News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to MinneKota@gmail.com

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dave Barry recounts what everyone wants to forget: 2012, the year of the whap

In what is the only coherent news to come out of Washington since the Emancipation Proclamation,  Dave Barry outlines the signficance and big events of  2012.

So, okay, basically we need to forget about 2012 as soon as possible. But just so we can remember exactly what it is we need to forget, let’s pour ourselves a stiff drink and take a look back at the train wreck we’re staggering away from, starting with ...
  • -.. the race for the Republican presidential nomination, which began in approximately 2003, continues to be a spicy political gumbo of excitement. The emerging front runner is Mitt Romney, who combines a strong résumé of executive experience with the easygoing natural human warmth of a parking meter. Still in contention, however, is Newt Gingrich, whose popularity surges briefly, only to wane when voters begin to grasp the fact that he is Newt Gingrich. This opens the door for Rick Santorum, whose strong suit is that he has a normal first name, and who apparently at one point was a senator or governor of Pennsylvania or possibly Vermont.

  • Tensions between the United States and Pakistan mount after eyewitnesses in Waziristan claim that an unmanned U.S. Predator drone robbed a convenience store. Meanwhile, in what international observers see as a red flag, Iran places an ad on Craigslist stating, “WE PAY CASH FOR NUCLEAR BOMB MATERIALS.”

  • ... the endless slog for the Republican presidential nomination reaches “Super Tuesday,” with voters going to the polls in 12 states, including New Hampshire and South Carolina, which have already held primaries but can no longer remember whom they voted for. It is now clear that Romney has won the nomination, but Gingrich vows to continue his campaign, lurching gamely onward despite the tranquilizer darts fired into his neck by his own advisers.

  • . when the U.S. Secret Service acknowledges that agents sent to Colombia to provide security for President Obama at the Summit of the Americas allegedly engaged in some unauthorized summiting, if you catch our drift. The agents are immediately recalled to the United States and reassigned to former President Clinton.

  • In domestic business news, Facebook, a company with a business model that nobody really understands, spends $1 billion to buy Instagram, another company with a business model that nobody really understands. Since everybody involved is about 19 years old, Wall Street concludes this must be a good idea.

  • In science news, a group of physicists announces that, after decades of research costing billions of dollars, they believe they have confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, which according to them is an extremely exciting tiny invisible thing next to which all the other bosons pale by comparison. This is breathlessly reported as major news by journalists who majored in English and whose knowledge of science is derived exclusively from making baking-soda volcanoes in third grade. Back in the lab, the physicists enjoy a hearty scientific laugh, then resume the important work of thinking up names for exciting new invisible things they can announce the discovery of.

  • ... when Hurricane Isaac fails to dampen the mood in Tampa at the wild and crazy spontaneous wacky funfest that is the Republican National Convention. The Republicans — eager to disprove the stereotype that they are the party of old, out-of-touch rich white men — give their highest-visibility prime-time TV spot to: Clint Eastwood. Clint wows the delegates by delivering a series of fascinating sentence fragments to a chair that he either does or does not realize has nobody sitting on it.  In other convention highlights, the Republicans declare their support for the Middle Class and pass a platform calling on the nation to get the hell off their lawn.

  • Abroad, the big story is a deadly 9/11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. It soon becomes apparent that the attack either was or was not a spontaneous protest to a movie that either does or does not actually exist, or possibly it was an organized terrorist attack that either did or did not involve al-Qaeda and either could or could not have been prevented if there had been better intelligence, which maybe there was, or maybe there was not, although if there was, it was not acted on, possibly for political reasons. Or not. But beyond these basic facts, little is clear. The White House issues a strong statement assuring the nation that President Obama was not in any way involved in this, “or anything else that may or may not become known.”

  • A bankruptcy court grants Hostess Brands permission to close its business, posing a serious threat to the nation’s strategic Twinkie supply. Fortunately, an agreement is worked out under which Twinkies will be produced by a new entity. Unfortunately, that entity is: Iran.

Read it all in the Washington Post.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A manual of arms for the classroom gun

The renewed talk of regulation of certain types of guns and ammunition has sent gun sales soaring.  In an interview,  a gun store owner commented that gun sales always soar when liberals make stupid statements about guns.

In this reaction, there is no mention of the 20 first graders and six teachers killed at Sandy Hook.  No mention of the people gunned down in Aurora, Colorado.  No mention of the fire-fighters who got out of bed early in the morning to  put out a blaze in New York state and were gunned down trying to discharge their duties.  There is  no mention of the 8 children gunned down every day in the U.S.  There is only outrage at the liberals and the dumb suggestions they make about gun control.  No mention of the fact that guns were used in  19,308 suicides. 11,015 murders, and 600 accidents in 2010.  Of the murders by gun, 8 are of children each day.  And that defines the moral state of the nation.  

Most perplexing about the circumstance is the suggestion that teachers be armed in the classrooms.  But that suggestion is merely the latest in the trend of devaluing and making education ineffective by letting the most stupid people among us influence what education covers and how it is delivered.  This latest suggestion demonstrates one huge fact:  the people who make it have no inkling of what takes place in a successful classroom and what conditions are necessary to make it successful.  Nor do they care.

