Monday, February 26, 2018

The Heart of the Mass Shooting Phenomena

Nearly two weeks ago on Valentine’s Day, which ironically was also Ash Wednesday, the students and faculty of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida suffered an assault from a former student, whose name I will not mention, thereby adding to his infamy and notoriety.  The former student seemingly had a long history of mental health issues and 39 documented responses to his home from local authorities due directly to his actions.  Needless to say, this troubled boy should never have been able to legally acquire a firearm of any sort – EVER!

Of course, within hours of this perniciously evil act, where seventeen students and faculty were killed and sixteen more injured, the usual suspects on both sides of the gun control debate began with their typical meme’s, arguments, and finger pointing.  It was all of the exact same things we have all heard before every time this sadly common evil phenomena occurs again and again.  What we Americans seem to be overlooking is the cause of this, while everyone opines on how to merely correct the symptoms.


Why are our young men increasingly seeming to think that arming up and heading off to their school to kill their classmates is the best way to heal their pain?  Why do kids think this is the proper way to teach a bully a lesson, or to get even with a girlfriend that dumped them?  Is it simply to “make a statement” to the world that they will no longer be ignored?

I went to a very typical high school in the early 1980’s and lived in what was then a more remote and rural suburb of Portland, Oregon.  I lived quite a few miles from school and thus often had to take the bus, or if I was lucky, my friend who had his own pickup truck would swing by my house on the way to school and give me a ride.  My friend and I had already developed into knowledgeable outdoorsmen by that time in our lives.  He was a hunter and especially during the Fall months it was not uncommon for him to have his Browning rifle in his gun rack in the back window as we headed off to school.  It never occurred to us that anything was even remotely wrong with this and indeed there never was a problem.

Of course, if a kid were to drive to school with a rifle in his gun rack now, assuming a rack could even be found these days, the local S.W.A.T. team would be called out and the school locked down within minutes of his arrival.  In today’s culture, that would also be the right call to make, sadly.

Again, I ask, what has changed in the ensuing decades since I went to high school?

Spokane, Washington Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich aptly addressed the root of the problem to a bevy of reporters after a school shooting occurred there last September in 2017.

“When I was in high school, every one of those rigs in the high school parking lot had a gun in the gun rack. Why? We went hunting on the way home. None of those guns ever walked into a school, none of those guns ever shot anybody... Did the gun change or did you as a society change? I'll give you odds it was you as a society. Because you started glorifying cultures of violence. You glorified the gang culture, you glorified games that actually gave you points for raping and killing people. The gun didn't change, we changed.”

Yep.  I’d have to agree with the good sheriff on that one.

Our modern “enlightened” culture of moral relativism has glorified violence.  It has championed the killing of the unborn and called it “choice”.  It has embraced the killing of our elderly and terminally ill family members and named it “mercy” and “compassion”.  As St. Pope John Paul II said, we as a post-Christian society have fully embraced a “culture of death” and have called it good.

But it is also more than that.  It isn’t simply our glorification and desensitization to violence that is the genesis of this problem, although that has absolutely been a major component of this.  There is also another aspect that is a primary cause of this problem.

Today many harried parents seldom keep tabs on their teenagers these days, let alone actually talk with them, mentor them, guide them, and PARENT them.  Sadly, we as parents have abdicated our responsibility to raise our young men and women to be of good moral character – to know right from wrong.  We assume that the schools or society in general will raise our kids, because we are too busy trying to make a living and dealing with life’s daily grind.  And indeed schools and society now do.  Unfortunately, in a culture where right and wrong have become morally subjective, our children’s moral compasses may often lead them far astray now.

Add to this all of the typical issues with which a young person must deal these days and sometimes the stress becomes overwhelming.  When parents are too busy, or neglectful of the young person living under their roof to the point that those kids effectively become just a roommate, when they fail to guide, listen, and ultimately love their kids in a healthy manner, how can we not be surprised when some few kids decide to resort to the most horrific of decisions when dealing with their own problems? When a positive male role model is missing in a young man’s life to lead and guide him by example, what do we expect could happen?  Most kids will muddle through their high school years making mistakes and figuring things out on their own without ever resorting to violence against others.  Some, however, will not find a good means to communicate or alleviate their pain and thus resort to far more sinister ways of doing so.

