Let’s accept two facts: too many police officers have been killed in the line of duty. Too many black people have been killed.

What is not so clear are the questions about why those killings are occurring, and even less clear is what can be done about the closely interrelated problems. What is clear is that past efforts have been insufficient. I would posit that the reason is politics which has clouded and evaded putting real effort into a solution in many locales. Many police agencies have made real efforts to learn what is wrong and what needs to be done to fix the problems caused by explosive interactions between blacks and police (of any color). Overall, the results have been dismal, as evidenced by the spate of killings during 2016.

I propose a simple, but naïve solution: get the cops and the decent people of the ghettoes together in a nonconfrontational series of neighborhood meetings so they can identify and correct the problems. To do so will be monumentally difficult for several reasons: local police and city, county, state, and national law enforcement leaders will have to deal with the very real and continuing evil of racism. Racist law enforcement officers will have to be rooted out which will require stepping on the civil rights of those officers; new laws will have to be drafted that will prevent racist officers from ever being hired and will require objective overview of individual serving officers to determine if they are racists and get rid of them. The obverse side of that coin is to ensure protections for nonracist officers who become political victims of hate mongers in the ghetto public—victims of such so-called “black leaders” as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, or the heads of the dangerous “Black Lives Matter” organization.

I recognize that many readers of this blogspot will cry “racist” when they see the following recommendations which involve changes that must come from the black community—both in and out of the ghettoes. First of all, there are highly successful, even famous black men and women who rival their white counterparts in our competitive society without conflict from their differing racial backgrounds. Several important ceilings have been broken through: we have a black president; there are a plethora of successful black CEOs, male and female; there are tenured professors, prominent physicians and lawyers and clergy; admirals and generals, and of course, there are the highly visible beautiful black people in the media and entertainment venues, sports heroes, and commentators. They do very well despite or because of being black, and all power to them. In my opinion, they should enter into an involvement with those black people whose lives are not nearly so beautiful and fulfilling. They should lend their prominence to help other blacks to create communities where there are fathers in families; people work for a living, children get an education; black girls are protected from predatory males; drug dealers are sent packing; people cooperate with police who come to help them when they are beset by criminals; and the escalating tendency for black men and women to have adverse relationships with the judicial system is reversed.

Then, there are the people who live in the terrible conditions of racial ghettoes. I am not so naïve as to think that any amount of persuasion will cause change in the current subculture of drug addicts, illicit drug purveyors, gang members, and career criminals. Rather, my message is to the majority of people who live in and suffer from the conditions of America’s inner cities. The message is to the good man who serves as a father, provider, and protector for his wife and his sons and daughters—the man who gets up early, takes his lunch pail and goes off for a full day’s work and comes home without stopping by a bar to help his wife with family affairs and to play with his children; in short, the decent man who struggles against insuperable odds to get his children educated enough to get up and out of the ghetto, the man who respects law enforcement officers and hopes that he will also be treated with respect. This message is for the remarkable, almost superhuman, women who struggle to preserve their children and grandchildren from the temptations and predations of the gangs and from racist and uncaring police officers.

The message is: form committees of the decent and nonracist police officers and the decent family people living in the black ghettoes. Create positive relationships starting with the small numbers involved in such committees and from those committees and relationships convey requests to law enforcement and governmental administrations to make sensible and reasonable changes and to bring into the ghettoes only objective nonracist and respectful police officers. The corollary message to come from such committees is for them to communicate to their neighbors—we will not lie or cheat or steal, and we will not tolerate those who do, including the omnipresent gangs. We must report criminal activity to police, be willing to testify to what we know about criminal activity, be respectful to law enforcement officers including a willingness not to entice police into potentially violent situations with a small army of onlookers with their ever handy cell phones to photograph the police as they attempt to make peace, be willing to accept that the judicial system is the place to adjudicate issues, not the streets.

It will take years for such a system to be developed. If the committees are not created, the bloodletting will continue and the people of the ghettoes will suffer. As seemingly unfair as it may be, the bulk of change has to come from African-Americans of all stations in life. The drug and gang culture can only be eradicated by good black people cooperating with honorable police officers. Get rid of the self-seeking “black leaders” and replace them with the decent family man with his lunch pail and his back breaking job and the woman whose main objective in life is to see her offspring succeed.

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I saw a set of bumper stickers on a car that sums up the disgust many people have for the silliest of silly seasons in recent political history: Clinton/Sharpton 2016 and Trump/Springer 2016. Since I can’t bear to watch any more television news because of the ridiculous coverage of the campaigns, I will make my predictions (prophecies) about the outcome now and be done with it.

Here is what is going to happen;

-Hillary Clinton, the democrat, is going to be elected president. It does not matter who is running on either ticket; that is what is going to happen. All ideology, party platforms, and shenanigans aside, it is about the math. Both democrats and republicans have a rigid set of nonthinking people who will vote for the party’s choice no matter what. The fact is that there are more democrats than there are republicans. Maybe a few republicans who vow Never Trump will end up voting democrat and a few people who hate Hillary more than they love the democrat party will vote for Donald. Those numbers will cancel out each other by and large. The Bernie fans will, in the end, vote for Hillary because the thought of voting for Donald is impossible. The nonvoters, independents, or third party voters will cancel out each other as well. Sen./Secy Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States. Get used to the idea.

-The day Secy. Clinton is elected, the next election cycle will begin with all of its useless vicious rhetoric. Our government will remain in a Mexican standoff of dysfunction. This will be true unless the democrats win both houses of Congress, then real change will occur. During President Clinton’s eight years in office, it is likely that four new justices of the Supreme Court will be chosen, and the host of unfilled judicial offices in the country will be filled—all by left wing activists. That will show the republicans who would not even talk to the only moderate who could have been placed on the bench during the Obama years.

-No matter who gets in the presidency, the national debt will double in five years if the winner gets his or her way.

-The real issues the nation—We the People–face will get short shrift once the current political smog clears. Barring an overwhelming mandate in the election, gun issues, police v. ghetto dwellers issues, the economy, immigrant rights, environmental issues, the impossible and failing health care system, infrastructure problems, racial tensions, decisions about funding a two-front war military v. the present one-front war policy, the mountain of problems related to the U.S. educational system failures, and the skyrocketing national debt and the incredible interest payments the country has to make, will all be talked to death with no real intention to seek a real—and painful—solution to any of these and the many other genuine problems faced by the country.

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The impact of serious debt has threatened the United States several times, and we never seem to learn from our experiences because we are a nation that does not give serious consideration to our own financial history let alone the arcane information available from the experiences of foreign countries in that wasteland of the past. Consider these real and American lessons:

