Saturday, 29 December 2012

NRA Stupidity

  Last week NRA Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, made a set of stupid and blatantly false statements in reaction to the Newtown shooting.
"How do we protect our children right now, starting today, in a way that we know works?
The only way to answer that question is to face up to the truth. Politicians pass laws for Gun-Free School Zones. They issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them.
And in so doing, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are their safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk."
  This is false.  By in large the shooters target the places they do because they have some tie to that location.  In fact Columbine and Virginia Tech both had armed police officers at them.  Virginia Tech not only had armed police officers but a whole police station.  The other thing is schools all over the world don't allow guns in them but you don't see the number of shootings at schools that the USA has.

"The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day. And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn't planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this very moment?
How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame — from a national media machine that rewards them with the wall-to-wall attention and sense of identity that they crave — while provoking others to try to make their mark?
A dozen more killers? A hundred? More? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation's refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?"

  Did you know that 1 in 4 people require or receive treatment for mental health issues. Look at you and a handful of your friends and if you think they are all "completely sane" then it is probably you that has some mental health issues.  I myself have seen a few different psychologists over the years and have even scene both psychologists and psychiatrist while in the U.S.M.C. with a large number of other Marines.  

  The fact is that if you try to instate some national register then you have to think about who decides who goes on it and who doesn't?  Most military that encounter combat would fit the criteria for requiring mental health treatment in some form.  I'm not saying we are all nut jobs just stating the truth.  Our training involves very specific techniques to make us able to function properly in combat conditions.  Conditions which are horrific and most people that have ever been in them wouldn't wish them on anyone else ever.  Basically the human brain is designed to stop higher order brain functions, including memory retention, in times of high stress.  Through training members of the military and certain other professions, without even knowing it, become accustom to high stress situations allowing them to think, and unfortunately remember, in these situations.  This is why military, police, fire fighters, ambulance drivers, doctors and other similar professions have such a high rate of P.T.S.D.   Are you ready to label most military members coming back from the middle east as mentally ill?  Are you ready to label many police officers as being mentally ill because of the very trait that allows them to function while under stress? 

  Don't get me wrong.  Mental health is important to me.  I don't hold a stigma with mental illness any more then I hold one against someone that has cancer because so many people have these health issues and just because someone has had an issue in the past doesn't mean that they are changed for the worse for the rest of their life.  I think we as a society need to embrace those around us that need help not make them feel more ostracised.  But that is a whole other rant for me to go into in the future. 

  Basically if you think someone is struggling with emotions reach out to them and or someone that can help them.  The facts are clear too.  People with "mental health issues" are not statistically more likely to be the perpetrator of violent crimes on others.  But they are more likely to be injured or killed by fire arms.  The fact is depression actually inhibits people from violent acts because they lack the motivation and drive to carry out acts of self harm.  Sadly it is when they start to get better that they are more likely to take their own life.  You might say "but how can a sane person kill so many people?"  Stereotyping everyone with mental health issues as violent and dangerous is like saying all young men should be viewed as potential rapists because they are so interested in sex.  It is like saying "Every gun owner is a reckless homicidal maniac because they like guns!"  The statements are blatantly false.

"Add another hurricane, terrorist attack or some other natural or man-made disaster, and you've got a recipe for a national nightmare of violence and victimization."

  This is a deliberate ploy to conjure up images in the mind of some mad max society where only those with guns have power.  Guess what, all these dooms day prepers aren't doing any good.  They aren't going to save us in some post apocalyptic  society.  They aren't going to save you from the next Adam Lanza.  In fact Adam Lanza's mother was one of them.  So in one breath Mr. LaPierre screams that those with mental health issues, like those that believe the world should have ended on  the 21st of December, should be put on a list but then wants us all to be that type of person who prepares for the end of civilized society.

On to Mr. LaPierre's idiot notion that movies and video games are to blame.
"And here's another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.
Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here's one: it's called Kindergarten Killers. It's been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn't or didn't want anyone to know you had found it?
Then there's the blood-soaked slasher films like "American Psycho" and "Natural Born Killers" that are aired like propaganda loops on "Splatterdays" and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it "entertainment.""

  I know many Americans have no real understanding of the rest of the world but guess what.  The rest of the world see's the same movies you do.  The rest of the world plays the same video games as you do.  Yet the rest of the world doesn't have the same level of problem.  So either people in America are more easily manipulated and twisted mentally by "entertainment" or that isn't a significant factor in these shootings.  Video games an movies don't make people into violent killers tho violent people may be drawn to those as a form of release.  

"A child growing up in America witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18.