Often times these troubled or mentally ill kids show signs that things are heading in a dangerous direction long before anything deadly occurs.  Most regrettably, in nearly all of the school shootings in recent years, these signs were either ignored by family, friends, classmates, and teachers, or perhaps even more sadly, these good people did inform authorities and little or nothing was done to get help for the troubled person.

Foolishly, or perhaps through ignorance, many folks blame guns for the problem.  They claim that something must be done about “gun violence”, as if it is the inanimate object of the gun that is at fault.  Never mind that more people are killed five times more often by knives every year than they are by guns, and yet we still don’t hear about “knife violence” in the legacy media.

If we want to actually solve the problem, getting rid of guns will not do it.  Instead, we will need to restore a sense of involved family that is rooted in actual parenting.  It will involve rejecting a culture where violence, abortion, and moral relativism are championed.  It will require us teaching a reverence for the gift and majesty of all life.  It will require that we parents actually raise our children, listen to them, and guide them when they have problems.  It will require returning to a moral society, based on Judeo-Christian moral underpinnings where right and wrong are clearly delineated, taught, and reinforced in our families and communities, and most importantly where these values are demonstrated by the examples of parents.  Indeed the best sermons are lived and not preached!

Ironically, in many of these past shootings, some victims have noted that it seemed like God was not there at all to protect the innocent when these shooters were engaged in their evil rampages in their classrooms.  Sadly, it is our society and our schools that have told God that he is no longer welcome there, and being the gentleman He is, He has obliged our wishes.

The bottom line is that we could arm and train willing teachers to better protect our kids in schools, and indeed this has proven to be very effective in Israel, or we could simply try to enact more gun laws in the hopes of preventing the means for these killings, but ultimately, if we do not raise our kids to respect life, and to try to live it by adhering to the golden rule, while denouncing the glorification of violence in our culture, we will continue to see some of our young people lashing out in violence towards others by gun, knife, bomb, or any other means possible.

Ultimately, the gun is only a tool.  It is the evil or good intent behind the person wielding it that determines the difference in how it is used.  It can be used to protect or to murder.  It is our individual moral compass that determines which it is.

Post Script:  For those that have bought into the false rhetoric that mass shootings are a uniquely American problem, let me set the record straight.  It is not.  This linked article showing the results of an academic study provides proof of this fact.  It is a cultural rot problem that has occurred throughout western civilization.  Indeed many European nations with far more restrictive gun control laws than America has have suffered even greater quantities of mass shootings.  Indeed, America is not even in the top ten in the world for this ghoulish phenomenon.  It is not a gun problem.  It is a heart problem.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Exercises in Irony

And finally, perhaps the best example of irony -- or maybe that could better be classified as hypocrisy.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

1040 U.S. Individual Income Tax Return for 2017 for Folks Who Insist Donald Trump is Not Their President

For all of those good folks that think President Obama's $40 payroll tax cut was wonderful, but President Trump's overhaul of the tax system to really increase deductions for the middle class are chump change and a give away to corporations, the new alternate 1040 federal tax form is now out for your usage.  The particularly relevant part is highlighted by the red arrow.  Cheers!

H/T: To friend T.T.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Professor Amy Wax: Are We Free to Discuss America’s Real Problems?

I ran across this article and thought it was excellent in articulating the growing problem of a lack of tolerance and critical thinking from many folks in academia, and indeed in society in general.  As we have seen on my own infinitesimally small corner of the universe here on Saving Common Sense, any orthodox, conservative, or politically incorrect opinion is often met by the wailing and gnashing of teeth by some folks on the far left.  

Instead of always addressing the merits of the arguments presented, more often than not, the responses from some people are typically nothing more than epithets of racism, fascism, authoritarianism, and so forth.  There no longer exists a platform for civil debate and indeed that is what the extremism of the far left seemingly hopes to achieve.  They don’t want an exchange of ideas and ideals.  They want the extermination of any opinion that runs contrary to their own.  This is done in an Alinsky-like manner through ridicule, demonization, and marginalization of those with whom they disagree.

