Farewell, Mr. Drummond.
Aaron Swartz was “killed by the government,” his father, Robert Swartz said at a memorial service Tuesday morning for the 26-year-old tech genius who killed himself in the face of felony charges he’d stolen millions of files from MIT.
Swartz said his son was “hounded by the government, and MIT refused him.”
Everything about this story makes my heart hurt.
Yesterday, the body of a 93-year-old man disappeared from a Detroit cemetery, to the horror of friends and family. Today, Detroit police discovered the man's body stuffed inside a freezer in his son's basement, where he was reportedly being kept until the son could resurrect him through prayer:
Next-door neighbor Gwendolyn Coleman, 50, said she has known the son... for about five years.
“He done lost it, for him to do something like that, take their father from the cemetery,” Coleman said. “That was wrong.”
She didn’t know the elder Bright. But she attended Saturday’s funeral to pay her respects to his son.
“At the funeral, he said, ‘Y’all might think I’m great, y’all might think I’m great’ — everybody heard that at the funeral,” explained Coleman, standing in front of the now-boarded front door of the man’s home. “Then he said, ‘Watch what I’m going to do, watch what I’m going to do.’ Everybody heard that — the whole family, too. We didn’t think he was going to do nothing like that, though.”
In all fairness to the son, it's unclear whether the resurrection was a failure or if police simply recovered the freezer body before the prayers had a chance to work.
...but, um, yeah. Not sure how I feel about this case:
A pair of identical twins have died after seeking euthanasia when they discovered they were both going blind. The 45-year-old twins were born deaf and requested to die after being told they would never see each other again.... [In Belgium] the option to die is usually only available to patients suffering unbearable pain who can also make their wish to die expressly clear. The twins’ case was unique therefore, as neither was suffering extreme physical pain or was terminally ill. David Dufour, the doctor who presided over the euthanasia, told Belgium's RTL television news channel that the twins had taken the decision in "full conscience." He said they were "very happy" and it was a "relief" to see the end of their suffering.
Joel Connelly will have lots to say about this, I'm thinking. Discuss.
In the days after Chanel Reynolds’s husband was hit while riding his bicycle near Lake Washington here and the best-case possibilities just kept getting worse, she was not yet consumed by grief. There were no dogged middle-of-the-night Web searches for faraway cures for his crushed upper spine or tearful bedside vigils with their 5-year-old son.
Instead, the buzz in her brain came from a growing list of financial tasks that grown-ups are supposed to have finished by the time they approach middle age.....The result is a [GetYourShitTogether.org]. The site offers some basic financial advice, gives away free templates for a master checklist and provides starter forms to draft a will, living will and power of attorney. There’s also a guide to starting a list of all of the accounts in your life that someone might need to access and shut down in your absence.
If the Stranger gave Genius Awards in getting your shit together, Chanel Reynolds would win one. Go read the whole thing.
As police investigate yet another school shooting, survivors of gun violence have announced that next Tuesday, January 15th, they'll deliver a letter and petition demanding that the nation's largest gun retailer, Walmart, honor a 2004 pledge and stop the sale of assault weapons in their stores.
The letter reads, in part:
It is puzzling why a family-friendly store like Wal-Mart would sell such weapons just aisles away from the strollers and school supplies. But what is perhaps even more puzzling is why your company never fulfilled its promise to refrain from selling assault weapons. It was only eight years ago, after all, that Wal-Mart was hailed as a model of corporate responsibility for giving its assurances to U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein that the store would not carry these guns after the federal assault weapons ban expired.
Erik Winborn, Wal-Mart’s Vice President for National Government Relations at the time, said in the September 2004 announcement: “Wal-Mart only sells firearms and ammunition appropriate for sporting or hunting purposes, and that will continue to be our focus. We will not be carrying assault weapons.”
Yet any Wal-Mart shopper could easily tell by looking around the store that Mr. Winborn’s statement is simply not true.
According to a press release, the gun violence survivors, organized by SumofUs.org and other consumer watchdogs, will rally outside the Walmart in Danbury, Connecticut—just minutes from Newtown—at 11:00 a.m. (EST) next Tuesday to deliver the letter and petition.
Once again, you can sign the petition over here, and you can read the full letter—and its heartbreaking list of signees—after the jump.
Beyond the link at the bottom of this here post is a video of two Russians from Dombay who jumped into a Zorb and daringly rolled it down a mountain. What is a a Zorb, you ask? Well it's a transparent ball big enough to fit humans in it. One of the Ruskies died when it ran off course and down the real-mountain part of the mountain. Now I know how my childhood hamster Weezy felt!
