So whatever happened to the neighborhood?

neighborhood-1 When I and others of my generation were growing up the majority of us walked to school, played outdoors, rode our bicycles and other stuff around town and thought nothing of it. In the summer and on weekends during the school year we’d leave the house after doing our chores and/or homework and we’d not be back in the house until the street lights came on.

Formation_Pennant_4xcr-xk

My mother added a slight twist to that narrative by making use of of a Navy pennant similar to the one to the right which if I saw by our back door (and I had to check often) meant “get your butt to the supper table.”  Failure to comply meant no supper. Bummer.

Kids were allowed to be kids and guess what, if you screwed up and did something you weren’t supposed to the nearest adult would take corrective action up to including whacking your butt if the offense warranted it. When you got home your parents already knew about it and you were likely to get another butt whipping just for good measure.  Back talk an adult?  That was considered the worst sort of offense and would be dealt with appropriately.

I read stories all the time about parents being arrested for the horrific offense of leaving their child at home alone while one parent or the other (or both) are working.

In my neighborhood in Rockland, Massachusetts there was a single mom with four children.  She had to go to work as a waitress to earn enough money to support herself and her children because the louse that was their dad was a deadbeat and no longer lived with them. Everybody in the neighborhood knew of this and rather than judge the woman we all pitched in and provide a support network for her. All except for that one neighbor we all had who was so narrow he could  use both eyes to look through a keyhole who felt the single mom was going to hell for the venial sin of being divorced from a man who besides not supporting his family used to beat her in front of the children.

Walking to school during the school year we all knew there were other kid’s moms watching out for us along the route to and from school in case someone fell and skinned a knee.

That “dirty old man” that all us kids knew about was kept at bay by those same moms who would seemingly teleport into our vicinity of that creep got too close to us.

So, what’s happened America?  Can we all become neighbors again?  Our children and grandchildren would certainly benefit from it.

The McDonaldization of the US

Every region has its own special contribution to the food palate of America.

Every region has its own special contribution to the food palate of America.

So here I am at a restaurant in Georgia and I ask my waiter where they go for breakfast in the area. Any good local spots we should hit up? The restaurant I was sitting in was not open for breakfast so I felt there shouldn’t be any conflict of interest on the waiter’s part and it was a question I’d gladly answer for anyone in my neck of the woods who was travelling through.

In the town in Massachusetts where I grew up I could think of about half a dozen places within a reasonable drive from my parent’s house so for me that’d be a no brainier.

The answer I got floored me.

“OH!  I go to the Cracker Barrel for breakfast.”

What? wait! Cracker Barrel?  Really?

That was not an answer I was expecting.

I asked the same question of the lady that was checking us into the hotel we stayed at to rest up from the road.  “IHOP” was the answer I got from her.   Now I don’t have anything against Cracker Barrel and I’ve certainly eaten there many times.  I love their chicken fried steak but I am not under any illusions about what I’m getting when I eat there.

Do we even have regional food any more?

Seems to me that the average person in the US these days wants the slick marketed chain places over going to mom and pop places to get a meal except for foodies like myself. This pattern repeated itself the whole way up the coast (my son and I were driving from Key West to our home in New Jersey) and I was completely gob smacked.  Only a decade ago when my wife and I made the trip to South Carolina to watch a young man we knew graduate from Parris Island Boot Camp any time I asked a local that question they swelled with pride and readily had places they wanted to tell us about that typified the culinary experience of their area.  Especially in North Carolina where it was all about whole hog BBQ.

What has happened in ten years?  I can’t figure it out.  Seems to me we are losing our regional heritage everywhere and what I call “The McDondaldization” has been far too successful.

 

Take me to your leader!

212172-prometheus-alienI couldn’t resist using that cheesey science fiction line from probably the forties or so.

The serious question I have to ask here in this article is “how ready are we as a society for an encounter with beings from another world?”

One of my pet peeves with Science Fiction writing over the years is the depictions of other world beings being just like us and oh by the way they speak English.  Hmm… fishy.

Just an aside in my own Science Fiction writing a lot of “aliens” are human but there’s an over-riding theory as to how that happened. No, they don’t speak English (at least not right away) and they are not quite just like us.  There are also several races of  non-hominid aliens as well who are decidedly different and are motivated by philosophies we just don’t get.

