Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

50 Shades of Discreet

About a month ago, I sat in a coffee shop writing early in the morning, when I glanced at the screen of the man sitting next to me. He had a website with very scantily dressed women on it. I was taken aback, not by the content, but the fact he was willing to do this in a cramped coffee shop.

Boundaries dude?

Now here is a confession. I am reading 50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James, the first in a trilogy that at the time of writing are #1, #2, and #3 on Amazon’s Bestseller List. I share this fact to point out that I am probably not the only one reading it. 

I have the novel on my kindle and, well, it has served as bedtime reading. Last week, I traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, home of the Arc, the Cardinals and Budweiser. It also has a terrific children’s museum with a shark pool that you can toss your child in with ease. 

My journey home was long and arduous, and I soon finished my magazines, exhausted my laptop battery and turned to my kindle. In the growing darkness, I curled up against the window and read 50 Shades of Grey.

On the second flight, I sat next to a young (female) lawyer who was reading litigation books and (I suspect) not happy to sit between two middle-aged guys, one of whom was trying to make conversation (the other guy, btw). On the third flight, I was placed next to two women who were discussing their church. I was self-conscious.

There is nowhere to hide your laptop screen but a kindle has only words. It occurred to me that with the advent of eReaders, people cannot discern what you are reading. There is no visible book cover. You are in your own world, anonymous and unaccountable.

That Spreadsheet Looks Good!

I share this because I have recently read about a growing and flourishing erotic book business, spurred by short stories sold at $0.99 for the eBook. I wonder whether this has been because people are searching for more channels to explore their sexuality or because there is now a medium to read anonymously.

What excites me (bear with me) about this is the possibility that people will read books that are more risky politically. Perhaps someone growing up in a Christian family will dare to read about evolution, a gay teenager can find material to guide him/her through a turbulent journey, or an addict read a self-help support book on the train. We have seen how Twitter has played its part to overthrow oppressive regimes, how about the eReader?

But while the Internet and eReader can help push the boundaries of personal and political exploration, looking at erotic photos at Starbucks remains off limits.

Have a great weekend.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

 

Fast Track to Hell: Paul Ryan – Roger Ingalls

I’m from the great state of Wisconsin and proud of it. It’s the home of the Green Bay Packers; the football team that’s won almost twice as many world championships than any other team. It’s a team owned by the community while all other teams are private hobby organizations for fat-cat Wall Street insiders. There’s something sweet about a community team that’s more successful than the bankers’ dream teams.

Wisconsin is also known as the home of Harley Davidson, historic development center for electrical power tools and machining, an original leader in electron-beam microscopy, super computers and, of course, organized labor. It is even rumored that a thousand years ago the Knights Templar buried the Holy Grail somewhere in the Dairy State between the Virgin apex of Green Bay and the Kensington Stone in Minnesota. This is why Wisconsin is often referred to as God’s Country.

Wisconsin does have its embarrassments: Jeffrey Dahmer, Ed Gein and four out of the last twelve gun related mass murders (in the last twenty years) have been committed in the state. However, the biggest embarrassment was republican Senator Joe McCarthy who was responsible for massive civil rights violations during the 1950s. Current Governor Scott Walker is a rights violator too but is considered a pantywaist by comparison to McCarthy.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has selected Paul Ryan (republican representative for WI 1st congressional district) as his running mate for the 2012 election. Paul Ryan goes beyond embarrassment for the state; he is pure evil. He is an agent for Wall Street and is pushing an agenda that continues the transfer of middleclass wealth into the hands of the one-percenters. Here are a few of his ideas:

1)      Privatize Social Security – he wants to turn your social security money over to the same bankers and Wall Street companies that crashed the world-wide economy in 2008 and stole the common man’s wealth and gave it to the 1% fat-cats.

