Friday, January 03, 2014

Who will Guard the Guardians?

Obama administration proposes new executive actions on gun background checks | Fox News:
The Obama administration on Friday proposed two new executive actions to make it easier for states to provide mental health information to the national background check system, wading back into the gun control debate after a months-long hiatus. 
Vice President Biden's office announced the proposals Friday afternoon. Both pertain to the ability of states to provide information about the mentally ill and those seeking mental health treatment to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. 
One proposal would formally give permission to states to submit "the limited information necessary to help keep guns out of potentially dangerous hands," without having to worry about the privacy provisions in a law known as HIPAA.
(HIPAA .. the "Health Insurance and Accountability Act" - ed.)


I've said this before, and I'll say it again: there are people in the "Mental Health Care Industry" who are unalterably opposed to the possession of firearms by ANY citizen in this country .. with the exception of police and military.

Yes, I'm very much in favor of identifying nut-jobs who are so confused or despondent that they consider shooting up a shopping mall to be a viable choice.

I'm just not convinced that the people who are responsible for sending this information to the BATF (or whomever) are all that stable, themselves.

Pediatric physicians have been known to quiz children about firearms in the house ... without the permission or even supervision of their parents. 

Religious groups have publicly espoused their opposition to the private possession of firearms.
(See, for example, Presbyterian 101 and God's Call)

The point is, there are groups of sincere, caring, committed individuals who, in their professional capacity, have taken it upon themselves to advocate for (or against) social/legal, constitutional issues .. with the very best of intentions.

But how about ... Psychologists?

*(See: Take on Gun Lobby; AAP Firearms Safety [pdf[, and  AAP Gun Violence Policy [pdf],  and most egregiously  Advocate)

[note: "APP" = American Psychological Association]
Reference to an article in Psychologist Today
Gun control and a culture of violence is clearly linked.
 Any debate regarding gun control in America requires a serious examination of the culture of violence that exists in America, for this is where the real problem lies. It is not in 2nd amendment rights to bear arms or self-defense or crime, although these are issues the pro-gun lobby in the U.S. always hides behind. The real root cause is in the minds of Americans who may feel that a gun gives them a feeling of empowerment, and that they are entitled to have the power over life and death as well as the belief that if they want to they can take a life if they have been wronged (or imagined they have) in some way. After all, they see it glorified in the media every day.

(Emphasis added)

We have no issue with the conclusions, but the problem is with those sincere, caring, committed professionals who have individually concluded that ALL guns are bad, and that NO Americans can be trusted with them.  The very mention of ...
... 2nd amendment rights to bear arms or self-defense or crime, although these are issues the pro-gun lobby in the U.S. always hides behind ...
... suggests that those Americans who "hide behind" the U.S. constitutions truly have something to "always hide behind", rather than "insist of their constitutional rights".  As if it was something shameful, and needful of justification on a personal level .. such as pedophilia.  (I wonder if this psychologist discusses his pedophile patients cases as egregiously as he does legal owners of firearms?)

So .. what help can Psychologists offer to both identify potential mass murderers, and predict their behavior?

Here is an APA article from December 12, 2013 which addresses that specific question:

WASHINGTON — There is no single personality profile that can reliably predict who will use a gun in a violent act — but individual prediction is not necessary for violence prevention, according to a comprehensive report on gun violence released today by the American Psychological Association. 
The report summarizes the psychological research that has helped develop evidence-based programs that can prevent violence through both primary and secondary interventions. Primary prevention programs can reduce risk factors for violence in the general population. Secondary prevention programs can help individuals who are experiencing emotional difficulties or interpersonal conflicts before they escalate into violence. 
"In making predictions about the risk for mass shootings, there is no consistent psychological profile or set of warning signs that can be used reliably to identify such individuals in the general population," according to the report, entitled Gun Violence: Prediction, Prevention, and Policy. For this reason, primary violence prevention programs are critical. In addition, at the individual level, a promising approach is the strategy of behavioral threat assessment, which involves identifying and intervening with individuals who have communicated threats of violence or engaged in behavior that indicates preparation to commit a violent act. 
In addition, the vast majority of people suffering from a mental illness are not violent, and despite decades of research, "there is only a moderate ability to identify individuals most likely to commit serious acts of violence," the report notes. When a person does resort to violence, that behavior is typically associated with a confluence of "individual, family, school, peer, community and sociocultural factors that interact over time," and appropriate access to mental health treatment can reduce gun violence, the report says. However, the availability of such mental health care remains "woefully insufficient," it adds.
[comments highlighted by italics have been emphasized by the editor]

Let's review some significant quotes:

  • "There is no single personality profile that can reliably predict who will use a gun in a violent act ..."
  • "In making predictions about the risk for mass shootings, there is no consistent psychological profile or set of warning signs that can be used reliably to identify such individuals in the general population ... "
  • "In addition, the vast majority of people suffering from a mental illness are not violent, and despite decades of research, 'there is only a moderate ability to identify individuals most likely to commit serious acts of violence...' "
Essentially, Psychologists cannot identify people who are likely to go shoot up a shopping mall, a church, or a school.

