Cynical Synapse

Sun, 11 Mar 2018

What Is Common Sense Gun Control?

An internet search does not return any specific answer to what “common sense gun control” is. Sure, many people have opinions on what restrictions they would like to see put on guns, but there is no consensus on what constitutes common sense, let alone common sense gun control.

It seems the most frequent use of the term is to shut down discussion. After all, who wouldn’t be in favor of measures to curb mass shootings? Therefore, if you don’t support common sense gun control, you must not support saving lives, especially kids’ lives. Adding “common sense” to gun control, gun reform, and gun safety measures seems to be just a less offensive way of vilifying gun owners.

Since the Parkland, FL, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the trend has been to label the National Rifle Association (NRA) a terrorist organization or child murderers. How can reasonable discourse, discussion, and concurrence take place in such a toxic environment? We’ve become a very polarized society in which the mindset is you’re either for us or your against us.

The failures of Parkland had little to do with guns, but a lot to do with personal responsibility. The Parkland killer should not have been able to buy a gun, but he was not held accountable for his behavior in school. Yet, the conversation is largely focused on AR-15s (AR is short for ArmaLite, the company that introduced the gun, not assault rifle, as some believe) in particular, and assault rifles, assault weapons, or assault-style guns to some degree. These terms, too, are intended to inflame and place the user on the moral high ground. After all, no decent person could reasonably espouse the killing of others, especially not unjustified like these “weapons of war”. Never mind the AR-15 was developed in 1956 but did not become a military rifle—the M-16—until 1964.

We all want to see an end to mass murders, regardless of the means of perpetrating them. The conversation needs to be open and honest, with all sides willing to listen to the other. While words have meaning, and terms and terminology are important when it comes to writing laws, mocking gun control advocates with “gunsplaining” is an attempt to one-up the other side in most instances. While I’m at it, let me also call for an end to blaming opponents of virtue signaling. The only purpose of this term is an effort to delegitimize the other party by implying they don’t actually believe in their position. Talk about shutting down dialogue.

Since common sense isn’t very common, let’s stop being so adversarial when it comes to common concerns. Gun control advocates need to stop being so inflammatory and high and mighty. And believers in gun rights need to stop being so dismissive and pedantic. Then maybe we can develop practical solutions to keep our children and society safe.

Previously on mass shootings:

Mon, 05 Mar 2018

Misplaced Blame—The Failure of Parkland

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel blames the NRA

Image: CNN

Make no mistake: the murder of 17 innocent people, both high schoolers and adults, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, is reprehensible and unforgiveable. Something needs to be done to end such tragedies. We should give that careful thought and decide on what reasonable, effective actions to take based on facts.

Since the February 14, 2018 shootings in Parkland, there has been a hue and cry for more gun control. During the <a href="CNN Town Hall, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel denied responsibility and used the forum to call for gun control reform. The Town Hall turned into a bunch of bullies bashing the National Rifle Association (NRA) even though that organization had nothing to do with the perpetrator of the Parkland massacre.

Despite Sheriff Israel’s claims of amazing leadership, he seems to have only provided amazing leadership failures. He started avoiding responsibility during the CNN Town Hall when the NRA’s Dana Loesch asked why he didn’t use Florida’s Baker act to have the Parkland killer psychologically evaluated. Sheriff Israel’s response:

We’ve talked about the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and some other local agencies, and the FBI getting tips and what have you. America: there’s one person responsible for this act. That’s the detestable, violent killer. He is responsible for this act.

The Sheriff is right about who is responsible, but he also pointed out his office and the FBI both got tips about the killer. He never does answer the question about why his agency failed to follow up on numerous calls about the Parkland shooter. Israel admits his agency got 27 calls. In fact, Broward Sheriff’s Office received 45 calls about the killer or his brother from 2008 to 2017. Most peole don’t have that much contact with law enforcement in their entire lives! These calls should have prevented the Parkland shooter from being able to legally purchase any firearm.

