Thursday, January 24, 2013

Snow! Obama’s Second Inauguration, Honduras Trip, Cholera in Cuba, Hugo Chavez, Clean Energy, Russian Adoption Ban, Hilary Clinton, Mental Health First Aid, Interpretation Gigs, Field of Dreams, Spanking

Here in DC, it turned cold on Tues. and this morning, when I went out at 6:30am today for a school interpretation, it was snowing! Nonetheless, I got to the school before 8 am just in time to meet a mother from Honduras (!) and her daughter while we waited for the teachers she was meeting to arrive. When we left the school at 10 am, the snow was already melting, but it was exciting while it lasted. Maybe an inch fell, max. So much for global warming!

Lots of symbolism when President Obama’s second inauguration coincided on January 21 with Martin Luther King Day. I had gone down to the mall 4 years ago, located at walking distance from our house, when my daughter Stephanie came out from Hawaii to witness the events. It was a cold day then, in the 20s, with people packed in so tightly we couldn’t even move our feet. It reminded me of being at one of President Carter’s inaugural balls, where dancing was completely out of the question. I was glad to have gone to hear Obama’s first inaugural address in person, but was hardly eager to repeat the experience. The day before this year’s event, several of us who had gone in 2009 met for a commemorative brunch at a local eatery. One friend at the brunch admitted that standing so long out in the cold on that historic day 4 years ago, he had tried in vain to make his way through the dense crowd to one of the port-a-potties set up around the mall, finally giving up and wetting his pants. This year, there was a little sunshine and temperatures near 40, and a smaller crowd, “only” an estimated 700,000 rather the record-breaking 1.8 million in 2009. I’m always fearful when Obama gets out to walk along the parade route because with all those people gathered and the existence of so many fierce, gun-totting types, surely his secret service might not be able to prevent some very determined guy from taking a shot at him. I remember President Kennedy insisting on riding in an open car in Dallas. But Obama got out to walk today without incident. I’m glad now, finally, that Obama has put our DC “taxation without representation” license plate on his car. Most other citizens take their congressional and senate reps for granted, not realizing that we in DC are more populous than at least one other state, Cheney’s Wyoming, and close in size to small population states like Alaska and Delaware. DC has a growing population, unlike that of other eastern cities.

Lyndon Johnson apparently had the next largest inaugural crowd after Obama, 1.2 million in 1965. Bill Clinton got 800,000 in 1993 and GW Bush 400,000 in 2005. Bush had a substantially smaller crowd in 2001, but the count was confounded by the turnout of a record number of protestors, many of whom were arrested.

Just got a surprise e-mail message from a former Honduras PC colleague with whom I haven’t been in contact since 2002: I served with you in the Sur V group, and Will Carter alerted me to the existence of your book. I read it, and it was fantastic. It took me right back in a very vivid way. Thanks for such a good book. I keep telling my wife that we're going to do the Peace Corps after we retire ... she seems a little reluctant, but I have about 20 years to convince her!

Now, it’s official; I will be leaving in mid-Feb. for Honduras once again, my 9th return trip there since my departure from the Peace Corps. I’ll be as careful as I can--travel is always a challenge there and security is a constant concern, especially in cities. Now I'm told that a wheelchair I was going to transport to the south is being used locally. I've said if someone in La Esperanza needs it, by all means leave it there. I wouldn't want to take it away from that person. So if that's the case, one less headache for me. I only wanted to take it to the Choluteca rehab center if no one needed it in La Esper. For about 2 years, it has been sitting at the Red Cross building in La Esper. unused. I told them long ago to look for someone who needed it locally. Now that they've found such a person, they act like I want to repossess the chair. I don't have some proprietary feeling about that wheelchair. Sometimes, even now, Hondurans and I seem to be miscommunicating

Cuba acknowledges 51 cholera cases

Associated Press – Tues. Jan 15, 2013

The above acknowledgment by the Cuban government is rather late, as cholera started there last July, perhaps transmitted by health workers helping out with the cholera epidemic in Haiti.


According to Brazilian cancer specialists close to the Chavez case, he was offered free treatment in Brazil and could have probably had it in other countries, but chose Cuba because of its tighter secrecy and to give a boost to Cuba’s medical reputation (not such a big boost if he fails to survive). But the Brazilian doctors don’t believe that Cuban medicine is so advanced and insist that they could have cured Chavez if he had come to them—they claim to know all about his condition and his type of cancer and that he put himself in jeopardy by opting for treatment in Cuba.

