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Saturday, April 21, 2007

More Gun Control

I found these paragraphs in a story about the frequency of mass shootings in recent years.
Australia had a spate of mass public shooting in the 1980s and ’90s, culminating in 1996, when Martin Bryant opened fire at the Port Arthur Historical Site in Tasmania with an AR-15 assault rifle, killing 35 people.

Within two weeks the government had enacted strict gun control laws that included a ban on semiautomatic rifles. There has not been a mass shooting in Australia since.
Huh.

I know correlation doesn't mean causation...but you have to admit, it's kind of hard to go on a rampage with an AR-15 assault rifle when you can't get one, right?

If the product of strict gun control laws is a ten year drought in rampage killings, I say let's do it.

I Don't Think We're In Limbo Anymore, Toto

The new Pope has some amazing powers. With a stroke of his pen, he can wipe out limbo.

I wonder if he could do the same with the Funky Chicken...

Mickey Kauntrarian

You know who bugs me...Mickey Kaus.

He's such a clever little contrarian, always challenging the conventional wisdom. In a time when McCain, Guiliani, and Romney are taking all kinds of heat for various things, be it ridiculous war statements, dressing in drag and cheating on your wife, or being Mormon, Mickey thinks the Democrats, who are currently swooning over Obama, Clinton, and Edwards, should be the ones who are worried.

Yeah, I'm not making this up. The Democrats, with all the sweethearts, should worry...not the Republicans, with all the pigs.

Only problem with that theory is that the Democratic base isn't going to vote for McCain, Guiliani, or Romney anyway. It's the Republican base that is going to have to get over Romney's religion and Guiliani's infidelities. Seems like they're the ones who should be worried.

But not in Mickey's world. I guess I could forgive him though. He does, after all, come up with this shit for a living. So I forgive him.

But that doesn't mean I'm gonna link him.

Glenglarry Glenn Rage

So I thought we were all going to go after Carson Daly, but we're going to be gunning for Alec Baldwin now? Sheesh...

No one bothered to send me the memo.

PS. I have listened to Alec Baldwin's voicemail...and I feel skeezy because of it. I'm going to sit this one out. I refuse to participate in this man's professional destruction. It's really none of our business.

Interesting thing, I heard about the voicemail before I actually heard the voicemail. It's not as bad as you would think from reading the reports.

As far as angry voicemails go, I've left worse.

Guns Have Accomplished All They Will Accomplish in Mogadishu

Back when Eric Alterman used to have a column on MSNBC, I used to read it quite frequently. Nowadays, he's posting on Media Matters, and I've been out of touch. For some reason, I took a look today and saw this post from Lt. Colonel Bob Bateman, veteran of Iraq and frequent Alterman correspondent. I'm going to quote it extensively:
Name: Lt. Col. Bob Bateman
Hometown: Capitol Hill, Washington DC

I am sick of stories about guns, and how the blessed Founding Fathers wanted every little patriot baby to grow up with a Kentucky long-rifle over the mantle. It is a lie. It is a myth. The very idea is a concoction by people who want to believe something, regardless of the facts, and the fact that the lie has deep roots does not make it any more accurate.

I am sick of stories about people who claim that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Bullshit. You do not see 70+ people, or even 40, or 20 ... or, (you get the picture) randomly gunned down in any of the countries where the tools of violence are confined to the authorities.

I am sick of idiots with an agenda pretending that what happened at Virginia Tech is not because we have too many damned guns in this country. Muzzle-loading blackpowder rifles, single-shot breech-loading hunting rifles, and single-barrel breech-loading shotguns, and that is about it, are all that should be allowed. Those tools can be used, legitimately, to hunt. You want more, move. Leave the United States to those who know the difference between something that is useful for hunting, and something that replaces the manhood you never attained. If you want more, join the Army. If you can't do that, and if you still want something that reloads quickly and gives you plenty of shots, BUY A DAMNED BOW!