  I question that stat.  That means from the day a person is born they would have to see 3 murders in entertainment a day, every day until they are 18.  I wonder if they count watching a video of Hiroshima being bombed as counting as multiple that case they are off by a factor of 10 or more.  

  In the NRA's mind playing a game with violence is worse then learning to use an item that sole purpose if for killing or maiming another person.  A .223 bush master is sole purpose is for killing multiple people quickly.  Not hunting.  Not home protection.  Killing people, at ranges where any normal person is absolutely no threat to you.

"The media call semi-automatic firearms "machine guns" — they claim these civilian semi-automatic firearms are used by the military, and they tell us that the .223 round is one of the most powerful rifle calibers ... when all of these claims are factually untrue. They don't know what they're talking about!"

  I think everyone knows that journalist aren't perfect but a .223 is very similar to the rounds I used while in the Marines with an M16A2 rifle.  The rounds are designed with the same purpose.  Not for taking down a rabbit like some will make you believe because the .223 isn't much bigger then a .22 which most people think of as small.  The issue isn't just the size of the projectile but the amount of power behind the round.  As you can see those 2 rounds can have the same amount of gun powder behind them.  Ask a normal person which they'd rather be shot by if they had to choose do you think that one of those would be picked a lot less then the other?  Ask a average person the difference between a M16A2 and a Bushmaster .223 do you think they would know?  Do you think there is enough of a difference to care when one is being pointed at you?

"As parents, we do everything we can to keep our children safe. It is now time for us to assume responsibility for their safety at school. The only way to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away ... or a minute away?"

  Again Columbine High School had armed police officers in the school and it DIDN'T HELP!  Why because the cops are not equipped to go up against someone with assault rifles and have to deal with the fact that the people that go on these sprees with these weapons all to often don't care if they get killed.

  This next bit is rich.
"A gun in the hands of a Secret Service agent protecting the President isn't a bad word. A gun in the hands of a soldier protecting the United States isn't a bad word. And when you hear the glass breaking in your living room at 3 a.m. and call 911, you won't be able to pray hard enough for a gun in the hands of a good guy to get there fast enough to protect you."

  There is a HUGE difference between cops with guns and a neighbour like George Zimmerman that is a bit to trigger happy.  Part of what I want to see for better gun regulation is mandatory classes for gun owners.  Classes mostly in how to safely carry and more importantly store a fire arm.  Testing on the laws regarding their firearms wouldn't go astray either.  You'll also notice most police don't carry assault rifles and the ones that do have even more firearms training on the use of them.  They didn't just go down to the gun convention, when it rolled through town, and buy a AR-15 for their squad car.

"The budget of our local police departments are strained and resources are limited, but their dedication and courage are second to none and they can be deployed right now.
I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school — and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January"

  Yea law enforcement budgets are strained because the GOP is happy to cut back on that "discretionary spending".  You know what else is also stretched to the limit...educational resources.  His plan would cost an estimated $5,000,000,000.00 a year.  Yes FIVE BILLION DOLLARS!  How about we raise that money on yearly licences fees on firearms.  The more dangerous the fire arm the more you pay per  year towards this safety fund. We do similar things with cars so why not firearms.  

  So  $5,000,000,000.00 to put an armed security guard in every school in the nation thinking that will solve the problem.  How did that work out for Columbine High School?  The whole statement is deflection from the real issue here and that is the U.S.A. needs to decide if it wants a safer society with sensible gun regulations or if it is happy letting almost any Tom, Dick and Harry buy assault rifle at the cost of these still of mass shootings.  The U.S.A. needs to decide if one child killed by guns every 3 hours of every day, of every week, of every month, of every year is worth more then making sure gun owners are qualified and responsible enough to own the firearms they wish to possess.  They have to decide if it is ok that a child under the age of 5 is killed every 4 days by firearms.  If a child killed every 2 days because of an "accident" by a fire arm is acceptable.  People keep telling me thinks like "cars cause more deaths then guns!".  Well guess what ... we've regulated the fuck out of motor vehicles and deaths from them have gone down.  That little thing called a seat belt...REGULATION.   That speed sign saying 55...REGULATION.  Making someone take a drivers test before driving...REGULATION.  Inspecting cars to make sure they are road worthy...REGULATION.

  Why should assault rifles, which unlike cars don't have a valid every day purpose, be exempt from better regulation?  Simple answer is they shouldn't be exempt.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Class Warfare?!?!?

