This is Normal
I get up in the morning, get dressed, do the chores. Read the news. There's news of another mass shooting in the USA. Two of them, in fact. There's no news of a mass shooting in my country. This is normal.
I drive to the university where I study. I drive carefully because I'm aware I'm moving around about a ton of metal at speeds of 40 - 70 km/h, and that can cause some serious problems to the human body if such a thing isn't done with due care and attention. I don't worry about other drivers pulling out a gun and shooting me for bad driving. This is normal.
I get to university, and go into a classroom. I'm not looking at the rooftops for snipers. I'm not watching my fellow-students cautiously, waiting to see whether today is the day one of them "snaps". I don't look for exit routes out of the classroom if a shooter should enter. This is normal.
I go to the supermarket to pick up groceries. I don't worry about getting shot in the car-park. I don't worry about getting shot in the mall on the way to the supermarket. I don't worry about getting shot in the supermarket. I don't worry about getting shot at all. This is normal.
I'll go to work later this week, and I'm not worried about my employer (who knows of my history of mental illness) deciding they're not going to keep me on due to the potential risk to my colleagues. They also know I'm not going to shoot up my workplace. People shooting up their workplace is very unlikely in this country. This is normal.
Politicians in this country don't have much to fear from crowds - the worst is maybe a cream pie, or an egg to the head, or maybe a bit of ballistic fruit or something like that for the really objectionable ones. They don't need armed bodyguards everywhere they go. This is normal.
The police here are armed - but they face severe penalties for shooting a person in the course of their duties. They know most of the people they're going to be facing don't have access to guns, so they have to use less extreme measures of taking control of a situation. This is normal.
We still have the rare person who wants to take out a bunch of others and "go down in a blaze of glory" - usually to prove something about their masculinity to themselves. They don't tend to use guns, though - guns are hard to obtain here. They also tend to survive being arrested, and go on to get long jail sentences rather than being taken out in a hail of bullets. The most popular weapon for them these days is the car. But this is also normal.
Children in our schools don't have "active shooter drills". They don't plan what to do if there's a shooter in the building. They don't plan how to hide, how to cower in a cupboard until things are over. We have occasional bomb/fire drills where the entire school evacuates onto the oval. This is normal, too.
This is all normal. This is the way Australians live. A nation of twenty-seven million people, with a lot of different racial tensions and a growing resurgence of white supremacists, and with a conservative government in charge which probably wouldn't do anything to stop the white supremacists either. But we don't live in the constant fear and paranoia today might be the day we get shot down in the street by our fellow citizens.
The way people live in the USA is NOT normal. I just think you need to know this.
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(Yet) Another Mass Shooting in the USA
I'm not going to go into huge detail about this one (save to note that so far this year, there have been more mass shootings in the USA than there have been days in the year). Instead, I'm going to concentrate on some things which could be tried to stop these things from happening (or at least slow down the rate of them) without necessarily altering gun laws.
( Detail under fold )
Now, none of these three things is going to drastically drop the number of mass shootings immediately. If you want an immediate impact on the number of mass shootings in the USA, then it's going to have to be done through gun control laws, just the same as everywhere else on the planet. But in the medium-to-long term, and particularly if you have the NRA and their paid-up politicians remaining as stubborn as ever on the issue, then these measures will help.
So start speaking to the media firms. Start speaking to your political candidates. Start demanding change.
Ignore the idiots who say "it's too soon" - as I pointed out above, you're currently averaging better than 1 mass shooting per day. How many do there need to be before things change? Ignore the fools who accuse you of "politicising the issue. Shootings like this are essentially about power - which means they're political from the get-go. The choice to do something about preventing them is a political choice, I'll grant you - but so is the choice not to.
It's up to the people of the USA to make it clear they don't want to see this happening. And the best way to start is by denying these little dickweasels who want to exhibit their sense of entitlement, their sense of personal power, the attention that they so desperately crave.
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Public Service Message for those in the USA
To all the Americans who read my blog: It’s already Tuesday here in Australia. It’s voting day. Democracy is a participatory system of government. You owe it to yourselves and everyone else around you to get out there and vote.
Yes, even if you don’t like any of the available candidates. One of those people on the ballot is going to be representing YOU for the next however many years, whether you like them or not. So get out there and vote for the one you dislike least. If you don’t vote, you don't get a say in whoever represents you.
