Breaking News–Cable Network Obsessions

This week should be the next instalment on the series about shootings in America. But we will take a break from that and return with part 4 next week. Instead, it’s time to mock the news media—especially cable news. Why? Well it all starts with the typical obsessive coverage of “breaking news.” Why do I call it obsessive? Early coverage reports that a plane is missing, possibly down but they cannot say where, when or why.  So instead, they call upon their stock of former aviation experts to speculate on what might have happened. Or it’s a shooting incident and little is known so they call upon former FBI, ATF and other law enforcement types to offer generic comments on how the matter will be investigated—surveillance videos, interviews with eyewitnesses, etc. All of which observations are already well known to watchers of police procedurals and the same newscasts which have paraded the same “experts” before viewers on multiple prior occasions. They might also add a shrink to explain such behavior. What could be done instead? A simple synopsis of what happened as known at the moment, with a promise of updates to come as more information becomes available. Eventually, of course, the additional information does come in but only after hour upon hour of speculation and background commentary that gets more and more repetitive as time wears on.

So now, for your reading pleasure, let’s get on to the mockery using less tragic events—fictional but equally obsessive coverage of the ever popular Donald Trump. NOTE: this is all FICTION; both regarding Trump, the names of the news personnel, etc.

REUTERS/Dominick
REUTERS/Dominick

Breaking news:  

Anchor Ted Barnes opens with, “In breaking news, we just learned that Donald Trump was heard to pass wind at a campaign appearance in Dubuque. Our reporter Jackie Sims is on the scene. Jackie, what can you tell us?“ [Jackie is doing a standup at the campaign stop location]

“Well Ted, we are all used to Donald Trump’s bombastic and often offensive comments, but this is something really out of the ordinary. Trump supporters in the front row let out an audible gasp and soon a few wrinkled noses appeared on the faces of the listeners.”

“Were you able to talk with any of them to get their reaction? “

“Most of them denied hearing—or smelling, anything, Ted. One man did, however, respond with this, ‘the news media keeps saying bad stuff about Donald; hey, he tells it like it is and if he wants to have a burrito now and then, more power to him, he’s man enough to accept the consequences!’ “

“So, Jackie, the man who has insulted Mexicans had a burrito today?”

“Well, that may have been speculation on the man’s part. But we know his breakfast stop this morning was at a Mexican restaurant.”

“All right, then. Thanks Jackie.”

“Let’s bring back our panel of political commentators to assess what effect this gassy gaffe, if you will, might have on the Trump campaign. Fred, do you think this will finally be the issue that causes a drop in the polls for Trump?”

“It’s too early to tell, Ted, but I doubt it. I think it’s fair to say that conservatives and liberals alike cut loose now and then.”

Shirley jumped in, “Ted, I agree with Fred but I think there’s a time and place for farts. Behind the podium at a campaign appearance is not one of them. It’s rude and crude.”

“But isn’t that acceptable, if not relished by Trump supporters,” Ted asked, “all part of his persona; right, Max?”

“Sure it is, Ted. If anything, I think his numbers may go up from this incident.”

“Thanks everyone, please stick around for more campaign discussion but first more on this breaking story. After the break we will hear from gastroenterologist Nathan Butz on what causes gas episodes like this. Also, an update from our Jeff Adams at the restaurant for a report on what Mr. Trump had to eat this morning—burrito or not. Stay tuned for more coverage of this incident. “

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Who’s Shooting Who–Part 3

Before moving along to part 3, here’s a recap:

  • This series is about shooting deaths and more in the USA
  • Because the USA has more guns and more gun deaths per capita than anywhere else
  • Mass shootings, active shooters and shootings by/of police are NOT the major casualties, despite the intense media coverage
  • Suicides account for an average of 60% of the deaths—that’s the big item

This segment will fill in some more numbers—domestic violence deaths (males killing females most of the time) gang-related shootings, racial breakdowns of shootings where possible and further into shootings by and of law enforcement with additional data. We will also briefly touch on the implications of the data on arguments for or against gun control as we go along.

