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2018-02-17

The Third Saint Valentine's Day Massacre

This the first of two posts I have posted today:
Three days and eighty-nine years ago, seven men died in the streets of Chicago. They were riddled with bullet holes. This being the extremely antisemitic early 20th century, Jews were immediately suspected. An investigation into the Jewish crime group the Purple Gang eventually revealed that this was no kosher killing; it was a mafia job. The Purple Gang were merely accomplices. Four members of Al Capone's Chicago Outfit dressed as policemen had gunned members of five members of a rival gang and two affiliates with two Thompson submachine guns and two shotguns. This was called the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre by the press. This massacre and other crimes eventually led to the passage of the National Firearms Act on June 26, 1934 as part of the cleaning up of the damage caused by Prohibition. Guns as powerful as the Thompsons were placed under new restrictions and all users had to register their guns.

Fast forward eighty-two years. It was February 14th, 2008. Steven Kazmierczak kicked down an auditorium door in Cole Hall, Northern Illinois University. He was carrying two semi-automatic pistols in his hands, another in an upholster and a semi-automatic shotgun in his guitar case. He had no reason to be on campus; he had already finished his undergrad from Northern Illinois and was taking graduate courses at another university. There were no security checks for the gunman, however. He killed five, including himself, and injured seventeen others. An additional 4 people were injured during the panic. It is not known as such, but I consider it was the Second Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. Unlike the previous one, in the same time span no new federal laws have been passed that increased protections. Five days and a year later, Zachary Issacman shot a student who prevented him from following a female campus resident, yet there was still no improvement on the national level. People who called for a change were silenced on the grounds that preventing future tragedies insults survivors.

Three days ago, yet another shooting happened. Seventeen students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida were killed by former student Nikolas Cruz, making it more than twice as deadly than the first Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. The killer was carrying a weapon resembling an AR-15. It is not covered by the National Firearms Act, and Florida allows the purchase of such weapons without a license. Despite a history of threats and social media posts stating a desire to be a school shooter, he passed the background checks. He had joined a white nationalist group called the Republic of Florida, which wishes to make an independent white ethno-state in Florida. Cruz knew about gun use from hunting. He learned and practiced how to operate more powerful guns in paramilitary exercises held by the Republic of Florida. The group quickly went to condemn the violence on Thursday and claimed it probably was due to "trouble with a girl" and that the timing was probably not a coincidence. It sounds to me like a deflection. Cruz was known for his hatred of minorities, and plenty of minorities attended the school. The dead include four Jews, a Mormon, a just natuaralised Venezuelan and a Chinese boy. There were also black people attending the school, some of whom were among the injured. Again we see congressmen saying now is not the time to talk about gun control. We see them say that you cannot politicise this tragedy. They are wrong. Politics is not just some argument about abstract theory; the goal of politics is a better society. It is an insult to the survivors, who are now pushing for gun control, to speak against gun control. My friend said in a blog post that it is time for people to shout. I agree. We need to be heard. These people need justice and they need it because they are people. Not because we are students or teachers, not because we know people who are students or teachers. Just being a person should be enough to entitle them to a right to live without fear. And until students and teachers can live without fear, no one else should. This could happen at any public place and has many times just this year. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 30 mass shootings thus far this year. Some were at hospitals, at bars or in the street. This needs to stop. Here are some ways you can help:
  • The Women's March is calling for a nationwide 17 minute school walkout on March 14th at 10 AM. Another is being planned on April 20th by other groups. I propose that wherever you are, engage in similar protests near your local schools on those days. Call on everyone you know, whether school employees, students, relatives of either or even someone with no connection to a school, to protest.
  • There have been calls to boycott sending children to school as an act of civil disobedience starting February 28th or March 14th. Not allowing children to get an education is illegal, so I will not endorse this action. There is no law preventing college students from boycotting though. Additionally, high school students can refuse to attend school without consequence if they are of a certain age depending on the state or territory:
    • 19 in Texas
    • 18 in American Samoa, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin
    • 17 in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia
    • 16 in Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Wyoming
  • If you are a teacher, help boycotting students by e-mailing them assignments or holding class outdoors.
  • Call your representatives to vote for gun control. Call your senators. Call your state legislators. Spam your governors. Get others to contribute. Force the government to hear our screams.
  • Donate money and supplies to the people of Parkland.
  • Print flyers and posters calling for the above actions and stick them everywhere you legally can.
  • Get your local school to talk about the event. Have the administration discuss ways the school can contribute to its bereaved sister in Florida.
  • Vote in the primaries and in November for candidates who promise to support gun control.
Getting heard is not enough. We also need a specific message to say. I propose the following:
  • No one should be allowed to own a gun without a license. People who own guns but don't keep them unloaded in a safe and secure place can be fined and have their license revoked for a year on the third offense. In order to get a permit, you must state your reason for having a gun. In addition, all people who apply for a license must prove that they are competent in gun safety and know how to aim and shoot in a non-erratic fashion.
  • No gun more powerful or faster than a gun meant for hunting can be sold as a functioning unit. If someone assembles a functioning weapon form a legally sold non-functioning illegal weapon, the assembler would have their license permanently revoked and face charges for possession of an illegal weapon.
  • People without licenses may still be allowed to use guns, but only at shooting ranges.
  • The second amendment should be replaced with a new amendment with clearer wording. Organised militias that receive local, state or federal funding may be allowed to possess automatic and semiautomatic weapons, but they also must undergo basic military training.
  • Gun shows should be banned.
  • People with a history of making unprovoked violent threats should be barred from using guns even at shooting ranges.
  • Any person with depression, anxiety, bipolar, borderline personality, etc. disorders must have a license to use a gun, even at shooting ranges. In order for them to get a license, they must have regular visits to a psychiatrist. Many of the mentally ill people who engaged in shootings had ceased using their medication and/or ceased going to therapy for a while before attacking.

