Banning assault weapons is common sense…

February 16, 2018

Common sense is I think what the typical Trump supporter and perhaps National Rifle Association (NRA) member might promote, that is to say in my mind those types of people criticize anyone who would give anything other than a reactionary thought as just lacking in common sense, too into deep thinking — too liberal (where I live that word has taken the place of communist since at least the end of the Cold War).

I’m not sure that I am a deep thinker but I do like to be objective and weigh options on things.

But common sense has its place too.

And in my mind stemming the free flow of weapons and banning assault rifles and the ammunition and other trappings, such as bump stocks, that go along with them, is common sense.

And I say this of course in reference to the latest in a plethora of mass shootings, which took place on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2018, this week, the massacre at a high school in Florida.

In an editorial the Wall Street Journal claimed that there is no evidence that banning assault rifles would help. I find that an odd attitude. I mean it is common sense that if you cannot get a hold of an assault rifle you can’t use it to mow people down. Of course I realize the Journal and others, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, contend that if a person is intent on doing harm he (or she, but for some reason it is always he in these things) will get a hold of the weapons. While that is a common sense too, it ignores the fact that the easier you make something the more likely it will happen.

(And let’s note here that Rubio, who ran for president in the Republican primary in 2016, is compromised in that the gun lobby was one of his major benefactors, and you could see the discomfort in his face when he tried to talk about the gun situation the other day. He was trying to acknowledge that there is a problem — it happened in his own state — but not raise the ire of his benefactor at the same time.)

True, there is no magic cure for this epidemic of mass killings (I won’t try recite the recent history here; there are plenty of stories out there that will do that for you). But we should at least begin somewhere.

President Trump mentioned nary a word about gun control in an address to the nation on the subject of the Florida school shooting. He stressed mental health, a little ironic in that many think (and seriously) that he is a little off himself. And yes, no doubt if we could do something to identify people who have a potential for violence we could help them and protect our society. Trump of course shied away from gun control because the voters who put him in office no doubt tend to be anti gun control.

Then there is the call to: “if you see something, say something”.

But people did see something way before all this happened at the high school in Florida. In fact it has been reported that the killer posted the fact that he wanted to shoot up a school on social media and that the FBI was made aware of it. And the stories say that people in the community thought he was mentally unstable and that he had a fascination with guns and shot at animals.

The problem is that while if you see something say something is certainly a good idea, police cannot go out and arrest someone on all that and we do not live in a police state, nor would we want to, where big brother always had an eye on you. But if you see something, say something is still a valuable tool I would think.

However I still come back to the idea that common sense says if you cut off the supply of assault weapons it would make it far less likely these incidents would occur.

Now as I understand it, guns and ammunition are basically illegal in Mexico. But Mexico is terribly violent and has suffered thousands of deaths in an ongoing drug war with weapons supplied from the United States (and other places I am sure). But Mexico does not have a stable system of government and its government at all levels is rife with corruption.

We have a our own corruption but not at the level of Mexico and we have much more stability — albeit we live in a violent society.

One obstacle in the way of any common sense gun control is that we have the Second Amendment which the Supreme Court has held entitles nearly everyone to have a gun. The court has held, though, that there can be some restrictions.

Or maybe in light of the fact the high court gives some leeway in restrictions that is not so much an obstacle. But what is an obstacle is that most politicians, be they liberal, moderate, or conservative, dare not cross the NRA, said to be the strongest political lobby in the nation.

Also, among the citizenry in general I suppose there may be a kind of apathy, disinterest, or sympathy with the notion that there should be no restrictions on guns. It is an American thing.

I myself have stated that I at least generally or maybe in a passive way support the Second Amendment. I also think, though, it is not clearly understood. But I for some reason have a hard time writing about it because it has a kind of convoluted history. I have read that the real intent of the Second Amendment was to ensure that the U.S. had a citizen army rather than one controlled by the central government that would resemble armies of the monarchies in Europe. And to explain that (do I really need to?) would take maybe more paragraphs (less if I were better at writing and synthesizing and condensing thoughts). But we have an army controlled by our federal government these days of course and have had for most of our history.