Yes, even if you’re in a gerrymandered district where there’s no chance the incumbent is going to lose. The more people go out and vote, the more votes the incumbent needs to win the election, and the bigger the chance they can lose. If 100% of eligible voters vote, the winning candidate needs to have the support of at least 50% of the people. If only 50% of eligible voters in an electorate vote, the winning candidate only has to be supported by 25% of the population. If only 20% of the voters get out there and vote, the candidate needs 10% of the population voting for them to win. The more people get out there and vote, the higher the bar the candidates have to get over in order to win. Even if you’re in a gerrymandered district, and the incumbent is going to get over the bar anyway, you can at least hope they sprain their back doing so!
ESPECIALLY if you’re in a state which has voter ID restrictions, and you have the right ID. Voter ID is essentially an effort to restrict the voting population to those people who will support the status quo. As per my paragraph above, the fewer people are eligible to vote in a district, the fewer people the candidate has to appeal to in order to win the district. Voter ID laws try to restrict the population and knock down the difficulty level for the big candidates.
Even if you “don’t care about politics”. Politics is all around you. It’s in the air you breathe (whether that air is breathable is a political decision); it’s in the water you drink (whether you’re able to drink the water or not is a political decision); it’s in the food you eat; the job you work at; whether you can find a job or not. Politics is in everything, because politics is about power. The one guaranteed, non-criminal way you can affect things in the current system is by voting. So get out there and vote, and start regaining a bit of control over the world.
Even if you don’t think it matters. It matters, because you are taking back the power the politicians are given. Even if you don’t believe your vote will accomplish anything. Your vote on its own will not make much of a change, this is true. But it will accomplish more than not voting will.
Find your nearest polling place. Get out there and vote. The big boys with the big bucks don’t ask your opinion very often, but when they do you’re a fool to yourself and a menace to others if you let the chance go by without taking it.
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In Response to Another Mass Shooting in the USA
1) Can I re-iterate a call for the name of the shooter to be buried in obscurity, while the names of his victims are memorialised? This would be a far more fitting treatment of these sorts of crimes than the current practice of focussing on the person who committed the crime to the exclusion of the persons who were harmed by it (and, let's be honest, to the exclusion of the persons this fool meant to be harmed by his actions: namely, all women who have ever turned down a self-professed "nice guy" for whatever reason). Why give this bloke the publicity and notice he so dearly wanted?
Instead, let's remember and commemorate Katherine Cooper, Veronika Weiss, Christopher Ross Michael-Martinez, and his other victims (as yet unnamed to the public).
2) Can we stop demonising the mentally ill for these sorts of crimes? I agree, the guy probably had issues. I agree, he had Aspergers Syndrome, which is one of the autism spectrum of disorders. However, he is not likely to have had a single diagnosed severe mental illness, he is highly unlikely to be provably compulsive or psychotic (i.e. he is NOT likely to have been in an altered mental state) at the time of the shooting, and he is more than likely to be found to be legally sane (that is, he was capable of perceiving the distinction between moral and immoral actions) at the time of the shooting.
The vast majority of people with diagnosed mental illnesses (including the vast majority of people with diagnosed psychotic schizophrenia, and diagnosed compulsive disorders, not to mention the vast majority of people who exist on the autism spectrum somewhere) manage to get through their lives pretty much without perpetrating acts of violence on other people. Indeed, the vast majority of persons with diagnosed mental illnesses are more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators.
The issues this bloke had were not to do with an altered mental state, with his reported autism spectrum disorder, with a compulsive or psychotic disorder, or with an emotional disorder. They stemmed far more from his attitudes of entitlement and misogyny. Which leads to my next point...