Over the years, teaching has been impeded by loading on to teachers duties which interfere with creating the atmosphere that allows focus on true learning. A huge part of the job in classrooms is establishing discipline and creating the atmoshperics that allow teachers to address the subjects that is the primary purpose of their being in the classroom.  To accomplish this task, it requires a concentration on all the factors that enable students to concentrate and perform the learning tasks they are in school to participate in.  While presenting the subject,  a teacher must be aware of the level of attention being expended by each of 25 to 30 students.  And that means not being distracted by cell phones, interruptions from the office, behavioral problems among the students,  the effects of social cliques,  and all the other factors that affect students and intrude upon the process of learning.  Those who recommend that teachers be armed have given no thought to the fact that school shooters more often come from inside the schools, not from outsiders such as Adam Lanza in Newtown, Conn., who blasted his way into a locked, secure school building. They haven't considered the fact that there are troubled and disturbed young people in every classroom, some of whom will regard the presence of a gun in the classroom as a challenge and will scheme ways to appropriate or disable it.

Locally, the assignment of police officers to educational settings has had its hazards.  One young policeman was reprimanded and then resigned after he was engrossed in talking to a group of students when a young man came up behind him and took his taser gun. In another case, a policeman who was on campus duty during a strange murder or suicide was reprimanded for something he did or did not do and resigned right afterward.  The point is that when dealing with situations with young people at their schools, the officers were dealing with factors that consumed their attention so that their focus was on many other matters than the rules of armed engagement.  

During the time of the Sandy Hook shooting, a number of police officers have been gunned down.  In South Dakota in August 2011,  two police officers were killed in Rapid City, one of them a member of the special response team, during a routine stop of some young men.  The idea that teachers who are engaged in working with their students will be able to get into a combat mode and effectively neutralize a clear threat is more than ridiculous.  Armed officers who are trained in the use of weapons are caught in circumstances in which their involvement in keeping the peace makes them vulnerable to the designs and actions of shooters.

If teachers are armed in schools, there are many questions that arise.   Where should the gun be placed so that it is accessible, but not to students who are bent upon some playful prank or a disturbed act of violence.  The armed services all have rather stringent rules regarding the storage and handling of firearms.  What rules would be appropriate for schools?  Would teachers be tested for their proficiency with firearms.  What kind of firearms would be recommended or permitted?  What about the teachers who think the presence of firearms would be a huge detriment to education?  

A factor in the Second Amendment that those who advocate the unbridled presence of firearms ignore is that the militia for which the firearms are permitted is a well-regulated militia.  What set of regulations would be required to assure that firearms do not get into the wrong hands or are otherwise misused?

I am an old soldier and an owner and user of firearms.  But I have said that if college students were allowed to carry weapons on  campus,  I would cancel class if students came in bearing weapons.  The fact is that many students do not approve of the presence of firearms in the educational setting and would find them distracting and counterproductive to the purpose of learning.  Furthermore, students who are serious about the job of learning would not want to be bothered with the keeping and care of firearms during the pursuit of academic work.  

The presence of more guns in the classroom as a countermeasure to those who want to shoot up schools is an ignorant and fatuous suggestion.  When people are involved in the activities of creating and keeping the peace upon which civilization rests,  they are not in a position to take swift and effective action no matter how well armed or capable they might be.  Thirty rounds from a semi-automatic assault rife can eliminate any threat to a shooter's plans quite quickly and effectively.

Another factor not mentioned by many, other than some savvy experts on the issue, is something that is drummed into swat teams and negotiators:  never give a person on the rampage nothing to lose.  When  desperate persons realize that their own death, either by themselves, a swat team, or the court system, is an inevitability,  they are encouraged to do as much damage as possible before they are taken out.  However, most of the school shooters reached that point before they started the incidents in which they killed people.  They either planned to shoot themselves or entice the police to kill them as the finale of the shooting escapade they start.  No one, including well-armed and protected police, have much of a chance when a shooter operates from the  attitude that he is going to die anyway, so there is nothing to lose by being as dangerous and murderous as possible.  The only solution is to look at how guns get into the hands of people who are going over the edge into suicidal desperation.

[A vignette:  I just had to make a quick trip to Target to pick up some printer supplies.  It is 16 degrees F.  outside,  and while I was in the store, this young man marched past me in sandals without socks, cell phone to ear while he talked loudly and importantly to someone on the other end of his call--presumably, wearing only a fleece sweat shirt, and a black matte gun clipped smartly to his belt.  As he strutted about, the store personnel and customers all smiled at each other knowingly and shook their heads at the pathetic spectacle parading before them.  I wonder if the gun galoots realize that this is the response of the vast majority of people to their arguments and actions.]

The problem we face now is that the absence of any regulation of firearms has released so many guns into American society--we are 5 percent of the  world's population but own 50 percent of the world's guns--that the task of gaining any control over the accessibility and fire power of weapons is probably impossible.  The advocates against precautions often cite the TSA and its extensive searches of airline passengers as the lengths government will go to intrude upon the lives of private citizens.  The fact is that the precautionary measures of the TSA were taken at the insistence of citizens who wanted to be able to use air transportation without the fear of becoming a 9/11 type casualty.  We bitch and piss and moan about the inconvenience and the humiliation, but we realize that if the provisions were not employed, we would be all over the government for failing to protect its citizens,  and we will be all over it again if some plot to blow up an airliner is successful.  We have reached the same point with gun violence.  The vast majority of the people want the government to do something.  Something reasonably intelligent.  