(And all that is academic anyway being as how the Supreme Court has upheld the individual right to possess weapons, with some restriction.)

And to sum this all up, despite the reluctance or fear of politicians to deal with gun control, the power is really with the people.

Just as the NRA could use its influence to push anyone out of office, enough voters could push those out who fail to deal with gun control. A slow process perhaps, but the mid terms are this year, and nothing else seems to be happening.

P.s.

A lot of people apparently love to shoot assault rifles and go to commercial ranges to engage in their hobby. So it is big business. Money talks. And while I would sincerely hate to deprive anyone of their fun, I put the safety of society and our children first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

I’d be afraid to send kids to school these days…

February 15, 2018

Seventeen dead at last count in a high school shooting in Florida on Wednesday (2-14-18). More than a dozen wounded (and of course the death toll may rise).

There have been so many of these mass shootings in the last many years and so many of them have been at schools.

And so often in these mass shootings, as in this case, the weapon of choice: the AR-15 assault rifle — semi-automatic  — please you gun experts don’t get hung up on that — rapid fire designed to kills lots of people (people not deer or bear or whatever) fast. Automatic, semi-automatic — no real difference.

And correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the AR-15 is basically the civilian copy of the U.S. army’s standard infantry rifle, the M-16, which came into use during the Vietnam War.

Why any civilian should be allowed to have one is beyond me.

And yes, I know that people can be killed with all kinds of weapons;  It’s a dangerous world. And then there is the favorite line of the complete right for everyone to have a gun crowd without restrictions: if you outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns.

And if you outlaw nuclear bombs only outlaws will have them. But that is all absurd and does not speak to the problem at hand.

If rapid fire weapons were hard to get, then most of these mass shootings would not take place. But apparently they are relatively easy to obtain. And you have to include the ammunition magazines or clips. It was said the shooter here had a huge supply of them.

I put two daughters through high school. That was a long time ago now. I think I would be afraid to send kids to school these days.

We have a society that seems unable or unwilling to protect them.

The NRA and all gun owners should be at the forefront of a movement to ban assault weapons and to have reasonable fire arm restrictions.

Even our apathetic society might wake up one day and take a second look at the Second Amendment.

I doubt it needs to or ever will be repealed or even should be repealed but it does need to be re-examined, maybe revised, and laws and policies drawn up under it should be re-examined as well.

 


You think something is outrageous, but read beyond the headline, it still may be wrong, but somewhat more understandable…

February 14, 2018

NOTE: Trying to convey something in a few words can take a long time. So here I took the easy way out and posted a lot of words:


Sometimes you hear or read about something so out of whack or outrageous in the news and you think such a great injustice has taken place and — how could this happen? And why? What were they thinking? But if you were to read beyond the headlines you might discover that in context things were more plausible or understandable — even if a wrong has still taken place. That is if enough information is even offered.

Two cases in point:

A foreign professor who had lived in the United States for three decades and who was well-respected was handcuffed by immigration agents in front of his family as he was going to drive one of his children to school. His wife was purportedly warned not to hug him or she would be arrested too (in some accounts it was said his children were warned likewise).

Well this seems outrageous (and it may be). He was not suspected of being a terrorist or member of a sleeper cell, at least not in any account I am aware of. But if you read down you find that he had at times been in violation of over staying his visas and work permits. You’d think a man of his stature would have made sure he kept up on such things. Why authorities chose to treat him and his family so rough is a troubling question.

And then there was the rookie police officer fired for refusing to shoot a distraught black man who was holding an unloaded gun (probably not known to be unloaded at the time). Instead the officer chose to try to calm the man down. But when other officers arrived on the scene the man with the gun was shot dead. The rookie officer has now received a settlement in a wrongful termination lawsuit of $175,000.

Now admittedly the thing that sticks out in this one to me is how the first reaction of police too often seems to be shoot to kill. And the victims are too often black men. I mean I was not there and don’t know what possible options they had — but the one officer had chosen to try to calm things down to avoid tragedy — his comrades were having none of that.

