Monday, December 3, 2018

George H.W. Bush flies high

Have moderate Republicans gone the way of dinosaurs? George Bush Senior, or “41”, will be commemorated this week; left, right and center. In 1980, he dismissed Movement Conservativism’s trickle-down ideology as “voodoo economics”. But he nevertheless became Reagan’s running mate. America was dumbfounded in 1988 when a conservative group ran Lee Atwater’s Willie Horton ads against Mike Dukakis, Massachusetts Democrat. Because Bush Sr. was above dog whistling. Instead of tailoring his message to win just 270 electoral votes (as it seems recent Republicans have done), Bush Sr. had broad appeal, winning a Presidential landslide of 40 states.

In some of these states, voters kept Republican presidential candidates on a three-decade dry spell, before voting Trump in 2016. Other states, from Vermont to Maryland; Washington to California; Illinois and New Jersey, flipped to Democrats in 1992, and stayed that way since. Bush Sr. Accomplished much in four years, working with a Democratic Congress. Today, President Trump views occasional cooperation with Pelosi as “winning”; Bush might’ve seen compromise as responsible governance. After leaving office, Bush Sr. even criticized the NRA when he perceived an anti-government shift after Waco.

Some Bush Sr. accomplishments are: Americans with Disabilities Act, Relatively peaceful liberation of Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia excepted. He laid the groundwork for NAFTA, and put David Souter and Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. And his leadership of the First Gulf War was widely heralded.

A youthful Bill Clinton won the Presidency in 1992; and Presidental politics since then has been dominated by two families: Bush Jr. took office after Bill Clinton, whose wife Hillary would serve as Senator from New York, Secretary of State, and 2016 Presidential nominee.

A Naval Aviator of WWII, Bush Sr’s “wings” sail on, pinned under the superstructure of his namesake aircraft carrier. USS George H.W. Bush, CVN 77. I had the pleasure of deploying with the strike group on their most recent deployment, trading a million gallons of jet fuel for a box of delicious cookies baked with 100% nuclear energy. They’d come in a gift box, bearing a photo of none other than young Midshipman George H.W. Bush.

By the way, where’s Vice President Dan Quayle (1989-1993)?

Monday, November 12, 2018

Armistice Remembered

France does a good military parade, all the more poignant as the world commemorated Armistice Day at the end of World War One, the Great War. While the Western Front cut through trenches in France, the Eastern front was fluid, and quite deadly for military and civilians. As Americans we might have learned much about the Western Front, trench foot, and shellshock from books like "All Quiet on the Western Front". France victorious and Germany defeated. But the Eastern Front, whose stories were muted by the Iron Curtain, resulted in real geopolitical consequences.
 They include the collapse of Franz Joseph's Austro-Hungarian empire, Bolshevism in Russia, Turmoil in the Balkans, and the end of the Ottoman Empire. Washington, DC commemorated the Eastern Front in various ways, this past month. The Emperor Karl League of Prayer sponsored a Solemn Mass, followed by discussion on the exiled Austrian emperor's geopolitical worldview in 1918. A concert at the National Gallery of Art remembered the wartime struggles of Serbs and the genocide in Armenia.

And the military parade? While countries big and small, authoritarian and democratic, affluent and troubled, host annual military parades, such a tradition was never established in America. The Founding Father's resistance against large standing armies, and historically strong pacifist factions, certainly contribute to avoidance of outward military displays. Another aspect is practical for servicemembers, their families, and their units. Outside of training commands and small elite groups, drill and ceremony is an afterthought to the larger goal of operations, tactics, and military readiness. Servicemembers enjoy weekends and holidays when they can get them. Routine watchstanding and officer rotations make full weekends a well-earned and cherished rarity. Securing liberty for a mid-weekend parade is something NCOs and concerned officers would rather avoid. In contrast, Service Academies and ROTC units, located near population centers, are accustomed to marching drill. Shine those leathers again, and adjust your cover.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Seven Pound Anchor Babies

Our President is certainly redefining government and questioning the old traditions. The latest was his proposal to end birthright citizenship, which has been on the books since Reconstruction after the Civil War. The 14th amendment expanded the constitutional definition of citizenship to include all persons born on US soil and subject to federal jurisdiction. Free White Men, freed slaves, and children of immigrants were now citizens; Native Americans later gained right to citizenship
at a time when Eastern Europeans and Asians were generally excluded from immigrantion.

