Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rich people - You ain't better than me!

So yesterday I was reading about Food Stamp recipients causing almost riot-like conditions due to their EBT cards showing no limits. They "ransacked" the store for a few hours, getting as much food as they could from Walmarts in the Louisiana area; sometimes as much as 7 or 8 carts.  When the computer glitch was fixed and the cards were restored to normal, people just left their carts, filled with food in a heap on the store floors. The store was a complete mess!  Those greedy poor people, making it hard for those Walmart employees! That's what government assistance does to people, it makes them dependent and entitled.  They are going to have to pay for that.  See?! We should cut entitlements to "those people."

We find out later that when the EBT card glitch is found out by Walmart, they let people continue to buy food in an unlimited way. Other stores in the area did not accept the cards once the glitch was found.

Now before we judge anyone -- how many of us employed, middle/uppermiddle class people would pass by an ATM spewing money without picking up some frantically and stuffing it in our pockets -- profusely? Better yet, how many of you would frantically pick up as much money as you could and then -- walk into the bank and return it?  I would bet not many... and you're supposed to have jobs and money and take care of yourself! You would most likely look at it as a windfall and a blessing from God that this money just blew into your hands.  You work hard and deserve this lucky find as you ask for nothing in life and the bank is insured by the FDIC so they are not loosing money.

I, too, heaved a sigh when I first saw this story.  Why do they have to do this because everyone against welfare and food stamps is going to have a problem and moan about the evils of the welfare state.  But the problem really is: why do we think that people who are living on the edge financially should behave more virtuously than anyone else.  The above comparison is just as likely and no one would be calling those people greedy thieves.

We are demonizing the poor in this era, just as they did in Victorian England, rationalizing that if they just pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, if they just worked harder, if they were just better people, they wouldn't be where they are now. Of course there are people who bilk the system -- rich people know all about that. Why is there a different standard of ethics for people who have a certain measure of desperation built into their daily lives in a way that people who make over $75,000 per year have no idea about. And I said that right, $75k. The median income for a family is around $50,000.  If you're making more than that, you eat regularly and have a lot more choices that you can make than if you made $45,000 with 2-3 kids. It's stressful, but don't get it twisted, ramen noodles ain't a staple in your house.

Now I ask you: what would you do if you had been just granted a windfall, no matter how short or illegal, of a staple of life, how would you handle it?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'm not racist, but...

Whenever I hear these words I get ready for the elephant sized shoe to drop. Not because I think that person is horrible but because of the "but".  There is nothing that can come after, "I'm not racist..but" that isn't racist, at least in some way.

The FLOTUS advocates drinking one extra glass of water per day. The first thing you hear is, "I'm not racist but..."
"She doesn't need to tell me what to do! Why is the first lady in our business?!"
"I already drink water but her words make me just want to drink a soda instead..."

A new Miss America of east Indian descent was crowned.  You hear,"I'm not racist, but..."
"Shouldn't Miss Kansas whose a marine, has tattoos and hunts have won instead?"
"This isn't Miss India, this is Miss America!"
"Miss Kansas would have represented OUR values..."
"A terrorist for Miss America?! That muslim isn't even American!"

See, the long heavy sigh inducing I'm not racist...but phrase is suspect because the person is coming from a place of discomfort about something that is obviously racially motivated, and they want to hide from or justify that fact to themselves.  Now that American institutions are starting to look like a part of urban and suburban America, a certain subset of the population who did not think of themselves as outwardly racist are showing their own personal feelings of discomfort at the new status quo. I've felt this discomfort as a black woman dealing with new cultures in America and overseas.  But, see...that's MY problem, not theirs. Other races aren't usurping my job or space in society; they are just living like I am and competing for the same things I want. I just have to adapt, which is what I did and am doing.

A powerful black woman can advocate healthy living and a woman of Indian ancestry can symbolize beauty, poise and elocution. We should be rejoicing that the country is now starting to look like what the founding fathers overarching original intent was for this American experiment. A place all could come regardless of class, economic background, religion or culture.  A place where if you worked hard, you could become a Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet or, better yet...Oprah.

