Insatiable Hunger for Information

Finally! I’m writing about something other that gun control. Unfortunately, it is still about Sandy Hook Elementary School. I’ve noticed all sorts of tributes to the children, and only sometimes the staff (which in itself is terrible), on the news, in the papers, Monday Night Football, and even The Voice. But, one thing seems to have been forgotten, or at least I think so. The thing that I think we are forgetting is, Ryan Lanza. 

You see, The man has gone through an enormously terrible time in the last week. He was directly impacted by the shooting, more than most everyone else. He has lost almost everything. He lost his Mother, and his brother. All of this to his brother’s hand. Not only has he lost nearly all of his family, but at first, on national television, he was accused of the rampage.

The country blew up! All across social networking sites, people were saying things like “I would shoot Ryan Lanza right now, and not feel bad at all.”

And, they were wrong. Can you imagine? The roller coaster he must have been on, being accused of a massacre he knew nothing about, then finding out it was his brother all along, and his mother is dead too! And, you know what? 

It’s our fault. 

We could blame all of the news networking sites, but they were merely appeasing all of our wishes. I mean, realistically, what did you do when you first heard of it? I know what I did. I turned on the news. I expected information. I expected to hear something that would help me understand a situation that barely effected me. It took place nearly 400 miles from me, but I had to know.

And, when I “have” to know something, I expect the news to tell me. We took Ryan Lanza, during the worst moment in his entire life, and raked him through the coals. And why did we do this? For our entertainment. We had to know.

Now, I understand that mistakes are made. They happen all of the time. Don’t get me wrong. I am not calling for the punishment of these news networks, although I would be surprised if Ryan Lanza did not sue them for defamation, but we have to, and news networks have to understand that we hold enormous power. We have the power to learn anything and to say anything we want, and thanks to the internet and cell phones, we can do these things faster than ever. Faster than we can check the validity of the things we are learning and saying.

Perhaps too fast. 

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Assault Rifle Myth

I am not going to lie to you. I don’t know that much about guns. I have shot a few, but I have never been licensed or owned one of my own. I am not one of those “gun toting” conservatives that, according to Sarah Palin, make this country so great, but I do not side with those who would like to see the private ownership of firearms disappear. I have said before that the private ownership of assault rifles, like the one used the the elementary school massacre, seems a bit shaky to me, but I do not see enough reason to remove them from people who have acquired them legally.

Here is the problem that I keep seeing. All over social networking sites, people are talking about the assault rifles as if they were monsters that exist to do nothing other than kill and turn their innocent owners into rampaging lunatics, is if they contain some sort of dormant virus waiting to prey on their gun owning host. Perhaps that is an enormous exaggeration, but people are reacting emotionally to this horrific incident, instead of taking the time to cool down, and not react in hate. I imagine it would be impossible to scroll through your Facebook (or whichever social networking you choose to use) without seeing something about banning assault rifles.

When we start to think about this rationally, what really separates an assault rifle from a handgun? Assault rifles look much meaner, but the two weapons actually serve close to the same purpose, and the word “close” may not make this fall the way you might think. Rifles, a class of gun, take multiple forms. They can be used in hunting, or be more like the AR-15 the shooter used. Handguns, while they can have multiple different names, all serve one purpose. What purpose does the handgun serve? It is very simple.

People killer.

Handguns are designed for the specific purpose of killing humans. Some may say that they are used in hunting, but that is a misnomer. Some hunters will carry a handgun as a means of  last defense in a dangerous situation. Self defense, not hunting. Hunters do not walk into the woods with a handguns to take down deer. That would be silly. Some would say, and mostly be right, that assault rifles hold more ammunition at one time. The oversight however, is the ease and speed of reloading handguns. This paired with the small size of handgun clips allows for crazy people to fire off just as much ammunition with handguns. Also, there is difference in the caliber of the ammunition, but this is a plus and minus as well. Bigger bullets are more lethal, but more difficult to carry large numbers of them. Smaller bullets in turn are less lethal, but easier to carry outrageous numbers of rounds. Accuracy is the last thing that might be brought up. Realistically, and this may seem gruesome, accuracy does not matter in room the size of a classroom, or even a movie theater.

Now, to be clear, this is more of a rant about some of the things I am seeing on social networking than anything else. But it seems to me that people have quickly forgotten that assault rifles do not perpetuate these types of actions. Not long ago, at a college known as Virginia Tech, a shooter, armed with only two handguns, killed 33 people and injured 17.

This isn’t going to dissuade anyone, and may only make people who want to ban assault rifles want to ban handguns too, but the most recent attacks on the private ownership of assault rifles is nothing but an emotional response to the recent massacre, and have not been thought out in a rational arena. While they may seem like great ideas, politically they make little sense. I believe this is the case with the Assault Rifle Ban that many people would like to see put back into effect, but the major oversight is that thanks to our Constitution, and its protection against “ex post facto” law, existing assault rifles cannot be banned. It merely prevents the sale of new firearms through dealers who would likely background check anyways. The problem that follows is that the existing weapons can still be sold at gun shows by people who may, or may not, background check. As a matter of fact, they may not even ask for a photo I.D.