As recently as January, the FBI received a tip about the killer, including his gun ownership, desire to kill people, and disturbing social media posts. Yet, the FBI failed to act. This was a specific tip that should have led to FBI to inform local law enforcement. Oh, wait. The Broward Sheriff’s Office already knew about the troublesome kid who would become the mass murderer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Teachers and the school district knew the Parkland shooter was troubled since at least middle school. The kid misbehaved and acted out, with the seriousness of infractions escalating over time to the point of assault. He was disciplined, suspended, and finally expelled. But the schools and school district never reported him to law enforcement to hold him responsible under the criminal justice system. This may be the result of an effort to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline. Unfortunately, the Parkland shooter’s escalating and continuing aggressive and antisocial behavior should have shown he was not a good candidate to keep out of the criminal justice system.

The warning signs were all there. Violent tendencies. Signs of mental illness. Threatening social media posts. Yet, the actions taken by government authorities at all levels—school, local, county, state, and federal—completely failed the 17 people killed at Parkland as well as their families, friends, and the community and nation as a whole. The answer is not additional laws. The answer is to hold those who failed accountable to ensure the existing laws are followed and enforced. Let’s start with charging hypocritical Sheriff Israel with malfeasance and dismissing him from his post for the gross, amazing leadership failures resulting from his incompetence and arrogance.

Wed, 12 Oct 2011

Ron Paul Indulging in a Lunatic Binge

Rep. Ron Paul

Ever since the radical, jihadist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was killed 30 September by a drone attack in Yemen, Republican presidential contender Ron Paul has been crying foul. He contends al-Awaki’s Constitutional rights, as US citizen, were violated, denying him due process guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. ls al-Awlaki’s “assassination” a dangerous precedent. Paul stated “there has been no formal declaration of war and certainly not one against Yemen.”

What Ron Paul misses is the fact al Qaeda declared war on the United States in 1998 and we reciprocated in 2001. A state of war has existed between the US and all the branches of al Qaeda ever since. Just because Pres. Obama changed terminology to “Overseas Contingency Operations” doesn’t mean the nature of the Global War on Terror has changed in any fundamental way.

Rep. Ron Paul

Most of us (59%) believe al-Awlaki’s killing was Constitutional. Ron Paul continues his government assassination meme, however. Last week Paul spoke to the National Press Club:

Can you imagine being put on a list because you’re a threat? What’s going to happen when they come to the media? What if the media becomes a threat?

But, Paul’s fearmongering is not new, having reared its ugly head in the last presidential campaign. Today, Paul cites Timothy McVeigh and Nidal Hasan as terrorists whose right to due process was not abridged in contrast to al-Awaki. The difference, Mr. Paul, is they were not part of al Qaeda. The difference is al-Awlaki joined Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and actively aided and abetted the terrorist organization. Al-Awlaki was an enemy combatant and AQAP confirmed his importance, calling him the “mujahid heroic sheikh”.
 


 

Fri, 07 Oct 2011

Global War on Terror 10 Years Later

US 10th Mountain Div. Soldiers in Afghanistan

Today marks the 10th anniversary since US forces began fighting in Afghanistan. It marks the start of the Global War on Terror and was a direct result of Taliban refusal to turn over Osama bin Laden, an issue that predated the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda’s leader was already wanted by the international community for embassy bombings in Africa and other terrorist acts.

I was glad I had not voted for Al Gore in the 2000 Presidential elections. There’s no doubt he wouldn’t have responded as decisively as George W. Bush, who started off right. (Concerning the distraction that became Operation Iraqi Freedom—which I was no in favor of—that’s for another post.) In Afghanistan, US forces, along with those from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, completely ousted the Taliban from power within 2 months. The hunt for bin Laden was on and efforts to build a stable Afghan government began.

Pres. Karzai opens session of Afghan Parliament

What do we have to show after 10 years at war?

Is our national security better off? The verdict is still out, and it’s a subject for much debate. From my view, we’re about even. China’s rise as a world power and the Arab Spring have certainly changed the geopolitical landscape, on which Russia is still a somewhat contrary power not to be discounted. We have less to fear from international terrorists and terror organizations, but a growing trend in so-called homegrown radicals means we must stay vigilant. To counter international and domestic threats, we have willingly surrendered freedoms in exchanged for a perception of security.
 


 

Sat, 01 Oct 2011

Hey, Due Processers: Here’s the Smoking Underwear Bomb

remnants of underwear bomb

Almost before the smoke cleared after Friday’s Predator drone attack on US-Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, there’s been a popular uprising questioning the legality of killing the jihadist cleric. Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul blasted Obama for violating al-Awlaki’s Constitutional right to due process. With just 8% support in a recent Florida poll, Paul was joined by 1%-er Gary Johnson in crying fowl in “assassinating” al-Awlaki. Gag me with a spoon. Al-Awlaki was an enemy combatant, pure and simple. Citizenship is not part of the equation.

Since that’s clearly not sufficient for the “due processers”, consider Ibrahim al-Asiri was also killed in the Predator airstrike. Al-Asiri, then, was in the same motorcade with al-Awlaki, so there is a definite connection. And the FBI pulled al-Asiri’s fingerprint of the underwear bomb remnants. How can there be any question about al-Awlaki’s active engagement in jihad against the US, which clearly makes him an enemy combatant?

al-Asiri's cargo bomb threat

The killing of al-Awlaki, Samir Khan (also a US citizen), and al-Asiri, all members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is both lawful and justified. They were enemy combatants engaged in the fight against our way of life.

Kudos to Republican candidate Rick Perry’s praise for Pres. Obama’s commitment to hunting down terrorists. That’s a radical, and welcome, departure from Paul, Johnson, and those who thought Obama would be soft on terrorism.
 

After seeing the video, I hope the disconnect between Paul’s call for due process in al-Awladi’s case, but no need for same for 9/11 accused becomes apparent. And, forgive me, but every time I hear of Ron Paul, I can’t help but think of Ru Paul.

Update:

03 Oct 2011

It almost seemed too good to be true when I first heard al-Asiri was killed in the Predator strike on al-Awlaki and Khan. Alas, it seems it was more than we should hope for. Yemeni officials said AQAP bombmaker al-Asiri was not killed with al-Awlaki in Friday’s aerial targeting of the terrorist cleric’s motorcade. While there may no longer be a smoking underwear link, the fact remains al-Awlaki served AQAP and was at war with his native country.

Al-Awlaki’s value to AQAP was his knowledge of US culture and his ability at radicalizing, enabling, and recruiting to the jihadist cause homegrown extremists like MAJ Nidal Hassan and the Times Square bomber. Ironically, if he’d stayed in the US, he’d be a criminal (can you say conspiracy?), but since he moved in with AQAP in Yemen, he was an enemy combatant.
 

Thu, 29 Sep 2011

54 Years of Human Guinea Pigs Since Russian Nuclear Disaster

Filed under: Citizen rights, Deceit, Government, Life, Oppression, Russia — cynicalsynapse @ 6:42 pm

Mayak site and Kyshtym region

Today marks the 54th anniversary of the world’s first major nuclear disaster—the Kyshtym Disaster. The incident was due to failing to keep nuclear waste cool, resulting in it overheating and causing a chemical explosion equivalent to 70 or more tons of TNT. Only 1986’s Chernobyl reactor explosions and this year’s Fukishima meltdowns are considered worse catastrophes.

Mayak, then called Chelyabinsk-40 after the region’s largest city and Mayak’s postal code, spewed Strontium-90 and Cesium-137 into the atmosphere, contaminating an area of about 800 km2 (309 sq. mi.) and killing at least 200. The affected area was marked off and called the Taganai Nature Preserve. The accident was kept secret until the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, we know the contaminated area as the East Ural Radioactive Trace (UART) and we classify Kyshtym as a level 6 event on the 0-7 international event scale.

radiation warning sign

In fact, the Mayak complex was an on-going disaster from it’s first days. From its start-up in 1948, the plant, which produced weapons-grade plutonium from uranium, dumped the nuclear waste directly into the Techa River. In 1951, Soviet officials surveyed the river, finding extremely high radiation levels within 4 miles of the plant, affecting 28,000 people. They relocated about 7,500 villagers and fenced off the river. Doctors regularly checked sick residents but told them it was the flu, poor lifestyles, or even made-up maladies while the Soviets gathered data on health effects of radiation and long-term exposures. The people figured it out after Chernobyl, but the Russian Federation still has not relocated them and continues to collect data. Some are bribed to stay in the area with so-called “polluted zone” stipends.

After they stopped dumping into the river, Mayak engineers stored the nuclear waste in tanks of water for initial cooling. A faulty design led to some tanks not being cooled enough, which led to the 1957 accident. After cooling, the radioactive slurry was deposited in a retention pond called Lake Karachary. A drought in 1967 resulted in half the lake drying up. As a result, the exposed radioactive sediment was spread by the winds across the region, adding to the fallout from 10 years earlier.

Mayak PA today

Ozyorsk (alternatively Oszersk) remains a closed city and Mayak site is still operating. Mayak’s primary activity is reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from power plants. The facility also demilitarizes atomic weapons and has extensive research activities. Dubbed “Russia’s ticking time-bomb”, Mayak continues to experience routine radioactive contamination.

Radioactive contamination has made its way down the Techa and Ob Rivers to the Arctic Ocean. Mayak remains a festering, open wound that continues to maim, malform, and sentence to death thousands from its far-reaching, long-standing, and growing radioactive morass.
 


 

Sun, 18 Sep 2011

Constitution Day—Our Way of Life is At Risk

Filed under: Citizen rights, Civil liberties, Congress, Customer service, Government, Legal, Life, People, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 10:02 am

US Constitution

Yesterday, 17 September, marked the 224th anniversary of the signing of the US Constitution. Of late, it seems our Constitution is under attack and the federal government wants to expand its reach beyond Constitutional authority.

As a case in point, from my perspective, the government has no authority to require me to buy health insurance. Or anything else, for that matter. Requiring the purchase of health insurance does not fall under the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution. The Constitution is as the center of the political debate:

The struggle over the holiday is yet another proxy in the fight over the proper role of government. On one side are those who embrace an “originalist” view of the Constitution, where New Deal judicial activism started the country down the path to ruin. On the other are those who say that its language — allowing Congress to levy taxes to provide “for the general welfare,” to regulate commerce, and to do what is “necessary and proper” to carry out its role—affirms the broad role of the federal government that has developed over the last 100 years.

TSA montage

The fear induced by the attacks of 9/11 led to the USA PATRIOT act and subsequent losses or restrictions of civil liberties and freedoms. The most apparent aggregiousness is with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and their seemingly arbitrary and inefective rules for airport checkpoint screening.

Not satisfied with just cowing ordinary citizens, the today’s government seeks to silence internal dissenters and whistleblowers. The federal hegemonic conspiracy is no longer a Republican or Democratic construct. Rather, it is the result of the government seeking to ensure its own continued survival despite its citizens.
 

Previously on the Constitution and rights erosion:

Fri, 02 Sep 2011

Islamophobia Unchecked Equals Freedom Unprotected

Filed under: Behavior, Citizen rights, Civil liberties, Government, Legal, Life, Oppression, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 1:00 pm

Anti-Islamic grafitti

As the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks draws near, coming on the heals of the end of Ramadan and releases of a couple reports on Muslims in America, it’s easy for conversations to turn to jihadists—Muslim extremists. The truth is extremists of any kind are dangerous. It’s also true the majority of terrorist activities in the past decade were carried out by people hiding behind the Islamic religion. This does not make them Islamists, although some may have been. The Ayatollahs in Iran are real Islamists. Still, the end result is a very real and deliberate undertone of Islamohobia—the fear of Muslims.

A Center for American Progrss report released 26 August describes the funding and efforts fueling Islamophobia. Despite their loyalties, good work ethic, civic-mindedness, and being law-abiding, in general, there is a lot of mistrust of Muslims in the population at large.