  • The Florida Real Estate Bubble was a speculative property bubble that occurred in Florida in the early and mid-1920s. Up until then, the state of Florida was relatively unpopulated and large parts of the state consisted of undeveloped swampland. The Roaring Twenties economic boom (and eventual bubble) made many people wealthy and created a new class of people who could afford to go on vacations. Developers and speculators noted the potential of the new leisure class and took avaricious advantage. Florida land prices skyrocketed and incredible amounts of money flowed in from Northern investors, especially from New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. The Florida Real Estate Bubble created many millionaires until it finally crashed in 1925 and devastated the state’s economy.
  • The Roaring Twenties were a time of peace and prosperity; and the U.S. stock market soared as new technologies such as radio, the automobile and airplanes became commercialized. Many Americans speculated in the stock market, often with large amounts of borrowed money including their life’s savings. Some became extraordinarily wealthy. By the fall of 1929, the stock market peaked and then plunged from its own overheated weight. In October, 1929 the Roaring Twenties economic “bubble boom” finally popped. America’s Stock Market Crash of 1929 became a worldwide market failure that financially ruined a great many stock investors–some of whom jumped out of tall city buildings to their deaths. As the Crash unfolded, thousands of banks failed; unemployment skyrocketed; President Hoover was blamed and lost his bid for re-election; and the United States entered into the Great Depression along with the rest of the world, which lasted through the “dirty thirties”, and was only relieved by the huge financial impetus of the Second World War.
  • Perhaps the greatest speculative mania of all time was Kuwait’s Souk al-Manakh stock bubble in the early 1980s, which is as fascinating as it was devastating. The bull market began when investing in local “Gulf Companies” became in vogue with Kuwaitis who wished to ride the coattails of the Middle East’s oil-driven economic boom of that time. A peculiar Kuwaiti custom allowed traders to pay for stocks using post-dated checks under the assumption that default would be unthinkable for cultural reasons. Unsurprisingly, avarice prevailed as some traders speculated in stocks paid for by billions of dollars’ worth of unsecured checks, causing Kuwait’s stock market to inflate like a balloon and pop in a most analogous manner. That fall threatened the national economy of Kuwait and almost led to its bankruptcy and its failure to be able to persist as a nation.
  • The Stock Market Crash of 1987—which came to be known as Black Monday–was the largest one-day market crash in history. That great fall marked the end of a spectacular stock bull market that started in 1982 that was fueled by a supercharged business environment that included hostile takeovers, leveraged buyouts, and merger mania involving a worldwide collection of investors. The Dow stock index nearly doubled from 1986 until the fall of 1987. Early in the year, some informed investors realized that they were looking at a bubble, and they began quietly to sell off their shares. When the market began to drop, investment managers were encouraged to use a new tool called “portfolio insurance” to protect their investments from further losses as the market fell. On Monday October 19th, 1987, an avalanche of very aggressive “sell” orders hit the market as investors began to panic, which triggered additional “sell” orders and more use of portfolio insurance. By the end of that day, Black Monday, the Dow lost an incredible 22.6% of its value. Companies failed; people lost their jobs; and a short term recession hit hard.
  • Apparently, Japan failed to learn its lesson from its brush with disaster in October, 1987. During the late-1980s, Japan experienced a true “Bubble Economy”. Real estate and stock prices soared along with the country’s overheated economy. The “Bubble Economy” era came at the end of its thirty-year-old “Economic Miracle” that began after World War II and saw the country’s fortunes blossom as it became the world’s automobile and electronics manufacturing powerhouse. By the peak of Japan’s Bubble Economy in 1989, a house in Tokyo cost well over $2 million and the land underneath Tokyo’s Imperial Palace was said to be worth more than all of the land in California put together. Japan’s Bubble Economy peaked in late 1989 when people began to realize that the rapid and apparently foundationless financial market increases could not continue. The country’s highly-inflated stock and property markets began to crash. By 1992, Japan’s Nikkei stock index plunged to 15,000 from its peak of nearly 40,000, and the country’s real estate markets were decimated along with the rest of the economy. Since 1989, Japan’s Bubble Economy has deflated for over two decades, leading to this era being called the “Lost Decades”; and Japan is still working at its recovery.
  • The US Savings and Loans Crisis was the greatest bank collapse since the Great Depression of 1929. By 1989, more than 1,000 of the nation’s Savings and Loans (S&Ls) had failed. This effectively ended what had once been a secure source of home mortgages, especially for middle and lower socioeconomic class people. Half of the nation’s failed S&Ls were from Texas, pushing that state into recession. As bad land investments were auctioned off, real estate prices collapsed; office vacancies rose to thirty percent; and crude oil prices fell fifty percent. Some Texas banks, like Empire Savings and Loan, became embroiled in illegal land swaps and other frankly criminal enterprises. How could this have happened in a nation whose S&Ls were under the protective control of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC)?

Savings and Loans were specialized banks that used low-interest, but federally-insured, deposits in savings accounts to fund mortgages which made them popular for less affluent Americans seeking the American dream of owning their own homes. The S&L debacle began innocently enough in the 1980s. Money markets became more popular in that era by offering higher interest rates on savings. Consequently, investors became pulling money out of savings accounts, depleting the banks’ source of funds and threatening the very existence of that segment of the American financial industry.

S&L banks rushed to ask Congress to remove the low-interest rate restrictions, and in 1982, that wish was granted, which allowed S&Ls to raise interest rates on savings deposits. In addition, those banks were no longer restricted to mortgages, but were allowed to make commercial and consumer loans. Most importantly–and in the future, most dangerously–the law removed restrictions on loan-to-value ratios. A second federal decision sealed the combination that would eventually lead to a nationwide recession. The Federal Home Loan Bank Board regulatory staff was reduced because of budget cuts by the Reagan Administration. This impaired the board’s ability to investigate possible risky loans—thus creating a bonanza for crooks.
To raise capital, S&Ls invested in progressively more speculative real estate and commercial loans. Between 1982 and 1985, these assets increased 56%. In Texas, forty S&Ls tripled in size, some growing 100% each year. This created huge interest on the part of investors. As a result of the banks’ poor judgment in selection of loan recipients, by 1983, thirty-five percent of the country’s S&Ls became unprofitable, and nine percent went bankrupt. As banks went under, the state and Federal insurance set aside to protect and control them began to run out of the money needed to refund depositors. However, many S&Ls remained open, continued making bad loans, and the losses kept mounting—the certain components of a fraudulent bubble.

By 1989, the situation was becoming dire. Finally Congress and the then President George H.W. Bush knew the industry had to be bailed out; it was too-big-to-fail—a mantra that would be repeated in the next and even greater recession. They enacted a taxpayer-financed measure known as the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act which provided $50 billion to close failed banks and stop further losses. It set up a new government agency called the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) to resell Savings and Loan assets, and use the proceeds to pay back depositors. FIRREA also changed Savings and Loan regulations to help prevent further poor investments and fraud.

S&L bank failures cost the FSLIC $20 billion, which bankrupted that federal corporation. In addition, more than five hundred banks were insured by state-run funds. They also failed and those failures cost another $185 million, thus destroying forever the idea of state-run bank insurance funds. Heads rolled: Five U.S. Senators, known as the Keating Five, were investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee for improper conduct because they had accepted $1.5 million in campaign contributions from Charles Keating, head of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association—one of the institutions with the most egregious criminal records. The Senate also pressured the Federal Home Loan Banking Board, the agency responsible for investigating possible criminal activities at Lincoln, to overlook possibly suspicious activities.

The final tally may never be known for sure, but what is known is staggering; and it threatened the financial security of the greatest economy in the world. Between 1986 and 1995, more than half of the nation’s Savings and Loans, with total assets of more than $500 billion failed. By 1999, the crisis cost $160 billion, with taxpayers footing the bill for $132 billion, and the S&L industry paying the rest. The lion’s share of those costs went to attorneys with investors and taxpayers losing almost everything.

Kimberly Amadeo, Savings and Loans Crisis: Causes, Cost: How Congress Created the Greatest Bank Collapse Since the Depression, about.com, February, 2016 and Paul Krugman, What A Real External Bank Bailout Looks Like, The New York Times, February, 2016, and The Savings and Loan Crisis and Its Relationship to Banking, FDIC.gov.