That said, what would happen if a starship or shuttle from a starship were to land in a major city on Earth.  Maybe not a major city but say in the middle of the Mojave desert. Lot more room for a shuttle to land there.   Let’s make it even more interesting:  a shuttle from an alien starship enters the landing pattern at JFK Airport.

In any of those scenarios I’m sure some hilarity would follow.  Then again I wonder if we haven’t become so jaded that we’d shrug it off as a Hollywood stunt for some blockbuster movie coming out.

From the perspective of the aliens what would even motivate them to visit us in the first place?  I’ve always imagined alien starships coming to Earth taking a quick look around while in orbit and saying to themselves “yeah..no.  we ain’t going there.”

On the other hand maybe they want to conquer us?  My thought on that is probably not.  I would imagine it is too darn expensive to govern a space empire to bother with what from their perspective would be a third..uhh..universe world in a backwater part of the Galaxy.  Conquest is usually done for territory that is valuable to the conqueror or to eliminate a threat to security.  Earth doesn’t qualify there either.

Extermination?  If so they won’t bother contacting us directly.  We don’t talk to cockroaches when we start exterminating them, so why would aliens bother contacting us if they want us all dead?

Evangelism? There’s a possibility.  Either social evangelism such as trying to keep us from killing ourselves off in cataclysmic Armageddon or some space religion.

Uplift?  Here have some trans-sonic gargleblaster transmitters.  Possible but not very likely in my thinking.  We can’t handle the technology we have now.

I could add to this list, but here’s my take on the state of things on this planet:  I’m concerned that the arrival of aliens from a distant world would be bad for us.  Where ever they chose to land the unwitting hosts would do their darndest to monopolize their attention.  This could trigger a war which I’m sure would chase our visitors away.

Have them address the UN?  Sure.  But I’m thinking our world has never agreed to anything among nations and I don’t think they’d start because we had guests.

My opinion?  We have a long way before we’re ready for a visit by ET.

Clothing choices: when do you cross the line?

aintgonnaspankitself I just spent the weekend in Wildood, NJ and saw young ladies wearing the type of shorts pictured to the left. Something about that bothered me and it finally occurred to me what it was.  Seems it is an invitation to someone, possibly inebriated to the point of  not having the greatest impulse control to follow the implied instructions.

Now, I am vehemently against violence against women and I certainly do not fall into the school of thought “blame the victim.”

I’m not a police officer or lawyer and don’t even play either on TV.  But it would seem to me that the individual who loses their sense of perspective and “spanks that” in public without affirmative invitation is going to be charged with simple assault at the very least and probably sexual battery.

Police officers are not allowed the discretion of applying common sense in a case such as this either. The woman complains and the man gets “hooked up.”  If sexual battery was charged, instant sex offender.  If it is a nineteen year old young man (most likely to have poor self control even sober) then his life is ruined forever.

So, what bothers me about this is where do you draw the line between Freedom of Speech here and the responsibility of the person wearing this in public?

Personally I think anyone wearing that in public should be subject to being charged with a disorderly persons offense.  That doesn’t excuse the “spanker” and they don’t get off Scott free as far as I’m concerned.

A martial arts practitioner I knew many years ago decided to go out on the town with hundred dollar bill sticking out of his pockets.  He was a third degree black belt and someone he knew got mugged the night before.  He thought it a great idea to do a sting of his own.  Sure enough a pair of men took him up on the obvious challenge and he did end up subduing both of them.  When the police arrived upon receiving a report of a fight they arrested the duo on attempted robbery charges and then he was surprised he was being arrested himself for disorderly person.  Their theory was that since he walked around with the hundred dollar bills sticking from his pockets he caused the incident.   The two men that attacked him were still on the hook for robbery but he’d have to answer for his part in the action.

I think in a case of a woman walking around with a provocative slogan such as above should be held to the same standard.

Children and Dogs — Perfect together? Maybe.

You think this interaction is cute?  Maybe not.

You think this interaction is cute? Maybe not.