  For the past few years you'll hear many on the right complain about the "Class Warfare" against the "rich","upper class","the job creators".  All because most middle and lower class people think that those that are in the top 2% of earners should pay more in taxes. Instead they often pay a lower effective rate then the average middle class family and sometimes do not even pay any taxes at all.  Some of them even get tax credits even after earning billions. Now don't get me wrong I don't think that just raising the tax rate on the wealthiest 2% is going to do much.  This is because you have so many in that bracket that use loop holes designed for the wealthy to lower their tax burden.  So raising their rates alone would do very little.  Tax rate changes would still need to be coupled with tax reforms that prevent the abusive tax loopholes while still allowing certain large tax exemptions through.

  What do I mean about that?  Well charitable deductions for one.  If we removed or even capped charitable deductions this would have a devastating flow on effect to many organisations like the Red Cross,  Salvation Army, Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, the Foundation Beyond Belief, Harvard University, your local community college and countless other religious and secular organisations established to better our society.  Changing the way the home mortgage deduction can help.  Change it so that it still helps a family buy that home they live in but isn't used by the mega rich to buy another mansion on credit and shift that burden on to middle class Americans. All while using that money they saved on over seas investments that are further shielded by bank accounts in the Cayman islands.

For example  George wants to buy this mansion in Woodstock Vermont for $10,000,000.00.
  George has a personal wealth of over $100,000,000.00 and could buy the property out right but if George mortgages the estate and only pays the interest then effectively he will pay $600,000 a year for that house.  But even then he doesn't pay for that house.  That $600,000 comes right off his taxes so the government pays that $600,000.  George gets to live in that $50,000 a month home for free, can sit on it a few years while property values go up then sell that house for a profit.  All for what?  Paying a little bit of money up front for the interest payment on the loan which he'll get back at the end of the year.  Net gain for George is a $10,000,000 house which if he works it right he might not even pay much in capital gains on and shifts $600,000 per year of tax burden back on to the economy.  He's free to use the $10,000,000 that he might have spent on that house to make other investments.  George isn't limited to doing this just once.  If he wants he can do a few properties like this as long as the banks are happy with his over all debt.  This is the type of thing that is meant when it is said that the tax code is written to help the rich get richer.  That $600,000 tax deduction has to be made up some where.  Either taxing someone else even more, which is what normally happens that the tax burden is shifted to middle income families that can't afford to benefit from these types of tax loop holes or expenditures have to be cut.  That means less police officers, firemen and teachers.  That means less money for libraries.  Less aid to help the poor survive from day to day.

  So if we cap mortgage home deductions at, lets say, $50,000 then that still allows the average family to get the benefit that is there to help people buy the home they live in and remove the loop hole that the mega rich use to shift tax burdens while still earning a nice profit at the end of the day.

  But this isn't the main point of my rant here.  My main point is were is the actual class warfare being waged?    The actual class warfare in America is being waged against the poor and minorities.  It really isn't only class warfare but race warfare.  Look at the drug laws.  If I was caught with 5 grams of crack and went to court I have a 16% better chance of getting off simply because I am white.  If I am convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison I've got almost 3-5 times greater chance of getting parole then a black man depending on where I'm in prison.  It gets worse too.  If I'm from a well to do family my chance of conviction drops dramatically and not just because mummy and daddy can buy the best lawyers in town for me.  The juries, even with public defenders, let rich kids get away with more then poor kids. Besides if I was rich I wouldn't be using that crack cocaine. I'd be using the old fashion powdered cocaine.  You might be thinking to yourself "So what?" well how much powdered cocaine do you think I could get caught with to earn the same 5 year sentence, if found guilty?  You might be wondering is powdered cocaine a lot less potent then crack per gram and the answer is no.  Chemically they are similar. The high from crack can kick start in a matter of seconds after smoking where powdered cocaine can take a few minutes tho injecting powdered cocaine produces a faster effect.  The highs are slightly different to.  Crack's "high" lasts for 5-10 minutes and  is more intense then powdered cocaine but powdered cocaine's "high" can last up to 60 minutes.   So there are differences there.  But back to the amount I'd have to get convicted with to earn that same 5 year sentence.  Is it 5 grams? Is it 10 grams? Is it 20 or even 40 grams?  To give you perspective 1 gram of cocaine can be cut up into 10 lines and gram of crack is about 3-4 bowls.  Do you give up? Do you know?  The answer is I can be caught with 500grams, 1/2kilogram, ~1 pound or in terms of lines 5,000 lines of powdered cocaine for the same sentence.  And because a rich white guy is more likely to use powdered cocaine combined with all the other factors the punishment for a black man is well over 100 times worse.  If that doesn't convince you the class warfare isn't really against the  poor lets look a other convictions.