Congress rejects the idea: Birth tourism is a healthy industry, flourishing in places like California, Florida, and New York. Anchor babies are welcome, as long as their mothers are from families of means. Furthermore, birth certificate tend to be issued without asking the parents’ nationalities. I believe that anti-discrimination laws discourage hospital staff from asking excess questions. In the DC area, children of diplomats do obtain regular birth certificates, and thus can claim citizenship. Asides from one article, I have not heard any concern about diplomats taking more than their fair share.

Other issues: Ending birthright citizenship admits a certain defeat on law-and-order issues. Not long ago, a Mexican national, unlawfully present in the Texas, was executed for murder over the objection of the Mexican government. Would conservative really want to declare that children of illegal immigrant parents are not subject to US law, but entitled to reprieve at foreign consulates of Mexico and Ireland? Because even under the most zealous government, maternity wards won’t be booking outbound airfare for newborns. Mass deportation is unlikely. Some scholars look to early 20th century court precedent (conservative judicial activism- see previous blog post). But that was a different era, and not representative of a world where airplanes connect any two cities in less than 24 hours; of visa-free access and lower trade tariffs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

What Makes it a Trophy Building?

Like how up-marketed luxury apartments replaced comfortable dwellings, everybody advertises their office space as Class A today. No strict definition exists, but Class A denotes new or newly-renovated, spacious lobbies, the works. Owners, who own both upscale and modest office space, are allowed to have Class B space for rent. With it, they get to upsell the business owner’s pride: after all, a fancy office announces that you’ve made your corner-office fantasies come true.
Engineering and service firms, and credit unions, led by practical people, settle into Class B space such as aging suburban office parks. Intellectually honest leaders know that free snacks are more valuable to the employees than the goldfish pond in a Class A lobby.

Class C for “creative”. Not techie creatives, but artists and struggling non-profits. It is the low-rent and cramped spaces above downtown stores; or obsolete, like how 40 Wall Street and the Singer Buildings in New York were perceived. The Singer Building was demolished in 1968, and Donald Trump claimed to have bought 40 Wall Street for $1 million in the 1990’s.  

Above all this is the Trophy office. Not long ago, “Trophy” offices meant monumental architecture. The Sears Tower in Chicago, the Empire State Building in New York are two examples. Today, grade inflation creates a lot more Trophies. In downtown DC, an office building, designed in any other shape than a space-maximizing cube, is a Trophy Building with eye appeal. Several include the replacement Washington Post buildings, with windows reminiscent of newsprint leaves fluttering through the automated printing press; and City Center- it has a pedestrian alley and balconies.   

Another Trophy project in DC is a squat five-story building just north of the White House. During renovation, the owners downgraded from a marble siding to red limestone. How does it deserve the distinction of a Trophy? You see, Corporate America captured the AFL-CIO building, jackhammering to pieces any marble engraving that reeked of “solidarity” and “brotherhood”. The interior was gutted down to bare concrete: no Union Label stuck on a door or refrigerator would survive the purge. A building once owned, in practical terms, by representatives of working men and women, has now been cleansed and reoriented towards the full service of capitalism. Now that’s a Trophy.

Friday, September 21, 2018

A Walk Down Q Street

I have done all the touristic sites of Washington, DC manny times over, and trod the river trails. For something new, I checked out DC’s Mid City. An encompassing term for row-house and apartment neighborhoods with shared history: Built up from the Civil War to the 1920’s. Condemned as obsolete housing in the 1950’s. Sent into a downward spiral by 1968 riots and crack-related drug violence of the 1980’s. Rediscovered by creative class yuppies who fixed up homes, before full-scale gentrification by developers.

They were “Urban pioneers” discovering new neighborhoods. Wait: proud, longtime residents have always walked among us. No neighborhood was discovered.
Institutions like the Chinese takeout, has station, and laundromat linger on, surrounded by kitschy cafes and Whole Foods. Real estate appreciation greatly outpaces crime. Urban crime, the depraved violence and grand larceny that Wholesome Americans watch on 10pm news, still occurs. Eventually the crime rate will drop, and pickpockets replace gang members with assaulting fists.
New residents’ children do attend the local public school today, although Old Washington still dominates here.