I encourage those who use the words, "I'm not racist but..." to look into their hearts and see why they need to put those qualifying words in front of their statements. It's not racist to admit your discomfort with race. That's called being a normal human being. It is racist to ignore those feelings and blame the person you are speaking about for some imaginary problem that you made up to cover your discomfort. An Indian-American woman winning Miss America over a blond marine is uncomfortable for some, but that has nothing to do with the participants or the contest. A Black First Lady talking about health issues is something that all first ladies do; Laura Bush touted literacy and and Nancy Reagan said, say no to drugs.  It's time to own up to and move through our own personal discomforts so that we can move past these non-issues and just get onto arguing about stuff like normal people....

Monday, August 26, 2013

The new civil right: The right to fail...

My family went to the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington this weekend. It was a lovely experience as we walked and listened and saw all the different types of people that lived in this country sitting and standing next to us with their kids, in wheel chairs and in tee shirts with various slogans on them. An older white woman gave me the thumbs up as I took my three year old to the bathroom in the grass next to the tidal pool. Another older Asian woman shared her crackers with the kids, while a Persian and white couple allowed my children to watch movies on their phone. And of course, there were many black people who I saw from my church, my job, from mothers was great.

But the next day, I really understood what the original march and entire civil rights movement did when I watched Fareed Zakaria on Sunday. He had the youngest billionaire inventor of Spanx on his show. He then Proceeded to be astonished by this woman who had no business background(as he said ad infinitum) and created this empire with a entrance cost of $5000. That wasn't the civil rights part, it's coming soon.

She said that what allowed her to deal with all the initial rejection was that her father raised her to embrace failure, and to find one thing a week to fail. This allowed her to try different things with out the stigma of having to be good all the time, so she didn't attach negativity to failure.

Here's the civil rights part. I thought this was an excellent idea and said to my daughter, the same thing. "Let's try to just fail at some things and enjoy the process!"  We'll see if I can keep it up, but I hope it allows her to take risks without pressure. We all know that we learn tons from our failures. Far more than our successes .

The civil rights part? I can now tell my daughter to go out and fail a little. That was not an option as I was growing up. Nor was it an option for my mother, my grandparents, their parents.... You had to be great; better by a high percentage point than your white counterparts in order for you to have just the opportunity to succeed. You had to be a representation of the greatness if your race... all the time.  Failure was to be kept hush hush because that just might imply that you were not qualified; the larger implication draped around you that your entire race was not  really qualified for ... well, anything that utitlized brain power.

This was not a my family thing. Every black family I know has this mantra imprinted on their skulls. But now, after all the struggles, though we have a ways to go, my child does not have to be a standard bearer for her entire race when she walks out of our house. I can encourage her to try and fail, not because as my dad said, "the school of hard knocks is a tough school, but you'll learn something..." but because she, like everybody else can use the basic lesson of just try it out and see; maybe it'll work, maybe it won't. But think of what she'll see and experience. Hopefully she'll gain the fortitude to persevere in the face of rejection just like the Spanx founder, and have the optimism to know that failures can lead to success when you learn from them.

My daughters will finally have the right to fail.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Why they hate the police...

Why do young black and hispanic kids hate the police? Because of what is in this video. About two or three weeks ago, there was practically martial law in Brooklyn. I wasn't paying attention because I was in the DMV(DC, Maryland, Virginia area) taking care of my life. This wasn't in the news so I didn't pay attention...But one of my students who had just been to Brooklyn was telling me about the shooting(which is sadly common at this point) of a young black man by police, and how kids in the neighborhood where just frightened of the police. She told me about the constant harassment, the intimidation, the fear. Now, having lived in Brooklyn for many years, I didn't disbelieve her because I saw it, but I've been a van driving mom/musician/educator/hustla, so I am not confronted by it. And since it didn't happen to me personally, I thought she was slightly exaggerating.

