Pursue Gun Control at your Own Peril

Eric Meyers at the Liberal Gun Club writes:

So yeah, that happened. As many of us who were paying attention knew, the end game here on that particular right is actually confiscation. As I mentioned in my article about comparing Australia to the US, the difference is we actually have the right to keep and bear arms written into the constitution. Not just the federal constitution, but the constitutions of forty-four states. If you really want to change that, then pursue a constitutional amendment. Get two-thirds of the Congress to agree, and three-fourths of the states to buy in on the federal level – and 44 states to buy in on the state level – then you have it done.

Until that point, the current law of the land is that people can own guns. 30+ percent of Dems admit to owning them, and a larger portion of Reps do. Consider when you’re pushing for expanding gun control to an extreme, that losing 30% of your base ensures that we’ll lose elections.  Have we forgotten President Bill Clinton’s famous 2012 warning? And it doesn’t even have to be because they voted for the other party or a third party – creating massive amounts of voter apathy will certainly get the job done just as well.

The rest of his entry is good, as well, and should be read by those who spend their energy pursuing the elimination of Constitutional rights of their fellow Americans, no matter what their reasons are. As a libertarian, I’m not too concerned about helping the Democratic Party win in the next election cycle, nor am I concerned with helping the Republican Party with the same goal. No matter what, I know that no one who represents my views somewhat fully is going to be elected. Worse still, I live in California, so my legislative and executive branch votes are predictably already in the bank for the party currently pursuing my disarmament, which is an entirely depressing separate issue, altogether.

What I do know is that I will not vote for someone who wants to strip rights away from me because they’re scared of something they fail to understand. I also know that I’m not the only one who feels strongly enough about that subject to go out and vote, and that the number of people with strong feelings in a similar vein will, in the end, outnumber those who feel strongly in the opposite direction.

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You Aren’t Artists, You’re Just Self-Obsessed

I spent a little longer reading this apologia for “selfies” this morning than I should have. I will never get that time back. What I’ve learned, in bullet point format:

  • Never read anything written by Rachel Syme. It’s a waste of time from which you will gain nothing.
  • Millennials will spend countless hours (it took her six months to write this, according to her twitter feed, which is just embarrassing) rationalizing their collective behavior.
  • They will resort to intellectual sloth, and try to make everything that criticizes their narcissism into “sexism”. If that doesn’t work, they’ll try to turn it into “racism”, and if that fails, “ageism”.
  • They will posit themselves and their behavior as “artists” and “art”, overestimating their own relevance and importance to the point of hilarity.

Seriously, I wish, right now, that I had a time machine, so I could go back and stop Tim Berners-Lee from “developing” HTML/HTTP in 1992, and keep the world a place where, though you may be surrounded by idiots, they were, at least, still silent, and unrecognizable.

 

Stop Biting.

The past day or so, “social media” has been abuzz with people offering their opinions about Starbucks’ seasonal cups having been accused of being evidence that “Starbucks hates Jesus”, or other nonsense. The root of all this “furor” is Mr. Joshua Feuerstein, who, despite his “tribe-flavored” name (and no, that’s not an insult; my wife is, in fact, Jewish, as are my in-laws, and a substantial portion of the friends I’ve made throughout life) , describes himself as a “American evangelist, internet and social media personality”. Mr. Feuerstein is a troll. This isn’t his first attempt to troll his way to infamy; it is actually just his latest attempt. And mass media has bitten the troll bait, hook, line, and sinker. As a result, social media has followed the lead of the mass propaganda effort, and immersed themselves in the “controversy”, as well, with every individual feeling the compulsion to condemn the whole idea of Starbucks “removing Christmas” from their seasonal coffee cups as “silly.”

Well, here’s the thing; you’re all still focusing on the words of one man, and worst of all, this one man is an “Internet and social media personality”, which means this is exactly what he wanted out of the deal. Is the underlying issue “silly”? Hell yes, it is. So stop giving him the attention he wanted. Until you do that, you can expect this sort of crap to continue. I get it; you see something stupid, and you feel your own compulsion to hop on your Mighty Horse of Righteous Indignation to proclaim that thing as stupid. Resist the urge.

You’re biting. You’re biting hard. And until you learn to control your urge to bite, you can expect the trolling to continue, unabated. And the cynic in me can’t help but wonder of media complicity, given the actual events going on in the world today that somehow don’t merit the coverage we’ve collectively given Feuerstein’s troll. I mean, it’s not like there’s a growing proxy war in Syria and the Ukraine, is there? Oh wait…

In unrelated news, I need to go wash the stink of having pasted a “The Nation” link in this text box. But they’re not wrong in this case.

