share their wealth with the less fortunate members of our country.

I am concerned about the less fortunate, but do not believe that sharing the wealth works (see previous posts).  I also believe that overtaxing the top echelons of income will adversely impact small business and that this will put one more impediment in the way of creating more jobs.  The reason for this is that many small business owners pay their taxes as personal income. 

Recently, Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury said: "A lot of people have suggested that we look at business income generated outside what we call the corporate sector.  There is a lot of income there and many of the distortions in the corporate sector affect them too.  It's worth taking a look at."  Mr. Geithner is talking about what you and I call small business and is edging up to suggesting that we include some or all of it in what he calls the corporate sector thus making it possible to apply corporate taxes to their profits.

I agree that we should look at this in the context of a complete overhaul of the tax code, but suggest that we had best be very careful lest we adversely impact job creation and even more importantly stifle innovation.  We must remember that many of our most important innovations started out with a couple of people tinkering in their garage.  I don't mind government sponsored research, but honestly believe that garage based research might be even more important to our success as a nation.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Social Security

Following President Obama's State of the Union Speech, Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate Leader, said:  "I take the president at his word when he says he's eager to cooperate with us on doing all of it."  This is exactly the right approach for conservatives to take and I commend Mr. McConnell. 

One of the more important issues before us that requires this kind of bipartisan action is social security.  I am not an expert on social security, but as I understand it, the program has generated a $2.5 trillion surplus.  A problem exists because this money has been borrowed over the years to pay for other programs.  It is not in the piggy bank anymore.  Instead there are IOUs that must be paid from other funds.  Even if these funds are found (and I presume that they will be), the system will go broke in 2037 unless it is overhauled.  The basic reason is that fewer workers are paying into it and more retirees are drawing funds out of it.  There are peripheral arguments, but this is the basic problem.

Politicians inching up to this issue can be expected to spend a lot of time and hot air talking about who is to blame for this situation.  Affixing blame is easier than fixing a broken program.  Those that are to blame include every politician that has served in the national government since the program was initiated following the Great Depression.  We have a broken program.  It has to be fixed, the fix is going to hurt, so get on with it or give up your seat at the table.

The Social Security Administration estimates that in 2037 the program will be able to pay about 78% of the benefits due to recipients.  That is clearly unacceptable.  We have about 25 years to work with if program modifications are made now.  Among the things being suggested are changes in the retirement age, reductions in annual increases designed to offset inflation for wealthier recipients, as well as increases in payroll taxes.  Some are also calling for partial or complete elimination of the program as it stands now to be replaced by a program that invests in the stock market.

Let's start by somebody in authority with access to the numbers spelling out exactly what each of these options can do for us.  Get rid of the hyperbolae and just give the public the facts.  After that the politicians can debate the various solutions and make some decisions.  If those of us in the audience don't like the decisions we can express our displeasure at the polls in 2012.  If you folks in Congress don't get on with it though, I say you all need to find other work.  As for those of us in the cheap seats - we are going to have to be realistic.  There is no way that this is not going to hurt.  Suck it up.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 State of the Union Speech

President Obama's State of the Union speech last night was an excellent defense of his current position on a number of critical issues facing our country.  He clearly maintained his position as the foremost orator currently working the room in the English language.  He urged bipartisanship going forward and spoke forcefully, if briefly, of the need to get our deficit under control.  There were a few places where he reiterated promises that he had made before and failed to keep, but most of the speech was focused on the need for massive investments to ensure that America could maintain it's position as the greatest nation in the world.  As is the case in all such speeches, specifics were lacking.  Paul Ryan's Republican response to the speech was focused entirely on the need to get our deficit under control before we engage in increased spending.  The president painted a glowing utopia if we invested in our future and Ryan painted a certain apocalypse if we failed to reduce our spending.

I continue to believe that our president is able to identify the right challenges facing our country, but utterly fails in finding acceptable and effective ways to deal with them.  His speech was a long list of attractive national goals, but did not effectively deal with the question of how we pay for them.  My guess is that he does understand the economic crisis that we are in and does want to deal with it, but wants the Republicans to force him to make the spending cuts that will inevitably be unpopular with significant elements of the voting public.  He fears taking the lead in addressing Medicare, Social Security and the other entitlements that are at the root of our economic woes.  This will be useful in his 2012 reelection campaign.  His success (or lack thereof) in pursuing this political strategy will be an interesting commentary on the political sophistication of the American people.

