Gun Violence in the United States


I am often corralled by my European friends to explain why there is so much “gun violence” in the U.S. and why we don’t do something about it.   Frankly, I don’t have a good answer other than to cite our Constitutional “right” to bear arms.    In any event, our brain-dead politicians have sadly shaped the political debate largely along party lines – or NRA lobbyist lines – which hardly seems the logical way to get any meaningful reform.

Found below is “The Big Picture” on gun violence in the United States as reported by NBC.

The Big Picture:

  • Every year in the U.S., an average of more than 100,000 people are shot, according to The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence.
  • Every day in the U.S., an average of 289 people are shot. Eighty-six of them die: 30 are murdered, 53 kill themselves, two die accidentally, and one is shot in a police intervention, the Brady Campaign reports.
  • One person is killed by a firearm every 17 minutes, 87 people are killed during an average day, and 609 are killed every week. (source: CDC)

Homicides by weapon:

  • Handguns comprised 72.5 percent of the firearms used in murder and non-negligent manslaughter incidents in 2011; 4.1 percent were with shotguns; 3.8 percent were with rifles; 18.5 percent were with unspecified firearms.
  • 13.3 percent of homicides were done with knives or other cutting instruments.
  • 5.8 percent of homicides were from the use of hands, fists, feet, etc. (source: FBI)

Guns and kids:

  • 82 children under five years old died from firearms in 2010 compared with 58 law enforcement officers killed by firearms in the line of duty (sources: CDFCDC, FBI)
  • More kids ages 0-19 died from firearms every three days in 2010 than died in the 2012 Newtown, Conn., massacre (source:CDFCDC)
  • Nearly three times more kids (15,576) were injured by firearms in 2010 than the number of U.S. soldiers (5,247) wounded in action that year in the war in Afghanistan (source:CDFCDC, Department of Defense)
  • Half of all juveniles murdered in 2010 were killed with a firearm (source: Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention)

Now if these figures are correct a couple of startling “facts” emerge:

  • Handguns (not rifles or automatic weapons) account for the vast majority of murders and non-negligent manslaughter;
  • Some 60% of gun-related deaths are suicides.

Are government leaders shirking their responsibilities by focusing instead on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons rather than the proliferation of handguns and weapons in the hands of those prone to suicide?   Sadly, it appears to me that our elected leaders have simply politicized a most serious social problem by raising self-serving political theatrics that have very little to do with the Big Picture Facts of gun violence in the United States.

With a debate framed largely along party lines and abetted by influential lobbyists, this sad situation will continue to baffle both me and my European friends.   When dollars replace common sense as the carrot which motivates our political leaders, can chaos be far behind?

Please Don’t Leave Garrison!


I am truly devastated to report that Garrison Keillor will be “stepping down” next year after 42 inspirational years in bringing A Prairie Home Companion to avid listeners of NPR.  Apparently, this landmark in Midwestern radio nostalgia will not die as Garrison is in discussions with Chris Thile, “the one-time child prodigy mandolinist for Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers,” to keep the show alive with perhaps more emphasis on music.

Will devout fans and occasional listeners (like me) support the transition?  I have no idea, but Garrison is an icon of Americana radio theater that probably should have faded into oblivion many years ago:

But is that why listeners tune in week after week? I suspect not. What they want is to hear Keillor’s self-consciously cheesy skits—Guy Noir and the American Duct Tape Council and the old-school radio special-effects gags. And, of course, they want to hear Keillor’s soothing, mellow relation of that week’s news from the fictional Lake Wobegon. What Keillor is offering listeners is a set of comfy, musty, fusty, and dusty Midwestern roots: “The little town that time forgot, and the decades cannot improve.” It’s a place the listeners probably didn’t come from—these are coastal NPR elites, after all—and that never existed anyway, which is the attraction: familiar enough to soothe, fictional enough to be endearing.  Read more in The Atlantic . . .

For those who have not had the pleasure to listen to one of Garrison’s “cheesy skits,” book reviews or humorous banter, I hardily recommend famed director Robert Altman‘s last film which features Garrison and an all-star cast closing down A Prairie Home Companion, which is portrayed as a “dusty” relic that needs to dropped off at a Goodwill center.

I am truly very sad!

Harvard and JFK Airport Usher in Postcapitalism

Image from The Guardian

Image from The Guardian

I realize that reading “The Guardian” (Great Britain) is considered heresy in some parts of our country, but I recently came across an article by Paul Mason entitled “The End of Capitalism has Begun.”  Mr. Mason postulates that the demise of capitalism will be replaced by something called “postcapitalism,” which vaguely resembles some form of Utopia popularized a couple of centuries ago by leading philosophers, anarchists and academics.

Postcapitalism is possible because of three major changes information technology has brought about in the past 25 years. First, it has reduced the need for work, blurred the edges between work and free time and loosened the relationship between work and wages. The coming wave of automation, currently stalled because our social infrastructure cannot bear the consequences, will hugely diminish the amount of work needed – not just to subsist but to provide a decent life for all.

Second, information is corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly. That is because markets are based on scarcity while information is abundant. The system’s defense mechanism is to form monopolies – the giant tech companies – on a scale not seen in the past 200 years, yet they cannot last. By building business models and share valuations based on the capture and privatisation of all socially produced information, such firms are constructing a fragile corporate edifice at odds with the most basic need of humanity, which is to use ideas freely.

Third, we’re seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organizations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy. The biggest information product in the world – Wikipedia – is made by volunteers for free, abolishing the encyclopedia business and depriving the advertising industry of an estimated $3 billion a year in revenue.  Read more here . . .

I certainly do not intend to belittle Mr. Mason’s analysis which is well worth reading in its entirety.  In fact, I quite agree with much of what he says.    One could certainly argue that the rise of “Big Brother” government (largely financed by special interest groups) is symbolic of the decline – if not decay – of the capitalist system.    Surely, the mind-numbing con job in choosing our elected officials smells like the carcass of a rapidly decaying democratic ideal that not too many people take seriously anymore.

Unfortunately, I do not share Mr. Mason’s optimism that the Postcapitalist era will be any less traumatic than the the capitalist system it replaces.  However, I do see examples of what the Golden Age of Postcapitalism can bring to mankind and for that, I am truly excited:

  • Harvard University engineers are now applying their considerable intellect to build the “Ultimate BBQ Smoker.”   Rather than producing the next generation of investment bankers, lawyers and politicians, I applaud Harvard University in finally providing something useful for John Doe;
  • I am also pleased to report that JKF is building a luxury animal terminal for $48 million.  The New York Times articles states that “The ARK at JFK, its name inspired by Noah’s biblical vessel, will more than measure up to terminals for humans: Horses and cows will occupy sleek, climate-controlled stalls with showers, and doggies will lounge in hotel suites featuring flat-screen TVs. A special space for penguins will allow them mating privacy.  

As a Postcapitalist man, I am most happy that penguins will have mating privacy at JFK, but sincerely hope I don’t have to share a bed with a dog to watch the upcoming primaries on a flat-screen TV.   (Editor’s Note:  The TSA has informed me I have nothing to fear, since I will most likely be standing in a security line holding my shoes while Hillary’s dog is given VIP treatment in the Ark.)