2)      Eliminate Medicare for those who earned it – he wants to give us a partial coupon and then make us buy healthcare plans from Wall Street backed insurance companies. For profit insurance companies don’t care about people’s health, they care about making money for their shareholders. The only competition Wall Street’s insurance companies have is Medicare. All insurance companies offer essentially the same coverage so there really isn’t a free market choice other than Medicare. Once Medicare is gone, the people will be powerless and under the thumb of for profit-only Wall Street. Under his plan, getting the medicine and treatment we need will be a bigger fight than we have now.

It’s my opinion that Paul Ryan is pure evil and is trying to fast track the American middleclass into a hellish existence for the benefit of his Wall Street backers. Why does he have to come from my state of Wisconsin? I guess in a Biblical sense, the Antichrist must originate from God’s Country.

Secrets of Gun Control 2 of 3

This is a continuance of Monday’s post based upon a great article from The Atlantic by Adam Winkler entitled The Secret History of Guns.

Hard-line gun-rights advocates portray even modest gun laws as infringements on that right and oppose widely popular proposals—such as background checks for all gun purchasers—on the ground that any gun-control measure, no matter how seemingly reasonable, puts us on the slippery slope toward total civilian disarmament.

From the other side of the street, those who advocate for gun control, claim that the Second Amendment was intended to insure a militia that could protect the people from interior or exterior threats.

We  will never know the intentions of those who wrote the constitution, but what is historically proven is that the Founding Fathers put into place gun laws and limitations that would probably see their NRA membership revoked today.

True, preventing slaves and free blacks access to arms was clearly to uphold a racist regime, or law-abiding white men who refused to swear loyalty to the Revolution, is hardly the kind of gun control that many of us seek. (I couldn’t find if women were allowed to carry arms, and if not then, when. Anyone know?).

What I also found interesting is that the Founders had their own version of “individual mandate” (and I thought you were being original, President Obama with your health-care-reform law). The Founding Fathers “actually  required the purchase of guns. A 1792 federal law mandated every eligible man to purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia. Such men had to report for frequent musters—where their guns would be inspected and, yes, registered on public rolls.”

After a famous public altercation in February 1967 (in Oakland, Left Coasters) between a lawyer for the Black Panthers and a police officer, “Republicans in California eagerly supported increased gun control. Governor Reagan told reporters that afternoon that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” He called guns a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.” In a later press conference, Reagan said he didn’t “know of any sportsman who leaves his home with a gun to go out into the field to hunt or for target shooting who carries that gun loaded.”

While the NRA is the clear leader against gun control it was not always so intransigent. In fact, throughout the 1920’s and 30’s the organization often led gun control legislative initiatives.

“The organization’s president at the time was Karl T. Frederick, a Princeton and Harvard-educated lawyer known as “the best shot in America”—a title he earned by winning three gold medals in pistol-shooting at the 1920 Summer Olympic Games. As a special consultant to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, Frederick helped draft the Uniform Firearms Act, a model of state-level gun-control legislation.”

This included:

1. No individual could carry concealed in public without a permit from the local police. Such a permit could only be received by a “suitable” person with a “proper reason for carrying” a firearm.

2. Gun dealers were required to report to law enforcement every sale of a handgun.

3. A two-day waiting period on handgun sales was to be strictly adhered to.

In 1934 Frederick stated that he did “not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.” Milton A. Reckord, the organization’s executive vice president told a congressional committee that the NRA was “absolutely favorable to reasonable legislation.”

On Monday, we shall see how the NRA continued to be an active partner in the passage of gun control.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Paul Ryan a “Bold” Choice for Romney Running Mate? – Tom Rossi

In several TV news reports right after Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate for he 2012 presidential election, the reporter delivering the story used the words, “Bold choice,” several times. Was this choice “bold?” Really?

Not even close. This was a timid, cautious choice – a hedge intended to make it OK for Tea Party extremists to vote for the wet dishrag that is Mitt Romney. Mitt was afraid that Tea Partiers would just stay home… a ridiculous fear as the one thing that unites them is their visceral, misguided and misdirected hatred of President Obama.