The guns we brought to school. 
I have brought firearms into schools.  As part of a Civil War re-enactment unit,  I participated a number of times in giving living history presentations to students so that they could experience something of the daily life of that time.  We put up tents in the school yard and showed the kids how soldiers slept 15 to a tent by tactical spooning,  we let they try on the wool fatigue jackets, and we let them try some typical mess hall chow, which increased their appreciation of the school cafeteria.  But of most interest to them was the muskets we brought along.  We had to get special permission and carefully arrange what we could do with them.  We showed them the time-consuming process of loading a charge.  Then we let them hold the muskets and showed them how the soldiers carried them. At most schools, they let us take the kids outside and set up a firing range, where we let any kid who wanted to fire off a cap in the musket.  The cap is the little igniter used to detonate the main charge.  We showed them the range safety procedures, then let them load the cap, pull back the hammer (usually with our help), and then fire into the grass, in the manner musket shooters do to insure that the barrel is clear.  It makes a little pop, but creates enough crud in the barrel so that we will spend a good part of the evening swabbing out the piece with boiling water and black powder solvent.  We did not attach the bayonets or let the kids handle them.   A few of the kids joined re-enactment units when they got a bit older, but most of them were most impressed by the arduous effort it took to stay alive and survive in Civil War conditions.  Our unit cast its own lead minie balls, and we put them on leather thongs to give the kids as a memento of the time.  The kids learned something about the role of guns in the development of our nation and, from some pictures we showed them, they understood something of their destructive power and the fact that guns took as many lives as they preserved.  None wanted their nation to repeat a civil war.  Guns  came to school as part of a lesson plan, but not as something to revere and worship under the guise that guns created our nation.  Our nation was created by constructive ideas, words, and deeds, and guns were often threats to what good people had built.

It is hard for many of us to understand how people can so blatantly let their obsession with firearms make the deaths of 20 first graders appear as a trivial incident.  It seems incomprehensible that the instruments of violent destruction can be claimed to have nothing to do with the fact that the U.S far outranks any other nation in the world in the incidence of death by firearms outside of actual war.  The yearly total of death of U.S. citizens by guns far exceeds the total combat death count of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan (2,173).  the total combat death count in Iraq (4.486), and in two years surpasses the total combat death count in Viet Nam (44.747).  

America has made a choice.  Actually, that choice has been forced on many of us.  We have chosen to live by the gun.  Surely, that's how we will die.  And that is what the  latest lesson guns in the classroom has taught us.  .  
  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

There is this idiot in Idaho...

People throughout the world are ridiculing and looking at the U.S.with derisive humor.  On Christmas Eve, the BBC night service program took up the matter of the White House petition to deport CNN's Pierce Morgan.  Part of their report involved a man-on-the-street interview with a man from Idaho,  getting his opinion on the affair.

The background of the situation is that Morgan is very critical of America's gun culture.  He began his criticism of U.S. gun laws after the shooting of Gabby Giffords in Tuscon,  and in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook child massacre, he has been strongly critical of the pro-gun stance and has ridiculed the contention that more guns are the answer to America's gun violence;

"There are nearly 12,000 murders a year from guns in this country. When are you guys going to focus on that, and stop telling me the answer is more guns? It is not the answer! How many more kids have to die, before you guys say, 'we want less guns, not more?'"
Morgan called the executive director of Gun Owners of America, Larry Pratt, an "unbelievably stupid man" and a dangerous idiot, in an interview on CNN.   Pratt replied, "It seems to me you are morally obtuse.  You seem to prefer being a victim to being able to prevail over the criminal element. I don’t know why you want to be the criminal’s friend.” Morgan said Pratt had "absolutely no coherent argument. You don't actually give a damn about the gun murder rate in America."

The prevalence of guns in America and the rate of deaths from guns is what advocates of regulation cite as the major concern..  America has 5 percent of the world's population but owns 50 percent of the world's guns.  The deaths from guns stands at
Suicide 19,308; Homicide 11,015; Accident 600Of the murders by guns, 8 each day are of children.  The Sandy Hook elementary massacre of 20 first graders and the circumstances through which the shooter obtained the guns is sparking the call for some reasonable control of what kind of firearms should be outside the military and law enforcement agencies. 


“British Citizen and CNN television host Piers Morgan is engaged in a hostile attack against the U.S. Constitution by targeting the Second Amendment.  We demand that Mr. Morgan be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens.”
The reporters from the BBC night service interviewed this guy from Idaho in regard to deporting Morgan.  He agreed.   When the reporter asked him about the First Amendment right to free speech on political matters, the man said Morgan was using the First Amendment to undercut the Second Amendment.  While the reporters from BBC discussed this, they did not offer any opinions on the conversation, but one could hear in their voices an amazed-amused shaking of their heads in disbelief.  

Of course, they White House cannot deport Morgan because his political belief offends the gun lobby.  It does call into question the interpretations of the Constitution regarding the Second Amendment.  If people have such a mistaken grasp of the First Amendment that they think a person can be deported for expressing his view on a poltical topic, how can one trust their interpretation of the Second Amendment. In fact, the preponderance of evidence in regard to the intentions of the Second Amendment is that the current loose interpretations are in error.  The main intention expressly stipulated is that the arms-bearing militia be "well-regulated."

