Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gun Suicides Outrun Gun Murder ... By Far

White tend to shoot themselves.
“Suicide by firearm is far more common than homicide,” says Garen J. Wintemute, professor of emergency medicine and director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis. 

“Over the past 30 years, firearm suicides have exceeded homicides even when homicide rates were at their highest in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But, since 2006, the gap between the two has been widening, with firearm homicides decreasing and suicides increasing.”

In 2012, the latest year for which data is available, 64 percent of deaths from gun violence were suicides, compared with 57 percent in 2006. This increase can be largely attributed to white males, whose suicide rate far surpasses black and Hispanic males of every age. 

"Among white men ages 35 to 64, the death rate by firearm increased over 29 percent since 1990 (after being corrected for population growth), and a staggering 89.2 percent of those deaths were self-inflicted."

--From Vocativ (here) in a story nearly a year old. 

This gets to the point that "guns are far more dangerous to their owners than anybody who might threaten those owners." Harvard researchers have "found that guns in the home are used more often to frighten intimates than to thwart crime; other weapons are far more commonly used against intruders than are guns."

The National Institutes of Health has reported (here) that "guns kept in homes are more likely to be involved in a fatal or nonfatal accidental shooting, criminal assault, or suicide attempt than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.

These Rambos who keep arsenals in their basements and loaded Glocks under their pillows. on the back of the commode, beside the TV remote and in the kitchen are far more likely to do something stupid, reckless or threatening to a family member than to ward off some kind of dangerous or semi-dangerous intruder. But you'll never convince them of that with numbers or even eye-witness testimony.

A Visit to an Olive Oil Farm

This olive tree is 80 years old and is in a preserve for the older trees still producing.
Guide Teresa Rodondo.
Today's excursion was to an olive farm about 25 miles from Cordoba, near Montilla (where we got totally lost on the way). There we got tour from a charming woman named Teresa Rodondo, a lot of history and a step-by-step guide to making the high level of olive oil made in Spain.

This is a big farm: 70,000 trees that bear marketable fruit (11 years to about 80 years old). The machinery, which is modern, replacing some pretty basic millstones, among other things, has the capacity to crush 60,000 kilos of olives in two hours. Pour in the raw olives, go take a siesta, come back to the oil.

All of the olive is used, including the skin and the pit. Those are pulverized and used as fuel to run the ovens at the bakery owned by the farm. Three levels of olive oil are produced: virgin, extra virgin and lampante (originally used in lamps). The latter is not often used for consumption, but can be heated and eaten. The taste is considerably diminished in that case.

The main building at Juan Colin farm.
The Juan Colin farm is owned by six brothers, five of whom are involved in the olive farm or the bakery. One of them stopped by and chatted with us (in Spanish, which I don't speak, but which my daughter-in-law and her mother do). Nice man.

Teresa explained that the farm grows three varieties of olive: arbegaino, piquel and picudo. Each has a distinct taste when processed (all of them wonderful, I will add. This olive oil is not what we are accustomed to in the U.S.).

Here are some photos of the day.


Teresa talks to Kara, Madeline and Judy.
A few of the farm's 70,000 olive trees.
New BFFs: Teresa and Madeline.
This machine separates the olives from leaves and twigs.
Most of the process takes place in a room that looks like a brewery
Crushed seeds, leaves are used as fuel.
This is the wondrous final product. I love this oil.

Guns Create an Ease of Killing for the Disturbed

Pro- and anti-gun arguments are swirling in the wake of the Roanoke shootings yesterday, but I believe one vital point is not being stressed:

The most significant problem with guns is that they are so easy to use to get the level of destruction you seek. Killing three people with a knife or a baseball bat or a car or a shoe requires a level of skill and personal investment that a gun wielder does not need to have.

Bludgeons and knives require a physical investment in gore that most are not willing to make. If you've ever stomped a rat, rather than depending on a trap, you understand ... at least to  degree.

Guns make killing easy and even attractive to some of us. Mental illness or just a case of being pissed off lend themselves to the ease and convenience of gun violence. 

This is about guns. It is also about a society that will neither limit its use, nor treat those who are most dangerous to us all. It is a complex problem that we have avoided for many years because politicians fear the NRA or they simply believe nothing is wrong. 

