Monday, December 31, 2012

Push that envelope right out of the box

And think outside the bucket.

 I would never have heard of Lake Superior State University were it not for their annual list of objectionably worn out words or Cliché tropes that need to die -- right now.  I  have to admit that their track record of publishing this somewhat facetious list has  impactified  their reputation in an awesome  way; enough so that I go looking for it every year.

Of course my lifelong effort to avoid pop culture makes some of these things new to me although they may be sufficiently old to you and malodorous enough to the list makers at LSSU to warrant the Big Ban.  I do agree with most of their choices of course.  Guru for instance has not only gone  gangrenous and flyblown and worse, it's also a bit insulting to actual gurus, but  YOLO, you only live once, was a total surprise to me, and hearing it once was more than enough.  YODO, to you dude -- You Only Die Once and if I had my way it would be slow and painful.

 Trending  was a bit of a surprise until I read that it's being used in a novel way by journalists: those irrepressible word creators  -- used not in the sense that a trend line in a graph of literacy rates, for example, is trending downward, ( and I think it is) but in the odd sense that something  trending  is being more frequently noticed and talked about by those same journo-babblers.  Becoming trendy, as it were. 

Trend that one right into the trash, please. The same dank dumpster that  efforting  as a pretentious journo-twit replacement for 'trying' was tossed into a few years back. Yes, I agree with the UP gurus (damn)  that  bucket list  should kick its own bucket and those Randites using  job creators to describe wealthy people should be stuffed into that bucket before kicking it under the bus.  I also agree that it's time to push  fiscal cliff  over the fecal cliff,  ( along with the hack it rode in on) but all in all,  the annual list includes only 12 entries and is really meant to amuse.
"There's a slightly serious side to this, but mostly we're trying to have fun with it."
said  university PR director Tom Pink, but I'm a bit more serious than that. I mean I'd like to carry a Cricket bat with IMPACT written on it so as to create a serious impact with people who can't get through 12 words without uttering some maggoty metaphorical use of that word. No, I don't want to  kick ass  because that's another item on my own personal enemies list. It's a long list too, including anything one is likely to say in a Starbucks to persuade them to condescend to charge  you 8 bucks for a cup of coffee.

 Venti  you see, isn't going to die of its own accord, nor even barista.   Certain words need to be whacked, a still viable term,  and anyone venturing to order an  Americano  from Flo at a Georgia Waffle House or any Dunkin' Donuts in America runs the risk of  blunt instrument impact trauma if not an occasion to sleep with the fishes.  (Oops, that's on the list too) Somebody has to enforce these things and if you don't watch yourself, if you  jump the sharkdrink the kool-aid, then welcome to the Cliché Cafe, where the obnoxious neologisms  check in but they don't check out  (dammit!  that's also on the list)  But you know what I mean.  Some things are just too important to leave to nature and entropy.  When some comet wipes us out 100,000 years from now, some idiot is going to say AWSOME! if we don't stop Cliché Cancer in its tracks, nip it in the bud.  (Oh hell. . .)

So it may feel all trendy to talk about alternative medicine and natural medicine, but it doesn't dignify superstition and irresponsible marketing thereof. Words like that: words like pre-owned and mobile estates  are used as industrial lubricants, coined to avoid having to call things snake oil or used car lots or trailer parks -- to charge more for a damned coffee, for instance. That's what I'm talkin' about (ouch) Don't go there, don't buy that and for Pete's sake if you do haff to go there, don't tell us you bought the T-shirt. Keep your dignity in-tact.

What? OK, ok, it's hard to avoid all these solecisms. True, if you use death nail for death knell, mute point for moot point; if you haff to do something irregardless of the consequences, you're beyond help -- and you're in danger.  Either shut up or look carefully for that man with the bat. He's looking for you.   If you hear or read something that's just so cute you haff to work it into the very next thing you say, it's time to be mute even if your points aren't. Somebody else has long since worn it out. Git 'er done and not so much aren't funny any more and portmanteau balbations like  ginormous  are a bit like fish and visiting relatives.  3 days and they begin to smell bad. Be advised.

And that's my real point. Maybe a sense of smell has more to do with good English than a bunch of rules and lists. Maybe we need to develop a track record of waking up and smelling the coffee Maybe striving to be hip is self defeating. Maybe. Maybe it's better to say it hurts than negatively impacts on.  A big wooden bat upside your head hurts too.  Make your choice.  Avoid Clichés like the plague.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

George Bush and the NRA

 ". . . and forgetting long-passed mischiefs, we mercifully preserve their bones and piss not on their ashes."