Yet even though  "there is only a moderate ability to identify individuals most likely to commit serious acts of violence ...", the Administration is most likely going to rely on these sincere, committed, caring professionals to determine who among us are likely to be a volatile risk factor for the rest of us.

Even though these sincere, committed, caring professionals admit among themselves that the have not the SLIGHTEST idea who among US are likely to become Mass Murderers.

I don't know about you, but I'm just the slightest bit concerned that these caring, committed professionals might find themselves "under the gun", so to speak, and feel somehow obligated to identify any of their patients who come to them with emotional problems and who have 'confessed' to owning a firearm as ... a "risk to society".


The APA has a Privacy Code, intended to protect their patients.  Without this code, their patients could not feel free to discuss their most private thoughts to their psychological care-giver.

Tenent #4" " 4.06 Consultations
When consulting with colleagues, (1) psychologists do not disclose confidential information that reasonably could lead to the identification of a client/patient, research participant or other person or organization with whom they have a confidential relationship unless they have obtained the prior consent of the person or organization or the disclosure cannot be avoided, and (2) they disclose information only to the extent necessary to achieve the purposes of the consultation. (See also Standard 4.01, Maintaining Confidentiality.)
 Adhering to this and other "privacy code" issues is left up to the attending psychologist.  Most professionals would consider this constriction in the context of other ethical tenets, and would be reluctant to disclose personal information unless such information might be critical to the determination of whether the patient is a threat to him/herself, or to another person.

However, this is a purely personal decision.  If the psychologist is one who thinks that the mere possession of a firearm is *(because of his/her personal bias) in itself evidence of 'danger to him/herself or another person", that caring professional mental health worker may feel .. if not obliged, but at least "free" ... to disclose the information to anyone --- and in doing so, feel free to be to be totally revelatory even though the common layperson may not agree that the patient constitutes a threat to society.

When mental health workers are defined as "the last line of defense", there is a real and present danger that individuals might allow themselves to feel justified in 'outing' one or more of their patients, purely because of their personal opinion about "Gun Rights/Gun Control".

This puts the question squarely on the shoulders of one "caring, committed professional" whose opinion must necessarily be respected by Law Enforcement Officers.  The LEOs recognize that they have not the training and the neutral perspective .....
.... but do the psychologists?

We submit that just one politically motivated "sincere, caring, committed professional" Mental Health Care Professional has the power to devastate the lives of  countless law-abiding citizens for the mere 'crime' of firearm ownership.

Am I the only one who has a problem with that?

Nuns Denied Exemption from ObamaCare by Obama Administration

Administration to high court: Don't exempt Catholic groups from contraception mandate | Fox News:

The Obama administration on Friday asked the Supreme Court not to exempt Catholic groups from an ObamaCare requirement to offer contraceptive coverage, after the high court gave them a temporary reprieve earlier this week.
 Today, Obama revealed his determination to "remake the nation" regardless of First Amendment Rights to Freedom of Religion.

We've already discussed the "Little Sisters" appeal to the Federal Government to 'please don't make this an issue' for them to decide between their Catholic Tenents against contraception and the Federal Law.

The Obama Administration says that if they don't want to include pregnancy insurance in their "Affordable HealthCare Plan", all they have to do is to fill out a form.
The group of Catholic nuns argues that the contraceptive coverage requirement violates their religious beliefs. To get around the mandate, they claim they'd have to sign a "permission slip" authorizing others to provide contraceptives and "abortion drugs" -- or pay a fine.

The bible says: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars, and unto God the things that are God's".  But are moral values the province of The Little Caesar?

Or is He just throwing his weight around?

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

I can't say her name

Hawaii woman with long last name forces state to alter ID policy | Fox News:
January 1, 2014
A Hawaii woman whose last name is 36 characters long has finally gotten the whole thing to fit on her driver's license and state identification card. Janice "Lokelani" Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele has a surname that consists of 35 letters plus an okina, a mark used in the Hawaiian alphabet. She received her new license and ID after her campaign to get her full name on the cards prompted the state Department of Transportation to change its policy to expand the number of characters that can appear.
 Computers suck.