Don’t get me wrong, dogs and children together can be a great combination, but there needs to be some common sense approaches to this combination. Just because a dog looks like a stuffed animal they aren’t and common sense should tell you that they have feelings and limits just like humans do.

One of the keys to a child getting along with the family dog is supervision and education the responsibility of which lies with the parent(s).

If you look at the picture to the left Phydeux is clearly warning the child to back off and it is not comfortable with the interaction they are having. This could go from cute to tragic literally in a split second.

Let’s talk about what a bite from a dog really is.   The dog is not “being bad” in a dog’s eye view of the universe.  Among other uses a bite has in a dog’s life it is a last resort means of communicating with other creatures in their world that they don’t like what’s going on. Dogs playing with one another nip in play but if one dog nips the other too hard the one nipped with give the other dog a true bite which is the dog’s way of saying “HEY! Not so rough.”

Looking back to the picture the signs I see here that the dog is under stress at moment are the ears drawn back, the eyes are fixed and staring.  The next escalation from here might be for the hackles to raise, the ears go flat and Pydeaux starts showing teeth.  That escalation might not be visible as the dog may go right for the bite and next thing you know the dog is in the pound on death row.

How do you prevent such a disaster?

  1. Dogs and small children should never be together without supervision. Never assume because of the calm demeanor the dog displays around you means the dog is going to tolerate children.
  2. Train your children to be sensitive to the dog’s needs.
  3. Give your dog some way to separate themselves from the young children and just chill. Some child tolerant dogs still need to be able to be by themselves in peace and quiet. Even energetic breeds.

 

Let’s look at other ways children and dogs can run afoul of each other.

Children, and the younger they are the worse this gets, sound like, move like and act like prey.  Running children doubly so.   Dogs love to chase prey and this can be their downfall a lot of the time.  One of my pet peeves are the parents of children who complain their dog is biting the children’s pant legs.  Turns out, after much interrogation on my part, the children are running around the house like maniacs and poor PheaPhea just wants to join in the fun.  The kids are screeching (happy sound, right?) and playing a game of chase with each other (at least that’s how the dog sees it) and chase is a dog’s favorite thing.  When two dogs are playing chase and the chaser catches up with the prey a nip is issued just like human children yell “tag! you’re it!”   There’s a source of misunderstanding between humans and dogs.

To get a dog to stop grabbing pants legs educate your children to stop dead in their tracks and stand still.  Game is over and it’s no fun anymore.  Do that enough and the dog will give up on playing chase with the children.

Let’s talk the case of a truly vicious dog.  When I was about nine years old there was a dog in the neighborhood that while I’d not classify her as “vicious” she certainly was a dominate bitch. She was a German Shepherd female who’s owners believed themselves to be “special” and not subject to the laws regarding dog ownership we had in our hometown. Consequently the dog was often found roaming about off leash.  One fine day I was riding my bicycle about when this dog came out of nowhere, chased me and my bicycle down the road and she bit me hard on the hip drawing blood.  Now I was a snot nosed nine year old and I got angry at the dog and threw my bike at her. A bike that used to take both my mother and I to get out of the basement so I could ride it.   The dog didn’t bother me for a very long time, but that’s another story.

I in no way would advise a youngster to follow in my fine footsteps.

If the opportunity to attend a “Dog Bite Prevention Clinic” becomes available take it.  Whatever they are charging will be money well spent.

Breed “Guilt” — Truth or Fiction

What a great number of people otherwise well educated think when the hear the word "Pitbull."

What a great number of people otherwise well educated think when the hear the word “Pitbull.”

Let me cut to the chase: any breed of dog can become vicious. The five times in my life that I’ve been on the receiving end of a dog bite at three of those were from dogs under twenty pounds. I’ve never been bitten by a pit bull and my wife and I have been involved in dog training, teaching others to train their dog, participating in Agility, Obedience, Nose Works, Rally and other dog related activities since the mid 1990 time period.

When I see a dog acting out in any fashion I usually notice at best a complacency at the other end of the leash or in rare cases the idiot owner egging the dog on.  The latter owner then says “it’s only natural for him” when someone files a complaint about his menacing dog.

