Tagged: fear

Chicago calls for stricter gun laws – again – after 14 people shot overnight

Click to enlargeArmando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune

Fourteen people, including two young boys, were shot in Chicago over a 15-hour period from Monday night to Tuesday morning.

Six people were killed and at least eight were wounded, following two consecutive weekends when more than 50 people were shot in the city.

Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, and police officials repeated their calls for stricter gun laws and a more robust criminal justice system.

“I’m angry about what happened here and I think I speak for everybody,” Emanuel said on Tuesday. “And I think I speak for everybody when I say enough is enough.”

RTFA here if you think you need more details of our gun plague.

The Tribune has been tracking gun violence in Chicago for four years and regularly reports record-breaking incidents of gun violence.

The shootings these past two weeks follow a four-week period in August, when more than 40 people were shot each weekend. At least 2,300 people have been shot in the city this year, which the Tribune said is 400 more than were shot in the same period last year.

The four other people shot from Monday night to Tuesday morning include a two-year-old boy, who was grazed by a bullet in an accidental shooting. Police said he was in good condition.

“Here we go again,” said Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy. “We’ve had the same conversation over and over. What do we have to do? We have to hold criminals responsible.”

The “criminals” include Congress. Cowards and copouts. The criminals include the NRA. The criminals include politicians up and down the line lacking courage enough to challenge the gun manufacturers lobby who sell fear as much as death.

Yes, the criminals include lawyers who found a profitable career on playing off mediocre legislation against chickenshit courts, bought-and-paid-for judges. That includes more than judges owned by political interests; but, those who cave in to foolish political trends which have nothing to do with reality.

I could roll on for pages on all the currents that bring us to this whirlpool of death. Yes, it includes the history of corrupt, racist police departments. Chicago being one of the worst. None of it takes away from the consummate cowardice and failure of Congressional political hacks. They couldn’t provide leadership to a hound dog looking for a meal in the city garbage dump.

Zero-tolerance madness in Washington school

Webster’s defines “tag” as “a game in which the player who is it chases others and tries to touch one of them who then becomes it.” Wikipedia explains that the game, also known in Britain as “it, tip you’re it” is “a playground game that involves one or more players chasing other players in an attempt to ‘tag’ or touch them, usually with their hands.”

So is the game of “tag” still “tag” if tagging is banned?

That is the question for the Mercer County School District in Washington state and for some unhappy parents.

It all started with a social media report earlier this week when a group of parents, responding to what they had heard was a ban on the game of tag in elementary schools, formed a group called “Support ‘tag’ at Recess.”

It was their impression that there was indeed a ban and the word soon spread to the news media…

Sounds like a ban to me

“The Mercer Island School District and school teams have recently revisited expectations for student behavior to address student safety. This means while at play, especially during recess and unstructured time, students are expected to keep their hands to themselves. The rationale behind this is to ensure the physical and emotional safety of all students…”

Thursday the school district attempted to clarify. What it really has in mind, said a statement, was a “new form of tag-like running games to minimize the issues of ‘you were tagged/no I wasn’t’ or ‘the tag was too hard and felt more like a hit.’ Tag is not banned,” it insisted. “We plan to support our elementary students with new games and alternatives that still involve running and exercising.”

Running. Exercising. But no mention of touching, however, raising the question of how a child can become “it” without being touched.

RTFA. It goes on and on, here and there. The object is central to what I’ve been watching happen to education in America since the 1950’s. How to educate our children is now grounded in becoming a vaguely Freudian assembly for the purpose of group therapy.

I can understand any portion of our alienated society trying to come to grips with stupidity, grand illusions, imperial arrogance, bigotry, misogyny, the whole ball of bullshit our culture is capable of. Replacing education with touchy-feely fear and trembling aids nothing more than ignorance.

Canada’s Harper forced to address death of refugees like Aylan Kurdi

Click to enlargeThe body of Aylan Kurdi on a Turkish beach

This is an image that must not be forgotten. Like the image of a young VietNamese girl fleeing the napalm that burned her body, like the image of an infant alone in the rubble of Nanjing, terrible moments in an uncaring world are critical to history.

I apologize if I have offended anyone.

Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, has been forced to defend his government’s record on refugees after it emerged that a Syrian boy whose body washed ashore in Turkey this week had family in Canada.

Shocking images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s s body lying face down in the surf not far from Turkey’s fashionable resort town of Bodrum captured the world’s attention and appeared on the front pages of newspapers worldwide.

His older brother Galip, five, and mother also died while trying to reach Europe.

Reports that Canada had rejected an asylum application by members of the boy’s family quickly made the tragedy a major issue in the country’s federal election campaign and forced the Conservative leader to change his schedule to address the controversy.

In a tearful news conference in British Columbia on Thursday, Aylan’s aunt, Tima Kurdi, described their father Abdullah’s desperate struggle to keep his young sons from drowning after their boat capsized.

Seeing Aylan was no longer alive “he closed his eyes and let him go”, she said, sobbing. “They didn’t deserve to die. They wanted a better life.”