So this poor rookie tries to do the humane thing and gets fired for it. But, wait, read some more: he was already on probation of sorts. He had cursed at one citizen who confronted him over a parking ticket and he and another officer had been written up for failing to question a suspicious death. Now the poor officer may have still been correct in all of his actions (well not the cursing at a citizen), but at least you can see the side of his superiors who may have felt he was just not cutting it as an officer. What if that gun the black man held was loaded and what if the rookie officer or the others had been killed? While there is a definite problem with police officers shooting suspects (and too often black ones), it just is never a good idea to point a gun at a police officer and should not be. And even if unarmed, it is not a good idea to refuse to cooperate with an officer, and should not be.

(The dead man had asked to be killed, apparently wishing to commit suicide by cop, according to accounts.)

So, all I am saying is one had to read beyond the headline to get any legitimate use out of a story. One still might not reach satisfaction, but at least it would cut out on false notions from not fully understanding the context of a story.

But in this fast-paced web-surfing world critical thinking seemingly has gone out the window.

And everyone is getting the news off the web which in turn often targets bits and pieces of news to fit what it is perceived people want to hear based on hits on websites and individual searches. There is this ongoing effort to customize your news so you only hear what you want to know about and only get the facts, such as they are, that conform to your predispositions.

p.s.

I probably did not come up with the best examples, but the idea for this post came to me after reading the afore-mentioned stories.

Some background on the arrested professor story:

(Well sorry, it seems this link is not working, at least not for me, but if you are interested you can type Journal World, arrested professor in the Google search bar and get the story)

www2.ljworld.com/news/2018/feb/03/bangladeshi-born-lawrence-scientist-father-3-now-f/

(Still another one I cannot get to work)

www2.ljworld.com/news/2018/feb/12/despite-uncertainties-jailed-lawrence-father-syed-/

And then I find myself in agreement with the tone of the following article, but it is of course one-sided:

https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform/reforming-police-practices/police-officer-wins-settlement-city-fired-him

And then there is this only slightly more objective story that mentions two other incidents on the policeman’s record:

http://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2016/09/11/Weirton-fired-officer-who-did-not-fire-at-man-with-gun/stories/201609090080

Note: in trying to give the background here in the rookie cop fired story I was reminded of how convoluted things can get and why we often don’t read beyond the headlines. And it does seem as if they fired the cop because he was not one of the boys who preferred to shoot first and ask questions later.


That Amazon job is an opportunity no doubt until the robots take over completely or you die of boredom…

February 11, 2018

While driving the big truck down the road the other day this college-educated truck driver heard a local news story in the Sacramento area about how Amazon had just created thousands of jobs with its new “fulfillment center” (read warehouse, distribution center — okay now it’s “fulfillment center”).

And it was said the only qualification necessary was a high school diploma. Training provided. From the brief description of the work it sounded like people trying to keep up with robots. Good luck on that.

Reminds me of my first job out of the army. I was not a college graduate at that time but did have my high school diploma. I probably would have done better to enter college right then and there.

However, they were hiring at an area wood products re-manufacturing facility — well we called it “the mill”. It was actually a combination lumber mill, paper mill, molding mill, and (wooden) box factory. I ended up primarily in the box factory (and by the way, it’s all gone now). I already had a family. I needed the work.

Whatever, I soon found out that the work was for the most part man trying to keep up with the machines.

I showed up early for my shift the first day as instructed. The gigantic cavernous building was empty and quiet. It was eerie what with all the machinery and conveyor belts and pipes and electrical wires going every which way. I could not grasp what it was all for or how it worked.

A woman from the office briefly showed me around. I don’t recall what she said. Then she showed me where I would work. Little by little people wandered in. You know, I think it was St. Patrick’s Day or thereabouts, and a little Irishman wearing a green-colored plastic bump hat was the boss of the department I was to work in. He introduced himself. “Yeah Tony we work pretty hard here. But it’s good work.” Well that is not an exact quote (despite the quote marks) but close enough.