This was a strategic calculation and a poor one. Not one Tea Party member would have failed to vote for Mitt. But now he’s put himself in jeopardy with that all-important voting demographic – those with more gray hair than Romney.

Paul Ryan is a cutter. He wants, above all, to keep taxes low for the very wealthy. The way to do that is to cut. So he wants to cut medicare, social security, education, and lots of other things. Some of these programs are the life blood (in some cases literally) of America’s vast army of retired persons. I won’t even call them “the elderly” because this group is far larger and includes many more people than that.

So, I have some renewed hope that our so-so president will be re-elected in November. So-so beats narcissistic classist any day of the week.

Representative Barney Frank said that Mitt Romney has no actual values, other than faith in himself. In other words – narcissism. This timid choice makes that clear. He doesn’t care if his running mate shares his views (after all, they change every day and in front of every audience), but only if that person will help him win.

This word, “bold,” seems to be the plant word of choice for Republican press releases (that are often disguised as news stories). Just replace it with “expected,” or “mundane,” or “slimy,” the next time you hear it and it will all make much more sense.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Gun Control Part One

In my numerous discussions about gun control over the past month, I have felt that the arguments have been emotional (though there is nothing wrong with this) and somewhat lacking in any historical perspective. I am frustrated by the extremism displayed on both sides. This series of posts on gun control is a reflection of my own lack of knowledge. I found a great article from The Atlantic by Adam Winkler. The Secret History of Guns is possibly the most comprehensive and lucid article I have read on the topic. I certainly learned a lot. All quotes, unless otherwise attributed, are his.

Adam Winkler is professor of constitutional law at UCLA law school. Much of this research can be found in his book:  Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America.

Winkler eloquently describes how the real struggle for modern gun control began:

“The eighth-grade students gathering on the west lawn of the state capitol in Sacramento were planning to lunch on fried chicken with California’s new governor, Ronald Reagan, and then tour the granite building constructed a century earlier to resemble the nation’s Capitol. But the festivities were interrupted by the arrival of 30 young black men and women carrying .357 Magnums, 12-gauge shotguns, and .45-caliber pistols.

The 24 men and six women climbed the capitol steps, and one man, Bobby Seale, began to read from a prepared statement. “The American people in general and the black people in particular,” he announced, must take careful note of the racist California legislature aimed at keeping the black people disarmed and powerless Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated, and everything else to get the racist power structure of America to right the wrongs which have historically been perpetuated against black people The time has come for black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late.

Seale then turned to the others. “All right, brothers, come on. We’re going inside.” He opened the door, and the radicals walked straight into the state’s most important government building, loaded guns in hand. No metal detectors stood in their way.

It was May 2, 1967, and the Black Panthers’ invasion of the California statehouse launched the modern gun-rights movement.”

While this story is historically fascinating, it is the next part that really caught my attention. The Second Amendment, contrary to everything I have understood up until now, does not clearly state that the individual has a right to bear arms. It doesn’t discuss the right to walk around in public with a gun, or whether that gun can be loaded. In fact, to again quote Mr. Winkler: “The Second Amendment is maddeningly ambiguous.”

The actual wording is: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

 A well-regulated militia is a far cry from an individual concealing a weapon. Yet to many, and possibly through a well-orchestrated campaign by the NRA, this assures an individual the right to bear arms and outlaws most gun control.

What is particularly dangerous with this approach is the perception that any law, for example one that might prevent guns reaching the hands of terrorists, criminals, people with mental instability, is the beginning of a slippery path to disarming people.

I have already suggested that such extreme posturing (and on the other side, those who want a total ban on guns) has led to a chasm that we are going to have difficulty bridging. On Wednesday, we will see how often the gun lobby has been a partner in creating legislation.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Can Fantasy Be A Vehicle For Social Change?

