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Mass School Shooting

Another mass school shooting. That is a normal occurrence now, and has been for some time. The thirtieth occurrence this year. This is the price we are apparently willing to pay in order to have access to guns. Not just any guns, but a special type of gun. A gun that has no practical use. A gun used for recreation. Target practice at gun ranges. Any other use could be accomplished through the use of a different, less lethal kind of gun. The gun in question is a rapid fire, semi-automatic gun with a large magazine. There are better guns that are used for hunting. And there are better guns to use for home defense. We should question whether it is worth sacrificing lives of children and other innocent people in such numbers so that people can play with guns at gun ranges. Other dangerous weapons are restricted. Machine guns, rocket launchers, artillery and other arms of war have restrictions in their ownership and use. They are all arms. We have the right to bear arms, except for reasons if public safety. That is established law. If we want to strictly interpret the second amendment then there should be no impediment to the availability of all kind of arms. Some people would argue for that. But sane and reasonable people would not. General agreement is that it is reasonable to place some restrictions on the availability of guns and other arms. The question then becomes one of where to draw the line. We should ask what guns are necessary for citizens to own and what guns should be limited. Which group should semi-automatic weapons with large magazines fit into. We may be paying a higher price than being able to possess one of those types of guns is worth.

 

Depression

Depression is a mystery. I have been diagnosed with chronic depression and have had episodes of major depression about every ten years.  I am seventy seven now and that adds up to a lot of episodes. Depression and anxiety. First symptoms I remember was at age nine.

I majored in psychology in college and have done a lot of reading on depression.  I have also had discussions and sessions with doctors and psychologists. Insights and self awareness have been helpful.

Theories, diagnosis and treatments have changed over the years. We studied theories in college that are out of date now. Even though we know a lot more about how the brain works then we did sixty years ago, depression  is still a mystery. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done.

Most people are able to work through their episodes by themselves without any help. The brain and body have great capacity to heal themselves. But that is not always true. And self medication with alcohol or drugs, or both at once, can lead to disaster. Over medication by doctors can also be harmful and also lead to disaster. I am not saying depression should be ignored and treatment should not be sought. My experience is that doctors and other professionals can be of help, but care has to be taken. Any professional that promises too much or gets to far away from mainstream treatment should be avoided. There are no quick fixes and no sure fixes. As I stated, over aggressive treatment can be dangerous.

My belief is that we need more awareness of mental problems of any sort. This includes most importantly better trained counselors in schools to help identify problems and offer early help.  Both grade school, high schools and colleges should be equipped to recognize problems. Sometimes there are few symptoms until the early twenties, in the last years if college. More education into depression and general awareness would be helpful.

Save Our Trees

I live in North Georgia, in metro Atlanta, the city that likes to call itself the City of Trees. All of Georgia is full of trees. Giant live oaks grow along the coast, spreading their branches wide and appearing to be alive as the branches move with the coastal breezes. They are the official state tree. Next come the long leaf and other tall, thin pines. Further north are the hardwoods, mostly oaks, poplars,  and maples. And there are the hollies and evergreens of different types. The large hardwoods provide cool shade and light breezes in the summer for relief from the sub-tropical hot, humid days that smother those who go outside. When you step outside even into the shade of a porch or a carport it is like being enveloped by a hot, moist blanket that surrounds you.  Then when you step out of the shade into the sun the rays penetrate your clothes and you feel intense heat. Quickly you step into the shade of a nearby oak and feel the relief, the coolness and a breeze bringing air you can breath. In North Georgia the breezes are always cool bringing relief even in the hottest parts of summer.

In the fall tree leaves change colors. They drop their dark green of summer and become gold and yellows mixed with oranges, reds and browns of different shades and hues. The red maples become a shimmering bright red in the bright  afternoon sun on crisp autumn days. Sugar maples become bright yellow gold against a blue sky.

In the winter the pines are protection against the cold west wind, providing a wind break and shelter. I like to walk in the words in the winter, safe under the blanket of pine limbs swaying in the breeze overhead, walking in the calm below.

As spring comes the hardwoods put out their new leaves, a light and tender green that signifies new life.

Now trees are even more important to protect. They absorb and store carbon dioxide. We need to protect our existing trees and plant new trees. It is vital for our future.

 

Foreign Policy

When I was growing up the US and USSR were said to be the two superpowers.  After the USSR broke apart we said that we were the only superpower. We thought of ourselves as the force that maintained order in the world. We saw ourselves as the world leader. Now other countries are becoming more powerful. As an example, China’s has been growing quickly and it’s economy has or will soon become larger than ours.  As it’s economy and wealth grow so does it’s ability to raise and maintain an army and military presence. Power grows with wealth and the economy.  The ability to trade with and influence countries and nations around the world grow. Prior to the twentieth century China had the largest economy in the world. They want to return to that status. The effect the growth of other countries will have on us is unknown.

