Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Day in the Life of Armed America

From The New York Times:

JOE NOCERA BLOG: The Gun Report: September 24, 2013

A day in the life of armed America.

According to Slate’s gun-death tracker, an estimated 8,630 people have died as a result of gun violence in America since the Newtown massacre on December 14, 2012.

Don't Do Your Kids Any Favors

When my son was in 5th grade, he attended a small two-room school in eastern Montana ranch country. In the spring, after the mud dried up, the schools within a 10-mile radius had a "play day," in which the kids competed in track events and a spelling bee (so that it could still count as a school day.) There were so few kids in these schools, two grades had to compete against each other.  So, in his school, the 5th and 6th grades competed against the Albion school's 5th and 6th graders.  

This year my son had mastered the Fosbury Flop and was ready to take on his nemesis, a 6th grader named Tom, in the high jump.  The night before, my son was so nervous he was throwing up.  Ever the mommy, I hugged him tight and told him, "Honey, don't worry about tomorrow.  Your Dad and I will love you just as much no matter what happens."  He looked me straight in the eye with a fierce look I didn't know a 10-year-old could have, and said, "I'm not doing this for YOU!"

At that moment, one that has stayed in my memory for 40 years, I realized that he had a life separate from mine and that winning the high jump competition was something that was important to him.  He needed to beat Tom.  As it turned out, neither boy beat the other.  They jumped and jumped for what seemed like days but they both went out on the same height. Steve and Tom were both happy because they had fought and achieved their goal.  Nothing was given to them just for showing up.

The following article reminded me of that day.     

September 24, 2013

Losing Is Good for You

LOS ANGELES — AS children return to school this fall and sign up for a new year’s worth of extracurricular activities, parents should keep one question in mind. Whether your kid loves Little League or gymnastics, ask the program organizers this: “Which kids get awards?” If the answer is, “Everybody gets a trophy,” find another program.
Po Bronson and I have spent years reporting on the effects of praise and rewards on kids. The science is clear. Awards can be powerful motivators, but nonstop recognition does not inspire children to succeed. Instead, it can cause them to underachieve.

Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, found that kids respond positively to praise; they enjoy hearing that they’re talented, smart and so on. But after such praise of their innate abilities, they collapse at the first experience of difficulty. Demoralized by their failure, they say they’d rather cheat than risk failing again.
By age 4 or 5, children aren’t fooled by all the trophies. They are surprisingly accurate in identifying who excels and who struggles. Those who are outperformed know it and give up, while those who do well feel cheated when they aren’t recognized for their accomplishments. They, too, may give up.
It turns out that, once kids have some proficiency in a task, the excitement and uncertainty of real competition may become the activity’s very appeal.
If children know they will automatically get an award, what is the impetus for improvement? Why bother learning problem-solving skills, when there are never obstacles to begin with?
Having studied recent increases in narcissism and entitlement among college students, Jean Twenge, author of “Generation Me,”warns that when living rooms are filled with participation trophies, it’s part of a larger cultural message: to succeed, you just have to show up. In college, those who’ve grown up receiving endless awards do the requisite work, but don’t see the need to do it well. In the office, they still believe that attendance is all it takes to get a promotion.
When children make mistakes, our job should not be to spin those losses into decorated victories. Instead, our job is to help kids overcome setbacks, to help them see that progress over time is more important than a particular win or loss, and to help them graciously congratulate the child who succeeded when they failed. To do that, we need to refuse all the meaningless plastic and tin destined for landfills. We have to stop letting the Trophy-Industrial Complex run our children’s lives.
This school year, let’s fight for a kid’s right to lose.
Ashley Merryman is the author, with Po Bronson, of “NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children” and “Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

What Does Texas Think It's Doing?

Came across an article in Slate this morning with the following headline:

Showdown Over Science in Texas

Creationists corrupted state education standards and may push evolution out of textbooks.

I'll let you read the article for yourself, but with all the executions, the gun nuts, and now the "creationists," you have to wonder if it's time to kick Texas out of the Union.  Are all Texans bat-shit crazy, or are they just the ones that make the news?  

Weekend Gun Report - Did Your State Escape?

