Author is a retired attorney having practiced for 35 years in Illinois who now lives in Texas and started writing stories about a year and a half ago.
Gun Control: Illinois vs. Texas
I retired and moved from Illinois to south Texas about five years ago. Recently I was at a flea market here in South Texas when I came across a booth offering, rifles, guns, handgun classes and other weapon related items for sale. Talking to the promoter he informed me that in order to carry a concealed handgun in Texas you had to have a permit and that you had to take a handgun class to get a permit. I told him that I wasn’t interested in a handgun but possibly a .22 rifle and asked if any classes or permits were required for owning a .22 rifle. No he told me. No paperwork required. The permit law applied only to carrying concealed weapons. He then told me that he did have some .22 rifles for sale as well as longs or shorts, i.e. ammo, bullets for a .22 and handed me a coupon for ten percent off all used firearms. He operated a gun selling business out of his home which was conveniently located only a few miles from where I lived and thus made the offer very tempting.
I thought back to when I lived in upper Rock Island County Illinois and bought a used .22 from a local hunting and fishing supplies store there. This was right after President Obama got elected and everyone was scared to death that he was going to take away all our guns. Because of all the hysteria business was booming the store owner informed me. But the paperwork required under Illinois law to sell a firearm was overwhelming. On the plus side though he had no competition from Wal-mart anymore as the Illinois Wal-Mart stores had given up selling guns. It was cost prohibitive for them. However as to himself he had to put up with it since operating as a sole proprietor, he counted on gun sales in order to stay in business.
He went on and said that all of this all had come about because the blankety blank Illinois politicians had passed these new gun control laws. They knew that they couldn’t outright ban firearms but that they could make it cost prohibitive to sell and own them. That was their backdoor approach he told me.
Well back then I had already gone to the trouble of getting my Illinois FOID card (Firearms Owner ID card) so I bought a .22 rifle and some shells from him. Ended up shooting only one sickly possum before I moved to Texas. Sold the rifle at auction with my other belongings when I moved. My auctioneer told me that only a FOID card was required for one to buy a gun at an auction. He added though that it’s just a matter of time before this changes.
Back in the day when I was a kid there were no Illinois gun control laws and I use to buy .22 shells for my rifle over the counter, same as a candy bar or a soda pop at Mack’s Service, a Coal Valley Illinois gas station on Route 150. I didn’t even have to be an adult. It was that simple. Those were simpler times.
Well I have yet to buy a .22 rifle here in Texas. Still thinking about it. I have checked out the local Wal-Mart and they do sell them.
Bottom line on gun control: Gun ownership will decrease in Illinois and increase in Texas and Illinois will become a safer place to live than Texas. Illinois wins! Wahoo! (Tongue in cheek).
Clemencio Montecillo Bascar was a former Professor and Vice President for Corporate Affairs of the Western Mindanao State University. He is a recepient of various local, regional, and national awards in songwriting, playwriting, poetry, and public service. Several of his poems had been published in international literary magazines and journals such as, Foliate Oak , BRICKrhetoric, About Place, Torrid Literature, Mused-theBellaOnline Lietrary Review, and The Voices Project. He had written and published by the Western Mindanao State University two books of poetry, namely; "Fragments of the Eucharist" and "Riots of Convictions." In the Philippines, some of his poems appeared in the such magazines as Women's, MOD, and Chick.
At present, he writes a column in the Zamboanga Today daily newspaper and resides at 659 Gemini Street, Tumaga, Zamboanga City, Philippines. He is married to the former Miss Melinda Climaco dela Cruz and blest with three children, Jane, Lynnette, and Timothy James.
PH COLONIZED MINDANAO AND SULU BY LAW
Both as a former academician and as an ordinary citizen, it is my personal analysis and unbiased appreciation that the following historical events and facts constitute the major valid reasons why Mindanao and Sulu should either be decolonized by the United Nations, returned by the United States of America to their respective inhabitants, or be restored as two sovereign states by the Republic of the Philippines on account of the irrefutable truth that it colonized Mindanao and Sulu by law having enacted the QUIRINO-RECTO COLONIZATION ACT OTHERWISE KNOWN AS LEGISLATIVE ACT 4197 of 1935 during the Commonwealth period under the Presidency of Manuel L. Quezon.
