Wednesday, October 04, 2017

NRA Racks Up Wins in Congress. The ATF Wants to Give It More

This is what Las Vegas and the region around it looks like. It attracts people from all over the United States and all over the world.

Important Highlights:

    •    January 20, 2017 - Ronald Turk, the No. 2 official at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives circulates an internal white paper suggesting that the agency go easier on the regulation of guns and gun dealers.
    •    February, 2017 - Mr. Turk signs legislation rolling back restrictions imposed by the Obama administration on when certain mentally ill people can purchase firearms. Subsequently he overturns another Obama regulation that had stopped hunters from shooting bears from airplanes on federal land in Alaska.
    •    Turk describes the memo as providing the new administration with options “to reduce or modify regulations.”
    •    Those options include loosening oversight of gun dealers who sell multiple firearms that turn up at crime scenes … the elimination of the ban on importing AK-47 and AR-15 military-style, large-capacity rifles. Another option Turk promotes is making it easier for dealers to operate exclusively at guns shows or via the internet. (Sources: Paul Barrett, Bloomberg Article, U.S. government )

This is not my story, but rather comes from Bloomberg's Paul Barrett and a matter of government records. Public records.
Bloomberg reported earlier this year that it appears a man qualified to be a top lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, Ronald Turk, is actually the acting head of ATF.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Tread Water

I felt them calling out and awoke in the early morning hours. The victims of the shooting in Vegas. The victims of so many previous shootings. The suicides made easy with a nearby trigger.
I sway back and forth between a desperate need for continuity and a desire to understand why so many people are so angry. Why does the inexperienced leader keep sowing hate in our land? Fires obviously burn among the disadvantaged but they will not be extinguished by hatred. Dividing us does not unite us, it only kills more of us.
Silence soothes me at these times. People want to hear me though, I know that because they tell me. Most do not know where to begin when it comes to understanding mass murder or leaders that deliberately sow discontent. A farmer that plants hate reaps violence. It takes thousands of individuals to explain the importance of love when one major celebrity advocates hate.

Death happens naturally to living beings. They wear out or get sick or grow weary and sad. It is up to the rest of us keep plowing the fields of hope and dreams. Some recommend we leave those who have given up or died behind. They say it is a  necessary step to avoid having the defeated drag us down into that abyss. I dissent.
The optimist within me knows full well plants hide their life through the deep cold winter. People hide their feelings under the fear of rejection. Living beings cling to life even when there is no reason for them to have hope.
I refuse to drown my sorrows under fermented waves. Social I will be, uplifting I will be, myself I will be. No matter that once again the ship appears ready to slide under those familiar seas. I heave the bailing bucket with the same fervor as before.
If this vessel does go down I will swim and tread water until the next raft passes by. My light does extinguish easily. It knows we are all in this water together, the hand that reaches out to me reaches to you as well.
I watched as others slipped under or were pushed down until life left them. It was not my desire but that of malignant forces far behind my strength to oppose at that time. Unable to pull the bullets back out of lifeless bodies I return to serving the survivors. There will always be those and I among them so long as possible.

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” - Dylan Thomas

Friday, September 29, 2017

After Watching Novick and Burns' "The Vietnam War"

Dragging my psyche, my body and ultimately, my future through as accurate a documentary as could possibly be created was excruciatingly painful. It was painful to watch Kim Novick and Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War. It made me incredibly uncomfortable. Nauseous. Ashamed. Exhausted.
It was also a very important thing to do.
Vietnam Soldier 1960s
The overarching theme was the incredible and unnecessary loss of human life. The loss of so many Vietnamese, U.S., French, Canadian, Cambodian, Laotian, and other's lives. All for no discernible gain. Show me the gain, I dare you, point out the gain.

For all of the horror and fratricide, at least the U.S. Civil War was fought to end slavery. World War Two brought an end to fascist dictators, imperialists and the regimes that supported them. A distinct purpose registers with WWII.