H.R.620 - ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017

This the first of two posts I have posted today:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. It gave disabled Americans equal rights to the able and the right to accommodation for difficulties arising from their disability. The following groups are listed by Wikipedia as qualifying as disabled under the act:
deafness, blindness, an intellectual disability (formerly termed mental retardation), partially or completely missing limbs or mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair, autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia
It was far from a perfect bill, but every citizen of the United States knows several people who either are actively benefiting or are eligible to benefit from this act. I am one of those people. The act means that companies cannot deny me service because of my depression, anxiety and ADHD. In addition, I can get special plans at schools and colleges to help me learn despite the many ways my disorders have made my education difficult. These places, whether private or public, cannot refuse to provide me a plan without breaking the law. Any insurance company that I am covered by is required to give me full coverage, thus allowing me to get the medication that hopefully will keep me functioning. Several friends of mine whom I met at group therapy also rely on this law. By keeping people like us functional, the ADA allows those who are labelled diasbled under the act to participate in public life and protects us in the job market.

On January 24th, 2017, Ted Poe1, one of the most stupid member of Congress in all of its history, introduced a bill to modify the ADA: The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017. It starts with a great proposal:
Based on existing funding, the Disability Rights Section of the Department of Justice shall, in consultation with property owners and representatives of the disability rights community, develop a program to educate State and local governments and property owners on effective and efficient strategies for promoting access to public accommodations for persons with a disability (as defined in section 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. 12102)). Such program may include training for professionals such as Certified Access Specialists to provide a guidance of remediation for potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This would be a great boon for struggling disabled people! It spends government money on making an oppressed minority accommodated! Did Ted Poe really right this? But this is just the perfume to mask the sinister poison that makes the majority of the bill. The rest of the bill targets a major provision of the ADA: it delays and harms the ability of disabled people to go to court because of architecture that acts as a barrier to their legally required accommodation. It also removes incentives for acting upon complaints. As long as a company can prove "substantial improvements" are being made, the barrier can remain in place indefinitely. For more information on how it harms people with disabilities, read the text of the bill on its page on the website of Congress: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/620/text. If, like me, you do not understand the legal implications from reading that, the ACLU has a PDF on it: https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/myths_and_truths_about_the_ada_education_and_reform_act_-_updated_2-13-18.pdf

The good news is that Ted Poe is retiring at the end of this congress. The bad news is that the bill passed in the House of Representatives two days ago. It had the support of the vast majority of the Republican members and twelve Democrats. It is currently under reconsideration, meaning that the House could vote over it again. This attack on the physically infirm is an attack on the civil rights of us all and an attack on the economic benefits of including disabled people in the labour force. If such a bill can be passed, it means it is open season on other sections of the ADA. Comments from both major parties blaming the recent school shooting on mental issues the murderer suffered from show that there definitely is a political will to legalise yet more discriminations against us. The disabled were there in Congress to protest taking away Medicare and Obamacare. It is time to honor their efforts. Please contact your representatives to inform them that you are against the bill. If it goes to the Senate, repeat with your senators.


1 He once tried to ban people from countries that don't allow the US to deport criminals to them, even though that includes countries like Canada, Israel and the UK. If passed, the bill would have instantly destroyed the foreign tourism industry. He also is forever immortalised by schmoyoho for complaining about how the Department of Justice spent too much on muffins, even though the actual amount was lower than he claimed and the cost he claimed was negligible anyway considering the size of their budget.

2018-02-05

Update/Correction on Justice for the Pladls

Steven was released on bail. Katie was still in a North Carolina jail as of last week.

Justice for the Pladls

See here for Update/Correction

Adult consensual sex is still a crime in most countries that do not consider LGBT to be criminals. That includes 48 states of the United States, luckily not including the one I live in (New Jersey, the other one being Rhode Island). Today, Steven and Katie Pladl, a consenting father and daughter couple, were arrested in Virginia for daring to be in love each other and consummating that love. As of writing this, I have heard zero indications of abuse or grooming. They were ratted out by Steven's wife, who had already separated from him at the time she learned about the relationship. Steven and Katie have a child together and also live with Katie's younger siblings. The court issued a million dollar bond for both of them, and they are not able to pay either. For more details, check Kieth Pullman's Full Marriage Equality blog or the BBC article where I found this story: Incest charge as US woman has baby 'by her biological father'.

This intrusion into peoples' consensual love lives needs to be stopped. One way you can do that is spread the word. Tweet about out it, blog about it, etc. Make sure the readers know you are for their release, as just posting the situation doesn't indicate that their arrest is a bad thing. Sadly, we live in a world that needs it spelled out in large letters. Another way to help is to contact civil rights organisations like the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and hope they take the case. I will try to update on any fundraisers, protests, etc. that people can join to help this couple.