The further east I walk, the more moderate the houses are. Opulence gives way to working people’s homes. Or what was housing for working people: a duplex in need of repairs inside and out, a tree growing in the brick grout, had an asking price of $700,000.

That was one block from North Capitol Street. You see the US Capitol in full view. Here, very recently, was an open-air drug market. That I am walking through for leisure says how times have changed. There is the Wendy’s. It’s always been there, attracts the working-class crowd. A new elevated bike trail takes me several blocks to Union Station. Now a bustling hub for rail passengers to  New York and the Northeast, it was gutted and repurposed in the disco era, before being restored.

The Soviets made public planning decisions based on science instead of the human element. One example was staggered work schedules in Moscow to eliminate the capitalist plague of rush hour. In America, public policy can be described as carrots and sticks- rewards and punishments that appeal to individual choice. Having people in the city and working in the transit-accessible suburbs (large employers, public and private) makes more efficient use of subway lines, currently packed in the peak direction.

I fly over Washington, about 7 minutes from farmland to the Reagan airport outside of downtown DC. Flying is a rare treat to avoid metropolitan traffic jams. What would it be like to have a 12-minute commute everyday? From DC’s Union Station to New Carrollton, the first suburban commuter rail station on the line? It makes living on Q street appealing to square people.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Weekend Rates

It’s noon on a Friday. From my experience  in Washington, DC, tough time to catch a taxi. It’s mosque time. I hadn’t thought much  about the religion and nationality of cabbies in the Middle East. Indians must work alongside the Pakistanis? According to my Uber estimate, just about every driver is a devout Pakistani. I think about taking an establishment taxi. These cabbies are very creative with the established rates, though. Pick up at hotel? Add $3. Weekend rate? Yes. Drop off at a hotel? They’ll tack it on. They’ve gotten angry because of the two upstart cab companies that associate with Uber. They demand gratuities in advance.

So rather than test my luck, I throw a bone to old reliable Uber, take a ride in a new car, and thank the gent for the ride.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Flew the coop

With heat soaring across the Persian Gulf, tempers flaring at the “scheduled” end of a shipyard availability, it was good to fly home. My father warned me against working to the last minute; anyhow I had a hotel room and club dinner waiting for me in “real Dubai”. The shipyard and oilfield workers created Dubai’s wealth, but “real Dubai” is the shopping malls, hotels, and extravagant pastimes. How could I resist giving a last hour of wisdom as the engineering plant was being brought back to health? I made it to dinner. Mission complete.

My itinerary took me on Lufthansa via Germany. What appealed to me was the greenery that surrounded Europe after six months of seeing and breathing the desert. Whereas SAS (flown last year) was the youth hostel of transatlantic flights: cheap but with good people; Lufthansa is a good airline and the sum of parts added up to a great experience. Sooner than I anticipated, I was back in DC. Eight hours fly when watching movies and sipping tomato juice.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Judicial Activism not on Supreme Court Agenda

It’s Déjà vu; another Supreme Court Nominee battleWith the prospect of a conservative Supreme Court, you may wonder, How far can they go?
If you watch TV during campaign season, you should be familiar with liberal activist judges, who create rights (such as privacy and dignity) and supporting affirmative action; and interpret the Constitution. Looking at 20th century history, conservatives can also be judicial activists:

Child Labor Shall Not Be Infringed
In the 1910’s, Congress passed Federal child labor laws applying to products and services sold across state lines (sounds constitutionally sound). But, according to the Lochner-era Supreme Court, those laws violated the due process rights of corporations.

Creating the Asian Race
Why were Asians not included in the 13-15th amendments as suitable for citizenship? Three possible answers:
Willful action to let Africans become citizens, but keep out the Orientals?
An oversight or ignorance on the part of President Lincoln and his fellow abolitionists?
The Founding Fathers meant Free White Men as a contrast to the enslaved population of Sub-Saharan African-Americans?

Conservative activists of the day believed that the abolitionists really didn’t like Asians. The Supreme Court had to create the Asian race as a legal entity. Otherwise, those Asians would have the Right to attend white schools and live in white neighborhoods. A right, and not a privilege, at that. During the Jim Crow era, white privilege was worth suing for. In cases involving Indian, Japanese and Chinese plaintiffs, the Supreme Court conceded that, on a scientific basis, the fair-skinned Asians had claims to the White Race. Socially, they were distinct. The racist mob, not impartial intellectuals, gets final say in Whiteness. As European Ethnics established their whiteness, a boundary “had” to be drawn at the Caucasus Mountains, creating the Yellow Other.  

