Firewall – thoughts on how to reduce gun violence

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The nation is still reeling from the Newtown, CT school massacre. Many of the funerals were held last week, and the national dialogue has become “he said – she said”. There is intransigence and wishful thinking and a tremendous lack on knowledge of the facts.

But there are some ideas that might help reduce some of the gun violence, and I would like to propose one.

The demographic of the majority of not only mass school shooters but many other murderers is well-known. It is similar to the demographic of terrorists, which we also ignore. In this case it is young men aged 17 – 26. That is an arbitrary range, but let the lawmakers come up with better.

This is the age range when mental illness often sets in and when the hormones are most active. It is the age of the man-child, especially in a culture that functionally delays the age of majority.

We recruit much of our military from the high schools and these recruits are then rigorously tested by a battery of psychological and other tests to determine aptitudes, skills, and suitability for various positions. The military is able to weed out those who cannot perform or are otherwise unsuitable.

But we do almost no psychological testing on the civilian side unless certain limits are exceeded, whether at home or in society. Our culture is drenched in an imaginary culture of blood that sometimes becomes all too real. The mythology of firearms is a powerful subliminal aphrodisiac. Power = manhood.

From video games to movies to street culture, violence is glorified and there are fewer and fewer social filters. Doing the dozens escalates on the streets of the inner cities and gang violence is a scourge.  Making ones bones or proving ones manhood or sometimes a twisted spasmodic urge to get even with the world results in death time and again. The narcotics trade is a prime contributor. And much of this revolves around young men 17- 26.

This is the time when gun usage should be controlled. This is where we need a Firewall. If we can limit access between these ages, crime will drop, and we will be able to limit the damage done by all shootings. The statistics support this argument unequivocally. There are outliers such as the Ft. Hood shooter and the Oslo shooter, but the worst of these murders have been committed by people sometimes not old enough to buy a beer legally.

There are exceptions to every rule and the vast majority of firearms users under the age of 26 are responsible, law-abiding citizens. But here too a sensible policy can help keep firearms out of the hands of madmen and criminals. Exemptions for serving military, shooters in supervised programs, and other classes of gun users can help sustain our Second Amendment rights.

And with this most of all must come an improved mental health system which can help identify and perhaps treat those most at risk. Thomas Szasz challenged the moral and scientific bases of psychiatry, but replaced this structure with nothing. The mentally ill are all around us and yet there seem to be no answers under modern treatment guidelines. Forced confinement and medication are applied only to the most severe cases and yet we are faced with Columbine and Newtown.

Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression) and other mood disorders are treatable, but the patient must comply with the treatment protocol. How can this be done within our human rights? Again, I will leave that to the experts.

Pure evil does exist, but it is often shrouded in misinformation, ignorance, and politics. The massacre of 20 children and their teachers certainly falls within the definition.

But as human beings we are given the tools and intelligence to resist. The humanists deride faith and yet compassion, empathy, and sacrifice are all essential to a solution.These are found in much greater degrees within faith-based solutions and there is a verifiable record of success.

For we have seen an acceleration in mindless violence with the loss of faith. Science and the law will not solve this terrible issue alone. We cannot wish the problem away with gun free zones and firearms restrictions. These are humble suggestions humbly offered, but perhaps they can help inform the discussion.

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We now know where the buck doesn’t stop

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We found out yesterday that “systemic failures” were responsible for the death of United States Ambassador Christopher Stevens on September 11 of this year. Somehow “systemic failures” pulled the trigger. Somehow “systemic failures” were responsible for complete inaction to save the lives of the ambassador and three security team members in a battle that lasted for over 5 hours.

It seems that “systemic failures” were responsible for Ambassador Rice lying about the incident 5 days after it occurred and Hillary Clinton going on Pakistani television to apologize for an obscure video and for the president prevaricating all the way into October on the true causes the terrorist attack. For this is all the report really tells us.

Hillary Clinton is said to have fainted and suffered a concussion while she has avoided being in Washington for the past 3 months, all to avoid testifying before Congress on the Benghazi incident.

The one thing we do now know is where the buck doesn’t stop. The buck that used to stop on Harry Truman’s desk seems to dart hither and thither in today’s Washington.

Despite direct ties to the office of the Attorney General, Fast & Furious was swept under the rug by both the Administration and the media. Despite direct communication between the Attorney General’s office and senior White House staff, executive privilege was invoked and no follow-up was done. Two federal agents dead; over 200 Mexican citizens dead, and a coverup of the murder last month of a Mexican beauty queen by a weapon implicated in Fast & Furious and no one in the Administration bears responsibility.

Vague reports of “senior staffers” miscommunicating and plausible deniability are all we see today from the “most transparent and open administration ever”. Top secret information leaks like a sieve from the White House itself with condemnation by both parties and no one bears responsibility.

