Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Frack Yourself with a Rusty Walmart

Sorry; I've been catching up on my Lee Camp.

So this post has nothing to do with fracking. Or rusty Walmarts.

Nope. I figured I need to say something about school shootings.

First: those who are claiming that the terrified kids running out of the Stoneman Douglas High School are "crisis actors", you can go frack yourself with a rusty Walmart. I sincerely hope there really is a hell so you can slow-roast in it for all eternity.

Second: I am a life-member of the NRA. I will never hide that fact, nor will I ever apologize for it. You think the NRA is the evilest evil that ever eviled an evil? That's fine. I happen to think that is a spot-on description of Hillary Clinton, whom you likely worship as a goddess, but it really doesn't matter to me what you think. (And I'm 100% positive that the inverse is also true.) Where I begin to care is the point where you think that your political opinions are Holy Writ and mine are a heresy worthy of having me burned at the stake.

Does that mean that I agree with every word that has ever fallen from the lips of Wayne LaPierre? Absolutely not. I think he has said some monumentally stupid things in his time as the executive VP of the NRA. Just like every other human that has ever lived. If you agree with everything that another person or organization has ever said or done, then you are a corpse. It really is that simple. Hell, I don't even agree with things I've written in the past on this very blog.

But the fact remains that at crucial points over the last several decades, the NRA, sometimes alone, has stood athwart the mainstream political flow shouting, "Stop!" For that and for that alone, they will always have my support. Of course, the US political process often makes them seem lunatic when they are simply giving themselves negotiating room. For example, if we are talking tax rates, me saying the top tax rate should be 5% and you saying it should be 95% is viewed by the press and the public for what it is: an opening bid in a process that will end up somewhere that may not be perfect, but perfect will at least be somewhere within sight. Both initial positions are absurd, but no one questions the sanity of those proposing them. When the subject is, say, bump stocks, taking an absurd starting position can make you sound... well... absurd. Especially when the absurdity is amplified by a press corp mostly made up of those on the ban-everything-more-lethal-than-a-paring-knife end of the political spectrum.

All that to say that my leanings are strongly libertarian and that I tend to be allergic to the words "government ban", whether the object being banned is marijuana or 15-round magazines. Over the last several decades, there has been a tendency to remove human agency when a person commits some horrific act. It can't possibly be that someone's son or daughter is broken in some fundamental way. No, no!! It's the demon weed, or internet porn, or violent video games, or comic books. Or ugly guns.

Another thing that makes me break out in hives are "easy" answers. In this most recent instance, we have a clear case of undiagnosed, and thus untreated, mental illness. Easy answer: anyone with a mental illness is banned for life from ever owning any kind of firearm. Perfect, right?


Did you miss that "undiagnosed" part? Nothing in any of the half-assed mental-health-related proposals I've seen flying around the internet would have changed what happened on February 14 for the simple reason that a very broken human being slipped through the cracks. So the first way that such an idea fails is the problem of false negatives.

The flip-side is, of course, the problem of false positives. Anyone who has spent five minutes perusing the DSM (Everyone does this, right? Not just me, right? Hello? Anyone? damn...) knows that every single person at some point in their life meets the criteria of a mental illness of one sort or another. The problem is that, unlike biological diseases, there is no definitive test that can be run on a patient to reliably determine that they have, for example, clinical depression. I have chronic lymphocytic leukemia. I know this because of various blood test that were run, including something called a FISH test. No such test or tests exist for clinical depression. A few quotes from the above-linked Wikipedia entry (hey, it's on the internet, so it must be true...):

Despite caveats in the introduction to the DSM, it has long been argued that its system of classification makes unjustified categorical distinctions between disorders and uses arbitrary cut-offs between normal and abnormal.


It has also been alleged that the way the categories of the DSM are structured, as well as the substantial expansion of the number of categories, are representative of an increasing medicalization of human nature, which may be attributed to disease mongering by psychiatrists and pharmaceutical companies, the power and influence of the latter having grown dramatically in recent decades.


[Psychiatrist Allen] Frances warned that if this DSM version is issued unamended by the APA, "it will medicalize normality and result in a glut of unnecessary and harmful drug prescription."

(Emphasis is mine.)

Does that really sound like something that can be used as a basis for banning someone from gun ownership? And if you think it is, then why not use it to also ban people from driving semi's? Do we really want the mentally ill piloting 80,000-pound vehicles through our cities? Or voting? I mean, obviously only a mental patient would vote for Trump, right?

Is this really a direction we want to head?

One problem with something like a school shooting is that because it is so horrific, it tends to be viewed in isolation. How did this happen? Why did this happen? Who is to blame for this? It's hard to do because it involves kids, but we really need to step back and look at the bigger picture. Not just one barely-adult deliberately killing 17 school kids at a particular school, but all the school shootings (seven so far in 2018, not the commonly-reported 15). Then take another step (or two or three) back and look at all gun murders so far in 2018 (589, counting the latest in Orlando just a few hours ago). We can blame the number of guns or the types of guns all we want, but the bottom line is that there have always been large numbers of every kind of gun available in the US. Everyone I grew up with had guns in the house and we all knew where they were and how to use them. Yet we would never have dreamed of shooting someone with one. Well, there was this one kid, but he was widely recognized as being seriously broken and, last I knew, was permanently institutionalized. And even he never managed to kill anyone.