I was told I would be working with the guys on the “hikeaway” line. Just do what they do. And then the whistle blew. And the machines (mostly saws of various kinds) roared to life and it was suddenly so loud in what had been a quiet building that I could barely hear a word anyone was saying. I found you get used to it after a while and then you can hear (eventually they issued all of us form-fitting ear plugs — that helped).

So what we did was gather loose blocks of wood off a conveyor belt — they came in various lengths marked with a number in crayon. We then  “hiked away” from the belt and stacked them on wooden pallets. Each dimension had to be stacked in a particular way so that when the forklift driver picked them up they would not all fall apart.

You had to work quickly lest the blocks get to the end of the belt and fall all over the floor. The foreman did not like that. Time is money. In my ignorance I had thought factories just produced stuff and then tried to sell it. No, we were always working on a particular order. Wasted time picking up blocks off the floor added to the cost of filling that order and less profit for the company.

I had never worked so hard in my whole young life. At the end of that day I pulled out of the parking lot and came up to a busy intersection on the old highway and only the sound of a big truck horn kept me from sudden death. I was in a daze.

But I got used to the hikeaway line and learned its rhythm. But then one day the foreman grabs me and tells me to work on another job. I stood in front of a bin of sorts and below a chute from which lumber of  random sizes, from blocks to 2 x 4s, came tumbling down in no particular order very frequently. I had to reach in and grab each piece and make an appropriate stack. But every time I would reach in a board would hit hard on my hands — yeah I wore gloves, but that smarts!

I did not last long on that job.

Then one day he put me on the cleat machine. A woman would feed blocks of wood into it on one side and it would all come out in slivers of wood on the other side and I would stack and bundle them. Not really my thing, but I managed to get the rhythm of that job too. But then another day he put me on the automatic cleat machine. There this lady fed whole stacks of blocks at one time and they all came out in slivers rapidly, one after another. Before long I was literally knee-deep in cleats. While I worked feverishly to pick them all up off the floor she took a break. But almost before I was done she was back at it mercilessly feeding that monster.

I could go on about the various jobs I did but they all amounted to the same thing, me competing against a machine and the machine wins every time.

This work was not for me. And I have nothing against manual labor. At times I rather like it. But I got to where I was hoping they would fire me for incompetence. But they never did. I ended up leaving on my own accord.

I didn’t want to spend my life hating to go to work every day at something I would never be very good at and something so dull.

And no criticism of those who did the work. They were hard-working responsible folks, the kind we need in society.

But I heard that when the place eventually closed down a lot of those hardworking folks lost their pensions with it. They were expendable.

So if you have read this far you might be wondering why if I was not cut out for that kind of work and now have a college education why am I driving a truck?

Well for one thing driving a truck is not stacking blocks — nowhere near that. Ninety percent of the time it is sitting on my rear end. I do that rather well. There is a whole lot more to it, though — that other ten percent (that’s what will get you).

My advice to people, particularly young people (I’m better at giving advice than taking it), is, yeah, take that Amazon job, but meanwhile line yourself up for something else in the future. Learn a trade, a skill, be it through vocational training or college or both or whatever. And learn, to borrow a line from a country song, to “do what you do do well”. Do something you enjoy. And preferably something that is in demand — not installing rotary-dial phones.

Skilled people are less expendable and they tend to be happier and make the folks around them (such as family) happier too.

p.s.

I had one job at the mill that I thought women probably could not handle because it was a little too heavy. But one day some of the men were called away to do some project and the women were brought up to do that job. Not only could they handle it, I subsequently was told they all had worked at it before they got better jobs they liked, such as feeding that cleat machine monster.

,

 

 

 


Who is really watching Wall Street?

February 10, 2018

Been too busy working at my real job to really digest the news this week but I did make some comments on the stock market of which I take no part in. But we are always told that somehow the stock market is important — I mean did not the crash of 1929 result in the Great Depression of the 1930s? And did not the melt down in 2007 and 2008 result in the Great Recession?

