2018/02/22

Should teachers be armed?


President Trump suggested arming school teachers as a response to school shootings.

I guess one of the problems I have with arming teachers and expecting them to take a bullet for their students is the piece that ran in a local paper about restaurant service. "Seven of 45 called waiters to show them something on their phone usually about having problems with WiFi and wasted five minutes of waiter time." If you need to request the password in order to get onto the restaurant's wifi, then the time that uses up is the fault of the restaurant. Otherwise, if I'm having difficulties with the wifi, I consider it my responsibility to stock up a few stories on my phone or tablet that I can then read if the wifi isn't working. It's not the responsibility of waiters to know all about my technical devices. Not their profession, they're not trained to know anything about that.

I believe the same principle applies to teachers. Teachers are not soldiers or bodyguards. Not their job, not their profession. For that matter, it wasn't the job or profession of soldiers to rebuild Iraq. A soldiers job is to kill bad guys. For rebuilding another country, we need a paramilitary or protected "Colonial Corps" of people who can administer cities, towns and villages. We can expect all human beings to go above and beyond the call of duty on rare and exceptional occasions, but let's not ask teachers to carry guns. Let's stick to having them stay within their chosen professions and expertise. 

A photo of Israeli schoolchildren and what appeared to be an armed teacher gave an inaccurate impression that Israeli teachers are armed. No, the "teacher" was actually a bodyguard. On the occasion that Israeli schoolchildren take a field trip to a possibly dangerous location, they're accompanied by armed guards. The piece goes on to examine Israel and how it keeps schoolchildren safe.

And no, no one goes to school to open fire at because it's in a "gun free zone." They go to the school because they want to shoot up the school. Period. Full stop. Gun free zone or not, the shooter often intend to die, so if a person pulls out a gun to stop them with, they're probably going to welcome being killed.  USA Today listed a whole series of times that a mass shooter has struck at a military base from 1994 through 2014

Teachers are under-equipped and underpaid. They often have to purchase school supplies out of their own salaries. When I was in the Navy, I paid for absolutely nothing that I needed to perform my duties with. Everything I needed was supplied by the service. Most jobs in the US work that way and have done so since the Industrial Revolution began (which was right after the Civil War). I think most teachers would object to adding being armed guards to their already-heavy load of duties.

How well-equipped are classrooms now? Remember the students who had to come to class in heavy coats? Just last December, a high school in Baltimore, due to an aging heating system breaking down, had students report with coats and blankets in order to continue their studies. As long as something like this happens anywhere in the country, then no, we don't have the resources to add firearms training to teacher schedules.


Suppose teachers are armed. Note that President Reagan was surrounded by armed people in 1981 and suffered wounds from a shooter anyway. What's the difference today? Are bodyguards or the Secret Service braver or more self-sacrificing? No, it's because when a high-value target is going to be out in the open, the Secret Service locks down the whole area. I was in a similar lock-down when I and my sister visited Ireland in the late 90s. We were strolling down the street and all of the sudden, we noticed black-uniformed, heavily-armed guards lining the street at about 10 or 15 yard intervals. I looked around and sure enough, there was an armored car delivery being made. Clearly, they still recalled the days when they had to worry about IRA attacks. 

And hey, good on Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who brings up the very good point that arming teachers means that it could be difficult for first responders to distinguish between teachers trying to defend their students and the actual shooter.

Finally, it's important to keep in mind that in the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, the bullets fired by the shooter traveled 300 yards to reach their targets. Those bullets were traveling downwards and the shooter had more than one window to shoot from. Returning fire was possible, but only if one was a professional sniper with a high-powered rifle. Having people armed with pistols in the crowd would have made absolutely zero difference.




2018/02/18

Most divisive president in US history


Here’s a tweet from President Trump that was just put out today.

Why on Earth would Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran provoke an investigation? There was never the slightest question as to where the money was originally from. The Shah of Iran had paid for US weapons. The delivery of those weapons was canceled because of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Their $1.7 billion was frozen and released by the nuclear deal of July 2015. Nor has there been any question that Iran has held up its end of the deal. President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were not completely happy with all of the relationship between the US and Iran, but Tillerson could not cite any way in which Iran was not keeping the agreement.

This is divisive because there’s no reason for this complaint beyond just making trouble and raising unwarranted doubts about the last president. 

 
But what really got to me was this one.

 
So the President says people should report suspicious individuals. Okay. That’s a reasonable requirement. But this is kind of “victim blaming” language as it suggests that people who knew the Florida shooter were slacking off and not alerting authorities.


On January 5, 2018, a person close to Nikolas Cruz contacted the FBI’s Public Access Line (PAL) tipline to report concerns about him. The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.

The FBI admitted that the tip really should have been acted on and that it was their fault that it wasn’t.

Was there another factor that might have contributed to Nikolas Cruz taking his legally-acquired AR-15 to the Parkland school? Well, yes! The fact that it was legal for him to acquire an AR-15 in the first place!

A little over a month after his inauguration, on Feb. 28, 2017, President Trump signed HJ Resolution 40, a bill that made it easier for people with mental illness to obtain guns.

As the president observed, the shooter demonstrated signs that he was “mentally disturbed.”