Contrary to earlier reports, Tima, who has been in Canada for 20 years, said she had not sponsored Abdullah and his family as refugee claimants but instead had tried to bring in another brother, Mohammed, and his children.

She said he is currently in Germany after his bid was rejected…

At a campaign stop, Harper…addressed the Kurdi family’s tragedy, calling it blah, blah, blah…

According to the department of citizenship and immigration, Canada has resettled a total 2,374 Syrian refugees, the majority of them through private sponsorship.

The Conservative Canadian government hasn’t done enough. Which is what most thoughtful human beings expected.

Our own government, between a White House consumed with election tactics and a Congress ruled by bigots and white nativists only concerned with turning the clock back to the 18th or 19th Century, will only offer solutions profitable to our own arms industry. Every question must be answered with a gun. Every problem can be solved with a bomb.

Canadians can’t stop laughing over Scott Walker’s border wall proposal

Click to enlargeObviously, we need a wall here…

Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford says Canada has no plans to invade the United States – and that Americans can rest assured the threat from the north is receding.

There is no need, the ailing mayor and most cackling Canadians seem to agree, for the 5,000-mile wall along the Canadian border that presidential candidate Scott Walker suggested this week is “a legitimate issue” on the campaign trail to the White House…

“I don’t have a problem with the States,” the outspoken former mayor declared in a brief interview with the Guardian on Monday evening, as he limped toward Toronto’s Rogers Centre to watch the city’s surging Blue Jays baseball team play the Cleveland Indians, a rival visiting from the far side of unfortified Lake Erie.

Most Canadians, the former magistrate known for smoking crack added, are similarly well-disposed toward their southern neighbours – and understand full well that such an endeavour would be nearly impossible anyway…

“It’s ludicrous and hilarious,” a Blue Jays fan named Neil from Toronto said of Walker’s fleeting flirtation with a norther border wall. “But that’s the Republicans.”

Bonnie, from nearby Milton, could not stop laughing at the mention of Walker’s name. “He’s a nutcase,” she exclaimed. “They can’t afford healthcare, but they can afford walls.”…

Defending the US-Canadian border would – hypothetically, of course – require a wall 8,891 kilometres long, with 2,475 kilometres devoted to protecting Alaskan wilderness and even more wall running down the middle of the Great Lakes.

Citing preliminary estimates made by the US Department of Homeland Security for the cost of a southern wall with Mexico, the Toronto Star estimated the cost of a Walker-style wall at “north of $18 billion (US)”…

Cheerfully channeling Sarah Palin, Mike Bradley boasted that he can see America from his window in the Canadian border town of Sarnia, where he is mayor. But to him and others who have watched the increasing militarisation of the formerly undefended border over the past decade, Walker’s comments were no joke.

“This is just ongoing,” Bradley said, citing examples of unexpected hostility on the northern border since 9/11 including plans to launch observation balloons, proposals to charge fees for crossing the border, and live-fire exercises by US coast guard patrol vessels armed with machine guns.

The difference between ignorant and stupid requires that “stupid” work at defending their beliefs. So, what Canadians call the world’s longest undefended border is just one more opportunity for nutball militarists to resolve a paranoid delusion with guns.

NASA says the world won’t be destroyed in September

asteroids attack

Good news for those with plans for October and beyond: the Earth will still be in existence.

NASA has confirmed – after rumours swept the internet about an imminent asteroid strike expected between 15 and 28 September – that the two-week period in question will be entirely free of Earth-destroying space attacks.

The likelihood of any known potentially hazardous asteroid striking the planet within the next 100 years stands at 0.01%, the space agency said…

Persistent rumours on “numerous recent blogs and web postings” that an errant asteroid is due to wipe out not just Puerto Rico, but the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States and Mexico, as well as Central and South America, persuaded NASA scientists that they needed to speak up…

It is not the first time NASA has punctured the excitement of doom-mongers. In 2012, it dismissed claims that the comet Elenin was on its way to destroy mankind, calling it a “trail of piffling particles”.

The space agency was also proved right in its assertion that the world would not end on 21 December 2012, as the Mayan calendar came to an end, heralding the apocalypse.

Stupidity and ignorance, particularly regarding sciences like astronomy, unite populist nutballs of the Left and Right as thoroughly as do their fears of modern standards for teaching…or vaccination.

Military justice is to justice as military music is to music

This was a slogan during the resistance to the US War in VietNam: Military justice is to justice as military music is to music. We all recognized rigidity, reactionary, out-of-date definitions corrupting any sense of being modern or useful.

The song remains the same. Chelsea Manning faces solitary confinement for having the Jenner Vanity Fair issue in her cell.