Personally I find it wrong for the Philippine government to just create a micro political entity by act of Congress as a peace offering to quell the armed struggle for self-determination originally launched by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), then taken over by its breakaway faction, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and now pursued by another breakaway faction, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), because what were dispossessed were two sovereign Sultanates distinct, separate, and independent from each other. It is analogous to a cattle rustler caught stealing red-handed two cows but is only willing to return a leg to their respective owners.
Virtually, this is how the Philippine government has been negotiating as a political settlement for the demand of the inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu for the return of their stolen homelands, a glaring and unmistakable indication of its unwillingness to return two state territories to their original owners.
In my previous academic discussion I boldly posited some historically based arguments why it is politically wrong for the Philippine government to just create a micro juridical entity as a full settlement for the two ancient monarchies that were unilaterlly incorporated to the body politic of the Republic of the Philippines when it was finally granted self-rule by the mother country, the United States of America, on July 4, 1946 pursuant to the passage of the Tydings-McDuffie Law providing for a 10-year transition period. Here are the major ones:
(1) Maguindanao (Mindanao) and Sulu were sovereign, independent, and internationally recognized Sultanates distinct and separate from each other;
(2) as independent and sovereign monarchial states, they were not conquered, colonized, and Christianized by Spain although some coastal areas fell under its control;
(3) yet, despite the fact that these two Sultanates were not colonial possessions of Spain, they were furtively included in the techinical description (coordinates) defining the terrorial limits of the Philippine Islands, the Spanish colony which was sold and ceded by Spain to the United States in Article III of the December 10, 1898 for $20-million;
(4) the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao were not parts of the Spanish Colonial Government of the Phlippines Islands (Filipinas) which was composed of the territories in the Visayas and Luzon that were either conquered, colonized, and Christianized or had voluntarily submitted to the sovereignty of Spain by virtue of blood compacts or other modes of territorial transfer and possession. This Spanish colony which was named by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos "Las Islas Filipinas" in 1544, was in honor of Philip of Asturias, the Prince of Asturias at that time who eventually became King Philip II of Spain. This is the reason why the inhabitants of the islands which fell under the Crown of Spain at present carry the Filipino citizenship.
(5) the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao, recovered all the areas that the Spaniards were able to conquer and occupy when all their regiments were ordered withdrawn because of the outbreak of the Filipino revolution against Spain at Pugad Lawin, Manila, on August 23, 1896 leaving only the outpost in Zamboanga (Fort Pillar)which was captured by the Revolutionary Army under the command of Gen. Vicente Solis Alvarez who was also the first President of the Zamboanga Republic on May 18, 1899; after the surrender of Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo and his entire revolutionary army, the Spanish colonial government was faced with a mightier enemy than the war of insurrection led by Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo who was already exiled to Hong Kong together with his trusted and loyal officers after receiving Four Hundred Thousand Pesos (P400,000.) which was half the total amount promised by the Spanish colonial government for his surrender, when the United State officially declared war with Spain on April 25, 1898.
(6) on May 18, 1899 following the capture of the biggest Spanish fortress in Mindanao, Fort Pillar, the last Spanish Governor General, Diego de los Rios surrendered the sovereignty of Spain over Mindanao and Sulu and all the other areas of the Philippine Islands which were not turned over to the United States by Spanish Governor General Fermin Jaudenes folllowing the Mock War of August 13, 1898 for the capitualation of the City of Manila, to Gen. Vicente Solis Alvarez in accordance with ethics and law of war which to me is the true date of independence from the Crown of Spain. This occurred a day before (May 18, 1899) when the American forces sneakily landed on the island of Jolo which started the unlawful occupation of Mindanao and Sulu on May 19, 1899.
