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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Feeding the Beast of Violence: How the NRA Affects Our Public Health

 

Among developed nations, the United States is head and shoulders above all others in respect to violence. This is in large part due to the easy access many Americans have to firearms. Gun violence scars a nation priding itself on freedom, liberty, and justice. The government faces the ugly truth that bullets from firearms account for an average of more than one mass shooting a day in America. (4+ victims including shooter, 2015).


Most Republicans are opposed to gun control measures in general. They claim such legislation would limit gun rights, saying owning all types of weapons is protected by the Constitution's Second Amendment. They insist the right to a militia is a freedom that must never be infringed upon.


In the wake of the Orlando club massacre, the Republican-controlled US Senate rejected several measures aimed at reducing gun violence. Even a hot-button issue like gun violence appears unable to make politicians cross the aisle and compromise to save American lives. The NRA and the gun lobby control politicians who care more for re-election than for preventing innocent deaths.


Besides, gun proponents claim there is no way to stop gun violence. That assumption presumes nothing more can be done to stop violence other than the proliferation of “good guys” with guns – especially concealed weapons -- stopping “bad guys” with guns – often with legally purchased assault firearms.


Gun violence in the United States is not a constitutionally derived inevitability.


Gun violence happens because our elected officials have made a series of deliberate policy judgments that guns should be easy to buy, sell, and carry by nearly anyone, anywhere, any time.


Data from Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that states with more guns tend to have far more gun deaths. And it's not just one study."Within the United States, a wide array of empirical evidence indicates that more guns in a community leads to more homicide," David Hemenway, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center's director, wrote in Private Guns, Public Health.


(David Hemenway, Private Guns, Public Health. 2006.)



Looking Into a Public Health Approach on Gun Violence

Optimism can defeat the self-defeating proposition that “there is no way to stop gun violence.” I find it very beneficial to examine the ideas of Dr. David Hemenway, who is Professor of Health Policy at the Harvard School of Public Health and Director of the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center. Allow me to share some information with you …


In his highly regarded research, Hemenway develops the public health approach as a pragmatic, science-based effort to reduce injuries and deaths from gun violence. The goal is not to assign blame but, rather, to find solutions, with an emphasis on prevention.


Hemenway compares controlling gun violence with past efforts on improving highway safety – away from improved driving and toward improved design of vehicles and roadways. For gun violence, the analogy is to focus less on the shooters and more on access to guns and their design. The author acknowledges that if shooters are determined, resourceful people with clear and sustained deadly intent, then regulating guns would likely have little effect on the number of homicides and suicides. In other words, they would find a way.


But in the real world, as Hemenway spells out, a large portion of serious intentional violence would be less deadly if guns were less readily available or less user-friendly. Furthermore, although gun "accidents" make up only a small fraction of the total gun injuries, they are common enough that the Consumer Product Safety Commission would surely give them high priority if it were not barred from doing so by federal law.


Hemenway also addresses another feature separates firearms from vehicles: the possibility of "virtuous use." The belief in the importance of giving civilians a means of self-defense has long been used as an argument for preserving the right to keep handguns in the home.


In recent decades, that philosophy has fueled a successful effort to ease state restrictions on carrying concealed weapons in public. This campaign has made great use of the work of criminologist Gary Kleck, who concluded from his analysis of survey data that there are millions of virtuous self-defense uses of guns each year.


Hemenway has done more than any other scholar in rebutting that absurd claim. When it comes time to assess the evidence on the effectiveness of particular interventions to reduce gun violence, Hemenway is restrained. He notes, "Unfortunately, there exist few convincing evaluations of past firearms laws."


In reviewing the evidence on what works and what might work, he tends to believe that studies support the feasibility of reducing accidents and suicides more than they do the likelihood of cutting down on gun assaults.


Hemenway summons a public health core principle: that good data are the precondition for progress. He and his center get much of the credit for designing a practical system that is now in the pilot stage in a number of states, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The public health approach rests on the optimistic belief that good science will engender good policy and practice.


(Philip J. Cook, Ph.D. “Private Guns, Public Health” Reviewed in N Engl J Med. 
September 16, 2004)



Using survey data on rates of household gun ownership, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health examined the association between gun availability and homicide across states, 2001-2003. It found that states with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm homicide and overall homicide. This relationship held for both genders and all age groups, after accounting for rates of aggravated assault, robbery, unemployment, urbanization, alcohol consumption, and resource deprivation (e.g., poverty). There was no association between gun prevalence and non-firearm homicide.


(Matthew Miller; Deborah Azrael; and David Hemenway. “State-level homicide victimization rates in the U.S. in relation to survey measures of household firearm ownership, 2001-2003.” Social Science and Medicine. 2007; 64:656-64.)

In the United States although most people support policies that reduce access to guns, once these policies are proposed, they're spun by politicians and groups like the NRA that falsely claim any attempts to control access to deadly weapons are threats to taking all guns away from law-abiding citizens.

The lie persists and festers. So nothing gets done, and preventable deaths keep occurring. Innocents seeking their own peaceful, inalienable rights continue to be filled with lead from assault weapons in the hands of those who should have been prevented from purchasing them. And, the endless cycle of those convinced that only a gun stops a gun spins around and around in a violent circle.

 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Liberty Valance, Gun Violence, and Solutions To Problems

 

I'm sure most of us, at least old geezers like me, have seen the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Just in case you haven't seen the western drama, here is a brief synopsis:


The film follows Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart), a young lawyer who has followed Horace Greely’s advice to go west with the goal of using the law to bring order to the wild frontier. After arriving in the fictional town of Shinbone, Stoddard is confronted by the reality that the legal system has no place in the west.