But what the proponents of the gun culture seem unaware of is that it in engenders and expands a culture of violence as the stock response to social problems.  The adolescent bravado and belligerence of those who think their manhood and freedom issues totally from the barrel of a gun is a dangerous mentality that is self-fulfilling.  And America far exceeds any other culture for the number and magnitude of suicides and murders committed with guns.  Guns are a public health issue.  A public mental health issue.  As David Frum, former speech writer for George H. W. Bush and commentator, points out, the gun faction believes there are two classes of people:  law-abiding gun owners and criminals who design to prey upon them.  This is a paranoid schizophrenic view of the nation which might well disqualify its believers from owning guns.   It is the same kind of two-prong false thinking that contends that half the nation believe it is a victim and expects to live off the earnings of others.  It is not just that this kind of belief is false, but that it is held in the face of a constant stream of facts and evidence that it isn't so.  

The culture of violence propagates incidents  like the Aurora theater shooting, the Sandy Hook massacre, and the New York state killing of fire fighters  booby trapped by a loon.  For those who suffer mental problems, the only thing our culture of violence offers is solution by killing with guns.  It is very significant that the Aurora, Sandy Hook, and New York state shooters all used the same weapon,  The .223 Bushmaster seems the only answer to the questions in their troubled minds.  It is noteworthy that they do not look for solutions to their pain in books or religion  or any other cultural factors that build the human community.

Those who sign petitions to have someone they disagree with deported are engaging in the same kind of thinking that seems to motivate the mass shooters.  It is not a culture war.  It is a culture that only knows and thinks in terms of war.  An absurdity to this is that many people who abhor the violence committed with guns are concluding the  only protection they have against those who pack guns is a gun.  That is how far down into the reptilian pits our culture has descended. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The NRA as the advance guard of economic development

A number of commentators and organizations that usually cater to the conservative viewpoint were moved to denounce Wayne LePierre's alleged press conference at which he said the solution to mass shootings in schools was to get more guns into them.  Most people were astounded that following the shooting of 20 six-year-olds and 6 of their teachers a man would make a pubic statement that showed such little regard or respect for the children, the staff, and their families, and instead promote proliferation of guns.  As one commentator said 
it was as if someone was making a public appeal for the acquisition of AIDS.  However, Jason Linkins saw that what LaPierre did was, in fact, very effective and that LaPierre was fulfilling the role he was hired to carry out.

It has become a target for the defenders of free enterprise.

The NRA is a marketing tool of the firearms industry and its sole purpose is to increase the sales of guns.  It is not simply a lobby group that cares about the public or public policy, and it is not interested in anything, such as the number of deaths its product produces that might impede the sales of firearms.  Human life is not  valuable; only profits are.  

A Slate article also analyzed the sham press conference as a marketing ploy for the gun industry.


To the NRA, the right to life and the quality of life have no place in the corporate scheme of things.  Just as the auto industry had ambitions to put a car, then two, into every garage, the NRA represents an industry that would like every home to be an armory,.  If you feel endangered by the many guns around you, its strategy is to buy guns, learn how to use them, and take responsibility for your own public safety.  While that idea may seem insanity at its absurdist extreme, it is not in the perspective and purpose of the gun industry.  Unfettered free enterprise demands complete freedom from any restraints, no matter what ethical and moral values of life those who are deemed obligated to the corporations engines that generate wealth may have.  When life gets in the way of the making of money and the obtaining of power,  it is dispensable. 


The corporate world has designed the system that has shifted so much of the nation's wealth and earnings to the few who make up the power class.  It has had little compunction about the systemized exporting of jobs: it was done to increase profitability.  


During the last election campaign when large percentages of Americans, especially those desperately looking for work and some economic opportunity, were told that they were negligible entities who were considered disposable parasites on the "producers," they got the point of what is going on in America.  If it wasn't perfectly clear then;,  the NRA in giving gun sales a major priority over human life and social viability has given the point very precise definition.  


For the first time in 50 years,  I have heard informed, intelligent people make comparisons of our gun culture with other countries and talk about the advantages of a socialist government that could regulate finances and corporate activities in ways that contribute to the general welfare of the people.  The outrage comes from other corporations and organizations that fear that the gun industry is jeopardizing free enterprise in its best aspects. 


Brownells, World's Largest Firearms Supplier, Sells 3.5 Years Worth Of AR-15 Magazines In 3 Days

 

Gun Makers’ Threats to Flee State AreLobbying Leverage

 

Video GamesAre Used by Gun Makers as Marketing Tool

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Brought to you proudly by the NRA

 100 killings by guns since Sandy Hook, a week ago:

3 Shot And Killed In Mich... 18-Year-Old Shot Multiple Times, Dies... Man Kills Wife, Teen, Himself... Man Shoots, Kills Own Son... Cops Shoot Teen Dead... Man Gunned Down In Parking Lot... 5 Dead In Spate Of Shootings... 2 Murdered In Philly... 2 Kansas Cops Shot Dead... Shooter Killed... 4 Die In Apparent Murder-Suicide... Ga. Cop Dies From Gunshot... Argument Leads Teen To Shoot Friend... Man Shot To Death... Teen Dies After Being Tied Up, Shot... Man Shot Dead In Street... Drug Deal Leads To Shooting Death... Mother Of 2 Killed In Road Rage Shooting... Man Shoots, Kills Intruder... 1 Killed In Coney Island... Man Dies From Gunshot Wounds... Cops Investigate Gun Death... Shooting Victim's Body Found On Bike Trail... Man Charged With Shooting Own Brother Dead... Man Dies After Being Shot In Chest... Body Of Shooting Victim Found In Pickup... Teen Arrested For Robbery Shooting Death... Man Carrying 2-Year-Old Son Shot Dead... Man Fatally Shot Near Home... Parolee Dies In Shooting... 1 Killed In Buffalo Shooting... Man Shot Dead In Apartment Complex... Street Gun Battle Kills Grandma Bystander... Man, Woman Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide... Woman Shot Dead By Intruder... 14-Year-Old Arrested Over Fatal Gun Attack... Man Found Shot Dead In Parking Lot... Woman Shot In Face By Ex-Boyfriend... 1 Woman, 3 Men Shot Dead... 2 Die In Attempted Robbery... Army Reservist Shot To Death In Alley... Man Shot To Death In Bodega... 2 Shot Dead In Burned House... Man Shot During Break-In... Man Fatally Shot... 20-Year-Old Gunned Down... Man Shoots Self During Police Pursuit... 1 Killed In Baltimore Shooting... Cops ID Shooting Victim... 60-Year-Old Man Shot Dead... Shot Man's Body Found In Vacant House.... Woman Shot And Killed Outside Her Home... Shooting Victim Was 'Trying To Turn Life Around'... Slain Shooting Victim Found In Street.... Driving Altercation Leads To Shooting, 1 Dies... 3-Year-Old Dies In Accidental Shooting... Man Turns Self In After Allegedly Shooting Wife... Man Shot Dead Outside Home... 3 Slain In Separate New Orleans Shootings... Cops Investigate Shooting Death... Man Shot Dead In Ohio... Teen Shot To Death... Man Dies After Being Shot Multiple Times... Man Charged Over Son's Shooting Death... Cops Find 2 Men Shot Dead... 1 Dies In Shooting... Man Charged Over Gun Killing... 1 Shot Dead In Confrontation... Man Charged With Murder Over Shooting... Motel-Owner Shot And Killed... Husband Shoots Estranged Wife Dead... Suspect Arrested Over Deputy's Shooting Death... Police Probe Fatal Shooting... Cops Kill 2 Suspects In 3 Shooting Deaths... Man Killed Fighting Back Against Robber... Man Killed In Home Invasion.... Nightclub Shooting Kills 1... Child Brain Dead After Drive By Shooting... Man Charged Over Shooting Of Ex-Wife... Body Found In Vacant House... Teen Fatally Shot... 
 
Reported on the Huffington Post. 

Government of the imbeciles, by the idiots, for the people dumb enough to put up with it

Cliff, Fiscal, (as he is listed on the Army roll call) and Sandy Hook have inspired the devotees of the great retardation movement to go into a frenzy, a festival of perverse stupidity.  

Let us begin with Cliff.  He was the creation of a government that failed the people to begin with.  When the wards in the sand box can't play nice together, they make up shit.  This time they named it Cliff.  Now they would like to get rid of Cliff but they still can't play nice together.  They squabble over who gets to  hoard the toys of power and they throw sand and shit in each others eyes, and if the mentally impaired were not allowed to bear arms, there wouldn't be many gun owners in Congress.  Particulary, those who claim they are bringing the entire country down as an assertion of their principles.  

The bottom line, as people who think in terms of  money like to put it, is that our government has failed.  It is incapable of governing, which means serving the people whose service is its alleged excuse for being.  Instead, it can only kick over other people's sand castles, fight over the sand box toys, and throw sand and shit at each other.  And we have created an entire entertainment industry, sometimes referred to as news, so that we may be amused or outraged, whatever is our particular form of kicks, at the antics of the idiots and imbeciles in the sand box.  

And then comes Sandy Hook.  As a nation which comprises five percent of the world's population, it owns 50 percent of the world's guns.  The national slogan is not "In God We Trust."  It has been replaced by the sandbox rule that "He Who Owns the Most Toys Wins."  That is not what is printed on our currency because no one has figured out how to print it on a dime, a penny, or a nickel.  

A few people have suggested that if some Americans do not want to worship at the church of the holy gun and be thought of as a country that worships with rituals of violence and greed, maybe there should be some regulation of guns.  This really caused a frenzy of the faithful and those they selected to represent them in the sand box.  The alarm is that someone is after their toys.  Their sacraments.  Their only claim to power and consequence.  Fuck the idea of voting.  They have organized into the great sandbox revolt.  You say Obama won the election fair and sqaure.  They say no, they refuse to recognize that.  They will, if necessary, secede from the sandbox and form their own nations.  They will be gun nations, which are very similar in philosophy and practice to Islamic nations.  You have to live by their rules or be stoned or, in this case, shot to death.

The one piece of scripture they have lifted from the Bill of Rights is that the Second Amendment trumps anyone else's right not to live surrounded by the means of violence and destruction.  At some point, throwing sand and shit in each other's eyes is not enough and you have to start using the toys in your battles. A few misguided souls do not understand the principle of fear, inequaity, and the pursuit of death.  You have to be really dumb to live in the holy land that owns half of the world's guns and not understand that principle.  

So here comes the prophet,  Wayne LaPierre, from the NRA, the vatican of the nation, to say nobody had better fuck with the sacrament.  The way to settle any arguments in the sand box that escalate into an exchange of fire with the toys is to shoot the bastards.  So, in this time when a large portion of his caucus, as they like to call the sand box congregation, is calling for the cutting of medicaid, food stamps, and other means of survival, he wants Congress to appropriate enough money to put an armed police officer in every school.  This idea contends with those who want to arm the teachers.   The flaw in that idea is that some teacher might get caught with a piece of chalk in his or her hand when someone strays from the sand box and decides to shoot up the school kids.  To prevent such incidents, you have to be diligent and have that gun at the ready at all times and not get distracted and diverted by any silliness such as trying to educate children.  