Professor Amy Wax spoke at Hillsdale College on this very topic recently, and her speech was adapted into the following essay.  It perfectly encapsulates the problem at hand and shows the dangerous path this lack of tolerance for free speech from some of our brothers and sisters on the left has in its deleterious effect on our society.  Either we address this and overcome this knee-jerk intolerant reaction and begin to teach critical thinking in academia and in society again, or we will continue to sink even deeper into the divided cesspool this intolerance has created.  Enjoy.

“There is a lot of abstract talk these days on American college campuses about free speech and the values of free inquiry, with plenty of lip service being paid to expansive notions of free expression and the marketplace of ideas. What I’ve learned through my recent experience of writing a controversial op-ed is that most of this talk is not worth much. It is only when people are confronted with speech they don’t like that we see whether these abstractions are real to them. 
The op-ed, which I co-authored with Larry Alexander of the University Of San Diego Law School, appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on August 9 under the title, ‘Paying the Price for the Breakdown of the Country’s Bourgeois Culture.’ It began by listing some of the ills afflicting American society: 
‘Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.’
We then discussed the ‘cultural script’—a list of behavioral norms—that was almost universally endorsed between the end of World War II and the mid-1960s: 
‘Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.’ 
These norms defined a concept of adult responsibility that was, we wrote, ‘a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains, and social coherence of that period.’ The fact that the ‘bourgeois culture’ these norms embodied has broken down since the 1960s, we argued, largely explains today’s social pathologies—and re-embracing that culture would go a long way toward addressing those pathologies. 
In what became perhaps the most controversial passage, we pointed out that cultures are not equal in terms of preparing people to be productive citizens in a modern technological society, and we gave some examples of cultures less suited to achieve this: 
‘The culture of the Plains Indians was designed for nomadic hunters, but is not suited to a First World, 21st-century environment. Nor are the single-parent, antisocial habits prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-‘acting white’ rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants.'
The reactions to this piece raise the question of how unorthodox opinions should be dealt with in academia—and in American society at large.”

Continue reading…

Monday, January 22, 2018

Schumer Shutdown, DACA, and Roe v. Wade

Things have been hectic for me lately so my writing has unfortunately taken short shrift again accordingly.  That said, I wanted to share a few thoughts on important topics to me.  Each of these issues is deserving of a more thorough article, but instead, with the constraints on my time, I am forced to give you the Reader’s Digest versions.

First, the asinine and cynically corrupt fools that participated in the Schumer shutdown of the government should be held accountable with the loss of their seats of power, if there were indeed any justice left in this nation.  Why these folks would vote against a spending bill which funds all the pet projects that the Democrats adore and contains nothing of substance for which they loathe is beyond me.

They have chosen, under the “leadership” of Senate minority leader Schumer to place the desires of DACA people over that of all other Americans.  The truly ironic fact that displays the cynicism of these folks that care more for illegal aliens and expanding their own political power through the immigration of more future Democrats is that congressional work on DACA was proceeding well already.  There was no need to attach a non-related immigration rider onto this spending bill.

Perhaps President Trump is right.  The senate may need to use the nuclear option and return to a simple majority to end debate and pass spending bills.  Oh, and by the way, Senators of both parties, why don’t you ALL do your damned jobs and pass a yearly budget for once and stop running the government on these continuing resolutions and then we wouldn’t be faced with these impending shutdowns every so often.  I am disgusted beyond belief with the Senate, and particularly with those that would fail to fund our nation’s defenders by holding them hostage if we don’t allow more illegal immigrants into our nation.

Second, regarding DACA, this is an issue which absolutely needs to be addressed, and should be the next priority after the Schumer shutdown is put to rest.  I have just listened to this blowhard asshat Schumer on TV blame the president, the Republicans, and everyone but himself and his cynical power-hungry crew, for this unnecessary shutdown.