I continue to believe that we should take the president at his word and test his sincerity rather than just dismiss his words as glib gibberish.  When he says that he wants to get the deficit under control, conservatives must offer specific realistic proposals to do that and follow through with effective argumentation to support their position.  When he calls for investment in our future, conservatives should agree in principal and demand that it be done in a fiscally responsible manner.  With regard to the conservative rebuttal to the speech, I like Paul Ryan's economic approach and feel that some of the more articulate Tea Party folks are trying to go too far too fast.  The solution to our economic problems must be a centrist solution that a majority of Americans can support.  The solution is inevitably going to be painful and it must hurt all of us equally.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pawlenty and Social Security

Timothy Pawlenty, former Governor of Minnesota is running for president.  He is also presenting specific ideas that might be adopted in our search for the resolution of our debt crisis.  It is still too early for me to decide whether I would support Mr. Pawlenty in his bid to capture the Republican nomination, but I am interested in some of the ideas that he is advocating.  Two suggestions are related to social security. 

Mr. Pawlenty suggests that we raise the retirement age for younger workers joining the work force.  In as much as we are all living longer and better than we used to, this makes sense to me. 

Mr Pawlenty also suggests that we adopt means testing for annual increases in social security payments.  As I understand his proposal, this would mean that wealthier recipients would have their social security increases scaled back.  Here again, I support this concept.

I note that Mr. Pawlenty describes both solutions as "suboptimal."  I agree with him and am attracted to them only because they are less bad than many others that are floating around.  We simply do not have enough wealth to continue the social security system as it is now.  It has to be changed and these ideas seem to me to be a reasonable start.

It is relatively easy to see the injustice of both of these suggestions and, if implemented, to get angry at the people who support them.  This will be true of all of the "suboptimal" solutions that are coming down the pike at us in the months ahead.  We must remember that the real culprits are the ones who spent too much money in years past - both Republican and Democrat.  They created the problem and now we are paying for it.  We are all going to have to sacrifice because of their errors, shortsightedness, misjudgments, and stupidities.  We can not get angry at the folks who are trying to dig us out of the hole that we are in by suggesting less bad options.  Let's focus on the specific solutions being offered and choose wisely.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spend 'till we're Broke - We're There

As this country is forced to get serious about curbing it's profligate spending and paying our bills, we run into the danger of inflation.  One of the ways that our government has been dealing with the current ongoing economic crisis has been to print a flood of new money and hold interest rates as low as possible.  I am not an economist, but, given the problems that we were facing, I suspect that this policy was probably necessary even though it has created some serious dislocations in the economy.

The arcane ways in which this has been accomplished are complicated, but one of the inevitable results of this policy has been that the value of our currency has gone down.  The dollar does not buy as much today as it did yesterday.  This means that, here at home, those of us who have managed to save some money are seeing our savings reduced in purchasing power.  It also means that, internationally, those that hold our national debt are witnessing an erosion in the value of their holdings. 

There is increasing inflationary pressure on core economic sectors both here at home and abroad.  In order to deal with the adverse effects of inflation, the money supply has to be reduced.  The best way to accomplish this is to raise interest rates.  Unfortunately, an increase in interest rates will adversely impact our efforts to dig ourselves out of the economic hole that we are in. 

This is not a partisan issue - it is cold hard economics.  Whether on the political left or the political right, we must deal with this issue.  The two sides of the congressional aisle have different approaches to the problem.  I champion the conservative approach which, in part, calls for an immediate reduction in spending.  This will relieve pressure on the money supply faster than anything else that can be done.  If we spend less we need fewer dollars.

As politicians and economists pontificate in the months ahead do not be confused by long winded explanations.  The basics are simple.  If we continue to spend like drunken sailors all we will do is intensify the hangover that is already ruining our day.  We must reduce spending and that means that we have to decide where and how much.  That will be painful.

