Five Finger Death Punch and the Machismo of Submission

For the past couple months I’ve been working on a follow-up to my album rankings of 2017 and one of the bands that is going to feature on that list is (spoiler alert) Five Finger Death Punch. I have really disliked Five Finger Death Punch since I first checked them out – they tend to have a few good songs per album but most of their music is utter trash. The main issue is their lyrics, which are usually toxically masculine, raging at the whole world, threatening to beat everyone up, swearing constantly, and which throw in casual misogyny and homophobia for good measure. For a band that is clearly aiming to be badass, their incessant whining makes them look like a bunch of children and this has turned me off of all but a handful of their songs.

For this year’s album rankings though I decided to look into Five Finger Death Punch a little bit closer though to see if my impression of the band was accurate. For the most part, yes I was pretty spot on. Most distressingly, the band’s nasty, misogynistic lyrics spill over into real life; lead singer Ivan Moody (seriously, that’s his actual last name) has been in legal trouble on at least two occasions for assault against women, in part due to alcoholism which he has apparently been trying to get a handle on. One thing you kind of have to give the band some credit on though is their unequivocal support of the military and police. The level to which this support goes might be questionable, but the respect that they show to the actual individuals is admirable and has likely contributed to the growth in their popularity.

Most of the band doesn’t seem to be openly political, with the major exception being guitarist Zoltan Bathory who has, err, opinions on Donald Trump, gun control and communism. He seems like a really odd character all on his own. In addition to Five Finger Death Punch, he claims to be a civilian combat instructor for the US military, although I feel like I need to add that I’ve seen comments from multiple soldiers while researching him who said that they had never heard of him and that they were skeptical of his claims. Considering that the article cited on his Wikipedia page which is meant to back up this claim also has Bathory claiming that the band has been shot at while performing for the troops in Iraq and Kuwait, I’m also somewhat skeptical (I certainly don’t doubt that he’s a skilled martial artist, but “one of the few civilians certified by the US Army as an L1 Modern Army Combatives Instructor – Close Quarter Combat”? Sorry Zoltan, I need a bit more proof than your word).

Zoltan also apparently writes for a magazine called Skillset. Skillset’s website states quite boldly that it’s all about “redefining the alpha lifestyle”, with features that “[spotlight] men and women with undeniable talents and abilities. We are VETERAN OWNED AND OPERATED and changing the face of ‘men’s interest’ magazines on newsstands.” The magazine boasts that it does so through articles on “rock stars, athletes, car builders and gun culture” and is plastered with ridiculously over-the-top images of men pointing guns at the camera. Basically it’s a douchey, redneck version of Playboy. Not all that surprising that a member of Five Finger Death Punch would be drawn to such a publication, although it sounds less like they’re “redefining” the alpha lifestyle than they are simply reinforcing traditional American machismo, although perhaps with some consideration that women can be badass too.

Finding out that Zoltan writes for Skillset really helped to crystalize my disparate feelings about Five Finger Death Punch, because I feel like it really is a great, unintentional illustration of the band’s philosophy. One could say that Skillset is all about people who are apparently better than the rest of us because they take control, the ways they present themselves, etc. Similarly, Five Finger Death Punch’s music is all about aggressive posturing, the constant threats about kicking peoples’ asses are meant to make them seem like badasses even though they end up making them seem like whiny, overcompensating pansies. This is just so obvious on songs like “Burn MF” where they unironically claim that the weight of the world is on their shoulders and then in the next verse rage that people fake that the world is on their shoulders. I’m not the only one who notices this either; in a review of their most recent album Michael Hann writes that Ivan Moody “reflects on his troubled past couple of years […] with a level of self-pity that wouldn’t disgrace a child who’d been bought Pro Evo instead of Fifa for Christmas: ‘Everybody seems like they’re waiting for me to die / Talk shit behind my back, can’t look me in the eye.’ When, on ‘It Doesn’t Matter’, he hollers ‘You’re so self-righteous, and you’re never going to change,’ you want to inquire if Mr Pot and Mr Kettle have made each other’s acquaintance.” It’s like they see the world in a hierarchical way, where their troubles are more legitimate than those of the people beneath them, in a manner not dissimilar to incels with their self-perception of being “inferior” beta males who are literally unloveable and worthless.

Is anyone surprised that Five Finger Death Punch fans are this pleasant? (Source)

This hierarchy also ties into the band’s support of the military and Zoltan’s support of Donald Trump. The way Five Finger Death Punch sees the military is not dissimilar from the manner many American nationalist/patriots are raised to – men who are braver and better than the rest of society and deserving of unquestioning respect. You can see this idealization pretty clearly in some of their songs, such as “Death Before Dishonour”, where they claim that everyone’s living a fake life except for the soldiers who die with their dignity. There’s a common trope amongst conservative types that soldiers are basically always right, from atheist professor variations, to God’s Not Dead 2 making a point of having the evil atheists kick a marine off the jury, to the portrayals of soldiers as morally and intellectually infallible in American Sniper and (especially) 13 Hours.

Soldiers obviously do deserve respect – they are serving their people and are often away from their families as a result of that, not to mention the inherent risk involved in the job. However, the level of lionization is just plain ridiculous sometimes and they even get used as a symbolic cudgel to beat down any sort of opposition to nationalism. Considering that no one in Five Finger Death Punch has actually served in the military, it’s a little bit odd that they fetishize them as much as they do. The band even goes so far as to collect dog tags from their fans to display behind them at concerts, almost as if they’re trying to gain that legitimacy through association. When you consider that, for conservative types, “the military is romanticized and portrayed as an institution of national pride [which] focuses on the prestige associated with enlisting in the Marines and serving one’s country”, it’s really not that surprising that you can have a band that punches down in their music and submits to authority because they fall in line when someone more powerful than them comes along.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with cultivating a military following with your music. Ivan Moody has a story he tells about a soldier who died in Iraq while listening to one of their songs, which is undeniably moving. Other bands, such as Disturbed, have written music with the expressed intent of encouraging the troops. I just find it really interesting that Five Finger Death Punch can rage uncontrolled at the whole world and posture like they’re ultimate badasses, but then make so much of a show about being submissive to authority. It seems to run counter to their message until you understand their ethos a little better.