  • The dramatic increase in the NASDAQ stock index, primarily technology stocks, in 1999-2000 and its subsequent collapse in 2000-2004 is a fairly recent example of a bubble. The so-called Dot-com Bubble was a speculative bubble in the shares of early internet companies called “Dot-coms.” From the mid to late-1990s, technology company stocks in the Nasdaq stock index soared to incredible heights, making scores of investors and technology company founders extremely wealthy. At this time, many people began to believe that technology had led to the creation of a “New Economy” where the traditional business cycle and recessions were a thing of the past. These “New Economy” beliefs led to excessive risk-taking in business and investments as Dot-com companies went public (such as the infamous Pets.com and Webvan) even though they had negative earnings or astronomically high business valuations. In early 2000, the technology stock bubble crashed spectacularly as the Nasdaq plunged from over 5,000 to barely 1,000 by 2002 and the U.S. economy was hurled into a recession which took a decade to get over. Investors became significantly more wary, but the nation continued its profligate spending, borrowing, and raising Congressional debt limits.
  • Americans have a very short memory span and tend not to learn from history. The United States housing bubble was an economic bubble affecting many parts of the United States housing market in over half of American states. It followed upon the dot.com bubble disaster by only a few years. With a combination of greed, false promises, industry/government collusion, and outright criminal enterprise, US housing prices peaked in early 2006, started to decline in 2006 and 2007, and reached new lows in 2012. Increased foreclosure rates in 2006–2007 among U.S. homeowners led to a crisis in August 2008 for the subprime, Alt-A, collateralized debt obligation (CDO), mortgage, credit, hedge fund, and foreign bank markets. In October 2007, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury called the bursting housing bubble “the most significant risk to our economy.” He may have been right for the time, but the nearly twenty trillion dollar national debt may well exceed even that statement.

The collapse of the U.S. housing bubble had a direct impact on home valuations, mortgage markets, home builders, real estate, home supply retail outlets, Wall Street hedge funds held by large institutional investors, and foreign banks to the level that a worldwide recession if not a depression was inevitable. December 30, 2008, the Case-Shiller home price index reported its largest price drop in its history.

Concerns about the impact of the collapsing housing and credit markets on the larger U.S. economy caused President George W. Bush and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke to announce a limited bailout of the U.S. housing market for homeowners who were unable to pay their mortgage debts. In 2008 alone, the United States government allocated over $900 billion to special loans and rescues related to the U.S. housing bubble, with over half going to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (both of which are government-sponsored enterprises) as well as the Federal Housing Administration. On December 24, 2009, the Treasury Department made an unprecedented announcement that it would be providing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac unlimited financial support for the next three years despite acknowledging losses in excess of $400 billion so far, much of which was due to criminal malfeasance. Wikipedia, United States Housing Bubble.

The causes and machinations that led to the bubble and its inevitable implosion are many and varied. There is blame aplenty to go around. The reader is referred to the following fascinating books to gain an insight into what occurred. A take home message is that capitalism is still powerful and only partly regulated; the same schemers in and out of government are still in office except for a very few who actually got the prison terms they deserve; and the government has certainly not learned a lesson in frugality. They bailed out the “too-big-to-fail” corporations, and their greed and avarice continues largely unfettered. The temptation for Congress to spend other peoples’ money is too great, and the pebble can be kicked on down the road. The government’s reaction to this bubble and to its inability to rein in its addiction to spending is “not on my watch.”

-Michael W. Hudson, The Monster: How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America—and Spawned a Global Crisis, St. Martins/Griffin, New York, 2010.

-Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner, Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon, Times Books, New York, 2011.

The lesson for the United States should be to substitute the nation of China for Britain and France as Americans ponder the Egyptian experience. The situations are chillingly similar except that the stakes are logarithmically more serious now; China—the holder of a huge amount of American debt–might well set America’s finances to right over a hundred years of occupation, but during that time there likely would be a worldwide depression, loss of American sovereignty and influence, and the potential for such a chaotic new order that no one can predict the final outcome. Yes, it could happen to us.

The world and the United States has had numerous other economic scares, but the above described financial debacles should suffice to drive home the risks we face as a result of our burgeoning national debt. Contrary to the advocates of Keynesian economics and those who refuse to consider the possibility of American financial failure, the potential is there. We were saved from the Great Depression which could have resulted in the final destruction of the American economy only by the advent of the Second World War. We do not have the dubious advantage of such a fortuitous situation arising and coming to our aid in this era. No, we will have to get control of our debt, or others will do it for us. Like France and Egypt, and a host of other countries before us, we will not like the results of such salvation. And, that egregious eventuality is preventable. Elect representatives with courage; accept universal austerity measures; come to grips with the notion that it will take a generation, maybe two, to set our house in order. The failure to do so would be most lamentable and entirely unacceptable.

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Were it not for the incredibly massive financial strength of the United States and the dependence of other nations on the continuing solvency of America, our country could have failed and brought the rest of the developed world down with it on several occasions. The stakes are much higher now: the debt is higher, and the principle will never be paid down.Will we always be able to pay the interest debt; or will we fail and be forced to yield our sovereignty to other nations—such as China—to avoid outright financial bankruptcy with its attendant loss of power, influence, flexibility, and security?

Worldwide, there have been scores of threatening bubbles and crashes which caused untold hardship for private citizens and threatened the solvency of powerful nations:

  • Tulip Mania or Tulipomania was a speculative bubble in tulip bulbs that took place in the Netherlands from 1634 to 1637. When tulip bulb prices became worth the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars (in current values), many Dutch tulip speculators became fantastically wealthy. Alas, tulip bulb prices eventually peaked and soon imploded, bankrupting scores of speculators and throwing the Netherlands into a mild economic depression that lasted for many years.
  • The South Sea Bubble of 1716-1720 was a speculative stock bubble in Britain which occurred at the same time as France’s Mississippi Bubble. Shortly after the stock speculation mania swept throughout Britain, with scientist Isaac Newton and author Thomas Swift (who wrote Gulliver’s Travels) taking part, the South Sea Bubble popped and caused a very severe economic crisis. When Newton lost a fortune in the crash, he famously remarked, “I can calculate the movement of the stars, but not the madness of men.”
  • Railway Mania was an economic bubble in the United Kingdom in the 1840s that involved a railroad development frenzy and a speculative bubble in the shares of railroad companies. Like the Dot-com bubble of the late 1990s, the British Railway Mania was the result of over-exuberance toward the business prospects of a disruptive innovation. As railroad stocks soared to astounding heights, railroad companies massively overbuilt thousands of kilometers of railway lines throughout the UK. When the Railway Mania bubble eventually popped, many railroad companies went out of business; railway stock investors were ruined; and enormous debts were left throughout the country.
  • Egypt learned the hard way the folly of allowing national debt to spiral out of control. The United States should take a lesson from Egypt’s experience. British strategic interest in Egypt intensified in 1869 when the Suez Canal was officially opened. The sailing times from London to Bombay were dramatically cut which required significant business decisions to take advantage of the new opportunities thus presented. The new canal was controlled by the Khedive Ishmael of Egypt, and the French government was initially a serious concern to the British. The British acted with uncharacteristic decisiveness and speed to outwit and outmaneuver the French and brought Egypt under Imperial British control. The first opportunity came with the realization in 1875 that the Egyptian Khedive had gotten himself and his country into serious economic difficulties. He had to stave-off creditors was by raising a seriously large amount of money in a short time. Benjamin Disraeli, prime minister of England, stepped in with alacrity and offered to buy all of the Khedive’s shares in the Suez Canal Company—forty percent of the holdings of the company. The speed of action on this event left the French out of the loop and reeling. Literally overnight, the British went from being a minority shareholder to being the majority and controlling shareholder and in a position to exert determinative influence on Egypt’s future.

Unfortunately for Egypt, the government and its businessmen were corrupt and wasteful. The Khedive embarked on an enthusiastic modernization program which proved to be more costly than the treasury could bear. Under Ismail, the Egyptian government debt rose from £3 million to nearly £100 million. Efforts to refinance the debt only made things worse because service fees on foreign loans absorbed a large part of their value. In one instance, Egypt received only £35 million from five loans worth £55 million; and because Egypt paid interest on the full value of the loans, the contractual interest rate of seven percent turned into an effective rate that went as high as twenty percent. By 1875, even though Egypt had repaid £29 million on its loans, it still owed £46 million, and the country was near bankruptcy—something like the current situation in California. As a result, the money raised by the sale of her shares in the highly profitable Suez Canal, and Egypt was only enough to keep her profligate government afloat for a few years. The government was heavily reliant on patronage; so, serious structural economic reforms were difficult to impossible to implement. Shortly, the Egyptian government was again in severe economic difficulty.