My guess is that President Obama understands this very well.  I expect him to attempt to maneuver his political opponents into taking positions that are unpopular with the general public so that he can get reelected in 2012.  I am not overly concerned and do not see that as anything other than politics as usual.  The real question is whether the public blindly goes along with the wishful thinking that has so long characterized our political discourse.  Folks, there is no free lunch.  We must reduce spending.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

President Obama Moves Toward the Center

Is President Obama moving to the center?  Of course he is.  Has he changed his basic political philosophy?  Of course not.  After the massive November election defeat of Democratic candidates for office at national and state levels, Mr. Obama understood that he had to compromise with conservatives in order to protect his prospects for reelection in the 2012 presidential election.  In so doing, he can be expected to protect as much of his liberal accomplishments as possible and thus will give ground to genuine compromise grudgingly. 

Mr. Obama ardently believes in the programs that he helped pass during his first two years in office and thinks that many Americans do too.  He understands that he can do nothing to mollify the political right, but he believes that he can convince the middle of the political spectrum that he is a moderate by giving ground on some Republican demands while at the same time warning against conservative extremism.  Assuming that he is re-elected in 2012, I expect him to return to the ultra-liberal philosophy that characterized his first two years in office.  I believe that would be extremely detrimental to our future.

The current political situation in this country is fascinating.  As the president begins saying moderate things, conservatives are at a loss as to how to respond effectively.  The knee jerk response is frequently to clamor that he does not mean it.  He is insincere, crafty, duplicitous, splutter, sputter...  Those in charge of Mr. Obama's reelection campaign could not be more delighted.  The president says that he wants to reduce debt and conservative talk show hosts roll their eyes and mumble something about how he is the one that created most of the debt.  True, but politically ineffective except within conservative circles.

I suggest that what conservatives must do during the next two years is to avoid empty rhetoric and stay on message:  The President is sincere in his belief in governmental solutions that are wrong for America.  The midterm elections forced him to compromise and he is now talking about compromise.  That is as it should be.  Now let's focus on results.  Where actual progress is made we should give credit where credit is due - even if it is partially due to the president.  Where we get nothing but empty talk, that too should be pointed out.  Simultaneously conservative leaders must, repeat must, present intelligent alternative solutions to the problems that face this country.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Nutrition and Tucson

I believe in freedom and dislike government intrusion into our private lives.  Perhaps I am missing something, but I do not see how Michelle Obama advocating healthy food for children is somehow wrong.  I support small business and am concerned about the impact of large box stores on our economy, but I do not see how Wal-Mart saying that it will attempt to improve the nutritional value of the food that it sells is a bad thing.  Sarah Palin, whom I respect, seems to think that Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move" campaign to fight childhood obesity is a bad idea.  I am unable to see it that way.  I think that the first lady's campaign is a good thing and should be supported by all of us.  Her advice on how to eat is much like what my mom told me while I was growing up and is pretty much what all the nutritionists are saying these days.

I want to see President Obama replaced in 2012, but I think that he gave a good speech in Tucson.  In fact, I think that speech achieved some of the same high notes that characterized some of his better pre-election speeches.  I have no basis to question his motives, his true feelings, nor his sincerity in making that speech, and I think that those that do so are making a mistake.  My guess is that he is genuinely horrified by the Loughner rampage and genuinely wants to tone down the political rhetoric on both sides of the congressional aisle.  Those conservatives that criticize his Tucson speech are not helping their political cause.  I wholeheartedly agree with the president that we should tone down the rhetoric.  This does not mean that I agree with his policies, only that I do not see the need nor the wisdom of arguing with everything that the man says.  Let's stay focused on the real issues that need to be addressed.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Repeal and Replace

I support the repeal of Obama Care and applaud the House for their vote yesterday.  Obama Care is too expensive, requires too much government intrusion into people's lives, and, if implemented, would create too much additional governmental bureaucracy.  I believe that it would also reduce the quality of health care in America.  I will be interested to see how the effort to repeal Obama Care fares in the Senate, but presume that it will be defeated.  If that happens I support House conservatives using the power of the purse to do everything that they can to block implementation of this onerous legislation.  At the same time that I want to do away with Obama Care I believe that America should strive to extend the best health care possible to as many of our citizens as we can.  Ultra-conservatives are correct that there is nothing in the constitution requiring this, but I believe that it is the right thing to do none-the-less.  I will be looking for specific initiatives designed to accomplish this from our conservative representatives in the months ahead.