Hugo Chavez’s former wife, Nancy Iriarte, published a blistering letter on January 12 in the newspaper El Universal, berating him for ruining families, pushing Venezuelans to emigrate, and imprisoning his political rivals and critics. Here’s a translation of the gist of it: “What do your powers and accolades amount to now? You are dying in another country, with the poor being poorer, leaving a nation on the verge of civil war. You will go down in history as a traitor and a coward who sacrificed your liberty and that of others.”

Just got a breakdown on my electric bill for last six months, including the sources of energy. We think of electricity as clean energy, but it doesn’t come out of the blue; it derives from fuel. Of our local electricity sources, more than 42% comes from coal, 18% from gas, 35% from nuclear power, and the remaining 5% from oil, solar, and wind, not so very “clean” after all.

A young former Honduras Peace Corps volunteer buddy of mine, Mitch Harrison, who wrote a short blurb for my Honduras book, was in town to get an award. He and his Mexican wife now live and work in Austin, Texas. His mother came from Minnesota to be on hand for his award ceremony. Four years ago, Mitch was selling hand warmers at Obama’s inauguration and desperately looking for a job. But thanks to winning a federal internship, he is now part of the federal workforce, though who knows how secure federal employment is these days? Last year, my former Cuban rafter housemate, Jose Manuel, was laid off from a 10-year half-time federal job because of cuts of federal part-time employees.

One of the hats I wear is as a board member of an adoption agency that does home studies for both domestic and international adoptions. At one time, I was president of an agency that facilitated the adoption of Russian children, among others. Approximately 60,000 Russian children have been adopted in the United States in the last decade and, of those, only 19 have been problematic and grabbed headlines in both countries. One was a sad and notorious case right here in the DC area a few years ago, whereby an adoptive father of a Russian-born toddler forgot to drop him off at day care, leaving him sitting strapped into his car seat inside the vehicle to die in the heat. I’m sure that man and his wife have not lived down that terrible event. Another case was a single woman who had adopted a school-age boy and could not handle him, so she sent him back alone to Russia. Not to excuse those adoptive parents, but when such a large number of adoptions are undertaken, the record of success will not be 100%. Nor does it mean that the other 99+% of adoptions should have been prevented. Of course, every country wants to protect its international image and sending children to be raised abroad is often considered shameful, showing that the country cannot take care of its own. Yet, 100,000 Russian citizens have signed a petition protesting the US-adoption ban. Apparently as the result of these internal protests, the Russian government has decided to delay implementation of the ban for a year, allowing most adoptions already in process to go forward.

I’ve not seen inside Russian orphanages, although when I was agency president, I heard a lot about them. Our agency provided funds to orphanages above and beyond the costs of supporting and processing the children that our families here were adopting, but, frankly, there was much corruption involved. I also saw children’s facilities in Romania in the 1990s, not a pretty picture. So the odds for a child being adopted by an American family are much better than letting that child stay in a Russian orphanage. About half of all Russian children adopted worldwide have gone to the US. Nor do many Russians adopt children themselves, because of both financial and cultural reasons. Last fall, Russia and the US worked out an elaborate adoption agreement that now the Putin government is rejecting. All this is in retaliation for a US visa ban for alleged Russian human rights abusers. The head of the Russian Orthodox church is now urging Russians to adopt children themselves, which, if they heed his call, would be great.

Among other things, I think Hilary Clinton just got worn out by her secretary of state job and, while being in the hospital was not her idea of a vacation, she did get a rest. Surely a book is in the works in the immediate future.

In Virginia, an intriguing initiative is underway to offer mental health first aid. Just what that might consist of and how administered is still being worked out, but it does seem that there needs to be somewhere that people can turn if they feel out of control or observe someone else in that state, though it’s always tricky to label another’s behavior as demonstrating mental health problems. Such a provision must not be used to disparage the reputation of an opponent in personal disputes.

Won’t say much on the Obama administration’s gun control recommendations, which seem reasonable and mild to me, but evidently not to the gun lobby’s liking, which apparently wants no more restrictions or accountability whatsoever. The NRA has accused the Obama daughters of having armed guards at their school, which is technically untrue, although they do have secret service protection, since all members of a president’s family do need extra security. And while all of us would welcome any initiatives to better identify and treat the mentally ill, mental health treatment is inexact, often unsuccessful, would require increased expenditures in an era of budget cutting, and all would-be patients still have the right to refuse treatment unless it can be definitively demonstrated in court that they are a danger to themselves and others, very difficult to do before the fact. Furthermore, most murders are not committed by the mentally ill. Rather, anyone is at risk for “going off,” acting irrationally in an emotional moment, especially young men, indicating that testosterone is one risk factor for violence. Should all men be barred from having guns? That would probably cut down considerably on gun killings if it ever could be implemented.