There can be many reasons why a dog can choose the thug life most of which have to do with how the dog was raised.  A very good example is the first Australian Cattle Dog I ever owned.  He came to me with a name that I decided to change to Dingo.  I owe Dingo a debt of gratitude I can never repay because he taught me more about dog behavior than any human teacher ever could.

Dingo’s problem started before he ever found a “forever home” when he was a puppy.  In the first nine months of his life he changed hands four times according to the records I have on him. Right off the bat how is this dog going to learn to bond with humans if the first nine months of his life lacked stability.   I have no idea about the kennel he was born into given they never answered any of my telephone calls and their email address was bogus.  I have a more than a feeling that poor Dingo never received any sort of puppy kindergarten training and I’d guess he was probably taken from his mother too soon.

Dingo came to by way of a couple that I love dearly.  They are great parents and a sweet a couple as you’d ever want to know.  I leave their names out of this writing out of respect for their privacy and I don’t want to leave them feeling guilty about what I’m going to report on next.  They did the best they knew how and unfortunately it became a case of the wrong dog in the wrong home.   Dingo arrived in their life from a pet store in one of the local malls.  Pet stores in my honest opinion should not be in the business of selling animals.  Any time you have a situation where animals are sold to whoever has the money to pay without screening the home situation bad things are apt to happen.

Such was the case with Dingo.  The couple both worked as many newlyweds end up doing. It’s a financial reality so no bad words to say there.  The result was poor Dingo was left at home as a hard charging nine month old Australian Cattle Dog adolescent who probably had not spent a lot of time outside a crate in his young life.

Australian Cattle Dog "heading" a cow.

Australian Cattle Dog “heading” a cow.

An aside here, let me explain Australian Cattle Dogs for a moment. The photo to the right is a classic example of the energy level and work ethic the breed is known for. They are also called Queensland Heelers because of their propensity to nip the hocks of cattle are working in an attempt to motivate that big beast to go the direction the dog is trying to send them.

These are working dogs and are high energy.  My current ACD, Bosun, (only time I ever bought a puppy, another post another time) used to wake up in the morning with an agenda of things he had to get done. I never did find his checklist, but he was from four months old a very busy puppy.  That energy level persists to this day now that he has passed the six year old mark.

Back to the case of Dingo.

Dingo discovered if he growled his owners backed off from him.  Bad news.  Did I mention Australian Cattle Dogs are very smart and learn new things quickly?   Dingo in his bid to control his environment used that knowledge to his personal advantage.

The next bad thing that happened to Dingo was he started destroying the house out of frustration.  He’d see dogs go by the house through the front window and chew the furniture in a rage and displaced aggression.  That earned him being shut into the basement by his owners while they were at work out of frustration.

cant-keep-it-im-allergic

How many times I heard “can’t keep the dog we have a new child.”

The final straw for Dingo in this household was the impending arrival of the couple’s first child. Dingo had become quite the behavior problem and fear among the rest of the family for what Dingo might do to the baby was rife. The family on both sides pressured the couple to get Dingo out of the house one way or another.

Dingo was three years old at the time and was going to have people ban him from their lives again.

The husband approached me in church one Sunday and the conversation went something like this:

Husband: “so, Peter, I understand you like Australian Cattle DogsMyself: “Yeah I do, why?

Husband: “Well, we have one we need to get rid of before the baby is born. You interested in taking him.

Myself:“You sure? That’s a big step getting rid of a dog. If you can’t work it out with him I’ll take him”

A few days the husband arrived at my house with a drop dead handsome blue Australian Cattle Dog male at the end of a leash.  The dog’s eyes darted about nervously and my wife had a bad feeling about him.  If I knew then what I know now I might not have taken Dingo in.

After a few initial mishaps with Dingo, I’m an ex-Navy Petty Officer with no tolerance for mutiny in my household, I made use of the services of a Dog Behavior Consultant.  She, my wife and I worked out a protocol of behavior modification for Dingo (short name of program NILF, “Nothing In Life is Free”) and even so the DBC warned me that “someday you may have to make an important decision about this dog.