While no one seems to know precisely why the stock market has suddenly become so volatile, some of the blame has been put on the notion that the days of cheap money are over. Interest rates are expected to go up. One of the reasons for tight money is that our government continues to spend way more than it takes in and so it has to borrow money.  That in turn raises the cost of borrowing for everyone else.

Kind of hard for the layman (and that would be me) to figure since I know that basically we have a fiat currency based on nothing more than the government’s ability to print money and the willingness for people here and all over the world to accept the U.S. dollar. The fact that we are the strongest nation on earth, militarily and financially, makes that possible.

We used to base our money on gold and silver. But to help finance the Vietnam War we went off the gold standard. Does that make sense? Well maybe so, maybe not.

Money is complicated.

But now there is another thing I have heard about. I heard one financial pundit on the radio talk about — well mention — all the financial products available now that are essentially bets on the market — they really provide no function other than as a gambling game. Futures contracts are kind of like that. You basically bet on what the price of a commodity and even stocks nowadays will be in the future. But supposedly they were originally designed to be a vehicle to set the price of certain basic commodities.

Some are saying that all this betting has resulted in the instability. Some people cash in when the market falls. I don’t know, maybe they have some way to manipulate it.

Whatever, a lot of money is tied up in the stock market and if things are not going well there investors get the jitters and may not want to invest in anything and that in turn has a major effect on the day-to-day economy and people’s jobs.

I already made note in an earlier post that computer trading also seems to have had a major effect. Computers react automatically to certain conditions through the use of algorithms. No human thinking involved.

Wall Street is a dangerous casino that impacts us all.

Who really watches Wall Street?

Barack Obama promised to go after the culprits on Wall Street when he campaigned for his first term in office but he did not. We know Trump is not likely to. He has moved to cut down on any oversight (or eliminate it).

 


Computers behind stock free fall; Trump could help if he’d back off…

February 6, 2018

UPDATE (2-9-18): The stock market was volatile this week and at one point saw it’s biggest point drop in history but ended Friday on an up note. But it seems uncertainty has hit the market.


 

As one financial expert said: we talk about self-driving cars but what we have now is a self-driving stock market, what with at least 50 percent of the trading done by not humans but computers running off of algorithms.

So I guess we are now ever more dependent upon and vulnerable to computers.

The first part of my lead sentence was an all but direct quote from a financial expert on the PBS Newshour and the 50 percent-figure I think from a CNN story (or Wall Street Journal?). And the dependent/vulnerable conclusion my own.

The New York stock trading was volatile today (2-6-18) after taking the biggest point drop in its history yesterday.

Some experts are counseling concerned investors and consumers not to panic, that this is just a normal correction. And one has to keep in mind the stock market is not the economy in and of itself.

It does appear the days of cheap money may be coming to an end.

Interestingly what would seem good news to the majority of Americans, that is supposedly climbing wages (everyone’s situation is different), is bad news to big-time investors and corporations — leads to inflation, higher costs for borrowing, and bigger outlays for payrolls.

And lest anyone think that I am trying to sound like an expert, I am not. I cannot. Just making observations from the average but informed person’s point of view.

Even I have to admit that the current stock market volatility and jitters does not in and of itself mean we are on the wrong economic path.

But I have also read that part of the uncertainty is that major tax cuts enacted put the federal government deeper into debt because it has robbed itself of a revenue source (or decreased it) as its debts mount.

It’s easy just to say cut out all the unnecessary spending, but not easy at all to figure out what is unnecessary.

And that is why we have a congress. Unfortunately it is tied up in partisan squabbles that have little to nothing to do with good and prudent public policy and everything to do with personal power struggles and maintaining seats if office.

I also think the ongoing instability created by what appears to be an unstable person holding the presidency is adding to the problem.

If he would just resign I think that could help. Or if he could dispense with the name calling and dangerous and seemingly uninformed pronouncements on the world stage it would help.

At times he has shown some willingness to compromise and I guess one would have to say he is capable of thinking or at least acting outside the box. So if he could stop tweeting and quit being so defensive he might make something of a positive contribution — it would at least be worth a try.