SEPTEMBER 23, 2013, 10:30 AM

Weekend Gun Report: September 20-22, 2013

What will Wayne LaPierre will say after each mass shooting, and how long will he wait to say it? It’s a question that’s turned into something of a media parlor game. On Sunday, LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, went on “Meet the Press” and blamed last Monday’s shooting at the Washington Navy Yard not on the ease with which someone so obviously mentally ill couldlegally purchase guns, but on a lack of security at the shooting site.
“How could anybody look at what happened this week and say there was enough security there?” he said. “In a post-9/11 world, a naval base within miles from Congress and the White House” was left “completely unprotected.”
So, of course, we need more good guys with guns.
“All these brave men and women that are trained in firearms, that signed up to serve in the military, they’re largely disarmed on our military bases,” he said. “When the good guys with guns got there, it stopped.”
What LaPierre doesn’t mention is that even when the good guys have guns, tragedies can occur.
Here is today’s report.
Jennifer Mascia
A 3-year-old boy is in critical condition after he accidentally shot himself in the chest with a handgun in Horseshoe Bay, Tex., Thursday. A 5-year-old was shot in the back and wounded on the northeast side of Indianapolis, Ind., Friday night. An 8-year-old boy was shot and wounded by his 11-year-old brother when a gun the two were playing with accidentally discharged in Gary, Ind., Thursday afternoon. A young girl was shot and killed on a Pensacola, Fla., street Thursday night.
24-year-old Monique Smith was shot five times after a football game in Memphis, Tenn., Thursday night, and her ex-boyfriend, 29-year-old Vernon Walton, was arrested at the scene. A 16-year-old boy was shot and wounded while leaving his apartment building in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn, N.Y., early Thursday. Jason Scott McClay was found shot and killed in aisle 14 of the Rite Aid he managed in Chester, Pa., just before closing Thursday night.
Johnny Tinsey, 36; Rubin Austin, 25; and an unidentified 29-year-old woman were killed and 10 others were wounded in shootings across Chicago, Ill., late Thursday and early Friday. 24-year-old Jimmy Chandler was shot and killed in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif., Thursday evening. A man was shot several times in Bakersfield, Calif., late Thursday. Zhonton Zhavet Berry, 27, was found dead of a gunshot wound in an apartment in east Charlotte, N.C., late Thursday.
Four people were wounded in three separate shootings in Newark, N.J., Thursday night. A 26-year-old man was shot in the leg in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday night. 58-year-old Keith Stengel was shotand killed during a robbery in Fort Myers, Fla., Thursday evening. 35-year-old Barbara Mason was shot in the arm during an attempted rape in south Fort Myers early Friday. A 38-year-old man was killed and a 27-year-old man was seriously wounded in a shooting following an argument over two women at a home in Gifford, Fla., Friday afternoon.
Rod Bradway, a police officer in Indianapolis, Ind., was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance on the city’s northwest side early Friday. Miguel Angel Contreras, 26, was shot and killed on the porch of his family’s home in southeast Austin, Tex., early Friday. A man was shot in the back after a verbal altercation in Watsonville, Calif., Friday afternoon. 26-year-old Sophon Kao and 24-year-old Jerry Chim were shot and killed and two women were wounded while celebrating a birthday in Long Beach, Calif., Friday night.
A 24-year-old man was killed and two people were injured, one critically, when someone opened fire on a party with a shotgun in Bozeman, Mont., early Friday. One person arrived at a northeastPortland, Ore., hospital with a gunshot wound Friday night. One person was shot several times and critically wounded in the parking lot of a community center in the Park Hill neighborhood of Denver, Colo., Friday evening.