The local ‘good guy’ Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) tells a just-robbed Stoddard that he needs a gun in order to survive. When Stoddard resists, Doniphon continues by derisively saying that “I know those law books mean a lot to you, but not out here. Out here a man settles his own problems.”


Undeterred, Stoddard sets up a school to teach literacy to local residents and starts a campaign for statehood. While some in the community support his cause, it is not until Stoddard is credited with the shooting of local villain Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) that he earns widespread support and, most importantly, legitimacy.


What about the message of gun violence in the film? In a historical sense and in the context of the American frontier, the theme reinforces the idea that engaging in violence is a prerequisite to citizenship and a path to success in the United States. Of course, the film exhorts the justice of owning and using a gun as a means of finding justice and respect. After all, the setting of the movie was the Wild West.


Of course, no longer do we have a Wild West nor do we have a lawless frontier, yet many today support the need to own guns and to use violent actions against any perceived threats to their existence. Citizens who support the gun lobby argue that “only a gun can stop a person with a gun.” And, of course, terrorist actions, violent crime, and senseless mass shootings have convinced a large segment of society that they need to conceal and carry a weapon for safety.

Historian Sean Graham comments about gun violence ...

“That violence has been seen as a redemptive force is dangerous because the message that emerges is that when a person is at their low point, violence can be the source of rejuvenation. Ransom Stoddard was at his lowest point when he picked up a gun – he then became a successful Senator. The American Union was at a breaking point when war began – it then became the bastion of freedom and liberty. Americans were scared and left in tears on that fall Tuesday in 2001 – they could again feel safe that Sunday night in 2011. Each time the recovery was triggered by violence. History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.


For 99.99% of the population, this will not lead them to pick up a gun when they reach a low point. But the danger comes from the 0.01% that see this and think that they can use violence as a viable solution to their problems. The common thread between the perpetrators of mass shootings – with the variable of mental illness – is that they tend to be withdrawn from their communities and generally have experienced some sort of hardship immediately preceding their crimes. They have been taught – even implicitly – through the nation’s history and dominate mythology that when you’re down, violence can be your way out. That is what makes it a remarkably dangerous narrative. History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.


Clearly within this environment people should not have easy access to guns nor should the media fixate on those responsible for committing these crimes to the point where they achieve a level of notoriety. Trying to identify a singular motive for taking a gun to a school, mall, or movie theater is a folly – the issue is too complex for that. But when thinking about ways to prevent these tragedies, it is instructive to look to the past to see how the national mythology can inform our attempts to understand the incomprehensible. History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”


(Sean Graham. “Gun Violence in the United States: The Frontier Mentality.”
activehistory.ca. January 09, 2013.)

Freedom, strength, frontier survival, mythology, guns – all enter the American consciousness with great emotion. Without a doubt, history shows us the critical links between guns and democracy. Still, Graham points out that people find that violence in a primitive nation is not presented as “an unfortunate reality of nationhood and national defense, but rather as an expression of American strength and sovereignty.” The frontiersman’s identity came from his ability to assert his dominance on his surroundings, and “violence was not forced on the frontiersman, but rather sought out as a means to redeem himself and declare his authority.”

Thus, today the authoritarian view persists. This is what Graham means with his statement “History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes.” Violence is not “a way out” of problems in a civilized nation, yet we have been conditioned to believe that the gun is the solution to our threats. In the frontier, a person's need to dominate with armed authority could often be justified. But in modern society this philosophy has led to a trigger mentality.

We can never eliminate “bad guys” with guns and the violence they perpetrate. Granted, firearms in hands of well-meaning people offer advantages in certain deadly situations. I would never deny that just as I would never deny the rights of gun owners to hunt or to target practice. However, the idea of establishing strength and sovereignty by “rhyming” the practices of frontier America most certainly will lead to a new frontier of increasing armed violence and aggression. We see the signs of an armed danger with repeated acts of gun violence every day.

In the United States, the death rate from gun homicides is about 31 per million people — the equivalent of 27 people shot dead every day of the year. The homicides include losses from mass shootings, like Sunday’s Orlando attack, or the San Bernadino, California shooting last December. And of course, they also include the country’s vastly more common single-victim killings.

Gun homicides are a common cause of death in the United States, killing about as many people as car crashes (not counting van, truck, motorcycle or bus accidents). Some cases command our attention more than others, of course. Counting mass shootings that make headlines and the thousands of Americans murdered one or a few at a time, gunshot homicides totaled 8,124 in 2014, according to the F.B.I.

This level of violence makes the United States an extreme outlier (point of difference) when measured against the experience of other advanced countries.


Yes, Dr. Graham: History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes. I fear the lines of repetition pose a threat to our existence.

Monday, June 13, 2016

NRA -- Their History of Gun Control and Their Newer Ignorance of Gun Violence


The United States of America – a place where gun violence rages. The U.S. firearm homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population. All good citizens must agree that something needs to be done to prevent this from happening every day – 31 Americans are murdered with guns and 151 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room. 

(Richardson, Erin G., and David Hemenway, “Homicide, Suicide, and Unintentional Firearm Fatality: Comparing the United States With Other High-Income Countries, 2003,” Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection, and Critical Care. June 2010)
 
What if I would tell you that even the Founding Fathers instituted gun laws so intrusive that the NRA would not endorse them today? Well, not only did the founding generation deny gun ownership to many people like slaves and free blacks, but they also denied guns to law-abiding white men who refused to swear loyalty to the Revolution.

