29 November 2013

Gun Control For Everyone: Mental Health Reforms

Unless you're a special kind of asshole, we can all agree that mentally unstable people should not be able to buy a firearm. We’ve heard it a million times… “That guy (meaning the piece of shit that doesn’t deserve to be named or remembered here or anywhere else) should never have been able to get his hands on a gun and take it into an elementary school. He should have been in an institution somewhere. Why the Hell would his mom have guns in the house if she knew he was fucked up?” These are all great yet deceptively simple points.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that no mother, gun owner or not, wants to believe, or even entertain the idea that her son will become a baby-murdering fuck stick. It’s easy in hindsight to say she shouldn’t have had guns in the home, but what the Hell do we know, really, about their lives before the shooting?

Every time a mass shooting occurs, the general public cries out for gun control reform. They want to know why we don't restrict access to firearms to people with mental illnesses. The truth is, we already have a law restricting gun sales to people that have been adjudicated mentally defective. These aren’t people that lost their shit and spent a few weeks in an acute ward while their Prozac was adjusted. 

These are people that have been judged incompetent to handle their own affairs through the courts, or as is increasingly more common, the Veteran’s Administration. Every state has different criteria for having an adult committed against their will, but the common theme seems to be the person has to be considered dangerous to themselves or others. Most states include the language “imminent danger”. So, basically, if you’re already standing in a room full of people brandishing a weapon, you’re considered a danger and can be committed.

The problem lies in the fact that we can’t just go revoking the civil rights of people based on a belief that they could possibly become dangerous, someday. Most people suffering from mental illnesses do not become dangerous to other people, at least not on the scale we’re discussing here.

So while everyone calls for reform concerning mental health care, few people seem to realize the extent of the complications associated with imposing further mental health regulations concerning firearms. First of all, any sort of expansion relies on states providing the federal government with accurate and current information and we all know how good states are with that...

And then of course, where do we draw the line when deciding that people with mental illnesses are going to become dangerous? Do we put everyone that has been treated for certain illnesses on a list somewhere? And if so, where would we draw the line? Should we put anyone with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or psychosis on a list? Who decides what is severe, and when would it stop? 

Would the list expand to include any diagnosis, such as depression, anxiety or even ADD? And, of course, we have to consider the amount of people that would not get the help they need for fear of being placed on some federal list somewhere.

So, essentially, while we can all agree that people with severe mental illnesses should not be able to easily access weapons, there is simply no way to ensure they won't without severely violating the civil rights of a huge percentage of American public. 

27 November 2013

Gun Control: Why Any Type of Federal Registration Law Would Be Impossible to Enforce

I probably should have posted this gun control blog first, as nearly every other gun control proposition depends, at some level, on a federal firearms registry. Once again, I offer absolutely no solutions, only commentary and an explanation of why current proposals would do nothing but make people feel like they were doing something.  

What law-abiding citizen wouldn’t want to register their guns? Well, a shit ton, as it turns out. If they don’t register, then we’ll just track them down and force them to comply, or take their guns, or bomb their houses or something, right?

Again, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend we did pass a federal registration law.

Let’s say you have to register all of your guns with the local PD or the gun registering people, or someone anyway by the end of the week. Unless, of course, you don’t want to, then don’t bother. There’s simply no way the unregistered guns could be tracked down. We’d have to trace every single gun through the ATF’s National Tracing Center, as it’s the only agency that traces firearms. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, here’s an example:

Officer Bob discovers a Beretta handgun, model 92, stamped with the serial number xxx666 at a murder scene in Florida. He forwards this information to the NTC and stamps it urgent, meaning the gun was directly involved in a crime. Sandy gets the request for the trace and contacts the manufacturer of the gun. 

Beretta says that serial number was sold to Acusport, a distributer in the Midwest. Sandy contacts Acusport and they tell her they sold the gun to a gun shop in Indiana. Sandy faxes a request form to the gun store. 

Some poor bastard at the gun store runs the serial number and then locates the original ATF form 4473 among the 20 years worth of forms the store is required to keep. He faxes the original buyer’s information back to the NTC and probably cries in the corner for a little while, wondering why the fuck he never finished college.

Officer Bob is stoked to receive the news that Joe Blow purchased the Beretta in 1998. He’s got the bad guy. Except he soon learns that Joe sold the gun to his Uncle Blow back in 2003. Uncle Blow has since moved to Texas and traded the gun to his meth dealer, who gave it to his father for Father’s Day in 2008. 

Meth Guy’s dad then ran away with a stripper from Vegas and his pissed off wife sold the gun to a guy at a yard sale for $40...Because fuck Meth Guy’s dad anyway. She thinks the buyer’s name was Billy, or Joey, or possibly Who the Fuck Cares. No, she didn’t get a receipt. In most states, it's perfectly legal to transfer a firearm this way, unless you're knowingly selling it to a drunk 12 year old or a felon. 