Dear Technology Job Recruiters

I’m currently kind-of sort-of looking for jobs. While I’ll admit I’m being pretty selective in the specific industries I’m looking, I’m also being bombarded by contact from recruiters, looking to fill jobs for their client companies, and take home a healthy (I presume) commission. With the frequency of uninitiated contact, I’m noticing some troubling habits and trends amongst recruiters. These are a few of those habits and trends.

Reading is fundamental. Often times, I will get an email out of the blue from someone I’ve never met, telling me that they came across my resume on Dice or some other place, and that they thought I might be interested in a job at $companyX, located in $locationY. Frequently, $locationY is someplace I can’t easily get to from where I live, requiring a 2+ hour commute, each way, or, worse yet, it’s in some area that I have no interest in relocating to. I have indicated on my profile where I live, and I have indicated the three places I’d be willing to relocate. Far too often, it seems the recruiters either have no knowledge of geography, or they are unable to read. And that’s just with the location.

Then there’s the issue of them sending jobs for which I am decidedly the wrong candidate. They see one or two skills listed that match the description of the position they’re trying to fill, so they send me the position, which I then read, and wonder why on earth they thought I’d be a good candidate for a Windows administrator position, since I do not list any Windows experience on my resume at all. I’m a UNIX admin. I have been for almost two decades. It’s not even that I have anything against working in a Windows environment; I’m not a platform zealot at this age. I’m just not the right guy for that job. And you’d know that if you’d actually read my resume, rather than scanning it for keywords. While reading takes time, and you probably eventually get some results with your “no reading, shotgun the position to everyone” method, you might be surprised what you could achieve if you focused your munitions on specific, appropriate targets.

Email first, call second. You’d be surprised how often I get a phone call from some random, unknown number, which then turns out to be a recruiter, asking if I’d received their email about a job they’re trying to fill. The problem is, they don’t send the email out until after they talk to me on the phone. So, no, I haven’t seen the position you sent me, because you haven’t actually sent it to me. Here’s how this should work, ideally: you read my resume, it matches the job you’re trying to fill, then you send me an email about that job. You provide a contact number in your email, so I can contact you, either by email or by phone, at my leisure. If you must call me, you absolutely, positively need to send the job description to me in email first, and you have to give me a reasonable amount of time to have read your email. Believe me, if you haven’t sent me spam, I’ll read it. I’ll probably look you up online, too, and see if anyone thinks you’re a twit, and I’ll look up the company you’re working for, and the client, and make my decision accordingly. But if you call me first, then expect that I’m going to drop what I’m doing to go read your email while you’re still on the phone with me, and then I’m going to immediate let you know how to proceed, you’re in for a surprise.

Don’t try to intimidate me. This hasn’t happened often, but it has happened. I get a call-first, send email later guy, who calls and tells me he’s going to email the job description to me. I ask him who the client is, he tells me it’s $companyX. I tell him I’m not going to be interested in working for $companyX. He tells me I should read the job description, which he still hasn’t sent, first, then tells me I should call him back and let him know how I would like to proceed. I tell him, “Sure, I’ll read your email, just send it. If I feel like it’s something I’m interested in, I’ll let you know.” He insists I should let him know, even if I’m not interested. I point out that I’m wasting both of our time if I make a phone call to tell him I’m not interested. He asks what sort of time frame I can get back to him in, I tell him 24 hours. “Two to four hours?”, he asks. “No, twenty four hours,” I reply. He tells me he really needs me to get back to him much sooner than that. I tell him “alright, now it’s forty-eight hours.” He tells me that 48 hours is even worse than 24 hours. I tell him I’m moving the time frame to 72 hours, and if he keeps it up, I’ll keep moving the time frame back. He’s angry, and hangs up on me. Sweet, I’m free of this jerk!

Naturally, this would be too good to be true. He calls back, and claims he got disconnected. He asks, again, if I could read his email, which he still hasn’t sent, and get back to him as soon as possible. I tell him I’ll do what I can. He hangs up, frustrated at not getting his way. He then sends the email. I wait three days, and send him an email back telling him, as expected, that I’m not interested. I also add his number to my blocked caller list. We’re done here.