Isn’t it better that modern-day conservative judiciaries are constitutionalists rather than activists?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Eid Mubarak (Happy Eid in Dubai)

When working in an Islamic country, Ramadan means shorter hours in many occupations. At my work, dayshift runs from 7am to 3pm, which is pretty common across Dubai for the season. Even in the modern mechanized and computerized economy, it isn’t productive to work hungry and thirsty through the late afternoon. But for those straddling cultures, Ramadan might mean longer hours: Evening shift at the shipyard starts at 9pm, after breaking the fast with Iftar meal. As far as hunger and thirst and sweat, I observe that many of our workers are Hindu and Indian, as thus are not obliged to fast. (I have also worked with both Christian and Muslim Indians, too) 
 Five-day workweeks are lush; our workers get either Friday or Saturday off. When does the work stop? 12pm-4pm on Fridays. It’s mosque time. And a perfect time for independent contractors from France and England to get their work done without interference.
In the shipyard as with any big project, hemmed in by schedule demands, the objective is to hit to dock running like a rabbit. Essentially, start the big tasks and keep up the pace. When unforeseen circumstances arise: missing parts, extensive corrosion, it can be squeezed into the schedule. And when the project finishes on time, praise is heaped. Still have a month to go, though. 
As an expat during Ramadan, I go and come from work on dusty, empty streets with closed shops.  Which makes the “holiest month” appear drab in sunlight. One who eats or drinks during the day must do so behind a curtain. Social pressure- not co-workers, but the cultural norm- makes me lose appetite for lunch. After dinner, and a little recreation in the hotel, I tucker out in my room as the city wakes up. Ramadan means nocturnal. Sunset to sunrise, Dubai comes to life. I don’t like to work while tired, so I let the city go on without me. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Two hours to Ramadan

“Welcome to the parallel universe” they told me as I took the ship into Bayonne, New Jersey.
What was once a bustling terminal in New York Harbor for Uncle Sam’s cargo was now a small suburban outfit. Most everything went in and out of Norfolk, Virginia; jet fuel and Navy beans. In Nee Jersey, you did things differently. “Going downtown” meant a fast ferry ride to Manhattan, instead of a 15 minute drive south on Hampton Boulevard. Your Uber driver knows where “Naval Station Norfolk” is, but would be hard-pressed to find the government pier in New Jersey.

Such is the feeling that I approach my first Ramadan in the Middle East. We’ve made some accommodations to cultural necessities: When preparing lunch, we settled for chicken, since there were both Hindus and Muslims working on the team (no beef, no pork). Muslims traditionally abstain from food,beverage, and water during Ramadan’s sunlight hours. The temperature is 100 degrees, Fahrenheit. Abstaining from water flies in the face of every health lesson in hydration. Then I thought about it more:  before the days of desalination, water was a rare commodity in the Gulf States. Abstaining from water trains they body to do with less, a survival skill in harsh climates. I’m hesitant about it occurring in my workplace, though. Will see how it goes.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Can't You Hear a Poor Man's Cry?

Ever since Newt Gingrich bailed out Washington, DC in the mid 1990's, it is par for course for city councilmembers to place blame on congressional Republicans for the city’s woes. The optics of southern white congressmen deciding city matters harkened back to the pre-1973 era in the minds of older Washingtonians, when an unelected Board of Commissioners ruled the city with Dixiecrat fists. This sentiment covers all parts of the city, black, white and wonderfully integrated.