But what really puts me over the top is one particular brand of NRA stupidity. That is the myth of the Wild West. In other words, if I hear one more stupid gun-loving sonuvabitch talk about how, "Well, if they just had allowed all those students to have guns, this lunatic at Virginia Tech wouldn'ta got far," I am going to slap his dumb ass on the first plane smokin' for Iraq, where I would like to personally drop him off, with as many guns as he would like, in Dora (that's a particularly nasty South Baghdad neighborhood with which I am familiar).

Yes, Dora would be perfect. In my mind's eye I am imagining plopping said gun nut off outside the blue-painted major police sub-station, just about six or seven blocks from another walled-in compound which is now a police barracks (or, at least it was, last year.). As a microcosm, Dora should be the NRA's dream town, as it perfectly matches the NRA "Wild West" theory of what is needed in a society: honor is important to the individual; the family is the most important part of society; all of the inhabitants are very religious (except for when they are not); and absolutely everyone has at least one gun.

In fact, I would very much like to personally place the CEO of the NRA, Mr. Wayne LaPierre, there right now. What'ya say, Wayne? Want to experience a world where everyone has a gun? C'mon, buddy, I'll even let you hump the pig.

(That means, "Carry the M-240 7.62 mm machine gun," people. Get your minds out of the gutter.)

OK, I'm calmer now.
That's how I feel too, Bob. (It's also why I'm not a libertarian...I believe in gun control. That, and I don't believe unregulated anarchy is very conducive to a "free" market. You ever tried to play Monopoly without rules? Me either...doesn't sound very fun though, does it?)

Iraq is just the latest example that puts the lie to the canard that says, "An armed society is a polite society." You want more proof?

Go to Mogadishu.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sympathy for Old Boy

I knew it. I goddamn fucking knew it.

As soon as it was released that the Virgina Tech rampage killer was Korean, I knew Old Boy was going to come up. And perhaps not just Old Boy, but Chan-Wook Park's whole "Vengeance" trilogy, and Korean cinema in general.

If you've seen those films, you'll know what I'm talking about, if not, prepare for some spoilers.

The "Vengeance" trilogy isn't really a "trilogy" like you would think, not like Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings. It's three very different, unrelated stories revolving loosely on themes of vengeance and morality. Old Boy was the first that I saw, and I was struck by its artful mix of poetic but disturbing imagery. There's a scene where the main character, Oh Dae-Su, eats a live octopus, even as it wriggles in his hand and its guts ooze out of his lips.

You would never see that in an American film, and if you did, it would be played as a gross out. In Old Boy, it's no less gross, but the act resonates with all kinds of meaning.

And while the summaries of Old Boy as a revenge tale are true, it's not a Charlie Bronson movie. Oh Dae-Su seeks revenge, yes, but the twist at the end reveals that (massive spoiler) Oh Dae-Su is the recepient of a complicated revenge scheme himself.

Now on the surface, it may seem that this movie endorses vengeance, as it so gleefully revels in violence, but if you dig a little deeper, dig into the meat of its themes, you realize that it's a condemnation of vengeance and a requiem for the moral life not lived.

The other films of the series explore similiar themes, with similiar results.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance provides all the justification for vengeance as well as the perfect conditions for meting it out, and still finds the experience lacking. In Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, it's never quite clear who Mr. Vengeance is, even as its two opposing main characters go after each other, but it is quite clear that they both deserve sympathy...and that they need better judgement.

If Cho Seung-Hui used Old Boy as a blueprint for his rampage, then he really wasn't paying attention to the movie. If the news media is trying to link the movie to the massacre, then they weren't really paying attention either. Korean cinema is tough. It's weird, it's violent, it's over the top, it's (in my opinion) good, but it doesn't drive people to murder.

The Gate

I put up one gate on my little fence today, and let me just say this...

It looks like shit.

My Prediction...Comes True!

Was I right? Or was I right?

Nacchio is found guilty on 19 counts. 19 out of 42? That's Jake Plummer numbers!