Cabinet level officials such as Kathleen Sebelius line the pockets of friends and cronies and no one bears responsibility.

This is not bureaucratic ineptitude but rather a conscious effort to hide the facts and truth. It is still anyone’s guess why the Administration lied about Benghazi. But time and again, it seems that the Administration is doing its best to best the Nixon Administration in coverups.

Even in the negotiations on the fiscal cliff, the President has done his best to obscure the facts and refuses to consider spending cuts, promising that sometime in the future they might be considered. All the while he blames his opposition for intransigence.

The President cannot be pinned with any of the policy disasters of his administration. He slips like mercury through the fingers of responsibility.

Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II were all held accountable for their actions. But today, with a sycophantic press and docile Congress, Barack Obama has shirked responsibility time and again. It is very clear that the buck never, ever stops on his desk.

 

 

Gun Control Discussion Talking Points

An interesting set of questions in the gun control debate from Glenn Reynolds:

Why do people who favor gun-control call people who disagree with them murderers or accomplices to murder? Is that constructive?

Would any of the various proposals have actually prevented the tragedy that is the supposed reason for them?

When you say you hope that this event will finally change the debate, do you really mean that you hope you can use emotionalism and blood-libel-bullying to get your way on political issues that were losers in the past?

If you’re a media member or politician, do you have armed security? Do you have a permit for a gun yourself? (I’m asking you Dianne Feinstein!) If so, what makes your life more valuable than other people’s?

Do you know the difference between an automatic weapon and a semi-automatic weapon? Do your public statements reflect that difference?

If guns cause murder, why have murder rates fallen as gun sales have skyrocketed?

Have you talked about “Fast and Furious?” Do you even know what it is? Do you care less when brown people die?

When you say that “we” need to change, how are you planning to change? Does your change involve any actual sacrifice on your part?

Is That All There Is? Our existential crisis

Several hundred feet above me I can hear the clatter of the news helicopters flying mindlessly above the scene of an incident that was over 2 hours ago where some guy who lost his job shot a pistol into the air in the local Macy’s parking lot. The mall was locked down and the people evacuated. The helicopters are mindless recorders of nothing.

And on Facebook and Twitter the flame wars on firearms are in full engagement after the horrors in Newton, CT yesterday. Leftists from across the Blue Spectrum are calling for gun control, and yet the response from the Right is muted for the most part. They are still mourning the dead, for that is right and proper.

Accusations against the NRA and gun owners are flying fast & furious, and yet no one really has the facts, and the elephant in the living room has been ignored.

Pure evil does exist. We see it around us all the time ,it seems lately.  We are seing more pure evil every day. We are horrified by the murder of 20 children and their teachers, and yet there is no horror at the daily death toll in “gun free” Chicago. It is acceptable according to the rules of the game the way it is played today.

Back in the early 1970’s, Peggy Lee recorded a hit song titled “Is that all there is?”. It was the ultimate existential ballad. “If that’s all there is my friend, let’s keep on dancing. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball.”

Existentialism has poisoned our society. From Nietzsche to Sartre to Camus the belief systems that have sustained humanity for thousands of years have been eroded to nothing. “Science” has been raised to the new godhead and yet the more we know, the more we realize that we don’t know.

The old belief systems have been undermined as well as a program of destruction of the moral system we live in. The philosophies of Derrida and Foucault deal in relativism and equivalency with nothing behind the curtain except the destruction of belief. The deep cynicism of humor today no longer reflects the conflicts within our relationships with the world but rather the desire to tear it all down.

The churches lose their parishioners and yet there is nothing with which to replace the belief system of 5,000 years.

And yet, as Dooley Wilson sang 70 years ago, the fundamental truths apply. Those are immutable. Nietzsche has attempted to replace Plato and Aristotle and the Tao with…..nothing. The superman? The Nazi and Soviet ideal which has been utterly disproven?

The bodies and souls of hundreds of millions of human beings and almost 100 years of experience point towards the failure of the existential model and of socialism. Maoism and communism and socialism have been disproven in technicolor and replaced with statism and crony capitalism where there is no morality. The statists today are offering nothing but more of the same damn fool nostrums that were disproven in 1989 and repudiated even by the most hard-core communists.

And yet we wonder why these horrible massacres occur. What the hell did you expect when you threw out morality and systems of morality built upon the critical thinking of 4,000 years?  Anything goes and “I’m OK, You’re OK”  are not valid moral philosophies.

And when one throws out morality, one throws out the entire basis for not only faith, but the law itself. How can one make judgements in a non-judgmental society? It all then becomes relative and subjective.there is no universally defined “good”.

So back to the gun debate. A gun is an inanimate object like a lawn chair or a pair of pliers or a trombone. It is only when it is picked up that it finds a use. It seems that we do not want to question the person who picks up the gun, but rather want to simply ban its presence.