Flush with this knowledge and the program in hand I spent the next three years trying to rehabilitate this dog.  Unfortunately the damage to this dog’s mental processes had already been done.  After three years of progress and regression Dingo flipped out over seeing a dog on someone’s front yard.  My attempt at calming him, which up until this point was successful one hundred percent of the time, yielded Dingo going after me.  At this point I decided to take him back to the house for a “cooling off period” and three more times the dog tried to attack me.  The decision I made is one that I have second guessed millions of times over.  “Could I have done more for that dog?”

Who’s to blame for Dingo?  His original owners?  Maybe partly but I hardly cast them as villains here.  They did the best they could with the knowledge they had. Dingo would have been a tough nut to crack for any household not educated in behavior and training. The pet store?  They certainly played a part and their motive was profit not the well being of the dog or the new owners.  My suspicions lie with the number of times Dingo changed hands before he ended up in the pet store and I have to question what their motivation was for not putting him to work (his papers were with the Stockdog Registry) or euthanizing him rather than placing him in the pet store.   The breeder?  There is a trainer/behaviorist that   has started an education program for breeders and he is exhorting them to train their puppies before they leave the mother.  I’m interested in seeing how successful that is.

More on this subject in a follow on post.

Where’d you get that from?

truth-o-meterI have several friends that send me stuff in my email often of a political nature. A lot of times it is slamming someone or another in the political arena. Other times it is supposedly good advice to keep yourself safe or a get rich quick scheme or just a straight up chain letter.

I also know a few opinionated souls who will tell me stuff verbally about people, places and things that either sound way too good to be true or so horrible you wonder how it could be true.

My upbringing, my time in the US Navy and my life’s experiences in general have taught me to be a critical thinker and at times a doubting Thomas.  Quite often something I hear causes me to doubt what is being represented because “it just don’t make sense.”

So, who do you believe?

Certainly not the US press I am afraid.  Most Radio TV and printed news is done with a particular editorial viewpoint in mind.  Facts can be presented in such a way to spin the story in a particular direction and support a particular viewpoint.

Case in point is the debate on firearm ownership.  (Yeah… that again)

When a shooter kills a bunch of people with a firearm the press focuses their attention on what type of firearm they used, how many rounds of ammo did they have with them, the capacity of the magazine etc. etc. etc.   Less is said about the state of mind of the individual who pulled the trigger and instead a fury of hysteria that a firearm was involved rather than the root cause of the issue.  (Hint:  the firearm is not the root cause, especially when the press neglects to mention how many victims were killed in the incident with a knife. But I digress)

Another source of grist for the mill are the personalities of our politicians.   Our President of the United States (POTUS) is a prime target of both adoration and vitriol and not necessarily in equal measure.   The full blown right of center folks spin exaggerated tales of what the President and his wife (FLOTUS) are doing.  What their children are doing. What their dog is doing.  Ad Nauseum.  On the opposite side of the scale are the full blown left of center folks who pour out unabashed admiration of how masterfully POTUS wiped his brow with a handkerchief.

Somewhere between those extremes lies the real truth.  So, who do you believe?

My first source for fact checking is snopes.com but they are not 100% reliable either.  I’d give them a score of about 90% which is a nice segue to my advice of using multiple sources to validate information.

I avoid US newspaper sites preferring to use the BBC which tends to report on US affairs with a measure of neutrality.   Another good source (at least I haven’t caught them being wrong yet) is Fact Check.  They seem to be fair and balanced in their reporting and seem to do a lot of research into issues.  What I really like about Fact Check is they cite their sources at the end of an article.  This will give you a window into how the article was formed and by know what’s behind the source can tell you if there is bias in the reporting.

TruthOrFiction.com is another great fact checking site that focuses on email hoaxes. One of my “email buddies” sent me an email recently of a picture of FLOTUS Michelle Obama supposedly waving a red Chinese flag.  False.  It was a plain red banner and she was doing so because she was joining in with some entertainers.  Nothing political.  Smart  move on her part?  Maybe… maybe not.  Truth or Fiction was the site that busted the rumor.

So next time you get that email saying Bill Gates is going to give you one million of his hard earned dollars, do some fact checking…

So: you want to end firearm violence?

business-end-of-38So called “gun control” is an emotional topic steeped in reports of violent people running amok with a firearm shooting people.