Three people were shot and killed in an apparent robbery at a pawn shop in Danville, Ky., Friday morning, including the store’s owners, Michael Hockensmith, 34, and his wife Angela Hockensmith, 38, and a customer, Daniel P. Smith, 60. Two men were injured in a shooting at a shopping center in Louisville, Ky., Friday evening. A woman and a man were shot and wounded during a gun battle inMiddletown, Ohio, Friday afternoon.
Three people were wounded in a shooting in Elfrida, Ariz., early Friday. One person was critically wounded in a drive-by shooting in Miami, Fla., Friday afternoon. A man was shot and wounded inYork, Pa., Friday night. Jazz Beady, 26, who shot in the head in York on Sept. 13, died Friday, a week after he sustained his injuries. A man was shot in Salem, Va., Friday night. Logan Treguier, 20, was killed in a shooting in Colorado Springs, Colo., late Friday.
Three people were wounded in a shooting in Mesa, Ariz., Friday evening. Rick Hammad, 42, was shot and killed in Grand Rapids, Mich., late Friday. A state trooper was shot and wounded by a bank robber as he made his getaway in Dutzow, Mo., Friday morning. A man was found lying in a Taco Bell parking lot in Jackson, Tenn., with gunshot wounds to both legs Friday night. 50-year-old Joseph Gales was shot and killed in Bonita Springs, Fla., Friday morning.
A restaurant manager was shot after three masked gunmen forced their way into S & S Cafeteria in Macon, Ga., Friday night. 59-year-old Susan Brown was shot and killed in Arlington, Tex., Friday evening, and her husband, 51-year-old Ricky Lynn Brown, was arrested.
A 7-year-old was shot in the leg when someone fired on a house in the Pleasant Grove area of Dallas, Tex., Saturday night. Four people were shot and wounded at a nightclub in Palm Springs, Fla., early Saturday. Kristofer Nuland Stafford, 23, was shot and killed in a road rage incident in Las Vegas, Nev., early Saturday. Two men were wounded in a shooting in Atlantic City, N.J., early Saturday. A man was shot and killed near a park where children were playing in Miami Gardens, Fla., Saturday evening.
Timothy Bouder, 53, was shot in the head and neck and wounded after a quarrel over a woman in northwest Carlisle, Pa., Saturday afternoon. A woman and a man were killed in a shooting at an apartment complex in Eden Prairie, Minn., Saturday morning. Adriana Bonet, 25, was killed and 24-year-old Jonathan Rosario and 19-year-old Jaton Pearson were wounded when someone opened fire near a pizza place in Springfield, Mass., early Saturday.
A man was shot in a separate incident in Springfield Saturday night. Charles Johnson, 22, was shot and killed after an argument over a necklace at an apartment complex in Tulsa, Okla., Saturday afternoon. A double shooting in Daly City, Calif., Saturday night sent two people to the hospital, one of whom is in critical condition. Adrian Anderson, 23, was shot and killed while sitting on the front porch of a home in Long Branch, N.J., Saturday morning.
A woman was killed and her brother was wounded in a drive-by shooting in Inglewood, Calif., Saturday afternoon. A shooting left a man in critical condition in Fort Wayne, Ind., Saturday night. 20-year-old Donald Bernard Lewis was shot and killed on the campus of Savannah State University in Savannah, Ga., early Saturday. Darryl Jackson, 30, was shot in the foot and Cleon Norwood, 47, wasshot in the stomach when someone opened fire at a bar in Central Islip, Long Island, N.Y., Saturday morning.
Willie Casey Jr., 47, was shot and killed in an apartment in Augusta, Ga., early Saturday. A man died in a shooting at a Dallas, Tex., nightclub early Saturday. A man was shot multiple times on the east side of San Antonio, Tex., Saturday afternoon. Three men were wounded in a shooting in the 5th Ward of Paterson, N.J., early Saturday, just three blocks from the scene of the fatal shooting of a 33-year-old man 24 hours earlier.
A 43-year-old man was shot and wounded in Port Arthur, Tex., early Saturday. A man was shot and wounded in Hazelwood, Mo., early Saturday. A 39-year-old Arizona Department of Public Safety officer was shot multiple times during a traffic stop in Payson, Ariz., Saturday night. Three people were killed in three separate shootings within the span of a few hours in Compton, Calif., Saturday night into Sunday morning.