Granted, my prediction was kind of lame...not to mention obvious...but it still came true. They tend to do that when they're lame and obvious.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

In Self-Defence of Gun Control

This is rich. Charles Krauthammer comes out against using the Virginia Tech massacre for political purposes, for example, by reigniting the gun control debate. He writes:
What can be said about the Virginia Tech massacre? Very little. What should be said? Even less. The lives of 32 innocents, chosen randomly and without purpose, are extinguished most brutally by a deeply disturbed gunman. With an event such as this, consisting of nothing but suffering and tragedy, the only important questions are those of theodicy, of divine justice. Unfortunately, in today's supercharged political atmosphere, there is the inevitable rush to get ideological mileage out of the carnage.
The funny thing is that with guys like Krauthammer, we already saw "the inevitable rush to get ideological mileage out of the carnage," the carnage of 9-11.

Take this paragraph here:
It is true that with far stricter gun laws, Cho Seung Hui might have had a harder time getting the weapons and ammunition needed to kill so relentlessly. Nonetheless, we should have no illusions about what laws can do. There are other ways to kill in large numbers, as Timothy McVeigh demonstrated. Determined killers will obtain guns no matter how strict the laws. And stricter controls could also keep guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens using them in self-defense. The psychotic mass murder is rare; the armed household burglary is not.
Sounds okay, but I don't think Krauthammer would make the same argument about Al Qaeda terrorists. Witness my remix.
It is true that with the Patriot Act and the terrorist surveillance program, the 9-11 hijackers might have had a harder time hijacking the airplane needed to kill so relentlessly. Nonetheless, we should have no illusions about what laws and surveillance programs can do. There are other ways to kill in large numbers, as Cho Seung Hui demonstrated. Determined terrorists will blow up buildings no matter how strict the laws. And the Patriot Act and the terror surveillance program could also ensnare law-abiding citizens who are completely innocent. The psychotic mass murder is rare; government overreach is not.
Whether it's liberals getting hysterical over gun control after the latest school shooting or conservatives getting hysterical over terrorism at the mention of 9-11, it doesn't matter. It's still hysterical.

And so is Charles Krauthammer's Washington Post column.

For my part, I think a robust government response to terrorism is appropriate, as long as it safeguards individual liberties and doesn't cause negative repercussions for non-terrorists.

And I also think a certain level of gun control is also appropriate.

Let's face it, guns don't have the same use they did when the 2nd Amendment was written. Unlike during colonization and our Manifest Destiny period, we're not living in a frontier land where every man has a six gun on his hip and every woman a shotgun across her lap. Back then, the Indians and road agents and unsettled wilderness made owning and using a gun not only practical, but neccesary.

Nowadays we live in densely populated cities, with no raiding Indians, with police to control the road agents. Different circumstances require different rules.

Guns serve only a few purposes today, and its possible to live one's whole life without ever firing one.

They are for the sportsman, the guy who gets a hard on when he gets a bullseye from 1000 yards, the good ole boys yelling "Pull!" on the backporch. To the sportsman, the gun is basically a toy, something to play with and occupy your time, a hobby, an art. To me, this is perhaps the best use of guns, because even though many rounds may be fired, no blood is spilled.

Then there is the hunter, who is like the sportsman, but with blood. I have no problem with these guys either. I mean, there are good ways to do it, and there's the Dick Cheney way, but that's another post entirely, and however you feel about killing innocent animals for food and sport, you must admit that there was a time, not too long ago really, that people subsisted in this country, either partially or in full, on hunting. It's in our bones, and it's a skill that we as a species shouldn't lose. (You never know, civilization could crumble and we'd have to go back to being hunter-gatherers. It's happened before.)

And then there's self protection, which is perhaps the flimsiest rationale for access to guns that I support. When it comes to self protection, I'd take a phone on a hotline to 911 over a gun during a burgulary anyday. It's not a matter of courage or intestinal fortitude. It's a matter of firepower.

Who's got more firepower? The .22 in my hand? Or the police with their radios and training and swat teams?

And what do I need a semi-automatic 15 in the clip, one in the chamber 9mm for? In case zombies attack or my neighborhood is overrun by Iraqi insurgents?

It sure isn't going to protect me from drive-bys.

And let's just play out Krauthammer's "armed household burglary" scenario. Say you manage to get your gun out of its locked child proof case high in the back of the closet in time to shoot the armed burglar making off with your TV. (He must have three arms...) When the cops roll up and shine their lights in your house, they're going to see you, standing over a dead man with the gun still smoking.

