Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘vicious people doing stupid’ Category

My Thoughts on the Salman Rushdie Stabbing

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Folks, yesterday, in Chautauqua, NY, author Sir Salman Rushdie was about to give a speech at the Chautauqua Institution. He’d stepped up to the podium with another man, Henry Reese (the co-founder of the nonprofit City of Asylum), as they were both going to speak about the importance of freedom of speech with regards to artistic expression.

This is an important topic. It always is. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression is of paramount importance, especially in the United States of America.*

So, picture yourself there. It’s a crowded room, as Salman Rushdie is a well-known author with multiple, well-received books to his credit. Everyone there wants to see and hear him, as he’s been under the threat of persecution for a long, long time…

All except for one.

That guy, a twenty-four-year-old idiot, ran to the podium and stabbed Rushdie multiple times before he was brought down by audience members and a lone policeman. Rushdie sustained injuries in the throat, to his liver, to his arm (nerves are reportedly severed), and to one of his eyes (which he may lose). The idiot also stabbed Reese in the face**, possibly to get Reese out of the way quicker so he could go to town on Rushdie.

(As per usual, I am not going to name this guy.)

This all happened a bit before 11 a.m. EDT, and the people on the scene said the lack of security was a problem. One spoke on one of the cable news networks (I forget which) to say that they were screening out people who brought coffee and water into the auditorium (or wherever this speech was to be held); they’d have done better to screen for weapons.

And think about that lack of security for a moment. Was this a good idea, especially considering Rushdie was about to speak?

Rushdie has had a fatwa, otherwise known as a price on his head, since the late 1980s after his novel The Satanic Verses came out. The last anyone checked, the bounty for killing Rushdie was up to $3.3M.

Just writing that sickens me.

A person’s life is worth so much more than any amount of money. What one person can do, what one person’s strengths can do, what one person’s transmutation of weaknesses can do, is unable to be monetized. Because it is infinite in possibilities.

I said at my Facebook page that I understand people hating books. I understand, even, people hating authors. But leave it there. Don’t attack authors just because you hate them.

We believe in freedom of speech in this country, which might be one reason why Rushdie relocated here in the early 2000s. (He has never become a US citizen, I don’t think. Last I checked — which was last night — Rushdie is a citizen of the UK.)

So, in a nation that celebrates free speech, at a place that most especially discusses writing and writers and thoughts related to such, a twenty-four-year-old decided to stab one of the most decorated writers alive.

I don’t care about the stabber’s motivation. I care that he stabbed Rushdie multiple times, that Rushdie is said to be on a ventilator right now, that Rushdie has injuries to his arm (nerve damage is a serious thing), and that Rushdie may lose an eye.

I sincerely hope that Salman Rushdie will fully recover. I hope he won’t lose his eye. I hope his liver will heal. I hope his nerves in his arm that apparently got severed will be reattached, and that with physical therapy and time, he will be restored to himself in full measure.

But the thought that a fellow writer — albeit one that’s wealthy and well-known, unlike me — had this happen bothers me greatly.

I wrote a blog a while ago called “Where Can We Be Safe?

That rings in my mind right now, as I continue to ponder the utter wreckage this twenty-four-year-old stabber left in his wake.


*The way I always learned it was, “I may not like what you have to say. I may really hate it, in fact. But I will defend to the death your right to say it.” (That is, providing you’re not doing something asinine like yelling fire in a crowded theatre that’s not actually on fire.)

**In case you’re wondering about the other speaker, Mr. Reese, he was treated and released from the hospital.

The Aurora (CO) Massacre: Why Did This Happen?

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Another horrific incident has happened, folks — James Holmes, 24, of Colorado, shot at least 71 people at an Aurora, CO, movie theater during a midnight showing of the latest “Batman” movie.  So far, 12 have been killed, with more people in critical condition who could pass on at any time in what’s being called the worst mass shooting in American history. 

And Holmes did this . . . why?

The best guess as to why Holmes did this seems to be that Holmes is a psychopath, and/or is mentally ill to such a degree that he does not understand the world or the people around him in the same way most of the rest of us do.  Holmes may have thought he was the Joker (one of the best-known “Batman” characters); Holmes may have thought that what he was doing was sanctioned and allowed, considering the current “Batman” movie features explosions in public places.

Here’s a link to Yahoo’s report:–abc-news-topstories.html

What has come out about Holmes thus far is troubling.  Holmes was a Ph.D. student who’d moved to Colorado in order to pursue his degree at the University of Colorado Medical Center.  He was brilliant, planning his attack to a surprising degree (to the point that he had not one, not two, but four separate guns, with at least two being assault rifles — this last according to AM 620 WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee.  Their on-the-hour news report gave these additional details).  And Holmes booby-trapped his apartment to the point that had the police not known about it (because Holmes himself told them), the apartment building would’ve blown sky high.