There was another important congressional vote yesterday.  The House Rules Committee approved a resolution calling on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Republican, Wisconsin) to limit non-security discretionary spending in the second half of 2011 to 2008 levels or less.  This is the beginning of a conservative effort to reduce governmental spending and to shrink the size of the federal government.  I fully support this effort as well, but I recognize that it will not be enough to straighten out our economy.  For that, we must address the question of entitlements as well as defense spending.  Solutions to those problems are going to be painful and are potentially dangerous but we can not shy away from them.

A third welcome development came from the White House when President Obama instructed some government agencies to review their regulations to see if they were impeding job creation.  It remains to be seen whether anything useful will come from this, but I certainly support the initiative and hope that it will be expanded to all agencies throughout the government.  Some on the political right are skeptical of the president's true motives here and are criticizing it as being insincere before we have an opportunity to see what might come of it.  That makes for good ratings for talk show hosts speaking to their most rabid fans, but it is less than useful in the public debate about how to get ourselves out of the economic mess that we are in.  It also drives thinking Americans away from conservative voices.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Where are we going?

It is a cliche to say that America derives much of it's success from immigrants.  It is also true.  Over the years, the brightest minds from all over the world have immigrated to the United States.  The individual reasons for this are as diverse as the people that immigrated, but one important common attraction was freedom.  Freedom from government meddling in our daily lives, freedom to live and work where we wanted to live and work, and freedom to be whomever we wanted to be.  Our society is in the process of restricting those freedoms more rapidly than ever before in our history.  As our freedoms are further restricted we will see a corresponding reduction in the inflow of intelligence, initiative, and energy.  This will inevitably contribute to the decline of America.  Depending on how fast and how effectively we reduce freedom in this country, we will, for the first time in our history, begin to suffer from the "brain drain."  Our best and our brightest will move somewhere else and foreign intelligence will stay home.  (Further complicating the problem, unimaginative people will continue to come as long as we are able to offer attractive social benefits.)

It can be said that this is already happening with, for instance, many of the most creative young people working in Silicon Valley moving to Mumbai, India, but that is because of specific stupidities in our laws.  That kind of shortsightedness could be reversed with a simple vote in the legislature.  I am more concerned with the pervasive, if subtle, inroads on our freedoms that are going on at every echelon of our society.  People can argue about the merits of specific programs, but there is absolutely no question that we are moving ever more rapidly toward a welfare state with all that implies for freedoms of all kinds.  President Obama's desire to "spread the wealth around" will ensure that there is less wealth to spread.  This, all by itself, is reason to vote him out of office in 2012, but it is not the end of the problem.  The real problem is within us - the people of America - and it could be an incurable and terminal illness for the America that we know today.

Ironically, we are doing this to ourselves for admirable reasons.  Our population is well-educated and we can see the inequities that are all around us both at home and abroad.  We are a moral people and are justifiably concerned with the plight of those that have less than we do.  We are the wealthiest country in the world and we understand that much of that wealth has come to us through the exploitation of others.  We are a confident people that has successfully dealt with external challenge without ever having serious military conflict touch our heartland until very recently.  We are also an insular, naive, and self-absorbed people that has very little understanding of the world around us.  In international affairs we attribute qualities to others that are not there and at home we have an unrealistic faith in governmental solutions.

We are still the greatest nation in the world - no matter how you define great and we can still turn things around, but only if you and I want to do it.  I want to, but I worry about you.  My suspicion is that you will win.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Loughner and Mexico

For understandable reasons, we are focusing most of our current attention on the recent horrific shooting in Tucson.  It is pretty clear from the information that we have now, that Jared Loughner acted alone and had nothing to do with Islamic terrorists, or Mexican drug cartels.  Those that try to label a person that far removed from sanity a liberal or a conservative are indulging in flights of fantasy.   I doubt that Loughner killed six people because of the words of any politician including Sarah Palin, but that certainly does not condone excessive political rhetoric.  As I have posted before, I believe that the words that we use do have consequences and excessive political rhetoric works against conservative arguments.  Even if it does not stir violent acts, excessive rhetoric is less than intelligent and gets in the way of decision-making about important challenges facing America and the world.