Adam Winkler, professor of constitutional law at the UCLA School of Law, says, “Historically, the leadership of the NRA was more open-minded about gun control than someone familiar with the modern NRA might imagine. The Second Amendment was not nearly as central to the NRA’s identity for most of the organization’s history.”

Winkler explains ...

“For those men who were allowed to own guns, the Founders had their own version of the 'individual mandate': they required the purchase of guns. A 1792 federal law mandated every eligible man to purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia. Such men had to report for frequent musters—where their guns would be inspected and, yes, registered on public rolls.

(Adam Winkler. “The Secret History of Guns.” The Atlantic. September 2011.) 

In his book Gunfight: The Battle Over The Right To Bear Arms In America, Winkler says history shows that the NRA was more open-minded about gun control than someone familiar with the modern NRA might imagine.

For most of the 20th century, the NRA helped to write most of the federal laws restricting gun use. Journalist Steven Rosenfeld, author of Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting, says in the 1920s and 1930s, the NRA’s leaders helped write and lobby for the first federal gun control laws – the very kinds of laws that the modern NRA labels as “the height of tryanny.”

(Steven Rosenfeld. “The Surprising Unknown History of the NRA.” AlterNet Report.
January 13, 2013.)

State gun control laws were once the norm. Within a generation of the country’s founding, many states passed laws banning any citizen from carrying a concealed gun. A new president in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt, made fighting crime and gun control part of his "New Deal." The NRA helped him draft the first federal gun controls: 1934’s National Firearms Act and 1938’s Gun Control Act.

The NRA President at the time, Karl T. Frederick, a 1920 Olympic gold-medal winner for marksmanship who became a lawyer, praised the new state gun controls in Congress. “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons,” he testified before the 1938 law was passed. “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”

The legal doctrine of gun rights balanced by gun controls held for nearly a half-century.

Rosenfeld recalls one of the most tragic crimes of gun violence in the history of our nation and the NRA response ...

“In November 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed President John F. Kennedy with an Italian military surplus rifle that Owsald bought from a mail-order ad in the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine. In congressional hearings that soon followed, NRA Executive Vice-President Frankin Orth supported a ban in mail-order sales, saying, 'We do think that any sane American, who calls himself an American, can object to placing into this bill the instrument which killed the president of the United States.'”

“But no new federal gun control laws came until 1968. The assassinations of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy were the tipping point, coming after several summers of race-related riots in American cities. The nation’s white political elite feared that violence was too prevalent and there were too many people—especially urban Black nationalists—with access to guns. In May 1967, two dozen Black Panther Party members walked into the California Statehouse carrying rifles to protest a gun-control bill, prompting then-Gov. Ronald Reagan to comment, 'There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.'

“The Gun Control Act of 1968 reauthorized and deepened the FDR-era gun control laws. It added a minimum age for gun buyers, required guns have serial numbers and expanded people barred from owning guns from felons to include the mentally ill and drug addicts. Only federally licensed dealers and collectors could ship guns over state lines. People buying certain kinds of bullets had to show I.D. But the most stringent proposals—a national registry of all guns (which some states had in colonial times) and mandatory licenses for all gun carriers—were not in it. The NRA blocked these measures. Orth told America Riflemen magazine that while part of the law 'appears unduly restrictive, the measure as a whole appears to be one that the sportsmen of America can live with.'”

(Steven Rosenfeld. “The Surprising Unknown History of the NRA.” AlterNet Report.
January 13, 2013.)

But in the mid-1960s, the Black Panthers were better-known than the NRA for expressing that view of the Second Amendment. Rosenfeld says, “White libertarians started to assert that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to guns—like the Black Panthers. But, of course, they were seeking to keep America’s white gun owners fully armed.”

But then …

In 1971, ATF raided a lifetime NRA member’s house who was suspected of having a large illegal arms cache and shot and killed him. This helped ignite a split to widen inside the NRA. Gun dealers thought they were being harassed. Rural states felt they were being unduly punished for urban America’s problems.

As a result ...

In 1975, the NRA created a new lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, under Harlon B. Carter, a tough-minded former chief of the U.S. Border Patrol who shared the libertarian goal of expanding gun owners’ rights. Burdick writes that “by 1976, the political rhetoric had gained momentum and the bicentennial year brought out a new NRA campaign, ‘designed to enroll defenders of the right to keep and bear arms’ in numbers equal to ‘the ranks of the patriots who fought in the American Revolution.’”

And so on and so on.

The gun violence increases and so does the debate over the Second Amendment and what needs to be done to insure proper gun ownership while taking firearms from criminals intent on using them.
I suggest reading an article called“The Right To Bear Arms” by Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice of the United States (1969-86) which appeared in Parade Magazine, January 14, 1990. Here is part of the Chief Justice's article:

“In the two centuries since then -- with two world wars and some lesser ones -- it has become clear, sadly, that we have no choice but to maintain a standing national army while still maintaining a "militia" by way of the National Guard, which can be swiftly integrated into the national defense forces.

“Americans also have a right to defend their homes, and we need not challenge that. Nor does anyone seriously question that the Constitution protects the right of hunters to own and keep sporting guns for hunting game any more than anyone would challenge the right to own and keep fishing rods and other equipment for fishing -- or to own automobiles. To 'keep and bear arms' for hunting today is essentially a recreational activity and not an imperative of survival, as it was 200 years ago; 'Saturday night specials' and machine guns are not recreational weapons and surely are as much in need of regulation as motor vehicles.

