Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Gun Rules or Guns Rule

Stop me if you've heard this before.

One topic of conversation that gets me riled is the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and people insisting that gives them the inalienable right to carry any weapon they choose - either concealed or in plain sight.

What they so conveniently ignore is the first part of that Amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State..."

The definition of "militia" is "A military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency" or "all able-bodied civilians eligible by law for military service".

Therefore, by that reasoning, a gun owner should be educated and trained in the proper use and storage of a firearm.  On top of that, said owner ideally should be a member of a trained unit of some form, whether it be a militia, the police, the National Guard, or the Army.  All those units are regulated and the types of firearms allowed in each are specified by law.  (Contrary to popular belief, the National Rifle Association is not a military unit even though they like to think they are.)

However that's not how the system in the U.S. works.  Just about anyone can walk into a shop and purchase a gun after going through a rudimentary background check, and sometimes not even that.  Adding to the confusion is that the regulations concerning licensing and registration in each state vary considerably.

What's worse is that many web sites perpetuate myths about guns and how "X would not have happened if someone had been armed".  Studies have clearly shown that if a gunman sees that you also have a gun, you are more likely to be shot and killed than the other way around.

Speaking of gun myths, someone I know who is very pro-gun shared a photo from a Facebook page called Alien Gear Holsters.  That photo and others like it on the page show Fred Rogers of TV fame holding a weapon of some type and saying "Not in my neighbourhood".  I take a huge exception to people using images like that, and I called out the creator of the photo.  Several members of the group told me about how Mr. Rogers had served in the military and was awarded medals for the kills he accomplished in Vietnam, and how he wore long sleeves on TV to cover his tattoos.

All wrong.

Fred Rogers never served in the military.  According to his official biography he studied music and the ministry, and went directly from college into the media.  The reason he wore long sleeves was to maintain formality and convey authority to his audience.  There are statements on official U.S. military web sites that Mr. Rogers never served.  So when I asked the hecklers on Alien Gear Holsters to show me the proof, naturally they shut up.

Here in Canada our gun laws are much more sane.  The statistics on gun-related incidents per annum prove it.  For example, the number of firearm-related deaths in Canada in 2013 was 1.97 per 100,000 people.

In the United States for the same year it was 10.5.

Think about that.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Warmongering

I have a message for Donald Trump supporters.

When is it going to get through your thick skulls that the man is insane?

Less than two weeks into his presidency, he and his cronies have already put the American train so far off the rails that it'll require many years of hard work to get it back - if at all.

He has insulted multiple heads of state, prompting Germany to abolish a law that prohibits prosecution of anyone deemed to have insulted one.

In addition he has become persona non grata in the UK and earned the ire of Prince Charles concerning the environment.

He has banned immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, but conspicuously did not include those countries with which he does business, such as Saudi Arabia.  This caused mass confusion and even prevented U.S. citizens abroad from returning home, simply because of their country of birth.

Incidentally, 15 of the men involved in the 9-11 attacks were of Saudi origin.  Look it up.

He has threatened Iran and also North Korea and expressed no compuctions against using nuclear weapons against them if things go sour.

He has said nothing about the recent illegal pro-Russian attacks on the Ukraine, which have left an entire city of 20,000 people with no electricity or water.  No doubt because he doesn't want to get on the bad side of his buddy Vladmir Putin.

My parents were young when they witnessed the start of World War II.  Now my child is young and we might be witnessing the beginning of World War III.

But Trump and his ilk won't care.  They'll most likely be the first ones to hide in their bomb shelters with their millions of dollars and gloat that they "won" while the rest of the world burns.

I'm really and truly frightened, and you should be too.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

This Might Be a Shock Event

Original article by Heather Richardson, Professor of History at Boston College.
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"I don't like to talk about politics on Facebook -- political history is my job, after all, and you are my friends -- but there is an important non-partisan point to make today.

What Bannon is doing, most dramatically with last night's ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries -- is creating what is known as a "shock event."

Such an event is unexpected and confusing and throws a society into chaos. People scramble to react to the event, usually along some fault line that those responsible for the event can widen by claiming that they alone know how to restore order.

When opponents speak out, the authors of the shock event call them enemies. As society reels and tempers run high, those responsible for the shock event perform a sleight of hand to achieve their real goal, a goal they know to be hugely unpopular, but from which everyone has been distracted as they fight over the initial event. There is no longer concerted opposition to the real goal; opposition divides along the partisan lines established by the shock event.

Last night's Executive Order has all the hallmarks of a shock event. It was not reviewed by any governmental agencies or lawyers before it was released, and counterterrorism experts insist they did not ask for it. People charged with enforcing it got no instructions about how to do so. Courts immediately have declared parts of it unconstitutional, but border police in some airports are refusing to stop enforcing it.

Predictably, chaos has followed and tempers are hot.

My point today is this: unless you are the person setting it up, it is in no one's interest to play the shock event game. It is designed explicitly to divide people who might otherwise come together so they cannot stand against something its authors think they won't like.