(7) when Spanish -American War was declared in April, 1898 , it was the Americans who convinced Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo who was then in exile in Hong Kong to return to the Philippine Islands to continue his revolutionary struggle and to help them win the war against the Crown of Spain with "all sorts of generous offers" which Gen. Aguinaldo eventually agreed and accepted only to be betrayed when his reorganized revolutionary army was not allowed to participate and was kept in the dark about the secret negotiations for the "sham battle" for capitualation of the City of Manila;
(8) when General Aguinaldo proclaimed independence on June 12, 1898, it was not recognized by Spain nor the United States ; the coverage of this declaration was limited to the eight provinces which revolted against Spain and not the entire Philippine Islands; Mindanao and Sulu being two separate, independent, and sovereign states were not, even in the wildest imagination, parts nor allies of the Aguinaldo revolutionary government;
(9) when General Aguinaldo declared war with the United States on February 4, 1899 which was triggered by the first shot fired by Pvt. William G. Grayson, an Englishman, the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu already recovered all the territories previously occupied by the Spaniards and were completely free from any threats of Spanish conquest and colonization;
( 10) having recovered their respective territorial domains, the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu recovered fully their statehood and independence from the Crown of Spain before the outbreak of the Philippine-American war and were not allies of the First Philippine Republic which declared war against the United States on February 4, 1899. Hence, the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu by virtue of the fact that they were not colonies or possessions of Spain, were not parts of the theater of war between Spain and the United States as authorized by the American Congress, and were not also parts of the theater of war declared by Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo as President of the First Philippine Republic against the United States.
These are the historical events and facts that the United Nations Committee on Decolonizatio should take into serious consideration in pursuit of its declared mission of decolonizing colonial countries and peoples which is now entering its third decade of implementation popularly perceived as biased for or under the dictate of the super rich and powerful countries while insensitive and doing practically nothing for the weak and poverty-ridden indigenous peoples still under the thoes of colonialism.
For the Philippines, let me reiterate my assertion that it is guilty of colonizing Mindanao and Sulu by law on account of the Quirino- Recto Colonization Act otherwise known as Legislative Act 4197 passed in 1935 during the Commonwealth period under the presidency of Manuel L. Quezon which has a very striking similarity with the manner by which the Americans dispossessed the indigenous peoples' lands described aptly by Lindsay Robertson as "Conquest by Law."
Author is a retired attorney having practiced for 35 years in Illinois who now lives in Texas and started writing stories about a year and a half ago.
A Pigeon Named Oliver
There once was pigeon named Oliver. He was named that because he became an orphan at a young age and always begged for more food and thus reminded the pigeon keeper of Oliver Twist from the novel of the same name. Poor Oliver hand no parents because his mother had been taken by a hawk and his father abandon him in his nest as a young squeaker, a squeaker being not a fully grown pigeon dependent on his parents for food. His father couldn’t be bothered with single fatherhood since he was already out strutting his stuff looking for a new mate and had quit feeding his babies. One of them starved to death and the other became Oliver.
The keeper of these pigeons, upon discovering the starved baby, took Oliver under his wing so to speak, brought him in his house and started feeding him oatmeal and grits with an eye dropper. But no matter how much he fed him, it was never enough. For poor Oliver always would start flapping his wings and loudly squawking demanding more. So the pigeon keeper would keep on feeding him until eventually he would become full and shut up. It was kind of like when he fed his son, when he was little.
Oliver grew to an adult pigeon in a month right on schedule. Then he was put over with the young bird kit. That is a group of birds his age to be trained to perform. For Oliver was a Birmingham Roller, that is a pigeon that does continual somersaults or rolls, anywhere from three to twenty or more feet in depth, while flying. There were two dangers inherent to being a Birmingham Roller. One the ever present hawk looking for a meal and two spinning out of control and crashing to the ground and killing oneself.
