Archive for May, 2013

A comment, reposted

May 14, 2013

I originally posted this as a comment to another blogger’s post, and to a commentary that resulted from that post.  Since it’s long and represents my thinking, I thought I’d put it here for anyone who reads MY blog to see.

I was a soldier; I served for 21 years on active duty and retired a Chief Warrant Officer-2 after a career that was most often performed as a non-commissioned officer. I was also a competitive shooter and won medals, a trophy, and was awarded the Schutzenschnoor by the German army, first in bronze, and then later in silver. Not many Americans earned that.
And then I became a teacher. I was teaching when this question began to be raised, whether to arm teachers in the classroom.
I didn’t want any part of it. It’s an incredibly stupid idea.
Teaching isn’t being an armed guard. It cannot possibly be. The mindset for the two activities are too different. After Columbine, I wondered what I would have done had I been there and been armed. The weapon, by the way, would have been a pistol. You can’t teach with a rifle or shotgun strapped to your back, and you can’t leave them in a classroom where they’re available to you because they would also be available to inquisitive students.
A question I couldn’t answer: which student should I shoot?
And keep in mind that level of expertise I have. Vanishingly few teachers have that qualification and the military mindset that allows targeting and killing a human being. Teachers develop empathy as a part of teaching. It’s as necessary as books and chalkboards if you’re to reach a class of some 30 juveniles. People who kill others cannot consider empathy. Do that and you’re the one who gets killed by someone who has no empathy for you.
Accuracy and target selection: it’s incredibly difficult to actually target a human and kill him with a pistol. Consider this:
” NYC police shoot suspect: 73 rounds fired, 2 non-lethal hits, 1 dead bystander…
The New York Times reports that police in Brooklyn responded to a report of a shooting last weekend and encountered an armed suspect who had just shot and killed a man.

The suspect ignored orders to drop his gun, and eight police officers then discharged their weapons, firing a total of 73 rounds, and hitting the suspect, who survived, twice, in his hip and chest. Two of those officers fired 15 rounds each from their Glocks.

A 56 year old woman nearby was fatally wounded by a 9mm bullet, and while the source of the fatal shot cannot be positively identified, police acknowledge it could have come from an officer’s gun.


And keep in mind that these were trained, qualified, police officers. Not quite the mindset of an infantryman or a sniper, but a lot closer to that than any teacher will have.

I own guns. But I have no need for military grade arms. Neither do you.

The idea that a bunch of overweight couch potatoes with a newly acquired Glock and an M16 or AK variant will take on the US Armed Forces is ludicrous. I once trained for riot suppression duty; our weapons were rifles with bayonets, and we didn’t expect to be issued ammunition. But it was there, somewhere, if the necessity arose. And there was backup from armored vehicles and aircraft had we come under attack. They train for that sort of thing; what works in Afghanistan will work on the streets of Podunk, too. Would the armed forces respond? Oh, yes. I haven’t forgotten Kent State. Regulars would be more likely be prepared to use deadly force than would Guardsmen. So don’t expect soldiers to decide that you’re a citizen and that rioting is your national right and to be respected.

Civilians haven’t been equal to soldiers in arms for a century at least. The idea that the 2nd Amendment was there to prevent government from becoming despotic might have had meaning in 1776; that ended at the end of the Civil War.

You might read Dakota Meyer’s book. And consider what happens to civilians who join in battle. If you’re in a combat zone, you’re wearing a friendly uniform or you’re a target.

Add to that this fact: target recognition and selection isn’t easy. The FBI and Army Special Forces and Navy Seals train for this. They have special facilities with a mix of friendlies and enemies represented by life-size target photos. Civilians don’t do that. Police rarely train to that level. So consider what you’d have done had you found yourself in a semi-dark movie theater when an attacker begins shooting. If you see someone with a gun, is he the attacker, or another guy like you who had a pistol under his shirt? Is he a policeman wearing a uniform that wouldn’t be easily seen in a darkened theater?

The whole idea of arming everyone and expecting this to make crazies and criminals less effective is simply ludicrous.


Bad Political Decisions

May 14, 2013

I think Mr. Obama is wrong again. He’s using a red herring to distract from another red herring, the Benghazi attack.

The Republicans are digging into Benghazi in hopes of finding something that they can use to attack Hillary Clinton as well as Mr. Obama. But using the IRS as a distraction from that is simply playing into Republican hands.

This is part of IRS guidelines that I got from a CNN article:

“A “501(c)(4)” organization is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code if it meets two criteria: the “organization must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare.”
To meet the IRS social welfare requirements, “an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community,” The IRS further defines this critical criterion under section 501(c)(4) as “primarily for the purpose of bringing about civic betterment and social improvements.”
But the IRS has said that “the promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” That said, “a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity.” And, according to the IRS, a 501(c)(4) may also engage in lobbying.
For example, guidance from the IRS available online suggests that an organization is likely to be deemed tax-exempt under section 501(c)(4) if its educational activities are conducted in a non-partisan manner and if the organization is not affiliated with a political party — even though the organization’s philosophy on the issues it is providing education about is broadly consistent with the view of a major political party.
The same guidance also points to past rulings by the IRS that allowed tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(4) for “organizations primarily engaged in advocating a particular point of view on an issue of public concern, through lobbying and public education.””

Read that carefully. And then ask yourself why the IRS shouldn’t scrutinize an application that has “Tea Party” in it’s name? Or other political and non-bipartisan slogan or similar political lobbying effort aimed at raising money and spending it to the benefit of one party?