I don't know what Bannon is up to -- although I have some guesses -- but because I know Bannon's ideas well, I am positive that there is not a single person whom I consider a friend on either side of the aisle -- and my friends range pretty widely -- who will benefit from whatever it is.

If the shock event strategy works, though, many of you will blame each other, rather than Bannon, for the fallout. And the country will have been tricked into accepting their real goal.

But because shock events destabilize a society, they can also be used positively. We do not have to respond along old fault lines. We could just as easily reorganize into a different pattern that threatens the people who sparked the event.

A successful shock event depends on speed and chaos because it requires knee-jerk reactions so that people divide along established lines. This, for example, is how Confederate leaders railroaded the initial southern states out of the Union.

If people realize they are being played, though, they can reach across old lines and reorganize to challenge the leaders who are pulling the strings. This was Lincoln's strategy when he joined together Whigs, Democrats, Free-Soilers, anti-Nebraska voters, and nativists into the new Republican Party to stand against the Slave Power.

Five years before, such a coalition would have been unimaginable. Members of those groups agreed on very little other than that they wanted all Americans to have equal economic opportunity. Once they began to work together to promote a fair economic system, though, they found much common ground. They ended up rededicating the nation to a "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

Confederate leaders and Lincoln both knew about the political potential of a shock event. As we are in the midst of one, it seems worth noting that Lincoln seemed to have the better idea about how to use it."

Monday, 30 January 2017

Nobody is Immune

Last night someone shot up a mosque in Quebec City. Quebec. Canada.

Contrary to popular belief, it CAN happen here.

The following is credited to my friend and fellow writer J.D. Hobbes.

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The outpouring of sadness and solidarity for the Muslim community in Quebec is heartening, but too many people are quick to blame Trump, as if Canada was somehow immune to the racism that he is institutionalizing in his own country.

Have we already forgotten the despicable Charte that Pauline Marois championed to save Quebec from anything that didn't look Christian enough? It was just 4 years ago when that proposed piece of legislation emboldened too many to speak their racism aloud, to harass and attack anyone they felt looked too foreign. Even now, chapters of the despicable Sons of Odin walk the streets of Quebec city looking to oppress anyone who looks too foreign (yes, I am mentioning them very specifically).

This year marks the 150th anniversary of a country that founded itself by using the religion of a foreign land to oppress and to attempt to eradicate the First Nations people. The last Indian residential school operated by the Canadian government was closed in 1996, only 20 years ago.

It's easy to blame Trump, an outsider, for bringing this tragedy to our homes, but he is just one of many who rile and legitimize an undercurrent of racism that has been constantly humming in our country for over 150 years.

As an open and educated society, it does us no good to pretend like this came out of nowhere and wail "How can this happen in Quebec/Canada?" We need to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that this kind of racism is not only a part of our history, but is also a pulsing fragment on our living, present culture. We can choose to stand against it, to support all of our brothers and sisters, and to move forward to embrace a positive, inclusive, multi-cultural society, but we can only do this by acknowledging that we all play a part in the inherent racism and bigotry that exists in our living culture.

I choose to stand against it, but my eyes are not shut to the inconvenient truths. #jesuisQuebec

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Conservation

You know that Chinese curse?  Well, we are living in interesting times indeed:

Climate change has been declared a hoax.

Oil companies are being subsidized to the tune of billions of dollars.

Some countries are fishing illegally...

...prompting other countries to go the extreme of sinking any illegal fishing boats they see.

The sunniest places around can't have solar panels...

...while people are punished for collecting rainwater.

All this and more is why it's extremely important to pay attention and be more proactive about safeguarding the environment for future generations.

I remember my late aunt as being highly conscious of her surroundings and of the environment.  She spent her youth during the Great Depression years and learned what it meant to be frugal and to go without.  After raising five children and caring for her husband who eventually died from cancer, she moved from the city of Toronto out to a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere on 250 acres of land.

After taking pains to repair the cedar rail fences around the house to keep animals out, she grew her own vegetables and stored them in a cold room.  She allowed her neighbour's beef cattle to graze across her property in exchange for packages of fresh meat whenever an animal was slaughtered.  Food scraps
were composted or taken to a field a fair distance from the house and buried.  Paper and cardboard were cut into strips and used as kindling for the wood stove during the winter.  In her house, very little was wasted.

Nowadays I can walk down the street on garbage day and come across all sorts of items that could be repaired, reused, or donated to someone in need.  Instead they are tossed aside.  There are people who actually pick through neighbourhood garbage for items of value to repair or resell.

There have been a few occasions where even I have picked up kids' toys left in the trash and repaired them before taking them to a donation center.

I will never understand how our precious oil resources continue to be used to make plastic toys for children, which become useless and not recyclable when they break.  And don't get me started on how often I see empty drink bottles or juice boxes just tossed into the street.

We have a long way to go.