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Gun Control, and Why Partisan Politics Need to Die

As you have probably heard by now, during this past week President Obama has taken executive action to try to push some more gun regulation in the US. Predictably, there has been considerable backlash to this decision, particularly by the NRA and Republican Presidential candidates. However, this condemnation obviously has nothing to do with the actual content of Obama’s action, but rather partisan politics at their absolute “finest”. This is an effective demonstration on just how politicians treat us like dog shit for their political ploys, why politicians can’t have any sort of integrity and one reason why our democracies are so horrifically ineffectual. For the good of the public, this is my short diatribe on why partisan politics need to die now.

Before moving ahead, I guess I should probably clarify exactly what I mean when I say “partisan politics”. At its broadest, partisan simply refers to identification to a political party in general, but in the last few decades it has been twisted into a political strategy. Now, politicians have to solely serve their party’s interests and refuse to compromise with their opponents. In a Canadian context, this quote by Stephen Ledrew from The Globe and Mail illustrates our own partisan politics quite well:

“Party loyalty is a crutch for those with lazy minds, and stark partisanship simply makes public discourse cheap and ill-informed. For example, how often has one heard that Stephen Harper is an elitist Conservative, not reflecting Canadian values? How often has one read that Justin Trudeau is just a Liberal scion who represents a last-ditch attempt by his party to resuscitate itself to its former glory? Or that Thomas Mulcair is a tax-and-spend NDipper? Certainly often enough to persuade an outsider that party labels are a major factor in political decision-making in Canada. But will voting by party label provide good government to Canada?”

As you can probably see, this mentality is clearly where the opposition to Obama’s executive action is stemming from. Ted Cruz in particular has jumped on this and has claimed that “Obama wants your guns” and has promised to roll back this action. The way he tells it, it’s almost as if Obama has made gun ownership illegal before punching Jesus in the face. So what exactly did Obama even do? From this article on CBC, here’s a basic rundown:

  1. Make it so that private sellers have to make background checks before selling guns. Considering that licensed sellers have to do this already and that was making background checks a farce, it was a pretty ridiculous loophole to begin with. I actually read a study back when Sandy Hook occurred which recommended that this loophole be closed. Then there’s, y’know, the Cracked article about how easy it is to get private sellers to skirt the law.
  2. Crack down on illegal gun trafficking and improve crime gun databases.
  3. Improve access to medical help for people with mental health issues. This is a refreshingly unexpected step in the right direction, one which I imagine was meant to throw a bone to Republicans as well – they often blame shootings solely on mental issues, after all, rather than the guns themselves.

Those all sound like common sense stuff, right? The unlicensed seller loophole has long been considered a major issue which renders background checks useless. Filling it in is going to make private reselling more annoying, but considering that these are freaking weapons we’re talking about, I am lacking in sympathy for them. That said, if you’re a person who is concerned about extensive gun rights, then I can see why this might be a sticking point, even if I personally think that it is a reasonable restriction. As for improved police databases and better access to help for people with mental issues, these aren’t even restrictions on existing freedoms for people who are interested in gun rights. Furthermore, it is fairly well-known that the existing mental healthcare system in the US is in a deplorable state, so this is solution is extremely pragmatic in a number of areas.

So why did Ted Cruz make these bold claims about stuff that is so obvious? It would seem to me that the main reason he is doing so is because it will rile up potential voters and get them to support him. It doesn’t matter whether what he says is true or not, as long as he gets the votes. This has also earned him an endorsement from the NRA, and if he is able to leverage their support then this should help him significantly in the leadership race*. We have seen this sort of fear rhetoric put forth numerous times this year – Stephen Harper’s inexplicable focus on the niqab, Trump’s comments on Mexicans and Muslims and the numerous talking heads that have been freaking out about Syrian refugees being terrorists.

If you think I’m being hard on the Republicans though, then let me also rip into the Democrats a little bit. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both lent their support to Obama’s actions, but they could have done so much more. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Obama’s executive action is very limited in scope and will likely do very little to curb American gun violence (in the short term at the very least). Basically, it’s going to be a little harder for the wrong people to acquire a gun, and people who are mentally ill will have more access to treatment. This should help prevent some shootings, but all of the other issues with the American gun culture are still present – access to high-capacity and high-fire rate weapons, ability to open and concealed-carry weapons in public places, the existence of “stand your ground laws”, a culture which heroizes those who commit violence, etc. Sure, Clinton has beat around the bush, saying that more needs to be done from this foundation, but there isn’t a lot of dissent about how limited Obama’s executive action was. He’s patching some of the holes in the system, but unless America totally overhauls its gun culture, there won’t be a meaningful reduction in violence any time soon.

Political rhetoric is one thing though, but let’s get into arguably my biggest beef with partisanship. In his article, Ledrew also puts forth this gem which sums up my feelings quite well:

“not only is partisanship no longer accurate, it is contrary to the very essence of democracy, because it leads people to cast their vote a certain way for the wrong reason. It negates an informed electorate.”