Chelsea Manning, the US army soldier serving a 35-year military prison sentence for leaking official secrets, has been threatened with indefinite solitary confinement for having an expired tube of toothpaste in her cell and being found in possession of the Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair issue…

Manning, a Guardian columnist who writes about global affairs, intelligence issues and transgender rights from prison in the brig of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has allegedly been charged with four violations of custody rules that her lawyers have denounced as absurd and a form of harassment. The army private is reportedly accused of having showed “disrespect”; of having displayed “disorderly conduct” by sweeping food onto the floor during dinner chow; of having kept “prohibited property” – that is books and magazines – in her cell; and of having committing “medicine misuse”, referring to the tube of toothpaste, according to Manning’s supporters.

The maximum punishment for such offences is an indeterminate amount of time in a solitary confinement cell.

The fourth charge, “medicine misuse”, follows an inspection of Manning’s cell on 9 July during which a tube of anti-cavity toothpaste was found. The prison authorities noted that Manning was entitled to have the toothpaste in her cell, but is penalizing her because it was “past its expiration date of 9 April 2015”.

The “prohibited property” charge relates to a number of books and magazines that were found in her cell and confiscated. They included the memoir I Am Malala by Nobel peace prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, a novel featuring trans women called A Safe Girl to Love, the LGBT publication Out Magazine, the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair and a copy of Cosmopolitan that included an interview with Manning.

Also confiscated was the US Senate report on torture. It is not clear why any of these publications were considered violations of prison rules – a request by the Guardian to the army public affairs team for an explanation of the charges received no immediate response.

RTFA for more details of the crap we expect from the United States. Not just for political prisoners, of course. If you try to learn and think, perhaps voice some level of dissent from the Dark Ages mentality of most American jailers – you’re in trouble.

Who is the insane outlier on guns?

In developed countries, there is a strong correlation between the number of guns and incidences of gun violence. In 2012, the US, which has the most guns per capita, also had the most firearm-related homicides of developed countries. Japan, which has the lowest rate of gun ownership, had the least:

Click to enlarge

VOX offers tidy, apt infographics on all topics. This batch is particularly relevant.

Take the time to wander through the collection of 13 cards at the bottom of the article.

Tsarnaev trial: Constitutional answer to Republican fear of democracy

The trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev…has already been a success. The community learned important new details of the bombing, and drew a step nearer to putting the traumatic week of the bombing and Watertown manhunt in the rearview mirror. Just as important, by showing the world that terror suspects can get a fair trial, the proceedings have helped restore some global respect for American justice — and vindicated the Obama administration’s decision to keep him within the conventional justice system from the beginning.

It’s easy to forget that just after Tsarnaev’s arrest, the administration came under criticism for failing to ship Tsarnaev off to military detention. New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, along with colleagues John McCain and Lindsey Graham, called for the administration to take Tsarnaev into military custody, rather than charge the suspected bomber in civilian courts. The legal arguments against the senators’ position have been thoroughly aired already, but the advantages of civilian trials are not solely procedural. Should another domestic terror attack like the Marathon bombing strike the United States, the Tsarnaev trial should stand as an example of why keeping terror suspects in the normal justice system is preferable for the communities they target, too…

…No harm has come to national security from treating Tsarnaev, who is a US citizen, as a conventional defendant. Reading him his Miranda rights, a step bemoaned by the senators, did not hamper the case. On the contrary, the United States avoided the needless, self-inflicted black eye that would have come had authorities skirted established protections for criminal defendants. And the jury’s verdict…will have a credibility that would have been lacking had Tsarnaev been subject to military detention and interrogation first.

The fixation on putting domestic terrorism suspects into military custody reflects a longstanding obsession of McCain and Graham, and as long as they continue to beat that drum, civilian trials like Tsarnaev’s will need defending. The good that has come from holding an open, fair, and untainted trial in the United States, near the scene of the crime, cannot be underestimated. It’s unfortunate that the senators tried to derail this healthy constitutional process, but hopefully the Tsarnaev trial will serve as a reminder of its value.

No one argues that a system of trial by jury, peers determined mostly by geography and economics, is faultless. There are a number of things that can go wrong – starting with corrupt police and prosecutors. Regardless, the system works a lot better than anything else our nation has tried.

The system certainly works a lot better than torture and inquisition, the favorites of leading Republicans. Though McCain and Graham, Ayotte and other long-standing conservatives, often offer opportunist blather catering to the Tea Party faction of today’s Republican Party, their opposition to public trials is a reflection of a conservative theme more elitist than lynch mobs. And like most self-concerned politicians, I doubt they will admit their foolishness now that the Marathon Bombing trial is beyond the stage of guilt or innocence.

I’ll keep my opinion on capital punishment separate from this post. It’s radical enough to be a distraction.

The point remains that today’s conservatives continue their disservice to traditions rooted in our Constitution. All that revulsed American colonists about what passed for justice from 18th Century English law would be returned to power by reactionary fools like Graham and McCain if they had their way. If they get their way, someday.

Trial by jury, the right to confront accusers, the right to a timely trial, habeas corpus – were significant standards raised before the whole world by the American revolution. It is too kind to call politicians who would turn their back on this part of our history – fools. Their corruption runs deeper than that.