A 22-year-old man is in critical condition following a shooting in the Crescentville neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa., Saturday night. A man and a woman were wounded in a drug-related shooting at a motel in Richland County, S.C., Saturday. Jordan Bounsinh, 22, was shot and killed after a fight escalated outside of a Mobil Gas Station in Rockford, Ill., early Saturday. Robert Jackson, 34, was shotand killed in the Woodmere neighborhood of Baltimore, Md., early Saturday.
A 35-year-old man and a 55-year-old woman were shot during an altercation in north Houston, Tex., Saturday night. 64-year-old Joseph A. Buck was shot and killed in Cooperstown, N.Y., early Saturday, and police arrested his son, 33-year-old Michael Buck. Robert Butler, 17, was found shot to death in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday night. A “staff shooting death” took place at the federal prison inFairton, N.J., Saturday.
One person was killed and at least six people were injured when a fight escalated to gunfire in the Old Town area of Wichita, Kan., early Sunday. Two men and a woman were killed and four others were wounded in a shooting at the Elks Charity Lodge in Muskegon, Mich., early Sunday. Joseph Connell, 39, and Olga Connell, 46, who were married in June, were found shot to death in a Wilmington, Del., condominium early Sunday.
33-year-old Andres Lopez was killed and a woman was injured in a shooting in Fort Myers, Fla., Sunday morning. A nightclub valet was shot and killed and a security guard was wounded in Pico Rivera, Calif., early Sunday. Two men were shot in separate incidents in southeast Washington, D.C., Saturday and Sunday. A man was injured in a shooting during a fight at a frat party near Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich., early Sunday.
A 28-year-old man was shot several times in the Clifton Heights neighborhood of Louisville, Ky., early Sunday. A man was shot in the stomach and wounded near the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La., Sunday evening. A 30-year-old man who was shot in the torso in Pasadena, Calif., early Sunday is not cooperating with police. 22-year-old Palagor Jobi was shot and killed outside a bar in Burnsville, Minn., early Sunday. A 40-year-old man was shot and critically wounded in north Philadelphia, Pa., Sunday evening.
A man was shot and killed near his home in New Cassel, Long Island, N.Y., Sunday afternoon. A 16-year-old boy was shot and seriously wounded in Greensboro, N.C., early Sunday. A 21-year-old man was killed and three others were wounded in a shooting near Hyde Park in St. Louis, Mo., early Sunday. 28-year-old Jonathan Gardner died after a bullet traveled through a wall and struck him in the chest in Columbus, Ohio, Sunday afternoon.
A woman was shot in the head and killed while driving in Columbia, S.C., Sunday morning. Three people were injured in a shooting at a Columbia club early Sunday. A 20-year-old woman and her 21-year-old brother were shot by the woman’s ex-boyfriend, who was later killed by police, in the Frankford section of Philadelphia, Pa., early Sunday. A man was shot and killed by a pedestrian he hit with his car in Kansas City, Mo., early Sunday.
Derrick Ross, 20, and his brother, Adam Ross, 23, were shot in Atlantic City, N.J., Sunday afternoon. A student at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, Md., was wounded in an off-campus shooting early Sunday. A man was shot and critically wounded after an altercation with his neighbor in Fort Worth, Tex., early Sunday. Two people were hospitalized after a shooting inCharlotte, N.C., Sunday morning.
A man was shot and wounded in the parking lot of the Red Door Lounge in Colorado Springs, Colo., early Sunday. A man in his late teens was shot and wounded after someone opened fire at a Detroit, Mich., liquor store Sunday afternoon. At least 24 people were shot, five of them fatally, in Chicago, Ill., since Friday.
According to Slate’s gun-death tracker, an estimated 8,434 people have died as a result of gun violence in America since the Newtown massacre on December 14, 2012.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

