Mass shooting a sign of a troubled and sick society…

June 30, 2018

Three main things jump out at me in relation to the mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland this week:

There were warnings —

Lack of security —

I was once a reporter myself (a target?) —

I’ll address the last first: Since I worked as a reporter for many years I might well have been a potential target by some disgruntled reader or nutcase, although I doubt more so than now since I am a truck driver and when you consider road rage…

But if you drive your own car you are just as likely to face the same level of threat. I really think this society has become so much meaner since I was a child (many decades ago now).

But as is frustratingly so in so many mass shootings there were warnings. The shooter made several online threats. From what I have read, the newspaper officials and the authorities seemed to take the general attitude that if they ignored this nutcase (the shooter) he would go away. He didn’t.

They even received a warning from the shooter the day of. Employees of the newspaper were advised to call 911 if they spotted him. Really? That of course would be (was) too late.

Now I guess this was (is) a relatively small newspaper even though it is in the capital city of Maryland. But apparently it had zero security. I mean they already knew the guy by sight and he walks in with a shotgun.

The lesson: in this day and age if someone makes a threat, best to take it seriously and overreact.

In my years in journalism (about 15 or so) I don’t recall receiving any threat of injury or death. I was concerned at times though. Once I was sent out to make a photo of a traffic stop. A traffic stop? Yes. I think in the small community where I was working the local cops did not get much action and were all excited about what they considered a felony stop out on the freeway. I got out there and made some photos. One of the suspects (and I don’t recall I ever found what he was a “suspect” of) demanded to see my identification. One of the cops went along with that demand and told me to show the suspect. Thanks a lot. I’m don’t recall that we even ran that photo. I think the whole thing turned out to be nothing. But it bothered me that one of the supposed desperadoes saw my driver’s license.

I worried more for my own father’s safety. He was in the newspaper business for nearly half a century, working in the big and small time. As a teenager I recall a couple of times (just a couple) he received a phone call at night from disgruntled readers.

And that makes me think of the victims in this latest mass shooting:

Five dead. Four of them were near or at retirement age and one was young. Several more were gravely wounded. Lives snuffed out or forever impaired and families devastated.

This was not one of those clear cases for the need of gun control. The weapon used was as far as I know a perfectly legal shotgun.

This could be just called a random act of violence. But when you put it together with all of the others that have rained down on us over the past several years it is a sign of an increasingly troubled and downright sick society. It’s the other guy I know. But something is wrong.

My nagging fear in all of this is that we are forced to accept these incidents as every-day reality.

p.s.

The story is that the shooter was mad about an article in the newspaper a few years ago about his legal troubles involving harassment he allegedly committed against a former female fellow student in high school.

He was unsuccessful in suing the newspaper for defamation.

As an LA Times story put it:

… the judge said, the paper had nailed the story: “There is nothing in those complaints that prove that anything that was published about you is, in fact, false.”

 

 

 

 

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The mass shooter: demented soul who can’t think things through…

June 29, 2018

Too early to make much sense of the mass shooting at a newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland on Thursday (6-28-18) — at least five dead and several seriously wounded in a newsroom — but it seems in the 21st Century when someone has a beef or wants to make a statement they do a mass shooting.

And these are separate from terrorist attacks (no more justified, though), in that they are not done for a known cause or group, but rather they are usually perpetrated by some demented soul who does not have the mental capacity to think things through.

But it does not help that the level of discourse in our nation has become so rough or that violence is so glorified in our entertainment. But I am not one to say stop the violence on TV (which I don’t watch, TV that is) or in the movies. I mean you watch what you want and sometimes it is necessary for the story, although violence for violence’s sake, gratuitous as is were, is distasteful and serves no good purpose and in fact can do harm.

There have been reports that the latest incident might have involved some quarrel or negative contact (less than a full-blown quarrel) between and executive at the newspaper, the Capital Gazette, and the shooter. But no details or real confirmation on that. And at last report, the shooter, described as a white male, was not talking.

Because talk radio has to talk, that being its purpose, there was immediate speculation it had to do with bad blood in the current political struggle in our nation. Some claimed it was the fault of the progressive side and others countered the conservatives. Really. And it may well have had nothing to do with politics. We political watchers are guilty of thinking everything has to do with politics (well in a way it does usually).

But even if no politics were involved I can’t help but think of comments our current president made during the campaign that NRA members would have their own way of taking care of Hillary Clinton so she would not be able to push gun control. The inference was clear. Candidates do sometimes get carried away, but I don’t recall an apology or explanation.

When you have someone at the top of the heap talking like this it tends to make it all acceptable. It creates a mood and ends up in a norm.

And so, the question for all of us is how do we keep ourselves safe? I mean these mass shootings are becoming too commonplace.

We just might have to arm ourselves. The police in this incident showed up super fast (they claim within 60 seconds), and in the process no doubt saved lives. But it was still too late for at least five.