But the true red meat comes from Ward 8, commonly known as “Anacostia”. This district was once a proud, southern-tinged white working class community. Since the 1980’s, though, it’s been the dangerous neighborhood President Trump warned you about. In councilman Trayon White's words, he described the drugs and violence that surrounded his childhood. You haven’t heard this story in the national news. These are Forgotten Americans; predominately African-Americans. The average income in Ward 8 is half the city’s average. Unemployment and absentee fathers, early death and the other symptoms of poverty lurk in Anacostia.
"Improvement is around the corner": Home prices are buoyed by hopes of a turnaround. Houses sell for $250,000; technically unaffordable for the average neighborhood resident. In essence, prospect of gentrification adds insult to the decades-long injury in Anacostia for those residents who don't own their home.
Desperation breeds anger. Recently, Councilman White insisted that the Rothschilds control the weather, and are coming to gentrify. Taken by many as an anti-Semitic remark, Mr. White atoned for this statement at the city’s Holocaust Museum. As shocking as these comments are to the average person, Mr. White is well-regarded in his community for being upfront.
I am a fan of Greater Greater Washington, a civic blog that appeals to the "SWPL" demographic, named for the yuppie website. Commentators, many progressives among them,  make important talk of food deserts and educational equality. Yet they are grasping at straws on other topics, such as gentrification. Some unintentionally suggested denying community improvements, in an attempt to “keep neighborhoods affordable”. So as a fact, Mr. White is more of an authority on urban poverty than yuppie bloggers, even if his speech is not polished, eloquent, and politically correct.
Mr. White’s predecessor, former mayor Marion Barry, happened to quipped about Asian-American shopkeepers peddling unhealthy food while draining the community of its money. The sitting Mayor naturally condemned the statement, but the rhetoric coming from Ward 8 lends a cue to residents' frustration. Small-town and rural whites may be concerned about jobs and gun rights, but low-income African-Americans fear for their homes and their communities too. Anxiety sounds the same in any community.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My take on a quarter century

If you were born in the 1990s, when America stood alone as a world power, you came to believe anything was possible. 25 years going, the world has had a remarkable run.
Consumer technology advanced by leaps and bounds. The internet used to be tied to large, beige desktop computers. Now it is almost everywhere on laptops and cellphones. Patience was a virtue without Uber. We’re finally getting our self-driving cars. Fashion has changed, too. Large glasses and big sweaters are out. The religious right used to be an influence on national politics. Cigarettes went out of style, so did smoking areas inside restaurants and offices. Trump’s grim view of the inner city used to be the norm; many cities have rebounded. Borders care down between countries, especially in Europe and Asia, allowing more visa-free travel. While the post-Soviet 1990s were seen as an era of peace, there seems to be less genocide and low-level war is underdeveloped countries. One example is Djibouti, where I am writing from today.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Deeds, not just Words, for Maritime Agenda

Donald Trump may be the most un-presidential president. This outsider status is sometimes a benefit, for example, challenging foreign policy assumptions in other aspects. He appointed Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation; with deep maritime connections and family from Taiwan. In other ways, such as Trump’s dismissive references to developing nations, it’s humiliating to any American who has to defend himself in social circles overseas. Yet one thing Americans agree on is that President Trump means what he says, being a man of his word. 

He carried through on steel tariffs: In 20th century South Korea and Taiwan, led by slightly authoritarian governments, oversaw development of a middle class. These governments provided a wide social service net to its citizens, as a hedge against communist sympathies. This was reciprocated in the US with workplace safety laws, Medicare, and old-age social security benefits. The difference in competitiveness between the US and East Asia comes down to use of technology and workers’ attitudes. More recently, some nations have opened up their markets while providing little for workers’ rights. I do not understand why first-world nations must compete with the lowest denominator, mainland China and parts of Southeast Asia, in a game refereed by the World Trade Organization.

So with congressional approval to build training ship Empire State VII, Trump becomes the most supportive President to the maritime industry since Richard Nixon. Until Ronald Reagan, shipping companies received generous subsidies to build and operate ships in the United States, and the men and women who sailed the ships could receive free medical care from what are now Veteran’s Administration hospitals. Small stipends in the name of national security- the Maritime Security Program- were restored in 1996.

The Empire State VII will replace an Eisenhower-era, 60-year old steamship once known as the SS Oregon. Pro-Wall Street, free-trading Senator Chuck Schumer admitted that the Academy “churned out talented engineers by the boatload”. Staten Island, Long Island, and parts of Queens, which voted for hometown boy Mr. Trump in 2016, constitute a majority of the SUNY-Maritime student body. Graduates work as steam engineers in New York City’s infrastructure and large buildings- often unionized. Some sail on maintenance-intensive Nixon-era ships in the US Merchant fleet. Deckside graduates work in deep sea jobs, and within New York City’s extensive waterways.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Luck of the Silent Generation

In Dubai, an entire "Irish Village" was imported from the Emerald Isle. Within the walls that seclude Irish Village from a drab light industrial district, there are restaurants, a garden, and several gift shops. The world over, have you ever noticed that Irish pubs tend to look the same? According to The Grapevine, the Irish Pub Company has "designed more than 2,000 pubs and shipped them to 53 countries around the world". Now onto another type of luck: the year you were born.