Gang-Related Homicides—

  • Gang-related homicides averaged 13-15% of all homicides annually from 2007 through 2011. The bulk of those (84%) came in large cities (over 100,000/67%) and their suburban counterparts (17%) according to the National Gang Center’s  National Youth Gang Survey Analysis  (undated) [The National Gang Center (NGC) is a project jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)]. Given that there were 16,121 homicides in 2012, that range would amount to 2,096 to 2,418.
  • The CDC analyzed 2003–2008 data from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) for five cities with high levels of gang homicide [ Los Angeles, California; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Long Beach, California; Oakland, California; and Newark, New Jersey]. A resulting report indicated that gang homicides were more likely to occur with firearms [over 90% in these cities] but, perhaps contrary to expectations, “homicides resulting from drug trade/use or with other crimes in progress was consistently low in the five cities, ranging from zero to 25%.” The report concluded this “suggests that gang homicides are quick, retaliatory reactions to ongoing gang-related conflict.”
  • A Huffington Post article from April 2014 and updated June 2014 dismisses claims by Dana Loesch on TheBlaze TV show that “the overwhelming majority [of shooting deaths are] from gang and drug violence.” The Huffington article went on to cite the National Gang Center report and a number of other studies to debunk the notion that dealing with gangs and drug-related crime will substantially deal with shooting deaths in America. For more on this issue, see the CDC report above.
  • The About.com US Conservatives site has an undated article by Dustin Hawkins, identified as their “Conservative Politics Expert,” highlighted the high percentage of gang-related shootings in Chicago and New Orleans as well as drug-related shootings in Baltimore to support his suggestion that “Solve the problem of gang violence, and a huge chunk of the gun homicide and violence problem is solved. And what national gun control measures would slow the gang violence problem, when local gun control laws have failed in cities like Chicago?”
  • So, assuming that the 90% proportion of firearm deaths of gang-related homicides in five major cities holds across the country, eliminating ALL of them could reduce gang shooting deaths by 2,000 per year based on 2012 numbers. Not an “overwhelming majority” of the 11,208 shooting deaths that year, nor a “huge chunk,” but certainly not insignificant. But as intractable as the gang problem is, this may be much more difficult than gun control itself. Still, reducing gang activity is a worthy goal. On the other hand, as gun control opponents might point out, it would not be surprising to find studies [we didn’t look for them] that showed a substantial percentage of the guns used by gangs being obtained legally, making available gun control laws less than helpful. Nor would gun turn-in programs likely be highly successful among gang members. Given the numbers of guns present in America, keeping them from the hands of gang members must be an ongoing and difficult struggle.

Domestic Violence Deaths—

  • In 2012, according to a report by the Violence Policy Center published on the Huffington Post blog, 1,706 females were killed by men. 52% were killed by guns. 93% of those killed were attacked by someone they knew—most often a spouse, boyfriend or the like. So this is 10.6% of total homicides in the USA and 7.9% of gun-related homicides. Not quite as big as gangs and much smaller than suicides but bigger than law enforcement related (of course the police are also involved in the sense that responding to domestic violence is a very risky proposition for them). For the full report, go here.
  • The above report also noted that, “One study found that women living with a gun in the home were nearly three times more likely to be murdered than those with no gun in a home.” So the advice advanced by some in the gun lobby that women should have a gun for protection appears misguided; more likely than being able to defend herself, a male in the home will use it to kill her.

Racial Breakdown of Victims and Shooters—

                As the old saying goes, “statistics don’t lie but liars cite statistics.” So cherry-picking stats that back up a particular perspective can offer skewed conclusions. Consider the varying analyses abstracted below:

  • Victims: According to a Pew Research article from May 7, 2013: “Looked at by race, blacks are over-represented among gun homicide victims; blacks were 55% of shooting homicide victims in 2010, but 13% of the population. By contrast, whites are underrepresented; whites were 25% of the victims of gun homicide in 2010, but 65% of the population. For Hispanics, the 17% share of gun homicide victims was about equal to their 16% proportion of the total population.” Pew also noted that the  black homicide death rate has declined 50% since its peak in 1993, and the number of black homicide deaths fell by more than a third (37%) from 1993 to 2010.
  • Police-Related Shootings--From Washington Times article 4/21/15 analysis by Peter Moskos, assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, : “The odds that any given black man will shoot and kill a police officer in any given year is slim to none, about one in a million. The odds for any given white man? One in four million,” he said. “The odds that a black man will be shot and killed by a police officer is about 1 in 60,000. For a white man those odds are 1 in 200,000.” Moskos studied data from the Killed by Police site and noted that in about 25% of cases, race of person killed was not indicated. Moskos, a former cop, criticized PolitiFact (fact checking group) for giving an article by Michael Medved a “half true” for his claim that more whites are killed than blacks when they noted that whites make up 63% of the population while blacks are just 12% because they didn’t take into account the higher percentage of blacks involved in violent crime. NOTE: Moskos did not quantify this claim.
  • Police shooting of unarmed people: A Washington Post article from August 8, 2015 has this information—which is resonant with the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

“So far this year, 24 unarmed black men have been shot and killed by police. . . a surprisingly small fraction of the 585 people shot and killed by police through Friday evening, according to The Post database. . . [T]he vast majority of victims of all races were armed.”