This is why we as humanity needs to reconnect with those outside our experience because we loose empathy if we do not experience and see what it happening around us. How do we expect young people to have respect for authority and create a models of success when they are treated as criminals because of their color, age and attire? We manifest what we create. If we manifest hostility, expect hostility. If we manifest disrespect, expect disrespect. I am a believer in dressing and acting appropriately for your age. I believe in hard work and respecting elders and authority. But there are hostile forces in our neighborhoods that are supposed to be protecting us. What do we expect...Which type of human do we want to help produce? Who get's to decide who is human and how do we treat them...#H-U-M-A-N

Monday, April 1, 2013

Enough is enough!

Anyone who knows me knows that I like music. Not only because I'm a musician, but I just like it, like a kid likes cake. I love the act of making it and singing it. I teach it, I perform it, and proselytize about the wonders of it. I think that all forms have great merit regardless of what people think about the style that is supposedly destroying little minds.

But.... there is a limit. I was working with some 4th graders recently and I have been encouraging them to bring in lyrics and music from their experience for the class to listen to and analyze. I gave them parameters of no profanity or overtly sexual lyrics. One young man, who is Hispanic, originally thought my group would be boring(his exact question to me on the first day was: Is this class going to be boring? Are you boring?  Seriously, that's what he said) only to find out that singing is great fun and music is a blast. He wanted badly to bring in a song that he could have the class listen to. However, he has nothing to bring in. He said he listens exclusively to hip hop. There is no music he knows for him to bring in from home. His words, not mine.

Now everybody knows there are plenty of rappers who have music that can be played in a classroom.  I arranged a choral version of a couple of hip hop songs that were popular back in the day: the Sugar Hill Gang's Rapper's Delight, Goodtimes (the song Rapper's delight is based off of) and Erick Sermon's Just Like Music, which featured music from Marvin Gaye. Kids love hip hop...shoot erry'body luvs hip hop. But when a child can't bring any music to school from home to share...that's a problem. That his parents allow him to listen to music that is inappropriate for his age is the real problem.

Where is my frustration coming from? Here, a statement from Michigan radio station, WUVS-LP:

The questions have been asked, Is Hip Hop Music Destroying America, Is Hip Hop A Threat To Our Children or Should Rappers Be Accountable For Their Lyrics? You be the judge.  Earlier this year the song “Karate Chop” leaked online featuring rapper Lil Wayne.  He raps, “Bout to put rims on my skateboard wheels/Beat that (expletive/woman genital) up like Emmett Till.”  A few weeks later a song by rapper Rocko featuring Rick Ross was released called “You Don’t Even Know It.”  Rick Ross raps, ‘Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it/ I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.’ Yes, we have our freedom of speech right, but when is freedom of speech taken too far?” 
“Many would say both rappers have taken their lyrical content too far and offended too many.  The family and estate of Emmett Till have released a statement of disapproval over Lil Wayne’s disregard and disrespectful lyrics. Though his record label issued a statement of apology, the rapper has yet to do so.  In the case of Rick Ross, a petition has been started over his blatant disregard for women and the issue of date rape. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that over 300,000 women are raped or sexually assaulted per year in the United States alone. That is a disturbing number and should not be taken lightly. His lyrics not only condone the behavior, but he boasts about it in the song.  While some feel it’s only entertainment, many feel it sends and encourages the wrong message.  Several individuals and organizations have taken a stand and so are we.  Effective immediately Muskegon’s WUVS-LP 103.7 the Beat has pulled ALL Lil Wayne and Rick Ross music from rotation.  We pride ourselves on playing music that is non-degrading and non-violent. While we believe in freedom of speech, creative writing and individualism, we refuse to be part of the problem by spreading messages that could harm or end someone’s life.”

At some point parents and people of good conscience need to say, enough. The problem is not just in hip hop, and people have a right to listen to whatever they choose. But it's parent's job to make sure that their child is surrounded by things that encourage positive growth. Let me make clear again, there is plenty of hip hop that is perfectly fine for children to listen to. PLENTY! The child I'm talking about is 10. What an adult listens to privately is their own business. But it is not ok to expose children to rape, misogyny, gun violence, excessive cursing, etc., with no context of what they are hearing other than, "I like it and my brothers and I listen to this all the time...." That's what parents are for....