World War I stands with Vietnam, as wholesale slaughter often for no other reason than for corrupt leaders to save face. For social equality to be denied. For the sake of those who stand to benefit from the sale of so much war material. For one man to express the epitome of hate, by shooting another for no other reason than they were ordered to. For civilizations to be torn asunder, like so much old cloth.

The Domino Theory about nations falling to Communism is often cited in attempts to justify the war in Vietnam. It was cited several times in this recent documentary. Anyone with open eyes can see the real dominos being knocked down were actual humans required to engage in senseless battles for nameless hills. Tumbling down in order, one after another, with so many actually dying in the process. Behind each poor grunt standing in a straight row was a slightly more powerful foe pushing him or her forward. On both sides. The Dominoes that started it all were the leaders themselves.

This is not some children’s game of knocking down rows of dominoes, these are thousands of human futures being pointlessly and brutally ended. It is almost incomprehensible. But attempts to comprehend the massacres and what led up to them are essential, or we will certainly condemned to repeat them.
Korean War Memorial 13552

People in the West, for the most part, do not understand what really happens when many young people are forced on to a battlefield and die. The Christian conception and handling of death fails to explain what happens in the case of war. What happens when so many die an unnatural death?

Vigorous young people typically go around making deep impressions on many people. It is how human society functions and has functioned for thousands of years. As they age, people start to restrict the circle of others they regularly socialize with. This is normal and common.

Yes, there are older people that interact with many others and expand their circles as they age. This is not nearly as common as the number of young people that circulate freely in much larger circles. This truth is understood by nearly every person.

When leaders begin yanking many young people out of society, exposing them to the horrors of war and then bringing them back, alive or in body bags, the leaders fracture the human society of the nation. Those young people that survive are forever scarred. Those that say they are not altered are in denial. Those that say society is somehow stronger, they are also in denial.  Those that say every member of society is damaged when the youth are forced to into battle, and perhaps die there, they speak the truth. The so-called victors of any war carry the same scars as the losers.

Eastern thought, real roots of eastern thought, trace the scars of wars through many generations. The spirits of the unburied young war victims, civilians or combatants, haunt that society. This is not a statement about poltergeists or phantoms. The young spirits live on in the memories of parents, sisters, brothers and friends. In modern times photographs supplant ageless memorials, burial mounds or even rivers dedicated to holding the dead. Cemeteries harbor those same wasted.

You see, when older people die, for the most part that life-giving chi has exhausted itself. We see that as they age, we see that in those last days and some say you can even see it slip away at that moment of the last breath.

When a person dies at the peak of chi, maybe hyper-aware, racing into battle or slowly back at a field hospital, the chi does not dissipate so quickly or at all. If the physical form happens to be cremated, yes, the chi is released to join the eternal. It will still hover among those that knew it well, but it will be free. A life that once thought itself important enough to share with others abruptly cut short, that is a cause for grave concerns.

It is not just mystics and missionaries that are aware of lost spirits. Everyone is, though they may chose not to admit it. For many years it remains hard for grieving parents to say, “I remember my lost son. My lost daughter.” For most such expressions never become easier to say.

All will eventually let the restless chi of lost loved ones go for awhile, otherwise it can be hard to serve those that live on around you. Elderly people are remembered by perhaps two generations at best once they pass away. This too is natural. Of course the truly exceptional may stir hearts for centuries. How long may the memories of a Lincoln or Gandhi or Dr. King or Mother Teresa endure? Can you imagine what it must have been like to be near those powerful spirits?

Many other greats are not great so far as what is written in the history books, but they too used their chance at life to build our future. Their smiles are in the smiles of their descendants all around us. Genetically and anecdotally every new generation carries some of the greatness of the past. It is not necessary that every name be known across the land.

A generation that did terrible deeds is also remembered, but more as a warning of what not to do. To live a long life but to have tormented or harmed others for some significant portion of it, that is also haunting. The fading chi of such people is to be avoided at all costs, other than to educate others not to repeat such mistakes.