You won't hear, "Good job, bud!" But you might hear, "Put down the gun." That is, if you don't hear the gun shots that will kill you first.

The successful use of guns in self defense is rare; crimes committed with easily-acquired guns are not.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Roots Bloody Roots Meme Version

I haven't done one of these memes in a while, so here goes with one I found over at Dale's Passion and Creepy's Church of Lost Souls.

What was the first recorded music you bought?

Beastie Boys, License to Ill, crica 1987. I was 11 years old. Rap was just starting to blow up. The double-fold record cover was awesome, too. A plane in flight on the front flap, only you discover on the back flap that it's taken a nose-dive into the horizon. Ironically, my first exposure to John Bonham's massive drumming prowess.


What was the last music you bought?

Clutch's From Beale Street to Oblivion and Hellyeah's eponymous debut on CD, and Machine Head's The Blackening on iTunes. I'll post reviews after I give them a few listens.

What was the first "professional" music show you ever went to?

Don Francisco, a Christian folk singer. I was still a believer when I saw Don Francisco and can still get chills from his music. Now I recognize that as the power of a talented musician rather than the pings of the divine. Believe it or not, I still think Don Francisco is awesome. His song Too Small a Price is spine-tingling.

What was the last?
Tool last summer. Clutch is coming in May.

What's your "desert island" album?
My hard drive. Ha!

What's your favorite album/song title? (the *title* , not the actual album or song)
Walking in the Great Shining Path of Monster Trucks, The House that Peterbilt, 2-way tie, Clutch.

What's your favourite album art?
Sepultura's Roots. My take on it: The Indian (a pejorative in the US, but what they like to be called in South America) has just ingested some kind of hallucinogenic substance and has descended into the "spirit world" or whatever you want to call the trance state. It's a pretty good artistic representation of that.
Plus, I like this picture of the band in the fold.

Ideal choice for a karaoke song?
I've always wanted to sing Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love...to an empty room.

Song you don't like that WILL NOT LEAVE YOUR HEAD if you hear it.We Don't Need Another Hero, Tina Turner

Which is cooler? -- Vinyl? CD? Cassette? 8-track?
CD, definitely. But then again, I'm not a DJ.

Christmas is Coming

This is what I want, so start your shopping early. I'm trying to round out my "Three S's" DVD collection. Who are the "Three S's" you ask?

Stephen Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Spike Lee, my picks for top 3 filmmakers. That doesn't mean Top 3 ever, of course, as Hitchcock deserves a mention, and probably Kubrick or even Kazan, but for my money, I like the "Three S's" above all.

So here's the movies I don't have from these guys:

Spielberg
1941
Empire of the Sun
(Last resort: Always, Hook, Jurassic Park 2)

Scorsese
The Color of Money
The Last Temptation of Christ
The Age of Innocence
Kundun
(Last Resort: After Hours, New York, New York, The Last Waltz)


Spike Lee
Do the Right Thing
Malcolm X
Summer of Sam
When the Levees Broke
(Last Resort: She's Gotta Have It, School Daze, Girl 6, The Original Kings of Comedy, Bamboozled)


Those "last resort" picks are the lesser films I didn't really like, and the only reason I list them here is to complete the collection.

As you can see, Spielberg is almost complete. I'm missing some significant works from Scorsese, Last Temptation and Age of Innocence in particular (although that pool movie is alright too). But as you can see, there's some gaping holes in my Spike Lee collection. Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, and When The Levees Broke are his defining masterpieces, and it's a shame I don't have them...yet.

Here's a list of the films I already have:
Spielberg
Jaws
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Raiders of the Lost Ark
E.T.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
The Color Purple
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Jurassic Park
Schindler's List
Amistad
Saving Private Ryan
AI
Minority Report
Catch Me If You Can
The Terminal
War of the Worlds
Munich

Scorsese
Mean Streets
Taxi Driver
Raging Bull
The King of Comedy
Goodfellas
Cape Fear
Casino
Bringing Out the Dead
Gangs of New York
The Aviator
The Departed

Spike Lee
Mo' Better Blues
Jungle Fever
Crooklyn
Clockers
Get on the Bus
4 Little Girls
He Got Game
25th Hour
She Hate Me
Inside Man

My Prediction

As the jury deliberations in the Joe Nacchio case go into day 6, I think Nacchio will be convicted on some, if not all, of his charges.