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Gardening in da hood: Parenting a Community


My friend, jazz vocalist extraordinaire, Denise King posted this on my Facebook page since she knows I'm a gardener.  I love putting my hands in the soil and getting my hands very dirty, especially under my mother hates that since she grew up on a farm and it's not professional to have dirt under your fingernails...I guess I'm a rebel.

I wanted to share this with a larger audience because this is parenting at its best: parenting of a community. This man decided to plant food in the unused spaces in South Central LA. The main crux of his doing this was that he was seeing the food was the problem and the solution to the health crisis in his community; all at the same time. Get the wrong food out, and the right food in and many diseases are prevented. He gets volunteers to bring in plants and seeds and do all the work. Connections are made by children who work in the gardens in these urban areas that food comes from the ground and is tasty.

This parenting of a community is what many urban and frankly, suburban kids need. Parenting is about showing a child what the right way is through their own actions. Parents stand up for what they believe in and lead by example. Parenting is also not giving into what is popular or easy all the time. Food is the sustenance of our physical, mental and spiritual bodies. Now many times I want to put in my gullet some tiramisu or my favorite meat candy-like substance: bacon...mmmmm. But, I and my children know what a fresh tomato tastes like. A fresh cucumber.  Even the dreaded zucchini(which can be made into hash and deliciously moist bread).

I'm not comparing adults to kids, but, in some ways I am. Holding up a big gulp as a sign of liberty(y'all know who I'm talkin' 'bout, and if you don't, betta ask somebody) is as stupid as a kid holding up a piece of crack or putting a gun to their heads as a sign of their adulthood. If you saw that as a parent, you slap your child sil-- ... wait, wait, wait ... you would sternly speak to your child and tell them how stupid that was because it would ruin their health and/or kill them. Our diets are killing us slowly, and sometimes the slowness painful. How you eat determines how you live. I want my children to live well. This gentleman wants his entire community to live well. That's what good parents do....

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Good parents don't have to perfect...

This is a picture of my dad when he was in college. My dad was a musician who played saxophone and piano. He got his bachelors degree in Composition and Arranging at Amherst University. I posted this because I want to talk about parenting. My father was an alcoholic. He sat in a chair and listened to music at concert loudness levels every night while he drank. My room vibrated because the speakers were right underneath my bedroom.  He died when I was 14.

But my dad loved me deeply. He drank at home rather than goto a bar because he wanted to be near his family and provide a stable environment and though that may sound like a cop-out, it wasn't. He played songs just for me. Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" was my song, and I knew when he played it, he was thinking of me. He played it often. It was the reason I put the song on my second record, Bare, as a similar tribute to my first daughter. My father was proud of the musician I was turning into as a child. He was a brilliant student and he wanted his children to be brilliant so if I ever asked him what a word meant or how it was spelled, I was told to goto the dictionary. Grrrr...But I do this with my child now.  He loved to fish and shared that love with me. He took me fishing and taught me how to bait a hook with a worm. He loved that I could play piano and loved that I played his favorite composer, Bartok. He would tell me that my compositions I made up at age 7 or 8 were "Complex! You don't even know what you're playing!!" We used to swim in the pool together and he would lift me up like the female side of a ballroom dance team or pairs ice skating in the water while I did what I thought were fancy poses. He taught me to dive and swim underwater. He told me this about life: "The school of hard knocks is a tough school...." that's all he said. I have learned he was right. 

He was not perfect. But he was was my father. He worked hard to provide the best life he could for me. He made choices that were not always the best for him, but did his best to make the right choices for me.  Perfection is not the goal because it can never be achieved. Many get to be parents. Some are better at it than others.  But I wanted to share that good parents aren't great all the time and don't always lead the greatest lives. This is my dad and he did his best. He strived to be a good parent, and in many ways he truly was...I hope I turned out the way he wanted...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The parenting crisis

I was reading an article from a prominent republican figure recently and I felt I had to start talking about a particular subject of importance to me: Parenting. I am going to start speaking as much as I can about the crisis of parenting in this culture. Primarily because I deal with children from a lower socio and economic background daily and have been for many years.  What I do not see is a crisis of teaching, though there are teachers of various degrees of excellence and there certainly are failing schools that are failing children. I see a crisis of parenting: kids not knowing how to be, behaviorally, emotionally, physically... They have no idea because their surroundings are not devoted to their success.