Well Oliver survived both of these hazards and made it to the breeding season next year. He remained tame too and would let the pigeon keeper handle him and not try to flee when he grabbed him like the other birds would do. In fact Oliver relished landing on his keeper’s head and shoulders and whacking his wings at him as if his keeper was a rival cock bird with whom to do battle. This annoyed the pigeon keeper but there was nothing he could do to change this behaviour because Oliver hand been raised by a human and viewed a human as a pigeon rival. So the pigeon keeper kind of playfully flapped his fingers back at Oliver in jest but this only encouraged him to be more aggressive.
Now a new breeding season approached and only the best performing birds were chosen to reproduce and Oliver was one of them. His keeper thus placed him with three other cock birds and four hens in the breeding coop and let the pigeons choose for themselves with whom they would mate, for once pigeon pairs up, they remain so mated to each other for the rest of their lives. Kind of like some humans do, sometimes.
Oliver strutted and blew up his crop, paraded up and down with tail feathers spread before one of the hen birds. But she rejected his advances and chose another for her mate, for pigeons are just like people in that the female of the specie chooses the mate, not the male, though the male may think so. So Oliver repeated the process and was rejected a second and then a third time and thus by the process of elimination only one hen remained available.
Oliver was not her first choice either for a mate for she was not that aggressive in going after a male and the more aggressive hens always get the males they want, just like female humans do. So she was stuck with Oliver and Oliver with her.
But it was spring time and love was in the air and the forces of nature were too much and the two of them eventually got together. So Oliver built the nest and did his duty taking his turn sitting on the eggs and did his duty feeding his two young and did his duty keeping them warm for ten days as pigeons are programmed to do, and did his duty raising the two squeakers to maturity. Now hen pigeons lay two eggs again just before the the squeakers are full grown and the pair repeats the process of raising young over and over again until the pigeon keeper decides he has enough new birds for a kit, a kit being about twenty rollers to be trained to fly and roll together simultaneously as a team. Then he separates the spouses and the breeding season is over.
Now after the second round of eggs hatched, Oliver again did his duty for ten days feeding and keeping the babies warm and then something happened that the pigeon keeper did not know how to explain. There in Oliver’s nest box were his two baby squeakers, dead.
The pigeon keeper’s first instincts were to look for the usual suspects. That is some varmint, a weasel, mink, coon or possum or had gotten into the coop. But that obviously was not the case here for if one of them had gotten in, then there would be dead adult birds all over the place and the survivors, if any, would still be hysterical. But there were no other dead birds here. Then he thought maybe a large rat or a snake got it but he ruled that out because a rat or snake would have eaten the babies. Here the bodies were in intact except that they were covered with blood and had been pecked all over. Then he thought that maybe another bird had flown in Oliver’s nest box and that a fight ensued and while Oliver defended his family and turf, the babies were accidentally killed. But the pigeon keeper observed no other birds had blood on them. Only Oliver had blood on him.
Oliver had killed his own young. It was the only explanation and it went against everything that was natural in the pigeon world for pigeons don’t kill their young. But Oliver hadn’t grown up in the pigeon world. He had been raised by a human. Maybe his over aggressiveness had run amuck and made him psycho the pigeon keeper thought. Maybe his mate was not to his liking and the prospect of being stuck with her forever drove him over the edge. So instead of killing his wife, which would be impossible for one adult pigeon to kill another, he killed his children to end the marriage. In human terms that could be a motive. Humans did crazy stuff like this, but not pigeons. The pigeon keeper had never seen or heard of such a thing like this in all his years of keeping pigeons. So after a while he gave up trying to come up with an answer. But the fact remained that Oliver was guilty, that he was demented, and that he had to go. So the question became what to do with him.
Pigeon keepers usually cull, that is destroy in polite terms, but kill in real terms, birds that are undesirable to breed from. And Oliver was definitely now an undesirable. But this pigeon keeper was an old man and in his youth he had culled many a bird but now with his old age upon him he had become more respectful of the sacredness of all life, and despite knowing that he should ring Oliver’s neck, he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. So he decided on banishment from the kingdom as Oliver’s punishment.