The problem is not as simple as the “Anti-Gun” proponents or the staunchest “Pro-Gun” proponents make it out to be.   Let’s pull the problem apart a bit and examine what’s going on here.  First off let me just put it out there that the loss of a single life is a tragedy of huge proportions.  What often gets lost in translation is the fact that any human being is a son or daughter of a set of parents and potentially the wife or husband, boyfriend or girlfriend or mother or father to someone and will be grieved for when they are lost.  That alone in my opinion tells me that a well thought out strategy for dealing with violence in general has to be thought out.

People have been killing each other for many millennium now starting with early hominids that used rocks and sticks to defend their territory from other family bands to ensure their family band had enough food to eat.  Violence is an ugly side to human nature that cannot be ignored. It needs to be dealt with in a manner that does not include over-reaction.

Starting with the school yard fight between ten year old boys (or girls!), and this is where a lot of over-reaction happens, use of force between two people needs to be kept to a socially acceptable minimum for the good of society as a whole.

Focusing on firearms in particular, there are several vectors that produce firearm violence. Let’s look at those for a moment.

Criminal Activity

From the drug dealer defending his “turf” to the armed robber who holds up a liquor store this is a worst case scenario.  Guess what?  Legislation doesn’t slow these folks down one bit.

There are plenty of sources of black market firearms for someone as streetwise as most criminals are.  In point of fact when I first moved to New Jersey I had a co-worker tell me exactly where to go in Bergen County and New York City to obtain “a clean gun.”  This in reaction to my saying “I’d love to have an M-14 but…”

There was a recent news article about armed robbers invading a restaurant armed with firearms (guess they didn’t read the sign) where a sign in the front window prohibited firearms inside the restaurant.  Criminals don’t care about firearm laws. That’s just a fact of life.

Mentally Disturbed Individuals

This is a harder case to prevent.  Just as criminals don’t care about firearms laws these folks have plenty of ways to get their hands on a firearm.  In the case of the Newton CT tragedy the shooter killed his own mother to obtain his weapons.  His mother legally owned those firearms and was in fact betrayed by her own flesh and blood.

Domestic Terrorism

While thankfully this is not very common it is something to be aware of.  There are dozens of hate groups out there armed to the teeth and represent a powder keg just waiting for the fuse to be lit.

Along the same lines are the various militias that are suspicious of every manifestation of government imaginable.  I hear rhetoric from members of these organizations all the time and it is quite frankly scary.

Stupidity and Accidents

You just can’t fix stupid. I was at a firing range in Connecticut many years ago where this young man was wearing a western style holster with a .44 revolver in in. He was told by the Range Safety Officer (RSO) that quick draw shooting was not allowed.  Period. No exceptions.

When the RSO had his back turned answering someone else’s question I saw out the corner of my eye this dude start to pull the revolver from its holster. What happened next is not clear to me but the result was very clear to me. The revolver discharged sending the round down the length of his leg.  I stopped what I was doing to attempt first aid but the damage was so severe I was limited on what I could do.  Good darn thing the first aid squad was only three minutes away.

I’ve also heard many tales in my lifetime of “unloaded rifles” that weren’t, people being shot by mistake in the woods during hunting season, and the worst was a man shooting his own wife because he thought there was a burglar in the house.

Solutions

Some of my solutions won’t sit well with the more extreme “Pro-Gun” folks but I believe this is a “makes sense” approach to the problem.

 Crime and Punishment

The first thought I have about firearm violence makes the most sense to me.  We spend so much time in this country protecting the rights of the accused that we forget why we have a legal system in place in the first place.  That thought could be another post in and of itself so I won’t go into here.

Make possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime a Federal felony with a stiff mandatory sentence say fifteen years.  I know what the bleeding hearts thing about this but I don’t care.  Not doing this is not solving the problem.

Being found guilty of selling firearms on the black market should also be punished on the Federal level with stiff penalties.

A favorite quote among law makers is “getting illegal firearms off the streets.”   So instead of punishing law abiding citizens push through legislation designed to address the real problem.

Legal Ownership

I had a neighbor that knowing I had knowledge of firearms and how to properly use them in self defense out of the blue ask me what sort of pistol he should purchase for home defense. If I wan’t disturbed by his question already, the next words out of his mouth sealed the deal “what about a Glock with a sixteen round magazine?”