“Americans should ask themselves a few questions. The Constitution does not mention automobiles or motorboats, but the right to keep and own an automobile is beyond question; equally beyond question is the power of the state to regulate the purchase or the transfer of such a vehicle and the right to license the vehicle and the driver with reasonable standards. In some places, even a bicycle must be registered, as must some household dogs.

“If we are to stop this mindless homicidal carnage, is it unreasonable:
  1. to provide that, to acquire a firearm, an application be made reciting age, residence, employment and any prior criminal convictions?
  2. to required that this application lie on the table for 10 days (absent a showing for urgent need) before the license would be issued?
  3. that the transfer of a firearm be made essentially as with that of a motor vehicle?
  4. to have a "ballistic fingerprint" of the firearm made by the manufacturer and filed with the license record so that, if a bullet is found in a victim's body, law enforcement might be helped in finding the culprit?
“These are the kind of questions the American people must answer if we are to preserve the 'domestic tranquillity' promised in the Constitution.”

(Click here to read the entire article: http://www.guncite.com/burger.html.)

 

I hear the argument that “nothing will stop criminals from obtaining and using guns in their deadly activities, so no gun control will work.” The main point of this argument is that criminals do not follow laws; therefore, laws restricting gun ownership and types of guns would only hurt those who follow them.
  • This implies that areas with more restrictive gun laws should have more crime given that an armed populace deters criminals.
  • This notion is connected with the idea of “gun-free” zones and that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
True, there is no way to defeat the reality of the argument that “criminals don’t obey laws.” But, clearly, some criminals obey some laws some of the time; this is the nature of incentive explicit in law enforcement. With proper gun control either potential criminals are deterred from crime, or existing criminals are deterred from crime. Society must recognize that change can improve present deplorable conditions.

Gun proponents view “criminals don't obey laws” as an acceptable argument in political debate.
That is a nonsensical paradox. The paradox is as follows:
  1. Law-abiding citizens obey the law
  2. Criminals are lawbreakers, and thus do not obey the law
  3. Laws impose restrictions on the behavior of only those that follow them
  4. Laws, therefore, only hurt law-abiding citizens

    Could not every law be refuted with the lawbreaker’s paradox? For example, laws against rape, murder, and theft are rarely followed by rapists, murderers, and thieves, but the fact that such people exist in society is the reason behind such regulations in the first place.
To think that the minor inconvenience of gun reforms such as background checks, waiting periods, and assault weapon bans is more burdensome than the death of thousands of innocent civilians each year (which such reforms seek to redress) reflects a miscalibrated sense of what matters in the world.

After all, when gun advocates say that they are being "hurt" by gun control, let’s be clear what the actual implication of this statement is: my right to not be bothered in the least by regulation outweighs the right to life for thousands of innocents who die in the absence of said regulation.

Not only can such gun reforms reduce the number of homicides, but there is very little controversy about the tremendous effect they would have at reducing suicides. So, the belief that laws aimed at saving lives 'hurt law-abiding citizens' is completely incompatible with any sane definition of right and wrong.

(http://www.armedwithreason.com/rebutting-the-criminals-dont-follow-laws-and-gun-control-only-hurts-law-abiding-citizens-argument-against-gun-control/ )

Even with tighter control of guns, will gun crimes and gun violence continue? Of course they will.

Yet, how does a nation that has developed a violent gun mentality refuse to open a meaningful dialogue on this carnage? Those with a Second Amendment “no inch given” philosophy fueled by the NRA that denies all new, proposed gun reform stifle efforts to change the climate of violence in America. Responsibilities go hand in hand with freedoms. What used to be a very responsible group has changed its open-minded understandings to closed-minded fatalism.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Accepting Responsibility -- Look At Yourself, Not At Others




Young sons and daughters, the day will come when you realize that you -- not Mom, Dad, peer groups, friends, or any other direct influences -- are responsible for your life. That is not to say that other people haven't helped mold your character and helped build your persona. Of course, they have had a tremendous influence upon you. Still, the forming of your character lies in your own hands.

This momentous realization that you are in charge of yourself is an awakening that defines the rest of your life. Some people gain this consciousness after a tragedy such as the loss of a friend or a relative. Others have the cognition after suffering a crushing defeat and finding themselves vulnerable for the first time. Still others simply slip into the awareness as they pass through phases of maturation.

 "Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards 
in order to win the game." 

--Voltaire

Most disturbing, some people face responsibility and choose to renounce reality. They remain convinced others, not themselves, control their hearts and minds. In their false trust of fate, these individuals refuse personal obligations. Upon dealing with the inevitable pitfalls of living, they are often heard explaining, "Well, things just happen over which I have no control." Instead of learning from misfortunes and mistakes, they enslave themselves by rejecting the contract of autonomy. In fact, many would rather blame others for their poor conditions, and they choose to remain irresponsible for the rest of their lives.

It is impossible to find yourself without openly accepting the receipt of answerability. Otherwise, your life stagnates with immaturity, and it eventually enters a state of rigor. Declining obligations while believing others control your life further enslaves you to an existence where opportunity never knocks. Society expects you to accept and to control your own experiences with increasing skill; otherwise, other people understand you lack critical integrity. It is, indeed, ironic that life’s greatest opportunities are often hidden in adversity.