Poverty does not mean that you can't be a great parent. I just recently watched the Ben Carson story on Lifetime with Cuba Gooding, Jr. What struck me the most was his mother who inspired her children to be successful, no matter how much knowledge or money she had.  Good parenting is not republican or democrat, rich or poor, religious or atheist. Good parenting is creating an environment of the expectation of success for your children. You need not be perfect or do everything right. But my time in urban schools has taught me that parenting, or lack thereof, is the true issue. There is only so much damage a single teacher in a single year can do to a child if the parent is solid and supportive. If the parent wants the child to succeed, most likely, the child will succeed. Not be rich. Succeed.

Watch this to see what Ben Carson's mother did. This is a woman with little education, who worked 2-3 jobs and was a single parent. When her children were not doing well, she challenged them to do times tables or they couldn't go outside. She made them read. She did what she could do and her lack education or resources did not stop her. She created an environment of success around her boys to the best of her ability. Imagine what she could have done with the proper resources and knowledge...her children could have been...oh wait...her sons are an engineer and a world famous brain surgeon. Regardless of your politics or what you think of his ideas, Ben Carson is a success story. And the key to his success was good parenting.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

What if food companies promoted actual food?

In April 2010, he met with three executives from Madison Dearborn Partners, a private-equity firm based in Chicago with a wide-ranging portfolio of investments. They recently hired Dunn to run one of their newest acquisitions — a food producer in the San Joaquin Valley. As they sat in the hotel’s meeting room, the men listened to Dunn’s marketing pitch. He talked about giving the product a personality that was bold and irreverent, conveying the idea that this was the ultimate snack food. He went into detail on how he would target a special segment of the 146 million Americans who are regular snackers — mothers, children, young professionals — people, he said, who “keep their snacking ritual fresh by trying a new food product when it catches their attention.”He explained how he would deploy strategic storytelling in the ad campaign for this snack, using a key phrase that had been developed with much calculation: “Eat ’Em Like Junk Food.” 
After 45 minutes, Dunn clicked off the last slide and thanked the men for coming. Madison’s portfolio contained the largest Burger King franchise in the world, the Ruth’s Chris Steak House chain and a processed-food maker called AdvancePierre whose lineup includes the Jamwich, a peanut-butter-and-jelly contrivance that comes frozen, crustless and embedded with four kinds of sugars. 
The snack that Dunn was proposing to sell: carrots. Plain, fresh carrots. No added sugar. No creamy sauce or dips. No salt. Just baby carrots, washed, bagged, then sold into the deadly dull produce aisle. 
“We act like a snack, not a vegetable,” he told the investors. “We exploit the rules of junk food to fuel the baby-carrot conversation. We are pro-junk-food behavior but anti-junk-food establishment.” - Michael Moss, New York Times
I just spent about an hour reading this article from the New York Times about the science of junk food I heard about it on NPR this afternoon. It took me an hour because I fell asleep repeatedly while reading it. Mom-hood means that sleep is a commodity that I don't always get and if I'm remotely warm and comfortable, I fall asleep easily, especially if the reading is just a little dense; this article was dense…but in a good way.
I am planning to make coq au vin for dinner tonight. And don't get your knickers all in a bunch thinking this is complicated. For those of you who don't know, it's just chicken stew with a whole lotta wine in it. I haven't gotten to it yet. I'm hungry but you know what I really could go for: chips. Salty, crunchy chips. I have given up  potato chips because of my acid reflux. But it was a hella hard thing to do because any kind of fried potato will cause me to sell a kidney in order to eat it. For a long time I only ate Utz unsalted. Then I started eating ripple cut and salt again became a part of my diet.  It hurt me in a special way when I understood that potato chips and hot, salty, delicious french fries messed me up royally in the digestion department. So now I eat Trader Joe's multigrain corn chips. I tried many different healthy brands but this one worked because…it had enough salt for me to suck on. Seriously.
Why have I gone on with this diatribe about chips? Because this article is an in depth report on the history and tactics the food industry has used to sell their products, resulting in the public becoming extremely unhealthy and making themselves very profitable at the same time. By essentially addicting people to the things that our body instinctively craves, we have consumed more of it and now have 12 year olds with Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and the beginnings of heart disease.
Though people can and should make their own personal choices, these business strategies heavily encouraged the behavior of eating processed foods. This article points out that industry insiders were well aware of what their foods were doing to people's health outcomes and some of them were trying to change it. But food companies are there to make money, not be healthy. More salt, fat, and sugar makes things good and in the heavily processed food world, that is gold. So what if they are incrementally causing people's deaths and harming society? Their job is to make money and they do that very well.
But it's a lot more complicated that that. People's lives are busy. These businesses are filling a niche that has been around since the 1940's: Working people. Convenience foods are extremely helpful in a lifestyle where both parents work and cooking has become a lost art for some. Now people have been trained generationally to crave certain foods and if they can't make it at home, it's incredibly easy and relatively cheap to get it. Advertising, food research and psychology are being used to entice people into thinking that their food is (insert whatever "they" think you think you want) -- therefore, you purchase it.
So back to my quote up at the top of this blog. The reason I chose this one, was two-fold: I wanted show just how much thought and effort was put into turning foods that shouldn't be good into good food, worthy of purchase. I also wanted to ask the question, what if food companies put all their research and psychology towards the marketing of healthy food? What if companies had a sense of community responsibility as well as a profit motive and came away from the dark side of the force, and marketed actual healthy food and not pseudo healthy food, i.e. yoplait-like yogurts, which have more sugar in them than a candy bar. What if there were basic standards for how much sugar, salt and fat could be used in mass processed foods? And the entire industry had to adhere to this so no one could gain market share over another? And if those foods didn't taste good without those additives, that we could think about not having those foods produced -- which would probably wipeout tens of foods including but not limited to colas, cereals, crackers(chees-its without salt and powdered cheese, probably disgusting), some chips, breakfast foods... 
Food might become quite a bit more expensive as you needed more "real food" in order to make…well…real food. Most processed foods are made with chemicals and processed sugar, fat, and salt, to make it taste good. (try this experiment at home: make a meal that sucks and then add a lot of sugar to it, and watch your children devour it. It actually does work. Not so well with salt…)That type of food may not last as long on the shelves because real food decomposes relatively quickly. However, we would be paying for food, not food product. There are all sorts of issues that come up for me economically and socially about higher food prices. Yet we as a society have to think about the long term health of our country's people. Do you want people to pay less for food and then get ill later on in life and create extremely high medical bills, or do we want to encourage responsible eating habits to hopefully avoid those issues en masse? 
Update: the Coq au vin was slamming and made in about 30 minutes! However, in true kid style, my kids were less than impressed...