His predecessor, Harry Reid, was a liar of such magnitude that he would make Hillary blush.  He was completely without any sense of honor or decency.  I had hoped that Senator Schumer would restore some sense of honor to the leadership of the senate on the Democrat side.  This speech doesn’t bode well for that notion, but I digress.

It is my opinion, that people who were minors when brought to the United States by their illegal alien parents should not be forced to leave the United States.  A bill should be passed that allows them and their parents permanent legal status to work and enjoy all of the rights and responsibilities of the United States with the exception of not being allowed to vote -- EVER for the parents and at least for ten years for the DACA child in question.  No, it is not the fault of these dreamers that their parents brought them illegally to the U.S., but a price must still be paid for breaking our immigration laws.

Further, as these good folks are granted legal status, an end to extended chain migration MUST be a non-negotiable part of this new law.  No aunts, uncles, third cousins and so forth should be granted legal immigration status simply on the fact that a related minor child was illegally brought into this country.  Of course this will not ever pass congress, as the very reason the cynical Democrats want passage of this is not out of any altruistic caring for the people in question, but because of the largely supported assumption that these people will become reliable Democrat voters.  THAT is the truth of which they will never publicly admit.

Finally, today, January 22, 2018, marks the 45th anniversary of the egregious Roe. V. Wade decision by the Supreme Court of the United States of America.  Since this “right” to kill our unborn children was dubiously discovered within the United State Constitution by our Supreme Court, over 60 MILLION children have been “legally” killed by abortion.  Further, this pernicious evil has occurred in defiance of our founding document as a nation, the Declaration of Independence, which states that we are endowed by our Creator with the inalienable right to life.   
Our third President and author of our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, once stated, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”  And while the great Thomas Jefferson was referring to the evil institution of slavery, of which he paradoxically participated, the concept of God’s justice is still as valid today as it was those several hundred years ago.

When a nation destroys our innocent unborn, while God may not smite us all from the heavens above, He will allow us to suffer the consequences of our evil actions when it comes to our support of abortion.  And just like we had to suffer through our bloodiest war that nearly ripped our country asunder at the loss of over 600,000 American lives to finally end the evils of slavery, one wonders what the cost of justice will be for 60 million innocent unborn lives?

Oh, and on this horrific anniversary, ironically there is a blessed silver lining for me.  Happy birthday to my amazing daughter!

UPDATE:  It has now been reported as of mid-day today that Senator Schumer and his crew have duplicitously "ended the Schumer shutdown" by basically striking a deal with Republicans that mirrored the exact same deal offered on Friday night.  They basically shut things down to get a guarantee on a DACA vote that was not stalled and was moving forward.  This was nothing more than cynical political posturing.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Guest Post: Israel's Accomplishments and Contributions to the World

Contributed by Carrie

A bit of research points out that Israel is the best ally we have had since WWII! Whether you know it or not, many of the triumphs listed below have benefited you in one way or another.
Israel is driven to help others around the world. This tiny nation’s accomplishments have been shared world-wide to benefit humanity, no matter the politics. Just look at the sample list of highlights of this amazing nation’s achievements.

1. The Middle East has been growing date palms for centuries. The average tree is about 18-20 feet tall and yields about 38 pounds of dates a year.  Israeli date trees are now yielding 400 pounds per year and are short enough to be harvested from the ground or a short ladder.

2. Israel, the 100th smallest country, with less than 1/1000th of the world's population, can lay claim to the following:
     a. The cell phone was developed in Israel by working in the Israeli branch of Motorola, which has its largest development center in Israel.
     b. Most of the Windows NT and XP operating systems were developed by Microsoft - Israel.
     c. The Pentium MMX Chip technology was designed in Israel at Intel. Both the Pentium - 4 microprocessor and the Centrino processor were entirely designed, developed and produced in Israel. The Pentium microprocessor in your computer was most likely made in Israel.
     d.  Voice mail technology was developed in Israel.
     e.  Both Microsoft and Cisco built their only R&D facilities outside the US in Israel.
     f.  The technology for the AOL Instant Messenger ICQ was developed in 1996 by four young Israelis.