So those are the facts as we know them right now; what I’m after, though, is a bit more elusive.  To wit: why would someone this bright do something this terrible?

Honestly, I have no answers, though I do have many questions.

First, why was this man not in a mental hospital?  (Especially considering that his mother’s first reaction after being contacted by the media was, “You have the right guy,” not the usual “I can’t believe this is happening!” denial?)

Second, how did this man successfully buy four separate guns of various descriptions in only a few months?  Especially as it appears he bought them all within the city of Aurora or its environs (meaning Boulder or even Denver, but not all that far away as the crow flies)?  Additionally, how did this guy amass all the military-grade body armor he was wearing at the time of his arrest without anyone taking note of it, either?

Third, the story of victim Jessica Ghawi, also 24, is instructive . . . Ghawi had narrowly avoided a different public shooting in Toronto a month ago, but was unable to avoid being shot and killed by by Holmes.  She was an aspiring sports journalist who loved hockey, had a hockey-player boyfriend who spent much time in the minors, just looking for his big break — his name is Jay Maloff — and was well-known to many hockey reporters and sports reporters of all sorts due to her Twitter presence.  (She wrote under the name of Jessica Redfield.)

This was a young woman with everything ahead of her.  She had a great boyfriend.  She had done many internships at radio stations, newspapers, and was about to be hired at Mile High Sports, which seems to have been enthusiastic about Ghawi’s writing and knowledge of hockey.  She had drive, charm, what friends and colleagues are calling an outsized personality, and was the type of person who was going places and doing things.

So why, oh why, is Jessica Ghawi dead today?  Because of a crazy man, that’s why.  And that’s not good enough; it shouldn’t be.

All we can do is this.  Remember the people who died in this senseless act.  Remember their lives.  Remember what they did while they were here, and honor them.  That’s the only way to gain any meaning whatsoever from this atrocious act.

But before you say it, I am well aware that it’s not nearly enough.  (It’s just all we have.)

Aside from that, do your best to remember your sense of betrayal and outrage when you heard about this latest tragedy.  Remember how awful it is that twelve people, including the young and talented Ghawi, are already dead, with more to assuredly follow.  Remember that it didn’t have to be this way.  Then push for more mental health funding and treatment, because the possibility of prevention is far better than the “pound of cure” we’re now forced to endure.

No matter what you do, though, don’t you dare become inured to horrific violence.  Don’t start seeing things like this terrible Aurora shooting as typical behavior, either.

Because if you do become inured, or start seeing things like this as typical, psychopathic gunmen like Holmes win.  And the rest of us lose even more than we already have.

Troy Davis, Quite Possibly Innocent of Murder, Executed in GA

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Folks, it being the seventh anniversary of my late husband Michael’s death, I really hadn’t expected to be writing anything tonight.  But something so awful has just happened that I had to express my outrage . . . Troy Davis, 42, was convicted in 1991 of killing a policeman, Mark A. MacPhail.  But Davis maintained his innocence until death; more than that, seven witnesses recanted their testimony and three members of the jury that had convicted Davis said that Davis should not be put to death.

Yet he was, and I find that not only sad, but extremely upsetting, especially as Davis was willing to take a polygraph test to prove his innocence.  (The Georgia Department of Corrections refused his request, without explanation, earlier this morning.)

Here’s a link to tonight’s story:

And it’s not only me who feels justice has been denied here.  Barry Scheck, who runs the Innocence Project, said on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” this evening that substantial doubt existed as to whether or not Davis was innocent.  William S. Sessions, former director of the FBI, said that he believed there was more than enough evidence for Georgia to stay the order of execution.   Here’s a few of his words, quoted from last week’s editorial in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Serious questions about Mr. Davis’ guilt, highlighted by witness recantations, allegations of police coercion, and a lack of relevant physical evidence, continue to plague his conviction,” Sessions wrote. He urged a state pardons board to commute the sentence to life in prison.

Look.  I’m just one woman, but I know when something is morally wrong.  The execution of Troy Davis tonight was a morally unjust and extremely wrong-headed action that everyone in this country should feel terrible about.  This man may well have been innocent, and if so, him being executed tonight was nothing less than cold murder — which begs the question, “When did Georgia forget about the Ten Commandments?”  Because perhaps the foremost commandment is this one: thou shalt not murder (often given in erroneous translations as “thou shalt not kill”).