I alluded to this sort of political bullshitting in the dying days of the 2015 Canadian election, and this is just another example of how the partisan system fosters voter ignorance. Rather than having an educated voting public, parties have found it much more successful to focus on individuals, talking points, rhetoric and fear-mongering in order to manage their voter bases – the key word there being manage. With the proper curation, politicians can predict how to manipulate public opinion in their favour and choose to ignore entire chunks of the population as irrelevant to their interests. Look at the timing of this executive action, for example. It’s in Obama’s last year in office – he doesn’t have to worry about this affecting his election prospects. It’s likely that he has wanted to implement this program for years, but was unable to pull it off until now. Furthermore, it is being used as election-fodder. For the Democratic candidates, this becomes something to protect. By Ted Cruz, this is suddenly something that he can manipulate as something that he’ll tear down if he becomes President – he just has to convince his voter base that the executive action is something bad first, which shouldn’t be too hard if they’re on board the partisan system.

People are always whining about how politicians are a bunch of liars and that all of the parties suck. This isn’t how it has to be though – politicians lie or, if we’re being super generous, stretch the truth because it has been proven that the system benefits the ones who do so. This isn’t how it has to be though. Politics are a system which we created and which we can reshape. Start rewarding politicians with real integrity, who treat you like an intelligent individual and not just some statistic on their voter demographics spectrum**. Also be willing to look into what politicians are saying and try to keep yourself informed from other angles as well. Just because people are calling Obama an anti-gun fascist because of this executive action doesn’t mean that they’re telling you the truth. Furthermore, just because he’s being praised for this action doesn’t mean that Obama suddenly solved America’s problems either. Partisan politics need to die, and we’re the ones who need to need to put this wretched system in the ground for good.

*You also get inexplicable tough-talk, such as Cruz’s gem: “Those executive orders are not worth the paper they’re printed on, because when you live by the pen, you die by the pen, and my pen has got an eraser.” What the literal hell is that supposed to mean Cruz? You also realize that this is a reference to Matthew 26:52, in which Jesus himself warns his apostles not to commit violence and not to use their weapons. That is a terrible reference to make for someone who is trying to advocate for gun rights.
**Hopefully this is obvious, but this is not an endorsement for Donald Trump! Being a “politically incorrect” blowhard is also a political strategy, especially when attempting to stand out in a right-wing leadership race. It also doesn’t mean that you’re being honest or have a shred of integrity. Use your damn head.

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Quick Fix: Zimmerman Verdict

I’m sure by now everyone’s heard the virdict in the Zimmerman trial – not guilty. To a lot of people, Zimmerman just got away scot-free with murder. Of course, “a lot of people” have only the most cursory knowledge of what transpired and how the trial actually went, so this is mostly based on their political leaning, race, emotional state, etc. To be fair to everyone, I’m in that category myself as I have only really read when the case first hit the news and then forgot about it til a few days ago when the verdict was handed down (and then a few responses to it as well). I myself think that Zimmerman deserves to be tried for murder… but that said, I don’t know the whole story. My opinion (and the opinions of others) on the matter has been influenced by what we have been told, and that’s where the biggest issues in this case lie in my opinion.

First off, I am infuriated by how this trial was politicized as soon as it hit the airwaves. Obviously I’m furious that some people might use it as a defense of moronic “stand your ground” laws, but I’m actually more angry that it was turned into a racial war by liberals. This is irresponsible on the part of the media and served to make the actual details of the case itself irrelevant – all that matters now is that Zimmerman represents white oppression and Martin represents the black margin. Of course, the other effect which probably left the media salivating with anticipation was that the verdict would be inflammatory either way, driving up viewership. People are in an absolute frenzy right now, but if Zimmerman had been charged then there still would have been protests from people whining about how whites are now marginalized by minorities, that minorities can play the “race card” to do whatever they want and people would be attempting to keep “stand your ground” laws in place. I quite liked Disturbed frontman David Draiman’s take on this case’s treatment by the media.

The second major issue with this case was that people are infuriated that Zimmerman was not found guilty by the jury. Of course, this is another side-effect of the politicizing of the trial, but what’s important is the legal procedure itself. Verdicts aren’t passed out by people’s own sense of morality – considering how much moral variance there can be between people, the legal process would be impossible. Instead, they have to pass down a verdict based on the laws of the State and the rules of the court. Based on that criteria alone, Zimmerman was clearly in the right – in the legal sense, he was acting in self-defense and there was “reasonable doubt” that he committed murder. If you’re going to be infuriated at the verdict, place the blame on the legal system, because I’m pretty sure that it’s now obvious that the law isn’t concerned with what you think is right. While it might be odd to cite The Onion in a post about a serious issue, I think that their article about how screwed up the laws are is quite a good take on the injustice of the justice system (in fact, I think satire is a fantastic way to “rage against the machine” so to speak). In fact, as far as the trial went, Zimmerman’s lawyers actually acted more professionally and had a better case.

Bottom-line: while I don’t have all the facts in the case, I think that Zimmerman should probably have been sentenced for 2nd or 3rd degree murder. That said, the first part of that sentence is the important part: I don’t have all the facts. I have no real justifiable reason to be completely outraged by the outcome of this trial. I think what we can learn from it is that the law needs to be changed in order to not obstruct justice in the future though, because if Zimmerman was actually guilty then we can’t have this sort of thing happening again.

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Quick Fix: Pageview Exposion Follow-up and More Updates!

Whoa, where did the last week ago? I can hardly believe it’s been 7 days since my last blog post! Anyway, I probably should have anticipated this, but my last post (in which I mentioned that my page views had shot up astronomically) has actually become one of my most popular posts already. It’s currently my 6th-most viewed post and by far my most commented-on. Anyway the referrer site, “topblogstories”, petered out its referrals a couple days after I posted my last update, although it seems that I’m still getting a few views from them every once in a while. For the record, if you get referrals from them, then do not click on their links.