This time, the British and French governments joined forces to create a stewardship of the finances of Egypt. In effect, this stewardship was little more than a joint form of colonization. British and French experts were to be sent to the various government ministries in order to take control of day-to-day business of them. When the Khedive realized what his financial decisions had done, he became unwilling to agree to such loss of control. His protests were for naught. He was forced to abdicate and to be replaced by his son, Tawfiq. Tawfiq accepted the British and French presence and Egypt’s loss of independence as a necessary evil to be able to cope with the massive debt load he had inherited. By 1881, British and French stewardship brought Egypt’s finances under successful control, and Egypt became little more than a vassal state to those European powers. The governments of France and Britain sent representatives to oversee the Egyptian finances. In 1878 Britain sent a man to act as the Controller of the Revenue while the French sent one to serve as the Controller of the Expenditure. The French and British representatives remained until 1882. Chinese nationalists launched armed protests which resulted in Great Britain entering into conflict and then becoming locked into an occupation of the country for decades to come. Egypt lost its country to outsiders ultimately because it could not control its own debt.

Consider the next posting with its description of the serious portent for the American dream posed by the specter of unbridled debt.

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To repeat the ambiguous assertions made at the end of blogpost 1, it would seem at once highly likely that the industrial and economic might of the United States will always be sufficient to maintain the American way of life, our freedoms, to pay our collective debts, educate its people, and pass all of this power and affluence on to subsequent generations. On the other hand, it seems almost equally likely—after taking a sobering look at the mounting national and personal debt Americans have—that our current near idyllic condition must be radically changed for the worse or even destroyed by an outright failure to pay even the interest on our colossal debt. There is precedent, and for the remainder of these blogposts, the author will describe national catastrophes based almost solely on the accumulation of unmanageable debt.

First consider France in the early eighteenth century. The economy was depressed, and the government wallowed in debt. Taxes were too high and burdensome for the people. The citizens were becoming restive and began to clamor for relief. An additional burden was that the French controlled a colony they named Louisiana after the grand kings of the country. Louisiana was a vast land mass—larger than France itself–which was sparsely settled in the vast and nearly trackless interior of North America. Very few Frenchmen knew even of the existence of the area, and those who did cared almost not at all about it. It seemed to be a poor investment into which unnecessarily large amounts of French treasure were being poured. Almost every French man and woman would come to know one section of the Louisiana holdings and to rue the day they did. The Louisiana Colony included the Natchez district and the area along the Mississippi Gulf Coast in present-day Mississippi.

A rumor that this land was rich in silver and gold—the basis of French currency–began to take hold among the French people yearning to be free from the yoke of poverty and debt under which the populace and its government struggled. Into this fertile milieu came a genuine character named John Law, a Scottish financier, and a man ready to capitalize on those yearnings with a plan that promised great riches in return for a modest investment. He arrived in France in 1714 and sought out an acquaintance, the nephew of King Louis XIV, the Duke of Orleans. At that time, the duke was acting as the regent of France, serving the five-year-old Louis XV, the minor son and heir of the late King Louis, XIV. The resumption of their acquaintanceship was fortuitous for both men.

The duke was being unfairly held responsible for the severe financial straits France was left with from the many years of profligate spending of Louis XIV. Law needed a benefactor and a place in polite society from which he could generate personal wealth. XIV. The Duke of Orleans was aware of Law’s financial acumen and sought out his help to turn around the French financial depression. In 1716, with the duke’s considerable influence and help, Law was able to convince the French government to authorize him to open a major bank–the Bank Generale–that could issue paper money, or bank notes, an almost unknown concept at the time. The paper notes were to be directly based on the bank’s assets of gold and silver and would be allowed to spread freely throughout the kingdom thereby making commerce easier and more profitable by increasing the amount of money in circulation. He convinced the duke and the government that his ideas would be the catalyst needed to revitalize and rehabilitate the finances of the French government.

The following year, in August, Law convinced the duke and regent of France to support him in a major venture in North America. Law made a thorough study of the French holdings in Louisiana, then organized the Compagnie d’Occident (Company of the West). The source of income that was to provide the money and additional profits for the company had to be given the imprimatur of the duke to go forward, and he and the French government gave that one company control of all trade between France and its Louisiana and Canadian colonies—a major monopoly. The Canadians, and the French agreed to trade in beaver skins, and the Louisiana colony would trade in precious metals with the mother country. John Law would take his profit from his appointment as the overseer of the entire project and the territory which would provide the treasure.

The territory was truly vast: It included the present-day states located along the Mississippi River–Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota all the way into Canada. Shortly the Compagnie d’Occident became known by its popular name, The Mississippi Company. In return for exclusive control, trading rights, the right to appoint all governors and officers, and to make land grants to developers at a handsome profit over the territory for twenty-five years, Law’s company agreed to accept full responsibility of transporting 6,000 settlers and 3,000 slaves to the colony to ensure its growth, stability, and profitability before the expiration of its exclusive charter.

John Law was the very definition of ambition. The scheme to finance the initial operations of the Mississippi Company was simple and was the forerunner of the Ponzi scheme. Law began to raise the necessary money by selling shares in the company for cash and, more importantly, for state bonds—all with the approval of the regent of France and the French government. Law charged a low interest rate on the bonds thereby contributing to French finances and guaranteeing the company a secure cash flow. The involvement of the regent, the government, the financial wizard, and the overpowering lure of gold and silver brought eager investors flocking to put their money in the Mississippi Company.

Law pushed even further to keep the cash flowing. He added new economic activity under the aegis of the company; his ambitions saw the Mississippi Company as only a small part of a much grander empire he was about to create. In September 1718 the company acquired the monopoly in tobacco trading with Africa. The French government was so taken with Law’s Bank Generale that it took the bank over to make it, in effect, the national bank of France in 1719, renaming it The Bank Royale. Law was given full control of the new bank with the government fully guaranteeing the bank’s issue of notes and bonds and all but insuring Law against failure of any enterprise he could dream up. In May of that year he obtained control of the companies trading with China and the East Indies and renamed his entire business interest the Compagnie des Indes, but most people still knew it as the Mississippi Company; and that was the entity in which they wanted to invest. Fortunes were being made by investors, young and old, rich and those of modest means. Law was the ultimate huckster; he now controlled all trade with France and the rest of the world outside of Europe. Not only did Law advance the use of paper money, but the French word “millionaire” came into use as a result of his famous scheme–the Mississippi Company.

Law’s ambitions were not satisfied by the accumulation of great wealth and influence he achieved with his company and with his bank. The Mississippi Company next purchased the right to mint new coins for France, and by October it had purchased the right to collect most French taxes as a result of the amazing turnaround of French financial problems effected by him. In January 1720, Law was made the Controller General and Superintendent General of Finance. With this new appointment Law gained control of all of France’s finance and money creation, foreign trade, and colonial development. John Law with his business interests and success came to hold most of the French government’s debt. The Duke of Orleans recognized that the faith he had in the man who was now his firm friend was fully satisfied. The man had created a stable source of income for future business ventures for his company and for France itself. John Law had created Europe’s most successful conglomerate, and its stock values were rising fully apace. People all over Europe rushed to be sure they could put their money into the company in time to reap the great profits, even to the point of transferring nearly all of their earthly holdings to buy the stock.

Law paid for these activities and privileges by issuing additional shares in the company. These shares could be paid for with bank notes from his own bank or with government debt which he controlled. The Mississippi Company and John Law could not lose. The value of shares in the company rose dramatically as Law’s empire expanded. Investors from across France and Europe ever increasingly and eagerly played in this new market, even frugal working class small farmers and businessmen were pouring in all the small amounts they could scrape up. The financial district in Paris became so agitated at times over the fervor of investors that soldiers had to be sent in at night to maintain order. Greed was in full flower, and new millionaires were becoming commonplace.