According to the MSNBC TV reports, Davis’s last words were something along the lines of, “May God have mercy upon your souls” (to the people actually giving him the lethal injection) and he maintained his innocence until the very end.

I don’t know whether or not Davis was innocent.  But I do know Scheck and Sessions are very bright, able men, and both of them said the evidence did not warrant execution.

I really do not understand why the state of Georgia did this tonight, other than to show how barbaric they are.  But I do know this; I will keep my money out of Georgia.  I will keep myself out of Georgia.  And I will not do any business with anyone who lives in Georgia for the time being, either, as my own form of personal protest until the state of Georgia stops executing people who may well be innocent.**


** Note: this will not bring Davis back.  I know this.  I also know it may hurt me down the line with some friends, who are as innocent as I believe Davis most likely was . . . but the only way to hurt a state that refuses to do the right thing is to hit them in the wallet.  That’s why I am taking this stance.

Compassion Strikes Out: People Cheer Hypothetical Death Example at R Debate

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I have now seen and heard it all: compassion has struck out.

Why do I say this?  Well, last night there was a strange occurrence where audience members watching the “Tea Party” Republican Debate in Tampa, FL, actually cheered the thought of someone dying young due to a lack of health care.  This was an awful occurrence, one that turned my stomach, and I have many things to say about it — but before I do, let me first set the stage in order to possibly understand the crowd’s behavior.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) was asked a hypothetical question about a thirty-year-old man without health insurance; the moderator of the debate, Wolf Blitzer, asked whether or not Paul felt this man should get governmental help to pay for health care (as health care is extremely expensive in this country, and some working people — perhaps many working people — cannot afford to have health insurance due to high co-pays, pre-existing conditions, or other factors that raise the premiums beyond their ability to pay).  Paul, also a licensed medical doctor, was asked this question first because as a doctor, he should know the most about the health care system.

Paul’s answer was that private charities used to do the work and can and should do the work again; this is a very Libertarian philosophy that goes along with his lifetime viewpoint.  This answer wasn’t at all a surprise to me as a long-time political watcher as for the most part, Paul’s objections are made from a standpoint of long-held principle and he’s been eloquent on the subject before.

What was a surprise, and a most unwelcome one, were the wags in the crowd who shouted, “Yeah!” after cheering Paul’s answer.  Blitzer followed up with, “So you’d just let this man die?” and people cheered even louder.

Look.  I do not believe that the Republicans, as a whole, want people like me who are poor and do not have health insurance to “die quickly” as former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) once said.  But I also agree with Grayson’s comments, made tonight on Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” on Current TV, that the behavior of much of the crowd showed a sadistic streak that should not be tolerated.  (I’m using the term precisely: sadism is joy in other people’s pain, or at minimum, delight over other people’s pain.)

Now, does that mean that every member of the audience who cheered this hypothetical example of a thirty-year-old man not getting needed medical care are bad people?  Probably not; mob psychology may well have gotten to them, and some in that crowd may really not believe that the idea of a thirty-year-old without insurance should die is a good one after all.  (This is also called “get on the bandwagon psychology,” and is a known phenomenon in large groups.)

The main problem is that something like this, at what was billed as a “Tea Party debate,” makes everyone in the Tea Party look both unsympathetic and lacking in empathy.  I know that’s not true; one of my doctors has spoken at Tea Party rallies (she is against nationalized health care because she believes that it would severely weaken the overall standard of care) and is a compassionate person who volunteers her time to work with low-income people (myself included).  I have many other friends in the Tea Party movement across the nation who are good, caring, empathetic people; they may not believe that government should implement what they call “Obamacare” (the most recent health care bill), but their objection to it is principled and rational, not the nonsensical behavior of a bunch of creeps in a crowd who’d cheer for someone to die merely because he doesn’t have the money to pay for health care.

Olbermann had as another guest on his program Nicole D. Lamoureux, who is the executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics (to donate to this worthy program, go to — they do very fine work).  Lamoureux made a good point about mob psychology, made another good point about how some people seemingly would rather “take care of themselves” than anyone else, and said how upset she was in seeing that behavior.

What I would have added, had I the chance to speak with Ms. Lamoureux, is that some Republicans seem to behave like Florida Governor Rick Scott.  Scott has a minimal co-pay (something like $25) for himself and his family for operations and such (chump change), and for several of his immediate underlings, but much of the rest of state government have atrociously high co-pays (into the high hundreds or thousands) as Scott struck some sort of deal with the insurer.   This is a classic example of “I’ve got mine; the Devil take the hindmost,”* and is quintessentially the behavior of many hard right Rs in local, state and federal offices.