Calming myself down a bit I started asking him questions about what he was afraid of that he felt the need to arm himself.  Secondly how much experience and training does he have in handling a firearm.   I concluded by telling him if nine-millimeter rounds come crashing through my bedroom in the wee hours because he’s blasting away I’m gonna be all sorts of pissed of.   I recommended he get a twelve gauge shotgun instead.  At least double-ought buck won’t go through both sets of walls.

If someone in this country who is a citizen wants to own firearms, which is their Second Amendment right, they ought to be able to do that.  With some caveats.

In my personal philosophy of life rights come with responsibility.  I also feel that firearm ownership is a serious enough matter to not be taken lightly.

I am in favor of a tiered licensing approach to firearm ownership.

The basics would include a background check to ensure you are not an ex-con (it’s already illegal to own a firearm if you are an ex-con) and certification from your doctor that you are not mentally incapacitated.  A lot of folks are squeamish by that last part, but we already are subject to an eye exam when we get a driver’s license.

This permit would just be a permit to be eligible to own a firearm.  That permit would have a time limit (say five years) and would be subject to renewal.

Second tier to this would be individual endorsements for each firearm type you want to own.  This would include mandatory education about that firearm type along with a written and practical exam and a demonstration of proficiency. (NRA? You paying attention?  You could help with this.)

The third tier would be more difficult to obtain and that would be the concealed carry permit.  I certainly don’t want to see the return of the Wild West with everyone armed to the teeth and gunfights in the street.  That said, I feel that if someone wants to carry a concealed weapon they should be allowed to if they pass a certification course.  Personally I don’t want to carry, but that’s my thinking on the matter.

Self Defense and Responsibility

When I was in the Navy and standing watches as  an armed watch stander  our rules of engagement (ROE) were simply stated that deadly force was authorized in the following situations:

  • Self defense where the watch stander is in imminent danger of injury or death.
  • Defense of another where they are in imminent danger of injury or loss of life.
  • Defense of the ship.
  • Prevention of a felony.

Even though I have not been in the Navy in a very long time those are the ROE I follow to this day.

That said, there’s a flip side to this.  If you use deadly force with a firearm or other weapon you’d better be ready to defend your actions and prove that it was self defense on not a crime of passion.

A lot has been said in the press both for and against the so called “Stand Your Ground” laws defining a person’s right to self defense.

Defending yourself against harm has been a right that goes back millennium.  The English Common Law actually stated that a home was a man’s castle and a man had a right to defend his castle.  (what about women?)  Yet there are states/cities where defending yourself against an intruder can get you into jail as a criminal.  This is an area that needs to be better addressed by the legal system.  Legally binding someone to becoming a victim in their own home is stupid in my not so humble opinion.

I definitely feel that a common sense approach to firearms ownership needs to be addressed in this country of ours.  After all the Second Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights not the Bill of Privileges.  Holding people accountable for their actions using their firearm only makes sense.

So what’s happening to Free Speech in this country?

4362 BILL OF RIGHTS-2 I see a trend in this country that is alarming to me. Someone, either a politician or an entertainer or other public figure, makes a comment that flies in the face of the belief system fostered by the PC Thought Police and it gets reported in the press and much hand wringing ensues. My reaction to this used to be “meh… must be a slow news day.”

Stepping back for a bit let me rehash a fact that should be understood by anyone who took Social Studies sometime during their K-12 education that is a cornerstone of what it means to be a free country.

The first ten amendments to the US Constitution are called the Bill of Rights.  Not the Bill of Privileges.. not the Bill of you can only behave in a manner whiny thin skinned people say you can.  It is the Bill of Rights.

What is a right?  The Webster’s Dictionary definition that fits this context (there are multiple definitions) is: “a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.”  There’s nothing in that definition that makes it subject to someone’s influence.

As hateful as some people’s speech may be they have the right to their opinion.  Bottom line.  Dear press:  if someone is engaging in hateful speech don’t report it on the front page, you only give them credence. You advertise for them.   Especially when you report on hate groups.  If you ignore them they just might go away.