I personally believe that the problem with gun violence in our society is not to be solved with legislation restricting gun rights (I have already mentioned that laws only affect those who follow the law, which is not a category murderers fall into.). It seems more reasonable that we as a society need to push for a more responsible means for the sales of firearms, so that they may not fall into the hands of the people we are talking about in the first place. We need to ensure background checks for the purchase of all firearms, with hefty penalties for distributors who fail to meet this requirement. We ought to develop our understanding and recognition of personality disorders which are often the active ingredient in horrible evens such as the massacre that just took place.

Perhaps assault weapons, and other high powered firearms, could be lumped into one class or category, with which one would have to clear more thorough clearances, as my (nameless) friend, who I do not always agree with but have come to respect quite a bit, over at “Reason and Politics” has suggested. Check it out at:

http://reasoningpolitics.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/gun-registration-is-the-solution-gun-violence/

A Sensible Reaction

Today, just one day after the horrific incident in Newtown, many are glued to their television sets, waiting in anticipation for any new bits of information coming through the airwaves. Depending on which news stations you are watching (I am convinced none are truly better than the other, but instead just lean different ways with bias) you might be hearing something along the lines of tighter gun control might have avoided the massacre as we now know it. Now, that could be true, based merely on speculation, but based on facts it it simply does not hold any weight.

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I would like to introduce you to a country. This country’s name is China. In China, the government control all firearms, and it is illegal to privately own one. The only way in which someone can legally carry weapons is to be a member of police, hunt on government dictated hunting lands, or go to a shooting rage (a privilege that probably only those of the National Shooting team gets.). Nonetheless, you do not have access to a  gun unless the government actually hands you one, the chances of which are slim to none, in that nation of billions.

Now based on this argument, in China, a nation without guns, an atrocity such as the elementary school shooting would never happen, right? Well, no. Not quite. Not long ago, a man forcibly broke his way into an elementary school in China and stabbed 15 students and one teacher with a knife. Sounds crazy, right? Well, the next month, another man in another part of China, forcibly entered another elementary school and stabbed 29 children, two teachers, and a security guard.

Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/29/28-children-stabbed-at-ki_n_556520.html

Here’s the thing, and I’ve said it before. Crazy people are crazy. They will be crazy no matter what. If somebody decides that they want to kill a bunch of innocent and defenseless people, there is little to nothing that anybody can do about it, and guns have little to do with that decision. The fact is, we live in a violent society, and so long as that is the case, we will have to put up with people that take it too far.

A Time for Tighter Gun Control?

Today, the country was shaken, as we learned about the events that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. A gunman, a scary sounding title for such a coward, walked into an elementary school, and proceeded to to shoot and kill 26 people (6 adults and 20 children.). The horrific nature of this crime has injected a dose of terror into the American people, leading to many people calling for more strict gun laws. Sounds reasonable, right? Less guns on the street would mean less crime committed with guns, right? Over the las 5 years or so, there have been something like 20 mass shootings per year. Sounds horrifying to me, and this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down either.

Well, as straight forward as that sounds, I would beg to differ. I do not believe that it is a easy as that. As a matter of fact, I think that is exactly the wrong thing to do.

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We can look at the movie theater shooting that took place not long ago. The theater had a strict policy, no guns allowed on their property. That means that nobody, except the shooter, had a deadly weapon, with which he could inflict as much carnage as he wanted. I honestly believe that if that that policy was not in effect, and if even one person had a means to protect themselves against the shooter, things would have turned out very differently. 

Now, to be clear, I am not going to preach about the second amendment, and all of that nonsense that you would hear a typical conservative spout off in a typical conversation about this topic. Let me make this clear; They are wrong. Owning a weapon is not exercising the second amendment. When you hear a conservative mention something like this, assume they are a member of a state held militia, and laugh to yourself when they get confused, for that is what the second amendment is actually about. 

My point is this; by cracking down on gun laws, you make it more difficult for law abiding citizens to carry a weapon, with which they could protect themselves. To the criminal, however, they still have their guns, and will continue to acquire guns illegally (criminals don’t follow laws by definition.). By taking this route, the shooter has a higher ability to kill multiple people and inflict mass carnage, as the victims would be defenseless from those who wish to inflict harm upon them, not much different than the elementary students involved in today’s shooting.

Just Pick One

The United States is a very interesting place. The home of the free and land of the brave, supposedly (I don’t know what makes us any more free or brave than, say, England.) We are a very diverse bunch. We are a nation of immigrants, from all over the world. We have multiple religions, ideologies, and political beliefs, despite the lack of representation for the last.

However, many of our quarrels come down to the decision between just two things. No other of such arguments have been as long lasting, and perhaps as bitter, as the the fight between big and small government. This argument has been fought since the very beginning, even during Washington’s presidency, in which he warned us about the pitfalls of party politics (in his farewell address.). Oh, how we listened to our most respected founding father.