This is the inevitable result of a bad Supreme Court decision, one of many that this court has made. Citizens United, now Monsanto’s deciding that it owns the seeds of seeds they’ve sold, presumably forever; and for that matter, allowing any country or any state or any company to sell a product that it refuses to identify as GMO or allows to inject into the ground (i.e., fracking) without identifying what is in that…

This court, and the American government in general, may be doing what the Constitution demands by protecting citizens from repressive government. But no one is protecting citizens from oppressive and exploitative private industry and finance. Those last two now own the government and have gained that by the simple expedient of buying people who operate that government.

On Mortality, Memory Loss, and Alzheimer’s (Reference today’s CDC Report)

May 10, 2013

Well, phooey!
I was supposed to attend a Marine Corps dinner tonight, and I forgot. We only got the notice yesterday, and I never put it onto my calendar.
Meantime, that leads me into a discussion (you knew that was coming, right?).
The CDC is now publishing alarming reports that suggest that there will be a surge in the numbers of Alzheimer’s patients. They base this on the numbers who report memory loss.
That would be me.
I first noticed symptoms of memory loss around 1975. I was speaking German regularly, and I noticed that when I spoke English I would sometimes hesitate, not being able to think of the word I wanted. Often enough, I COULD think of the word in German! So I wasn’t worried.
But it’s gotten worse. I find that frequently I can’t think of the word I want; often my sons, who are accustomed to this, supply the missing word.
But I have a huge operating vocabulary. I can either think of another, not so exact, word, or if I’m on the computer, I can think of the definition and use Google to find the one I’m unable to bring out of memory. Google’s been very helpful to me.
So…is Alzheimer’s in my future?
A couple of things to consider. I’m now 73. Statistically, I don’t have much of a future. Add to that one heart attack (the bad news), but that was 16 years ago (the good news). No more blockages, but I do have an enlarged heart as a remembrance. I’m also diabetic. The good news here is that medical science can do a lot to treat diabetes and the secondary effects. I spoke to a man who’d had a femoral artery replaced and another friend had some of the blood vessels in his leg cleaned out, ‘roto-rooted’ so to speak.
I also have an enlarged prostate. The difference between BPH and prostate cancer is the number of indicators in the blood; below a certain percentage, it’s ‘benign’ prostate hyperplasia, or enlargement. Above that point and it’s prostate cancer. Again, good news/bad news. A lot of such are so slow-growing that doctors elect to do nothing, since the patient won’t survive long enough to die of prostate cancer.
So, is Alzheimer’s inevitable. Maybe not.
I began really working on mental or cognitive processes about the time I turned 70. I joined Mensa so that I might have a chance to sharpen my thinking against those who are already noteworthy for thinking skills. I found I could be on an equal footing with Mensans, and without tooting my own horn too loud, I tend to write longer, more thoughtful essays and commentary. So, equal or possibly slightly ahead of the pack. You Mensans can make your own determination; your mileage may differ with this conclusion.
And I became serious about music, which is thought to help with cognition. Plus I’m now adding one or two new songs to my repertoire every week, adding them to memory so that I can perform without aids. This indicates that perhaps my memory might be improving, at least in some sense.
And, FWIW, I wrote this little essay without pausing to look anything up. I called it all from memory and assembled it into a coherent whole. That, too, requires both memory and cognition functioning.
I can analyze current trends, extrapolate from those, and make conclusions about what is probably in the future. I’m more confident about the relationship between my conclusions and the near future than I am about the distant future. And yet, I cannot make any predictions about my own future. It’s a statistical certainty that it won’t be long. Ten years? I’d be 83. Twenty years? Yep, 93. Few achieve that. Many don’t even make it to 73, but I have.
Meantime, if I go bonkers, there’s Jeff.
Maybe we should recruit another moderator for my group, The Intelligent Round Table? 🙂

Accepted Behavior

May 5, 2013

What happened to the idea that an adult was expected to display responsibility? Responsibility for the children you’ve borne, responsibility for the family, above all responsibility for self? When did we become a society that accepted the constant use of drugs and alcohol to fuel empty lives?
Why in the world would we want to respect people like that?
When did talent excuse the lack of ability to confront life? Or the simple bad manners and misbehavior that’s now, by most accounts, the norm? Why allow people who are demonstrably the sort none of us would feel comfortable spending time with to be role models for those who need such?
We’ve built a society that’s rotten at the foundation. And no; religion isn’t the cause or the answer. If there is one, it’s realizing that those who need alcohol or drugs to sing or dance or act simply aren’t worth our time or consideration. Who decide that because others enjoy watching them perform or who hold public office are somehow so superior to the rest of us that they need not follow accepted norms of behavior.
We’ve become a society that accepts, even admires, brats. Even 40 or 50 year old brats.
Not me. Here I take my stand.
Want my respect, then earn it.
I couldn’t care less about your need for ‘self expression’. Want to wear a t-shirt that proclaims that you want to fuck, go ahead. But I’ll ignore you as the useless bottom-dweller you are. Want to wear pants that expose your underwear, OK; you’re advertising, but I’m not interested. No respect. Want to sell tickets to a concert after you’ve been photographed dressed like that? I won’t buy.
I’m simply not going to pay attention to society’s brats. I won’t employ them or buy from them or pay money to see them ‘perform’.
Here I stand. But you must make your own choices. That, too, is about responsibility.