Archive for December, 2012

Once Again, Something Positive: TED.com

28 December 2012

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading provides a feast for those hungry for ideas, for information, for substance–as opposed to substances. The site has a search engine and its contents include talks by experts on business, science, pretty much anything and everything that intelligent people might find interesting.

I’m now going to click away and listen to a TED talk by my favorite linguist: “Steven Pinker: What Our Language Habits Reveal.”

Cassandra

P.S. As I previewed this, I discovered links in orange–on my screen, at least–over the words “business” and “people.” These unintended links demonstrate that everything, my little blog included, is supposed to sell us stuff, and, unless we are willing to pay money to be left alone, such intrusions will continue. Hmmm. Now “continue” pops up a link too. Oh well. Perhaps they’ll all go away when I hit “Publish.” If not, they provide more proof of the unwritten motto of America: Advertising R US.

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Handbasket Report: “There Is No American Left”

27 December 2012

I just read this.

There Is No American Left.

While reading, I nodded several times, said, “Yup” a couple of times, and then fell into silence.

I wish I liked hard liquor.

Cassandra

Out-Foxed?

25 December 2012

The infamous Westboro Baptist Church, the tiny “God Hates Fags” industry, strives to turn family tragedies into polemical hatefests. Of late more sensible people have organized to stop them. This photo accompanied a brief Fox News article on how “conservative bikers” blocked the Westboro protesters.

So far so good.

Then Fox News put this caption under the photo: “Bikers Turn Out to Protect Newtown Mourners from Left-Wing Westboro Cult”

I hope this phrasing was a simple twist of hate.

Cassandra

No Hedging from Hedges

25 December 2012

Chris Hedges is, I fear, onto something.

“The Final Battle”

I fear Hedges is right.

Cassandra

NRA Amnesia

22 December 2012

The National Rifle Association (NRA) proposes armed guards for all schools in America. This doesn’t work. How do I know this? Unlike the NRA, I remember Columbine. An armed, uniformed police officer was there when the shooting started.

Here’re the first couple of paragraphs of “Deputies on Scene,” part of the report by the Jefferson County Sherrif’s office.

Community Resource Officer Called to “Back Lot”

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Neil Gardner soon would complete his second year as the uniformed community resource officer assigned to Columbine High School. Gardner, a 15-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, normally ate his lunch with the students in the cafeteria during first lunch period. His car would have been parked in his “normal spot” in front of the cafeteria doors – between the junior and senior parking lots.

On April 20, however, Deputy Gardner and campus supervisor Andy Marton, an unarmed school security officer employed by the school district, were eating lunch in Gardner’s patrol car. They were monitoring students in the “Smokers’ Pit,” a spot just to the northwest of campus in Clement Park where the students congregated to smoke cigarettes.

Gardner had just finished his lunch when he received a call over the school’s radio from a custodian. “Neil,” called the custodian in a panicked voice, “I need you in the back lot!”

Gardner pulled out of the parking lot near the school’s tennis courts and drove onto Pierce Street in front of the school. The “back lot” being referred to by the custodian, he assumed, was the south student parking lot by the cafeteria. As soon as he pulled onto Pierce Street, he heard another call being dispatched over the Sheriff’s radio, “Female down in the south lot of Columbine High School.” He activated his lights and siren. It was 11:23.

In his own mind, he recalled later, he thought someone probably had been hit by a car.

First Shooter Seen

As soon as Gardner pulled into the south parking lot off of South Pierce Street, he saw kids running out of the school in every direction. As he drove around toward the south lot, he also saw smoke coming from the west end of the parking lot and heard several loud explosions. Students standing on the soccer field were pointing toward the building. He could hear gunshots coming from inside the school but could not pinpoint from where.

Gardner pulled his vehicle into the senior parking lot where he had a good vantage point. He could see both parking lots, the cafeteria and the second story west entrance to the school. As he got out of his patrol car, he received a second call on the school radio. “Neil, there’s a shooter in the school.”

Numerous patrol units and emergency vehicles already were responding to the school as the Sheriff’s dispatch center reported “female down” and “possible shots fired at Columbine High School.” There was so much traffic on the police radio that Gardner could not tell dispatch he was on scene.

As Gardner stepped out of his patrol car, Eric Harris turned his attention from shooting into the west doors of the high school to the student parking lot and to the deputy. Gardner, particularly visible in the bright yellow shirt of the community resource officer uniform, was the target of Harris’ bullets. Harris fired about 10 shots from his rifle at Gardner before his gun jammed. Although Gardner’s patrol car was not hit by bullets, two vehicles that he was parked behind were hit by Harris’ gunfire. Investigators later found two bullet holes in each of the cars.

CNN has the full report here.

Of course, the NRA will probably respond that the guards should be better armed. Pardon me if I roll my eyes. We focus on the Second Amendment and fail to examine the roots.
Why are so few talking about keeping the mentally ill away from weapons? How many of us freak out when teenagers spend hours, even days obsessively playing violent video games?

Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Guns just make killing easier and more efficient.

Cassandra

Clutching

21 December 2012

Click the link below to see a fine cartoon on the reactions of many Americans to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Clutching.

Wal-Mart de Mexico: Viva Corruption!