The young who die in war never get that chance to make a difference, good or bad. Maybe they knew what they wanted, maybe not. Perhaps they wanted something so badly but then their life was cut short by another. The survivors know that, remember that and it is these very memories that do the most haunting. The memory of what could have been, what might have been, had a bullet or a bomb not cut them down. The photograph in the album, war memorials, cemeteries, the fading memory in our heads, historical documentaries like The Vietnam War, these are just a few of the places where these lost generations endure. It is vitally important for us all that we take time to remember them.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Eclipse Has Potential To Be a Disaster

Let me begin by saying I hope everyone who is planning to go see the solar eclipse has a great time. Astronomy is a wonderful science, allowing kids of all ages to discover more about the universe around them. It promises to be a rather large event so the eclipse can also be considered as a massive Woodstock-type event. Many people climbing into cars to go experience pretty much the same event.

There are pundits and eminent scientists trying to link a massive societal change with tomorrow’s celestial event. Something similar may well happen, but don't get your hopes too far up.  Take it as a wonderful experience, shared with like-minded people, a chance to go camping.

Solar eclipses are visible somewhere on earth approximately every 18 months, mostly out on the seas or in sparsely inhabited regions. Do not expect some ‘Age of Aquarius’ type of awakening among those that view the eclipse. The moon’s shadow will temporarily paint a diagonal stripe across the United States. That’s all. In that region the sun will briefly be obscured and thousands of people will possibly damage their own eyesight. Use protection or make a pinhole camera obscura with a piece of cardboard.

One Fine Evening on Main Street, Annapolis 0100020

The huge publicity run-up to this event means almost all people in North America, plus millions more overseas, are well-aware of the date and time. Flights into the U.S. over the past few days have been booked solid. Highways are quite congested at this point, less than 24 hours prior to the event.

So a life-changing event is creating itself, for those eager to have such an epiphany in their lives. People will remember the struggle to get to a viewing place, the traffic, the eclipse itself and trying to find an empty bathroom after the sun re-appears.
It seems like a prime opportunity for terrorists to strike the U.S., much like the Millennium was projected to be.  In a way they’ve already started, if you look at Charlottesville as a start. I can safely say this now that the event is so close. Mad bombers and discontents are set in motion with far less than an eclipse.

Thankfully it’s a big country, whatever a few crazed people chose to do spoil the event it will not bother many. A coordinated attack on all U.S. computer systems, including infrastructure like power plants, had been ongoing, tomorrow could hardly be any different. Hackers, emboldened by the current occupant of the White House, seek secrets and credit card lists every day of the week already.


Below are listed potential event types that could possibly occur, based on the author’s extensive knowledge of disasters, man-made and natural. There are detailed lists of responses to each too extensive for listing in this location.