When the company first issued shares in January 1719, the offering was a modest 500 livres tournois (the French unit of account at the time) per share. By December, the price per share prices reached 10,000 livres, a 1900 percent increase in less than a year. And here is where the comparison to present day America and Europe begins to become apparent.

Remember the world’s Great Depression of the 1930s, the community credit scandal, and the Great Recession of 2007-2008. What follows will seem reminiscent to those of you who do.

There was a weakness in Law’s grand scheme which has played out repeatedly in American history even to the present day. His relationship with the government was too cozy, and his own and his investors’ grasp of the bubble that was forming was obscured and flawed by the “greed is good” philosophy that drove stock prices ever higher—well beyond the level where a firm basis in gold and silver existed. Law’s weakness, based on greed, was his willingness to issue more bank notes to fund purchases of shares in the company—more than the real value of the company. A few major investors began to realize that there was little foundation for the soaring Stock prices.

The prices began falling in January 1720 when some those wiser investors began to sell shares to turn capital gains into gold coin. Prices began to decline, gradually at first. To halt the growing sell-off, Law restricted any payment in gold that was more than 100 livres. The paper notes of the Bank Royale were made legal tender backed by France to shore up strength of the stock values, which meant that they could be used to pay taxes and settle most debts. Law, through his Mississippi Company and his national bank made a huge effort to get people to accept the paper notes rather than gold, with an especially ardent sales pitch to his investors.
The bank subsequently promised to exchange its notes for shares in the company at the going market price of 10,000 livres. This attempt to turn stock shares into money resulted in a sudden doubling of the money supply in France. It is not surprising then that inflation started to take off. Inflation reached a monthly rate of 23 percent in January 1720. Unfortunately, the company’s prospects turned out to be little more than empty promises; hyperinflation set in; and the company shares crashed back down to earth, taking down France’s stock market and public finances with it.

Law devalued shares in the company in several stages during 1720, and the value of bank notes was reduced to 50 percent of their face value. By September 1720 the price of shares in the company had fallen to 2,000 livres and to 1,000 by December. The fall in the price of stock allowed Law’s enemies to take control of the company by confiscating the shares of investors who could not prove they had actually paid for their shares with real assets rather than credit. This reduced investor shares, or shares outstanding, by two-thirds. By September 1721 share prices had dropped to 500 livres, where they had been at the beginning. Courtesy of Jon Moen, PhD, John Law and the Mississippi Bubble: 1718-1720, MississippiHistoryNow, Mississippi Historical Society, October, 2001. See also Jesse Colombo, The Mississippi Bubble of 1715-1720, article written June 23, 2012; AndrewBeattie, What burst the Mississippi bubble?

The rise and fall of the Mississippi Company became known in history as the “Mississippi Bubble.” Indeed, Law is most famous, or perhaps infamous, for his involvement in this prominent financial disaster. A “bubble” in the world of finance is a term applied to an unusually rapid increase in stock prices or the value of some other asset such as real estate. The increase is then followed by an equally rapid collapse in prices. The wild fluctuations in prices are usually viewed as irrational and the product of uncontrolled speculation rather than sensible investment practices.

The Mississippi Bubble ruined Law and his company, and brought France temporarily to its financial knees. As a result, France was forced to sell its New World holdings to the United States and Spain at a huge loss just to keep afloat and to continue the king’s endless wars of vanity. In the end, many of the new millionaires were financially destroyed, and so was France; it took eighty years before France’s economic status among nations again allowed it to introduce its paper money into its economy and as a medium of exchange on the world stage. And the French example is not unique as will be made clear in the next posting.

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As of this writing, February, 2016, the national debt of the United States is $18,994,034,667,585.44 and increasing an average of a staggering $2.38 billion a day since September 40, 2012. The estimated population of the United States as of the same date was 322,353,391 and rising. Doing the math; that translates into $58,923.01 for every man, woman, and child in the country; and the debt accumulation starts from birth. The level of debt is such that it is now105% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)–and is rising at a rate that will find it over $20 trillion by 2020. By that time, the interest costs of that debt will be greater than defense and nondefense discretionary spending, according to Real Time Economics, Economic Insight and analysis from the Wall Street Journal.

According to Josh Zumbrun, writing in the Wall Street Journal, “currently, the government’s interest costs are around $200 billion a year, a sum that’s low due to the era of low interest rates. Forecasters at the White House and Congressional Budget Office believe interest rates will gradually rise, and when that happens, the interest costs of the U.S. government are set to soar, from just over $200 billion to nearly $800 billion a year by decade’s end…[and at the end of FY 2016 the total government debt in the United States, including federal, state, and local, is expected to be $22.4 trillion with 47% owed to foreign investors.]

The level of U.S. debt may be safely contained or mortally high depending on when, if, and by how much interest rates rise in the future. We neither know the timing or the extent interest rates will rise in the future—not to mention the level of debt that will need to be refinanced. This means that the debt situation is in a sort of limbo—relatively safe for the time being, but rising into the red alert zone. “We simply do not know when, or if, it will explode.” Zumbrun says. But we do know that the Fed raised the rates a full quarter of a percent in January, 2016 and threatens new raises in its next meeting in three months.

And that federal debt does not even include local and state debt, “agency debt”, or unfunded liabilities of entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. In addition, there is At the end of FY 2016 the federal agency debt in the United States is estimated to be $8.24 trillion–debt issued by federal agencies and government-sponsored enterprises not included in the total debt of the federal government. At the end of FY 2016 the state government debt in the United States is expected to be $1.17 trillion, and local debt will be $1.88 trillion.

It would seem at once highly likely that the industrial and economic might of the United States will always be sufficient to maintain the American way of life, our freedoms, to pay our collective debts, educate its people, and pass all of this power and affluence on to subsequent generations. On the other hand, it seems almost equally likely—after taking a sobering look at the mounting national and personal debt Americans have—that our current near idyllic condition must be radically changed for the worse or even destroyed by an outright failure to pay even the interest on our colossal debt. There is precedent, and for the remainder of these blogposts, the author will describe national catastrophes based almost solely on the accumulation of unmanageable debt.

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6.    It is incumbent on a combination of sincere students of the problem to determine what the factors leading to violence are and to determine ongoing strategies to combat those factors. That process will take decades, but it must begin now; and it must be robust.

7.    Gun rights versus gun abuse must be addressed head-on; and rationality must prevail. Compromise must occur in real time and with real and evidence bases. While study goes on, the killing must stop; and ultimately, the government must make that happen. As James Dudley said in Allowing the Mentally Ill Guns is Insane, Political Magazine, October 5, 2015 said, “Talking about mental health and guns is easy. Doing something is not.” It is time posthumous that we do something.

8.    We must improve our mental health record system to allow a smooth interconnection between the mental health professionals and their findings with the National Instant Background Check and with the NICS [National Instant Criminal Background Check System] at least until guns start turning up at crime scenes and an investigation is opened by law enforcement. “One study estimated that private sales account for 40% of all gun sales in the United States.” Dudley, op cit. The present author agrees with D.J. Jaffe, Huffington Post, Healthy Living, 03.19.2013. “We proposed that county mental health directors be required to accept reports of individuals with serious mental illness who are becoming danger to self or others, directly from family members. This would generate higher-quality reports than those that come from psychiatrists, many of whom still argue persons with mental illness are no more violent than others, and are therefore not likely to report many who are. Mental health directors could triage these calls from families and investigate ones that warrant it. But the mental health industry and mental health directors also opposed letting families report their loved ones need help.