When I was on a jury in Judge Nottingham's court room those years ago, our deliberations took less than twenty minutes. I credit that to the competent foreperson (me) and the clear cut facts of the case.

Speaking of Judge Nottingham, I thought this remark was pretty funny:
"Be careful not to discuss this case with anyone," Judge Edward Nottingham told jurors. "Go home. Have a pleasant evening, relax, have a drink, if you're so inclined. Or two or three if you're so inclined."

Is it Just Me?

Is it just me or is Trent Reznor starting to look like the "Fat Elvis?"

5 Days in Iraq

Lawrence Korb provides a report of a 5-day trip to Iraq. His conclusions are not encouraging. (Full disclosure: Center for American Progress is a liberal think tank, so you can start the bias objections...now.)

Korb writes:
Before embarking on the road from the airport, I was given an armored vest and a helmet. The vest was infinitely better (and heavier—45 pounds) than the flak jacket I was issued on my last visit in 2003 and the helmets were not required then.
A sign of success (ie better equipment), or a sign that there really hasn't been much improvement since 2003? Consult your bias for the answer.
To avoid any problems, the government imposed a 24-hour curfew (actually Maliki declared it a government holiday). During the three-mile drive from our compound to the Green Zone and back, I noticed that there were only a handful of cars and trucks on the road and a small number people out of their homes. It is hard to believe that four years after our “victory,” the only way to provide safety is to lock down the capital city.
Yeah, that's what I thought too when I heard about the 24 hour curfew.

I don't recall reading about a 24 hour curfew in Sarajevo, not even during the height of the four-year seige.

Korb also points out what should be glaringly obvious:
The place is a mess and despite the almost heroic efforts of some Americans and some Iraqis it is not getting better.
I've never really let the heroism of the men and women on the ground (whether they're American or Iraqi soldiers, NGO workers, reporters) blind me to the fact that Iraq has gone from bad to worse under the tutelage of George W. Bush.

Not all heroes succeed in their tasks. Just ask Leonidas, Davy Crockett, or Kurt Russell in Poseidon. (I watched that movie last night, so the reference is fresh.)

One of Korb's conclusions also deserves note:
No one in or out of the American or Iraqi government seemed to have a good answer to my question: “how does it end?” On the back of this visit, I am more and more convinced that we must take control of our own destiny by setting a specific timetable for withdrawal. Currently, our fate is in the hands of an Iraqi government that does not have any real incentive to get its act together and does not even seem to understand the gravity of the situation or the declining level of support in the United States.
The opposition to the timeline must rise above the usual refrains.

You can't "embolden" an enemy who is already emboldened.

You can't give more comfort to an enemy already comforted by Washington incompetence and Iraqi corruption.

Insurgents who are already laying back and waiting for us to leave won't lay back and wait even more if a timeline is set.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Aljazeera English

I wanted to see this Aljazeera English vid to see if there were any American voices on it...and nope. Not one. Even as they say "diversity is more than skin deep."

Other than that, it's the standard "We work soooo hard, we're soooo important, we're sooo unique and indispensible that you cannot live without us" promo you see from any news organization.

CNN American Morning or She's Got Legs and She Knows How to Use Them

Speaking of Kiran Chetry...

One thing I noticed about her besides the curious tic of raising her eyebrows in an attempt to be serious when reading the news, is that she is a very attractive woman. So attractive, she can wear a skirt shorter than my boxers and pull it off.

More than once today, I was struck...not by her prowess as a newsreader, because being her first day there were a few clumsy moments. But by her legs! (?)

Girls got legs. Exhibit A:
I wonder how much those legs came into play in the decision to hire her...

I doubt that "Damn, girls got legs!" was heard in the boardroom during that meeting, but perhaps some more sanitized but equally shallow thing was said. Like, "Well, she is intelligent, and she is experienced, and she's got the look." The Look.