A distinct possibility exists for certain tragic events not related to state actors or militant activity:
  1. Structural failure and/or stampede - These typically occur at religious pilgrimages or during time of war, usually due to overcrowding. Bridges give way, buildings topple, sewage systems get overloaded, then many people attempt to flee all at once. These events happen in India and Mecca with startling regularity.
  2. Network Overload - This is certain to occur, it probably already is underway. The nation’s wireless networks are not built to handle such congestion, especially in rural areas. Many viewers will be trying to post their images of the eclipse to social media all at once. In addition, landline Internet data traffic will spike as those not able to view the event  attempt to stream it. People may simply panic if they cannot check Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Snapchat, etc.
  3. Wildfire - If a car pulls over to the side of the road and parks over dry grassland, large fires will occur. A car’s exhaust system alone is hot enough to start a large fire. Cigarettes tossed haphazardly in rural areas can create fires difficult for first responders to reach, especially given the traffic.
  4. Chain-reaction accidents - These are usually related to fog or darkness but the potential for huge car accidents is greater when highways are overcrowded and people are in a hurry.
  5. Weather - When populations are concentrated in outdoor settings, natural events like thunderstorms, tornadoes and related flooding are liable to cause higher casualty rates.
  6. All of the Above - All at once, the above could create quite a disaster, although still likely to be localized.
So far as state actors and militant-caused events go, these types are the most likely:
  1. Large vehicles driven into crowds - This type of attack is the most prevalent type being covered in the media and perpetrated in the West now.
  2. Arson - See #3 under non-terrorist events. Deliberate use of dry conditions is not that unusual.
  3. Bombings - An explosive device detonated in a huge crowd causes a greater number of casualties. This is hardly any secret with something of that nature happening almost daily South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
  4. Chemical Attack - Large crowds are almost the only way a chemical or biological weapon can be effective. Again, this is not unknown. The Tokyo Subway attack was widely covered. Threats of violence against the United States by North Korea and Daesh have been made quite recently. U.S.-based militant groups, including white supremacist, neo-Nazi types, pose an equally dangerous threat. We certainly know they are organized and seeking attention.
  5. Psychological - In the vein of George Orwell’s ‘War of the Worlds,’ malicious Internet hoaxes could lead some to panic. Millions of otherwise educated people now believe political articles displayed on clearly fake web sites. The brevity of the event makes new cruel attempts to manipulate people, based on the eclipse, less likely.
  6. Cyberattack - Perpetrated by state actors, through the same channels that interfered with the 2016 Presidential Election. There’s good reason to believe cyberattacks will be an ongoing type of assault from now on, eclipse or no eclipse. Energy sources, financial sites and traffic control systems are known to be vulnerable to sophisticated attackers. People may also panic in certain of these situations.
  7. Mass shootings - Our nation has experienced too many of these attacks, typically using assault rifles or semi-automatic handguns. Unstable people in possession of arms can and do commit mass murder. We know that all too well. These individuals cruelly seek large crowds, we know that too. Prevention of asymmetric attacks is nearly impossible.
Certainly there are even more dire scenarios possible for what will quite likely be a peaceful celestial observation. Local, state and national authorities, first-responders in particular, are aware of all of the above. Precautions are no doubt being taken but our nation is big. Most resources are concentrated in cities far from the rural areas where many will go to view the eclipse. It will be a precarious few days, so far as national security is concerned.  Some events such as the traffic spikes and network outages are certain. Most of the others described are far less likely to occur, though other nations are familiar with each.
Delaware Fire Scene 00005
Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.  - John Stuart Mill (1867)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Love of Teaching

In the mid-1970s I began to teach my first classes, television show direction, in the large Council Rock High School television studio. Mr. Metzgar, our TV teacher, allowed me to begin instructing other students how to compose shots with our black & white television cameras, how to use the complex control panel to mix or fade in and out, and how to run the 2-inch video tape recorder. My experience as a photographer was one reason. My total comfort with electronics and technology was certainly another.

Mr. Metzgar was once the stage director of the television program Hollywood Squares. He told me the job was more like being a babysitter for spoiled movie stars. He lost his job, with everyone else, when there was a fire on the set. Being a public schoolteacher paid less but was steady work with better benefits, including a pension. He had a family.

I was chosen to be the morning news announcer for WCRH/CRTV morning news, along with senior Petie Chesner. We wrote many of our own news stories and broadcast all the high school team sports scores. I often got too creative in my writing so editors trimmed down my verbiage. I seem to recall we only had 15 minutes over the high school closed circuit TV system. 
Mr. Stringer, the high school principal, often interrupted us, handing over a special announcements while we were live on camera. Other teachers did likewise.

Mountain Village of Ossanite 00004

I got to know Mr. Stringer very well and worked directly for him as the auditorium stage director for all four years. That job entailed running the lighting board, the film projector, the sound box and setting up lots of chairs. I positioned Leiko and fresnel stage lights, including placing color gels on each, out on the three catwalks.

My work in the television studio complimented the stage manager job. The most important part of both roles, for me, was getting to teach other students. 

I went on to teach manufacturing skills in California, tropical agriculture in Puerto Rico, India and Haiti. I became a full-time business instructor with JCPenney in 1983. On the side I was a computer consultant, after my cousin’s husband, Len Lankford, taught me how to consult. The peak of my consulting career, so far, was 4 international years with Cambridge Technology Partners. To this day I am still a computer consultant, a technical instructor and a photography teacher. Last year I taught 600 Maryland State Election judges how to conduct a U.S. Presidential election