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”

--Eleanor Roosevelt

Within your sane control, each of you has the ability (or in some cases, sadly "had" the ability) to make not only career choices but also to make critical life decisions. For instance, you have the ability to decide whether to risk, to conform, to take drugs, to drink, to smoke, or to better yourself and your world. In order to maximize the fruits of your lives, you must dedicate yourselves to lifelong education, to civility, and to love. You only damage yourself when you cut yourself off from knowledge.

Knowledge is critical to living with integrity. Without proper exposure to knowledge, you lack the skills needed to seek and to find your own truth. Wisdom gives you the ability to make positive choices based on what you believe, and not on what others believe. As you take the helm of your own life, you steer your destiny. As William Ernest Henley says in his famous poem "Invictus," you become "master of your fate and captain of your soul."

When you fully realize the charge of being the master of your own individuality -- being totally responsible for your own actions and thoughts -- then, you become a 100% responsible, free human being. With that freedom, you can gain wisdom and skills to deal with increasingly difficult decisions and situations you face, and simultaneously you will maximize your self-image. As a result, your potential for growth becomes unlimited. Being aware of your responsibilities is as important, if not more important, than being aware of your rights because necessary actions spring from your readiness to be responsible.

 "Freedom is a package deal -- with it comes responsibilities 
and consequences." 

 --Unknown

Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game. Voltaire
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/v/voltaire.html
Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game. Voltaire
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/v/voltair
 

Monday, May 23, 2016

You and Your Sexy Name -- Do You Have One of the Hottest?

 

Do you think you have a sexy first name? Could it be that your mom and dad were looking far into your future when they gave you such a name. Maybe they were thinking about how attractive to others your name would be, and it would eventually add to your appeal.

"Naming is dreaming," said Laura Wattenberg, founder of BabyName Wizard.com (a popular website among expectant parents) and author. She claims some parents look to the future when they name their child and decide whom they would like the child to be.

So, Wattenberg took five years and asked tens of thousands of visitors to her site to rate names for sexiness. The users could choose any of the roughly 40,0000 names in the site's "Namipedia" and rate it on a scale of 1 to 100.

"We wanted to be able to give our visitors a sense of how the name plays to other people," said Wattenberg. "We all carry around our own images of names based on our own personal experience. It's nice to get a different perspective without, say, running a poll."

(Laura Geggel. “Scarlett and Alessandro Top Sexiest Names List.” Live Science
February 24, 2015.)

So, respecting your need to know, here are the top 10 contenders for boys' and girls' names that shared a number of sexy characteristics:
  1. Boy name: Alessandro. Girl name: Scarlett.
  2. Lorenzo, Nicolette
  3. Rhett, Natalia
  4. Romeo, Anaïs
  5. Mateo, Paulina
  6. Dimitri, Alessandra
  7. Dane, Chanel
  8. Marcelo, Soraya
  9. Dante, Adrianna
  10. Rémy, Giuliana
Wattenberg said that exotic names topped the list. Here are some other “sexy' characteristics of the names that were chosen as sexiest:
  • The names have mostly American and English-speaking user base.
  • Americans still have the image of a Latin Lover – choosing Italian, Spanish, French, even Russian names.
  • The names have “an element of fantasy” – names that are chosen for lingerie brands or for perfumes
  • Most of the male names end in “o,” and many of the female names end in “a.”
  • Many of the female names have double letters – double letters evidently are sexier.
  • Added length may lend a name more elegance.
By the way, the research found that the least sexy names for girls were Gertrude, Bertha, Agnes, Ethel, and Mildred. And, for boys the least sexy were Bob, Ernest, Norman, Dick, and Howard.

Here's a name flash for those trying to choose an online dating screen name. According to new research published in Evidence Based Medicine, choosing a screen name that starts with a letter from the first half of the alphabet might be just as important.

Lead author Khalid S. Khan, associate editor of Evidence Based Medicine. found that having a screen name that starts with a letter from the latter half of the alphabet (N through Z) seriously hurts your chances of finding love online.

Why? Laziness and attention span. Dating sites typically list their search results in alphabetical order. Khan says his study confirms that the later your name appears in the alphabet, the more profiles other singles will scroll through before they get to yours (if they get there at all).

“There is something in human nature that draws us to those at the top of any listing and this phenomenon, though not fully explained, has an impact on online dating,” Khan says. “Perhaps we give higher value to things that appear to be at the top of the pile.”

Khan claims one study published in Economics of Education Revew confirmed that the earlier in the alphabet a student's name comes, the more likely they are to make it into competitive schools.

Another Georgetown study found that people with late-in-the-alphabet names are more likely to be impulse shoppers. Researchers think it's because they spent their childhoods at the back of the line, and they compensate by jumping fast at opportunities – even if they maybe shouldn't take them.

Khan says the name effect even influences what companies thrive – think Amazon and Apple.

(Aleisha Fetters. “Latest WTF Study: Your First Name Affects Your Love Life.” Women's Health. February 17, 2015.)

 

So, employing all of this useful knowledge, I've decided modify my first name Frank for full sexual appeal. I admit I am 65 years-old and way down on the scale of sexiness, but why not follow the Namipedia examples. Using the characteristics above, I have concluded that my new moniker must be Afrancolinno.

And to be save in all of those listing situations, I feel I must employ the first half of the alphabet strategy. Straight to the top for my new name. Make my surname A'Thompisono.