And yet the essential question to all of this is “why?”. If one doesn’t ask that question, there will never be an answer.  The Constitution itself is pellucid on the reasons and purpose of the 2nd Amendment, and when one considers the police state that America is becoming, the justification has also never been more clear. The violations of the Constitution that have been perpetrated by our government are the most serious in our history.

But yet we have tolerated the evil use of those firearms. The debate is a necessary one, but we must examine first principles first.

In China the other day, a man ran amok with a knife injuring 22 people. Do we consider banning knives?

But without a strong moral compass it all means nothing. Nothing at all. And we shall descend even further into darkness.

 

 

 

The Presence of Evil

I am sitting here at my computer, stunned to my core with the horror that has taken place in Connecticut. I know Newton and Danbury, having hitchhiked there as a teenager running away from home and to a friend’s house. A good friend lived there for many years as did my father. It is an archetypal place. The best of New England in many ways.

Danbury used to be a typical New England town and Newton a suburb. Danbury was the hat town but now that hats are out of fashion it faced the same crises single industry towns across the country have faced. It adapted. Today, there is a much more Latin flavor. Newtown is one of those small Connecticut towns packed with vague history.

Evil visited Newtown today. A classroom full of kindergartners was massacred. We don’t know why, but really, there is no answer for this. It simply is. There can be no justification or rationalization. There can be no politicization. Satan descended upon Newton. One can call it madness or resentment or getting even, but these excuses fall far short.

Dualism, the belief in good and evil goes far back into prehistory with the Egyptians and Chinese. It is found in the order and life of Osiris and the death and chaos of Seth and in Plato and Zoroastrianism and in Christianity. In Buddhist philosophy, one rises through states of grace to nirvana or is cast down for evil conduct. In Plato and Aristotle and Confucian philosophy it is right conduct. It’s funny how the modern interpreters have lost this fundamental truth.

Evil lives in Freud’s id and in Christian sin and the central Hindu concept of Dharma. it is universal.

27 people were gunned down today, most of them kindergartners. Our most vulnerable and most hopeful The best of us in so many ways. Those children were thinking of Hannukah and Christmas and probably a pageant and Christmas trees and baby Jesus. And toys.

And now they are gone in the most violent manner imaginable. With screams and sudden impact and blood strewn everywhere.

Evil is afoot in our world. This morning a man in China stabbed 22 children. I looked up the Seven Deadly Sins today and had to reflect. Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride are everywhere it seems. The moral compass is badly askew.

There is a war on Faith. And yet faith is the only solace. Just as Evil exists so does Good. And yet Man in his pride and his hubris learns a little and assumes he knows all.

The universe before expands at the speed of light or faster and the complexity of existence is witnessed at the submolecular level and keeps on throwing curve balls, and as C.S. Lewis put it “Traditional values are to be ‘debunked’ and mankind to be cut out into some fresh shape at the will of some lucky few people in one lucky generation who learned how to do it.”

As we see an ever more complex and incredible universe emerge around us, we have forgotton that Isaiah wrote in 750 BC “for My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways. As high as the havens are

Walk on By

 A meditation on narcotics in Orange County

There is world here in Southern California that exists under the radar of most people. In a land of wealth and privilege and hope there is a dark underside that we choose to ignore.

It starts in grade schools that fail to meet the needs of their students. Sometimes it is the school’s failing, or the student’s or their families. It can be the latch-key kid or the rich kid with too much time on their hands or the one with troubles fitting in or even some darker, more evil demons. For these demons are very real.

A weak moment. A desire to make the hurt go away. A desire to just get high and not deal with it.

Back when I was running the streets of New York, it was, as Grandmaster Flash said, “fun, baby”. But we learned damned fast that that wasn’t true. If you climb onto the dragon’s back, the dragon always wins. That was thirty years ago and kids are still making the same mistakes and nothing has changed.

When you talk to some of these kids, the story slowly comes out. The reasons for using come out. And what they are using today is far more dangerous than even a generation ago. The drugs are purer and more addictive and more damaging than ever. It seems that every week a kid in Orange County ends up in the morgue from an overdose.

In a time when alcohol is readily available and pot is virtually legal and incredibly powerful, the slide down into madness and death is easy with just a little bit of grease. This is not figurative. It is real as a heart attack.

The price of heroin is at an all-time low and it is easy to find. Just ask any of these kids if you need a hookup. Afghanistan, which supplies 95%+ of the world’s heroin, sees production grow every year. The poppy fields stop at the edges of our firebases. There are rumors that some of the heroin arrives at Camp Pendleton or transits Pendleton because there is less scrutiny. Sort of like the bad old days of the Vietnam War. 100 miles south of here the cartels are bringing it over in truck and boatloads. A Coast Guardsman died last week in a drug bust off of Santa Cruz Island, 100 miles north of here. The War on Drugs has spent hundreds of millions of dollars and is an utter failure.