Conspiracy theorists are now harassing the heroes and bereaved parents of Sandy Hook, saying that the tragic events there never took place. These are obviously dangerous and deluded individuals and all are apparently militant gun owners. If anyone’s guns should be taken away, it should be theirs, since their judgment and moral sense are obviously flawed.

Incidentally, DC’s murder rate in 2012, a total of 88, was the lowest since 1966. That’s still 88 too many, of course, but a far cry from when the city was called “the murder capital.” Obviously, the reduction is due to more than gun controls; it also has to do with a reduction in the culture of violence and drug use.

While at a recent interpretation assignment, involving rather emotional child welfare issues, I suddenly had a senior moment and couldn’t remember the word in Spanish for a [drinking] straw—the word is pajilla. My days as an interpreter will be numbered if that begins to happen too often!

Among other recent Spanish-language assignments was a meeting with a mother and son at a Maryland high school with 3,000 students (!), a hospital MRI session, and a tricky translation of medical documents, so there is considerable variety in what I do, one of the perks of this type of work. In a private home where a child was being evaluated for early intervention services, a TV set was running non-stop with a telenovela, a soap opera. I noticed that one of the actors, who tellingly removing his wedding ring before meeting new lovely lady, was a Cuban film actor whom I had met in Havana in the 1990s. I commented to the mother of the child we were visiting, who told me he had defected to Mexico and started a new career there.

At a hearing center for drivers’ license revocation appeals, for the first time, my Spanish-speaking client was a woman. From my own clients over the years and observing English-speakers waiting for hearings, almost never do women appeal revocation of their driving privileges. The only woman I know personally who did so is my friend now in an Alzheimer’s facility who was found not competent to drive by an administrative hearing judge, despite hiring a lawyer to plead her case.

I also spent two 12-hour days at a detention center for boys in rural Maryland. Our client was a 15-year from Guatemala whose father had brought him here 2 months earlier, in part because of threats from gangs there. However, he was not finding what he had expected and wanted to return to Guatemala to his mother, siblings, and girl friend there. In fact, he was hoping to be deported! He would not tell me why he was in detention, but implied it might be due in part to a disagreement with his father, who had brought him to the US at great effort and expense, either legally or illegally. He had only gone to 4th grade, so was way behind academically. In math class, I showed him for the first time how to carry over numbers when subtracting. He was totally lost, of course, in English and computer classes.

This detention facility posted a lot of signs exhorting the boys to “Show a positive attitude,” Work for success,” “Be respectful,” and “Thank you for using good manners,” all while the staff were yelling at them to pull up their pants, to wear their socks inside their pant cuffs, and to “Shut up!”.

But perhaps the most unusual assignment was a city-wide meeting about the DC Public Schools’ budget where I was on hand to interpret for Spanish speakers. The public school chancellor attended with other staff members. Those testifying included PTA presidents and an ACLU rep. Slated school closings were the most contentious issue, as were teacher layoffs, including a bitter 20-year veteran teacher just laid off, whose grievances exceeded the 4-minute per speaker limit, so that her microphone was turned off and she stormed out. Several speakers lamented the inroads that charter schools have made into the enrollment of traditional public schools, promoting a call for holding the line at regular public school enrollment at 65%. Instead of closing neighborhood schools, it was suggested that unused space be converted to infant and toddler care.