I wonder when we get to go to the gun vatican and kiss Wayne's 30-round clip.

My neighbor got rid of his kid's sand box because the neighborhood cats thought it was an outdoor comfort station erected for their convenience.  

Cats are a lot smarter than people. 

Have yourself a muddling little Christmas

 The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School a week ago make it particularly hard to utter the words "merry Christmas".  The mass slaughter of 20 first graders and 6 educators is hardly, in the minds of most people, an occasion for celebration, but it is an occasion for trying to relieve the burden of sadness and despair caused by an incomprehensible malice.  It is our contemporary Wounded Knee.  Inadequate as it may be, the worst of America puts on display America's best.  To that end, I reprint this post from five years ago on the song "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."  It reaches into the great American song book to express the best we can do at this time. 

Sometimes Christmas wishes are profane. When people devoted to war-mongering, speaking ill of others, and spreading ill-will during most of the year presume to lecture on the Christian meaning of Christmas, it is the ultimate perversion. It profanes the entire message of peace on earth and good will to all people. It elicits the response of bah, humbug to the profanity.

But there are antidotes to the poisoning of Christmas. A few nights ago, I was infused with one of those antidotes. It was Lou Rawls singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on Jim Clark’s Jazz Nightly on SDPR. That song, along with Mel Torme’s “Christmas Song” is one of the most frequently recorded and played Christmas songs. Some people regard it as a secular song, but in many ways it captures the true theological significance of Christmas as no other songs and carols have.

A Lutheran church I belonged to years ago had a group of men that referred to themselves as the Christmas Group. It included a number of professors from a nearby college and seminary. On Christmas Eve and Day, you could find the men cooking and serving the transient and homeless at a soup kitchen, or delivering food and messages of acknowledgment and good will to the elderly in their homes or nursing homes, or working poor neighborhoods to see that families had food and warmth and a word or two of respect and hope. However, the Christmas Group did the same thing every day of the year.

To people in dire straits and without reason for hope, a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” is an impertinence. Such greetings do not cheer them. They serve to remind them of and emphasize their humiliating circumstances. The purpose of the Christmas Group was not to merely mouth good wishes once a year, but to make the message of Christmas manifest 365 days a year.


“Have yourself a merry little Christmas” captures the ambiguity of Christmas. It is sad and hopeful at the same time. Hugh Martin wrote the song for Judy Garland to sing in the film “Meet Me In St. Louis.” She thought the first version was too dark to sing. Martin changed part of the lyric which read : Have yourself a merry little Christmas/
It may be your last /Next year we may all be living in the past

The movie version read: Have yourself a merry little Christmas/Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight

That version is not quite as brooding, but still retained the poignant element the gives the song its expressive force. However, when Frank Sinatra wanted to record the song, he asked Hugh Martin to change even more. Sinatra thought these lines were a downers:

Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now
Hugh Martin changed them so Sinatra could sing:
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

The change does not eliminate the provisional quality that gives the song its reflective power.

When the early Christian missionaries came to Europe, they were successful in part because they used the pagan symbols and rituals for the celebration of the winter solstice to portray the significance of the birth of Christ. However, the old celebration was hard to suppress. The American puritans, in fact, banned the celebration of Christmas.

“Have yourself a merry little Chistmas” is a song that recognizes that all is not right in the world. But it embraces the Christian principle of celebrating our gifts of family and friends and striving to make things better. That’s what my former colleagues at St. John’s Lutheran Church tried to do. Muddling through is often the best we can do.
Below are three versions of the song. Choose your preference. But have yourself a merry little Christmas.

ORIGINAL VERSION
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Pop that champagne cork
Next year we may all be living in New York
No good times like the olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us no more
But at least we all will be together
If the Lord allows
From now on, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

JUDY GARLAND VERSION
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away
Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us once more
Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

FRANK SINATRA VERSION
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
From now on, our troubles will be miles away
Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

All three versions of ''Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas'' by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane 1943, 1944 Renewed 1971, 1972 EMI Catalogue Partnership (successor to LOEWS) (PWH)/admin. by EMI Feist Catalog Inc.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Guns don't kill people; people use guns to kill people--Updated

 Update:  In the comment below,  John provides a clarification on my statistic that about 11,000 people are killed every year.  He makes an important point that according to Center for Disease Control projections,  deaths by guns will exceed deaths from automobile accidents by 2015.  in citing the 11,000, I was citing only gun deaths by homicide and did not make that clear.  In fact, in 2010 the gun deaths were: Suicide 19,308; Homicide 11,015; Accident 600.  For more on the CDC projection, follow the link John provided. 

The fact that so many people believe in slogans rather than fact-based statements and reasoned discussion of them indicates where the massive moral and intellectual failures that produce events like the Newtown shootings lie.  A few years back, when forests and prairielands grew dead and sere, we had to face the facts about the environment and the acid rain it created.  We made progress, until the climate-change debate mired down in the malicious ignorance of those who resent the costs of staying alive and healthy.  We are facing the intellectual and moral equivalent of acid rain in the matter of mass killings of people who are guilty of nothing more than living their lives.  