Once again: this does not mean the voters, who put people like Scott in office, are unfeeling and uncaring people.**  It doesn’t mean that all Tea Party members are as uncompassionate as those who cheered for this hypothetical man to die; it doesn’t even mean that all Tea Partiers in that particular audience last night felt that way.

But what this does mean is that the hard-right Rs have successfully made a class-based argument to some of their own voters — enough, they hope, to keep them in office.  The voters who trended R in 2010 are people who are working, who mostly have decent health insurance or believe they’ll be able to get it soon, and some don’t see that “there for but the grace of God goeth I.”  Nor do some of them see that this is unChristian or uncharitable behavior, even though such classic Biblical texts such as Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount make it clear that the poor, widowed, infirm (meaning sick and/or disabled) and elderly should be well-treated.  This is a practical approach as well as a compassionate one, because one day, you may be in one of those categories.  Where will you be if no one helps you out?

Look.  We have really high unemployment in this country — 9.1% nationally.   Millions of people are out of work.  Millions more are underemployed at best; millions more are retirees, who may have to go back into the workforce to make ends meet due to the down economy wiping out their savings, 401(k) plans, or entire retirement in the 2007-8 stock market crash.  All of these things mean that more people are using free clinics or charitable services than ever before, with fewer dollars going to support such endeavors because fewer people are working in order to help them out.

In other words, this is the time to be more compassionate, not less.

This is the time to care for your neighbor as yourself, because this economy is so fluid that even the best employees can get laid off tomorrow, lose their health insurance, and end up needing to go to a free clinic or using charitable services at local clinics in order to get the health care they need.

This is the time that we must pull together as a country.  Find ways to help people who need it get the proper health care, particularly with regards to health care prevention; it’s shameful that women cannot get Pap smears if they’re poor.   Which means that someone like me is more likely to get care only if and when she discovers cancer — is this right in the wealthiest nation in the world?  (God, I hope not.)

Most importantly of all, people need to be educated about this.  They need to understand that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  And that sometimes, paying for a low-income person’s health care is going to save the government money in the long run while allowing that person to fully recover, then resume paying taxes and funding the same services for someone else in need.

Maybe by doing all this, we won’t have any more instances of supposedly-educated people cheering the thought of anyone dying young due solely to a lack of health care, or lack of means.  Because the fact that anyone at all can do this in our country shows a streak of barbarism that I’d truly hoped we’d fully rooted out, and cheapens American citizens in the eyes of the world.


* Another way to say this is, “I’ve got mine, so to Hell with you.”  Keith Olbermann called this attitude by so-called Christians “more the work of Devil-worshippers,” and I completely agree.

** Scott narrowly won office in ’10, and may end up becoming a one-term Governor over things such as the health insurance debacle as what he did is deeply unpopular throughout Florida across all parties and incomes due to its hypocrisy. 

Tenth Anniversary of 9/11; Help the First Responders

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Folks, today is the tenth anniversary of 9/11/01, one of the most shocking and horrific things in United States history.  Due to the attacks on that day, the US “lost our innocence” regarding international terrorism.  Though other, terrible attacks had occurred, most especially to the USS Cole and a previous attack in 1993 against the World Trade Center, most American citizens felt like our country could not and would not be attacked.

We were tragically wrong.

Last year, I wrote a blog about 9/11, which is posted here.   In many ways, I cannot improve upon this; even though a lot has changed in a year, many of the same problems are still with us.

So instead, I’ve decided to focus on the biggest remaining problem from that fateful day: our lack of help for the first responders — the firemen, policemen, military people, and volunteers — who did their best to find surviving victims of the World Trade Center bombing, then did their best again to help clean the place up and restore it, in the process finding many of the dead who did not survive that fateful day.

I’m tired of our current crop of politicians doing nothing about this important issue.  Instead, I wish our politicians would act more like President Barack Obama, and past Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, have acted in the past few days.  These men have been statesmen, and have publicly discussed the need for medical and financial help for the first responders  — many of whom still need help and perhaps always will — because what they were doing in trying to rescue people trapped in the wreckage of the Twin Towers was inordinately stressful.  These first responders were exposed to goodness-knows-what toxic substances, and that some of them have not been able to get help for the medical conditions they incurred is plain, flat wrong.

Note that Hillary Clinton, when she was still a United States Senator, urged the Congress to act and they did, but it wasn’t enough.  She now is our Secretary of State, and for the most part cannot take active part in asking for more help to be given to those who gave of their time and effort on 9/11/01 and afterward.  And while she’s been an outstanding Secretary of State, I wish that she was still able to call more attention to this issue as it needs to be done.