Don’t get me wrong here, there’s a flip side that I am very aware of.  A right also implies a responsibility. Rights without responsibility is anarchy in my view of the world.  You can say what you want in a public forum but be prepared to deal with the consequences if you slander or libel someone in the process.  If you lose your job because you were excersizing  your right to free speech and condemned your employer don’t whine about it.

Our founding fathers considered the US Constitution an “incomplete document” because it did not address the rights of its citizens. That was the genesis of the Bill of Rights and freedom of speech was first on the list for  reason.  Our founding fathers in founding this country were subject to arrest and imprisonment during the Revolution by the British who were intent on putting down the rebellion. Anyone who spoke out against King George III was considered a criminal at the least or guilty of treason at the worst.

Our founding fathers sought to prevent this from ever happening again. And yet there are folks in this country who would limit free speech in spite of the Bill of Rights.

“On May 15, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on June 3 on amending the U.S. Constitution to limit political speech. If ultimately adopted, it would mark the first time in American history that a constitutional amendment rescinded a freedom listed as among the fundamental rights of the American people.” — brieghtbart.com

I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty scary proposition. Stay tuned folks, your rights may be under assault.

Patent Reform — Why we need it.

patent-reformOver the last fourteen years or so I’ve been watching in horror as various patent trolls roll out lawsuits against established businesses in an attempt to cash in on their success.

The case that struck the closest to home for me was the SCO lawsuit against IBM over the rights to certain lines of code in Linux that IBM had released to the Linux Community.

Linux is near and dear to my heart and is my preferred operating system because I can just get stuff done with it as opposed to the products The Evil Empire™ produces.  I maintain exactly one Windows 7 box at home and that was for a specific purpose.  I digress.

Anything that threatens the future of Linux is going to get my attention really quick.  In the end SCO lost the case as most of us that are Linux aficionados expected.  What that case served to do for me is wake me up to the issue of folks that exist simply to try and separate money from businesses in the hope they will settle a case rather than fight it.  Once they get one such business to settle there is no end to the ability for them to extort from others.

I remember the apocryphal tale my Business 101 teacher told us in my freshman year of High School of a man that managed to get a patent on the wheel barrow.  He didn’t set out to do that but by applying for a patent for an “Improved Wheelbarrow” he ended up getting a patent for something that previously did not have a registered patent.  The upshot of that was he could now charge royalties on every wheelbarrow produced from that day on.  Given the wheelbarrow is a many millennium  old invention I wouldn’t give long odds for success in collecting.

Never the less there are folks trying to accomplish goals very similar to collecting on royalties for dubious claims of ownership of a concept, product or idea.

Part of the problem in the IT world is that jurists are not that educated when it comes to technical topics.  Each side brings to the trial their technical experts and then it comes down to which expert sounds more believable.   I’ve heard techies speak that I know are very knowledgeable but even to my ear they sound clueless.

Classic example of that was in my community at a planning board meeting a business that wants to open up shop in our town produced an engineer to testify in their behalf.  I honestly believe the engineer is competent.   The town lawyer ripped him to shreds totally reducing his credibility to zero because the engineer was either poorly coached by legal council or the man just did not know how to present his material in a believable fashion.  (side note:  listening to his testimony I heard several flaws in his data which the town attorney never picked up on)

To my way of thinking the need for patent law reform is pretty obvious.  Why would I invest my life’s savings, for instance, in producing a product, building a business around it just to have some random person appear out of nowhere to claim they should be getting a piece of the action. Worse, if I hire an attorney at $500 an hour to research my product before I go to market my start up costs have just risen which may mean I have to increase my unit price which could have an affect on the success or failure of my business.

That’s what they are talking about when the reference is made that Patent Trolls cause a loss of innovation.

Sen. Leahy shoots down patent troll bill. No surprise. His #1 backers are law firms. — twitter 2014-05-23

The fact that a Senator would kill a bill that went against the will of their backers is no surprise to me.  The fact that the system allows this to happen saddens me. Of course law firms don’t want this passed since it kills a stream of revenue for them that is darn near “found money” for them.  The bigger the pockets the better.

Support Patent Reform.  If you don’t the next Twitter, Facebook, EBay or whatever technology out there that may be of interest to you might not happen.