The 787 is the world’s newest and most sophisticated commercial jet. It entered service with Japan’s All Nippon Airways in October, 2011. JAL’s Boston-Narita service, introduced last spring, was the first 787 route in North America. The plane’s composite construction, along with much of its systems architecture, is for now unique among commercial jets. Teething problems, let’s call them, are common when new models are introduced. Jetliners undergo rigorous pre-delivery testing, and but they are large and highly complicated machines. Not everything works perfectly right from the blocks....
This is the third serious incident involving the 787′s aft equipment bay. The first two resulted in emergency landings—one by a pre-delivery 787 on a test flight in 2010; the other two months ago by a United 787 in New Orleans. Testing and certification criteria have come a long way since the days of the DC-10 and the Comet, and I am by no means calling the 787 unsafe, but still this trend is a worrying one. It could potentially affect the plane’s certification for overwater flying (so-called ETOPS restrictions dictate how far from diversion airports a twin-engine plane like the 787 is allowed to fly). Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind that not every technical problem involving a 787 is indicative of a design flaw. From this point on, we can expect the growing fleet of 787s to be under rather intense scrutiny. That’s good for obvious reasons, but also bad because the media, which goes bonkers over almost anything involving airplanes, is liable to overhype even minor malfunctions that have nothing to do with the plane’s engineering.
I'm a nervous flyer... so, yeah, I'm kindasorta invested in the whole notion that new airplane models should work perfectly "right from the blocks." But I will somehow find the inner strength—or the outer Xanax—to defer Patrick's expertise on this one. (Via BalloonJuice.)
She was the first architecture critic for a major daily newspaper, won the Pulitzer for Criticism in 1970, and whether you agreed with her or not was a paragon of a civic voice for many reasons, among them this small but important distinction referred to in her New York Times obituary this morning—a distinction which all conscientious critics try like hell to get across:
“I wish people would stop asking me what my favorite buildings are,” Ms. Huxtable wrote in The Times in 1971, adding, “I do not think it really matters very much what my personal favorites are, except as they illuminate principles of design and execution useful and essential to the collective spirit that we call society.
“For irreplaceable examples of that spirit I will do real battle.”
Read another memoriam on Dwell.
Barring some 11th hour spurt of violence, and despite a bloody start to 2012, Seattle will finish the year with 26 homicides, a tragic but rather average number for the city over the past decade or so. All but three of Seattle's 26 homicide victims this year were killed by guns.
At 4.2 murders per 100,000 residents, Seattle's homicide rate is consistently one of the lowest in the nation among cities with populations greater than 250,000. By comparison, Chicago recently recorded its 500th murder of the year for a homicide rate of 18.5 per 100,000, while New Orleans' 189 murders in 2012 gives it a homicide rate of 52.4 per 100,000 residents. A murder rate like that in Seattle would have left us with 325 dead.
The point is, Seattle's murder rate remains relatively low. You know, for an American city.
I suppose there are a number of things one might take away from this comparative data. Local gun rights advocates might wonder what all the recent fuss is about, while gun control advocates might question what exactly it is the gun owners think they are protecting themselves from?
But as someone who is paid to complain about all the things our city does wrong, it's good to remind myself that there are a lot of things that Seattle does well—not the least of which being that we tend not to kill each other in nearly the same numbers as most other big US cities.
Not that this is much consolation to the families and friends of the 26 dead.
Or so the AP news alert tells me. And in case you're too young to know who General Schwarzkopf was, he was the commander of the first Gulf War under the first President Bush.
The FBI has arrested a woman suspected of lying about her connection to a victim of the Newtown school shooting earlier this month to collect donations from charitable citizens looking for a way to contribute in the wake of the massacre.The emotion we express at this kind of thing, this kind of lowness (how low can you go?), is disgust—a human social emotion that has its roots in the tongue. But what this woman did is in reality no different from what life does all of the time. This is how it works. This is how it's been for billions of years. Anything dead can be reabsorbed into the uncountable processes of living matter. Life is only about life. Life does not care a hoot about death. Yet we humans are disgusted by this very fact of life when it appears in its social form. The natural reaction we have to putrid things is the emotion we express to people who exploit our kindness, our suffering, our pain. We have indeed rebelled against life. This is a part of being human. This is our sociality.
A couple of kids even try to defend themselves with brooms...
The Gun Nut Lobby (GNL) did a very good job at eviscerating the gun-check law. When US Army Major Nidal Hasan purchased a super powerful pistol for the purpose of killing several of his fellow soldiers, the law required a background check which was processed by one part of the FBI as per usual. That information … that there was a purchase of a deadly weapon … could not be made available in any other way, so the other part of the FBI, which was busy looking into Hasan as a possible security threat, was not allowed to know about it.A single gunman killed 13 people and wounded 29 others on the military base.