But if you pack a gun, what if you just thought you were threatened?

I don’t know about other states, but in California (at least when I took a criminal justice class) if you shoot someone thinking it was self-defense but the evidence does not clearly show you were in imminent danger at the very moment the shot was fired, you are in big trouble. An example. You are threatened. You shoot, but by the time you reacted the aggressor has turned his or her back on you — you are in trouble.

And can you imagine all the shootings there would be if everyone was legally armed? Have you driven out on the road lately?

p.s.

There is this nagging concern that the fact that when one of these demented souls commits a shooting he (seems always a he) knows there will be instant world-wide coverage thanks to modern technology, whether he is alive to enjoy his fame or not. Well the concern being that somehow that promotes the shootings. Well we report on wars too — but if we stopped, they would still happen. Could or should the reporting be toned down? Not eliminated but limited to the dry facts. You can’t have a free press with control. And I don’t care to live in a world where big brother decides what is safe for me to hear.

 

 

 


Justice Kennedy retirement not necessarily a reason for panic…

June 28, 2018

The announcement of retirement by Justice Anthony Kennedy from the U.S. Supreme Court, the man considered to be the all-important swing vote — he is conservative but sometimes sides with the liberals — may not be exactly the crisis it is purported to be by those who depend upon liberal opinions, which there are few of these days (liberal opinions that is), from the high court.

First of all, no one ever knows for sure how a justice will turn out. If memory serves me, Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren, a former governor of California, thinking he had chosen a staunch conservative only to wind up with the man who led the most liberal court ever (however, I guess from President Trump’s list there are not likely to be any of that mold). And let’s not forget, George W. Bush chose Chief Justice John Roberts for his conservative views only to see him in the next administration rule in favor of the liberal legislation of Obamacare, much to the horror of conservatives.

Second of all, the high court is supposed to rule on law and the Constitution. While the legislative branch does not have the power to interpret the constitution as the Supreme Court does, it can make law — and actually it should be doing that — making law — not the high court. So the best way to combat an overly-conservative Supreme Court is to fashion laws in the interest of the electorate as a whole.

And thirdly, there is always impeachment. Only one justice ever faced that and he was acquitted. But in extreme circumstances that tool is available. So, progressives, win more seats in congress and you will have that tool if need be.

But back to the practice of the high court making law: it seems to me that in the past the Supreme Court has gone too far in its actions. Ruling against racial segregation was one thing (the right thing) but then dictating that children be bussed hither and yon, out of their own home districts, to accomplish that, to me, was a gross overstep of the court’s authority.

The affirmative action plans overseen by the high court also seemed to me an overstep. I actually think society would have moved in the right direction (not political right) without affirmative action. Over time things change of their own accord, society evolves. To me it would seem affirmative action is a stigma. People need, want, demand equal access, not an unfair advantage that might serve to tarnish their own accomplishments.

In some ways the Supreme Court is above it all but I don’t think that it is totally disconnected from the society around it.

 

p.s.

As many of my posts are, this was off the top of my head and perhaps way off base, but that is my immediate reaction.

 

 

 

 


On booting Sanders from eatery: rude behavior begets rude behavior…

June 23, 2018

Note: my updated version of this post. I accidentally posted my rough draft and it was rough — hope I did better this time


 

The news is that President Trump’s press secretary Sarah Sanders was kicked out of a Virginia restaurant along with family members because of who her boss is — the intensely divisive Donald Trump.

It does seem rude and not even right that she was booted out.

I wonder if she has a civil rights case (probably not. I think that only applies to people of color or of some kind of third gender — okay I am being a little sarcastic, something I will accuse Ms. Sanders of being in this post).

Apparently though Ms. Sanders took it all in stride, tweeting that she tries to be civil to people even when she does not agree with their politics (sometimes, though, I see incivility in her facial expressions, tone of her responses, and bodily gestures during press conferences).

I don’t even like the idea or institution of the presidential press secretary. I don’t even know when this institution began (I could look that up I guess). But from Nixon’s Ron Ziegler to Trump’s Sarah Sanders it is apparent that their main or only function is to mislead by spin. Everyone knows this. So why do we even listen to or read what they say? I suppose because in the past we have not had daily immediate access to the most powerful person in the world, who is the American president.

But now we have Trump who loves to post whatever fleeting thought is going through his brain at the time on Twitter for the whole world to see.

(I have to confess I don’t even know how to directly access that — Google it I guess — but I am always seeing the tweets in the online news reports).

But what I want to comment on is Ms. Sanders. She of course faces a combative press. One can argue how combative reporters should be but surely no thinking person would suggest that they should just accept bull crap and ask soft ball questions — what would be the point?