Well, fuck.

Officer Bob promptly begins a weeklong drinking binge and contemplates the reason for his existence.

Now you have to realize that we’d have to do that for every single gun sold or owned in the history of forever. Even if we don’t factor in guns that were brought home from wars, antique guns or the fact that quality record keeping in the firearms industry is a fairly recent requirement, and also assuming that the NTC will have the time, funding and manpower to trace anything other than the more than 344,000 gun they traced in FY2012, tracing every gun in America to the current owners is impossible. 

Gun Control For Everyone: Assault Weapons and Common Sense

In this country, there is an overwhelming willingness to accept certain overly simplistic views and ideas based on media and claims of certain special interest groups. For example, some gun control propents would have you believe that the republican party won't allow gun control reform. While some other groups would have you believe that the government is coming to take away your guns.

Neither of those things are true. As the gun control debate is continually reignited, an assault weapon ban is continuously brought up. It seems simple to various people, "Let's just ban those scary looking Army guns..." Of course it isn't that simple:

Let's Ban Assault Weapons and Hi-Cap Mags
Didn’t we try that already?
If you read through section 110101 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which I can’t recommend on the possibility it actually causes cancer, you’ll find a clusterfuck of regulations banning certain guns on the basis that they looked scary, or something like that, as well as magazines that held over ten rounds. Please note the ban did not extend to weapons and magazines that were sold before the ban, because, as I've discussed before, tracing the guns already on the market would be impossible. 

A number of rifles were banned by name. A few banned by name included Colt’s AR-15, Beretta’s AR70 and Norinco’s… everything, because obviously the government hates Norinco. Additionally, it became a crime to own, transfer(unless the gun existed before the ban of course) or manufacture a rifle that had a detachable magazine and any two of the following items, a folding stock, a pistol grip, flash suppressor, bayonet mount, and a grenade launcher.

If the authors of the bill could even pick a rifle out of a series of flashcards featuring tanks, kittens, rainbows and catapults, they certainly had no idea which parts of a gun actually make the gun go pew-pew. Allowing for the fact that grenades are notoriously difficult to come by on the civilian market, every one of those items were purely cosmetic, in that they didn’t affect the actual mechanics of a rifle. 

Presumably they paid an NRA member to write a bunch of gun part names on scraps of paper and pulled them randomly out of someone’s ass and wondered why the NRA guy was giggling uncontrollably in the corner. Writing NRA Guy off an obvious nut job, they called it good and sent the bill on for a vote, patted themselves on the back and sat back to watch the gun violence rates fall.

The Act was set to expire in ten years and in 2004 it expired. This can only be explained by the fact no one cared about the safety of the American public anymore, or possibly someone asked the NRA guy why he was still laughing. 

It’s also possible that someone actually read the thing and said, “Hey guys?
What the fuck are we trying to do here again? Do you have to have the bayonet attached to the bayonet mount…or? Why are we allowed to have grenade launchers again?”

Then some other guy piped in with, “You know, you can still buy these things, right? Right on gunbroker.com, perfectly legal, if abhorrently expensive. And… uh… for $50 you can buy a 30 round magazine for most guns. You guys knew that, right?”

Since everyone was probably already hammered, we can only assume someone said, “Fuck this shit, it’s time for the hookers and blow,” and gave up trying to renew or even understand the thing. 

And so, while it may seem perfectly logical to people that really have no knowledge of firearms, the truth is, there really is no such thing as an assault rifle, no matter how scary they look. 

Tomorrow we'll take a look at the impossibility of regulating the sale of guns to people labeled "Bat-shit Crazy."

25 November 2013

Healthcare. Shit. I Was Never Gonna Go Here...

A friend posted this link on Facebook, and for some reason I feel an overwhelming need to respond to Dear Liberal, Here’s Why I'm so Hostile. Which, by the way was a fantastic read, whether you're liberal or not. 

First of all, I can’t say I’m a liberal, or that anyone I know even fits into that actual label.

The author asks if I believe that healthcare is a basic human right. I do not, obviously, any more so than driving a car is a basic human right. Essentially no one really has a basic right to anything at all. However, this is mother-fucking America, and there is no reason that every American should not be entitled to quality, affordable healthcare.

I understand the outrage surrounding the fine that the federal government will impose if people choose not to provide health coverage for themselves. Everyone is all pissy because the government shouldn’t be allowed to force one to buy anything.  I get that, and I even agree.