In other news, the XBOX ONE was announced a couple days ago. I’m not going to weigh in what I thought in too much detail because it’s already being done to death, but I do think that Microsoft really bungled things with the new hardware architecture. Of course, the bit about used games and always online is only confirmed by Wired at the moment, so we’ll have to wait until E3 for a clearer picture of what’s going on. That said, if it is true, then Microsoft is going to take a lot of flak. I think Sony definitely has the initiative at the moment in the upcoming console war (disclaimer: I’m a Sony fanboy, but as you will hopefully note, I do my best to remain impartial). Of course, Microsoft also claims that XBOX ONE’s exact features aren’t complete yet, so they may drop the no used games/always online thing entirely. In fact, maybe the Wired article was an intentional “leak” to test the waters and see if they would include it in the final hardware. Of course, now I’m conspiracy theorizing, and I don’t really believe that myself, but it’s an interesting idea nonetheless.

Also, some more current events have harkened back to an older article I wrote in the first couple months of this blog’s life. 3D printers have been in the news a lot lately, which (of course) brings back concerns about 3D printed firearms. In fact, apparently a group has made a gun which is ENTIRELY 3D printed (if you’ll recall, the only part of the gun which was 3D printed was the lower reciever). That said, this new development is really not that much to worry about… well, yet at least. For one thing, this is just the first working 3D printed gun – I’m sure that, over time, there will be better developments in the technology, at which point it may become a full-blown concern. A secondary concern is that, yes, it costs $10,000 to produce a 3D printed gun at the moment, but soon enough the technology will be far cheaper. Finally, this doesn’t address the gun from my previous post – it is a fully-functioning AR-15 and so it won’t just fire one shot and it won’t melt anywhere near as quickly as an exclusively plastic weapon. So 3D printed weapons are still a bit of a concern, but perhaps not an entirely pressing one.

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Piggy-backing, Marrying Ponies and Remakes

Okay then, it’s about that time for my self-instituted weekly blog post. I’ve got a few things to talk about, and I’m not exactly the most eloquent, so I’m just gonna dive right into this one.

First of all, the Hulk review is almost at 1300 views. That’s nuts. I never expected to get that many views in my first couple months, let alone on a single blog posting. I’m guessing this is mostly due to inadvertently piggy-backing off of The Avengers‘ popularity, which makes the most sense. On DeviantArt, I did the same sort of thing with The Gorillaz, although it was intentional that time. I made a deviation which was Gorillaz-related in a flagrant attempt to garner page views and favourites… and it worked like a charm. This was almost 3 years ago and I still get new favourites because of that quite often. That just goes to show you that a quick n’ easy way to get noticed is to tap into a fan base and ride their coattails to victory.

Speaking of tapping into fan bases, I’m planning on starting the next retrospective sometime in April. I’m going to be working on final assignments pretty hardcore until the 10th or so, so after that time period I will likely begin work on that series. Be sure to stop in for them, they’ll be sure to leave you howling.

The only other things of particular note at the moment are a bunch of links I’ve been collecting all week. There has been quite a few interesting things that I’ve read about this week that needed sharing… some for different reasons that others. I’ll just leave that one at that.

Anyway, one of these links was gun control-related. I know I’ve harped about gun control a lot on this blog, and I honestly could have done so even more, but I’ve intentionally refrained from doing so on multiple occasions. For one, ranting about it too much can conflate me as someone who hates guns and wants them eradicated or something, which is definitely not the image I’m trying to foster. For the record, I advocate reasonable levels of gun control and gun owner responsibility, and plan on owning firearms myself someday. As for political issues, I generally will fall on one side or the other, but I like to acknowledge other perspectives when I do so. For that matter, I generally hate all political rhetoric in either case. Anyway, getting back on track, I recently read an article on one of my favourite websites which I felt showed gun politics from a very different (and balanced) angle. I certainly recommend giving it a read as it covers some issues which no one else bothers to mention.

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog (I won’t lie, you probably aren’t), then you might remember my first article about Idris Elba as James Bond. Since then, it has become increasingly unlikely that the man actually will be cast in the part, but there has been a (potential) development. Barbara Brocolli has talked to Elba about a Bond casting… but maybe as the villain in a remake of Live and Let Die. Now if this is true, then it will be quite interesting indeed. It definitely sits better than casting him as Bond (especially since he’ll be too old by the time that Daniel Craig leaves the role), and going back to the novels is certainly a good idea – especially since the original films did not hew too closely to the source texts anyway (with very few exceptions, like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service I am told). Anyway, there’s not much info at the moment about Bond 24, but I’m very intrigued at how this whole rumour pans out…

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Quick Fix: More Gun Stuff

I’m getting tired of ranting about gun control on here, so I promise I’ll move on to something else soon. However, I keep getting caught up on it because there is a lot of talk about it in the media and current events are constantly relating to it. For example, today I heard on CBC news a story about a 12 year old boy who shot his brother. My initial reaction was actually that it was a murder case, but it’s looking like it’s actually another gun control and safety issue. Unless the owners had the gun and ammunition stored separately in a locked cabinet and the kids just circumvented these restrictions (which I’m not inclined to believe), this is a pretty clear case of poor gun safety. I’m not a gun owner myself at the moment, but my aunt is, and she drilled into us as kids (much to our disappointment) that you are to keep your guns locked up, out of reach and unloaded. Oddly enough, Sun News Network of all sources backs me up on this issue.