Gun Nuts: You owe the family members of those slain at Fort Hood an apology, and you should not expect them to accept it. Your misguided paranoid libertarian fears and your inappropriate political meddling have made real and effective gun control legislation impossible. That really has to stop, and perhaps the formation of a “Fort Hood commission” will help bring some sense to this issue.
Responding to the NRA's preposterous idea that we ought to appoint armed guards in all of our schools—a proposal so plainly reckless that anyone with a half a brain or a single vertabrae in her spine would have the sense to immediately laugh it out of the room—the Seattle School District sent this gutless statement earlier today:
Dear media: Many of you have asked us for a response to today’s recommendation from the National Rifle Association for armed security guards in every school. Our statement is below.
We are forming a joint working group with the Seattle Police Department to study all recommendations for improving our school safety, and this effort will begin early in 2013. Together, we will formulate sustainable plans for implementing improved safety measures across the District.
The security of our students and staff is our highest priority, and we look forward to working with our staff and community partners to implement improved safety measures across the District.
Who wrote that bullshit statement, Sally Clark? Jesus Craven Christ. Show some goddamn spine, you milquetoast Clarksonian Sally Clarks. Thank god that someone at the school district isn't a Sally Clark. Superintendent José Banda and School Board President Kay Smith-Blum released this statement:
As Charles and Dave have already Slogged, the NRA's solution to the Newtown massacre is, of course, to arm our nation's schools:
"I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation," LaPierre said.
Hmm. Let's see. There are about 100,000 public K-12 schools in the nation, but since this is a public safety expense, not an educational one, we should probably protect children at the 30,000 or so private schools as well. So LaPierre's proposal would require hiring an additional 130,000 police officers. At least. Some large campuses would probably require more than one officer. So let's round up to 150,000 armed police officers, just to be safe.
What would this cost? According to the US Department of Justice, the national average annual cost of employing a police officer was $116,500 in 2007. Rounding up to $120,000 to account for inflation, that's $120,000 times 150,000 officers: LaPierre's proposal would cost taxpayers about $18 billion a year.
But budgets are tight—how to pay for it? Well, as the NRA likes to remind us, freedom isn't free, and who better to pay this cost than the gun owners themselves? Various estimates place the number of civilian firearms in the US at about 250 million. So, $18 billion divided by 250 million guns: An annual license fee of about $75 per gun should adequately cover the expense of the NRA's proposal to put armed police officers at every K-12 school in the US.
Personally, I'm somewhat horrified at LaPierre's suggestion that we need to militarize civilian America. If I wanted to live in an armed security state I'd move to Israel, where at least I'd get universal health care in return. But the more I think about it, $75 per gun per year might just be enough of a financial disincentive to irresponsible gun ownership, that it could start making a dent in the problem all by itself. So maybe LaPierre is onto something...?
If you die today, then the Mayan calendar was correct. Why? Because to die is the end of the world. The world is ending all of the time. All it takes is just one death, and the whole world is gone, billions of people are gone, the whole universe is no more. Every death is an apocalypse.
If anyone needs a gigantic chocolate chip cookie with a frosting Santa Claus on it, the whole thing bordered with still more frosting and covered in sprinkles, they have that.
She is not one of their dead, the positive dead. Though killed by her son (in her sleep), in death she is with her son, the negative dead.
As this heartbroken town tries to process Friday’s horror, there is considerable anger toward Lanza’s mother. Her name is noticeably absent from many of the impromptu shrines, memorials and condolence notes placed around town.You can read the whole story and see the ghost house of the killer and his mother here. All I see is isolation.
“Why would a woman who had a son like this, who clearly had serious issues, keep assault rifles in the house and teach him how to shoot them?” she said. “To deal with that, there’s a feeling here that we’re just going to focus on the 26 innocent people who died at the school.”
This is how the US does it...
This morning, Sen. Jay Rockefeller introduced legislation in the Senate “to arrange for the National Academy of Sciences to study the impact of violent video games and violent programming on children.” It’s depressing to see lawmakers rushing after diversions in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, when the conversations we ought to be having should be about gun control and mental health treatment, among other structural factors. And it’s even worse when you consider that Rockefeller’s wholly redundant bill has hit the floor of Congress before any gun legislation was introduced.The video game industry will generate $70 billion in 2012, which is more than double what the gun industry will generate in the same period. Yet you will not find a politician who fears the video game industry like he/she fears the gun industry. Obviously the gun situation is not about money or the industry (the base) but entirely in the sphere of ideology (the superstructure).
People keep talking about this...
But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them... So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion...They know the president, they know some kind of gun ban is not unlikely, they feel it's now or never.