Outside the U.S., where guns are most often strictly controlled gun killings are much more rare. Knives are often the choice for homicide, but the rates are much lower. In a Smithsonian study (here), the conclusion is "All of these countries have tight gun control laws, and rates of violent crime involving knives reflect that. [The U.S. Office of Drugs and crime says], firearms account for 76 percent of homicide weapons in the Americas (30 countries), while knives make up just 10 percent of those crimes. In Europe (32 countries), on the other hand, guns are involved in 36 percent of murders and knives are involved in 43 percent. Here's the U.N.:
"Over the whole age range, a male in the Americas is around six times more likely to be killed by a firearm than a knife. In contrast, in 17 countries in Asia, firearm and sharp object homicides are much more equally distributed in the 15 to 34 age group: while a slightly higher proportion of violent deaths are caused by firearm in each group, a male in the countries examined in Asia is alm]ost as likely to be killed by a knife as a firearm."
"Likewise, deaths among European men are about evenly divided between guns and sharp objects, the U.N. reports. While either a gun or a knife is, clearly, a potential murder weapon, there is a correlation between the availability of guns and the lethality of violent crimes."

I'm in Spain right now and the people here are shaking their collective head--again--at this latest atrocity. Blame the shooter, blame the system, blame the gun, blame the situation, but for god's sake don't do anything to correct it. Europeans don't understand. Neither do any other sane people.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Soccer Jersey with a Story

Cordoba Soccer Boy
Just bought my first soccer jersey. They call them "football" jerseys here, but they're wrong. Picked up a road jersey for
the Cordoba El Califas of the Spanish professional league. A calif is a person considered a political and religious successor to the prophet Muhammad and a leader of the entire Muslim community.

The team plays at the Estadio Nuevo Arcángel, which has a capacity of 21,822 seats in a square setup. It is old and ugly, but seems to work for Cordoba.

I bought the jersey this afternoon in the team shop (69 Euros). We went over at 5 o'clock to make the buy because we couldn't find any Cordoba Califa team stuff anywhere else. The stadium shop was closed for siesta. Went back at 6, after heading over to Cordoba's only American-style mall (which was just as empty of anything I wanted/needed as they are here).

I have no idea how the club got the name El Califa, though Cordoba was a Muslim HQ at one time long ago. The team was founded in 1954 and last year, because it had a great previous season, the team was elevated to the Spanish major leagues. Its success was a two-sided sword, however, since the team could not afford to keep its best players and  was in way over its head from the beginning. This year, it was sent back to the minors.

My son says jerseys were hard to come by last year (and so were tickets, I'd assume) until it was obvious the Califs were playing in a league too far.

In any case, I like the black road jersey with a sponsor name at the top and the sponsor's yellow logo on the sleeves. In Europe, soccer jerseys have sponsors' names on the front in type that is far more prominent than the team's name. You have to think that the standard is coming in the NFL, NBA, NHL and the rest of American professional sports.

Like my jersey, though

(Evan Smith photo.)


The Murders: So Senseless, So Preventable

Murdered reporter Alison Parker (left) with Vickie Gardner.
The shooting deaths of the two young WDBJ-7 journalists and serious wounding Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce director Vicki Gardner, a woman I've known for 20 years, is a tragedy not just in the U.S., but here in Spain, as well.

The American obsession with guns is an obscenity that the rest of the world recognizes and it is one reason the U.S. leads the world in gun deaths, murder rates, suicide rates and god knows what all.

Information on this morning's shooter is trickling out, but I think we can predict that he is obsessed, unbalanced and easily discovered to be either or both with a background check.

In the mean time, I think we can all deeply sympathize with the families of the lose young people, kids who were essentially at the exciting beginnings of their careers, who were in love, who had a great deal to look forward to. They were taken for no real reason and in a fashion that should have been easily preventable with the proper laws in place.

Will we ever have the courage and the determination to enact those laws? Probably not. Probably not at all.

Where Columbus Got His Money

El Alcazar, the Cordoba castle of King Fernando and Queen Isabel, who financed Christopher Columbus.
Kara parks in close quarters.
Today's history lesson came at El Alcazar, the Moorish castle in Cordoba that King Fernando and Queen Isabel appropriated in the 15th Century so they could impose Catholicism in this region.

Southern Spain, a stable, successful, multi-cultural region was settled and successful in 1492, but the King and Queen wanted everybody in Spain to be Catholic. Regardless of what that meant. And what it meant was the vicious Spanish Inquisition.

This castle, preserved exquisitely, is in the center of the historic district of Cordoba and is known as the very spot where Christopher Columbus approached the royals to beg money for his trip to find a new route to the Orient. He, of course, didn't find that, discovering the Bahamas and killing a lot of natives, instead.

Rescued Roman mosaics.
The castle, though, tells a story of the way they lived on a daily basis and lets you walk the rooms. I was impressed with this presentation, containing expansive gardens, as much as I was offended by yesterday's over-the-top excursion.