9.    All states must comply completely and promptly via electronic transmission, and all pertinent records must become readily available as soon as they are entered. All records must be entered into the federal system. All responsible and appropriately vetted participants must have ready access to the records. Every gun sale must be entered into the record. The laws that allow a loophole to have free-wheeling gun sales by individuals and flea markets must be rescinded. “When an individual purchases a firearm from an FFL [federally licensed firearm dealer]… he must undergo a criminal background check. First, the buyer fills out a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Form 4473 by hand, providing simple yes or no answers to a series of questions about criminal, mental health, and substance abuse history. The dealer then queries the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database maintained by the FBI via a toll-free telephone number or through the NICS E-Check System online (in a handful of states the dealer contacts the state police who in turn contact NICS).

“This instant computer check searches the NICS database for any disqualifying records that would prohibit that individual from buying a gun. During the check, the system does not disclose to gun dealers any actual information about these records. Dealers are simply seeing one of three responses from NICS on their computer screen: proceed, denied or delayed. If a potential gun buyer is denied, the FFL is never informed of the reason.” These laws have to be reworked to include any gun sales—by private sellers and buyers as well as FFLs—and the silly restrictions that keep information about the reasons for decisions about sellers must be eradicated, whether the NRA likes it or not. Now, when an individual purchases a firearm from an FFL, he or she must undergo a criminal background check. The same should apply for purchases between non-dealer individuals.

In some states less than one percent of purchases, even from FFLs [federally licensed firearm dealers] are reported to the NICS or the state. All of this poor recording and reporting is asinine, and must be changed to a full disclosure system.

10.    Gun control and responsibility must be universal and not dominated by any subgroup however well-funded, loud, persistent, or uncooperative. The killing has to stop.

11.    Education must begin as soon as the definitions and laws are part of the record, starting with law enforcement and the judicial system. Mental health professionals must become thoroughly conversant with the laws and their responsibilities and must comply forthwith.  Other vitally interested groups should have an ample opportunity to become educated, including, but not limited to, the mentally ill, their families, their caregivers, NAMI, political and religious organizations, military organizations, and school students from grammar school to the end of university careers. The mentally ill need both education—more than any other group–and treatment, if the system is to succeed.

12.    It is shameful that the United States has such a poor mental health care system—too few trained psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychiatric hospitals, inadequate training for the front line family physicians, internists, and neurologists, etc. etc. According NAMI [National Alliance on Mental Illness], “approximately 10% of children and adolescents suffer from mental illnesses. Yet only 20% of this group have been diagnosed and are receiving services. Looking at adults, approximately 1 in 17 live with a serious mental disorder such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder. Yet less than one third receive mental health services.”

A rather novel suggestion has been put forth by Maia Szalavitz in her new book, Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction, due to be published, April, 2016. It is reviewed in Pacific Standard Magazine, Nov/Dec, 2015. Drug courts have been quite successful in treating abusers who commit crimes but appear to be susceptible to rehabilitation. Drug courts are more successful than imprisonment of those persons and for society, the majority of evidence shows. The same reasoning can be applied to the mentally ill; if they are treated effectively, they may be expected, like drug abusers, to commit less crime, to use guns less often in criminal acts, and to save the taxpayers the huge sums necessary for incarceration. “With at least 1.1 million inmates in the United States suffering from mental illness, expanding access to mental health courts could potentially reduce mass incarcerations.” Mental health courts were introduced in the U.S. in the 1990’s; so, they are not all that new, and have been around long enough to produce a track record. The procedures are relatively simple and are similar to those followed in drug courts: “Defendants charged with crimes linked to psychiatric problems are evaluated and given a treatment plan, which is overseen by a judge. In some mental health courts, defendants plead guilty and receive suspended sentences. If they complete the program, the sentence is not imposed; if not, they do the time. In others, charges are suspended until the defendant completes the program, then dropped when they satisfy treatment requirements. Those who don’t comply are simply returned to the regular court system to face the original charges.”

There are major differences between mental health courts and regular courts. In the mental health system, courts are less punitive and more inclined to consider treatment as opposed to punishment. In general such courts are more lenient than drug courts since the system tends to view the mentally ill as less culpable than the addict. Mental health courts are more forgiving of lapses and “are less likely to use jail terms as sanctions for noncompliance, recognizing that incarceration is likely to exacerbate symptoms and interrupt treatment.” It is generally presumed that use of guns during crimes by the mentally ill can be treated with the same degree of leniency, depending on the seriousness of the crime and the level of involvement of the firearm. Mental health courts pay more attention to medical professionals and, unlike drug courts, and far different from regular courts, “judges do not determine what treatments are allowed… [an indicator of success is that] “on average, about 60 percent of defendants who start these programs complete them.
There is more evidence in favor of mental health courts from scientific studies: There was a significant reduction in the recidivism rate, new arrests, days spent incarcerated—upwards of 44 percent fewer days spent in jail—82 days fewer overall. In one study 75% of defendants who failed to complete the mental health court requirements were rearrested within five years. Only 40% of those who completed the programs were rearrested. Graduates took five months longer to be arrested. In general, at the least, most evidence indicates that the mental health court experience is either helpful or at least not harmful to defendants who fail, whereas there is evidence that failure after drug court is harmful.

It is too early to make judgments about the usefulness of mental health courts because there are too few of them—total 400 for the whole country—and they are administered inconsistently across the country. Some of the negative results from mental health courts suggest that better selection of candidates should be made. There is evidence to indicate that the success of drug court systems is hampered by issues the courts cannot successfully address, such as poverty, co-addiction, unemployment, and association with peer groups with antisocial behavior. It is generally agreed that mental illness does not, by itself, cause crime, but it certainly hampers rehabilitation. Many members of law enforcement, court officials, and mental health specialists question the value of the mental health court system for those reasons.

13.    The disgraceful state of mental health care delivery in the United States is not a problem without a solution. We need to spend the money and expend the time necessary to make the improvements needed. For the purposes of this blogpost, however, all of that is long term; and we do not have the time to wait for such improvements before we act on the immediacy of our gun control/mental illness problem. Stop as much of the killing as possible now, and get on with the creation of critical solutions for the general mental health problems as quickly as possible starting now.

14.    The problem of terrorists of all stripes—apart from the mentally ill—is a governmental, military, and law enforcement, issue that is beyond the scope of this set of blogposts.

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Bonnye MatthewsGuest Blog from Bonnye Matthews


In 1988 I had an explosive reaction to something at work. In seconds I went from normal to abnormal. I had difficulty controlling my arms and legs, difficulty speaking in a normal voice, and I had great mental blanks. I needed to write an email and couldn’t remember how to use the computer. This followed an employee’s entering my office drenched in perfume. I literally thought I’d lost my mind.

I’d been poisoned. It was common in the 1980s and 1990s. People were poisoned from carpets, from aircraft construction, from painting vehicles for the war in Iraq, driving school buses, living in mobile homes, and so on. They were also poisoned by mold.

People were not accorded the medical or legal attention that was appropriate. I could not understand. One of my friends assured me I needed to see an attorney. I made an appointment. The attorney told me that I was out of luck. I’m not one impressed by luck. I asked what he meant. He told me that the economy of the USA would crash if they took care of the poisoned people. I was utterly outraged. I was having difficulty thinking, walking, and speaking. I was very sick. A doctor who “detoxed” patients told me he wouldn’t touch me with a ten foot pole, because he’d likely kill me. I didn’t realize that many doctors expected me to die. Meanwhile, though many tried to make unfounded assumptions, over the years people speculated I had some kind of psychological or psychiatric problem, but not one ever produced a diagnosis. A neuropsychological assessment showed that I’d lost a huge amount of IQ points. My ability to concentrate was at 6%. I had trouble in my brain, but it was because of the damage from poisoning: brain mapping showed that I saw three things with my left eye and two with my right eye; signals from my hands and feet no longer went to the motor cortex but rather bounced all over the brain avoiding the motor cortex altogether except for the right foot which transmitted to the hand on the wrong side of the brain; information arrived at the hippocampus way too late and too feeble to be useful. That doctor told me I could lose the ability to move and communicate based on what he saw. A PET scan showed a lesion on my left hippocampus and uncus. A SPECT scan showed vascular thinning not like Alzheimers. I had developed acute intermittent porphyria (AIP) and porphyria cutania tarda (PCT). Those are diseases of the metabolic pathway of the production of heme for hemoglobin. Attacks of AIP can lead to respiratory failure and PCT to terrible skin lesions from sun contact and both can contribute to liver cancer. In addition the poisoning gave me asthma, and I had severe reactions to a massive number of substances. Some reactions were from porphyria and others were from chemical sensitivity.