-Thomas Browne-

I have to admit that there was a time I considered joining the NRA -- a couple of times actually.  The first was when I heard that Michael Moore belonged to it and I thought that membership would mean that my frequent maledictions might find their way to someones desk,  and the second was when I found that the one local rifle range that allowed black powder muzzle-loaders like my flintlock Kentucky long rifle required NRA membership.  In both instances my better senses took over and I decided it wasn't worth it.

I understand that following Wayne LaPierre's comments after the Sandy Hook massacre there has been a rash of resignations from the rank and file membership and a recent Snopes e-mail and a number of blog articles have reminded me of  the 1995 resignation from the NRA of George H.W. Bush. The President wrote an open letter to the NRA  after the group's refusal to disassociate itself from the then NRA spokesman LaPierre who gloated over the deaths of  the "Nazi's" as he called the federal officials slaughtered in Oklahoma City.

TREASON: the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family.

I didn't vote for Bush.  I've condemned him vehemently for his positions and offensive statements.  Although to compare GHWB to his 'George-without-the-H' scion is to make the old man look like George Washington in retrospect, I was enraged when he told us that he couldn't see how an atheist could be a citizen, and when he vetoed the Brady Bill, I wrote him an unpleasant letter.

These days, I have no faith that the Brady three day waiting period measure had any salubrious effect, and although I'm still not a real fan,   I have to give him credit for some things -- amongst which is his resignation letter.  Responding to Mr. LaPierre's vicious characterization of some of the murdered Federal Officers he had know personally as:

"jack booted thugs . . . wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms” wanting to “attack law abiding citizens,”  the former president and life member of the NRA condemned LaPierre's words  as a "vicious slander on good people."

And slander  it was, a thundering manifesto of obvious disregard for the 19 children murdered by a mad bomber or bombers  and of utter and vicious contempt for the lawful government of the United States of America and a tacit approval of armed insurrection.  Now what is the definition of treason again?  Does anyone still see that loathsome miscreant as the defender of  the Constitution or the advocate for lawful and peaceful gun owners?  I don't even want to know the answer. 

Bush,  "a gun owner and an avid hunter."  wrote :

"Over the years I have agreed with most of N.R.A.’s objectives, particularly your educational and training efforts, and your fundamental stance in favor of owning guns. However, your broadside against Federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country. It indirectly slanders a wide array of government law enforcement officials, who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us."

For an organization heavily funded by those seeking to make the government the tool of  plutocrats, an organization  willing to ignore the murders of 168 people in it's quest to de-legitimize the legitimate government and its institutions and interfere with enforcement of its laws to claim to be upholding anything but  violence and lawlessness is foul and disgusting and worthy of the same kind of contempt as the Klan or the Aryan Nation. They are not a gun owner's lobby, they are a Hate Group, an enemy of  freedom promoting the use of arms to oppose and defy a democratically elected government. 

George H. W. Bush is an old man in failing health I've never really liked, but for that one act I choose to remember him.  And to Mr. Lapierre: I tell thee churlish beast:  A ministering angel
shall he be when thou liest howling.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

It's always the end of something

We in the Western world with its apocalyptic traditions, are divided into three parts.  Those who genuinely believe the End Times will see them flying up to some paradise if they're prepared, while all others will perish -- those who look forward to a world in which they,  prepared in their bunkers with their food and weapons and skills,  are a remnant few.   And then there's me and maybe you who think they're nuts.

Like some of you, I was raised in the age of the Bomb, and I fully believed in the likelihood, the probability of a nuclear holocaust.  As a child I would take area maps and draw circles around Chicago of blast effects at different distances, of  probability of  impact points given the inaccuracy of those big Soviet warheads.  It never looked good for someone only 20 miles away from probable ground zeroes, but I pressured my parents for a fallout shelter and they let me have an area in the basement to store food and water.  I built low power radios with coils for all kinds of frequencies. I built an unlicensed transmitter.  I built an air filter. I bought survival brochures from the Government Printing Office.  I wondered what we would do if desperate neighbors decided to attack, because we had no weapons in the house. I used to dream of a house in some remote place that wouldn't be a target.  To this day I have disaster plans and equipment and when the Hurricanes of '05 and '04 came howling through, some Boy Scout part of my mind smiled and whispered:  you see? I wasn't crazy at all -- I was prepared.