The next election was between the Federalists and Anti-federalists. What separated these two parties? Not much more than the argument between small and big government.

And it is still fought today.

Today, we run this odd mix between the two forms of government. In a modern twist to a classic presidential quote, the American people seem to “ask what their country can do for them, not what they can do for their country.” Now, this would be fine, bigger government and all, so long as the government taxed us like a big government, but they don’t. Americans don’t like taxes.

We want to pay less, and get more. We have had presidents campaign on “no new taxes,” and we can even see republicans in congress, now, that are outraged at the notion of new taxes.

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Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Here’s the thing. I am a small government guy. I like the idea of small government and small taxes. I like the idea of a community fixing, or building, a park in the neighborhood, as opposed to securing government funds and workers to do such projects. I like the idea of soup kitchens, churches, and charity taking care of the poor, as opposed to mandatory taxes being allocated for such ventures.

But, as long as Americans keep asking for more and more government, we have to be willing to pay, financially, for such programs. It should be no question as to why the government can’t afford to continue the path it is on.

Now, this is clearly quite watered down, but the principle seems sound. We, Americans, need to either scale our government down to match the size of current tax revenue, or scale taxes up to the current rate of government spending.

So which one?

An Actual Waste of Money

So in my last post I asked you, dear reader, how it would be possible to actually “waste money.” I am sure that many of you reading this have your opinions on what is a waste, and how our government handles it’s money. But, as mentioned in my last post, I think it is incredibly difficult to waste money; nearly impossible. And, realistically, I honestly think that there is only one way in which this country actually wastes money. How?

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Making money.

That’s right. The only waste of money that I can think of, is money itself. You see, paper and coined money are worthless. They have absolutely no value as money. We do not trade dollar bills for products based on the value of the paper that bill is printed on. As a matter of fact, they are nothing more than a worthless representation of something that actually has worth. So not only is paper and coined money worthless, it actually subtracts from the value of the valuable item it is supposed to represent. The government actually has to spend some of the valuable resource in order to make the worthless representation of the valuable resource which subtracts from the original value of the valuable item. Now that is a very wordy way to describe what is actually happening, but it is the most efficient way I can think of to describe what is actually happening, and that says a lot about how ridiculous this system actually is.

If you scour the inter-webs, you will find many people who suggest abolishing the penny, and many even suggest abolishing the penny, nickel, and dime. They make great arguments as well. The best arguments I have heard tell the story of the half cent, and how it was abolished for having too little value even though, at the time it was abolished, it had more buying power than the current value of the dime. I would suggest, however, abolishing paper and coined money altogether. Plastic and NFC are much better, and much more efficient options. Not only are they more efficient, but they are also paid for by companies like Visa and MasterCard for plastic and Samsung and LG for NFC.

So, plastic and NFC are faster, more efficient, and free for the government. Seems like a better option to me.

NASA; A Waste of Money?

Alright. I admit it. I am a space nerd! I love all things space. The exploration and hopefully one day colonization of Mars; Mining near earth asteroids; Hopefully populating other star systems within the next few hundred years. All of this is incredibly exciting to me. Few things are as neat to me as space exploration. I mean really, when is the last time you saw deer blasting off into space, even a raccoon talking about warp drive? The human species is special, extraordinary, and space exploration is just  one instance of this fact.

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But, many people don’t like NASA right now. They look around at the economy, the looming fiscal cliff, and think to themselves: “What a waste of money!” I can understand this thought process. NASA spends A LOT of money. But, let’s explore the fundamental error in this thought process.

How can you possibly “waste” money? You see, money isn’t like the gas in your car. It doesn’t get used up and disappear. You could even try to call it “money mismanagement.” You’d be hard-pressed to defend that claim though. To understand this, we can look at the latest mission to Mars; The Curiosity rover. This latest mission cost the United States $2.5 Billion. That’s a whole lot of money. For what, you might ask? Let me explain.

In an economy where we are ever worried about job creation, and not just any jobs, but well paying jobs, NASA employs hundreds, if not thousands of people. And, that’s not it. People who think that the government is taxing us at too high a rate should be happy with programs like NASA. Essentially, NASA received $2.5 Billion from the government, with which they invested in products made by privately owned companies. This federal money was handed to NASA, which they put into privately owned business, who paid their employees payroll, which they used to buy food from privately owned grocery stores, who paid payroll to their employees… You get the point. Money cannot be wasted simply by spending it.

It isn’t like once money is spent it disappears. Actually, economies thrive when money is circulated in this fashion. The more money moves, the better we are. This is why the current administration, and perhaps its predecessor, spend money the way they do. It’s called Keynesian Economics. There is certainly more to it than this, and has not been practised correctly by any Presidency that I am aware of. Once the economy starts to do better, you need to raise taxes to pay for the debt collected during the times of high spending. No president has done this so far, because nobody like taxes (no matter how good they are for the economy.).

But, I digress. 🙂