Friday, February 22, 2013

The sequester and my family

I was just on the phone with my cousin who is in IT for a well known defense contractor. I was speaking with him about the various certification issues I have to deal with as a teacher and I knew that he had similar issues and then he brought up something unexpected: the sequester.  I had forgotten that he was vulnerable. Someone in my close family is facing the possibility of furloughs and being laid off. The sequester was quite honestly just a political exercise in the stupidity of government for me. I was watching the Rachel Madow show last night, and the conversation with Ezra Klein about the sequester was actually eye opening. Basically, since it's a man made crisis, it can be unmade just as easily as it was made.  The congress could just decide to not do it, understanding that a manufactured crisis is obviously not going to force them to make decisions. 

Yea! I thought to myself. Cause this stuff's really gonna hurt somebody, not really thinking about that the people it could hurt are MY people. My cousin has 4 children and his wife is a stay at home mom. They own their home. They have two cars. They have children in school. Fortunately, he has saved money in the eventuality that he will be laid off. "I've been laid off before, so I know what it's like. I can't change what could happen, and I'm not going to stress out over it," is what he essentially said to me.

I don't think I could look at the possibility of my job(s) being gone with such ease. And then I remember, my mother's pension is federal. If the sequester goes into effect, what happens to her? This was a major concern when there was a threat of a government shut down.  