One of the interesting points for me was the simple act of parking in a garage in a city where people drive small cars. My son's caris a Volvo station wagon, which is not especially large, but is a Hummer by comparisio, and my daughter-in-law was masterful in parking it in a spot that was basically built for a bicycle. See above. Here are some pix from the day.

Roof tiles from the walls.
Old ruins inside the compound.
Andalucian stallions in the courtyard are beautiful.
The outside wall at the castle.
The battlement walkway.
Pigeons build on anti-bird net.
The handsome Columbus.
Columbus petitions the King and Queen for travel money.
The handsome king greets you at the gate.
Madeline vamps at one of the castle's marble fountains.
My posse in the courtyard garden.

Having Fun in Spain

This is Evan tossing an excited Oz in Gibraltar. We continued the sport at home in the family pool.
I've taken so many photos in the past week that some of the good ones--interesting to me, anyway--have slipped away into the bin of remainders.

Thought I'd dig through this morning and find some of those I really like.

Among them is the above shot of Evan practicing a dwarf-toss (the national sport of Australia) with Oz, a willing participant. We played a lot of that in the Smith pool and you could hear Oz laughing a block away. The kid loves roughhousing.

The other shots are various and fun, I think.

(Photo of me by Madeline Smith.)


This is the cardboard boat race in the harbor at Gibraltar. Tons of fun, lots of sunken boats.
Oz and Maddie with modified cannonball.
Beach shot at Tarifa. Black and white by Janeson Keeley.
Mad bull (Toro Loco) and me in downtown Cordoba.
Doughnut for breakfast ...
... and Oz wears most of it on his mouth.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Tragic Religious Past of Cordoba

The mosque/cathedral dominates the downtown skyline in Cordoba and tells a sad tale of Christian dominance.
Some of the gold inside.
Cordoba, Spain, was the center of the Moorish world for centuries, a beautiful city based on tolerance of religion (Christianity, Judiaism, Islam or none) and ethnicity. It was enormously successful as a financial center, as well.

The Moors had tossed out the Visagoths, who had defeated the Holy Roman Empire to rule Southern Spain.

Isabel and Fernando the Catholic King and Queen showed up to rout the Moors. They outlawed other religions, putting to death those who refused to become Catholic and initiated the vicious Spanish Inquisition. 

You will remember Isabel, of course, as the queen who, charmed by big blond Italian (the Spanish say he was one of theirs) Christopher Columbus, funded his voyages to America and helped make him a mass murderer in the name of god.

Before either the Moors or the Catholics, the Visagoths and Romans held the ground as sacred and a number of artifacts from their reign remain. There is even a hole in the main floor of the mosque that reveals an archaeological dig into the Visagoth era.

Visagoth relics still remain.
Today, the Mezquita mosque/cathedral is a huge tourist attraction, but it served more as a reminder of the destructive capacity of religion to me as I toured it today with my grandgirl and daughter-in-law, a college Spanish major who knows the history, as well as the language.

Isabel, rather than razing the mosque, effecively rebuilt it inside-out as a Christian church, putting bells and crosses in the tower and stripping back the interior to create an obscenely wealthy Christian church.

This was a sad building for me because of the cultural implications, and all the gold and glitter simply amplified the Christian crimes of the past. I could easily get sick in a place like this.


The cathedral/mosque.
Not all the gold is Christian. This is Muslim artwork.
Maddie and Pampa in downtown Cordoba at a cultural center.
Madeline with some Visagoth artifacts.
These marble Moorish columns came from all over the world.
This is the Catholic church. See where it intersects with the Moorish columns at the right.

Beauty All Around in Downtown Cordoba

This lovely young woman was playing the sweetest guitar imaginable in downtown Cordoba today. My daughter-in-law tells me she was on the square last fall heavily pregnant, though she hardly looks old enough to be a mama. The music and the young woman were a nice complement to a captivating city today.

The Doors of Gibraltar

Outside the tourist area: Doors of the people of Gibraltar.
Gibraltar, an English protectorate at the southwest tip of Spain, is a small city, a compound, a tourist haven and home to 30,000 people.

It is a city with about three hotels and a lot of townhomes,  apartments, and a few single family dwellings. It is also a city of doors. They are often bright, decorated and distinctive. They are built into often-drab buildings that are old and frequently worn. And they are quite lovely.

Here are a few, away from the more touristy areas.

Guess: 10 is the number, 1747 the year it was built.
Monestary? Nah. Home.
A villa within the city.
Not so fancy, this one.
Details count.

Some are hovels.
Even dumps have nice touches.
Fancy mail slot.
London Pub: British influence abounds.
And this, just for the hell of it.