Wednesday, June 19, 2019

DELEGATE RANSONE'S UNCONSCIONABLE REACTION TO THE VIRGINIA BEACH SHOOTING




Here is my letter to the editor in reaction to Delegate Margaret Ransone's (Virginia legislature) comments on the governor calling the legislature into session following the Virginia Beach rampage. 

Editor:

Delegate Margaret Ransone’s response to Governor Northam’s calling the state legislature into session following the Virginia Beach tragedy goes beyond jaw dropping—it is disturbing. Indeed, Ransone may have gone off the rails—she typed part of it in all caps, the signal a person is screaming.

Ransone finds the timing “disgusting.” More hysteria? What we need is calm, clear deliberation—not yelling.
           
Ransone doesn’t have her facts straight. After almost all mass shootings, political leaders follow one of two courses of action, either call the legislature into session or appoint a blue-ribbon panel to investigate. Northam chose the latter.
           
Following shootings, politicians of Ransone’s ilk say, “Now is not the time to talk about the killings.” Ok, when is the time to discuss mass killings?

Furthermore, Ransone’s response is a profound lie of omission. She doesn’t mention her party killed eight bills in committee that would have helped stem gun violence and simultaneously protect the Second Amendment. One, SB 1748, would have prohibited a person from importing, selling, bartering, or transferring a firearm magazine holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The killer at Virginia Beach used magazines holding 30 rounds.

I know from personal experience that Delegate Ransone is duplicitous when it comes to gun violence. I, along with others, met with her four years ago. I talked with her about the loss our family had suffered at a school shooting in Virginia and gave her copies of my books on that shooting and the Virginia Tech massacre.

In front of witnesses she asked if I would be willing to meet with members of the Virginia legislature to discuss ways to curb gun violence. My answer was, “yes.”

I am still waiting for Ransone to call.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

THE PLEASURE OF HATING


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            Hate, ridicule, sarcasm, jealousy, belittling humor, and bullying are despicable, centuries-old characteristics of human behavior.  Hate is the fountain from which the others flow; hate seems to be an indelible part of our nature. The Germans even have a word for wallowing in hate and enjoying the misfortunes of others—schadenfreude.

            In 1826 American writer William Hazlitt wrote The Pleasure of Hating. He asserts:

            “The pleasure of hating, like a poisonous mineral, eats into the heart of religion, and turns it to rankling spleen and bigotry; it makes patriotism an excuse for carrying fire, pestilence, and famine into other lands: it leaves to virtue nothing but the spirit of censoriousness, and a narrow, jealous, inquisitorial watchfulness over the actions and motives of others.”

            Hazlitt’s words struck me deeply following the death of a close friend’s daughter. In high school, that daughter was subjected to intense ridicule because of her appearance and because she was Jewish. Her classmates teased her, mocked her and gave her a name—The Frog.

            It stuck.

            A couple of years before her recent death at age 69, she asked her only grandchild to call her Nana Frog. A talented and tormented woman, she fought many demons and never recovered from the bullying and ridicule she endured.

            Her family gave me a copy of her poetry. In it I found:

LIFE AS A FROG
Sometimes I dream
Of being a frog –
A Jewish frog in search
Of kosher bugs.
Other frogs
Wouldn’t call me names
Or tell me that
I killed their god.
Even if I was
A different shade of green
I would be
Another frog.

            Rest in peace Nana frog. Frogs are beautiful; they are one of god’s wondrous creatures.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

FACEBOOK SCAM IN MY NAME DO NOT CONTRIBUTE


Scam Warning: Someone has gone on Facebook and is using my name to ask for money in the name of the Sandy Hook Fund. I know nothing about this and never gave anyone permission to use my name. Please investigate all appeals for money in the name of any cause--whether on Facebook or anywhere.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

INTERNET, FACEBOOK, AND BLOG TROLLS


Writing about school shootings and gun violence produces some odd responses. Indeed, all sorts of people crawl out from under the rocks to share their lack of wisdom with others. They have certainly hit my Facebook postings as well as my blog.

A troll is broadly defined as “a member of an online social community who deliberately tries to disrupt, attack, offend or generally cause trouble within the community by posting certain comments, photos, videos, GIFs or some other form of online content.”

Elsie Moreau has categorized them in “10 Types of Internet Trolls You’ll Meet,” subtitled “Haters Gonna Hate.” I would say there are even more types than Moreau lays out, but no matter how many types you come up with they all seem to have certain characteristics—arrogance often sprinkled with a healthy does of ignorance, illogical argumentation, and name calling with a dash of hysteria. Some Trolls, particularly the Trump supporters and the 2nd Amendments extremists use profanity so much that their words indicate they are willing to in their mouths what most people would not put in their hands.