Slate estimates that Adam Lanza fired 200 bullets in what amounts to no time...
According to police in Newtown, Conn., Adam Lanza blasted his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday with three semi-automatic weapons, numerous 30-round magazines, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. He killed 20 children and six adults. But that isn’t the chilling number. The chilling number is how long it took him to inflict this carnage: just 10 minutes.
US Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the longest serving member of the chamber, died of "respiratory complications" today at age 88. Staff says his last word was "Aloha."
Under Hawaii law, Governor Neil Abercrombie (D) will appoint a Democrat to replace Inouye from a list of three finalists provided by the state Democratic Party. Inouye's term is up in 2016.
As Charles has already noted, Nancy Lanza was stockpiling weapons and ammunition in preparation for the end of the world. She thought these guns would make her safer. It didn't work out that way.
Instead, her son Adam used Lanza's guns to shoot her multiple times in the face before heading to a nearby elementary school and murdering 26 people, including 20 small children. He then turned his mother's gun on himself.
To say that this is a common use of personal firearms would be an overstatement. But it is fair to say that personal firearms are much more commonly discharged in murder, suicide, and accident than they are in self-defense. That is a fact. Owning a gun does not make you or your loved ones safer. Indeed, a 2009 epidemiological study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that people who possessed a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those who did not.
If you are purchasing a gun for target shooting or hunting or just for the damn thrill of holding a tool that can take a human life in a heartbeat, well then perhaps you are getting your money's worth. And if your actual intent is murder or suicide, you can't get much more bang for the buck. But for most people, if you're purchasing a gun for self-defense, it is not only a waste of money, on average it is counterproductive. Your own gun is much more likely to be used to take your life (or that of a loved one) than it is to save it.
My hope is that if more Americans understood the truth about guns, fewer people would choose to own them. And then we'd all be a little bit safer.
It's being reported by a number of sources that the mind of Nancy Lanza, the mother of the mass killer, was convinced that the world would end soon and that she and her son could survive (fend, hunt, collect wood) in the ruins of this civilization...
Last night it also emerged Nancy was a member of the Doomsday Preppers movement, which believes people should prepare for end of the world.It's now beginning to look like the mother was also not mentally stable. If she was indeed a "prepper," she was indeed in need of help herself. You know neoliberal ideology has reached a state of perfection/insanity when some of its subjects see the collapse of the economy as a natural disaster (volcanoes erupting, an asteroid slamming into the planet, a towering tsunami). But the closest thing to an apocalypse did not come to her but came from her distorted mind.
Her former sister-in-law Marsha said she had turned her home ‘into a fortress’. She added: ‘Nancy had a survivalist philosophy which is why she was stockpiling guns. She had them for defense.
‘She was stockpiling food. She grew up on a farm in New Hampshire. She was skilled with guns. We talked about preppers and preparing for the economy collapsing.’
Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern. Removing large numbers of rapid-firing firearms from civilians may be an effective way of reducing mass shootings, firearm homicides and firearm suicides.
I'm not really sure what the Seattle Times is advocating, because their editorial is so vague and nonspecific. "Saying and doing nothing is not an option," they write. Really? Then why don't they say or do anything?
But one particular sentence really sticks in my craw:
Events this week stunned on opposite coasts and across the world. On Friday a gunman fatally shot 27 people, including 20 Connecticut elementary schoolchildren, and the toll may rise. Hearts break at the news that the children killed were between 5 and 10 years old.
The same day, a knife-wielding man attacked 22 children outside of their primary school in Henan province in central China.
On Tuesday, a shooter killed two people and injured one at an Oregon shopping mall.
The common element in the tragedies, and the mass violent attacks of the past, is that they took place in innocuous settings — shopping malls, schools — with innocent victims.
Yeah, maybe. But the uncommon element in these tragedies is that in the mass-stabbing outside the Chinese school, nobody died. That the editors fail to mention this salient fact is rather stunning. And telling.
One "common theme," as the editors conclude, may in fact be "bloodshed." But if there's anything the contemporaneous Chinese attack demonstrates it's that guns are much more efficient tools of bloodshed than knives. I doubt Americans are much crazier than people elsewhere. But we're certainly better armed. And crazy + guns = death.
We need a stronger public mental healthcare system (as opposed to, say, defunding Disability Lifeline, as the Seattle Times has tacitly endorsed), and we need stronger gun control laws. In fact, the two go hand in hand, for we can't effectively restrict the mentally ill's access to tools of mass murder if we can't identify and track either.
But if our opinion leaders lack the will to even say that knives are fundamentally different from guns, it's hard to imagine how we'll ever manage to do anything.