In an era of budget-tightening and school enrollment decline, there were calls for a reduction in central office staff, and by implication, in their salaries, such as the chancellor’s, which exceeds $200,000 a year, and making sure all staff are district residents. But more services were advocated at the community level, including more emphasis on school safety after the shootings in Conn. (some DC schools do have guards at the door, but not armed), as well as more after-school programs, special education, social workers, parent education, college prep, foreign language classes, computerization of documents and records, distance learning, and, even, therapeutic swimming and horse-back riding. How would all this be paid for? Higher taxes devoted to schools and partnering with corporations, such as Microsoft, and the use of company logos on uniforms were suggested. It was pointed out that the district’s population is now growing, which is true, though it’s uncertain whether this means a growth in the school-age population, as many newcomers are childless singles or couples who may move away when they become parents or send their children to private schools. However, in my observation in my interpretation work, DC schools have improved a lot in recent years and most staff seem quite knowledgeable and dedicated, a tribute in part to controversial former chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Dreams: do they have any logic or consistent patterns or are they just random snippets of thought that happen to come together? Mostly, they just swirl around and evaporate from our minds, like, I suppose, the subjective experiences of people with Alzheimer’s or some other severe dementia, epitomizing living in the moment with no real continuity. Often, as soon as I wake up, I know I’ve been having a complicated and engaging dream, but unless I consciously try to re-remember it immediately, it’s gone in a flash. The other morning, however, I did recall a dream on waking. I had a car—not so in real life where I go carless to protect the environment and my pocketbook. A small, cute pink pig had gotten into my car somehow and, try as I might, I couldn’t get her out. She kept jumping from the back to the front seat or trying to squeeze under or between the divided front seats. Finally, in exasperation, I called an animal control guy who said to bring the car with her inside and they would take care of the matter. I got directions and asked a young man living at my house to accompany me there, apparently George from Georgia (who actually lived at my house last summer), who ended up taking the wheel. We drove and drove, past lovely forests, lakes, and waterfalls. This was taking far longer than I had expected. Where were we going, I asked George? Then, to my further surprise, we pulled up to a checkpoint at the Canadian border where border guards wore Mounties’ uniforms. These, evidently, were the folks who were going to get the pig out of my car. How in the world had my unconscious imagination invented such a story and how is it that the “I” in these tales becomes so subjectively surprised, angry, or pleased about events that unfold dreams, seemingly occurring outside my control, when I am obviously the author of the whole darn thing? It’s a puzzle that makes me wonder if conscious and unconscious minds are separate entities.

A debate is making the rounds of the internet regarding corporal punishment of kids, outlawed in 33 countries with Brazil soon anticipated to become the 34th and in 31 states and the District of Columbia, although from what I’ve observed here, parents do hit their kids in public with no apparent repercussions for the parents. In Honduras, corporal punishment of children is common, often using a belt or switch—or sometimes just threatening with it to insure obedience. Corporal punishment has been associated with later behavior and psychological problems and I never used it myself except once with my younger son who kept getting out of the time-out chair, an act for which I was remorseful. I myself was sometimes hit fairly hard with a hairbrush by my mother when I was young, I don’t recall for what. Did that do lasting damage? I don’t know. Many people who were raised with an occasional swat think they were not harmed and they deliberately use the same techniques with their own kids, following the motto “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” although now experts saying what actually spoils the child is using the rod. Some advocates of corporal punishment contend that trying to keep parents from spanking children in their own homes is nanny-state overreach and is getting the rest of society way too involved in private family business.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Christmas, Fiscal Cliff, Honduras, Zero Dark Thirty, Gun Violence Again

Photos got somehwat mixed up n posting. Some are from a Christmas Eve Mass at Communitas,my progressive Catholic storefront community, with a potluck held afterward. I’m shown with Sophia, a 12-year-old whose Haitian father was killed in an auto accident in Haiti before her birth. In January, she and her mother will travel there, where she will visit her father’s relatives and native country for the first time. On Christmas Day, roses were still blooming outside my house and next-door, showing that we hadn’t quite reached the freezing point yet. The other photos are from a Christmas dinner prepared by Jose Manuel, a former Cuban refugee rafter who lived in my house in 1996-7, including a Santeria shrine he has erected in his dining room. His photo of me, with his new camera, is much clearer than mine. On New Year’s Day, the roses were still out, bravely withstanding temperatures hovering around freezing.

Well, we went over the Fiscal Cliff and the world didn’t stop; the sun still rose in the east. And the matter was resolved quickly before the markets opened again on January 2. At first, it seemed that many Republican Congressmen really didn't care about the cliff, coming as they do from conservative districts where their priority is getting reelected, maintaining their high salaries and perks, and sticking to their Grover Norquist pledge, never mind the nation's wellbeing. But, in the end, they must have been persuaded by the Republican leadership that the party would be blamed by the American people and the world for an economic collapse if they stuck to their position. Also, they may have foreseen that their own constituents would be hurt if no deal was reached. While congressmen represent limited districts, their districts inevitably are linked to the nation and the world. Now there is a big fight ahead for the next two months on what actually to cut, a fight that promises to be bruising.