Here are Moreau’s 10 types—with some comments by me:

THE INSULT TROLL

“The insult troll is a pure hater, plain and simple. And they don't even really have to have a reason to hate or insult someone. These types of trolls will often pick on everyone and anyone – calling them names, accusing them of certain things, doing anything they can to get a negative emotional response from them – just because they can. In many cases, this type of trolling can become so severe that it can lead to or be considered a serious form of cyber-bullying.”  This type particularly likes to attack my postings—I have been called a lot of names. I have been threatened (so much for freedom of speech).

THE PERSISTENT DEBATE TROLL

“This type of troll loves a good argument. They can take a great, thoroughly researched and fact-based piece of content, and come at it from all opposing discussion angles to challenge its message. They believe they're right, and everyone else is wrong. You'll often also find them leaving long threads or arguments with other commenters in community comment sections, and they're always determined to have the last word – continuing to comment until that other user gives up.” The characteristic of believing they are right and everyone else is wrong cuts across all ten types. You have to ask, “Who left the door to the asylum open?”

THE GRAMMAR AND SPELL-CHECK TROLL

“You know this type of troll. They're the people who always have to tell other users that they have misspelled words and grammar mistakes. Even when they do it by simply commenting with the corrected word behind an asterisk symbol, it's pretty much never a welcomed comment to any discussion. Some of them even use a commenter's spelling and grammar mistakes as an excuse to insult them.” I would add that many times this type of troll is dead wrong. English is the fastest changing major language in the world—our rules are always in flux. This troll relies on some obscure, out of date, rule she or he learned 30 or 40 years ago, but like the other Trolls, knows everything.

THE FOREVER OFFENDED TROLL

“When controversial topics are discussed online, they're bound to offend someone. That's normal. But then there are the types of trolls who can take a piece of content – often times it's a joke, a parody or something sarcastic – and turn on the digital waterworks. They're experts at taking humorous pieces of content and turning them into an argument by playing the victim. People really do get upset by some of the strangest things said and done online.” Some people walk through life in a perpetual state of indignation. They apparently are craving attention jumping on the “I’m a victim bandwagon” thinking they will get some sympathy for what is their apparently miserable life.

THE SHOW-OFF, KNOW-IT-ALL, BLABBER MOUTH TROLL

“A close relative to the persistent debate troll, the show-off or blabbermouth troll is a person who doesn't necessarily like to participate in arguments but does love to share his or her opinion in extreme detail, even spreading rumors and secrets in some cases. Think of that one family member or friend you know who just loves to hear his or her own voice. That's the Internet equivalent of the show-off or know-it-all or blabbermouth troll. They love to have long discussions and write lots of paragraphs about whatever they know, whether anyone reads it or not.” Rather than be a separate type of troll, this should be the title for all of them, “Show-off, Know-It-All, Blabber Mouth Trolls.”  

THE PROFANITY AND ALL-CAPS TROLL

“Unlike some of the more intelligent trolls such as the debate troll, the grammar troll and the blabbermouth troll, the profanity and all-caps troll is the person who has nothing really of value to add to the discussion, spewing only F-bombs and other curse words with his caps lock button left on. In many cases, these types of trolls are just bored kids looking for something to do without needing to put too much thought or effort into anything. On the other side of the screen, they're often harmless.” A lot of these people are not bored kids, they are uncouth—lacking in manners, vocabulary, and the ability to engage in an adult exchange of ideas. I think many of these profane individuals are dimly aware of their shortcomings and inability to engage in intelligent exchanges, so they result to screaming profanity.

THE ONE WORD ONLY TROLL

“There's always that one contributor to a Facebook status update, a forum thread, and Instagram photo, a Tumblr post or any other form of social posting who just says "lol" or "what" or "k" or "yes" or "no." They're certainly far from the worst type of troll you meet online, but when a serious or detailed topic is being discussed, their one-word replies are just a nuisance to all who are trying to add value and follow the discussion.” I agree, this is probably the most benign troll. Unfortunately their unwillingness or inability to use sentences or phrases and the result is confusion. What does “lol” mean—lots of luck, lots of love, lots of lunacy? The use of “k” is really the height of laziness—this troll cannot even take time to type the “o” in front of the “k.”