“However, black men accounted for 40 percent of the 60 unarmed deaths, even though they make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population. The Post’s analysis shows that black men were seven times more likely than white men to die by police gunfire while unarmed.”

Coming next week:

Shootings by or of mentally disturbed individuals: Assumptions are abundant that mass shootings are by mentally disturbed individuals and that we need to keep guns away from such individuals. Similarly, news coverage shows that many people shot by law enforcement are mentally disturbed in some way. This part of the story is complicated enough that we will cover it next week.

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Who’s Shooting Who–Part 2

So, in case you are wondering, this series is about America’s issues with guns, gun deaths and all the topics we mentioned in the last post [“Law and Order,” deinstitutionalization, and more]. This post, Part 2, is about numbers–numbers of guns, numbers of deaths by guns and much of what that entails. We will get to other topics as we go along.

Why just America?

  • The U.S. ranks 1st in the world in the number of privately owned firearms and 1st in the rate per 100 people; over 1/3 of the households in America have one or more firearms (according to GunPolicy.org, a Non-Governmental Organization headquartered in Sydney Australia. Proponents of gun control and opponents may cite different statistics.
  • There are nearly as many guns in the U.S. as there are people. according to a recent article in the Atlantic, That’s not to say, of course, that everyone has a gun; some people have many guns while others have none.
  • Put another way, the U.S has less than 5% of the world’s population but 35-50% of the civilian owned guns. To which 2nd amendment proponents might say, that’s a great thing—we in America are a democracy where citizens are free under the 2nd Amendment to protect themselves with firearms, unlike in repressive regimes around the world. On the other hand, gun control proponents will note that there are plenty of low-crime democratic countries around the world with few guns found in the homes of the citizens. Fewer guns, of course, logically can be expected to result in fewer deaths by gun.
  • A Harvard School of Public Health review of four studies confirmed that more guns, unsurprisingly, led to more homicides. This article indicates that for each percentage point in gun ownership, the firearm homicide rate increased by .9 percent. Want to know how many deaths by state, gun ownership and more? Go here.

So how many deaths by guns are there in America? Continue reading Who’s Shooting Who–Part 2

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Who’s Shooting Who and Why? No Easy Answers

The Republicans debate tonight; do we care? Yes, this blog does opine on politics from time to time, but it’s way too early to weigh in on the presidential race. So what of politics then? Well, there’s gun control, the 2nd Amendment, imprisonment for use or sale or recreational drugs. But that’s just a smattering of political issues. This, after all is an eclectic blog. So what?

Views from Eagle Peak is more eclectic than most. It will be especially so for the next few weeks as we connect the dots on the peculiarities and the history of the social, political and law enforcement control of those whose behavior frightens and at times actually threatens others (if not simply themselves). Social science, mental health, the mind-body connection. Theater shootings by mentally disturbed people free to roam the streets, shootings of (unarmed) mentally disturbed individuals by police and shackling and arrest of elementary students with disabilities for misbehavior in schools. Is there a common thread?

Yes there is. Here’s a starter:

  • The law and order movement of the Nixon era.
  • Deinstitutionalization of mental patients, theoretically a pro human rights and humanitarian approach that favored community mental health but in the end wound up dumping many on the streets as state and federal resources to provide help suffered draconian funding cuts.
  • Mainstreaming students with disabilities into classrooms with other students.
  • The notion (affirmed by a 5-4 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court) that every adult has the right to own a gun (with some diminishing regulatory exceptions).
  • Individual liberty via the “Social Contract” versus strong legal prohibition of behavior the majority finds deviant with incarceration or death for violation.

Are there simple answers to these issues? Maybe you think we have a mindset that ineluctably leads to specific conclusions based on the setup above. No, those are just observations of what’s happened in America. Are the connections between one and another obvious to most people? Doubtful. So come back next week to see what we think and let us know what you think.

