Archive for December, 2012
Three days ago, on December 14, 2012, a human being apparently shot and killed 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut USA. Since that time there has been an intense focus in the media on this shooting, with thousands of articles written, and thousands of hours of television and radio coverage around the world, most of it by commercial entities that make more money the more viewers, listeners and readers they attract.
This media coverage probably incites others to commit mass murder, because one can easily see that mass murder is a sure fire way to get famous overnight.
The media outlets I presume secretly love mass killings, for they attract lots of interest from their customers, and the media outlets just have to be making a killing doing these stories about killing.
Every time there is a mass killing, the calls for gun control become temporarily louder.
I like the idea of requiring all firearms to be registered and insured, like vehicles are. All drivers must take and pass competency tests to get a driver license.
There should be a more stringent process to obtain a firearm license.
The license should be valid for just a limited number of years, and if it expires, the holder should have to sell or turn in all their registered firearms. When the firearm owner dies, the firearms should have to be turned in or sold by the owner’s estate.
This would help eliminate the dangerous situation I just saw first hand. A friend of mine saw her husband pass away. He left her four guns, two of which were loaded with bullets. My friend didn’t know how to unload the weapons or even how to determine that they were loaded. Thankfully, she recognized the danger and turned them in at a gun buy back on Saturday. I accompanied her, and I had to tell the police the guns may be loaded or not, that neither my friend or I knew. I wasn’t going to inspect the weapons, and I don’t know how to operate a firearm, and I don’t want to know. The police took the weapons away and came back to report two were loaded. They unloaded the weapons for my friend, who is a senior citizen.
I mentioned gun insurance above. How much do I recommend? USD $1,000,000 per gun owner, adjusted annually for inflation or deflation. I would still allow unlimited guns per owner, but since the insurance would probably be sold per gun, that will naturally limit gun ownership, like car insurance costs today keep people from amassing lots of vehicles.
I think the right to bear arms is a good right, as it serves as a check on the government becoming overbearing. It also will make it more difficult for an invading power to conquer the United States. I have never shot a gun, and I do not intend to. I did shoot a squirt gun as a child, and I wish I had not.
I approve of the second amendment to the United States Constitution.
If we are to allow gun ownership, how can we cut down on these mass shootings?
I suggest we outlaw the intense media coverage that accompanies mass killings.
The media makes money from mass killing.
As a result, the media industry has blood on its hands.
What I propose is not far out. Apparently some jurisdictions have so-called Son of Sam laws in effect. According to WikiPediA, some such laws extend to the friends and family members of the criminal. So all that’s needed is to extend the laws to apply to anyone.
For my readers not familiar with the phrase Son of Sam Law, ‘A Son of Sam Law is any American law designed to keep criminals from profiting from the publicity of their crimes, often by selling their stories to publishers,’ per WikiPediA. That same article goes on to say ‘In certain cases a Son of Sam law can be extended beyond the criminals themselves to include friends, neighbors, and family members of the lawbreaker who seek to profit by telling publishers and filmmakers of their relation to the criminal. In other cases, a person may not financially benefit from the sale of a story or any other mementos pertaining to the crime—if the criminal was convicted after the date lawmakers passed the law in the states where the crime was committed.’
I propose to make it illegal to profit from mass murder.
Once the money is taken out of the intense media coverage, I predict that the coverage would naturally, and without additional laws, dwindle by 90% or more, and then future killers won’t be as motivated to kill, because they will know that they will not get famous.
I am not suggesting the crimes be covered up and not reported at all. But I am suggesting that the proper amount of coverage should be a non dramatic story relegated to the inside of the paper, or its equivalent for online, radio and television coverage. Once reported, that should mostly be it for coverage. I don’t own a television or watch a television, but I can guess that the news channels in particular have been devoting a huge amount of time to this story. Instead, I suggest perhaps a five minute story the day of the event, and perhaps five more minutes a week later to follow up on what was learned in the interim.
To really strengthen these proposals, I would even make it illegal for everyone and every entity to print the names of mass murderers. This is an important feature of my proposals, because people are fascinated by such stories, and if they can’t get their ‘fix’ of information in the formal press, then bloggers and multitudes of regular people will take over and fill their Status Updates, Tweets and blogs with enough information to make the perpetrator famous, negating some of the benefit of my limit on conventional news reporting.
To those that say prohibiting publishing the names of future killers would violate the US Constitution’s first amendment right of free speech, I would point out that free speech has limits already. For example, one may not shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. I think that society’s interest to not permit a mass murderer to become famous warrants this tiny additional exception to freedom of speech. As you consider my bold proposals, please ask yourself the name of the shooters in some of the recent killings. I bet most people can name at least one mass murderer, and that far fewer can name any of those killed.