I’m not sure if he ever gets results with his strategy, but that sort of thing doesn’t work with me. I’m not desperate for work. I probably don’t want your job. You need me to help fill a position for your client, so if you want my cooperation, it behooves you to not be a dick. And with me, in particular, if you decide to be a dick, you will soon find out that I love the “who can be a bigger dick” game. You won’t win. I’m actually fairly adept at the game.

Pay attention. I had a recruiter call me (again, without sending the email first) to see if I was interested in a position with their client. I told them, overtly, I was not interested in working for that client. They asked if I could please just look at the job description, and let them know. The problem was that I was headed out of town for a 5-day event, during which I would be offline, entirely. No phone, no internet, nothing. I tell him I’ll take a look after I get back online, in five days. I get on a plane, fly to my destination, and while I’m waiting for my baggage, I get another call from someone else at the same recruiting firm. This one wants to know if I would be available for a brief phone chat once I get back online. I said, “Maybe, it will depend on the job description,” which, at that point, still hadn’t been sent. I remind the individual that in mere minutes, I would be offline, and unreachable, and that I would read what they sent me once I got back.

I leave cellular coverage area. I am entirely off the grid. Five days later, I’m headed back to the airport, and find six emails, four text messages, and three voicemails from the recruiter. Each one is increasingly desperate in tone. The recruiter somehow managed to take what I said, and turn it into me agreeing to do a phone interview with the client, which he then went ahead and scheduled for 2 pm on the day I was to be back online. He then just wanted to have a “brief conversation” to go over the plan for the interview which would “only take a couple of minutes”. After receiving no response from me to that email, he began calling, texting, and emailing, insisting that I should call him back right away, so we could “best prepare” for the interview he’d scheduled for me.

Once I sat down at my gate, waiting for my boarding time, I composed a brief email telling him I’d never agreed to do a phone interview with the client, much less agreed to a specified time for that interview, and that when I said I was going to be offline, I meant entirely, literally off-line. I pointed out that he had made a series of mistakes in interpreting the very simple things I had said, and that I had no interest in either doing a phone interview with the client, or, for that matter, ever doing business with his recruiting company, based on the ineptitude they had already displayed in this encounter. And I added both individuals I had spoken with, and their company, to my black list. Done.

Heads Buried in Sand

Daniel Denvir wrote an article in Salon recently about what he calls the “shocking, Orwellian rise of “school resource officers””, bemoaning his imagined rise of a “police state”. The article, predictably enough for Salon, does its level best to stoke the fires of racial strife, jumping to a series of conclusions without waiting for evidence or context in the heavily circulated video case of school resource officer Ben Fields in South Carolina forcibly removing a student from a chair she apparently refused to vacate when ordered to do so. This article, posing as a piece of journalism, is entirely an advocacy opinion piece of the type one would expect from Salon. If it were journalism, it would be highly irresponsible journalism, as a key element of any work of journalism would be the desire to flesh out any and all pertinent facts before coming to any particular conclusion.

The incident in question happened too recently for anyone in the public to be expected to have all the facts. The investigation, itself, is not complete, though that does not stop opinion “journalists” from using the incident as evidence to support their preconceived ideas; in fact, it serves as a convenient excuse to run such half-baked pieces, in an effort to capitalize on public attention. Further, and to avoid any mincing of words, the financial motivation for publishing these pieces is entirely based on the corporate sponsors’ desire to sell advertisements that surround the prose written by pundits, while the public still cares enough to read about the event, in an environment where the collective attention span is two to three days, maximum.

When you take this incident in the context of school security, you can expand the subject to include school shootings, as well as the significantly less published events wherein school authority figures have been attacked, physically, by students at said facilities. The reality of why there are an increasing number of “school resource officers” is because administrative organizations in charge of schools, and therefore school security, realize there is an increasing problem that they need to address, and that the best way to address these issues is to include the on-campus presence of personnel tasked with, and ideally properly trained for, handling these occurrences.

Denvir decries the response of this SRO as evidence of “racism”, implying that schools are creating a “school to prison pipeline” for certain members of the student body.

“For poor children of color, the mouth of the school-to-prison pipeline is manned by police officers who have in recent decades proliferated in districts nationwide. The mass deployment of schools cops, commonly referred to as “school resource officers,” has been made without careful thought or research. And it has produced horrible outcomes.”

He offers no proof that there has been no “careful thought or research”, nor that it “has produced horrible outcomes”, but he writes both things anyway, which then become claims that other half-assed journalists, or bloggers, will repeat, and if we know anything, we know that repeating half-truths results in lazy readers embracing these half-truths as truths.

Reality, of course, does not care what any number of “journalists” or bloggers believe. And reality is that a small portion of the student body today apparently feels emboldened enough to physically attack staff members of their institutions for whatever reasons they feel aggrieved by. Reality is that an even smaller number of students, for whatever reasons, have felt aggrieved enough to enter schools with weapons, intending to inflict as many casualties as possible, and they’ve gotten away with it far too often, largely because these schools have not had the means to stop them.

School Resource Officers are the actual solution to this problem. And yet, when one suggests that fact to the rabble that comprise the anti-gun movement, the immediate outcry is that this is a “disaster waiting to happen”. They fantasize that the mere presence of trained, armed individuals in a school will result in a non-stop “wild west” shootout. They claim that our schools don’t need armed individuals to defend the unarmed student body, or the unarmed staff of these schools, and they exclaim that they don’t want to live in a world where any of this is necessary.

But they do live in that world. We all live in that world. Their desire to “get rid of all the guns” is unrealistic. There are already 350,000,000 guns, legally owned, in this country. On top of that, there are an unknown number of illegally procured guns. And there are miscreants in this world whose sole purpose, usually in pursuit of notoriety via mass media coverage, is to inflict damage and pain in as large an amount as possible. You may not like the fact that this is your world, but it is your world, regardless.

The analogy that is most apropos is security as it is applied in Israel. Realizing that their schools were a target for miscreants with the intent to do harm, Israel addressed the problem, rather than wishing they didn’t have the problem in the first place. Schools are surrounded by layers of perimeter security, and staffed by trained, armed “school resource officers”. As a result, school shootings in Israel are minimal, in comparison to other nations of similar circumstances. One may argue that the threats faced in Israel are not directly comparable to the threats of maladjusted young adult shooters in the United States, but actually such a comparison is fairly accurate. While the motives behind attacks may differ slightly (eg: religious war vs. maladjusted desire for notoriety), the situations themselves are very similar.

The question, then, is whether we, as a people, are going to continue to deny we have a security issue, or refuse to act because it means accepting the world we live in is not the world we wish we lived in, or whether we will accept that in order to prevent tragedies, we are willing to take the obvious, efficient, and right courses of action in order to prevent them. Will we do what we need to do, or will we bury our heads in the sand, and hope the insanity stops?

What is entirely not useful, however, is posturing political advocacy pieces from the likes of people like Denvir, decrying “racism” or “police brutality” at every corner. Denvir has no solutions. I’m not going try to put myself inside his head to imagine what motivation he may have for wanting things to stay the same, but he has contributed nothing towards building a solution, and is but a roadblock in its path, and, as such, he should be embarrassed for writing what he has written. But I’m sure he won’t be. He works at Salon, after all, and no doubt received more than a few “atta-boys” for restating the Groupthink conclusions they hired him to write. After all, he submitted it on time, and before the Collective Attention Span had averted its eyes to the Next Approved Outrage, so Salon was able to garner plenty of social media traffic, increasing the marketed value of impressions for their brand of web propaganda.

An Ubiquitous Cultural Shift in Focus

I started working at Apple in 2006, a year or so before the release of the iPhone. While there were certainly “smart phones” around prior to the existence of the iPhone, they were significantly less prominent. I had owned devices from Blackberry and Palm, and was fascinated by the technological developments being made with faster, smaller processors, and increasingly more powerful phones. Being able to check email from anywhere was relatively new, and as the various phone carriers upgraded their network speeds, browsing the web for information became easier and less painful. But once the iPhone dropped in 2007, then Android phones started appearing, as well, the “smart phone” took off. It was no longer just tech-obsessed “early adopters” who had these things; it was everyone. It was your mother, your grandmother, your neighbors, your barista, and eventually, your elementary school students. Over time, most cell phone users moved to “smart phones” of one type or another, and over that same period of time, the social behavior pertaining to the use of these devices changed, as well.