3) Can we label these sorts of crimes (mass shootings, performed by a single perpetrator, often from an ambush location, at a single point in time, generally without a particular target of preference) as being what they are: crimes of entitlement. I call them crimes of entitlement because the vast majority of the perpetrators for these crimes are white men. There have been a few such crimes perpetrated by black or Asian men. NONE have been perpetrated by women. They're crimes performed largely by people who have structural advantages in our society, and who feel they are hard done by because they don't get the "perfect" life they feel they're owed by the universe. They generally aren't high achievers, they blame other people for their own failings, and they generally "peak" into homicidal activity like this at two possible ages - there's one group who bombs out shortly after high school, usually by their early to mid twenties (and the shooter for this latest incident fit the mould perfectly; he was not even original in his dysfunction), and another group which tends to bomb out in their mid-to-late forties. In both cases, it's because they realise they aren't going to get the life Hollywood promised them they were due as straight white men, and in both cases, their actions are because they think their selfish anger at this "betrayal" is much more important than anything else.
In both cases, these people are more likely to either suicide themselves, or commit "suicide by cop" rather than face up to the consequences of their actions. Again, our shooter in this case fit the mould to a "T". He was not unique, he was not some special snowflake, and regardless of his stated "reasons" for his crime, the status of his family or any of the other things people will pull out in order to pretend this crime was somehow "different", he was no different to the last such insignificant wanker to commit such a crime, nor any different to the next one. Which leads to my final point:
4) Can we please have this discussion with and within the USA where we mention that maybe, just maybe, making guns harder to acquire on a national basis might knock the number of these crimes which occur there right the way down? Because this is a VERY AMERICAN CRIME. Everywhere else an incident of this sort occurs, there's immediate action to prevent it from recurring. Gun laws are imposed or tightened up; rules on who can obtain a gun are imposed or tightened; enforcement of existing laws is stepped up; all of these efforts are made to ensure the next time some thoughtless yahoo feels his insignificance is a massive burden, he hasn't got the easy recourse of taking a gun and shooting people randomly in order to get his name in the papers. Only in the USA is this kind of crime treated as something which is apparently unable to be prevented.
Quite frankly, as I've said before, I'm starting to lose sympathy. Yes, these individual events are terrible. But really, there is a solution to the problem, and it's one which has been proven to work quite successfully everywhere else.
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US Government Shutdown - The way I see it (as an Australian, and a student of Computer Science)
Your government is like your operating system for your country. Now, there are a lot of different OSen out there, some better suited to their purpose than others. The US government is basically a very old, very buggy version of RepresentativeDemocracy (RepDem) 1.51, complicated by the problem that you haven't been applying upgrades for a long, long while (I think the last attempt to patch the US OS was the Equal Rights Amendment patch, and it got rejected by the buggy hardware even though the majority of the programs running on the system support it, as well as it being a major requirement for a lot of world networking). Basically, your country is running on a fairly old and buggy legacy system.
(By comparison: The UK is running some kind of bastard hacked-together hybrid of Monarchy 3.5 and Westminster 1.314; Australia is running Washminster XP; France is on Republic 5.0; and New Zealand is trying some sort of Linux-derivative thing called MMP 1.0)
Your system has currently wedged. One misfiring process has managed to wedge the entire system such that nothing is capable of happening. Your country is currently sitting there with the blue screen of death blinking at them, showing a large amount of hexadecimal gobbledegook, which is only really useful to a constitutional lawyer or other such systems architect. Some of the less major processes (the ones running the display etc) are still running behind the scenes, because they're handled by separate data paths, and don't need access to the CPU to operate. But the majority of functionality is gone. For ordinary users, a reboot would fix this - switch the whole system off, replace some of the defective components in the hardware, and restart. Unfortunately, the OS controls the power supply (which is really poor design, by the way) and since the OS is wedged, you're not able to even partially reboot until a scheduled outage in 2014.
My guess, as a former tech support type, is that your system appears to have a serious viral infection - it looks like you have a serious infestation of all of the neo-Con group of viruses, ranging from Objectivism, through (g)libertarianism. Gods, you've even got anti-Communist hysteria running on there, and that's a really ancient one which doesn't even RUN on most systems these days - it's been obsolete since about the mid-nineties. This is causing the system to hang when you attempt to install a working anti-virus program (your current anti-virus isn't working; it's been corrupted by the neo-Con viruses to the point where the OS doesn't supply necessary resources to a lot of programs in order to prevent virus infection).
Ideally, you need to restart your system in safe mode, install an up-to-date anti-virus program, scan your entire system to root out or at least quarantine the Neo-Con viruses, including that really weird "NRA" variant you have in there, and then restart things gradually, to see whether you've rooted out the worst of the problem.
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