Yep, that's me – the new, improved, sexy me. Just call me Afrancolinno A'Thompisono. Now that has the ring of some long, serious assonance and alliteration. I don't think I have any Italian genes, but I do love pizza, spaghetti, and lasagna.

The Name by Alexander Pushkin
What is my name to you? 'T will die:
a wave that has but rolled to reach
with a lone splash a distant beach;
or in the timbered night a cry ...

'T will leave a lifeless trace among
names on your tablets: the design
of an entangled gravestone line
in an unfathomable tongue.

What is it then? A long-dead past,
lost in the rush of madder dreams,
upon your soul it will not cast
Mnemosyne's pure tender beams.

But if some sorrow comes to you,
utter my name with sighs, and tell
the silence: "Memory is true -
there beats a heart wherein I dwell."

Do You Know What Makes a Person Transgender? Exploring New Ground

 

Everyone has an opinion on transgender people. Arguments about who they are, what they think, what they do, and where they belong are now raging in almost every social media circle. One question dominates the conversation, and answers to this question frequently find their basis in religious beliefs or in personal opinion based on various environment factors. The question many want to know is “What makes a person transgender?”

Scientific theories of both psychological and biological causality have been forwarded. One cause held by many is childhood trauma – now that is widely disputed. In truth, no one knows exactly what makes someone transgender. We do know there are transgender children, not just transgender adults.

No one knows why children are transgender -- there are only theories. Through the first eight weeks of pregnancy, all fetuses' brains look exactly the same: female, nature's default position. Only after testosterone surges in the womb do male brains start to develop differently. Some scientists suggest that a hormone imbalance during this stage of development stamped the brains of transgender children with the wrong gender imprint.

Being transgender is not a disorder in itself: Treatment is considered only for transgender people who experience gender dysphoria — a feeling of intense distress that one's body is not consistent with the gender he or she feels they are, explains Walter Bockting, PhD, a clinical psychologist and co-director of the LGBT Health Initiative at Columbia University Medical Center.

Treatment? It has been standard practice to treat the client for any psychiatric conditions that might be present before starting a medical transition. After that, medical treatment may include hormone therapy to diminish unwanted secondary-sex characteristics and produce or enhance secondary-sex characteristics of the desired gender.

A 2011 study led by Colt Meier, a psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Houston (Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health) showed that hormone therapy was associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress, as well as increased quality of life in a sample of more than 400 transgender men.

(Eve Glickman. “Transgender Today.” American Psychological Association. April, 2013.)

But, Dr. Eric Vilain, assistant professor of human genetics and urology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a pediatrician at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital, found that hormones alone are not answers to why people have sexual identity issues. "Our findings may help answer an important question - why do we feel male or female?" Vilain believes sexual identity is rooted in every person's biology before birth and springs from a variation in our individual genome.

Vilain explained since the 1970s, scientists have believed that estrogen and testosterone were wholly responsible for sexually organizing the brain. In other words, a fetal brain simply needed to produce more testosterone to become male. Recent evidence, however, indicates that hormones cannot explain everything about the sexual differences between male and female brains.

"Our findings may explain why we feel male or female, regardless of our actual anatomy," said Vilain. "These discoveries lend credence to the idea that being transgender --- feeling that one has been born into the body of the wrong sex -- is a state of mind.“


"From previous studies, we know that transgender persons possess normal hormonal levels," he added. "Their gender identity likely will be explained by some of the genes we discovered."

Vilain's findings on the brain's sex genes may also ease the plight of parents of intersex infants, and help their physicians to assign gender with greater accuracy. Mild cases of malformed genitalia occur in 1 percent of all births - about 3 million cases. More severe cases - where doctors can't inform parents whether they had a boy or girl -- occur in one in 3,000 births. 

"If physicians could predict the gender of newborns with ambiguous genitalia at birth, we would make less mistakes in gender assignment," said Vilain.

(Eric Vilain. “Is Sexuality Hard-Wired by the Brain?“
Molecular Brain Research. October 2003.)

A new study cited in Psychological Science provides strong evidence that trans children's understanding of their own gender identities is indistinguishable from that of their nontrans (cisgender) peers and siblings.

Lead researcher Nicholas Eaton, Ph.D., of Stony Brook University and colleagues at the TransYouth Project say that the trans kids they studied showed a clear, deeply rooted understanding of what gender identity means, running counter to common assumptions that trans kids are "pretending" or "confused" about their gender.

"Across all these tasks, across the more and the less controllable measures of gender development, our transgender participants look just like other kids, but in the direction of their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth," said Dr. Eaton.

“The data reported in this paper should serve as further evidence that transgender children do indeed exist and that this identity is a deeply held one,” the researchers concluded.

(Nicholas R. Eaton, Kristina R. Olson, and Aidan C. Key. “Gender Cognition in TransgenderChildren” Psychological Science. April 15, 2015.)

 Candis Cayne is making TV history by becoming the first transsexual 
to play a transsexual on a primetime show.

Causes Explored

Basic human nature is to shun what is not understood, and this often turns to fear of the unknown. Dating back to the late 1950’s and 60’s the train of thought was that the cause of transgender children was psychological -- that it was a choice and as such the “cure” was through psychiatric means that today would be abusive. Forced behavior modification was usually the treatment including electro shock therapy and drugged detention. At its worst, people were lobotomized.

Conventional wisdom is still that gender is some kind of inalienable property of individuals – as something they either are or have. Tristan Bridges, Assistant Professor of Sociology at The College at Brockport, State University of New York, said decades of scholarship on gender have uncovered a perspective at odds with the conventional wisdom.