Whenever I watch Ms. Sanders answer questions, that is ones she does not like (and that would be anything that does not set up a positive spin for her boss — i.e. softball questions) she gets a stern and defiant look on her face and delivers a response (or sometimes refuses) in a cynical monotone reeking of sarcasm and defiance and even sometimes reproach for someone to dare ask something uncomfortable.

While I have since read that most or all of it was set up, I miss the days when President John F. Kennedy held press conferences and made jokes with uncomfortable questions sometimes.

I watched the tape of Ms. Sanders being mocked at the recent annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner by a trashy female comedian. While that event is known for its irreverances and those who attend must understand that, I thought the comedian’s monologue was of bounds even so.

(Trump was so incensed for being mocked by Barrack Obama years ago he ran for president and the rest is history, well and the present too.)

But, you know, Ms. Sanders could lighten up.

It must be hard to be on the side where your job is to evade the truth and at the same time difficult to be on the side where your job is to somehow get at the truth but be personally maligned in the process.

This is a generality, but people on the political right, and that takes in a big swath of folks who have different versions of conservatism, seem convinced that most of the press or “media” as they always call it (to them that means liar) are simply out there to get ratings or readership and are the enemies of the nation (the fourth estate).

I don’t know the motivations of everyone. I did work in the journalism small time for some 15 years and covered mostly local politics. I learned that unless someone agrees with what your story seems to say they are convinced that you have slanted it. How they come to their own conclusions I have not a clue. They just know what they know I guess.

I will admit that on the national scale in our modern form of journalism or what passes for it there is certainly a tendency to appeal to the middle and the left (with the exception of Fox News, created to attract and pander to the heretofore overlooked demographic of reactionary viewers). I could get into a whole long discussion here on all that but such is not the point of this post.

I just think it is sad that we have gotten to the point where someone such as Ms. Sanders is kicked out of a restaurant over politics.

But you reap what you sow, Ms. Sanders.

p.s.

My apologies for using that reap what you sow Bible quote so much in my posts — just could not come up with something better or more appropriate.

Galatians 6:7: …for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.


According to Wikipedia, FDR was the first president to designate someone to spend full time as a press secretary and be designated as such.

 

 


Still, neither party seems willing to resolve immigration issue…

June 22, 2018

It appears that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats really care to resolve the immigration issue. Now of course this is my take, but I think in general the Republicans with their business interests and their appeal to the nativist movement are conflicted in that on the one hand they like the supply of generally cheaper labor mostly illegal immigrants supply and the downward pressure it puts on wages but on the other hand they do not want to offend that nativist, anti-immigrant (yes, illegal immigrant) base — especially important in the era of Trump.

For Democrats keeping things in a state of flux is appealing to them in that it gives them an issue to be used against the Republicans. They also court Hispanic votes, people who either are new citizens or those who may be related to or have special concern or empathy for members of their own race. And Republicans might charge that some illegals are being added to the voting rolls (studies indicate voter fraud, although it certainly exists, is statistically not a large factor).

I have written previously that I think the problem is that immigration law is something that is complex and maybe way more than it needs to be.

There is always the argument over whether people should be admitted into the country on a liberal basis without regard to their ability to make a living and at the same time give weight to whether they have family members already here or whether we ought to use a merit system based on their ability meet the skills needed in the labor force or professions (doctors?).

And do we admit people seeking political asylum or fleeing war and crime and general violence in their native lands?

Even the most compassionate among us must understand we cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the teeming and displaced masses of the world. Europe struggles with that today, with the mass migration from Africa and the Middle East, where people flee violence and poverty and search for freedom.

Like a perhaps harder hearted but maybe more practical-minded commenter in a Wall Street Journal story I read wrote: are you willing to open up your own home and pay for them?

(I might answer: probably better to pool our resources through our own government.)

I take the middle ground. We need to face the issue head-on and in a practical manner. We need to get out the word that if you cross the border illegally you will be subject to detainment and immediate deportation. We won’t catch them all, but that is the policy.

But at the same time we need to set up a process with equal access to all for application for entry.

As to what the qualifications for entry should be will surly be the sticking point. I would think proof one has a necessary skills to make a living would be one.

If there are to be limits it ought to apply at the top and the bottom. That is we should limit even those special visas the high-tech industry uses to get smarter but cheaper labor from abroad.

There is no excuse for not hiring our own native talent. And if there is not enough of it, then what is pubic education all about?

Immigration law is too complex but it will be a complex problem to make it simpler no doubt. We do not have the leadership to get that done.

I will say that President Trump is rattling the cages on both sides but to what end I am not sure.

Hopefully new leadership will emerge.

 


Crossing the border illegally does not in and of itself make one a criminal…

June 21, 2018

It’s somewhat difficult to honestly sort through the current immigration problem at the Mexican border.

Certainly the visual has been bad. There really is no excuse for separating families and it does conjure up images of Nazi Germany’s treatment of the Jews or the days of slavery when families were separated when slave owners decided to sell off some of some of their slaves.