We now have troops based all around the world and are engaged in endless wars and struggles. Those obligations and expectations may have grown too far and stretched us too thin. Our annual deficit and national debt are both unsustainable.  It may be time to disengage ourselves from most, if not all, of our involvements over the world. We simply cannot afford to continue as we are. It is time for us to seriously consider our role in the world and what we are really capable of accomplishing.

 

Cooler Temps

 

Cooler temperatures now in Atlanta.  Our record breaking streak of days in the nineties that ended a few weeks ago is all but forgotten. And rain is predicted this week. We are six inches below average for the year and grass and others plants are starting to show stress. Trees are changing color and leaves are falling. Orange, red, and brown. As I sat by the window facing east this morning sipping my coffee I could see the birds eating the bright red berries on the dogwood trees. The trees were busy with the birds rushing, eating the berries and shaking the leaves. Yesterday the same trees were alive with squirrels jumping from limb to limb. Then they would run about and chase each other around the yard.  Cool, crisp days  of  low humidity and light breezes invigorate.  Cloudy days with rain, slow and steady give comfort and make it feel warm inside. Dead leaves are scattered across my yard, waiting for strong winds to blow them away or a rake to scoop them up.  The rake is leaning against the carport wall. It and the leaves can wait. Maybe the winds will soon blow them away. I may go buy a pumpkin or two to place in the yard. That would look nice. I believe fall is my favorite time of year.

 

 

Weekend News

This was a busy week. A lot of stuff going on. Most of the news I heard was about two issues. Syria and impeachment.

I think we made some goods moves in Syria. We made the best of what we could do given our options.  Turkey advised they were going to invade and occupy the twenty mile strip we had to get our troops of of the area.  Our troops and the Kurds were holding the eastern part of Syria illegally against the Syrian government. Our deal allowed the Kurds to withdraw safely. Predictions of mass slaughter and ethnic were rampant. Neither has or is likely to occur. We do still hold leverage for the protection of the Kurds in that we hold the oil fields.  What happens next remains to be seen.  Syrian government will want to gain back control of their country from the Turks and from the Kurds, and will want out troops out also. Still possible for Kurds to remain in control of part of the eastern part as an independent country. It appears to be de facto independent now and may remain  so.

Democrats are pursuing secret impeachment hearings. They are in the wrong committee. Should be in judiciary where hearings are open to the public. Instead they are in the intelligence committee which can hold closed door hearings. That is a big mistake. Hearings should be public.

British are still fighting over Brexit.  Not much coverage in the US national news. I get something from sources from England. The deadline still is October 31. That could have a large impact on the US, UK, and Europe Should be getting more coverage. They are making some progress toward and agreement but they are running out of time.

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing with Criminals

What do we do with people who commit crimes? Or at do we do with them? To me those are basic questions. Our first instinct is revenge and punishment. I don’t think revenge and punishment are   the same thing. Revenge is desire to cause pain, out of anger and even hate. Punishment is not. Punishment is to show that committing crimes leads to as results. That discourages them from committing future crimes. At least that is the idea. But punishment by itself is not enough.  Criminals have to learn what to do instead and have a reason to do it. People  say they want closure. I am not sure we can obtain closure. Not really. The pain and loss will always be there. Rehabilitation is  a goal criminologists discuss. How to prevent criminals from repeating their crimes. Deterrence is a goal. How to keep other people from committing crimes. Often people demand justice. When I hear people demanding justice I believe they really want revenge. They want to avenge the wrong.  Retribution is often held out as a goal. We want the person to pay for the crime. Another goal is protection of society. People who cannot follow societies rules have to be removed from society.  Balancing all these goals is difficult.

Psychologists have discovered that revenge although it feels good is in the end destructive to those who seek it.  That leaves us protection for society, deterrence, punishment, and rehabilitation.  Those are the only valid goals I see in crime enforcement and procedure.

My belief is that prison sentences act as punishment and part of the rehabilitation process , as well as acting as a deterrence to others,  and serves to protect society by removing people how commit crimes from the general population.

The motivation and desire for change has to come from inside the criminal. The criminal has to have a reason to change. And a belief that an attempt to change will be successful. There is a great variation in the success rate of different programs and methods. Some are highly successful and some or not. Studies and research continue. The goal is to increase the success rate. Let’s hope we can get nearer to the goal.