So while gun control is a priority (in the US at least), gun safety is a key issue as well – banning assault weapons won’t stop people from being complete morons and leaving loaded handguns lying around their kitchens and closets. Gun education should be stressed as well, especially among owners with family.

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Quick Fix: Religion Control…?

So this morning I was woken up by my radio, and decided to listen to CBC for about a half an hour. They were talking about the Algerian hostage crisis at first, but soon the discussion turned to gun control as someone they were interviewing discussed his own thoughts on it. The pundit seemed to have a rather centrist position on the issue – he hates the NRA, but also seemed to oppose gun control as well, so it’s not like he had an actual concrete opinion/solution on the matter to put forward.

However, the interviewer’s final prompt to the pundit was something I found incredibly odd. They said that the man is an atheist, and wants religion to be done away with, but guns to be unrestricted as well. The pundit said that he believes that guns can be used constructively, but religion has been used to restrict scientific progress, among other things. Understandably, it was at this point that he lost me completely.

I hear often the argument that religion is an outdated institution, the people who practice are stupid and it needs to be eradicated. I believe this is an extremely intolerant and ignorant thing to espouse. Religion has been at the root of many violent conflicts leading into the present day, but it also has done far more good on an individual and global scale. Most of the violent consequences arise from human evil, not the evils of religion itself. To call for the destruction of religion is not only unrealistic, but misguided (not to mention that it could be the root of future violence if the next generations take it to heart and go radical with it).

Furthermore, violence, intolerance and hatred are hardly religiously-exclusive. The Thirty Years War, probably the most destructive religiously-based war, saw only 1/5 of the casualties of the First World War, a distinctly non-religious war (although estimates vary to as much as 1/2 of that number). Similarly, the bloodiest conflict the world has ever seen, World War II, was non-religiously motivated. I can’t back this up with exact numbers, but based on my research, there has been more non-religiously motivated killing in the past century than there has been in the name of religion throughout all of history.

I will say that I believe that religion should be separate from state (and that the Republican party should divorce itself from Protestantism immediately, because it gives it a bad name), but that alone would cover the pundit’s desire… so why call for the eradication of religion entirely? I’ll leave it at that.

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The Future is Scary: 3D Printed Firearms

As a miniature wargamer, the 3D printing business is one that I find interesting because it is inevitably the future of the industry. I might be another 15+ years before they’re commonplace and of a reasonable level of quality for consumers, but they definitely have plenty of practical applications that make them very desirable. However, recent news has revealed how this technology can be abused in frightening ways: 3D printers can be used to manufacture firearms. Just think about it for a second – in the future, gun control is going to be very difficult to enforce, because anyone can download the schematics for a handgun, assault rifle, machine gun, etc and build their own arsenal at home. Predictably, there are people who are dedicated to this cause already in the name of the Second Amendment, and have actually been able to build a functioning assault rifle with it.

Even if you’re an American who is a proponent of the Second Amendment, you’re just one country with a small percentage of the global population. These guns are undetectable by metal detectors. The schematics for these are now available worldwide, and all you’ll need is a high-quality 3D printer. That might be a tall order at the moment, but in 15+ years, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the norm in the household. The point is though that most nations have strict gun control laws, and by pushing the Second Amendment on the world, you’re threatening those controls (not that they care of course).

I’m still very excited for 3D printing technology, but the people who insist on using it to make weapons are showing the dangerous potential it holds. Regulation is going to have to become more strict and intrusive if there’s going to be any hope of preventing illegal ownership of weapons, terrorist actions and mass murder…

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Quick Fix: So tomorrow’s the end of the world…

I for one have come to grips with the inevitable ape uprising and will be pledging my support to our simian masters. 😉 In all seriousness, hopefully over the course of the next 4 weeks, the 2012 Doomsday bullshit will finally come to an end. I got really sick of it 3 years ago back when it started. In fact, I recall writing an email on a time capsule website which will be sent to me tomorrow… should be interesting to see it!

Also, I have another follow-up to the Connecticut shooting to address in regards to video games. Obviously, they’re getting blamed on this shooting as usual. Fox News in particular seems to blame the recent rash of shootings in the States on GTA (which had a mall-shooting level) and Call of Duty (which it humourously calls a “military simulator”… ArmA is a military shooter, but it has a much smaller user-base, not that Fox would know that). Anyway, while video games have not been conclusively linked to real-world violent acts, but I do think that if we’re asking gun nuts to make compromises then we should as well. ESRB ratings need to be better enforced so kids aren’t getting ahold of Mature-rated games. This should help to pacify senators,  keep kids off of their bloody headsets online and might finally dethrone Call of Duty. I jest, but I do hope that changes don’t turn violence in video games into obscenity.

Of course, since I live in Canada these won’t have a direct result on me outside of residual effects on the industry (less M-rated, mass-market games perhaps?). And it’s not like it matters anyway since we’re all going to die a flaming death come tomorrow.

Have a happy apocalypse!

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Re: Gun Control

A friend I’ve known online for years, Samantha, recently made a post in response to the gun control debates in the states. I was quite impressed by it and decided to repost it here for others to appreciate. If you want, you can read the original debate here. As a preface, I should say that I don’t 100% agree with her (in particular, I think points 3 and 4 are excessive), but it is a very good gun control argument.

Gun control is something I’ve always felt strong about. I posted most of this on my facebook on Friday, and some of you may have seen it, but oh well.