Doctors from the University of Washington and Group Health decided to do a study. I was a participant. I went to the study and was outraged. The study was not a study. I called one of the creators of the study, Gregg Simon, MD. I told him I was outraged at what they did. It was not a scientific study at all. His response was, “If you get me the money, I’ll do the study right.” As long as I live I’ll never forget his words. The attorney told me it was all about money. The medical people were saying the same thing. I was dumbfounded. These people in service occupations were focused on money, period. Those who funded that so-called study got what they paid for. It should go down in infamy. It did come to the University of Washington as a complaint. Some of the reviewers were outraged, but their reactions were quashed. I contributed to the complaint, but wasn’t part of it. Money? I have no proof of that.

Meanwhile medical doctors were literally making fun of people who had been poisoned. One doctor who literally performed initial reviews on chemically poisoned patients for the State of Washington and also was paid to review those cases, literally said that people who claimed to be poisoned ought to have a rocket set off under their butts. They pretended people who’d been poisoned were lazy or crazy or both. It was cruel. The doctors knew the truth but their reports were often clearly something from a word processing machine. Poisoned patients shared them. Mine was hilarious. The doctor used all the State of Washington terminology when I was a federal government worker.

I worked as an advocate for a while. Eventually I realized I was being defined as a disabled person and I had been doing everything on earth to recover. I was a virtual workaholic and separation from work was totally frustrating. With no help whatsoever, I learned to rewire my brain. I learned to see one thing instead of several. I learned to walk and use my hands to hold things instead of dropping them. It took work, hard work. I learned to use sticky notes in place of my brain for remembering.

Eventually I moved to Alaska and began to improve slightly. It is likely the cleaner air made a difference. I took heart.

Then I discovered a great wonder. I think of it as my miracle. It was a training DVD from Canada. A friend of mine who’d been poisoned at NASA insisted I buy the course and try it. It had made a huge difference for her. I looked at the website and wrote her back that there was no science on the website. At her insistence I bought it and tried it. It taught me how to cure the chemical sensitivity. I still had porphyria and asthma, but the chemical sensitivity and brain fog that would come with it was cured in half a day! The course uses neuroplasticity exercise to cure the problem. To explain it at the website, I realized, would have enabled some people to cure the problem without the course. Money.

After my cure of the chemical sensitivity, I was overjoyed. I let the doctors I knew who had poisoned patients know. I let people who worked as advocates of injured workers know. The reaction instead of joy was utter skepticism at best. How could I be cured of chemical sensitivity in half a day? I said I’d developed it in less time than that, and that they should look at me. The evidence was visible. I could take the top off a bottle of cologne and have no extreme heightened sense of smell and no reaction. My sense of smell had normalized! They were not interested. Patients weren’t interested. I was dumbfounded. Finally someone explained: doctors made money from it; advocates had carved out niches where they felt important; patients were happy in their new norm.

I was one of those poisoned people. But today I’m an author of a series of novels. Each novel has won an award and the award reviewer called me America’s pre-eminent writer of prehistoric fiction. A national book reviewer exclaimed over the series. My story in more detail is on the DVD at the link below. In it you can see the brain scans and hear the doctor tell me things nobody wants to hear. What’s important to keep in mind is that the human is resilient and will power can carry people to success when all is pitted against it. The government left me in poverty as soon as they could get doctors to say they couldn’t see anything. It was all about money. Now I’m hoping the novels and my current work, novellas on the peopling of the Americas BEFORE the Ice Age will ultimately supply enough money to live on comfortably. Until then it’s still about money. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dadn3Oz0SOU

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1.    Connections between mental illness and gun violence are complicated, and not as directly causal as the NRA, other gun advocates, or the anti-gun lobby would have the public believe. It is not as simple as “guns don’t kill people, people do.” The social, historical, economic, educational, ideological, and political biases of subpopulations of the United States factor into decisions about gun use, gun abuse, the criminal justice system, laws about possession of, and gun usage, the right to privacy versus the right to protection of life and property, and the power of advocacy, including the abuse of that power.

The definition of mental illness is a fluid one, but one that must be made if the country is to have an efficacious, fair, and universal, application for the purposes of personal and public safety. Mental health experts can determine such a definition, but they cannot predict individual behavior in the majority of instances. My suggestion is to go back to the 1968 definition of when the mentally ill can and should be prevented from any access to guns. Anyone who has been involuntarily committed to a mental health treatment facility for three months should be barred forever from gun access or use; anyone who is determined to be a danger to self or others as a result of a mental illness until his or her mental illness improves to the point of safety with quarterly re-evaluations by competent experts when requested by the mentally ill person. Anyone who communicates to a health care professional that he or she has murderous thoughts or intends to do harm to others needs to be prevented from owning or using firearms.

The specific disqualifications related to mental health are currently quite narrow. Under federal law, an individual is prohibited from buying or possessing firearms if they have been “adjudicated as a mental defective” or “committed to a mental institution.” A person is “adjudicated as a mental defective” if a court — or other entity having legal authority to make adjudications — has made a determination that an individual, as a result of mental illness: 1) Is a danger to himself or to others; 2) Lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs; 3) Is found insane by a court in a criminal case, or incompetent to stand trial, or not guilty by reason of lack of mental responsibility pursuant to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. A person is “committed to a mental institution” if that person has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution by a court or other lawful authority. This currently expressly excludes voluntary commitment. This author disagrees with that compromise arrived at in the exclusion of voluntary commitment clause. I firmly believe that every commitment should be a reason for disqualification for gun ownership or use. If a person falls under one of these two categories, they are prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms for life–although federal law now allows states to establish procedures for such individuals to restore their right to purchase or possess firearms. Further, it is this author’s opinion that the prohibitions against owning or using firearms should also extend to persons who have been or are currently under a court-ordered conservatorship because they are, by definition, “gravely disabled” as a result of a mental disorder. The onus is on the gravely disabled person to prove competency and safety owing to successful treatment at some future date if that is what the person desires. Any person prohibited from having access to firearms for any reason, must agree to waive his or her privacy rights as part of the process to regain such rights.

A 2014 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit aimed at removing the stigma of mental illness and barriers to treatment, analyzed the state of mental commitment laws state by state, looking at both the “quality of involuntary treatment (civil commitment) laws which facilitate emergency hospitalization during a psychiatric emergency and the availability of court orders mandating continued treatment as a condition of living in a community.” There must be both common sense mental commitment laws and appropriate gun laws. Mel Robbins asked, “Do we as a society have reason to intervene? To answer ‘yes,’ we must believe there is a compelling societal imperative beyond preventing imminent injury or death–an imperative to liberate a person from a hellish existence he would never–in his “right mind”–choose…The truth is that commitment laws shouldn’t [only] be a stopgap to prevent imminent harm, but rather seen as an essential tool to help a loved one needing treatment before things reach the imminent harm stage.”