Why am I writing this? Because this is not a game or a frustrating news story to me anymore. People that I love will be affected if the sequester happens. These people have real lives that will change significantly if they do not get paid or are laid off. The macro vision of this mess is scary, but the micro vision is even scarier. The regular people are not really being looked at. I know where I place some of the blame for this situation, but I really don't give a rats a**. The government should be ashamed of itself. We as people should be ashamed that we voted these people into office and they can't seem to figure out how to do their jobs. There's a lot of politicking and strategy that each side has to do, but if America is about the individual, then we need to actually see the individuals lives as important to the whole. The sequester is not just a political exercise; it's real and has real life consequences for real people.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

3-D Printers: A replicated gun in every household

This is the kind of thing that make the sci-fi nut in me get all geeky but scared at the same time. It's like Star Trek and Terminator mixed together. What am I talking about? The Washington Post recently posted an article about a 3-D printer that will create plastic guns -- right now. A 3-D printer? What is that you say? You tell the thing what you want and it creates it right before your eyes; layer by layer, like an inkjet printer. That's dope right? It's like living on board the Star Trek enterprise where you can just goto a food replicator kiosk and ask for whatever food you want and it just makes it right there for you. Well, we have that right now! The 3-D printer can be used to make almost anything. You want a certain type of shirt? Just add materials and feed the machine the pattern, and it will make it for you -- in your house! The implications on manufacturing alone are huge if you can make your disposable goods at home -- instantaneously. 

Here's the Terminator part -- someone is deciding to go around the proposed semi-automatic weapons ban and make a plastic gun that would be undetectable by modern equipment. This is in his house. He found the specs on, you guessed it, the internet.

Making guns for personal use has been legal for decades, but doing so has required machining know-how and a variety of parts. With 3-D printers, users download blueprints from the Internet, feed them into the machine, wait several hours and voila. 
"Restrictions are difficult to enforce in a world where anybody can make anything,” said Hod Lipson, a 3-D printing expert at Cornell University and co-author of the new book, “Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing.” 
“Talking about old-fashioned control will be very ineffective."... 
...working in his spare bedroom, is using a $1,300 machine called the Cube, which is made by a division of 3D Systems, a large publicly traded manufacturer of consumer and industrial 3-D printing machines. The cheaper, consumer versions of 3-D printers like the one Lerol uses are only capable of printing with plastics, while more expensive, industrial-scale machines can print sturdier materials such as high-grade polymers. 
Experts expect printer prices to fall as part of the normal technology curve. (Think about the price of flat screen TVs five years ago. Or a computer two decades ago.) 
And that makes Lipson, the Cornell expert, nervous because cheaper machines could help people make cheap guns for one-time use. 
“The threat is not of 3-D printing military-grade weapon components from standard blueprints on industrial 3-D printers,” Lipson said. “The challenge is that [do-it-yourself] 3D printers can be used by anyone to print rogue, disposable and shoddy guns that could be used to fire a few rounds, then be recycled into a flower vase.”

A flower vase!?!?! You can make a gun, shoot a person and then put said gun in the recycling bin to be made into vinyl flooring. And anyone -- anyone -- will be able to do this if you have enough money to buy an over the stove mounted microwave, because that probably how much it's going to cost. If you can buy the computer you are reading this blog on, you can buy a device that will make whatever you have specs to feed it. That, my friends, is Star Trek when the Borg come.  As that drone is coming to get you for not paying that parking ticket, you can just replicate a firearm to "protect yourself". Neat world, isn't it?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

You know when your own party calls you out, it's bad...

The House has delayed voting on a bill to give over $60 billion in aid to hurricane Sandy Victims. Republican representative, Peter King lays the argument against this action out very well. The "dismissive" attitude that Boehner has in not bringing this up to vote now is ridiculous. King lays out that it's going to most likely take about a month to get the new congress going again and the people in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey can't wait that long. He basically says that if this were a southern state, no one would have a problem giving out money for relief. 

This is the delusion that again seems to take hold of the GOP. Are the people in the northeast somehow not worthy of the money? It was said that the bill introduced by the Senate had lots of pork in it. So the House cannot amend it and send it back to the Senate?! Isn't that how government works?!

This is ridiculous!