What follows is my previous post on Monday (2-6-18):

And didn’t I write a few posts ago about the so-called good Trump economy that what goes up must come down? Well, not an original thought. A few centuries ago Isaac Newton came to the same conclusion.

So the New York Stock exchange saw its worst point drop in history — and that’s according to the Wall Street Journal.

Okay, admittedly I know little about the technical aspects of the stock market. As far as I can see it seems to have two functions: one, to provide a place to trade stocks or shares in companies and in so doing set a value for them. And two, and I think this is the more popular of the two, to serve as a gambling casino. And not everyone plays fair. And not everyone is on a level playing field.

But be that as it may it seems to be the most immediate judge of our economy.

So president Trump has been hogging all the credit for the stock market boom over the past year — his first year in office. And he touted what wonders the Republican tax bill has done for the market and the economy — the one he helped push through and signed into law.

Okay I don’t keep track, but I guess it was Friday the market began its fall and it continued today (Monday, Feb. 5, 2018).

So if this continues (I know the experts try to tamp down worries by calling such a thing a “correction”) will Trump be willing to take the blame or will he find a scapegoat? You figure that out. Maybe he’ll blame it all on Obama or illegal immigrants.

As mere lay people (that is not financial wizards or speculators or full-time investors) we are told how a booming stock market is good for everyone. It means companies hire more people and workers get raises (well supposedly). But wouldn’t you know it? That is one of the reasons the market got the jitters. Things were moving too fast and that creates fears of inflation which in turn makes central bankers want to raise interests rates and that discourages money people because borrowing will cost more money.

You can’t win.

Well, like I said, I know little about the technical aspects of all of this.

But what I think I do know is that stability is good for everyone. And with all the Trump-inspired chaos we don’t have that.

 


A memo is just a memo, not necessarily the truth…

February 4, 2018

The truth of something can be hard to impossible to discern but there can only be one truth. But what we seem to have here is a competition for the truth in the ongoing Justice Department investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

Make no mistake. It is all politics and has little to do with the truth.

I mean just because someone writes a memo does not mean what is in the memo is accurate.

The Republicans hold the majority in both houses of congress so they have managed to release a memo they hope casts doubt on the Trump Russian collusion and furthermore proves that the FBI worked against the election of Trump, favoring Hillary Clinton.

They have thus far prevented the disclosure of a Democratic memo, as a I understand it, that is contrary to theirs. What I don’t understand is why the Democrats just don’t release their own memo.

But a memo is just a memo. And obviously both sides are not looking in an unbiased manner.

And we also know, thanks to Trump’s spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway, that the Trump administration has “alternative facts”. She used that term in the past — but does she know what the definition of fact is? I mean can there be an alternative? If there could be, then it would seem the word “fact” means little.

Now J. Edgar Hoover is long dead. But I do not necessarily trust the FBI. Hoover served through several presidencies because they were all afraid of his power. He kept his secret dossiers, detailing any missteps or purported missteps in the lives of prominent people — Martin Luther King Jr. cavorted with women on the road. He knew that President Kennedy had  a fling with Marilyn Monroe (and others). He knew, I understand, things about President Johnson. So the FBI by history it seems is somewhat compromised.

But now we have a president who seems to be turning the tables and threatening the FBI. But not for altruistic purposes. He is trying to save his own skin I think.

It is nothing short of amazing how much confusion and chaos President Trump can produce. And it seems to work for him. I mean so-called high disapproval ratings don’t seem to rob him of power. He is doing his best to sow seeds of doubt in our institutions and dismantle democratic (small d) government.

We need members of congress who have some intestinal fortitude to stand up to Trump.

Once Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, of South Carolina seemed like such a person. But Trump must have given the delicate unmarried gentleman a head rub or something. After Calling Trump a nut case in the campaign Graham seems to be on his side now. I saw the picture of him wearing the red Trump baseball cap. Wow! He can be bought with a baseball cap? How cheap.

It appears that most of the Republican Party is afraid of the bully. Rather than confront him, they just want to hold on to his coattails for power.

I’d be a Republican if they could give me an excuse. But I don’t want to be in the party of cowards.