Note that many news outlets already don’t report the names of victims of sexual assault, so not reporting the names of mass murders should be easy to accept once the evils of doing so are explained.
If the radio and television outlets insist on wall to wall coverage like they do now, then the outlets should be criminally prosecuted and forced out of business, which is easy to do by revoking their FCC licenses. This may sound harsh, but people are literally dying now, by the dozens per year, so shutting down a few media outlets should be viewed as quite reasonable compared to the current situation.
Media outlets are routinely fined for allowing swearing on air, or for allowing the female nipple to be shown. Oh, the horrors of a female nipple! We won’t allow that, even though everyone has nipples and probably nourished themselves at a female nipple for months after birth.
However, we let the whole world consume dozens of hours of coverage about mass killings, which I think does make some people want to repeat the killings to boost their own fame.
As my hero Robert Reich likes to point out, we are not protecting our children from many dangers, including the danger posed by guns. We are allowing them to fall into ill health. We allow too many children to live in poverty.
Look at this great status update Robert Reich posted to Facebook today, around 5pm Pacific Time, December 17, 2012:
“Additional thoughts. Not only are we failing to protect our children from deranged people wielding semi-automatic guns.
We’re not protecting them from poverty. The rate of child poverty keeps rising – even faster than the rate of adult poverty. We now have the highest rate of child poverty in the developed world.
And we’re not protecting their health. Rates of child diabetes and asthma continue to climb. America has the third-worst rate of infant mortality among 30 industrialized nations and the second-highest rate of teenage pregnancy, after Mexico.
If we go over the “fiscal cliff” without a budget deal, several programs focused on the well-being of children will be axed — education, child nutrition, school lunches, children’s health, Head Start. Even if we avoid the cliff, any “grand bargain” to tame to deficit is likely to jeopardize them.
The Urban Institute projects the share of federal spending on children (outlays and tax expenditures) will drop from 15 percent last year to 12 percent in 2022.
At the same time, states and localities have been slashing preschool and after-school programs, child care, family services, recreation, and mental-health services.
Conservatives want to blame parents for not doing their job. But this ignores politics.
The NRA, for example, is one of the most powerful lobbies in America – so powerful, in fact, that our leaders rarely have the courage even to utter the words gun control.
A few come forth after a massacre such as occurred in Connecticut to suggest that maybe we could make it slightly more difficult for the mentally ill to obtain assault weapons. But the gun lobby and gun manufacturers routinely count on America’s (and media’s) short attention span to prevent even modest reform.
The AARP is also among the most powerful lobbies, especially when it comes to preserving programs that benefit seniors.
We shouldn’t have to choose between our seniors and children — I’d rather focus on jobs and growth rather deficit reduction, and sooner cut corporate welfare and defense spending than anything else. But the brute fact is America’s seniors have political clout that matters when spending is being cut, while children don’t.
At the same time, big corporations and the wealthy know how to get and keep tax cuts that are starving federal and state budgets of revenues needed to finance what our children need. Corporations systematically play off one state or city against another for tax concessions and subsidies to stay or move elsewhere, further shrinking revenues available for education, recreation, mental health, and family services.
Meanwhile, advertisers and marketers of junk foods and violent video games have the political heft to ward off regulations designed to protect children from their depredations. The result is an epidemic of childhood diabetes, as well as video mayhem that may harm young minds.
Most parents can’t protect their children from all this. They have all they can do to pay the bills. The median wage keeps falling (adjusted for inflation), benefits are evaporating, job security has disappeared, and even work hours are less predictable.
It seems as if every major interest has political clout – except children. They can’t vote. They don’t make major campaign donations. They can’t hire fleets of lobbyists.
Yet they’re America’s future.
Their parents and grandparents care, of course, as do many other private citizens. But we’re no match for the entrenched interests that dominate American politics.
Whether it’s fighting for reasonable gun regulation, child health and safety overall, or good schools and family services – we can’t have a fair fight as long as special-interest money continues to poison our politics.”
Reich posts frequently to Facebook, and he’s an impressive thinker.
Once we get the guns registered and insured with generous automobile style liability policies that pay victims for accidental or intentional harm, society should outlaw violent games including violent video games. It is imprudent to allow people to practice mass shootings. We don’t allow child pornography because of the harm it causes, so society can enforce draconian penalties for violent games as well. I would outlaw paintball games and even squirt gun fights, as those games are also training for shooting people.