If We Could See Ourselves As Others See Us

If we could see ourselves as others see us, we would have to see that we are close to having the rest of the world intervene to stop the gun violence that our government allows to continue.  This article from The Guardian shows us what people in other countries think of the way we fail to protect our citizens.

The death toll from firearms in the US suggests that the country is gripped by civil war
Henry PorterSaturday 21 September 2013
The Observer

Last week, Starbucks asked its American customers to please not bring their guns into the coffee shop. This is part of the company's concern about customer safety and follows a ban in the summer on smoking within 25 feet of a coffee shop entrance and an earlier ruling about scalding hot coffee. After the celebrated Liebeck v McDonald's case in 1994, involving a woman who suffered third-degree burns to her thighs, Starbucks complies with the Specialty Coffee Association of America's recommendation that drinks should be served at a maximum temperature of 82C.

Although it was brave of Howard Schultz, the company's chief executive, to go even this far in a country where people are better armed and only slightly less nervy than rebel fighters in Syria, we should note that dealing with the risks of scalding and secondary smoke came well before addressing the problem of people who go armed to buy a latte. There can be no weirder order of priorities on this planet.

That's America, we say, as news of the latest massacre breaks – last week it was the slaughter of 12 people by Aaron Alexis at Washington DC's navy yard – and move on. But what if we no longer thought of this as just a problem for America and, instead, viewed it as an international humanitarian crisis – a quasi civil war, if you like, that calls for outside intervention? As citizens of the world, perhaps we should demand an end to the unimaginable suffering of victims and their families – the maiming and killing of children – just as America does in every new civil conflict around the globe.

The annual toll from firearms in the US is running at 32,000 deaths and climbing, even though the general crime rate is on a downward path (it is 40% lower than in 1980). If this perennial slaughter doesn't qualify for intercession by the UN and all relevant NGOs, it is hard to know what does.
To absorb the scale of the mayhem, it's worth trying to guess the death toll of all the wars in American history since the War of Independence began in 1775, and follow that by estimating the number killed by firearms in the US since the day that Robert F. Kennedy was shot in 1968 by a .22 Iver-Johnson handgun, wielded by Sirhan Sirhan. The figures from Congressional Research Service, plus recent statistics from, tell us that from the first casualties in the battle of Lexington to recent operations in Afghanistan, the toll is 1,171,177. By contrast, the number killed by firearms, including suicides, since 1968, according to theCentres for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI, is 1,384,171.

That 212,994 more Americans lost their lives from firearms in the last 45 years than in all wars involving the US is a staggering fact, particularly when you place it in the context of the safety-conscious, "secondary smoke" obsessions that characterise so much of American life.
Everywhere you look in America, people are trying to make life safer. On roads, for example, there has been a huge effort in the past 50 years to enforce speed limits, crack down on drink/drug driving and build safety features into highways, as well as vehicles. The result is a steadily improving record; by 2015, forecasters predict that for first time road deaths will be fewer than those caused by firearms (32,036 to 32,929).

Plainly, there's no equivalent effort in the area of privately owned firearms. Indeed, most politicians do everything they can to make the country less safe. Recently, a Democrat senator from Arkansas named Mark Pryor ran a TV ad against the gun-control campaign funded by NY mayor Michael Bloomberg – one of the few politicians to stand up to the NRA lobby – explaining why he was against enhanced background checks on gun owners yet was committed to "finding real solutions to violence".
About their own safety, Americans often have an unusual ability to hold two utterly opposed ideas in their heads simultaneously. That can only explain the past decade in which the fear of terror has cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars in wars, surveillance and intelligence programmes and homeland security. Ten years after 9/11, homeland security spending doubled to $69bn . The total bill since the attacks is more than $649bn.

One more figure. There have been fewer than 20 terror-related deaths on American soil since 9/11 and about 364,000 deaths caused by privately owned firearms. If any European nation had such a record and persisted in addressing only the first figure, while ignoring the second, you can bet your last pound that the State Department would be warning against travel to that country and no American would set foot in it without body armour.

But no nation sees itself as outsiders do. Half the country is sane and rational while the other half simply doesn't grasp the inconsistencies and historic lunacy of its position, which springs from the second amendment right to keep and bear arms, and is derived from English common law and our 1689 Bill of Rights. We dispensed with these rights long ago, but American gun owners cleave to them with the tenacity that previous generations fought to continue slavery. Astonishingly, when owning a gun is not about ludicrous macho fantasy, it is mostly seen as a matter of personal safety, like the airbag in the new Ford pick-up or avoiding secondary smoke, despite conclusive evidence that people become less safe as gun ownership rises.

Last week, I happened to be in New York for the 9/11 anniversary: it occurs to me now that the city that suffered most dreadfully in the attacks and has the greatest reason for jumpiness is also among the places where you find most sense on the gun issue in America. New Yorkers understand that fear breeds peril and, regardless of tragedies such as Sandy Hook and the DC naval yard, the NRA, the gun manufacturers, conservative-inclined politicians and parts of the media will continue to advocate a right, which, at base, is as archaic as a witch trial.

Talking to American friends, I always sense a kind of despair that the gun lobby is too powerful to challenge and that nothing will ever change. The same resignation was evident in President Obama's rather lifeless reaction to the Washington shooting last week. There is absolutely nothing he can do, which underscores the fact that America is in a jam and that international pressure may be one way of reducing the slaughter over the next generation. This has reached the point where it has ceased to be a domestic issue. The world cannot stand idly by.

• This article was amended on 21 September 2013. The original mistakenly said that Edward Kennedy was shot in 1968. This has been corrected
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