However, the astronomical costs of healthcare in this country are inexcusable. As health insurance companies continue to make millions and millions in profit, the cost of health care continues to become even more ridiculous. Last year, 41 BILLION dollars in health care costs went unpaid. Not because America is full of lazy, debt dodgers, but because… Just how in the fuck are people supposed to actually pay those costs when they don’t have insurance?

Additionally, have you even been refused a certain test or had to go through multiple tests before a doctor is able to order the one you needed in the first place? You know, when the receptionist looks down at her notes and says, “Oh yeah, your insurance won’t cover an MRI unless we do a CAT scan first…” Health insurance companies do not help pay for health care: they own healthcare in America.

Can you imagine watching your loved one die at home when you know damn well that the one drug the insurance won’t cover could save them? Have you ever watched someone who was in agonizing pain for months because she wasn’t insured, and no doctor would touch her for a simple gallbladder surgery? Since the surgeon wouldn’t help her, they hospitalized her three or four times for a few days to give her antibiotics and pain management. I can’t help but be thoroughly baffled by the logic behind that. How many of us can say, honestly, that if we were uninsured and needed a procedure or surgery, we’d be able to write a check on the spot?

The ACA is about more than providing subsidized insurance to the people that the American taxpayers have been subsidizing anyway for years. It’s about regulating a disgustingly corrupted system to bring health care costs under control and ensure that in America, no one has to go without it. Once again, not because it's a god-given right, but because, aren't we supposed to be the greatest nation in the world? 

Do I agree with the government requiring people to buy insurance? Fuck no. In fact, I’m reasonably sure it’s going to be a disaster for a while. At least it’s something though. Quite obviously, health insurance companies are not going to regulate themselves. And at the risk of sounding dramatic, and perhaps liberal, they’ve created a kind of monopoly in the healthcare industry.

Why the fine for the uninsured? Generally, the uninsured are the problem. The fine just helps make up a fraction of the taxpayer money they cost each year. Is government regulation the right answer? Of course not, but what other answer is there?

On an entirely unrelated note: I carry a Glock and have a lifetime carry permit, so I’m pretty sure I can’t actually be a liberal. 

24 November 2013

Walmart, Poverty, and the Square Root of Pie in America

Yes, Walmart is probably owned and operated by Satan. And if not evil, certainly they are morally wrong for not paying their employees a livable wage. If claims that up to 80 percent of their employees receive food stamps are true, that means that over 1.1 million of them are on government assistance. (Which, for some reason, draws a Hell of a lot more outrage than the fact that approximately 900 fucking thousand veterans and military families rely on the same assistance.) On an unrelated note, if I hear one more “I work so welfare recipients don’t have to” statement, I’m going to fucking murder someone.

Lately there have been calls to raise the federal minimum wage. One government suggestion to raise minimum wage to $10 per hour over the next three years is fucking laughable at best and demonstrates how utterly out of touch the entire government is with the reality of life in America, regardless of political parties. I’m certainly no economic expert over here, but there are just a few deeper considerations regarding poverty:

Poverty Thresholds Don’t Mean A Damn Thing
First of all, the current minimum wage of $7.25 allows a full time worker to earn several hundred dollars over the official annual poverty guidelines of $11,139. That would be sufficient if the official poverty guidelines meant a goddamn thing.

For example, Harlingen, Texas offers a cost of living 18 percent below the national average. However, a single worker would still need to earn at least $16,171 to cover basic necessities each year. That’s over $5,000 above the official poverty threshold. Just let me emphasize here that that is the cheapest cost of living in the nation, based on consumer price index reports.

Currently the official poverty thresholds are determined, presumably, using an outdated form of 1960’s witchcraft, based loosely on the idea that the average consumer spends one-third of his income on food. So the cost of food, multiplied by unicorn, added to the cost of coffee divided by the square root of pie is somehow manipulated to illustrate poverty level earnings. 

Since the original determination, the thresholds have been adjusted annually based on data from the consumer price index reports. The minimum wage is then determined by a completely unrelated formula. Meaning that someone says, “Hey, let’s raise the minimum wage to $X.”

That’s not to say the government is entirely unaware of the issue. A study released in September 2012 reveals a more accurate idea of the actual poverty threshold. For example, the official threshold of $23,283 for a family of four, when adjusted to include all costs of living, such as rent, mortgage, personal care, etc. was raised to $25,789 for homeowners with a mortgage and $25,101 for renters. 

Keep in mind that an entire one-fourth of this nation’s households have an income of $25,411 or below.

 Walmart Will Continue to Make Record Profits
Of course there is also the issue concerning the national average. Even using the supplemental, experimental poverty thresholds above, there aren’t a Hell of a lot of places a family of four can actually live based on that income.