I believe passionately that writers of fiction can ply their craft to help effect positive social change and offer a platform for values and principles. The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale both reflect this and I have a series of books focusing on social issues in the US (all based in San Francisco) beginning with Unwanted Heroes which will be released by Three Clover Press later this year and highlight the way we treat war veterans and the homeless.

I was delighted when Kaitlyn Cole from Online Universities shared a list that their faculty had put together entitled: 50 Best Novels For Political Junkies.

Kaitlyn wrote: “True story: Some of the best political novels aren’t explicitly about politics. Yes, some of the books on this list deal directly with governments and politicians, with laws and the ways they’re made or abused, and with the peril and promise inherent in every governing body. But some of them use adventure, parable, or satire to subtly explore our political system with a depth that wouldn’t be possible any other way.”

Great point and relevant to those of us who write political fiction. But how about fantasy? Is there room to use our elves and dwarves to promote social injustices or causes? 

Over the last three summers I was blessed with the amazing experience of writing three fantasy novels together with now 13-year-old son. While I have read a few fantasy novels, I had no idea about the “rules” of the genre.

Writing with my son, however, compelled me to include moral issues such as racism, dictatorship and freedom, as well as the values of friendship and inclusiveness. I was writing for my son and there are plenty of swords, quests, elves, dwarves etc., but as I watched him read and listened to his feedback, I waited for his comments about such issues and derived huge satisfaction when he brought up issues.

In setting my goals for an exercise at Author Salon, I wrote:

“I have seen the impact of the Harry Potter series and Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series on my son and his friends. I want to help shape the landscape of the next generation’s imagination and maybe even the society they strive to create.”

 My lack of knowledge regarding fantasy leads me to ask the question: Can fantasy offer a vehicle to discuss political and social injustice? I would love to hear your answers.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Presidential Jabber – Roger Ingalls

The campaigning season is upon us and the air is abuzz with comedic babble. In this spirit, I’d like to share a few of my favorite political quotes; some witty and funny but others just ooze stupidity.

”You know nothing for sure…except the fact that you know nothing for sure.” —President John Kennedy

”If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?” —Abraham Lincoln

”Did you ever think that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.” —Lyndon Johnson

”My fellow Americans. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve signed legislation outlawing the Soviet Union. We begin bombing in five minutes.”—Ronald Reagan

”I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself.” —Ronald Reagan

”Once you leave the womb, conservatives don’t care about you until you reach military age. Then you’re just what they’re looking for.” —George Carlin

”Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.”—Groucho Marx

”My esteem in this country has gone up substantially. It is very nice now when people wave at me, they use all their fingers.”—President Jimmy Carter

”Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”—Ronald Reagan

”A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.”—President Franklin Roosevelt

”Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.”—Will Rogers

”I love California, I practically grew up in Phoenix.”—Dan Quayle

”We do know of certain knowledge that he [Osama Bin Laden] is either in Afghanistan, or in some other country, or dead.” —former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

”Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” —President George W. Bush

”We know there are known knowns: there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns: that is to say we know there are things we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” —Donald Rumsfeld

”Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?” —George W. Bush

There’s a million of them; we could go on for days. Let’s close this out with a quote by Mark Twain that accurately describes todays Senators and House of Representatives, ”Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

NRA: An Advocate for Gun Control

You write about the National Rifle Association and you will hit a nerve as I did last week. But I remain fascinated with the organization and found this article.

Mike Dendinger claims that the NRA has been a consistent supporter of methods to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. It has also supported responsible supervision whenever children or the untrained are allowed access to guns. In fact, the NRA adversarial stance is more a response to, or at least parallels, the rise of the liberal anti-gun platform.

“The NRA’s opposition to other forms of gun control appears to have coalesced in the 1970’s, when the idea of gun confiscation first started to appear in the philosophy of the American left. At that point, the NRA seems to have evolved to oppose any form of gun control that would allow the government to maintain databases of gun owners and their guns. Because such databases would facilitate government confiscation of firearms (as subsequently happened in Canada), they were anathema to NRA members.