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Next Eagle Peak Quarterly Coming August 1, 2015

Coming Saturday, August 1st is the next Eagle Peak Quarterly. Great stuff in this edition:

  • A short story by John Maberry, The Fountain. You might find this piece about the Southwest reminiscent of the Twilight Zone TV series. Look for The Fountain to be part of a short story collection that will come out later this year.
  • Part 3 of our series on being a writer. We will have more on actually publishing your work this time: where, how, how to use a blog or social media to attract a following and the raw truth that you will need to market your stuff yourself.
  • A 5-minute video from Wayne Shorter, famed jazz musician and member of the International Committee of Artists for Peace. The video has some music but focuses on encouragement to youth—overcoming obstacles.
  • A brief item on the famous quote by Daisaku Ikeda that a “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of humankind.” What does this mean and how could this really happen.
  • A small sample of book reviews posted by author/publisher John Maberry on Goodreads.
  • Something new: Worthy of Note—a look at what’s on the web that we think you might find interesting. This time a synopsis and link to an item on Maria Popova’s site, Brain Pickings, one of our favorites.
  • The fourth in a series of introductions to web links on the Eagle Peak Press site, this time featuring Human Rights Watch.
  • Check out the Quarterly on Saturday or anytime in the next three months to find more stuff in the newly expanded edition.
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The Class Reunion–Another Granfalloon but Go Anyway?

Yes, I am that old; my 50th high school class reunion is coming up. With all the social media and web presence I have, they found me. It’s a small class, only 125, and 13 have already passed on. I spent only one year there–the senior year. So my recollections and connections are not so strong as those who spent four years there. The 1965 class, in fact, is the first one where students could have spent the entire four years there.  None of the three high schools I attended (due to moves beyond my control) offer fond memories. Vonnegut’s right, this is almost certainly a granfalloon. Doubtful there could be any cosmic significance to make it a karass. So why even think of going? Is showing those who might remember me, that I transcended the limitations and shortcomings that they could see back then enough? Seems kind of lame–see, I became somebody! Something makes me think there might be a reason to go. But I need to find it before I sign up.

Not that there is any reason for you to know, but if you have any notions of why I should go (or not) feel free to make a comment on that.

 

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Are You a Good Hacker or a Bad Hacker

With apologies to Frank Baum and the Wizard of Oz, it seems like an apt question today. It seems that one of the major evil ones in the cyber-warfare biz was recently hacked themselves and apparently put out of business. According to Matt Mullenweg (a founding developer of WordPress) “The Hacking Team,”

an Italian company that sold hacking tools, often to questionable governments, had all of their internal company data including emails, source code, everything released. . .which was apparently done by a hacker vigilante.

How bad is the Hacking Team? Apparently they sold tools to despotic (and some not so despotic , including the US) countries around the world to spy on or intercept communications of their citizens. It’s biggest customer was Mexico and the US was 9th. Sudan ranked 12th and Saudi Arabia 4th. The US DEA apparently made use of Hacking Team tools to conduct mass surveillance in Columbia, among other things.  But to get a more complete picture of what kind of assistance they offered to abuse human rights around the globe, see this link that Mullenweg posted on his brief synopsis to the Intercept site detailing the exploits of the Italian firm (Italy was its second largest customer).

What the vigilante hacker did to the Hacking Team apparently dismantled tools that governments have been using to do very bad things. For the despotic countries, those things are not surprising and universally condemned. For the others, it’s more that people don’t want to know about and if they find out, they may want the governments to stop. Arms dealers don’t discriminate in who they sell weapons too. Neither, apparently, do those who write the software tools to help regimes do the dirty work that one expects them too. What’s troubling is those not so obviously evil countries buying tools from the same supplier to the despots.

So are the vigilantes good or bad? What do you think? Start with Mullenweg’s item and check out additional links on the topic–how the Hacking Team got hacked and what this portends for the future.

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Great Links for Today

Trying something different, for me at least. Maybe others do this; I don’t know. Anyway, this is a melange of things that I noted today, that are  from the last couple days.

A little humor from Chris the Story Reading Ape’s Blog, which starts out like this (click the hyperlink to get the rest of this funny piece):

The Lone Ranger and Tonto were camping in the wilderness.

After they got their tent set up, both men fell sound asleep.

Some hours later, Tonto wakes the Lone Ranger and says,”‘Kemo Sabe, look towards sky, what you see?”

The Lone Ranger replies, “I see millions of stars.”

“What that tell you?” asked Tonto.