A person born in 1911:
- Great Depression severely impacted early career.
- Drafted into the Army during their prime earning and family-building years, versus younger veterans of WWII.

A person born in 1930:
- Was under the working age during Great Depression
- Still in school during WWII
- If from the city, would likely graduate high school
- Was aged 20 - 23 during Korean War.
- Entered workforce during time of economic prosperity
- Those who entered white-collar work were at leading edge of shift towards an "information economy", lawyers and bankers to name two beneficiaries.
- Those in blue-collar work retained job security throughout their careers, and often union benefits.
- Thanks to Social Security, employer-paid benefits, and likely to strong age-discrimination laws- became first generation to retire with wealth (Strauss-Howe).
If you were a woman or racial minority, you had career and social opportunities post- WWII that your parents did not have.

-This Silent Generation has not produced a US President. Recently, we've had two presidents born in 1924 and three presidents born in 1946.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

A Right-Wing Civil Rights Act

How do you compel a retailer to sell guns to 18-year olds while allowing a baker to sell wedding cakes to straight couples only? I read on forums from many commenters. including a few members of the intellectual class. The right-wing answer is as follows: "Gays, rental cars and hotels are not mentioned in the Constitution. But guns are specifically mentioned in the Bill of Rights".

In all practical matters, the decision of Dick's Sporting Goods to restrict gun sales to 21+ is a boon to local sportsman stores. (Walmart has come to the same conclusion, but read below for my verdict). These local stores presumably have regular contact with county law enforcement and support public safety while serving customers. This face-to-face contact is something large corporations cannot achieve, with directives from coming from headquarters from a state far away.  .

One might mention that hotels and car renters restrict to 21+. Often, a hotel will waive age stipulations if a company, especially the US Military, will foot the bill. Understandably,  a hotel is at stake if young Spring Break revelers trash the room. For car renters, an age of 21 can serve as a proxy for "five years of licensed driving experience". Indeed, inexperienced drivers are more likely to accumulate a claims bill! Requiring auto rentals at 18 would create an undue burden on car rental companies.  I went to college in New York and benefitted from the state's requirement of renting cars to 18 year-olds. (I'm a good driver, as everyone thinks they are). Now turn to guns: Due to the legal precedent in this nation, gun sellers do not face liability if their customers raise Cain with the products they sell.

I believe that discriminating against customers is sheer stupidity. I feel that African-American economic empowerment in WWII was a significant factor in securing equal rights under law.  Integration of the military was very important as it gave African-Americans buying power that they didn't have before. There was the "Don't buy where you can't work" movement in the 1940's, referred to in August Wilson's Fences. After WWII, Woolworth's and other interstate chains no longer had incentive to racially discriminate asides from local regressive laws. Indeed, I read that southern Woolworth's were encouraged to 'discriminate politely' so as to not offend the northern African-American market. BS.

In Virginia where I have bought a condo, since the same year interracial marriages were allowed, alcohol licenses have been issued to  restaurants, while taverns have been outlawed for 100 years. Notably, restaurants and hotels  are subject to more stringent anti-discrimination laws than other forms of privately-owned venues. Concealed-carry weapon owners have been able to carry in "bars", and the ability to create a 21+ environment is limited. Most often, age restrictions in alcohol-serving establishments will not apply until 9 or 10pm due to the fact that an establishment must function as a restaurant to qualify for a license. This is in a "commonwealth" which does not treat homosexuals as a protected class.

I suspect that Walmart's board of directors anticipates a letter from an "Attorney General of xx southern/western state". With that, they will "suspend efforts" to restrict gun purchases to 21+ in compliance with the law. As a further aside, posters on gun forums have commented that they didn't even know that Dick's sold guns. If so, they were overpriced. They should focus on selling "concussion causing" footballs to gym teachers.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Trigger Warning: Something Fundamentally Wrong

Another school shooting....I heard about it halfway around the world.
Just from the headline I could picture the murderer. Young white male, withdrawn, down on his luck.
The presumed killer met my description to a tee. What does young, white American males have in common, which is shared between the working class and middle class?