I was appalled in 2011 when I attended the Intel Developer Forum at Moscone Center in San Francisco. To show off how fast their computer chips are, Intel had set up a large booth in a central location where one could play an exceptionally violent game where one would fire full size physical ‘toy’ assault rifles at the large screen monitors, with the goal to kill the zombies on screen. I was so upset that I harshly criticized the Intel employees staffing the booth. They defended Intel by saying they characters were zombies. That the crazed somewhat human characters were zombies is not relevant. If the targets had been invading Martians, plague infected rats or malaria infected mosquitoes, I would still object. Intel was arming its customers with physical guns that they held and fired as if they were real full size guns. When they pulled the trigger and hit a zombie, blood-like fluid sprayed everywhere, just like with people.
It was revolting and shocking, and more shocking that Intel would associate its name with mass killing even of zombies.
I am happy to report that Intel apparently had no such booth at the Intel Developer Forum this year, based on my quick walk through. Whether it was my comment that nixed the booth I don’t know, but I applaud Intel for cancelling the violence.
I suspect that per capita gun ownership in the US was once much higher, and a century ago I don’t think there were multiple mass school shootings each year, though I have done no research to find out if my guess is true.
There are so many ways to conduct mass killings, and there are so many guns, that I don’t think trying to take away all the guns will eliminate the killings, which I predict will continue for decades.
Society needs to take away the impetus to conduct mass killings.
The first thing to stop is the circus style media frenzy of reporting. The second thing to stop is the training of killers by getting rid of the sophisticated killing simulators that we improperly characterize as games.
In the interest of brevity and because I don’t know much about the subject, I will not delve into other possible causes of mass murder. I agree there are many contributing factors and issues, including prescription drug use, illegal drug use, bullying, low self esteem, romantic relationship problems, job loss and many, many more.
If the National Rifle Association (NRA) uses its considerable influence to stand in the way of my proposals, I suggest that the association be purchased by the US Federal Government for fair market value using eminent domain powers, or new powers created by legislation if eminent domain powers are judged insufficiently potent. Once the government owns the NRA, I suggest it be disbanded, and the sale proceeds be distributed equitably to the many leaders and volunteers in that association. This will compensate the organization and its contributors for its tireless years of hard work. This payment is critical, to soothe their hurt feelings from loosing their important and powerful voice. When the purchase price is calculated, I suggest the opening offer start in the billions of dollars, since the NRA has perhaps the highest profile of any US lobbying organization, and such power took over a century of hard work to amass.
To prevent the NRA 2 from forming, I suggest that Federal law be enacted prohibiting the formation of lobbying groups for firearms and similar lethal devices. While law makers are at it, lobbying for firearms should itself be made illegal, to prevent each gun manufacturer from lobbying for their own benefit or for the benefit of the gun industry as a whole.
If representatives of the NRA discover this post, I want to emphasize that I support the 2nd amendment, and I hope that amendment lives on forever. I approve of responsible citizens owning even hundreds of guns if they wish, provided they are licensed as a driver would be to operate them, and provided the owner is insured in case of disaster.
It would be far better for the NRA to adopt and advance the proposals I suggest in this post. By doing so they would elevate their cause in the eye of the public, and they would not have to endure the taunts of the public after every mass murder spree carried out with a firearm.
If my proposals come to pass, now, or in a century or two, I would like to be remembered for this post.
Thank you for reading, and please share this post widely, while keeping in mind that I am not a historian and I am not particularly well informed about what I write about above. I wrote from the heart, and if there are errors, I invite my readers to share their opinions and knowledge so that I may form even more well reasoned opinions about this subject matter.
My heart goes out to those that have lost a loved one at the hands of a mass murderer.
Kevin Laurence Warnock
San Francisco, California USA
December 17, 2012
PS — This post was inspired by a widely circulated Facebook post published soon after the December 14, 2012 school shooting that was incorrectly attributed to actor Morgan Freeman. It was that text that opened my eyes to the media helping to incite mass killings, and I thank the anonymous author. See this Snopes article for details on this hoax.
Grandma’s House Restaurant in Yreka California threatened to call the police because my waitress wrote down my order incorrectly
Two days ago, on Thursday, December 13, 2012, I visited Yreka, California, USA.
I like Yreka.
I avoid chain restaurants much of the time, and that’s one reason I like to stop in Yreka (population in 2010 of 7,765) when I happen to be driving on United States Interstate 5, which passes through the town.