Prior to the ’70’s, the NRA was not perceived as opposing gun control simply because there wasn’t much to oppose. In the twenties, civilians could buy Thompson submachine guns and Browning Automatic Rifles via mail order. The National Firearms Act of 1934, contrary to popular belief, did not prohibit civilians from owning fully automatic weapons, but instead imposed formidable licensing requirements. The camel’s nose poked a little farther into the tent with the Gun Control Act of 1968, passed in response to the terrible string of political assassinations in the ’60’s. The GCA imposed severe restrictions on the sale and/or transfer of firearms, especially in interstate commerce. It was in the decade following the GCA of 1968 that the NRA became more active in opposing gun control.”

This historical perspective suggests that there might be more common ground between two seemingly polemic stances, one that might facilitate a safer society. Perhaps we don’t need to agree on everything to facilitate a safer environment.

Once we stop posturing and begin to establish common ground, who knows where it might take us?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

 

High Speed Rail Funding Arrives. Has the Need Arrived?

Here in California, Governor Brown recently signed the first phase of High Speed Rail into reality. He likes HSR, but he was also in sort of a jam as California voters had previously (and only partially-informedly) approved a bond measure to raise billions of dollars specifically for this project. This money can’t legally be spent on anything else.

As fantasies go, HSR is pretty cool. France and Japan have enviable HSR systems that are really sexy. They look great, they zoom around majestically at impressive speeds, they lend an air of sophistication to their countries and governments, and they transport large numbers of people efficiently.

In addition, HSR would be more fuel efficient than air travel and it would break the strangle hold that the airlines currently have on us all. But is HSR a timely solution to our transportation problems?

Some people want to avoid this…

and this.

While pseudo-intellectuals like George Will rail against rail (especially but not exclusively the high-speed variety) for contrived and ridiculous reasons, there are better reasons – real reasons – that HSR is a solution whose time has not come. This first phase will run 130 miles, from Bakersfield to Madera (the proposed location of the states HSR maintenance facility) at a cost of $8billion.  

What we really need to spend money on is improving and expanding existing public transportation systems. The real jewels of Asian and European rail systems are their frequency, extensiveness, and efficiency – not just from a fuel standpoint, but from a transportation standpoint as well.

In and around Tokyo, for example, there is an extensive train system in addition to subways and buses. The trains take millions (yes millions) of people into the city from outlying communities each day. There are multiple tracks almost everywhere and, unlike the San Francisco Bay Area’s BART system, you can travel in several different directions from almost anywhere.

Tokyo’s passenger train system is almost all electric and very quiet. The trains resemble nice subways more than they do Amtrak trains. One of the best things about having multiple tracks is that it allows for express trains. These trains are the same as the other trains, they are not built for higher speeds. But they are much faster because they have limited stops and just sail right past many stations.

Because of this, these express trains get their passengers to their destinations much sooner. A passenger may have to transfer to another, local train to make it to a final destination, but it’s still much quicker than stopping at every station along the way.

Here’s another issue. Right now, Amtrak (America’s only real large-scale rail system) has large, conspicuous gaps in it’s travel coverage. For example, to travel on Amtrak from Fresno, California’s agriculture center, to Los Angeles requires that passengers get off of the train at Bakersfield and board a bus for the rest of the trip.

In addition, local light rail and bus systems are riddled with inadequacies, many of which are caused by limited funding and some of which are caused by less-than-optimal management. Part of the new funding is to make unspecified improvements in California’s existing rail systems, but the attention and the priority seem to be on HSR.

All of these systems could be improved tremendously for a lower cost than constructing one thin route for high speed rail between various locations. Also, these solutions apply to real problems today. What people need is help with their everyday commutes and business and errand trips. How many people really need to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2 ½ hours? Many, many more people would benefit from the ability to get to work in under one hour.