The next day he went into town, ironically to get pigeon feed and other pigeon supplies, and took Oliver with him. He cleaned him up first washing the blood evidence from his feathers. Town was about twenty miles from where he lived so he released Oliver there figuring that Oliver would join up with the local ferals and that would be the end of him.
But alas he was wrong. Two days later he received a phone call from a woman that lived in a small town about five miles from him. She told him that she had one of his pigeons. Her daughters had captured this pigeon that was too exhausted and too weak to fly she said and that she knew a woman who raised pigeons and that woman got on the internet and somehow traced the registered band number on the bird back to him.
The pigeon keeper had her describe the bird best she could to him to confirm it was Oliver. But despite the lack of pigeon terms and pigeon colors in her description, the pigeon keeper knew it had to be Oliver when she told him that the bird appeared to be hurt as there was blood on him. He must have missed some cleaning him up.
So Oliver had flown fifteen miles approximately trying to get home. All pigeons have some homing instinct even if they aren’t homing pigeons and evidently he became too weak and or too hungry or both to make it all the way. Since he had been raised by a human, humans were his saving grace and Oliver had gone to humans for help, that is this woman’s daughters.
The pigeon keeper informed the woman that he didn’t want the bird back, he did not give her the reason why, and suggested that they could keep it if they wanted to or give the pigeon away to someone else.
“Oh thank you,” said the woman. “We’ll keep her. My daughters just love her. They’ve named her Princess.”
And so that’s how a pigeon named Oliver became a pigeon known as Princess and lived happily ever after, and all by herself/himself hopefully.
A PhD-level scientist, Sankar Chatterjee possesses the passion for traveling worldwide to immerse himself in new culture and customs to discover the forgotten history of the society while attempting to find the common thread that connects the humanity as a whole for its continuity. His most recent (2016 -17) essays appeared in The Vignette Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, The Missing Slate, Scarlet Leaf Review, Funny in Five Hundred, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Friday Flash Fiction, Quail Bell Magazine, Travelmag - The Independent Spirit and forthcoming in 404 Words.
Photo: Avi Chatterjee
A Funny Man of Fez, Morocco
In a late November afternoon of last year, I was strolling through the streets of the modern urban section of Fez, Morocco, when I spotted Ahmed, a young citizen of the country. Colorfully dressed in costumes, he was sitting on a cement block underneath an equally colorfully painted seal of the local authority. His pose reminded me of French sculptor Rodin’s famous “Thinking Man” statue. What attracted me most was his unique multi-colored funny brimmed hat, totally in contrast with the gloom displayed on his face. I approached him to strike up a conversation. Ahmed was from a nearby village, but came to town every day dressed up in historic traditional costumes, so that the western tourists could snap a few pictures with him to post on their social media posts. In return, he expected a few gratuitous bills of valuable western currencies to consider them to be his daily wage. Thanks to recent global technological revolution, he had access to a cheap smartphone bringing world news to him that affect his livelihood.
And that day it suddenly hit him. America just elected a new President at the end of a most divisive political process in its history when hate, insult and mockery of fellow human beings made up the platform of the winning candidate. From the well-heeled British tourists, he heard about the certainty of that country’s pulling away from the union that other European countries have been working so hardly to keep it together. He was aware of the moral failure of the German executives of a top car maker of that country, with their intention to cheat the fellow human beings in exchange of more profit. I asked him about his own country’s future outlook. He referred to me to the construction of the spectacular modern Hasan II Mosque in Casablanca (that I visited just few days ago) for the legacy of the current ruler at a cost of more than half a billion euros, the money which could have easily been utilized for betterment of healthcare, education and job creations for ordinary people like him. So, he was deeply pondering “where the world was heading to?” instead of posing with the tourists that day.