For the past two days at work, I’ve been inundated with people saying “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Which is true. Guns aren’t sentient. Except in rare instances where the gun is faulty, it’s not going to randomly go off and kill someone. But guns make it a THOUSAND more times easier to kill people. Scott already posted a link to the knife attack in China where not a single person was killed. The facts are that if someone wants to kill a bunch of people, a gun or two is going to be the go-to method. Bombs are difficult to construct, which is why they aren’t used nearly as often. 

For the simple fact that guns make it easier for people to hurt other people, there NEEDS to be a complete revamp to gun policies in the states. Can anyone think of anything else people are allowed – and even encouraged – to buy or have that has the potential to hurt others like guns do? Because I sure as hell can’t.

The second amendment was added because founding citizens were concerned with not only the British coming back, but of the fledgling new government turning tyrannical, and the founding fathers felt that it was best to include a clause that allowed people to arm themselves. Keep in mind that this was in the 1700s when when firing a normal musket meant that you had to reload after every shot. I’m not sure if anyone knows what it’s like to reload a musket – the closest we have today is probably black powder guns. There is a very specific and precise way you have to load the gun that takes time. It can be kept preloaded for a shot (I would have to ask my father to verify how many shots it can do, but I believe it’s only one at a time), and then the person shooting it would have to take the 30 seconds to reload it. That’s the kind of firearms people had readily available to them in the 1700s. The drafters of the Constitution could have NO possible way to foresee that method changing as it was the norm to them. And in fact, the first machine gun wasn’t available until a hundred years later. Shooting multiple people with a single shot musket would have been nearly impossible – which is why I’m sure the founding fathers felt comfortable adding it to the Constitution.

However, it’s been over 200 years since the US has felt any kind of threat from another country invading. The government is well established now. At this point in time, there is zero threat to everyone’s personal liberties, at least coming from a government aspect. Because of personal beliefs some people might feel their rights are being stepped on because of homosexuals being allowed to marry, but that’s a whole different ballpark. So why is it that Americans still feel the need to own a gun? We have a fully functioning military to protect from outside threats, and a fully developed internal police system that is 3 cell phone buttons away. Because of GPS locators, you don’t even have to tell 911 of your location. This is how far our technology has come. 

Now, I’m not suggesting that guns are useless. I fully believe in and support hunters because it’s been shown that the animals that are culled during hunting season drastically help the entire animal population. If deer populations get out of control, then they’re more likely to spread diseases, which hurts more deer in the long run. And people do have to eat, and I completely understand the economic reasons someone wouldn’t want to buy all their meat from a store – it’s expensive. And I’m not suggesting that we stop that tradition. But handguns are pretty useless to anyone doing anything legitimate except for police officers. Hunting with a handgun is impractical. And ok, I guess if people want to show their accuracy or something they might want to shoot a handgun. But is that very necessary? Think of all of the gun crimes committed in the states, and then see how many of them use handguns as their weapon of choice. Hell, the shooter on Friday had two semi-automatic (which is a whole other terrible idea) handguns on him. The usefulness of handguns lie in that they are compact and discreet – which are two attributes someone looking to do harm absolutely love. So why are they necessary?

Oh, self defense, you say. I need my handgun to protect my home and family from intruders. That is an absolute load of bullshit. And here’s why. 

Unless you are practicing weekly with your handgun, you are not likely going to be prepared to defend yourself with it properly if the situation arises. In fact, it’s even more likely to cause problems. Sure, as a scare tactic, a gun works occasionally. But you know what else works? A black airsoft gun that can’t kill anyone. They look exactly the same, and if you’re trying to frighten someone that’s a good method to go. But do you know what guns do? They escalate situations. 

Let’s think for a minute that you’re sleeping in your home, and are awoken by a loud noise of a window breaking. Someone’s breaking in. You grab your pistol from beside your bed, still a little groggy, and start to make your way downstairs. You yell “stop I have a gun.” The intruder is in your living room, trying to steal your television. He had intended to only get in, take the TV, and leave. But now that he hears you’re armed, he gets nervous and pull out his weapon. You now have 2 loaded weapons in an enclosed space, with both people wielding them on edge. That situation could end, very, very badly with either the home owner or the thief getting shot. Adrenaline does not make for a very steady hand. Take that and couple it with a shooter who doesn’t practice regularly, and maybe the shot they meant as a warning takes someone’s head off. There are VERY FEW people who should be using guns as a means of self defense, and those people are the ones that have been trained to use weapons for that exact purpose. Normal Joe Schmo who bought the pistol and fired it once and then sleeps with it near his bed “just in case” is not likely to be very accurate with it at all.

And wouldn’t the above situation – which had the potential to escalate very quickly – have been better handled by shouting “I just called the police, they’re on their way”? That way the intruder knows that more people are already coming and that he should probably leave. He benefits nothing by pulling his weapon, because the authorities have already been notified. What’s really mind boggling is the fact that people feel like they have to defend their stuff, like a physical belonging is that important. Home insurance would cover the damages anyways. So is it worth risking your life or the life of the intruder? No.

Don’t you dare say something about “well what if the intruder had the intent to hurt you anyways?” That situation is EXTREMELY less likely, and then I’d like to refer you back to gun-proponents favorite argument – that if someone wants to kill you bad enough, they’ll find a way. Maybe they’re a crazy psycho killer breaking into your home armed with just a knife, and you’re a regular ‘Murrican with guns stashed around your house. Congratulations, not only are you dead, but you’ve armed a psychopath with a gun! Great fucking job. 

The fact of the matter is that most Americans will not experience a situation where they have to defend themselves in their own home. And if there were stricter gun control laws, the amount of incidences of anyone having to defend themselves in public would dramatically decrease. We have a seriously stupid logic when it comes to guns. There’s an incident of gun violence? Then every citizen should arm themselves. But that’s just a never fucking ending cycle of stupidity.