The controlling factor in addressing the mentalities that do the mass killings is that we do not want to confront the fact that we have no idea how to identify those people who have drifted into a state of hopeless, demented rage.  That is because we do not want to face the possibilities that things we do and say might contribute to that hopeless, demented rage.  We do not want to confront the fact that we might not be a decent society.  Instead, we  retreat into pretenses of decency.  Whether you want to express it in terms of original sin or in the scientific history of the species,  human beings are not innately benign.  Nor are they innately malignant.  They have the ability to be what they want to be, except in those cases of severe mental disability.  That is why we have laws that distinguish between premeditated murder, which is done by conscious will, and murder by insanity, a loss of mental capacity.  Just as we have factors in our culture that disable people physically we have factors that disable them mentally.  Things we do and say affect people and drive them into that slough of hopeless despondency.  Usually, the despondent commit suicide.  Sometimes they take other people out on their way to suicide. 

Our response to suicide is indicative of the moral cowardice that compromises so much of the social attitude.  Suicide is the ultimate act of rejection.  We regard suicides as offenses that we are helpless to prevent.  Still, suicide leaves survivors with a lasting trauma.  That is because it is difficult to escape, no matter how much we condemn the suicide, that perhaps we contributed to the intolerable circumstances that drove a person to end his/her  life.  The implied rejection is what bothers us so much.  But we look for exonerations from our role as part of society which may have motivated suicide rather than examine things that we have said or done that contribute to the acid rain in the environment in which a disturbed person lives.

The symptom of our social mailaise is in what we misterm bullying.  A bully is one who torments those who are smaller and weaker. But what young people in our schools who have committed suicide experienced was not basic bullying.  What they experienced was exclusion and social persecution, something more orchestrated and complex. What these young people experienced has its model in what the Jews in Germany experienced in the 1930s and what Jews in the Nazi-occupied countries experienced. 

Folks who frequent the Internet like to invoke Godwin's Law when the Nazi era is mentioned.  Godwin's Law is that as soon as a person mentions Nazis or Hitler in an argument, the argument is ended.   The Holocaust is often brought up in specious and ignorant ways.  But Godwin's Law avoids looking at the biggest atrocity of the 20th century and understanding the pertinent lessons from it.  The Holocaust was predicated on systemized exclusion and social persecution of the Jews and other minorities that culminated in the systemized mass murder of the death camps.  Those of us who study and teach rhetoric trace the development of propaganda techniques used in applying exclusion and social persecution in a way that affected the way people perceive and think about the society they live in.  Like school children anxious to be included as equals, people were so anxious to be part of the super race that they suspended all moral activity and intellectual knowledge that might give them moral and intellectual pause about the atrocities committed around them.  Many even participated.  The countries occupled by the Nazis provided many collaborators.  Tlhey not only understood what was happening to the Jews, but they cooperated because they thought doing so would ingratiate them with the Nazi hierarchy and earn them a place among the privileged.  It is a classic example of when human society reverts to the customs of the dog pack and people strive to get  closer to the alpha status by excluding and persecuting those they regard as omegas in status.  It is the attitude which labels a portion of the population as the 47 or 33 percent as unworthy contaminants of the superior race and can, therefore, be dismissed and eventually disposed of.  The ambition gaine status with pack leaders is dependent upon a total moral and intellectual failure.

While the study of rhetoric embraced new forms of propaganda that compromised genuine rhetorical exchange resulting from the holocaust and over brain-washing techniques of the Soviet Union and its Chinese counterparts, the rules of intelligent discussion were established in our earliest literature.   Chapter 26 of Proverbs provides a thorough guide of what does not qualify as legitimate human expressions that carry genuine ideas and value.  It describes what kind of human utterances are foolery and should not be allowed to intrude upon purposeful dialogue.  Some of the criteria for foolery are described:

  • It is like cutting off one's foot and drinking down violence, to send a message by a fool.  
  • The legs of a disabled person hang limp; so does a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
  • Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who reverts to his folly.
  • Do you see a person wise in their own eyes?  There is more hope for fools than for them.
Proverbs 26 is a thorough checklist of what comprises verbal foolery that ends communication and is incapable of transacting important human business.  It is a diagnosis of our age that so much of what is transmitted to us as political and commercial rhetoric fits its descriptions of foolery.

A survey of comments in online newspaper articles or on blogs shows the deadly dysfunction of those who presume to be discussants of important issues.  The comments after one blog post which takes up the foolery of teachers being armed in their classrooms  is a case in point.  Totally unable grasp what the mass slaughter of twenty 6 and 7 year olds signifies about our culture and our country, many choose to wallow in their own vomitus.  Proverbs gives us the reasons why it is wrong and dangerous to give their utterances the same credibility and attention as the comments that are informed, reasoned, and striving to comprehend and cure a raging malignancy that renders our society dangerously ill.  The utterances of fools contribute to the acid rain of ignorant self-assertion that feeds the despair.  They are utterances characterized by aggressive meanness that celebrates their ignorance and ill will as badges of honor and status in the dog pack. 

What they do is more than simple bullying.  They contribute to the deadly corrosion of the verbal environment that contributes to the despairing rage of those who finally engage in acts of perverted violence because such destruction and degradation appears to them as the hallmark of the culture.  They do not need to be specific targets of exclusion and persecution to absorb the messages of the process.  