No, something has changed, and I don't think gun laws will help. If a person is serious about killing another person, they will. Humans are just too damn easy to kill; shoot, stab, bludgeon, strangle, punch. If we can't even stop people from killing each other in our prisons, then just what sort of laws do you think would make any difference "on the outside"? I know it's the worst sort of cliche to say that guns don't kill people, people kill people, but it's true, hackneyed or not.

Look, when I was in school, everyone with a small game license brought a shotgun to school. After soccer practice, several of us, including the soccer coach and several of the teachers, would head out to the field behind the school to see if we could bag a pheasant or rabbit for dinner. (This was during the Volcker recession; many families in my school subsisted mostly on home-grown veggies and wild game.) I hated some of those guys, a feeling they reciprocated, yet it would have never occurred to any of us to take a shot at each other. Not because we were soooo much more mature than high school kids these days or any of that crap. Thinking back on some of the ass-hattery we routinely got into, we were probably bigger dipshits than average. But shoot each other? That was so far out there the concept didn't exist. And this was in Flint, in the early 80's when we held the national championship for murders for several consecutive years until Washington DC finally beat us out for the title.

Sorry, I don't have answers, easy or otherwise, other than to say that something is causing a record number of broken people. We owe it to ourselves... we owe it to our kids, to get past the political posturing and easy answers (Ban AR-15's! Arm teachers! Metal detectors! Barb wire! Lock up [fill in the blank]!) and try to figure out why the US is the world leader in building psychopaths.

Sorry this went on so long, but this is kinda important.

[Update: you have to see Lee Camp's interview with a teacher from Stoneman Douglas High School]

Thursday, February 15, 2018

If a Tree Falls in a Forest...

...what are the odds that it will hit our car?


Luckily, no broken glass. In fact, other than some dirt and a few small scuff marks, no real damage to the car at all. However, what we park the car under didn't fare so well.

The park guys came back here with chains saws and got rid of the big stuff. I spent my days off cleaning up the rest.

 We're not sure what we're going to do now. I don't like the idea of our car sitting under old trees without some kind of protection from falling debris, but technically, that ain't part of our lot. The only reason we've been able to use it is because everything was already there when we bought into the park. The new management was rumored to be instituting a park-wide ban on all new free-standing structures, but as is usual, nothing official. There is also a rumor that all the dead-end roads like ours will have turn-around's installed so people don't have to back out. I need to find time to run over to the park next door and talk to the Corporate Head Cheese and get the real 411.

My mom had a second "event" back on Sunday, February 4th. Given our problems with 911 the first time around, I just stuffed her in the car and didn't even bother with it. This time seemed much worse. The aphasia was much worse and was combined with a lot of confusion. She asked me about halfway to the hospital if I was a friend of her son, Ric. She took much longer to come out of it as well. She's home, but still struggling with the aphasia, especially when she is tired or upset. She is also having a lot of trouble with numbers. Again, no word on if any of this is permanent, if these "events" will continue or if there is anything that can be done to prevent them. But I'm sure the hospital is being paid well by the US taxpayers for keeping her in there for several days so twenty different people could come in and ask her what her name is, where she is, her address, phone number, who my dad is, who the president is, etc.

Debbie's mom is now back to where she was a couple weeks after her initial surgery. She was doing well, trying to talk, recognizing people both in person and on the phone, etc. Then her surgery site became infected (MRSA, natch; she is in a hospital) and was transferred back up to Saginaw to take care of that. Everyone was so focused on the infection they "forgot" to pay attention to her lungs. After getting transferred back down to Pontiac, she stopped breathing. Ever since, she has been in a deep sleep and is not really responsive. Debbie will be heading back up in a couple weeks to give her brother and sister-in-law a break from bedside care.

[Update for 02/18/2018: Debbie's mom is awake, seems to recognize people both in person and on the phone.]

I got through a first-draft run of our taxes. We're still getting hit with the $1,000 nigger ta... er... Obamacare tax. At least that goes away next year for a little while. (All of Trump's tax cuts for working stiffs expire the year he leaves his presumptive second term. The tax cuts for his corporate buddies are permanent.) But thanks to the massive medical bills we had to pay last year, we're still getting at least something back. It will likely all go into car repairs; we had planned on replacing the Durango this year, but then we had to give all the money we had saved to the fracking doctors. If we are going to be driving the thing up to Michigan again this summer, I need to get it to the garage and get some major work done on it. That will likely eat our entire tax refund plus a bunch more. Yaaay!!!

2018. The Year of Suck.