Now, the spokesperson for the FLOTUS, Melania Trump, said 

 
But this wasn’t a case of the President being attacked. It’s a case of the Republican Party passing a bill and the President signing it that contributed to the shooting in Parkland, FL. It hardly counts as an attack when people point this out. It’s called “assigning responsibility.” Did Trump takes responsibility in the manner that the FBI did? Uh, no.

 
I think the phrase "Walk and chew gum" applies here. I think the FBI is more than capable of handling their investigation of Trump along with responding to tips. 

What gets to me is that there's no admission by Trump that he engaged in victim-blaming. No admission that he was wrong to say that people “Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!” They DID report! And there was more than one report. Trump just blames the FBI for a fault that they themselves admitted to.

This is not a President who will ever accomplish anything good. He’s far too wrapped up in trying to see to it that he never gets blamed for anything, even when something is obviously his fault. Signing the bill that permitted people with mental problems to obtain guns anyway was clearly something he could have refused to do. It was the fault of the Republican Party to pass such a bill in the first place, but that doesn’t absolve Trump in any way. It’s his signature on the bill.

I very seriously do not believe the US has ever had a more divisive president! 








2018/02/10

Are federally-funded pregnancy health centers the answer?

Of course, it's entirely possible for anti-choicers to construct centers that provide medical services for women. Obviously, if Planned Parenthood was serving a wealthy population with cash to spare, Planned Parenthood might never have come into being. Any pregnancy health centers needs to be funded either by voluntary contributions with no expectation of financial returns or they'd need government funding.  But with a little over a million abortions in 2011, is it at all likely that voluntary contributions will be forthcoming on the necessary scale? A major point that anti-choicers made was that they don't need to as there are  federal community health centers.
But Abby Johnson, a Catholic and former Planned Parenthood facility director, told the Register that the nation’s approximately 10,000 federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) could absorb clients from any Planned Parenthood closures. However, she said these health centers are “not the whole package” women need, because they have material, physical and emotional needs that only pro-life medical centers can provide comprehensively. 
Also,
House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan succinctly and calmly laid out the case for redirecting taxpayer dollars from abortion goliath Planned Parenthood to federal community health centers at a CNN townhall Thursday night.  
So hey, not a problem, right? Instead of having women depending on that icky Planned Parenthood for needed pregnancy-related medical health services, just refer them to the federal community health centers. Simple, right? Well, those same centers, while serving around 27 million people at 10,000 centers, are under serious financial pressure and are having to impose hiring freezes and a little over half of them may have to lay off staff.

Planned Parenthood depends on Medicaid reimbursements, but they're not the government and therefore aren't quite as vulnerable to political pressure as the federally-funded health centers are. So no, the anti-choice movement really doesn't have an adequate answer to the pregnancy-related health care services that Planned Parenthood provides.

2018/02/03

President Trump and racism

This exchange between our President and a "career intelligence analyst who is an expert in hostage policy" is about the best example I've seen as to how someone can be a racist without being a really obvious, "out" or up-front racist. That is, without being a bedsheet-wearing night-rider who burns crosses on people's lawns or who openly uses the n-word.
It was her first time meeting the president, and when she was done briefing, he had a question for her.
"Where are you from?" the president asked, according to two officials with direct knowledge of the exchange.
New York, she replied.
Trump was unsatisfied and asked again, the officials said.

After some back and forth, he was finally satisfied when she revealed she was of Korean descent. Trump wondered aloud why she wasn't working on negotiations with North Korea.

What Trump did here was to assume that everybody acts without any regard for professionalism or any sort of objective viewpoint. That everybody acts in a race-conscious manner to advance the interests of their own race. 

Personally, I like comic strips like "Baldo," 
"Edge City"


and "Jump Start,"


strips about, respectively, a Latino, a Jewish and a black family. In all three cases, the families are aware of and take pride in their heritage. In none of these cases would these families regard their heritage as overriding their professionalism or their patriotism. For a racist like Trump, we're all in a "zero-sum game," where one group is constantly battling other groups for advantage, where people get their life missions from their ethnicity.

Update: 
Sigh! Okay, how do we distinguish racists from non-racists? Let’s look at an example.
Sessions invokes'Anglo-American heritage' of sheriff's office
Washington (CNN) Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday brought up sheriffs' "Anglo-American heritage" during remarks to law enforcement officials in Washington.
"I want to thank every sheriff in America. Since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people's protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and accountable to people through the elected process," Sessions said in remarks at the National Sheriffs Association winter meeting, adding, "The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement."
"We must never erode this historic office," Sessions continued.

The addition of “Anglo-American heritage” was an ad lib by Sessions. Anglo-Americans might have historically invented modern law enforcement, but is there anything special about the way Anglo-Americans actually enforce the law in practice? 

Let’s look at the 2002 movie "Bend it like Beckham," we follow the adventures of two young English women (That's why they call it football and not soccer) who play soccer on the same team. On the field and in ways that relate directly to the game, they're very much alike. At home, because one is Anglo-Saxon and the other is a Sikh, they're very different. 

Same thing with law enforcement. Soccer is not a sport that’s restricted to any nationality or ethnicity, and in America, conducting law enforcement is not specific to Anglo-Americans. Soccer and law enforcement are alike in the way that any ethnic group can do them and they’ll all do it in the same manner.