  HSBC, Britain's largest bank, was found to be dealing with the top drug dealers in the world.  When say "dealing with" I'm not talking about the dealers having accounts with them and the bank having no knowledge of the clients but actual involvement in helping to launder billions of dollars.  Not only that but the bank new about and dealt with "known terrorists" such as al-Qaeda and helped them also shift and launder money.  The executives that had direct involvement, what happened to them?  Did they get long prison terms for aiding terrorists and drug cartels?  Nope.  The bank itself got a 1.9 billion dollar fine, which amounts to less then 1 months profit for the bank.  What happened to the executives directly involved?  Well they will defer part of their bonuses for the five year period   Wow.  What did they do to get off?  Well in a statement from the US Justice Department Announcement this was said "HSBC, Britain's biggest bank, said it was 'profoundly sorry' for what it called 'past mistakes' that allowed terrorists and narcotics traffickers to move billions around the financial system and circumvent US banking laws".  So in effect they said they were sorry and got off with a fine.

  Meanwhile Stephanie George was sentenced to life in prison 15 years ago for minor drug offences that the actual judge said this to Stephanie: 'Even though you have been involved in drugs and drug dealing,' Judge Vinson told Ms. George, 'your role has basically been as a girlfriend and bag holder and money holder but not actively involved in the drug dealing, so certainly in my judgment it does not warrant a life sentence.'  So she gets life in prison for being the girl friend of a low level drug dealer but the bank executives that directly knew and aided large drug cartels shift billions of dollars have to "defer part of their bonuses"

  Let me ask you now...who the fuck do you think is suffering from class warfare more?  I'll be a rich white guy any day over a poor black man.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

In the wake of tragedy...

  We need to talk!

  For everyone who feels sad about the tragedy do what you can to help calm the nerves of your friends and love ones.  Talk to them, hug them, cry with them and let us mourn as not only a country but a world.  These people were not just Americans but citizens of the world and people all over the world deserve respect and have their lives valued.  If you are religious pray to your god. Prey not only with those that share your faith but those that have different faiths too.  Know in your hearts that the people around you share your feelings of loss for people that most of us won't even have ever known regardless of what their god's name is or even if they believe in a god at all.

  But even more important then that is that you talk about this tragedy and many others like it with others and what can be done to lower the rates and chances of it happening.  Here I'll probably offend many but reality needs to hit home.  Wishing that Adam Lanza didn't kill all these people won't help.  Praying that it didn't happen or will never happen again will not help.  Being a good community can help.  Not making someone an outcast because they are "smarter" or "dumber" then you can help.  Not making someone feel bad because they are different then you can help.  If you know someone that is struggling with issues of anger reach out to them, reach out to those around them, reach out to those that can help them.  Turning a blind eye to those that are made or even let believe to feel they are unwanted is all to often the cause of violence.

  There is also another cause and one that one particular media organisation, Fox "news", will undoubtedly try to spin as not being relevant and that is guns.  The guns that Adam Lanza used.  The guns that were bought legally and while you may be for personal protection what good does it to to have so many guns in your house?  Lets look at the guns.

.223 Bushmaster

Sig Sauer
  Tell me since when does someone need that rifle in their home?  Since when should someone be able to walk down to their local Wallmart and buy a few hundred rounds for that rifle without restriction?  That is NOT for personal protection.  Personal protection isn't "Hey I should be able to head shot someone at the other end of a football field because I feel threatened by them. Personal protection doesn't require 40 round magazines.

  These weapons where legally purchased by Adam's mother who it seems Adam also killed.  How did any of these weapons protect her? They didn't!  It is simple as that.  So Adam apparently killed his mother and took her weapons to kill 26 more people not including himself with weapons that his mother probably didn't know or care to store properly.

Talk to your politicians about appropriate gun control.
   Don't let anyone fool you that more guns in the public realm = safer society.  The numbers say different.  America's homicide rate is more then 4 times that of Australia's rates. About 2 out of 3 (~66%) of people killed in America are killed by a firearm.  In Australia it is less then 1 in 5 (20%).   You can still have fire arms in Australia we just don't let anyone walk down to a local store and get one.  Getting a gun licence is more then just filling out paperwork.

  Why don't we see American style shootings in Australia?  Well we did before better gun regulations was put into effect.  Back in 1996 35 people were killed and another 23 wounded by Martin Bryant and from that we here in Australia got comprehensive gun regulations.  Since then there hasn't been any mass shooting and despite growing populations both the number and rate of homicides has been dropping.

  Not asking you to give up your gun if you have one.  I'm asking for you to give up your assault rifles and weapons designed for mass killings and for you to be required to store that gun properly so that someone else can't just take it and use it as their own.

  It is never to early to have this talk because to many of these events spark copy cats and the right time to talk about it is when the effects are fresh in our minds.