And computer programming sucks, too, because the criteria of the original program ALWAYS changes when ... reality interferes with the tidiness that programmers have learned to expect.

This lady is completely right to expect that "practices" and "procedures" must accommodate reality.

Are the officials in Hawaii going to issue new drivers' licenses which are six inches long?

No Problem!

`A `ole pilikia


Justice Blocks Contraception Mandate on Insurance in Suit by Nuns -

Justice Blocks Contraception Mandate on Insurance in Suit by Nuns -
 December 31, 2013

WASHINGTON — Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday temporarily blocked the Obama administration from forcing some religious-affiliated groups to provide health insurance coverage of birth control or face penalties as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Acting at the request of an order of nuns in Colorado, Justice Sotomayor issued the stay just hours before the requirement was to go into effect on New Year’s Day. She gave the Obama administration until Friday to respond to the Supreme Court.  
Although this injunction stay was initiated directly on behalf of specific orders of Catholic nuns, it wouldn't take much imagination to expect it would ... or should ... also be applicable to other groups who believe that portion of the Affordable Care Act (AKA "ObamaCare") should not be imposed upon them.  Examples include unmarried men, gays, Catholic nuns, and any other group which has reason to expect they should not be expected to be responsible for a pregnancy.

Which, to some of us (including widowed near-septuagenarians  such as myself) seems only reasonable.

Unfortunately, this issue may become something of a "Tipping Point" for ObamaCare.

If it is either legally or morally inappropriate for the Federal government to impose birth control insurance premiums on individuals who don't expect to face that health-care situation,  then why would it be appropriate for the Federal government to impose ANY insurance clauses on ANYONE who objects to them?

As is true in almost any civic law that the Supreme Court (or any of its individual Justices) take an interest, this is an "800 pound Gorilla In The Corner" which may react dramatically to ensuing events.  If the ObamaAdministration ... no, let's be honest about this ... if President Obama personally fights this action, it may lead to the entire ObamaCare law being opposed by the Supreme Court on more than one ground.

Note that previous challenges on the basis of constitutionality have already been successfully met and overwhelmed.  Specifically, the requirement that private individuals MUST adhere to federally mandated insurance mandates has been accepted because this socially tumultuous law has been designated by the White House and Congress as a "tax".  And Congress is constitutionally empowered to impose taxes on American citizens.

Now, however, we see that the law might be interpreted by the Supreme Court as violating the First Amendment of the Constitution ...

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
— The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

If Obama opposes Justice Sonia Sotomayor on this issue, that will open the door for opposition to the enforcement of ObamaCare by the Supreme Court, which has the power to declare the entire multi-hundred page law unconstitutional (and therefore unenforceable) until the question is resolved.  That is, resolved to the satisfaction of The Court.

ObamaCare has been walking on little cat feet, like a San Francisco fog, for months.  Now the Administration faces a challenge which it cannot win.  This is the strength of the American Constitution. The tripartite nature of American government ... legislative, judicial and executive branches ... have the constitutional power to stymie each other on the basis of legality and constitutionality.  While they have been careful avoid exciting the other two branches in recent years, Obama has for the past several months been striding boldly into areas where no-one has gone before.

This time, Obama may have tripped over his dictatorial tendencies.

It is the designated duty of both Congress and The Supreme Court to oppose the Executive branch when that portion of government seems to have exceeded its constitutional powers.  Congress has neither the will nor the intestinal fortitude to oppose Obama's end-run on the right of The People to decide for themselves what level of health insurance they can afford.

Like the Second Amendment, it's not about the mechanics.  It's about the Rights of The People.

When the Federal government stoops to using taxes not to finance The Common Good but to impose The Common Good ... and makes us pay through the nose for the privilege of being Governed ... then there's something wrong with this system.

Not the Carrot, but the Whip.

This guy has lost all perspective.  It's time that someone said "Hey, wait a minute!"

Thank you for stepping up to the plate, Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Incandescent Light Bulbs Dead ... except for "Rough Service"

The man who saved the lightbulb | Fox News:
(December 16, 2013)
A modern day Edison has a bright idea: a way to keep the incandescent bulb burning brightly, despite a government law set to go into effect New Year’s Day that effectively outlaws the most commonly used lightbulbs.
 Most bulbs, that is. Not those made by lightbulb savior Larry Birnbaum. “When the government decided to ban incandescent lightbulbs, they left a loophole in the law. An opening,” Birnbaum told “What that was was rough service.”

So ... it appears that there IS an alternative to using Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFL), although the referenced article doesn't appear to include any information about availability or price.

In the meantime, we're hearing a lot of warnings about Mercury contamination if one of these wonderful new inventions should happen to break.  We're cautioned about clean-up and disposal of a broken ... or even intact ... bulb.

 Intact bulbs can be a headache to dispose of, too. In many locales it is illegal to throw fluorescents out with regular garbage, but the closest recycling or take-back facility may be miles away. (And, given the number of bottles and cans that end up in landfills despite the prevalence of curbside recycling programs, it seems likely that any barrier to recycling will make for relatively low reclamation rates; in 2004 the Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers estimated a residential mercury bulb recycling rate of 2 percent.) Many municipal waste facilities and some vendors accept fluorescents; the EPA and Earth 911 maintain
online directories of collection sites. Among major retailers of fluorescents, IKEA offers to take back compact fluorescent bulbs in its stores free of charge.
And ... the CFLs can also cause physical problems, including skin cancer and migraines.  (That has less to do with broken or disposed CFLs than with their normal mode of operation ... but that's another story.)

One wonders, what do we do with a  CFL bulb which is not broken, but merely doesn't work any more?  Throw it in the bin with the rest of the trash?

I looked at my local garbage guy website, and they don't seem to address that question specifically.

However, they do have a category which includes Mercury contamination:

  • Universal Waste
    This includes:

    • all hazardous waste batteries;
    • mercury-containing equipment;
    • some hazardous waste pesticides;
    • mercury-containing light bulbs.
    The RCRA Universal Waste Rule establishes a set of regulatory requirements for facilities managing universal waste, depending on whether the facility falls into one of four categories:

    • small-quantity handler of universal waste (SQHUW),
    • large-quantity handler of universal waste (LQHUW),
    • transporter of universal waste, or
    • final destination facilities.
    In addition, the The RCRA Universal Waste Rule establishes a petitioning procedure whereby additional wastes may be added to the universal waste rule.

If I understand this correctly, my trash collectors are not imposing any special restrictions on how I dispose of these "mercury-containing light bulbs".  They bear the responsibility and burdon of separating them from normal non-hazardous materials, and disposing of them appropriately.

That comes as a great relief to me.  "It's Not My Job!"
Also:  "Some Other Guys Will Handle That!")


Wait a minute, all this stuff goes to a landfill located five miles out of town.   That's uphill from The River ... which runs through major  population centers in this state.  We're talking about the State Capital and the largest city in the state.

Won't somebody else be subject to the mercury poisoning?

And gee, what happens if the people up-river are just dumping their "mercury-containing light bulbs" in the trash, and they're being dumped in THEIR landfills?  What's to keep their Mercury from ending up in MY water supply?  Those  people are in the 2nd and 3rd largest cities in the state!

Isn't it odd that the Federal Government, which has mandated this national ban on Incandescents, haven't simultaneously initiated a plan for EVERYONE to know how to dispose of Fluorescents?  And regulations which required trash disposal companies to provide separate containers for these "household hazardous" materials?

Oh, wait:  The law was enacted in 2007:
Jan. 1. marks the end of a seven-year effort to outlaw the ordinary lightbulb, thanks to a 2007 law that raised minimum efficiency standards for traditional incandescent bulbs far beyond what the technology can manage.
It’s lights out for the traditional light bulb, in other words, which was essentially killed by that bill.
“The government started phasing out incandescents in 2010, starting with the 100-watt bulb, and then followed by the 75-watt,” explained Melissa Andresko, communications director for lighting-automation company Lutron.
(emphasis added)

That's a relief.  Now I know the Federal Government's appropriate response to this quandary:

It's Bush's Fault!

I'm back!

Okay, so you're not impressed by that title.

Keeping it uncharacteristically short,  please note that I went to Washington (the state, not the District) over the holidays to visit my son "The Squid Kid" and his family at his new permanent post.

I haven't seen them for two years, until they stopped by in the area over Thanksgiving to visit with all their family here.  They settled down in their new home in early December, and I spent Christmas with them for the first time "ever".


The twin boys, 5 years old, don't really know me.  At first they referred to me as "That Guy" (as in: " ... Is That Guy going to be here long?")  By the time I left, they knew me as "Grampa Geek".   Or words to that effect.  At least, they understood that I was part of their extended family.

So I have had a wonderful vacation, punctuated by my usual frustration whenever I travel.   I missed the turnoff and spent two hours longer than necessary going up there, and coming back I hit a massive traffic jam in which it took me an hour to travel 1.5 miles.  But those are side stories.

I will now resume the normal program of ranting.