 Generation Z is the first generation to live in the era of frequent mass killings. I was out of high school before mass killings became an epidemic in America. What has gone wrong? Three answers to start: Social media pressures, emotional infantilism of teenagers, and glorification of violence in media. More reasons?

Giving guns to dangerous people:
Young mass murders seldom buy firearms with money they earned. On top of the purchase price, boxes of ammunition are too expensive on a ramen diet. The usual story is that the killer got a gun as a gift, or got a loan to buy a gun. I would support liability insurance requirements for inexperienced gun owners.

Ostracizing and De-facto Criminalization of mental illness:
Despite health privacy laws, diagnosis of mental illness is carried on permanent records. It affects one's ability to join the military, get a high paying contractor job, own a firearm, drive a car, or even participate in civic life. With the digitalization and interstate access to records, there may be a perception that a mental health diagnosis is something to be avoided, when it is something needed to get appropriate (though stretched and underfunded) treatment. As if it were a criminal record.

It might trigger the "You can't have it" theory illustrated on South Park. When a gun ban is proposed, people rush to buy guns. President Obama, it is said, was the best firearm salesman. On a smaller, personal scale, when a person is marked as ineligible to own a gun, he has the urge to get his hands on one. That said, several killers have no significant criminal record, but a disturbing history of behavior. Courts should be able to put a clinically unstable individual's firearms in the custodianship of a responsible individual. Without rendering a person legally incompetent.

Disrespect for authority figures:
In a former time, when much of the world lived under dictators or communists, public officials were given respect for being democratically elected. While there is a place for holding authority accountable to the people, the past several years the disrespect is incredible. It occurs in the media, on the streets, and even in the halls of city governments. Then there are the government shutdowns, which is totally prejudicial to good order. As of last month, both major parties are guilty of unleashing this anarchist tactic. Violent protests are a stark contrast to MLK's approach of non-violence. How could this not translate to disruptive behaviors and grossly disrespectful behavior in the classroom?

Mistrust of authority:
  Students need to understand that safety issues can be raised without resorting to intrusive searches of the innocent. That raising a concern will not trigger full SWAT.

Deadly marksmanship:
 Columbine was shocking since that kind of violence was rare at the time. But recent events made Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold part of the JV squad of school killers.
In the inner-city, bad aim and good trauma care have given many people second chances. I have seen it multiple times on the news, which reports that a  gang member opens fire into a crowd. One dead, seven injured. Six injured. Four injured, one dead.  (It should be noted that injury by firearm can cause permanent damage). What these school shooters have today is horrific accuracy, better than on actual battlefields. If we could do one thing, keep the guns out of dangerous peoples' hands.

Soft targets:
Since 1990, we've gone from acceptance of hunting rifles in the high school parking lot to mass murder despite restrictions on guns in school. The 1990's federal school gun ban originated form 1980's incidents of one-on-one violence between ex lovers, gangs, and grudges.

That did not change policies of wide open doors and lack of preparedness in once-peaceful suburbs. Columbine was a one-time tragedy. This Florida high school was ready, and yet the Valentine's Day killer slayed 17 in 6 minutes. One dead every 20 seconds, plus the wounded. In Washington, DC the local public schools have metal detectors. A good measure, but not foolproof: armed attacks have occurred at the security checkpoints of the US Capitol, DC's Metropolitan Police Headquarters, and the Holocaust Museum in DC. As Rudy Giuliani demonstrated in New York City, visible presence is a deterrent. 

OK, OK, maybe its the guns: and how they are glorified in certain circles. In deference to 1st and 10th amendments, restrict paid advertising, of gun makers, across state lines to prevent criminally-minded people from gaining a bloodlust from reading magazines and internet pages.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Easy Days

Snow- public schools in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia were closed for a whole week. Us adults got two days off. On both occasions, we returned to work while ice and snow covered the roads. I greatly improved my winter driving abilities this January. Now I suppose the high tolerance of these southern cities for snow-driving is the prevalence of SUVs, F-150 and Chevy pickups, and other 4WDs. And the can-do attitude of the heavily military population.

Leave- Gate traffic was light between Thanksgiving and the new year. This is the time that many to most military personnel take several weeks’ leave. The benevolence of a month off is met with the ambivalence of merchant seafarers and migrant workers, who get their two-month breaks in exchange for weekends missed on duty.

While commuter traffic was light, the cumulative traffic on I-95 was heavy, northbound to the Northeast and New England on Friday afternoons.