On a more serious note, for those of you who are authors, you may have heard about Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited royalties based on pages read. As many have railed against this, there are some who have taken the time to debunk the misinformation that lead to great author angst. Most importantly, it applies only to Kindle books in KDP Select–participating in Kindle Unlimited’s borrow program. The borrow program enables readers to borrow, rather than buy, Kindle books. Subscribers pay a monthly fee for this privilege. From a pool that fee generates, Amazon provides a royalty to authors. The new policy will determine the amount paid to an author based on the number of pages actually read from books borrowed. Setting aside any privacy concerns that readers may have (they agree to the terms of service) this rewards authors whose books hold a reader’s interest. The policy has nothing to do with royalties for books sold, not borrowed. Whatever royalty the author gets is set at the outset as a percentage of the book’s price per the agreement with Amazon. To read more about this, see Chris McMullin’s detailed piece:  Myths about the new Kindle Unlimited Pages Read Policy.

Finally, no remarkable revelations, but some useful reminder tips on what to do when you can’t think of blog topics (happens to me frequently on this site; not so much on my writing site) from A. Piper Burgi can be found here. Here’s a sample; for the rest, try the link.

“- Who has influenced your writing? You could turn this into a collection of quotes from a particular author. You could also contact the author, and ask for an interview.

– What is happening in the publishing industry that interests you?

– Do you have any ideas for promoting books?

– Tell your readers about some of the places you have been. Have you been somewhere interesting recently? Don’t forget to include some photos. I still have to work on one of those posts myself.  =)

– How do you create the characters in your book? Perhaps you could write about where your ideas come from. Are your characters based on people you have met?”

 

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Cutting Off the Chain of Hate–Martin Luther King’s Words, Timely as Ever

The shootings at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina by a young man intent on fomenting a race war. Other churches burned across the South. Homophobes incensed at the notion of same sex marriage vow resistance to the Supreme Court decision. Donald Trump calls Mexicans rapists and drug dealers. Yes hate is abundant still in America. Pronouncements by all the courts in the land, all the legislation passed to prohibit hate-based actions will not alter the hearts and minds of people.  In a recent piece on Brain Pickings, the blog site of Maria Popova, can be found this quote from MLK:

“Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.”

bookcover of "A Testament of Hope"
Cover of “A Testament of Hope”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cut off the chain of hate–a simple enough concept, yet seemingly so difficult. It begins with an identification, a categorization, of others as different. It proceeds with the notion that the other has less value, deserves less respect–may even be less than human. Finally, responsibility for one’s own problems are the result of them. They have taken the jobs. Got the school slots you or your kids should have. Taken the money you should have received from your employer or from the government in the form of assistance. They have introduced drugs, depravity and other awful things into the community. They despoil  neighborhoods, disrupt institutions like marriage and generally ruin America as we know it.

Popova notes that:

“Although Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used Christian social ethics and the New Testament concept of “love” heavily in his writings and speeches, he was as influenced by Eastern spiritual traditions, Gandhi’s political writings, Buddhism’s notion of the interconnectedness of all beings, and Ancient Greek philosophy. His enduring ethos, at its core, is nonreligious — rather, it champions a set of moral, spiritual, and civic responsibilities that fortify our humanity, individually and collectively.”

As a Buddhist myself, I can attest to the principle of the interconnectedness, the interdependence of all. We live in a physical, as well as a social environment. That social environment in fact is a reflection of our inner selves. View others with disdain or worse yet, hatred, and the consequences are entirely predictable. Buddhism at it’s core is a humanistic religion–not one based on commandments not far removed from the court decisions and the legislation modeled on them which fail to alter human misbehavior. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is an allegorical character whose humanistic behavior centered on bowing to all he met while praising them as Buddhas, needing only to awaken and assuring them that he could never despise them.

As a consequence, people hit him with sticks or threw stones at him. Compare what happened to Gandhi, King and countless others. Popova goes on to describe at some length, the six pillars of nonviolent resistance set forth in King’s essay, before addressing the ancient Greek principle of Agape. I mention it here to connect it to the perspective of the Bodhisattva noted above. Here is the quote  from King that Popova includes in her piece:

“Agape means understanding, redeeming good will for all men. It is an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative. It is not set in motion by any quality or function of its object… Agape is disinterested love. It is a love in which the individual seeks not his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people, or any qualities people possess. It begins by loving others for their sakes. It is an entirely “neighbor-regarding concern for others,” which discovers the neighbor in every man it meets. Therefore, agape makes no distinction between friends and enemy; it is directed toward both. If one loves an individual merely on account of his friendliness, he loves him for the sake of the benefits to be gained from the friendship, rather than for the friend’s own sake. Consequently, the best way to assure oneself that love is disinterested is to have love for the enemy-neighbor from whom you can expect no good in return, but only hostility and persecution.”

Whether the love of agape, the humanism of Buddhism or some other perspective, the essential task is to stop blaming others–stop making others them, and stop hating them.

 

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