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:

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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.

Thu, 24 Nov 2011

Nothing to Be Thankful For? Think Again

Filed under: Behavior, Driving, holidays, Life, People, Roads — cynicalsynapse @ 12:07 pm

blessings we take for granted

A couple nights ago, I picked my car up from the dealership and was enroute home on the rain-soaked Interstate. Just 15 minutes into my trip, the car started losing power. I managed to work my way from the left lane to the exit before the car died along the side of the ramp. Fortunately, the dealer hadn’t yet closed and they agreed to come collect me. I’m sure, like me, they didn’t think the problem was related to any work they had done.

While I was sitting on the side of the ramp, I realized I’d been lucky this happened when and where it did and that I was able to get ahold of the dealership. Still, as is human nature, I couldn’t help thinking how this was one more trial in a year that seems to have more than its share of tribulations. At the very same moment, the police were working an accident scene just a few miles ahead on the same Interstate I had been on. A women had been struck and killed while attempting cross the highway.

My little problem saved me the aggravation of the traffic backups on the Interstate. More importantly, all of my problems pale in comparison to that young lady’s death and the tragic loss to her family, especially before the holiday. I’m thankful for my car’s acting up because that girl’s death has more significance to me. I have a heck of a lot of things to be thankful that I too frequently take for granted. Do you?

Enjoy time with family and friends. Be thankful for what you have. And have a great, safe, and happy Thanksgiving!

HT: Stealth Magnolia

Sun, 20 Nov 2011

Charity with Dignity is Worthy of Thanksgiving

Filed under: Behavior, Good job, Helping others, holidays, Life, Paradoxes, People — cynicalsynapse @ 9:44 pm

5 points of Calvinism

In West Michigan, the dominant religious tradition is Calvinism. Although born and raised there, I was not brought up with Calvinist beliefs. In fact, I confess I didn’t really know much of anything about Calvinism until today. At left are the 5 points of Calvinist theological doctrine.

What I do remember from my younger days is being told you can’t be saved by good works. It didn’t make sense to me at the time, but now I see it’s a fundamental element of Calvinism. Calvinists believe God knows everything, including whether you’ll be saved or not. They also believe you cannot fully make up for your sins and only the select will be saved. As I understand it, most Calvinists don’t see this as predestination, but a lot of non-Calvinists do.

Pacific Crossroads Church Boxes of Love

My religious foundation recognizes a graceful value in good works. If God is merciful and all loving, how could it be otherwise? Is it really plausible a merciful and loving God would condemn all non-Christians?

Imagine my surprise, then, when I ran across the article “How Calvinists Spread Thanksgiving Cheer” in Friday’s Wall Street Journal. Yesterday, Pacific Crossroads Church delivered Boxes of Love with Thanksgiving dinner ingredients to Los Angeles area underprivileged. The boxes contain ingredients for families to make their own dinners instead of having to line up at a soup kitchen. If that’s not an awesome good work, I don’t know what is.
 


 

Sat, 19 Nov 2011

PETA Is Out to Lunch

Filed under: Behavior, Congress, Deceit, Humor, Life, Opportunists, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 6:46 pm

food pyramid and pizza slice

So, pizza is considered a vegetable, by act of Congress, due to the tomato sauce. Minor detail that tomatoes are actually a fruit. Never mind pizza includes cheese, a dairy product, and, usually, pepperoni, a meat. Heck, even turkey bacon is part of vegetarian cuisine in some circles.

Apparently, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) didn’t get the memo. With Thanksgiving approaching, PETA requested Turkey, Texas, change its name to Tofurkey, a vegan alternative. Seriously? Change the name of a town because it was an animal some people consider vegetarian? But, wait! There’s more!

Mario savages tanooki

Lest you thought it couldn’t get any lamer, never underestimate the crusading pomposity of the lunatic fringe. With the changes in status for pizza and turkey, PETA must be running out of issues to champion that have any degree of significance. Not to be relegated to irrelevance, however, PETA began chastising Mario for his Tanuki suit. According to PETA, Nintendo’s popular video game encourages kids to wear fur or something. Get a life, you fruit cakes.

Tanooki [sic] may be just a “suit” in Mario games, but in real life, tanuki are raccoon dogs who are skinned alive for their fur. By wearing Tanooki [sic], Mario is sending the message that it’s OK to wear fur.

Update:

25 Nov 2011

Biden pardons a tofurkey

And the madness spreads, or so it would seem.

Fri, 11 Nov 2011

Over 25 Million Served: Honoring Our Veterans

Filed under: Global War on Terror, Government, Heroes, holidays, Life, Military, Patriotism, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 4:18 pm

Veterans Day 2011

Today is Veterans Day, an opportunity to thank all who have served, or are serving, in our nation’s armed forces. The holiday originally marked the end of hostilities in World War I, taking on its 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month distinction from that role as Armistice Day. In 1954, the holiday’s purpose was expanded to recognize the service and contributions—sometimes ultimate sacrifice—of all veterans, living and deceased, who served in any branch of the US military.

Veterans Day is significant this year, not just for its 11/11/11 date. We mark the tenth Veterans Day since we began the Global War on Terror. It’s important to honor those who served in the nation’s longest war. Equally important is recognizing those who wore our military uniforms during wartime and peacetime going back through the centuries to the Minutemen, the Citizen-Soldiers who bore arms in defense of their neighbors even before our country was born. Their legacies are the freedoms for which we owe our veterans such gratitude.
 

Previously on Veterans Day:

Mon, 31 Oct 2011

In Detroit, Pumpkins Decorate You

Filed under: Detroit, Driving, Good job, Helping others, holidays, Humor, Life, People, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 1:41 pm

pumpkins littering I-696

Detroit has a long-standing tradition of beginning Halloween celebrations early; not always in the best light. This year was no exception as the holiday period kicked off, not with a famous act, or even an act of vandalism. North suburban Farmington Hills saw the arrival of the smashing pumpkins on I-696 last Wednesday, just in time for the morning commute. Drivers had to carve their way through the bouncing gourds which shattered at least one windshield but caused no injuries. According to Pat Carmichael, who witnessed the mayhem:

There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these pumpkins… There’s [sic] three lanes that are just covered with smashed pumpkins. I’m just now getting toward Telegraph and the truck’s been pulled over by a police officer. The back of the truck has been sheared off.

damaged I-696 pumpkin truck

Police said the driver, Brian Rose, could be cited for having an unstable load, which carries a $150 fine. But, Rose said he was cut off and struck a bridge pier. Excuse me? Why didn’t he stop to see if there was any damage? How about a ticket for fleeing the scene of an accident? How about restitution for the cost of clean up? As you can see at right, Rose’s hitting the bridge pier was more than just a little bump or scrape.

Later that same Wednesday, Detroit Zoo animals began their own Halloween festivities. In an effort to stimulate their natural behaviors, they were given pumpkins filled with appropriate treats. Some played with or guarded their treasure gourds while others enjoyed dismantling them in one manner or another. The Zoo was also decorated for Halloween, including zombies, which are not part of the Zoo’s regular exhibits.

During the mid-70s to mid-90s, Detroit’s early “celebrations” saw out-of-control arsons, approaching around 800 in later years. In 1995, then Mayor Archer countered Devils’ Night with Angels’ Night. Over the last 15 years, the Halloween holiday has become one of Detroit’s safest. The Angels’ Night mobilizations, which take place over about a 3 day period, are a model of a community taking back its streets. Kids can go trick-or-treating; adults can go on their zombie walks; everyone can have a good time. This is the real D and this is where we’re headed.
 


 

Fri, 14 Oct 2011

Gore Spews CO2 at Detroit Great Lakes Conference

Filed under: Environment, Global warming, Hypocrits, Life — cynicalsynapse @ 6:01 am

Al Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore linked recent natural disasters and Great Lakes health to climate change on Thursday. Gore spoke before the International Joint Commission at Wayne State University in Detroit. “There is a relationship between continuing progress in the Great Lakes basin and progress in dealing with the climate crisis,” he said.

As if there wasn’t enough carbon dioxide coming out of that emissions port Al Gore calls his mouth, he ratcheted up his climate change meme. Gore said increased water vapor in the atmosphere, due to climate change, causes more violent storms. These, in turn, overwhelm sewer systems, which overflow, and algae results. Except a report released at the concurrent Great Lakes conference found no scientific basis for Gore’s anecdotal claims.

Al Gore's mouth an exhaust port

While there is disparate information about just how big Al Gore’s carbon footprint is, but Gore claims to be carbon neutral, a slight of hand trick achieved through purchasing carbon offsets. Just how does that work, since there’s no agreed-upon standard, or even a recognized cap-n-trade exhange. If I rode the bus, would that make me carbon-neutral since I’d be using the bus as a carbon offset?

In his remarks, Gore said climate change is real:

Every single national academy of sciences of every major nation in the entire world agrees with the consensus [on global warming], and together they have called on governments and nations to act urgently. They say the need to act urgently is now, to use their words, indisputable.

Previously on climate change:

Sun, 09 Oct 2011

Fire Prevention Week: Protect Your Family from Fire

Filed under: Helping others, History, Life, People, Safety, Society, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 12:11 pm

Great Chicago Fire of 1871

Pres. Barack Obama proclaimed this week as Fire Prevention Week. A long-standing tradition spearheaded by the National Fire Protection Association, Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and includes 09 October, the date the fire was most destructive.

Chicago’s was not the only devastating fire in October of 1871. This year marks the 140th anniversary of Peshtigo, Wisconsin’s fire, as well. That fire killed 1,100 people, destroyed $5 million in property, and ravaged over 2,400 square miles of forest. In contrast, the Chicago fire killed 250 and devastated more than 2,000 acres, accounting for about a third of Chicagoland.

Fire Prevention Week 2011 banner

Many community fire departments have open houses during Fire Prevention Week. Schools often have special programs or invite the fire department in. Fires occurred in 362,500 homes, killing 2,565 and injuring 12,560 in 2009, according to US fire statistics. Don’t assume it won’t happen to you or your family.

evacuation plan

Be sure you’ve got an exit plan from every room in your home. If you have children, explain it to them and practice it. Have a predesignated place where you will meet. Get everyone out of the house first, then call 9-1-1 (or your local emergency number). Fires double in size every 10-12 seconds, so time is of the essence. Have smoke detectors on at least every level of your house, if not in every bedroom, and ensure they work.

When you go to sporting events, conventions, or stay in hotels, know where the nearest exits are and how to get to them. When the fire alarm sounds, it’s too late to think about an emergency plan.
 


 

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.
 


 

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