I drove around a bit after taking one of the three exits for Yreka. I wanted to dine in the most charming place I could find. I thought I had found a gem when I discovered a restaurant named Grandma’s House. I thought this was particularly fitting, since I had left my actual grandmother’s house earlier in the day and was on my way to my home in San Francisco, California. According to the Facebook page of Grandma’s House, the restaurant opened on July 22, 1977.
I arrived around 7:10pm, and there was only one other diner on this Thursday evening. The weather was clear, and the temperature was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit — a nice night.
I looked over the menu and selected the spaghetti with the full meal add on. The spaghetti alone was USD $9.75, but for $2.00 more the menu said I would get soup, salad bar and desert — the full meal.
The only employee I saw took my order. Her name is Kathy, according to the receipt, which does not specify her last name.
I told Kathy “I would like the spaghetti with the full meal.”
Part way through the meal, which featured an ample and tasty salad, substantially overcooked pasta, soggy garlic toast and a wilted slice of lettuce as decoration, Kathy reminded me to leave room for desert, which didn’t sound like a presumptuous sales pitch since I had already ordered desert with my full meal.
When I was done eating the spaghetti and salad, Kathy asked which desert I wanted, since the menu didn’t specify the desert included. I asked what my options were, and she named four flavors of pie. I selected Boysenberry pie. Kathy asked if I’d like ice cream with that, and I said yes, figuring ‘why not?’ since she didn’t say there was an extra charge, and I never dreamed she would try to charge me extra without disclosing that fact.
When the bill arrived, I was dismayed to see that my order was not correctly printed on the computer printed check. Instead of the spaghetti and meal, I was charged separately for the spaghetti ($9.75), the slice of pie ($2.75), and the ice cream ($1.85). Instead of $11.75 ($9.75 + $2.00), the bill was for $14.35, or $2.60 more.
All prices are noted without sales tax.
I was and remain 100% certain I asked for the spaghetti plus the meal, because I had just calculated what a good deal it was compared to the individual prices. I have an eye for this kind of detail, and I like to save money.
When I mentioned my concern about the total, I expected Kathy to apologize for her error and quickly take the bill away to be reprinted.
Instead, Kathy became irate and told me I had not read the menu correctly. She went and got the menu, and I pointed at exactly what I ordered, and told her in a kind voice that I was 100% certain I had specified the full meal.
Kathy then pointed out that below the text for the full meal offer there was language that said the dishes without the full meal came with soup or salad, and that I should have picked up on that and confronted her when she carried me a prepared salad and didn’t bring me soup. I knew I was entitled to more than one salad and to more elaborate salads, but I didn’t care, as I was trying to not eat too much since I planned to drive for hours directly after dinner. I was irritated Kathy argued with me in such a way. Shortly before I departed, I gently informed Kathy that I was very sweet to not insist on the salad bar when she brought me a salad. She ignored me.
I didn’t memorize the menu parts I was not interested in, and I should not be expected to. I should further not be expected to continue reading the menu after I have selected my dinner. To be clear, the full menu description was first on the menu, and what Kathy repeatedly called the à la carte description was second, lower on the menu.
Kathy told me point blank that I had ordered à la carte and that on that basis she was compelled to charge me as she did. Kathy told me that the restaurant’s à la carte selection of spaghetti included soup or salad.
I respectfully suggest that Kathy and the restaurant managers consult with WikiPediA to learn their definition of à la carte. I copied the definition and present it here:
- A reference to a menu of items priced and ordered separately, i.e. the usual operation of restaurants (In contrast to a table d’hôte, at which a menu with limited or no choice is served at a fixed price.)
- To order an item from the menu on its own, e.g. a steak without the potatoes and vegetables is steak a la carte
What the menu really offers is a small meal and a large meal. The menu designer did a poor job, as the small meal should be offered first, to help avoid this kind of confusion.
I am nearly certain Kathy has gotten into numerous arguments similar to the one I had with her — she had her arguments so lined up that they appeared well practiced. Kathy seemed to relish arguing with me, and the arguing started in mere seconds once I sweetly alerted her to the problem I perceived with the check.
Kathy at this point was clearly upset and not thinking rationally, since the food she delivered to me probably cost less than what I could have eaten had I availed myself of the unlimited salad bar and consumed a serving of soup as well.
She should have quickly and graciously adjusted the bill at this point.
But there was no reasoning with Kathy, so I asked that she ask the manager to come speak with me.
Kathy informed me the manager had just left for the evening.
I asked that she call him and allow me to speak with him by phone. Kathy refused.