18 December 2012

Mexico already suffers from rampant corruption, but Wal-Mart de Mexico more than holds its own.

“The Bribery Aisle: How Wal-Mart Got Its Way
in Mexico”

Somehow, I am not surprised.

Cassandra

Alone Together: China and the US

15 December 2012

While the Sandy Hook massacre still covers TV screens and computer monitors everywhere I look, few Americans know that on the same day a lone attacker rampaged through a Chinese elementary school wounding 22 students and one adult. Understandably, the tragedy close to home got more attention. Yet since school invasions, including savage killings of school children, have troubled China for the last few years, shouldn’t we wonder why this is happening there and now here?

It bothers me that, instead of looking for root causes, America focuses on the obvious–the HOW of what happened. For example, one article covered the latest Chinese attack focuses on the weapons involved: “’None Dead’ in China: Sensible Laws vs. Maniacal Attacks.”  Is focusing on weaponry useful? Are gun laws the answer?

This afternoon I talked to my neighbor, a practicing psychologist who deals with the mentally ill on a daily basis, she said, “We aren’t even asking the right questions.” She stressed the role of mental illness and the ineffective reactions to it in our bureaucracy. She complained about the perfunctory release of obviously disturbed individuals after the required 72 hour hold. Certainly, this contributes, but what’s under this? The occasional Jack the Ripper pops up in history every now and then, but in the United States, mass killings occur so often that today Jack the Ripper would probably be a short article on some local page nine and not even a big blip on CNN.

Finally, I found a brief 2010 article titled China Searches for Answers after School Attacks.”  Here’s a major part:

Ji Jianlin, a professor of clinical psychology at Shanghai’s Fudan University, says the incidents share some common features.

“The attackers all have grudges against society. They all try to take revenge by attacking the young and vulnerable,” he says.

In part, it reflects the social tension caused by rampant corruption and inequality. But Prof Ji points out that there is a lack of social and psychological support in the rapidly changing society.

“In the past, China’s workers used to have social support from the unions or women’s associations. They used to provide quite adequate support. It’s now quite weak.”

This is especially true in smaller cities and towns. In a country where people used to be looked after from cradle to grave, the social change has not only left many Chinese without their traditional support mechanism but also pushed a large number of people into relative poverty.

And the income gap is widening further between the rich and poor.

This, coupled with a changed attitude towards life, has driven many to extremes in their desperate attempt to come to terms with the law of the jungle prevalent there.

On top of that, there is still a stigma in Chinese culture about people needing psychological counselling.

Family members and society as a whole tend to conceal or shun those with mental problems. This may partly lead to attackers failing to get help before they commit crimes.

There is also suspicion that widespread reports of the attacks may have encouraged copycats. Three out of the four recent attacks were carried out with knives.

Mental illness, corruption, a wealth gap, a “rapidly changing society”? Does any of this sound familiar?

I have no answers, but I found myself looking up “anomie.”

Can the melding of corruption, a wealth gap, and rapid societal change create a perfect storm? National insanity? Why do I want to say “Rwanda”?

Cassandra

Cut the Grass

13 December 2012

We need to cut the budget, right? I suggest we start by cutting military golf courses. Why? Read this: “U.S. Military Spends Tens of Millions of Dollars on Golf Courses, Luxury Perks for Generals”

I protested against blue grass lawns in dry areas back in 2008 in “Death to Infidel Lawns.”  For reasons both aesthetic and socio-economic, golf courses sicken me. However, I do not hate grass. I love grasses. Only the frivolous, wasteful, and inappropriate use grass angers me. Golf courses in non-bluegrass friendly areas gulp water and require more care than a pre-Revolution French aristocrat, and today’s reflexive use of blue grass as a mandatory feature of–

Oh, go read “Death to Infidel Lawns.”

But remember the goodness of grass. Humans crave the beauty of the Savannah where grazing animals produced a mix of lawns and roughs. There, man becomes a part of nature. In contrast, golf courses parody nature and embolden the powerful to waste water, land, and manpower.

The contrast between man in nature and man attempting to dominate nature troubles me every day. So, thinking of man, thinking of grass, I clicked up photos of the water-thrifty grasses  surrounding our house–buffalo grass, blue grama, sand love grass, little bluestem, big bluestem, and side oats grama.

12-09-08 east yard high plains coreo chinese garlic

My thoughts wander off topic, distracted by my grasses. Forgive me.

Stop military golf courses. STOP GRASS ABUSE NOW!

Cassandra

Amazon UPDATE

12 December 2012

UPDATE to “Amazon, the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla”:

Dr. Steven Leeb, a regualr contributor on Seeking Alpha, one of my favorite investing sites, carried this column today (12/12/12): “Amazon: Anathema To Value Investors?”

To me, Leeb’s outline Bezo’s vision shows the company’s shrewd, long term legal, but in my view predatory, planning.

How many useful little local companies will fail because of this business model? More importantly perhaps, how many consumers will not be able to buy anything locally when–please note I did not say if, for I too am a long term planner–the internet goes down for long periods of time and then forever. Our energy consumption assures the snapping of the grid at some point, doesn’t it? Or do you think that energy is endless and that growth can go on forever?

Oh well, I suppose by the time the internet fails entirely any surviving local companies would have serious supply problems anyway.

Have a nice day.

Cassandra