Mao Zedong said "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."  Those who so worship firearms that they believe fire power is what created the United States and is the essential factor in keeping it free  accept Mao's words as the controlling dogma of their lives.  The 11,000 people killed by firearms each year in the U.S., which includes 8 children every day, is the legacy of those who probably detest Mao Zedong but nevertheless act out his formula for power.  



We have created a culture of violence.  The gun is the symbol and the sacrament of power to many.  In the gun catechism, power is the ability and means to destroy other people, not to build a functioning society of inclusion.  The objective is to exclude and to persecute and ultimately to exterminate.  Our entertainment, our television, movies, and video games are constant drills in this catechism of systematic destruction.  It has been counterpointed by the realities of the jihad, which has succeeded in converting many Americans to its mode of operation, if not to its belief system.   

The matter of mass murders  cannot be examined only by looking at gun regulation and mental health issues.   It must be approached by examining how and why our culture has accepted the belief that power comes out of the barrel of a gun and not out of books and media which contain the best that has been thought and said.  It is not insignificant that in the effort to reform our schools, the study of language and literature, that study which gives people access to and comprehension of  what is thought and said, has been reduced to an expendable and optional curricular consideration.  Any examination of mass shootings will have to include what our culture has become and how it got that way.


A large cult, that has been able to influence our policies and our culture, is single-mindedly concerned that gun regulation will ultimately mean that their guns will be taken away.  They blithely ignore that their sacrament is used to take away the lives of 11,000 people every year.  And unlike automobile accidents, this taking of  life is planned and deliberate.  (Yes, they will argue that it's okay to kill 11,000 sentient people a year as long as abortions take place on insentient life.)


We will also have to examine the matter of our drone strikes and the "collateral" killings they have caused among the innocent.  Our entire culture and what it has become is the issue here.

The question is whether America is up to this kind of examination and discussion.  The answer would seem to be, no.  But if one follows the rhetorical precepts of Proverbs 26 and puts the fools in their place, such a discussion can take place and re-establish intelligence, knowledge, and hope as the currency of productive thought.  And in the process, re-establish America itself. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Ho hum, 20 grade school kids, 6 teachers. Can we top that next week?

And the retard chorus sings its loudest.

Twenty children of 6 and 7 years were gunned down.  As were six adult school personnel.  And those solid citizens immediately start shrieking and whining that someone is going to take their guns away, and insist that such incidents would not happen if everyone in society was armed.  One can only marvel at the decency of it all. America shows its true values.   Guns over kids.  It's our heritage.  It's our culture. It's America at its most exceptional.

 Some folks might think it perverse that a bunch of people react to the slaughter of twenty 6 and 7 year-olds by being obsessively concerned that to some people it might indicate a need for some kind of gun control.   Why should anyone be concerned about the lives and well-being of children when we must live against the threat that someone might pass legislation regarding the sensible use of firearms?  Those doubters just are not good Americans.  They simply do not understand what a great privilege it is to live in a country that is so exceptional that it has a mass slaughter at a school, a movie theater, or a shopping mall every few weeks or so.  You can't get that level of entertainment anywhere else in the world.  

The gun nut ward has turned to literary figures to justify their concern.  They like to put up a quotation from beat novelist and drug addict William Burroughs as a justification.  He said:  "After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. I sure as hell wouldn't want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military."

He is a person who must be respected as an authority on the responsible use of guns.  A gun nut himself, he and his wife developed a game they called  "William Tell" in which he put a glass on her head and would shoot it off.  One night in Mexico City, where he was waiting for the statute of limitations to run out on a possible drug charge in Louisiana, at a drunken party he and his wife played William Tell and Burroughs missed and shot her in the head.  After 13 days in jail, his family got him out on bail and eventually he left the country, which sentenced him for murder in absentia.  Burroughs is the sage we really want to listen to when it comes to guns.

However, in another quotation, which the NRA-minds can't seem to grasp, Burroughs said, "The gun contol people attribute all the murders to the fact that people can get guns; but of course murderers can use other instruments. And then the riflemen scream that gun control is disarming the citizen, as if that were a factor anymore. Do they think they are back in the minutemen days, or that we need an army of citizens armed with sporting rifles? I think it's an irrelevant idea from both sides."


This was all said before we had assault rifles and their toy-store versions, which was used by the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  But, nevermind.



This latest incident could give a huge boost to the conservative movement in America.  It demonstrates the weakness of our public schools.  Now they could be privatized and turned into for-profit shooting galleries so the gun crowd could have a place to put its values on show.


I must put my disclaimer in at this point.  I am a gun owner.  My collection, some of which is inherited, includes shotguns, rifles, and a couple of black powder muskets with worn-out bores from shooting in Civil War re-enactment contests.  I have no problems with guns.  I have problems with some of the people who worship them.  

When I was a soldier, the Army practiced gun control.  When we were not using  our  weapons for training, or guard mounts,  or parades, or exercises,  they had to be turned in and locked up.  Every weapon and piece of ammunition had to be accounted for.  The officers and cadre would not dismiss the troops to go about other business until every piece was cleaned and turned in to the armory.

Now such strictures on when and where one can carry firearms is said to be a violation of the Second Amendment.

There used to be a saying about never giving a  baby a gun.  Now the commandment is let every baby carry a gun wherever the baby wants.   

The human race is not getting any smarter.  It is getting infantile.  The infants are influencing pubic policy and insist that the right to bear arms trumps the right of 6 and 7 year-olds to have lives.  

We are exceptional.        
 

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