The shrapnel from the drug trade is all over Orange County and no one pays attention. From the grave of the millionaire kid who “had a car accident” and whose family could have the records altered to a family at Holy Sepulcher grieving a 20 year old kid who OD’d “popping” something way too powerful for them to the kid with the melted synapses at the sheriff’s Theo Lacey facility, it pervades our culture.

Orange County has the highest density of sober living homes in the country. These are the ones who are trying to kick it. With AA meetings and NA meetings and help from their friends they’re doing the best they can. But the temptation can be right there sometimes. A quick hit that no one may notice that may or may not be the hot shot that kills them.

And they fall down and try to get back up again.

And most of us walk on by.

Enabling does no one any favors. Legalizing pot simply indulges stoners for the most part. One of the few growth industries in California in the past several years has been pot clinics. The drug companies legally produce enough oxycontin pills annually to overdose every man, woman, and child in China or more. “Pill Mills” and doctors writing sometimes hundreds of prescriptions for drug dealers and abusers are page 3 or page 4 news.

The fact is that our leaders don’t care or are profiting from our collective addiction. The entire trend of our society has been away from “right conduct”. And yet the people who are trying the hardest to help these souls are faced with indifferent families and indifferent leaders and a moral compass that has been purposely ripped from its moorings.

Funding is nonexistent and rehabilitation has at times been a for-profit industry.

Evil exists, and nowhere more so than in the world of narcotics. In our nonjudgmental world today some might say it is a matter of personal choices. But once that monkey is on their backs, it is no longer a choice. It is a cold hand slowly strangling the life out of them.

And most of us will walk on by.

Bob Costas and the cult of the Athlete

The other day, an athlete well beyond the bounds of reason shot his companion 9 times in front of her mother and then drove to the facility where he practiced and took his own life with a gunshot to the head in front of his coach, the team’s general manager, and police.

Immediately, the shock and horror trended towards the athlete and not his victim. Somehow, the horror and depravity of this act required a response. Jason Whitlock reflected on this deeply yesterday. He deplored a culture of violent sport and the violence that permeates much of our society. He wrote

“Our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.”

Last night Bob Costas took to his soapbox and reiterated much of Mr. Whitlock wrote, ‘recoiling from cliché’s” as he said. And yet both Mr. Costas and Mr. Whitlock reverted to their own cliché’s on gun control. They blame the gun culture for deaths of the athlete, Jovan Belcher and his fiance’. What he does not discuss is the myth and the cult of the athlete that he himself has helped create.

Many years ago former NBA star and now commentator Charles Barkley stated “I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court.” In response, Karl Malone, another star wrote “Charles…I don’t think it’s your decision to make. We don’t choose to be role models, we are chosen. Our only choice is whether to be a good role model or a bad one.”

Athletes, whether they like or not are role models. But at the same time they are placed upon pedestals by the media, their fans, their families, and their hangers-on. There is a huge myth making industry and hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars are at stake every year across the sports universe whether it is basketball, football, soccer, track & field or any of 100 sports. Myths sell heroes. The truth is sadly different most of the time.

After year upon year of denial and miraculously passing hundreds of drug tests, Lance Armstrong was confronted with the incontrovertible facts of his cheating and finally stood silent. Never an apology, mind you. McGwire, Clemens, Bonds and Sosa all denied drug use until they could not anymore.

But more to the central mentality of high level sports; high performance athletes are separated from the herd at an early age. They are groomed and treated like thoroughbreds. Gymnasts are in special programs at the age of six or seven. Their hormones are suppressed and they are trained like circus performers to vault ever higher, twist ever more exquisitely. Their egos are crushed and stroked so that winning is the only thing. Prime baseball prospects are identified as young as eight or ten and then prepared for the big leagues.

The wining ethos is driven in again and again and the focus becomes ever more narrow, sometimes to the loss of all other perspectives.The development of character and perspective and humility often takes a back seat to the glory and the riches that can come from a skill or good genetics.

The culture of greed also has its part. Easy money brings easy times and bad decisions. It’s not an accident that many professionals are broke a few years after leaving the spotlight. In many cases it is a life of excess; easy come – easy go. Until the merry-go-round stops, that is.

And Mr. Costas and his colleagues are a large part of the star making machinery. Without their fawning approval heroes are not crowned. Laurels are not bestowed. The media are the kingmakers and the gatekeepers of fame and fortune.

It is not the gun culture that is at issue. It is the culture of sport itself. It is the billions of dollars and fame and riches beyond dreams and the loss of perspective and humility that occurs. It is a far deeper problem than Mr. Costas and Mr. Whitlock are willing to recognize. It is a moral crisis and this resides at the very core of each of us as an individual.