Aside from her, Representative Peter King (R-NY) and, of all people, comedian and political commentator Jon Stewart (he of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show fame) have been the most vocal and active people in the public eye who have demanded help for the first responders.  Good for them; they know many of those first responders ended up with chronic medical problems due to their help on and directly after the 9/11 terror attacks, and they know it’s absolutely disgraceful that these people have had to fight for whatever little bit of help they can get since that awful day.

We must help all of those who need it who helped find victims after the Twin Towers were destroyed.  If we do not, the legacy of 9/11/01, which is already distressing enough, will become that much worse.  Refusing to help these people is shameful.

Dug out, but . . . (today’s status report)

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Folks, Mom’s driveway is now mostly dug out.  I say “mostly” because while it was dug out enough to get my car out earlier, some of the snow fell back onto the driveway and I only barely got back in after I went to check on Dad earlier this evening.

Dad’s fine, by the way; shaken up, but fine, after yesterday’s ordeal.

As for what was stolen — three pieces of jewelry, one with a $9.99 K-mart sticker still attached.  (I really don’t know why the robbers took that.)  Two were set with good quality aquamarines, one ring and a matching necklace; the total value of what was stolen, replacement-cost, was about $150.

I’ve already talked with the police about this.  But I didn’t tell them the worst part — these creeps actually went through my late husband’s ashes, which I keep in a box.  Apparently they thought this was a good hiding place for jewelry or some such; bad enough that they went through every bag in my Dad’s house, all my clothes and books and personal possessions of all stripes, but they had to violate my late husband’s ashes, too?

Note that the only reason I didn’t bring this up was that the policeman was talking to me and my father.  I didn’t want him to feel worse than he already did.  But I will point it out in the near future, guaranteed.

I’m glad my father was not hurt and that all the things that I value greatly because Michael gave them to me, or they were Michael’s, are all there, intact.  (Michael’s ashes, though disturbed, were still intact as best I could discern.  But it’s really terrible these unprintable unprintables went through Michael’s ashes.)  I’m glad it’s no worse than it was.

But as far as I’m concerned, these creeps aren’t even good enough for Hell.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 4, 2011 at 1:36 am

Lobbyist Jimmy Williams says “It’s Hate” that causes shootings, not guns.

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This, friends, is the best thing I’ve heard from the pundits since the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, last Saturday afternoon.

To be brief, Jimmy Williams, who is a Democratic lobbyist, said on today’s ‘Dylan Ratigan Show” on MSNBC that it is not guns alone that kill people.  He noted that on 9/11, the terrorists did not use guns.  In Oklahoma City, the terrorists did not use guns.  And while some terrorists have used guns like Sirhan Sirhan and Lee Harvey Oswald, they undoubtedly would’ve found another way if they hadn’t had guns because they were drunk on hatred.

So to be even more brief:  “It’s hate,” said Jimmy Williams.

Williams elaborated that people learn hatred at home but can learn differently; he used his own experience growing up in the South, mentioning that his father had far different views about black people than he did, and that he’s told his father many, many times he’s wrong.  And that focusing only on the fact this guy Jared Lee Loughner, 22, is severely mentally ill is missing the point.

Amen, brother!

Listen.  I get really upset when someone blames all mentally ill people for something like this.  The term “mental illness” has broadened to the point to include people who are grieving the loss of a loved one (transitory depression), those who suffer from panic attacks (the most high-profile one being football Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell), and those suffering from situationally-based depression.  None of these types of people are likely to go on a killing spree, though some are responsible hunters and take their responsibility as gun owners seriously.

So just saying, as one gal did here on the Dylan Ratigan show (I forgot her name already, sorry), that “all crazy people should not have guns” is really beside the point.

Also, what, exactly, is your definition of a “crazy person?”  Is it, like the famed definition of pornography by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, something you’ll “know . . . when you see it?”

Jimmy Williams is right to say that it is hate, pure and simple, which makes someone — crazy or not — go out on a rampage like this one.  And he’s right to say that hate — not being crazy — is what led to the deaths of six innocent people and the wounding of fourteen more (some of whom, like Congresswoman Giffords, remain in critical condition at this time).

You need to see this video from Dylan Ratigan’s MSNBC show; I can’t seem to get it to properly upload, so please go to this link where you should be able to see it:

Cut and paste this link if Word Press does something odd again . . . it should work and bring you to Dylan Ratigan’s home page, where this video (about ten minutes in length) will play, and you’ll see Jimmy Williams extraordinary “cut through the bull” moment, along with a few others who didn’t understand, plus host Dylan Ratigan, who did.