I’ve heard the argument that minimum wage was never meant to be a livable wage. In theory it was a starting point for entry level jobs that people would advance from. Of course, that was back when this country actually manufactured and produced shit. So, I’d have to say that argument is moot.

And of course, that’s why Walmart and similar corporations are going to continue to win, because for as much as we may be outraged and protest, we certainly aren’t going to boycott. With an entire fucking quarter of the nation’s households making $25,411 or less, the sad truth is that a whole bunch of Americans can’t afford to boycott Walmart. 

Ironically, the exploitation of the working poor is part of the reason Walmart is able to offer its famous low prices that the working poor need to live and feed their families. Protests and boycotts are fine and well, but moral support for any cause tends to wane when there are hungry children involved. 

22 November 2013

Media, Education Failure, Bullying and a Sleep Deprived Krissy

Disclaimer: Grandma? There's probably going to be a whole lot of F-bombs. Also, authorities, parents and family members are encouraged to ignore most of the confessions below.

The media again. Or still. Or, perhaps I didn't get enough sleep and I tend to get irritable and maybe I become slightly furious about random shit while I lie in bed trying to turn my brain off... In any case, here are the random rants running around in Krissy's brain today:

What The Fuck Have We Done to Our Kids?
I suppose nearly everyone has an idyllic reminiscence of their own formative years, and probably each generation is equally baffled by each subsequent generation. I'm no exception, obviously, because as my 12-year-old public middle school student continues to tell me on a daily basis about kids she knows that cut themselves, do drugs and get into fights, I can’t help but think kids are more fucked up now than they were when I was that age.

Last year, tragically, an 11 year old boy from her grade level committed suicide. An eleven year old boy. Jesus. There are seemingly endless media reports about bullied kids and teen suicide. What the fuck are we doing so wrong with these kids?

There is quite obviously some collapse in society. Maybe it's us, the Y Generation and our over-indulgent, self-absorbed, inconsistent and detached parenting styles? Maybe it’s the War on Christmas, whatever the fuck that is. Maybe it has something to do gay marriage or the breakdown of the traditional family unit. It could possibly be this eruption of bullying seen in recent... Or not. 

Nothing Yet, But We're Working On It
While most of us choose to see our late childhood years through some sort of rose-colored pane of bullshit, the truth is not much has changed about kids.

Kids can all be assholes, and even the most intelligent ones have the propensity to do really, really stupid shit. I did, tons of it. We smoked pot, we skipped classes. We snuck and drank our parent's booze. I started smoking cigarettes when I was 11, which I also stole from my parents. 

For fuck's sake, we shot at stop signs on back roads from moving cars - unless of course, there is some absurdly long statute of limitations for that particular crime, in which case, we certainly did not. We stole, er, borrowed our parents cars for joyrides, snuck out of windows and even hitchhiked a few times. Just because we could.

I've literally lost count of the kids that died from accidental heroin overdoses during high school and the years after. We made fun of other kids, they made fun of us. Some kids were bullied, some were bullies. Why did we do all these incredibly stupid and illegal things? Because we were kids, and kids are fairly impulsive and idiotic. It was not because our parents didn’t pay enough attention, we were simply assholes.

Media Designed To Sell, Not Inform
I don’t mean to imply that bullying and the apparent collapse of society as we know it are non-issues, but fuck. While the media releases these alarming reports igniting panic about bullying, what the fuck are they not reporting?

Why not mention our decaying public school system? The No Child Left Behind Act and the standardized testing which promises to do exactly that? The fact that the teachers we trust to shape our children’s minds are significantly underpaid and overworked in comparison to other industrialized nations? The fact that out of 31 countries, we were among the only four that cut public education funding during the 2008-2010 financial crisis? Or maybe an article or two about how we spend more money per child for education that any other country and our teachers still have to buy their own supplies for use in their classrooms? 

I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing it’s because the issues outlined above don’t promise the sensationalism and public outrage associated with bullying. Truly, I don’t mean to downplay the effects of bullying, and to be perfectly honest, I fell for the shit. 

I hate the media and I still found myself thinking more about the bullying issue than any other educational issue. Perhaps a few articles outlining the falling rank of the American education system among other developed nations could be used for filler or something.

Essentially I suppose this entire post could have been summed up fairly simply: Kids are the same as they’ve always been. We haven’t fucked them up, but we’re working on it. As the frenzy surrounding bullying  is reignited over and over while other serious issues are rarely given mention, we can be assured our children will never have the capacity to compete on a global scale. But on the upside, they’ll know how to be nice to each other. They probably won’t be, because, once again, kids can be assholes, but at least they’ll know how.

Tomorrow, we'll discuss Walmart. Unless, of course, I don't get a nap today, in which case I'll post that one later today.