Excerpts below from reporter, Alberto Arce,

AP's Honduras correspondent navigates violent land

From Associated Press, December 30, 2012

In the daytime, I use trusted drivers like Jose to guide me through Tegucigalpa's chaotic streets, past its barbed-wire fences, mounds of garbage and packs of dogs. I keep the tinted windows up, the doors locked, and we don't stop at the lights, so we won't get carjacked.

I vary my routes. I try not to fall victim to the permanent sense of danger that hangs over the capital, where the conversation is invariably about whose relative was just killed, or what atrocity happened on the corner. Yet I constantly check the rear and side mirrors of Jose's car for approaching motorcycles. Honduras has the world's highest murder rate, and paid gunmen almost always travel by motorcycle to make a quick getaway through impossible traffic.

The violence is a stark contrast to the friendly feel of a land where many have a Caribbean attitude about life, happy and easygoing. Once you leave the cities, the landscape is amazing — wild, healthy, and savage, from the waterfalls of La Tigra National park, just half an hour from the capital, to the islands of the Caribbean and the world's second largest coral reef.

To see acting CIA director Michael Morell’s statement to employees on how the film "Zero Dark Thirty" differs from reality, check it out on He reminds employees that the film is a dramatization, not a documentary, and that it distorts and compresses the facts.

My heart goes out now to all the parents who lost children in the Sandy Hook School shooting. They are currently experiencing an outpouring of attention and support, but soon enough, it will all stop and they will be left alone with their grief. The Compassionate Friends, a support group of bereaved families, may be able to help them over the long haul. Why are toys pouring into Newtown? Surely not for the dead children, perhaps for the survivors, though toys hardly make up for the loss of siblings and friends. Of course, every day, people all over the US are killed by guns, either in homicides, suicides, or accidents. An internet effort to count these deaths nationally, at least accidents and homicides, is underway. Suicides, which may actually outnumber murders, are more difficult to count because they are often not reported. A few gun deaths arguably would have happened by other means—stabbings, poisonings, drug overdoses, affixations.

President Obama gave a powerful and heart-rending speech after the shooting. He is an eloquent and convincing speaker—maybe a modern Abraham Lincoln in terms of rhetoric? But, of course, the proof is in the pudding, not in the words, but what he had to say was still moving and important. The gun control issue is complicated and not easily solved. There has been a lot of emphasis on the shooter’s mental state and possible mental illness, but that focus alone will not solve the problem. We are talking about budget cuts, not increased spending for mental health treatment. And even if ideal treatment were available for every single person with mental illness, such treatment often does not work, or works only in part, or the individual refuses to participate. Certainly Adam Lanza’s family had access to the best mental health care. Keeping a lot of guns around him was not such a good idea, as it turns out. That would seem pretty obvious, but apparently his mother didn’t see it and paid with her life. All her guns were legally obtained and she apparently taught her son about how to use a gun safely.

Nor do the mentally ill pose the only danger. Somewhere I saw a statement that less than 4% of gun murders are done my mentally ill people. What about all those other guys (mostly guys, not gals) who are laid off from a job or fighting with their spouse? They may not be technically mentally ill, but may be seeking vengeance or may succumb to sudden impulses. Finally, there are anti-government, anarchist types, survivalists, and militant white supremacists in the mold of the Uni-bomber or Timothy McVeigh or those who have been making recent ominous blog posts complaining about “a black man in the White House” and needing to arm themselves for a possible uprising against the pernicious federal government, unwilling to accept the election outcome. And there are always gun suicides. Since the school shooting, there have been a number of other gun deaths, including four killed in Pa. Of course, publicity doesn’t help.

In 2009, there were at least 11,500 gun murders and 18,000 gun suicides in the US, fewer perhaps than in previous years, but too many and far more than those lost on 9/11. Without access to guns, or such ready access, some might have tried suicide or murder by other means, but other means result in death less than half the time. Countries with fewer guns, but with the same rates as the U.S. of mental illness, players of violent video games, and the showing of violent movies and TV shows, causes cited by the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, still have much lower homicide rates. Nor do we have the capacity as a nation in both personnel and money to place a trained armed guard in all 140,000 American schools, as LaPierre advocates. And what about mass shootings outside of schools? LaPierre’s remarks seem to have increased the backlash against the once-invincible NRA. Actually, in its early days, the NRA itself advocated gun control and promoted safety training for all gun owners. Even Israel has more restrictive gun laws than the US. We put extra controls in place after 9/11; what about doing something now to reduce gun violence?