I had no reasonable answer to his query to take away his gloom and make him funny again. In a world, where one percent of current population, amounting to 70 million has currently been living in tents as the refugees due to war, poverty and displacement, juxtaposed with the fact that only eight richest people on earth now own more wealth than the poorest 50% of population amounting to 3.6 billion of people, I myself pondered “May be utopia has just been a concept, but isn’t human equality also about human dignity?” We sat together for a while with no intention of posing for a picture for the virtual world.
Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, Commonweal, Guwahatian Magazine (India), The Galway Review (Ireland), Public Republic (Bulgaria), The Osprey Review (Wales), The Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey) and other magazines. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs
Eight Men Who Are Doing Quite Well
A notice appeared in the paper recently with the names and faces of eight men who have a combined wealth of $426 billion. According to Oxfam International, in 2015 this would have equaled the amount of wealth held by half the world’s population, the poorest half.
Oxfam International is a confederation of charitable organizations in 90 countries seeking to stop the injustices that cause global poverty. They have been tracking wealth and poverty in the world for a long time.
It’s remarkable that six of the eight men are Americans: Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg and William Gates. Only Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire, and Amancia Ortega, the Spaniard, are from other countries.
Oxfam blames what it calls this "obscene wealth” on laws that have shifted the tax burden form the wealthy to the middle class.
Supposedly this concentration of wealth has grown a great deal since Ronald Reagan's administration. President Donald Trump has said that he supports an additional tax cut of 15% for billionaires. Some say this might result in an even smaller middle class although the dynamics of the connection are not entirely clear to the average layman. But many people would probably agree the six wealthiest Americans don’t seem to be in need of any additional tax breaks.
According to Oxfam, America is not the only nation where the wealthy seem to be living quite well, thanks to the failure to collect proportionate taxes.
In Africa, Oxfam says that $15 billion dollars is hidden from tax collectors, quite a sum on a poor continent. Critics say that the $15 billion, if collected, could bring health care to four million residents in Africa and put a teacher in every African classroom whatever number of classrooms that might be.
In Europe, says Oxfam, Greece and Italy lead the way in citizens avoiding taxes. Both nations are enduring difficult times. Some critics maintain that uncollected taxes if collected would bring relief to these overburdened economies.
Failure to collect taxes, according to Oxfam, endangers the European Economic Community. Germany is being asked to fill the gap and Germans are not happy about that and perhaps understandably so. And the current situation will not improve if Greece renounces its debt and firms across the world, long-suffering creditors in waiting, no longer have anything to wait for.
Meanwhile, in America, concern grows about what some people call “tax equity,” meaning the need for new laws to make the rich pay their “fair share,” whatever that might be. It is admittedly difficult to arrive at a “fair-share” percentage with economists differing on the amount.
Similar concern grows over the need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage whatever a living wage today in America might actually be.
Minimum wage workers are lobbying hard for $15.00 an hour. Whether that would be a living wage or not is debated. Whether that amount should be enacted nationally or not is, of course, debated as well.
But proponents of raising taxes on the rich and paying a higher minimum wage say that if something isn’t done to solve these problems, poverty will continue to grow and people will continue to suffer.
Back in the early part of the 20th century, Henry Ford was asked why he was paying employees $5.00 a day and he is said to have responded, “Somebody has to buy this stuff,” meaning of course his automobiles.
Today, if too many Americans max out their credit cards and have little cash in their pockets, who is going to take advantage of the sales at Walmart? Who is going to be able to buy enough of the products to make the economy grow?
These are very difficult problems but it seems obvious that something isn’t right if eight men, six of them in the United States, have a combined wealth greater than half the people in the world.
And in the United States it doesn’t seem that a step in the right direction would be to reduce the taxes on our wealthiest six billionaires. Perhaps better to listen to arguments as to why their taxes should be raised and then have Congress make a decision. The bill would of course require the signature of President Trump but who knows what he would do. He is still in the early stages of his unexpected presidency and no one can be certain what he will do in many matters of great importance.
To do nothing and remain in the status quo is to risk increasing the number of poor and the United States, like the world, obviously has enough poor people as it is.