2.    Drug use to excess, drug abuse, and drug addiction, including alcohol and legally prescribed drugs, should preclude the right to have or to use a gun for any purpose for a period of six months with mandatory review at the first six months, then once a year thereafter until the person is judged to no longer have a drug problem. After eighteen months, if the person is found to be free of drug dependency and no longer to be a danger to self or others, the person may appeal for reinstatement of gun ownership and/or use privileges. Review is mandatory at one year thereafter. Gun use or ownership is automatically rescinded permanently for any infraction of the law regarding drug use or gun use as adjudicated by the justice system.

3.    For all of the complexities of defining mental illness and the difficulty of creating enforceable and fair laws, they must nevertheless be created; and they must be stringently enforced. Mental health workers cannot be made into scapegoats for a failed system; the responsibility must be shared and worked on regularly by qualified mental health workers, law enforcement officers, sociologists, churches, the judicial system in all of its branches (prosecution, defense, prisons, mental institutions, legislators, etc.) with an absolute requirement to share information which is deemed to be more important than privacy laws. At this point in time, according to Michael Corcoran, Ph.D., Mental Health Checks When Purchasing a Gun, “even when individuals do undergo a background check when buying a gun in this country, the screening for mental health history is cursory at best.” Mental health screening and background checks must become a mandatory part of the privilege of purchasing a gun and/or ammunition every time and in every place and by all buyers.

4.    While it is self-evident to almost all students of the mental illness/drug abuse/and judicial system that there is a genuine and persisting problem in place, the conundrum must be simplified to the point that understandable and enforceable laws can be made. While it is indubitably true that there are other factors such as ignorance, ill-education, poverty, conditioning into an ideology that justifies gun violence, and sympathy for the drug abuser or mentally ill person or the poor or minority person, those factors must be an area of ongoing study but not a factor for excusing violence. There has been enough killing and enough obscuring talk; it is time to join forces to stop the killing.

5.    In at least this one instance, partisan politics and opinion needs to be set aside; so, the killing can stop.

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The latest iteration of the “madman” killer is the entrance onto the media stage is the dangerous loner. These killers are the “unstable, angry White men who should never have had access to firearms.” Metzl and MacLeish, op cit in previous blogposts in this series. ABC news told of plans for geneticists to study the Newtown shooter’s DNA for “abnormalities or mutations”, and the Associated Press described plans to do research on the brains of mass shooters, including those loners who had, according to CBS, “trouble looking people in the eye.” The combination of the linked descriptors: unstable, angry, white, mentally disturbed, gun-obsessed, and killers to describe shooters is a relatively recent phenomenon, and strongly appears to be linked to concepts of white male chauvinism, special privileged individualism, and right wing politics—all characteristics of the gun rights advocates crowd. When the killer is black, the blame goes to so called black culture or black activist politics as opposed to individually disordered brains; and there is no demand for brain research and autopsies for killers from that culture. This is despite the fact that there are plenty of mass murders committed by people of various races who are mentally disordered.

During the era of the violent 1960s and early 1970s, for instance, Bromberg and Simon described ‘protest psychosis’ which drove ‘Negro men’ to insanity, Archives of General Psychiatry. This hypothesis which generally appeared to be intended towards excusing the behavior of black men whose hostility was aroused to the level of insanity because of maltreatment by Caucasians. Raskin et al. went so far as to propose  that Blacks with schizophrenia rated higher than Whites on a set of “hostility variables” because of delusional beliefs that “their civil rights were being compromised or violated.” Brody further argued that “growing up as a Negro in America may produce distortions or impairments in the capacity to participate in the surrounding culture which will facilitate the development of schizophrenic types of behavior.” All of this led a number of prominent psychiatrists and psychologists to champion the opinion that, “the incidence of hallucinations was significantly higher among Negro schizophrenics than among white schizophrenics first admitted to the state hospital system” and that “there are factors in the Negro culture that predispose to more severe schizophrenic illness.” [All described in Metzl and MacLeish, op cit]. The medication Haldol was advertised with an image of an angry Black Man shaking a Black Power fist. The text of the advertisement asks, “Assaultive and belligerent?” and answers, “Cooperation often begins with Haldol.”

FBI profilers of the era, “spuriously diagnosed many pro-gun Black political leaders with militant forms of schizophrenia as a way of highlighting the ‘insanity of their political activism’.” Violent Blacks, Communists, and Muslims were also similarly described. Being Black, or being Black and violent, is now recognized as nothing related to the brain disease of schizophrenia; but in those violent decades, the concept received serious consideration. By 1968, several “articles in the American Journal of Psychiatry, such as one… titled Who Should Have a Gun? urged psychiatrists to address ‘the urgent social issue’ of firearms in response to ‘the threat of civil disorder.’ It was in that atmosphere that the U.S. Congress began serious debate about gun control legislation leading to the Gun Control Act of 1968.”

More recently history cultural politics underlie anxieties about whether guns and mental illness are understood to represent individual or communal etiologies. The responses of today’s politicians, FBI profilers, and psychiatric authors who argue for the “right to use mental health criteria to limit gun access, not just to severely mentally ill persons, but also to ‘drunkards,’ ‘drug users,’ and ‘political protesters’, has a widespread and strongly believed foundation stemming from the attitudes of the 1960s and 1970s.

A difference seen in the present day is the shift more promptly to the individual; the actions of lone White male shooters lead to calls from the NRA and other gun rights advocates to expand gun rights, focus on individual brains, or limit gun rights just for the severely mentally ill. The inordinate power of the NRA and of Tea Party politics makes it seem to be political suicide for a legislator or even a doctor or law enforcement officer to hint at restricting the gun rights for White Americans, private citizens, or men, even though these groups are the very ones most frequently linked to high-profile mass shootings. The other significant distinction between then and now is that “members of political groups such as the Tea Party who advocate broadening gun rights to guard against government tyranny—indeed the same claims made by Black Panther leaders in the 1960s—take seats in the U.S. Congress [and in local and state legislative bodies] rather than being subjected to psychiatric [and FBI] surveillance.”

Metzl and MacLeish, op cit in previous blogposts in this series discussed at length the argument by the NRA and other anti-gun-control advocates that gun control will not prevent the next mass shooting. Against the increasingly strident demands by the political left which takes as gospel, the idea that confiscation of guns will do away with the horrific shootings in the U.S. and will allow America once again to hold up its head among sensible and peaceable nations is “the mantra that gun control would not have prevented Newtown. That mantra is frequently cited by opponents of such efforts. This contention generally assumes that, because none of the recent mass shooters in Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, or Isla Vista used weapons purchased through unregulated private sale or gun shows, gun control in itself would be ineffective at stopping gun crime, and that gun purchase restrictions or background checks are in any case rendered moot when shooters have mental illness.” Mayo Clinic psychiatrist J. Michael Bostwick, put it, “taking guns away from the mentally ill won’t eliminate mass shootings” unless such efforts are linked to larger prevention efforts that have a broader impact on communities.”

“Many scholars who study violence prevention hold that mass shootings occur too infrequently to allow for statistical modeling, and as such serve as poor jumping-off points for effective public health interventions. Moreover, the focus on individual crimes or the psychologies of individual shooters obfuscates attention to community-level everyday violence and the widespread symptoms produced by living in an environment engulfed by fear of guns and shootings.”

There are, in “the United States… an average of 32, 000 handgun-related deaths per year, and firearms are involved in 68% of homicides, 52% of suicides, 43% of robberies, and 21% of aggravated assaults… Everyday violence has a disproportionate impact on lower-income areas and communities of color, and is [now] widely held to be the cause of widespread anxiety disorders and traumatic stress symptoms; tensions of race and social class have an impact on the framing of the “insanity” of gun violence as [either] an individual or group problem.

The stark truth is that “a psychiatrist or other mental health professional is a class-based activity not available in many low-income neighborhoods, and that in any case the insanity of urban gun violence all too often reflects the larger madness of not investing more resources to support social and economic infrastructures.”

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