Statistically, the intersection of either mentally ill, angry, careless, or impulsive people with the easy availability of firearms has meant many more gun deaths here compared with the rate in other developed countries. And high-powered weapons have resulted in multiple deaths. Yes, there was a mass murderer in Norway by a man using illegal weapons, presumably obtained from outside the country, but a single such incident in a century or maybe longer? And there was a man in China, just days before Sandy Hook, who, without access to a gun, attacked 22 in a school with a knife, but none died. Already, city police forces are accelerating gun buy-back programs. Why not go further? As suggested before on this blog, what about paying gun manufacturers not to make weapons, much as we have paid farmers not to grow crops? It could be a program for reducing gun production over time, giving firearms manufacturers time to convert to other enterprises. Guns for police, hunting, and military uses would still need to be made.

Inevitably, there will be more armed guards and metal detectors in schools, which I’d consider a lesser evil and less dangerous than arming teachers. But, of course, with education funds being cut, not every school would be able to do that and many won’t want to. Columbine High School had an armed security guard who shot at the killers, but missed. Most mass killings occur outside of schools anyway, as do most gun deaths. I cannot help thinking of Honduras, where everyone is armed and even ice cream parlors, cell phone shops, and drug stores have armed guards, and where the homicide rate is the highest in the world. Apparently, arms provide an incentive to shoot to kill, not a deterrent.

There is no 100% solution to any problem, only odds of success and failure. In medicine, surgery, chemotherapy, and antibiotics all have both benefits and risks, as do all other human endeavors, from marriage and parenthood to work and play. The prospects for any outcome are determined by statistics, simply dry numbers. So it is with gun rights and gun control. Sometimes having arms will prove protective, sometimes useless or lethal. What are the numbers for each?

An assault weapons ban, universal background checks, education in gun safety, expanded and improved mental health services and anger management programs, increased school security, and a reduction in violent films and videogames may all help reduce the carnage from gun violence, but will not totally eliminate gun murders, suicides, and accidents as long as guns exist. The task is to reduce their frequency, to reduce the odds. I believe having fewer guns in circulation would do that, as shown by the experience of other countries.

An individual’s right to bear arms needs to be tempered by the right of other individuals not to be killed. Individual rights are not unlimited, but subject to rules and limits. We may drive cars, but not over the speed limit or when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. We may have the right to a particular sexual expression or orientation, but not the right to impose that on another person without their consent, on a child, or to impregnate someone without taking responsibility for any offspring, nor are we allowed to deliberately infect someone with AIDS or another STD. Likewise, owning a gun implies responsibilities and limitations and there is a special problem with firearms exemplified by the Conn. shooter, in that he may not have been approved to own a gun himself, but his mother was a legal gun collector.

A reader who supports gun rights admits: I don't think the framers contemplated the invention and development of assault rifles, the introduction of the Glock, aka America's gun, or the diminution of individual responsibility on the part of so many citizens. Also worth noting is that 18th-century firearms were lethal only in the hands of experts or persons able to fire at very close range. Of course there were more experts back then, since it behooved men who wanted to feed their families to develop skill in the use of those slow-to-load, unreliable, inaccurate weapons. But the risk of a deranged kid swiping Dad's musket from the Battle of Yorktown and opening massacre-level fire on the village green was nil.

She further observes: It's truly shocking that the shooter's mother, who knew very well that her younger son had for years been seriously disturbed, kept all those guns in the house. OK, it was her hobby. Well get another one, lady. You like to drink craft beers? Go do that. You can tell the guys at the bar about the guns you used to have.

Of course, the Sandy Hook school shooting was not the end of gun violence for the year. There were the two fire fighters killed in upstate New York and several other less reported killings. And now it turns out, while the NRA’s LaPierre decries violent videogames, gun manufacturers are helping create and promote such games. Hypocrisy is rampant.

I had joined a lively discussion on LinkedIn entitled “Freedom in Cuba, the Middle East & Everywhere,” but after the Sandy Hook school shootings, it degenerated into a series of back-and-forth name-calling posts on gun control, with hundreds of messages being posted daily, most trashed by me without being read. Arguably, gun control does involve questions of freedom, the freedom to bear arms and also to express opinions about the subject, but the discussion was veering far afield from where it had begun. The man who had made the original post tried in vain to return to the main topic, but those engaging in the argument ignored him and continued badgering each other, just a microcosm of the bitter debate awaiting us on gun control at a national level.