Gun violence –> more guns in the general population –> more gun violence because the weapons are more available –> people buying more guns. When does it stop? When is enough enough?

This is what, at least in my opinion, needs to be done:

1. Handguns should be limited to those in law enforcement/military situations only. Special circumstances can be made for security officers and bodyguards provided that there is reasonable proof for the necessity of them, and that each individual guard is able to pass a federally approved psych test and background check. All handguns should be relinquished by anyone using them in a professional way at the end of their jobs (ie when an officer retires). Handguns for personal use should be abolished. Handgun production should be limited ONLY to the supply required for police and military usage. Anyone requesting a handgun for bodyguard purposes would have to go through their local police department and would essentially be renting them. Any decorative handgun should be made unusable before being returned to the owner. Any person found possessing a handgun illegally (be it selling them or just carrying them) should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I’m not talking a slap on the wrist community service stint or a couple months. Years in federal prison. This would deter people from seeking handguns out, and make it more risky for criminals to carry them. Any handgun that is confiscated by law enforcement should be destroyed. This is the only way to cut down on the number of handguns already available.

2. Automatic and semi-automatic weapons should not be available to anyone who is not in a military setting or in certain police related instances. There is absolutely ZERO need for any regular person to have them. Anyone found possessing them should be arrested immediately and detained under terrorist laws. Sorry folks, but if you own an automatic weapon, it should be assumed that you’re going to do harm with it. 

3. Hunting weapons such as shotguns and rifles should not be sold in easily accessible stores. They should be limited to 1 store per county, and the price should be set in some way by the government to prevent the inevitable price gouging that would occur. It would be best if hunting guns could be sold by the state troopers or something. The amount of guns a person owns for hunting purposes should be limited – if they decide they would like a new gun, one of their old ones should be traded in for it. This will help cut down on the amount of unnecessary weapons hanging around people’s homes. The procedure to purchase a hunting weapon should be extremely strict – they must go through a background check, agree to be fingerprinted and put in a gun-owner database that can be accessed whenever there is a gun crime (however it should be accessed for other reasons – kind of like how there is a separate database for all the kid’s fingerprints they take while you’re in school and only used if you get kidnapped. The gun database should not be used to connect you with any other crime you may commit but a gun crime), and then have a face to face meeting with a certified member of government to discuss why they want to own a gun. Each gun should be registered to a specific person, and if it’s found in the possession of another person, the original person should be questioned about why they do not have it. Every hunting weapon sold should come automatically with a gun lock so that it can be kept trigger locked while not in use.

4. Ammo for hunting weapons should also be regulated – you can only buy ammo if you have a gun registered to you. 

I realize that this isn’t going to happen. Gun ownership in the states is still thought of as a right when really it should be a privilege. The Constitutional necessity for gun ownership has long passed, but sadly the idea that all Americans should have a gun is much too ingrained for it to change any time soon. But there are a few simple tweaks that can be made to gun law now that would help cut back on violent gun crimes. Like, if doing anything illegal while carrying a gun around other people – even if it’s never produced – was charged as attempted murder. And if the penalty for having an illegal weapon that is not registered to you was doubled, and there was no option for community service. Or even if all states do what New York does with it’s handguns and requires that you have a face to face sit down with a trooper before you’re issued a permit. If people have to jump through hoops to get a gun, and then the penalty for having an illegal one is increased, then they’re less likely to do it. 

And for people who say that limiting the number of guns available in the US will just cause guns to come to the states from other countries, I’d like to point out that the US is the number one arms exporter, followed by Russia. We are WAY down on the list of importers, because there are so many guns that are made in the states that we don’t need to bring them in from other countries. If gun manufacturing was limited in the states, then the number of guns in the states would decrease. Simple as that.

Sorry this is long, it’s just really frustrating to me that people are so selfish.


Samantha also added the following:

This is a whole other topic that deserves some discussion, I think.

I was reading today about the mental health system in Massachusetts, and I know a little bit about how it works in NY since I work in a pharmacy here. I can honestly say it’s complete shit. If someone has a problem, and ends up in the hospital because they’ve threatened their own lives or another person, their insurance company gets to dictate how long they are allowed to stay. Their insurance company gets to decide if they want to pay for them to go to a facility where they can receive long term care, or if it’s not in their contract and they just go home. There are thousands of people who just slip through the cracks and don’t get the help they deserve because an outside company just looking for money is telling them what kind of care they need. Doctors can fight it, but only to a certain point. And private run homes where they can get the health they need are very pricey.

I’ll give an example from my job. There’s a single mother in her 30s that comes in a few times a month to get meds for her daughter, who is 9. We’ll call the mother D and the daughter M. M has oppositional defiance disorder among a slew of other diagnoses. Also living in the home is D’s elderly mother who is diabetic and needs to be on a medication schedule. D works full time, and the grandmother often watches M when she’s not in school. M has been on quite a few drugs since I started there 2 years ago. They’ve pretty much settled on Zyprexa as being her go-to drug (which D’s insurance puts her copay at $80 for the brand and $40 for the fairly new generic). D sometimes doesn’t have the money, and we try to help by loaning pills, but there are sporadic days when M will go without her meds.

This 9 year old girl is terrifying. She was molested as a young child by her father, and has extreme attachment issues with him. For a short stint he moved back in to help, and when D kicked him out, M had a break down at our counter, ripping our posters off the wall and kicking her mother who couldn’t get a hold on her. M can be very sweet if she wants something (the other day she told me that she hopes Santa brings me lots of money), but then she can be vicious. D didn’t want to buy something for her, so trying to be helpful I took the item and hid it and M started screaming at me how she wanted to stab me and that I was terrible. She’s 9 and much smaller than I am so I’m not really in any harm, but the way she looked at me then was haunting. 