Kathy then stated that she would call the police if I did not pay the bill she gave me.
This is the first time anyone has threatened to call the police on me, and I was and remain shocked.
I then asked Kathy to phone the manager and ask that he return to the store to meet with me, as I was quite interested in telling the manager about Kathy’s threat to call the police. She said the manager had gone to a basketball game. Kathy never called the manager while I was there.
I handed Kathy a twenty dollar bill, even though she specifically and exclusively asked me to pay by card. I didn’t want her to have access to my card.
I walked with her to the cash register and collected my change. I did not leave a gratuity, as it was unwarranted given the above. I asked for the manager’s card, and she said she would give it to me. She did give me a generic card, which I didn’t examine thoroughly until in my car. I had hoped to get the full name of the manager along with the email address of the restaurant. Sadly, Kathy only hand wrote the first name of a person on the front of the receipt. I think it says Kem, but I presume she meant to write Ken but put one too many humps in the last letter, which she wrote in cursive.
To Kathy’s credit, she apologized while I was paying her. But she never backed down from her position that she was correct and I was not. Her apology thus seemed insincere and designed to dissuade me from contacting her boss. I suspect Kathy is friends with her boss and the police, and counts on them believing her when such disputes arise.
That’s one of the reasons I am writing such a long and detailed blog post about this incident. I want this incident on the record so that if a future customer of Grandma’s House gets charged with a crime if they stand their ground, I want their attorney to be able to learn of my experience with Grandma’s House.
If I had any doubt in my mind, I would not write this post. But I am 100% certain I asked for the full meal. If this is so, then all of Kathy’s arguments fail. It makes no difference if I didn’t pick up on inconsistencies that happened after I ordered. I am not a lawyer litigating a case where finding and calling out inconsistencies is required. I was a customer — a customer ordering moderately priced food in a mom and pop restaurant.
I am writing this as a caution to everyone that deals with the public. You never know who might write about you, so be careful, responsible and thoughtful. Do not lose your cool, and do not threaten to call the police over trivial matters like this one.
Kathy appeared to be between 50 and 60 years old, so she should know better than to treat me as she did.
I have no idea what the police would do in a situation where I was disputing fewer than $3 including tax, and where my side of the story was so easy and reasonable to believe.
I was well dressed in a sports jacket and dress shoes. My shiny BMW 5 Series was the only car in the customer lot. I had plenty of cash with me. I think the police would have taken my side, but I have no experience with police in such a situation, and I hope never to acquire any. I did not and do not feel this is a situation worthy of police involvement. The person that needed to learn of my displeasure was her boss, not the police.
In my opinion, Kathy should never be permitted to interact with the public in a business setting. If I were her employer, I would probably fire her over this incident, if legally permissible in the jurisdiction where I employed her, and after careful consultation with my employment attorney.
Grandma’s House is not a chain, according to Kathy. I wanted to love this restaurant. It’s adorable, as you can see from the picture above, which I posted to my Facebook Wall before my food arrived. I don’t criticize businesses frequently, but Grandma’s House earned this negative review.
December 17, 2012: I telephoned Grandma’s House Restaurant this afternoon and asked to speak with the owner. The person that answered said his name is Tom and that he is the owner. I described my poor dining experience I had that I describe above. Tom apologized several times, and said that he would speak with Kathy. He said Kathy works a full time job during the day and works at his restaurant in the evening. Tom said the menu is being reprinted and that the new version will be more clear. Tom several times said that he was sorry but nothing could be done to remedy the situation at this point. I did not point out to him that he could send me a check for $2.60, as I was hoping that by the end of our 12 minute conversation that he would realize that was a good start to a remedy. Tom never offered to refund my overpayment. I didn’t ask because I don’t need the money, among other reasons.
If you’d like to see the original receipt and the business card from my visit, click the link below to bring up the PDF scan I made today.
It’s so easy to send a check to someone thanks to the free check writing and mailing services from banks and credit unions. I used the service today to send a check to Taco Bell in Willows, California. I don’t normally eat at Taco Bell, but I was in a rush Friday morning to get to Berkeley, California to a PhD completion party for a friend that completed her advanced studies. I ordered a breakfast burrito and hash browned potatoes at the drive up window. By the time I found they had given me two burritos with my potatoes, I had driven away, and I didn’t have time to go wait in line to explain and return the extra and unpaid for burrito. So, I eventually ate the second burrito and paid for it by check today. The huge advantage to bill pay is they pay the $.45 postage and there is no way to overdraw your account by bouncing a check, because they take the money out before they send the check.