At first, it was less noticeable, in that you might see someone on a public street stopping to type something to someone with their thumbs on their smart phone from time to time. Then you’d see people driving, with one hand on the wheel, and their other hand on that smart phone, eyes focused on whatever it was that had captured their interest. Then you’d see a table full of people out at a restaurant, having a group dinner, all of them focused exclusively on the content their phones were delivering to them. You’d see people actively walking down the street, not looking in front of them, reading this or that on that tiny screen, as if what was happening on Twitter or Facebook was infinitely more interesting than the world they were physically moving through. You’d see people ordering food, then taking pictures of that food, rather than eating it, in order to broadcast said photographic evidence of the meal they’d ordered to the rest of the Internet. You’d go to a concert, and instead of seeing hundreds of hands holding up disposable Bic lighters, those same hands were holding up iPhones or Samsung Galaxies to capture crappy video clips of whatever band they’d paid thirty bucks to see. Rather than watching, listening, and enjoying the experience, they were trying to capture a small bit of that experience, not so much because they wanted to be able to remember the experience, but because they wanted to “net brag” to their friends and associates via social media that they were watching Band X right now, while the friends and associates were not. But they weren’t actually watching Band X. They were, instead, engaged in narcissistic self-promotion.

Sociologists have begun to explore the cultural and social changes that the greater prevalence of mobile network connectivity and social media have brought us, though there is still much more studying to be done. And as these studies are being explored, new social and cultural changes continue to develop. Much of these changes have too much momentum to effectively be thwarted at this point, as cultural buy-in applies societal pressure to large masses of people to engage in the same behavior, lest they be left behind. When communication was predominantly face-to-face, behavior was obviously different than it became once communication moved to electronic forms, with the introduction of increasingly large amounts of passive-aggressive or aggressive-aggressive behavior present, possibly due to the bravery provided by a certain sense of anonymity. That’s neither here nor there for purposes of what I’m getting at; we are, as a society, increasingly reliant upon surprisingly fragile layers of technology for tasks from simple navigation, to communicating with each other, to making decisions about life, about paths, or about banal consumer choices. Looking at this dependency from a security analysis standpoint, one cannot help but notice the potential flaws that could prove disastrous to a society reliant upon these layers of technology. It can all fall apart. It can collapse under a cascading failure of any number of factors; electrical power, cabled network infrastructure, and cellular infrastructure all depend on one another at this point. Nature, or bad actors (which, arguably, could still be considered “nature”, given than human beings are still a part of nature, whether we fancy ourselves outside or above it or not), or catastrophic accidents could easily collapse one of the underlying pillars, and depending on the scope, human-planned recovery may not be automatic, easy, or even possible in that event. What remains to be seen is the actual effect of this infrastructure collapsing on society as a whole. For localized areas that aren’t entirely reliant upon it, the effects may be minimal. But for large urban centers, it could be devastating. And large groups of humans aren’t known for their reasoned, measured responses to major tragedies.

Forehead, Meet Lamppost

There was a moment, way back in those heady days of 2011 or so, that I was walking from one place to another in the Lower Haight neighborhood of San Francisco. Unsure of my destination’s physical address, I unlocked my phone and pulled up the map application, and began typing the name of it into the search field, at which point I felt a solid “thud” against my nose and forehead. I looked up from my magical electronic navigation device to see a light post that I had walked straight into, because my focus had been on the magical electronic navigation device rather than, say, where I was actually going. I felt the wetness of blood forming streaks from my forehead, down my temple, and into the wells of my eye, and wondered, at first, if I might need stitches. I blotted the blood away as best I could, but just as soon as I would finish blotting, the wound would pump out more blood to replace it, and so I ended up just holding the paper towel over my right eye, to at least keep the blood out of the eye, itself.

At that point, I decided it was time to cut the shopping trip short, and return home to tend to my fresh wound. Changing course, I tried to flag every taxi I saw, but none of them were interested in picking up an actively-bleeding fare. A couple of them slowed down and pulled over, but once they caught a closer glimpse of my bloodied face, they’d pull away and leave me behind. The second one actually hit the auto-lock on his doors before doing so, a fact which was both audible and visible to me, since I had managed to get within about two feet of his cab. My legs still worked, so I kept walking towards home, and when I got there, I gained a better understanding of why it had been so difficult to hail a taxi; the right side of my face, neck, and t-shirt were absolutely covered in blood. I wouldn’t have picked me up if I was a driver, either, if for no better reason than not wanting to have to clean up my cab afterward.

For years, I’ve prided myself on having a better than average sense of “situational awareness”, yet here I was, covered in my own caking, dried blood, all because I had been looking at my handheld glass screen instead of the unmoving mass of steel and aluminum on the sidewalk in front of me. I cleaned myself up, slathered a large bandage in Neosporin, and vowed to never let something like that happen again. “Eyes up, real world shit,” from now on.