There is another recent disturbing report out of the Southwest.  Apparently, suspected Mexican drug cartel members used live fire from across the Rio Grande River to haze American road workers and chase them out of a part of West Texas close to the Mexican border.  This highlights the ongoing violence that exists just south of the United States and it also reminds us that our government is not doing enough to protect our border nor enough to help Mexican authorities that are in a literal life and death struggle with anarchy.  Loughner is one man.  Mexico is a nation of 107 million people with a very long common border.  To turn a blind eye to what is going on in Mexico is naive, foolish, and extremely dangerous. 

In the United States, a Loughner goes nuts every once in a while.  In Mexico, it happens on a daily basis.  In our country, the idiot acts alone without rational thought.  In Mexico, the thugs are acting as part of organized groups consciously attempting to destroy national authority.  We should be horrified at what Loughner did and we should be terrified by what the drug cartels are doing just south of our border.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Guns in Society

Guns are understandably a controversial subject.  A whole lot of folks do not like them and that certainly includes me.  Another group of people, including a number of my closest friends, actually like them although most of them would claim that "like" is too strong a word.  They would argue that guns are nothing more than a tool that can be used for sport and/or for personal protection.  I agree with them, but I still do not like guns.

Many in our society want a total ban on gun ownership, but a significant number of people argue that our Constitution provides citizens the right to bear arms.  I am not an expert on the constitution, but can easily understand both sides of that argument.  For me, it comes down to the interpretation of words and not the intention of the people who wrote the founding documents for our government.  In the eighteenth century, virtually every household in the country had one or more guns in it.  It is obvious that the men who wrote the constitution did not intend to try to deny guns to the citizens, but I am not sure that is particularly relevant to our present situation.  These same men believed that it was acceptable to own slaves and that women were not smart enough to vote.  We have changed our minds on both points and I see no reason why we can not change our minds about guns.  The world changes as time moves on.

For me, the question is whether we should change our gun laws and, if so, how.  This is a much more difficult and relevant issue than the esoteric constitutional argument.  I suggest that most folks who want a total ban on guns live in secure neighborhoods and most of those that want guns for personal protection fear that their personal security is inadequately protected by the police.  It is fairly easy to develop compelling arguments on both sides without either side convincing the other of their relevance.  Take the insane idiot that shoots someone for no reason.  If he did not have access to a gun he could not have done it.  On the other hand, if the victim had a gun he might have been able to protect himself.  Etc., etc., etc...

I think back to life in America during the nineteenth century where every man that lived in my part of the country carried a weapon.  That lifestyle makes for exciting motion pictures, but I certainly would not want to go back to it when I left the cinema.  I have spent time in places where I carried a gun and had to be constantly on guard against mayhem that could kill me - even when I was sleeping.  It is a waring pressure and changes one's very being.  It is not good.  I want a society that is as far removed from that as possible and I wish that we could get rid of everything and anything that can cause harm to a human being - including, but not limited to guns.  My guess is that is an impossible goal because the real problem is within us.  If we get nuts enough to want to kill someone and we do not have access to a gun we will probably use some other tool.

I believe that it would be useful to limit and control access to guns, but I do not see it as being practical to try to impose a total ban.  To do that effectively we would need to impose a level of government control on our daily lives that would be totally unacceptable even if it could be accomplished.  Certainly, guns should be registered.  Waiting periods are an excellent idea.  Gun education is absolutely necessary.  Miss-use of guns should result in very heavy penalties.  Effective action against gun smuggling and illicit sales should be strengthened.  This last point is far and away the most crying need right now, but it is more relevant to our relations with Mexico than it is Main Street America.  It is understandable that we should be horrified when someone kills six people in a shopping mall, but we should also remember that our guns are killing hundreds if not thousands south of the border.