John Roberts probably got the same treatment, although his legs played less of a part, I would say. He's a good looking man. He's intelligent and experienced. And he's funny, too, not in that wise-cracking way that gets the forced smile, but by being genuinely witty. And he's got the Look.

Will they get me to watch? Probably...

I like John Roberts a whole hell of a lot more than I liked Miles O'Brien, and I got to see glimpses of Arwa Damon and Jacki Schechner, too familiar and beloved faces that I haven't seen in weeks. Plus, those legs sure are nice to drool over...I mean, look at. I mean, listen to.

I mean whatever Don Imus wouldn't say, alright?

By the way, has Carson Daly been fired yet?

A Dose of Gardenblogging

Another few weeks or so...these babies are going in the ground! (Peppers and tomatoes, with salvia on the ledge.)
In the meantime, the lettuce (a dozen varieties) and the brocolli starts to sprout.

You can see the fence I put up on the left, still minus a gate. (This week's project.)

You Talkin to Me?

Kiran's Eyebrows

No more O'Briens on CNN's American Morning. Kiran Chetry and John Roberts are in the chair, although Kiran is by herself in NYC and John is hanging out in DC.

Note to Kiran:

Put....the....eyebrows....down.

Yet Another American Pussy

The latest example of an American pussy: John J. Sheehan, retired Marine Corps General, no relation to Cindy.

Floated as a candidate for the not-yet-created position of "War Czar," Sheehan declined and explained his reasons in a Washington Post editorial. He says:
We cannot "shorthand" this issue with concepts such as the "democratization of the region" or the constant refrain by a small but powerful group that we are going to "win," even as "victory" is not defined or is frequently redefined.

It would have been a great honor to serve this nation again. But after thoughtful discussions with people both in and outside of this administration, I concluded that the current Washington decision-making process lacks a linkage to a broader view of the region and how the parts fit together strategically. We got it right during the early days of Afghanistan -- and then lost focus. We have never gotten it right in Iraq. For these reasons, I asked not to be considered for this important White House position.
"The current Washington decision-making process" is probably code for "President Bush."

He is the Decider, after all.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

He may be a Republican, but he's still a jackass

Thank God I don't live in South Carolina, where I can be embarassed by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Oh you remember him, right? He went to Iraq with McCain and bought five rugs for five bucks (then promptly sold them for $500 on Ebay to a gay couple from San Francisco...ain't no "homophobia" in free enterprise).

I just saw a clip of Ole Lindsey on Think Progress. Before I even got ten seconds in, I had to stop and say, you know what, dude? You don't know what you're talking about.

He says:Look my point is, it took us thirteen years to write our Constitution. Then we had our own Civil War. Political reconciliation is moving forward.Now let that repeat in your own head for a second.

It took us thirteen years to write our Constitution? No, it took them thirteen years to write our Constitution, and a couple hundred for it to be added to and clarified. Yes, they were Americans too...but let's not confuse Lindsey Graham and George W. Bush with the Founding Fathers. And let's not forget that the American Revolution wasn't fomented by a foreign army from a distant land by immoral people acting in their own narrow interests.

As for the Civil War...Lindsey makes it sound like these two events occurred in close proximity to each other, the writing of the Constitution, "then we had our own Civil War." But anyone knows the two events were a century removed, as unconnected and relevant to each other as they are to Iraq.

The American Civil War was fought over slavery and secession. The Iraq Civil War? A power grab with a little ethnic cleansing and futile Islamic terrorism throw in for kicks.

I can see how they compare.

As for political progress...in Lindsey's own comparison, we've covered decades of time, generations. So is that what it's going to take to get George Bush's "victory" in Iraq?

No wonder everyone's bailing on Iraq.

Where is the Outrage?

Over Carson Daly's crappy late late night show?

Has he been fired yet?

Blatant Google Bait

Hey, Googlers. I know why you're here.

Is it...Arwa Damon? I think so...

If it's not Arwa Damon, it's "Stephanie Abrams Breasts." (I think in the post where I mentioned Stephanie Abrams, I was actually referring to Alexandra Steele's breasts...sorry, guys.)