THE EXAGGERATION TROLL

“Exaggeration trolls can sometimes be a combination of know-it-alls, the offended and even debate trolls. They know how to take any topic or problem and completely blow it out of proportion. Some of them actually try to do it to be funny, and sometimes they succeed, while others do it just to be annoying. They rarely ever contribute any real value to a discussion and often bring up problems and issues that may arguably be unrelated to what's being discussed.” This troll might better be called, “I Need Medication Troll.” Most of the postings I have read from this sort of troll appear to be written by people who rely on temper tantrums to get their way. They also display written examples of arrested development—somewhere around the age of four or five. I responded to one of these Trolls, asking him his level of education. He responded he wasn’t going to tell me because, “I would make fun of him.” Inferiority complex at work here?

THE OFF TOPIC TROLL

“It's pretty hard not to hate that person who posts something completely off topic in any type of social community discussion. It can be even worse when that person succeeds in shifting the topic and everyone ends up talking about whatever irrelevant thing that he or she posted. You see it all the time online – in the comments of Facebook posts, in threaded YouTube comments, on Twitter and literally anywhere there're active discussions happening.” This Troll apparently has to say something, anything. He or she has nothing of value to the topic under discussion. This Troll might better be called, “I Don’t Have A Clue Troll, But Want Attention Troll.”

THE GREEDY SPAMMER TROLL

“Last but not least, there's the dreaded spammer troll. This is the troll who truly could not care less about your post or discussion and is only posting to benefit himself. He or she wants you to check out his or her page, buy from his or her link, use his or her coupon code or download his or her free ebook. These trolls also include all those users you see littering discussions on Twitter, Instagram, and every other social network with "follow me!!!" posts.” I have had my share of those. They post something about a book or service they are selling. This Troll might be called, “My Product Is Not Selling, Please Try It—I Need The Money Troll.”






Tuesday, December 25, 2018

DAVID GETS LAST LAUGH


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Following the Parkland school shooting that left 17 dead, David Hogg, a Parkland student, became a spokesperson for the anti-gun violence movement. He helped found Never Again MSD, an organization that advocates sensible gun regulations. He was instrumental in organizing March For Our Lives that drew nearly 800,000 to Washington, D.C.

Hogg’s activity has made him the target of the lunatic, right wing fringe. He has been called all sorts of names, mocked, and ridiculed.

The most disgusting abuse of the airwaves came from Fox News host, Laura Ingraham. And, I use the word “news” in the loosest definition because Ingraham is anything but a news commentator. She is a purveyor of hate and NRA-inspired propaganda.

When David Hogg publicly revealed his applications to several California universities were turned down, Ingraham turned to twitter. She tweeted a story from a conservative news site describing him as a “Guns Rights Provocateur” and accused Hogg of whining.

The fact that a nationally known media host would ridicule an 18-year-old high school boy is stupid and arrogant, revealing Ingraham’s dark soul. Just about when you think the fanatical guns rights people have sunk as far as they can go, along comes Laura Ingraham who used her position to disparage a high school student who lost fellow students and friends in a mass shooting.

Now, David Hogg has been accepted by Harvard and will enter next fall majoring in Political Science. Any comment, Laura Ingraham?


Thursday, December 20, 2018

GUN SAFETY: THE ROAD AHEAD


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Clearly, there is a path forward, and it is at the state and local level—not the federal level. The Trump administration’s recent decision to reclassify bump stops as a machine gun allowing federal authorities to ban it is a tiny step forward, but it too little too late for people at the Las Vegas concert.


You, the reader, can make a difference by joining the growing number of voices of concerned Americans demanding some measures to curb the slaughter. It will take thought; imagination, patience, and determination make our lives safer.


More and more, people are finding ways to keep firearms out of public venues. Moms Demand Action have taken the gun issue to large retailors and are asking large retailors to prohibit customers from carrying guns into their locations. The threat of a boycott gets businesses attention. Moms Demand Action has been successful with Starbucks, Target, Chipotle, Jack in the Box, and Sonic Drive-In, just to mention a few.


Curbing gun violence has made progress, albeit it is slow—almost all of it at the state and local levels. Here is an example; Washington State passed Initiative 594 by a wide margin. The measure requires criminal background checks on all firearms sales and transfers in the state including at gun shows and on the Internet.


Initiative 594 does not undercut one aspect of the Second Amendment; it should be adopted in all 50 state. If 594 had been in place in 2007 in Virginia, Seung-Hui Cho almost certainly would not have been able to buy a gun and slaughter 32 people and wound 17 others at Virginia Tech. (To be continued)