Bridges claims it is much more accurate to talk about gender as something we “do” than as something we simply “are” or “have.” He cites a new study by sociologists Laurel Westbrook and Kristen Schilt on how the media manages moments of conflict over who “counts” as a woman or a man, and they’ve uncovered new reasons why we ought to care more about this distinction than you might have thought. Their study of how media navigate transgender individuals tells us more than why transgender people challenge conventional wisdom on gender.

Using the findings of Westbrook and Schilt, Bridges writes ...

“This research explores “determining gender,” the umbrella term for social practices of placing others in gender categories. It draws on three case studies showcasing moments of conflict over who counts as a man and who counts as a woman:

(a) public debates over the expansion of transgender employment rights,
(b) policies determining eligibility of transgender people for competitive sports, and
(c) proposals to remove the genital surgery requirement for a change of sex marker on birth certificates.


“We show that criteria for determining gender differ across social spaces. Gender-integrated spaces are more likely to use identity-based criteria, while gender-segregated spaces, like the sexual spaces previously examined (Schilt and Westbrook 2009), are more likely to use biology-based criteria.

“In addition, because of beliefs that women are inherently vulnerable and men are dangerous, 'men’s' and 'women’s' spaces are not policed equally—making access to women’s spaces central to debates over transgender rights.


“This cultural anxiety provoked by penises in 'women’s' spaces belies a larger investment in a twin set of cultural ideals: the belief that all people with penises are uniquely capable of violence and the belief that those without penises are uniquely vulnerable. While this anxiety might be easily upset by recognizing that transgender women are most often the targets — not the perpetrators — of violence, This fact is less publicly recognized than it should be.

“Our collective failure to recognize violence against transgender women is a testament to the power of conventional wisdom about gender. While transgender people have a unique capacity to help us understand gender as more flexible than we often imagine, the research illustrates the ways that the challenges brought about by transgender individuals are often dealt with in ways that have the effect of shoring up our faith in gender as innate and gender inequality is inevitable.

“This research helps us learn more about some of the most deeply held beliefs in our culture about gender. The findings show that, despite the many gains toward greater gender equality, we still fervently hold onto a set of beliefs that speak to the endurance of inequality and just how difficult it will be to overcome.”

(Tristan Bridges.What Research About Transgender People Can Teach Us About Gender and Inequality.” Huffington Post. March 26, 2014.)

(Laurel Westbrook and Kristen Schilt.“Transgender People, Gender Panics, and the Maintenance of the Sex/Gender/Sexuality System.” Gender and Society. February 2014.)


Trying to identify causes, whether they be genetic, hormonal, 
or something else entirely, those studies are underway. 
The question is, what contributes to the formation of gender identity? It's really complex."
 

--Olson

Exit Thoughts


If you subscribe to the simple acceptance of “You are who you are,” you should acknowledge that trying to change your gender identity can cause a great deal of harm. In turn, that would mean that you also believe those who try to change the gender identity of another – in this case, that of a transgender person -- are wrong.

Still, that simple acceptance is not good enough for some people. Some demand a scientific explanation for the existence of transpeople, and some simply say they are “abominations” because they claim to know the will of God.

One astute observer posited that in place of broad acceptance, Western society has “come up with the idea that life is some sort of contest in which there are winners and losers.” Thus, people need to prove that their way of life is a winning strategy. Some of these people then claim that any life that is not lived in accordance with their strategy is the life of a loser. Then, they set out to make their belief a reality by making the lives of those they have labeled as losers more difficult and forcing them to adopt a “normal” life strategy. These “normal” people do this because “it somehow is supposed to make them feel better about themselves and their lot in life.”

(Rserven. “Why are some people transgender.” Kos Media. August 05, 2014.)

"'Normal' is a setting for machines."

--Anonymous

Labeling transgender folks as “losers” and forcing them into boxes of normality is very close-minded and judgmental even if your beliefs are based on a personal rapport with the Almighty. What makes a person transgender? I don't know. Did you ever think that perhaps it is enough to use your faith and to understand that he or she is a beautiful creation of God.

 On Gender
extraordinary – weird
unconventional – odd
exceptional – queer
peculiar – strange
gifted – outlandish
outstanding – bizarre
special – eccentric
curious – atypical
unusual – abnormal


Why is "normal"
the objective?


There is
a broad horizon
of possibility
for the human
condition.


Rather than circling
our wagons
to protect and defend
only one or two
or even just a few
acceptable ways
of living,
shouldn't we
begin the exploration
of those other
possibilities?


Why isn't it possible
to expand  the definition
of woman
and expand the definition
of man,
while simultaneously allowing
people to claim neither
or both or even
to develop
whole new categories
of gender?


What does
society have
to lose?
What does
society have
to fear?


Once again, I  ask:
Why is normality
the objective?


--Robyn Elaine Serven
--November 9, 2005

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Flatwoods, Kentucky Denies Gender Identity: Spiritual Wickedness or Mass Hysteria?

 

“The Lord Jesus Christ loves everybody, but because he loves everybody, he also has set a standard of living for people, and through the standard of living declared in the word of God find it (is) mentioned that because the Bible tells us so,” said Anthony Keaton, pastor of Abundant Life United Pentecostal Church in Flatwoods, Kentucky, to city council.

Keaton continued, “So today, I stand behind this council and the mayor and their ordinance that they have brought forth, and I pray that they would have unity, because with unity there is strength and through unity good things happen. I know that today there are people that fear if we do not pass this agenda. You say protecting the transgender? Well let’s protect the majority of our community.”