Muslim-Americans are, generally, satisfied with current conditions “despite a feeling [Muslims] are being targeted by anti-terrorism government programs.” While we want feel and be secure, we value our rights more. Consider the Old Man’s post about concerns with the hijab:

There’s been a lot of flack over Muslim women wearing their traditional head dress out in the public here in America. One of the latest was at Rye Playland in New York where a group of Muslim women were barred from certain rides because of their headscarves. Do we, the other public, know what banning the religious head dress for a particular religious culture could lead to?

Yeah, yeah! The Old Man is fully aware of the attacks on America, and Americans abroad, by Muslims. But have we taken our revenge too far? It may be appropriate to check people, and even their clothing, for any weapons or bombs in public gatherings or boarding a public means of transportation. But think about this for a moment. If we are to ban Muslim clothing simply because a certain group of people don’t like it, what are we supposed to do about the other religions??????

Amish

Catholic Nums

Latter Day Saints

Orthodox Jew

Sat, 27 Aug 2011

PC Gone Berserk; Goshen College Bans “Too Violent” National Anthem

Filed under: Behavior, Citizen rights, Paradoxes, Rants, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 3:23 pm

burning the US Flag

As a commissioned officer in the Army National Guard, I took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic”. As a result, and because of the First Ammendment guarantee of free speech, I believe in the right to speak against government actions and policies, even to the point of burning the US Flag in protest, which makes me cringe in a mixture of horror, anger, and restraint. This is significant since, in the military, the US and organizational flags—the Colors—symbolize the lineage and honors of the fighting formation and their national patriotism. Military personnel always salute the US Flag in passing.

While not often considered, I submit the First Amendment equally guarantees the right to not say things. This is the basis for not requiring students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. For many, the politically correct issue in the Pledge is two words: “under God”. For others, refusal to participate is a form of demonstration. So, we have Constitutional basis for disrespecting national symbols such as the Flag and Pledge.

National Anthem, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, June 14, 2011

I didn’t pay it much attention when Goshen College banned the words of the National Anthem last year. But, this year, Goshen College banned even the score of the US National Anthem! Their reason for this abberation is the song is “too violent”. For real.

Located in north central Indiana, Goshen College operated by the Mennonites, a Christian denomination. Instead of the Star-Spangled Banner, Goshen will play America the Beautiful, which better suits their pacifist traditions. All of this makes me wonder two things. First, do they keep score at their sporting events, even at the risk of winners and losers? Second, have they banned the Old Testament, which has far more violence in it than the National Anthem?

Sat, 16 Jul 2011

Most Oppose Repealing Michigan’s Helmet Law

Filed under: Citizen rights, Driving, Government, Legal, Medicine, Michigan, Politics, Safety, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 7:38 am

helmet laws

Two recent polls yielded similar results on the degree of support for keeping Michigan’s decades-old helmet section in the vehicle code. It requires motorcyclists to wear a US Department of Transportation (DOT) approved helmet. The Macomb Daily poll found 71% say keep the helmet requirement while 26% favored repeal and 2% were undecided. A more scientific EPIC-MRA poll found 68% oppose repealing the helmet law, with 31% wanting to ditch requiring helmets and 1% undecided. The EPIC-MRA poll has a margin of error of 4%.

Motorcyclist killed

Proponents of the helmet law reduced medical costs with helmet use by bikers. Helemt use can significantly reduce injury severity. In fact, a biker who was killed in a helmet protect ride likely would have lived if wearing an approved helmet. There will be increased costs for Michigan residents, both in insurance rates and Medicaid expenses. Michigan is a no-fault state, so if a motorcyclist is hit, it’s the other party’s insurance that pays, not the biker’s.

Opponents of mandatory helmet use say wearing a helmet should be a personal choice. Here’s the rub: 49 states have mandatory seatbelt laws (only New Hampshire does not). How is that any different than choosing to wear a helmet? And yet, with more drivers on the road, traffic fatalities continue to decline, likely due to seatbelt use. It simply does not pass the common sense test to allow one group of road users to choose to stop using the one safety device—a DOT-approved helmet—with any significant chance of minimizing the severity of injuries in an accident.

Save Michigan motorcycle riders. Save your tax dollars. Save your insurance premium costs (both vehicle and health). Tell your State Representative to vote no on SB 291.

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