A few months ago, D was telling us how the cops had to be called on M 5 nights in a row because she was being violent towards the grandmother. The grandmother is frail, but she’s still capable of getting around by herself. She just can’t live on her own.

D said at that point that she was looking to put M in a home. The next week she came back and cried at our counter because her insurance would not approve M to be committed somewhere, stating that she hadn’t been in the hospital enough times for self harm to justify it. I repeat: M is 9 years old. I’ve heard her say that she wants to kill herself, and I’ve heard her threaten others. She just doesn’t know HOW to do it yet, which is why it hasn’t happened. D even said that M’s psychologists recommended it, but the insurance wouldn’t budge because it was their policy.

So, the grandmother had to go into a nursing home. She’s doing well there, and her care is paid for because it’s for medical (not mental) reasons. Poor D is stuck with M and is trying to cope, but it’s so easy to see that it’s difficult for her.

This is what a lot of families who have children with mental illness go through. My adopted cousin is schizophrenic, and my aunt and uncle have a terrible time getting him help. He was covered under medicaid, but now he’s 18 and I honestly don’t know how they’re affording it. 

There needs to be a change in the system to stop this all from happening. The latest articles I read said the shooter had a personality disorder, possibly Asbergers (which does not have violent tendencies, so I don’t know why they’d suggest that), and also that he wasn’t receiving help for it. 

I don’t really know what I’m ranting about. It’s all so frustrating. 

This article was a good read about the plight of a family with a mentally disturbed kid. http://anarchistsoccermom.blogspot.com/2012/12/thinking-unthinkable.html

Also, the police response time where I am is very quick, maybe 5 minutes max. And even back in my hometown when I lived on a dirt road, the only time we ever had to call the cops, troopers showed up within 10 minutes.

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Opinion: Connecticut Shootings

Obviously everyone’s heard about the shootings in Connecticut by now. Words can’t really do justice to the crime that was committed or the lives that have been devastated by one psychopath’s actions. Offering my condolences is just a drop amongst tens of millions doing the same though, and I’m not going to pretend that I’m anything special for doing so.

Moments after this shooting happened, I think pretty much everyone knew that this shooting would be the catalyst for gun control debates. Hell, pretty much every public shooting for years has instantly renewed gun control debates (which, of course, went nowhere as we have seen). As a Canadian, the end result of this debate doesn’t really affect me, but every time I see this sort of crap in the news it makes me smack my head at American politics.

Simply put: why the hell do Americans need guns so badly!? Yes, “guns don’t kill people” and all that bullshit, but access to guns makes it a hell of a lot easier. I’m all for people being allowed to have guns, but there needs to be a freaking limit: no automatics, no handguns, no weapons in public, etc. I think these are pretty damn reasonable in a civilized society. And for those who say “if everyone had a gun we’d all be safe!!!”… you’re a tool. If there’s a shooter and someone else pulls out a gun to shoot them, then no one’s going to differentiate between the “savior” and the “shooter”, and there’s a good chance you’re going to cause collateral damage. Bottom line: less access to guns = less public shootings.

Also, it’s totally low-hanging fruit, but I’d like to address Conservapedia’s response to the shootings. In their news ticker, they wrote that:

“Liberal claptrap for gun control begins within hours of today’s tragic murders, which would not have happened if laws banning guns for self defense in public school were repealed.”

Well no shit Sherlock. For one thing, you’re disparaging them for politicizing an event by politicizing it in your favour (bias by Conservapedia? NEVER). For another, guns in schools are a terrible idea. Period. Maybe for teachers, but even then I somehow doubt that the tragic murders “would not have happened” if they had weapons. There’s also escalation to take into account – if they go on a school shooting and know there will be guns to worry about, I get the feeling they’ll start packing body armour (another relatively easy thing to get ahold of in the States)… I’m surprised they didn’t bitch about how Connecticut is a “liberal” state…

Also posted on Conservapedia’s front page:

“Will authorities admit whether this young mass murderer was addicted to violent video games?

Earlier this week, the Oregon shooting by video game player mimicked Grand Theft Auto game

That game features ‘mall rampages’ whereby a player shoots randomly inside a mall.”

Again, politicizing the event (but God forbid that the liberals do the same!), but in a rather hypocritical way. They will defend their guns to the death, but it’s video games that need to have laws set against them. Not to mention that video games haven’t been linked to actual acts of violence (they may cause aggression in some, but that does not constitute violence itself… in any case, the studies have been inconclusive). Video games are so common in society now that it’s pretty unlikely that someone who went on a school shooting would not play them. That said, I think some parents should stop being morons and keep inappropriate games out of their kids’ hands until their old enough, but I don’t think they’re going to turn into psychopaths if they don’t… if they’re psychotic, then they would be whether they played Call of DutyGrand Theft Auto, etc or not. Blaming video games is really old now. Start blaming… I dunno… Smart Phones, they’re the new media now. Radio waves are frying our childrens’ brains! Burn Steve Jobs’ corpse for witchcraft!

In conclusion, the Connecticut shootings are a huge tragedy, but I can’t honestly say anything consoling about them. I hope it doesn’t happen again? Haha, yeah right, with the current gun laws and the number of weapons spread across the country, it’s not a matter of “if”, but “when” the next shooting occurs. Even if you’re a gun nut, you have to admit this. America, if you want this sort of thing to ever stop, or at least slow down, then you have to cut back on your gun fetish. Make some small concessions and in the long-term you’ll all be a lot safer.

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