With a vote of five members of the Flatwoods City Council, and one abstaining, the second reading of a city ordinance which would deny transgender usage of restrooms and shower facilities in government buildings in Flatwoods was passed Saturday during a special meeting.

Flatwoods Mayor Ron Fields also said that he does not presently know how they (the city) will “police” restrooms in government buildings in Flatwoods and that he would be talking with the prosecuting attorney, and the chief of the Flatwoods Police Department about the matter.

(Portia Williams. “Transgender access denied: Flatwoods City Council bans restroom access.” Portsmouth Daily Times. May 21st, 2016.)

Another man at the council meeting, Doug Spillman, spoke in favor of the draft. He said, "It's spiritual wickedness in high places.” He can't imagine a world where men and women share bathrooms, especially in his hometown.

"I believe today Satan is using a lot of these issues to cause the problems we have today," Spillman said.

(Jessie Starkey. “Flatwoods City Council approves controversial transgender bathroom measure.” WCHS Channel 8. May 21, 2016.) 
 
I'm trying to comprehend the need for an ordinance that requires people to use bathrooms according to the gender on their birth certificate. The public safety? Gender-policing of bathrooms? Jesus “tells us so” regarding checking sexual parts? Declaring “unity” against transgenders?

Let me give you another religious perspective from Rt. Rev. Scott Anson Benhase, the tenth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. He relates his experience with the issue:

When I was a young curate in Indianapolis in the early 1980s, a parishioner of mine was also a leading pediatrician at the Indiana Children’s Hospital...

This pediatrician headed a panel of other doctors and medical professionals who had the awesome responsibility for discerning which gender to assign to babies brought to the Children’s Hospital. More often than probably anyone thinks, children are born with mixed genitalia, or confused genitalia, or none at all. My parishioner and his team had to weigh all the data they had in front of them and do their best through medical procedures and other measures to assign a gender to these babies. They were greatly committed to their work because they knew they were making decisions that would affect these children for the rest of their lives. Sometimes they got it right and sometimes they didn’t. And they often wouldn’t know whether or not they got it right until long after the children grew up.

“Science and medicine have come a long way in the last 30 years or so, but much about human sexuality and gender identity is still unknown to us. It seems odd to many of us that someone who has the apparent biology of one gender might experience life inside their soul as the other gender. What seems even odder to me is that some other people would think that people who have this gender dilemma are doing it just for fun, or to be different, or just to flagrantly express themselves. No one would wish to bring such a dilemma on themselves knowing the external pressure and possible social ridicule they could face. The pull of gender identity in each of us is strong. Most often it’s clear and unambiguous, but sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s messy and confusing, like life itself sometimes is for all of us.

I’m certainly no expert on biology or medical science, but I’ve spent a life time reflecting theologically on the world around me using the teachings of Jesus and his Cross as my foundation. Often my reflection has led me to the completely obvious spiritual insight that life’s messy and not always as clear as we’d like. As St Paul says: “we see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). And Jesus, no matter with whom he interacted: the rich young man, the woman caught in adultery, the woman who washed his feet with her tears, Jairus, Simon Peter, or even Judas Iscariot – Jesus always showed mercy. And he called his followers to show mercy as well, because, well, life’s messy.

“I don’t know the answers to the questions that human sexuality and gender identity pose. I do know that “Restroom Laws” try to solve a problem that does not really exist. And I do know this as well: when Jesus was faced with the messiness of this world, he responded to it with such grace that not even the grave could contain him.”

(Rt. Rev. Scott Anson Benhase. “Gender Identity, the Messiness of Life and the Mercy of Jesus.” The Ecrozier. 2016.)

Click here to read Benhase's entire article: http://ecrozier.georgiaepiscopal.org/?p=1363 .

 

I agree with Rev. Benhase. Indeed, we see through a glass darkly. As humans, we often fall victim to our own personal prejudices. And, when those of us in doubt imagine inevitable dangers that don't exist and take it upon ourselves to fight the spectres of demons, we stir deep emotions and even primal fears.

I believe when Christians use the Holy Scriptures to exert political force and incite false alarm in these situations, they deny the mercy of Jesus.

In the case of Flatwoods City Council's ordinance, what some are calling “spiritual wickedness” is based upon distrust and ignorance of the issues of gender and sex. A true guiding light is based on love and trust for all fellow humans, not just for a select majority. Knowledge can guide crucial understanding and expand human horizons.

I cannot fathom the difficulties faced by those who are transgender. I am certain they must endure overwhelming scorn and disapproval as they seek their gender identity. I know they must endure many hurtful comments and struggle for simple acceptance. It seems many people want to judge them on the “correctness” of their genitals rather than on their hearts and minds. This warrant is inhuman treatment, and the bathroom uproar is a symptom of dehumanization and further discrimination.

I have heard Christians stand on biblical passages and say transgenders are “abominations.” Are we to believe they do not fit God's design? It is undeniable that there are those with chromosomes, genitalia, and hormones that do not fit their assigned birth sex. In misunderstanding, fear, and desperation, these followers are prone to assert that everyone must fit one of two molds for gender – male or female.

Yet, Galatians 3:28 states: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Is it Christian practice to deny equality and love to those who are baptized into Christ? Policing bathrooms for gender identity certainly intrudes on privacy and reduces any person to his or her sexual organs. Where is the grace in this?

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.”

--William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice