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:

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.


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.

Sun, 13 Mar 2011

I Hate Changing the Clock

Filed under: Behavior, Economy, Environment, Life, Politics, Rants, Safety — cynicalsynapse @ 7:11 pm

Alarm shock

Irreverently, I refer to the 4 months that are not part of Daylight Saving Time as Daylight Wasting Time. And why not? If we’re not saving daylight, we must be wasting it, right? What is the value of that wasted daylight during those four months of the year?

Well, today marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time in the US. Proponents use catchy phrases like “Spring Ahead”. The reality is you lose an hour’s sleep. And, for me, I was at a program this weekend that started an hour earlier on Sunday. So I lost two hours, not just one. Some will say I’ll gain an hour back in the fall, but I think that’s doubtfull. Even so, I’m still down one.

The blogprof has similar concerns as he notes in Once again, the dreaded switch to daylight-savings time…:

I write a post every year about how I dread the “spring ahead” into daylight savings time (I Despise Switching to Daylight-Saving Time). I indicate downsides to doing this, including:

  • Debbie J. Frank, co-owner of Sleep Associates Inc. in Saginaw Township, said a National Sleep Foundation Poll revealed traffic crashes increase in the days after the spring switch because people are more sleep-deprived and less alert.
  • Shari S. Drake, clinical coordinator for Covenant HealthCare Sleep Center in Saginaw said daylight-saving time exacerbates sleep disorders, and more than 70 million Americans have one.
  • A study in Sweden showed more heart attacks during the first three weekdays after daylight-saving time in the spring, perhaps because of sleep deprivation, and a corresponding decrease in the risk during the more-restful fall back of the clocks in autumn.

You get the gist, no? Plus this: Time to spring ahead, but benefits and savings are unclear.

In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, which included a provision to extend daylight-saving time by three weeks in the spring and one week in the fall. The idea was that later hours of daylight would promote energy conservation. Actual energy savings as a result of daylight-saving time remain unclear, however, and the policy may even contribute to additional energy usage — the opposite effect it’s supposed to have.

Ah yes – the law of unintended consequences. A good example of what happens when the government gets involved in societal policies with good intentions. Always seems to be a repeating pattern. Welfare? War on poverty? Medicare? Medicaid? Social Security? Community Reinvestment Act? Affirmative Action? So onto the results of this policy:

One of the most recent extensive studies on daylight-saving time’s relation to energy found little evidence the policy actually saves energy.

Yup. Sounds about right. Shocker, eh? Can we please just get rid of daylight savings entirely and never utter the phrase again? Ever? Please??? Another research group found that

…daylight-saving time “increases residential electricity demand.” Estimates of the overall increase are about 1 percent. While daylight-saving time did seem to save electricity for lighting, these savings were more than offset by usage for heating and cooling.

The law of unintended consequences (which itself is a corollary to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics)… Intend to save the environment (good intention), put a bigger load on it instead (bad result). And kill a few more people to boot…

Fri, 24 Dec 2010

Driving With Hood Up Part 2

Filed under: Behavior, Driving, Duh, Humor, Safety, Stupid car tricks — cynicalsynapse @ 8:57 am

A year and a half ago, I saw a guy driving down the freeway with his hood laying against the windshield. I wondered how that happened. Now I may have the answer. Driving with the hood up at highway speeds, it’s likely the air pressure will force the hood beyond its normal stopping point.

In a scratch-your-head moment, apparently this is more common than anyone would imagine.

Tue, 12 Oct 2010

Highland Park Using Police as Human Shields

Filed under: Budget, Crime, Detroit, Government, Paradoxes, Politics, Safety — cynicalsynapse @ 5:21 am

Model T assembly line in Highland Park

Highland Park, Michigan, used to be a grand suburb of Detroit. Henry Ford created Highland Park to avoid Detroit taxes, which he thought were too high, when he chose the location for his first assembly line. Now Highland Park is wholy surrounded by Detroit and in even worse financial shape than the Motor City.

Escaping from state emergency financial management just a year ago, Highland Park’s mayor is determined to not let it happen again. With a $600,000 deficit looming, Mayor Hubert Yopp announced plans to cut 5 auxilliary and 3 sworn police officers. Here’s the rub. In 2007-08, the city spent $610,746 on recreation and cultural services. Don’t get me wrong; I think recreation is important. In the same period, they spent $905,596 on community and economic development. When looking at essential services, seems to me police is a higher priority. Considering Highland Park’s crime rate is four times the national average, cutting police should probably be the last option.

Highland Park Police headquarters

I don’t think Highland Park is much different from any other political entity. The news is rife with politicians threatening to cut public safety in an effort to blackmail voters into accepting higher taxes. It’s not rocket science. Which are you more likley to vote for? A millage increase for the community pool or a one to keep firefighters on duty? The real problem is government officials not making the right—but tough—choices in belt-tightening. And this is exacerbated by elected officials who probably don’t understand what really needs to be done for fiscal responsibility coupled with taking the easy way out.

Here’s a novel concept. When a governmental entity needs to make cuts, make the line-by-line revenues and expenditures available to the public. I realize most won’t look at it or understand it, but the information would be readily available. Then, rather than asking for a millage increase for a specific item or service, let voters what they want to fund or cut.

Wed, 02 Jun 2010

Holiday Driving Fatalities Down, Water-Related Deaths Climb

Filed under: Behavior, holidays, Life, Michigan, Safety — cynicalsynapse @ 6:03 am

Vehicle rollover accident

It seems increased police presence on our highways during holiday weekends has led to a steady reduction in fatal crashes. Preliminary information from Michigan State Police indicates Michigan experienced just 9 highway deaths this Memorial Day Weekend, compared to 11 for last year’s holiday weekend. That’s good news and probably correlates to alcohol and seatbelt enforcement efforts. In fact, Michigan traffic fatalities fell to their lowest since 1924 last year at 871.

Still, I-96 in Michigan made the top 100 deadliest Interstates list, ranking at 100. Interestingly, I-96’s entire length is within Michigan’s borders. As for this year’s holiday road deaths? In 4 of the 9 fatalities, police say alcohol is a known factor. Seatbelts were used in 4 cases as well.

Searching for a drowning victim

Unfortunately, Michigan saw 6 swimming and boating fatalities this holiday weekend, marking a 4 year increase. Thomas Anzivino, 55, of Zeeland, fell overboard into Lake Michigan, west of Port Sheldon. John Tymensky, 41, died when he crashed his speedboat into a pile of cement rocks. Besides the 2 boating fatalities, 4 people drowned in Michigan waters.

  • Dustin Anderson, 21, Clean Water Beach, Monroe, MI
  • Zayar Khin, 35, Lake St. Clair, Grosse Pointe, MI
  • Brent Ford, 25, Scripter Park Beach, Oxford, MI
  • Demond Harps, 12, Pirolli Park, Summerfield Twp, MI

Here’s hoping we don’t have a long hot summer of discontent in the city. And we don’t see a continued death toll on our lakes and waters.

Tue, 06 Apr 2010

Big Branch Mine Disaster Preventable

Filed under: Behavior, Government, Greed, Life, Safety — cynicalsynapse @ 10:17 pm

Upper Big Branch mine

With 25 dead and 4 missing, the Upper Big Branch disaster is the worst coal mining accident in the US since 1984. Although the reason for the explosion remains to be determined, it’s highly likely methane gas is the culprit. Upper Big Branch is eerily like the Sago disaster that killed 12 miners in 2006.

As for the 4 missing miners, officials hold out hope for their survival, but it seems unlikely. Rescuers are unable to enter the mine, due to the methane levels, until 1,200-foot ventilation shafts are drilled. If the methane levels will support explosive combustion, they also suppress breathable oxygen, meaning survival of the unaccounted for miners is not likely.

Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine is a non-union operation. Significantly, it “liberates” 1.5 million cubic feet of methane gas in a 24 hour period. United Mine Workers spokesman Phil Smith had this to say about the mine’s safety violations.

Ventilation—which is very important in mining and when a mine liberates as much methane as this one—and maintenance of mine escapeways are two of the most serious.

mine injury rates

Sadly, the Upper Big Branch disaster should never have happened. The mine received 39 violations regarding extracting methane in 2009, 15 of which were considered “significant and substantial.” It should be no surprise, then, that Massey is a big political donor, and not necessarily to candidates in so-called mining country.

Owners of the mine, Massey Energy, have a history of safety infractions. The Upper Big Branch mine alone has been assessed about $1.8 million in safety violation penalties. Of that, the company has paid a mere $365,000.

The Upper Big Branch mine liberated, or off-gassed, 1.5 million cubic feet of methane every day! That’s a helluva lot! What about capturing that for generating electricity? I get worked up about a local landfill that routinely burns off minor amounts of methane gas. In any case, ventilation of the mine is critical for safety and the amount of methane warranted spot inspections by regulators every 5 days.

Sago mine disaster crosses

Massey’s 2009 safety violations were double 2008. Massey Energy paid nearly $900,000 for safety violations last year. The Upper Big Branch mine, alone, was cited for 458 safety violations in 2009. Many of those were related to the ventilation plan and its implementation. According to Davitt McAteer, former director of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) under Pres. Bill Clinton:

That’s a high number. That’s a number that suggests that you’ve got some problems and should be a red flag for people who are involved in management to say “are we going in the right direction here?”

So, Massey’s safety violations were up, along with penalties. The company donates big to political campaigns. And the Upper Big Branch mine has excessive methane gas. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Yet, according to McAteer:

We ought not to have disasters of this magnitude in this country. We’ve got mines that operate 25, 30 years without a fatal. Um, we’ve got mines that operate 40 years without a disaster. Tens of dozens of mines. We shouldn’t have a standard that allows for mines to have this kind of accident, uh, where you kill 25 people.

Preventable? You betcha.

Sat, 05 Dec 2009

Winter Driving: Groundhog Day Every Day

Filed under: Behavior, Driving, Safety — cynicalsynapse @ 11:40 pm

Motorists in fender bender wait for the police

Different parts of Michigan got more or less snow in an early season storm, with southwest Michigan taking the brunt of it. Southwest Michigan benefits from the lake effect, which brings warmer moisture off Lake Michigan to the cooler land and, voila, you get snow.

On Friday, southwest Michigan got over a foot of snow. We get snow every year in Michigan. This is not new, but I’m always amazed by how many people are caught off-guard by the first snow. Hello! Are these people who are convinced global warming is real? Why else would they be driving like maniacs even though road conditions dictated otherwise?

There are common sense considerations for winter driving that some folks just don’t seem to get. These are the maniacs that don’t care about anyone else.

Unfortunately, most people aren’t prepared for the first snow. People think they’re better drivers than they are. But the weather usually conspires to prove otherwise. So, why do we go through this every year?

Sat, 24 Oct 2009

Northwest Pilots Can’t Find Minneapolis Hub

Filed under: Customer service, Flying, Safety, Technology, Travel — Tags: , — cynicalsynapse @ 4:27 pm

They must not have remembered to turn on their GPS. The October 21st Northwest Airlines flight 188 flew right past Minneapolis, one of three Northwest hubs. The pilots didn’t realize their mistake for 45 minutes, traveling 150 miles further, near Eau Claire, Wisconsin. They also failed to answer radio calls for an hour and twenty minutes. The Airbus A320 reached Minneapolis (MSP) without further incident and was met by the FBI and airport police.

According to a National Safety Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) statement, MSP Center air traffic controllers “reportedly stated that the crew had become distracted”. Delta, which owns Northwest, has put the pilots on administrative leave pending their own investigation as well as the NTSB’s. The NTSB statement added:

According to the Federal Administration (FAA) the crew was interviewed by the FBI and airport police. The crew stated they were in a heated discussion over airline policy and they lost situational awareness. The Safety Board is scheduling an interview with the crew.

The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR) have been secured and are being sent to the NTSB laboratory in Washington, DC.

Northworst 'logo'

Flight 188 was carrying 147 paying passengers and undisclosed crew, but I’d guess 4, maybe 5. Well, the highest paid guys sit in the front seats. With average salaries of $182,000 and $121,000 respectively, the Captain and First Officer have the ultimate responsibility and duty to get their passengers to their destination safely. They are aided in this by a cockpit-ful of technology, which includes auto-pilot, programmed routes, all kinds of gages and screens, radar, weather instruments, and, of course, radios. How is it, then, that even a flight attendant was trying to get them back on course?

“Losing situational awareness” causes accidents. People on their cell phones while driving lose situational awareness. I’ve worked for a half-dozen organizations over 45-plus years. My present organization, the Michigan Army National Guard falls under the domain of hundreds of Army regulations, a whole bunch of National Guard regulations, and dozens of it’s own. I’ve never been involved or seen such a heated discussion as these pilots must have been in to miss radio calls and other indicators from their avionics as to the reality of their situation. If they’re that passionate, they should replace some politicians in Washington.

It’s probably not a good day for either passengers or crew to look out the window and see a couple of armed fighter escorts. That’s what almost happened when these guys failed to answer the radio. As they left Denver Center’s airspace, if they failed to switch to MPS Center’s frequency, that could be part of the problem. But, MPS requested other aircraft to try and reach Flight 188 on the Denver frequency, to no avail. There is fairly widespread suspicion the flightdeck crew were sleeping. Maybe they were just playing video games on their Nintendo DSi or iPhone. Or, how about distracted by books on tape?

Sadly, unless the crew fesses up, we may never know what really happened. It seems Flight 188’s outdated voice recorder only has 30 minutes of memory. I gotta take a ride on NWA next week. And they wonder why flying ain’t fun anymore.


28 Oct 2009

Yesterday the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revoked the pilot licenses for first officer Richard Cole and captain Timothy Cheney. NW 188’s flight deck crew told NTSB investigators they were so engrossed in a new crew scheduling program on their laptops they lost awareness of time and place. I’m glad they won’t be driving my plane.

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