Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sandy Hook

The news has been focused on nothing but the massacre at Sandy Hook.  A lone, disillusioned twenty-something murdered teachers and children.  Instead of a discussion about how American society failed both the victims and the shooter, we have now allowed the politicians and pundits to provide us with their "solutions".

Since the shooter used an "assault rifle", this has generated the requisite liberal outcry for more gun control.  The argument of course turns the more critical issue of our lack of mental health resources into a pathetic sound-byte about gun-control.  The same liberals fail to mention the recent mass murders committed by Anders Breivik.  Denmark is not known for having liberal gun laws yet he was able to purchase an "assault rifle" legally and used it to kill 69 Danish teenagers in July 2011.

The conservatives have been silent, most notably the NRA took down their Facebook page and have not sent out a Tweet since the shooting.  The NRA is supposedly going to conduct a press conference on Friday to announce a initiative to help craft meaningful gun-control.  In the vacuum, the only conservative voice has been former governor Mike Huckabee who has concluded that the massacre occurred because "they" have take God out of schools.

Somehow the American public has allowed a major sociological issue to become a political sound-byte.  A twenty-year old, whose mother was concerned about his mental health, was able to have a confrontation with 4 teachers at a school and return later unmolested by police or security.  Despite these basic facts, most Americans have turned to the federal government to solve a problem that they have profoundly ignored for decades.  The United States systematically eliminated mental health institutions turning patients out on the streets leading to surge in the homeless population.

At the same time, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) became the bible for proscribing medication to anyone demonstrating the symptoms outlined in the manual.  This means that hyper-active children are now prescribed medication instead of learning to deal with their excessive energy in non-pharmological ways.  (Would Leonardo da Vinci even exist in today's world?)  To be fair, this is overly simplistic but it emphasizes the concept that makes my next point.

Instead of institutionalized care (even that term seems politically incorrect), those with mental health issues can now take a pill.  Therein lies the crux of the problem, what happens when the patient does not take their pill?  Patients may not take their medications due to a lack of health insurance, feeling better or simply not want to feel under the influence.  Once they stop, their symptoms return.  In the case of the Sandy Hook shooter, he may not have been seen by a mental health professional so his condition was untreated.

But even if he was undiagnosed/untreated, it still does not answer how he was able to return to the school AFTER he was in a altercation with four school teachers (and I assume witnesses).  The answer is the second sociological problem, the United Sates has become the land of lawsuits.  School administrators were probably worried that if they called the police, the shooter (I refuse to give him any notoriety on my blog) would go out and hire a "Gloria Allred" who would sue the school district for violating his civil rights.

Our thin-skinned, lawsuit-prone society has made us more vulnerable.  Dangerous people have to actually do something (other than terrorists) before legal action can be taken.  Look at stalkers.  Most women are at the mercy of the stalker until they threaten to do something and law enforcement actually has proof.  Unfortunately the "proof" sometimes is the assault or murder of the victim.

We will hear about gun-control and the loss of Constitutional rights for the foreseeable future and no one will point out that it has nothing to do with what happened.  Columbine is remembered for the shootings but everyone forgets to mention the propane bombs that were going to be the primary way of killing.  It was only when those dumb asses could not get the bombs to detonate, they went on their shooting spree.  Even Breivik first used bombs before he went on a shooting spree.

My point is we are focusing more on the "how" instead of the "why".  No matter what legislation the federal government passes we will not be any safer.  Our modern society is less connected with each other making it harder to really know who is struggling with problems.  Compound that with a litigation-happy legal system and we are in no real position to identify and stop problems before they happen.

Imagine what an organized, terrorist organization can do with all of this.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Syrian may be producing Sarin

Reports are that Syria may be producing Sarin gas.  Sarin is a nerve agent that is usually not mixed until it is required since it is highly corrosive, volatile and dangerous.  Sarin gas was used by Aum Shinrikyo to attack the Tokyo subway in 1995.  Turkey had earlier requested the Patriot missile system in anticipation that Syria would start using chemical weapons against the rebels.

Chemical weapons are imprecise.  Winds and other meteorological factors can reduce or even neutralize the weapon before it effects people.  Chemical weapons tend not to be pervasive and it is hard to concentrate enough to be effective on a wide area to produce mass casualties.  Sarin is extremely deadly, a mere drop will kill a human.

Chemical weapons are then much more about the psychological impact then about gaining any military advantage.  You risk poisoning your troops just as much as your enemies.  The Assad government is obviously feeling the rebels may be getting the upper hand and wants to inflict a psychological blow to the moral of the rebels.  Assad may also be giving a middle finger to the Western world that he would do something so reprehensible.

The United States is not helping matters by alternating focus between Iran and Syria.  At the same time, major changes are occurring at CIA, State and DoD.  It may be seen as an opportunity to take advantage of the US going through a period of transition.

The continued focus on Iran's nuclear program will be seen by some as forcing Syria to escalate into chemical weapons.  We may also see Syria cells activated in the US threatening to use chemical weapons or cyber attacks.  Iran has remained somewhat quiet in the last year but may also have cells that will be activated in the US.  We are going into the holiday season and with multiple college bowl games and the Super Bowl coming up, there are soft targets that could be threatened by a terrorist attack.