3. Israel has the fourth largest air force in the world (after the U.S, Russia, and China). In addition to a large variety of other aircraft, Israel's air force has an aerial arsenal of over 250 F-16's. This is the largest fleet of F-16 aircraft outside of the United States.

4. Israel's $100 billion economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined.

5. Israel has the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita.

6. According to industry officials, Israel designed the airline industry's most impenetrable flight security. US officials now look (finally) to Israel for advice on how to handle airborne security threats.

7. Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world.

8. Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation by a large margin - 109 per 10,000 people - as well as one of the highest per capita rates of patents filed.

9. In proportion to its population, Israel has the largest number of startup companies in the world. In absolute numbers, Israel has the largest number of start-up companies compared to every other country in the world, except the U.S.! (3,500 companies mostly in high-tech).  With more than 3,000 high-tech companies and startups, Israel has the highest concentration of high-tech companies in the world, apart from the Silicon Valley, U.S.

10. Israel is ranked #2 in the world for venture capital funds right behind the U.S.
Outside of the United States and Canada, Israel has the largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies.

11. Israel has the highest average living standards in the Middle East.

12. On a per capita basis, Israel has the largest number of biotech startups.

13. Twenty-four per cent of Israel's workforce holds university degrees, ranking third in the industrialized world, after the United States and Holland.  Further, 12 percent hold advanced degrees.

14. Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East.

15. In 1984 and 1991, Israel airlifted a total of 22,000 Ethiopian Jews (Operation Solomon and Moses) at Risk in Ethiopia to safety in Israel.

16. When Golda Meir was elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1969, she became the world's second elected female leader in modern times.

17. When the U. S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya was bombed in 1998, Israeli rescue teams were on the scene within a day and consequently saved three victims from the rubble.

18. Israel has the third highest rate of entrepreneurship, and the highest rate among women and among people over 55, in the world.

19. Relative to its population, Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on earth. Immigrants come in search of democracy, religious freedom, and economic opportunity.  (Hundreds of thousands from the former Soviet Union)

20. Israel was the first nation in the world to adopt the Kimberly process, an international standard that certifies diamonds as "conflict free."

21. Israel has the world's second highest per capita number of new books.

22. Israel is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees, made more remarkable because this was achieved in an area considered mainly desert!

23. Israel has more museums per capita than any other country in the world.

24. Israeli scientists developed the first fully computerized, no-radiation, diagnostic instrumentation for breast cancer.

25. Regarding the medical field, an Israeli company developed a computerized system for ensuring proper administration of medications, thus removing human error from medical treatment.  Every year in U. S. hospitals 7,000 patients die from treatment mistakes.

26. Israel’s Given Imaging developed the first ingestible video camera, so small it fits inside a pill. It is used to view the small intestine from the inside to spot cancer and digestive disorders.

27. Researchers in Israel developed a new device that directly helps the heart pump blood, an innovation with the potential to save lives among those with heart failure. The new device is synchronized with the camera and helps doctors diagnose a heart's mechanical operations through a sophisticated system of sensors.

28. Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce, with 145 per 10,000, as opposed to 85 in the U. S., over 70 in Japan, and less than 60 in Germany. With over 25% of its work force employed in technical professions, Israel places first in this category as well.

29. A new acne treatment developed in Israel, the Clear Light device, produces a high-intensity, ultraviolet-light-free, narrow-band blue light that causes acne bacteria to self-destruct, all without damaging surrounding skin or tissue.

30. An Israeli company was the first to develop and install a large-scale solar-powered and fully functional electricity generating plant in southern California's Mojave Desert.

31. Israel has proven itself as a world leader in desalination after decades of research and entrepreneurship. Despite the criticism that it is expensive, (Israel is working on this issue too) desalination is being used globally as a major solution to water shortages. As a world-leader in water technologies, Israel’s experts are helping communities around the globe to harvest water from the ocean.

All of the above have been accomplished while engaged in regular wars with an implacable enemy that seeks its destruction, and an economy continuously under strain by having to spend more per capita on its own protection than any other county on earth.

Thanks to Carrie for contributing this post!