High speed rail is a later phase in a mature public transportation system. Our system is far from mature and HSR is not the solution we need now.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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It is Time – Relief for Victims of Lone-Wolf Killers such as James Holmes – Guest Blogger Lloyd Lofthouse

Alon: Last week’s post garnered a lot of attention – Who’s Afraid of the NRA – Guest Blogger Lloyd Lofthouse redirects our attention from the political outcomes to focusing on the victims.

It is Time – Relief for Victims of Lone-Wolf Killers such as James Holmes – LLoyd Lofthouse

What happened in that theater outside Denver, Colorado on July 25, 2012 or, for example, the terrorist bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murray Federal Building in Downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, were acts of terrorism and/or combat no different from what happened on 9/11 or in America’s foreign wars such as Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In fact, twelve days after 9/11, the US Congress enacted the September 11th Victim Compensation fund of 2001. This $6 billion program was intended to compensate any individual (or the personal representative of a deceased individual) who was physically injured or killed as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011. Source: Homeland Security: 9/11 Victim Relief Funds

We already know what happens to America’s combat veterans in similar situations—and US troops are trained, armed and ready.

In July 2010, PBS News Hour reported, “Of the more than two million men and women who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s estimated one in five will come home with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD,” said health correspondent Betty Ann Bowser.

Bowser quoted U. S. President Barack Obama, who said, “I don’t think our troops on the battlefield should have to keep notes just in case they need to apply for a claim. And I have met enough veterans to know that you don’t have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war.”

Before President Obama, the rules required veterans to document events like firefights or bomb explosions that could have caused PTSD. Such documentation was often time-consuming and difficult, and sometimes was impossible. … Under the new rules a veteran need show only that he or she served in a war and performed a job during which events could have happened that could cause the disorder.

But what about the innocent victims of combat in the United States?

I’m not talking about the homicide rate (which is in decline) or riots (which most people may avoid by staying away from the location of the riot). I’m talking about the victims of lone-wolf mass killings such as what happened recently near Denver, Colorado.


What Motivates “Lone-Wolf” Shooters – there are thousands hiding in public!

According to The Arizona Republic, “There has been no corresponding decline in mass murder—these sudden, stunning eruptions of violence with multiple victims, often perpetrated by gunmen who researchers refer to as ‘pseudo-commandos.’ Such a killer, clad in body armor and with a small arsenal of firearms, struck Friday in Aurora, Colo., leaving a dozen dead, 58 wounded and a nation horrified. …

“The United States experienced 645 mass-murder events—killings with at least four victims—from 1976 to 2010, according to Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox. When graphed, these incidents show no obvious trend. The numbers go up and down and up again. The total body count: 2,949.”

The total number killed in the terrorist attack in New York City on September 11, 2001 was 2,819.

If what happened in that Colorado Theater does not qualify as a homegrown terrorist attack by a ‘pseudo-commando’, what does?

Lone-wolf acts of violence in the United States must be considered the same as any disaster and be included under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988. Under this act, the Federal share of the costs of such efforts is to be no less than 75 percent of the eligible costs. Total assistance under this Act for one emergency is to be limited to no more than $5,000,000, except when the President determines additional funds are needed. If additional funds are needed, the President must report to Congress on the extent of the additional need.

If what happened in Colorado is not covered under the Stafford Act, we need a new law that will. After all, it is the government’s responsibility to safeguard innocent, law abiding US citizens and in acts of lone-wolf violence, the government has failed 645 times since 1976.

It’s time to take care of our own in situations such as a lone-wolf mass-murder events. If the US Federal government can spend $49 billion for foreign aid in 2012, it must help the victims of acts of violence similar to what happened in Colorado in that Century Theater—the victims in such acts of violence should be treated the same as if they were 9/11 victims, wounded in combat or came home with PTSD from Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan.

This post is reprinted with permission from The Soulful Veteran

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

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