And the notion that the Trump administration had been putting forward that it had no choice under the law is of course a lie on its face. Since no other administrations did it, why now? Answer: politics, used as leverage to get the kind of immigration legislation Trump wants (his wall) and plays up to the bigoted base.

Trump world will tell you that criminals in this country are separated from their children when they go to jail. Well calling people who illegally cross the border criminals is a cruel play on words. They are not criminals in the commonly understood context of that word. They are not murderers or robbers or rapists or smugglers just by the fact of crossing the border. They have broken a law of our country. Yes, I guess you can say they have committed a crime. But again that does not fit the commonly understood meaning of the word “criminal”.

To be sure there is a need to control the border. An influx of people, many of whom have no way of supporting themselves, can overtax our system. And yes, anytime you have a flood of people there will be the criminal element within the group.

But these desperate people are not the enemy. We ought to be pressing on the countries from whence they have come. The failure of those countries to uphold law and order and to have uncorrupt governments is what is causing the problem. No easy solution or method there I must admit.

These people are coming out of parts of Mexico and Central and South America. Too bad the U.S. spent so many years supporting corrupt governments in Latin America under the guise of fighting communism. We are reaping what we sowed.

Mexico is set to get a new administration with an election on July 1. We need to work with Mexico, respecting that nation and improving our relationship with it.

But for now, because of who we are, I think we have no choice but to accept the immigrants, but of course with proper and orderly screening, but within a humane system.

The Trumpians are playing politics at the cost of human misery and it is disgusting. It is revolting.

Trump did appear to cave in, saying now that he would stop the policy of separating families but for those already separated there is no promise of action we are told.

In a related matter I am confused as to why our military cannot be used to directly patrol the border. I just did a quick read and indicated there is an old law on the books that prevents or discourages the use of troops for border patrol. But that is a law, not a constitutional provision. Laws can be changed. We do need to control the border. I doubt a wall is needed or even would be effective. And the aesthetics would be bad. We have drones and electronic devices to augment the human element.

We also need better relations with Latin America. We need to work with those countries to make life better for their people and in the process help us all. We need to be good neighbors but go beyond the “good neighbor” policy of the past and be so without being condescending.

We also need to un-elect our current Nazi-like government.

 

 


Bad president but compromised FBI…

June 15, 2018

In my last post I wrote about giving peace a chance in relation to President Trump’s whirlwind summit with North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un.

That was not a compliment or sign of admiration for Trump — I think he is the worst thing to happen to my country, the USA, in my lifetime (and I thought George W. Bush was so bad — no more just clueless at times).

But if we can tamp down the move toward nuclear war then yes let’s give that a chance.

But we have a terrible, evil person as our president and he is doing great damage go our democracy with his fascist approach to politics.

It is possible he has violated many laws and should be prosecuted but unfortunately in my mind we have a justice department, more specifically, an FBI that is compromised by renegade agents (a minority one would hope) who were not discreet enough to keep their personal opinions on politics (which of course they are free to have) to themselves while performing their duties. The very fact that they stated to each other that they disliked candidate Trump, with one in fact indicating he would never let him become president, on its face proves bias in the FBI, even though a just-released inspector general’s report makes the giant leap of faith or logic that even though they said such things there was no proof of bias in their investigations. I think their statements, recorded in text messages and/or emails, is the evidence.

The report did accuse fired FBI director James Comey of being insubordinate in making statements about the appearance of guilt or innocence in the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation without clearing it with his superiors in the Justice Department.

And now I can’t remember for sure, but didn’t Comey just before the presidential election announce that he was re-opening the  investigation against Clinton — thus possibly costing her the election, and then too late but even closer to election day saying never mind nothing here?

Ironically, Trump was no doubt right to fire Comey but probably did so for the wrong reasons. But I am not sure that makes any difference.

Meanwhile we have a president who is acting more like a traitor than a leader of our nation, picking fights with our allies and cozying up to our enemies.

He praises the murderous Kim of North Korea, as well as Putin of Russia, who also has blood on his hands, suggests (he said later in jest) that he wishes people here in the USA (his staff or all of us?) would stand up at attention for him like they do for Kim in North Korea. Observers tell as North Korea is basically one big prison. And in another outrage, Trump saluted a North Korean general. Now to be fair I think Trump was just caught in an awkward moment — he returned a salute given to him. But I recall that President Obama was castigated for genuflecting before the former King of Saudi Arabia. But meanwhile, Trump went to Saudi Arabia and made buddy buddy with the leaders of that oligarchy.

Well the demands of my real job prevent me from further comment or analysis at this time.

To sum it up, though, the USA is currently in trouble.

Oh, that’s right, the economy is supposed to be good. Wow, we’ll all go to heck, lose our democracy, lose our freedom, but we’ll have enough money.