I'm no longer worried about a hard Plutonium rain, nor even biological warfare.  I don't want to be the Road Warrior in some poisoned landscape and I'm too old to survive it,  but sophisticated shelters built by "preppers" are proliferating. Shelters with blast-proof doors and booby traps out of  an Indiana Jones movie set.  Training camps for survivalists and shelter designers take in a lot of money and weapons selection and training for doomsday survival is big business.  I don't think it's going to slow down even though 2012 doesn't seem to have been the end of anything. We always have and always will be provided with something to fear and yet secretly look forward to and for so many it's that devastated world where we're not subject to civilization and its laws. The last man in the world or the last few with the most guns is the king after all.

But way beyond the apocalypse believers, worried about pandemics and economic collapse and a rogue government rounding up the last free men; way beyond the people who watch those cheesy post-apocalyptic fantasies full of mutants and zombies and a helpless public, where the cities are prisons full of raging, tattooed minorities with bizarre haircuts: way beyond and everywhere are the "normal" people and their feelings of being humiliated, emasculated and rendered harmless by a society that's obsessed with safety and preserves only a possibility of  more than fake adventure or romance for the very rich.  Get your manhood back, buy a Hummer.  We may have a racist Kenyan Communist in the white house, but I can have a pretend assault rifle. I'll be the king after you Liberals ruin everything and the raging urban hordes steal your food.  

Our legendary American romance with automobiles gave way to Hummer H1's and H2's some years ago as our fears of nuclear disaster and international Communist aggression faded.  Our movies our culture became exponentially violent as we cracked down on such dangers as nail clippers and knitting needles in schools and on airplanes. In a time when it's unspeakable to give a 12 year old a pocket knife, our mothers don army boots, tattoo their hides and pierce and scar and stretch their bodies like the pictures we used to see only in National Geographic. And we put bicycle helmets on toddlers on trikes while we began to buy more guns and join militias and dream of Rambo, Revolution and a white man's America. But those one in a million odds?  Not good enough.  Safety first and air bags in the baby carriage and no risk is acceptable. Not even Africa has a greater rift.

 Field and Stream advertisements with pictures of  men in lumberjack shirts and green canvas Old Town canoes; pictures of duck hunters and trap shooters with Remington shotguns, the Boy's Life and Open Road magazines with their ads for single shot Ithaca .22 rifles, have faded into nostalgia collections and the reveries of old men.

Now it's men in camouflage with tactical shotguns and military looking, short barreled weapons, driving military looking vehicles and raging about liberals and urban minorities rising up and taking over, about big spending and entitlements bringing us back to an age of hunter-gatherers and independent mountain men. We take courses learning to be urban assault specialists, we arm ourselves to defend against our neighbors and the threat of being disarmed. We arm ourselves in preparation for the end of civilization while we secretly yearn for it. Nature and the love of  pioneer traditions have less to do with our traditional outdoor enterprises and more to do with fear.  Nature for the armed American  is too often a place you churn into muck with your ATV's and monster trucks and where you build bunkers to defend against the  Welfare State. Nature too, for some people is a place where animals live in peace and safety and plenty and where there are no red-toothed predators but only nasty hunters who shoot Bambi with their scary rifles. The deer are starving and we're seeing coyote, wolves and boar in the city.  There's a rift

 Does this have anything to do with demented people shooting up schools and theaters and  sniping at firefighters and policemen?  Are these crimes on the increase or are we just having our national nose rubbed in it; being shown a handful of dusty fear by big news corporations getting fat from fear? Is this fear engineered and built to split the country into warring camps so someone can profiteer? How real is our fear?

I can give you my memories from the 1960s and following decades when police, ambulance and fire services couldn't go into parts of  many cities because of snipers; of times almost a lifetime ago when violent crime was really increasing, when huge riots raged in burning cities -- and I can argue that it was worse in my grandfathers' time as well -- and for their fathers, it was the Civil War and Reconstruction and wholesale domestic violence on a scale we haven't had since.  But memory and desire and fear get mixed and change with time and it's hard to sell the idea that our times are safer than they've ever been, when we're bound and determined and taught that the apocalypse is coming, that everything is getting worse and more dangerous; that our food is poison and our water dangerous and the Democrats want to make us helpless and the NRA wants to kill our kids and the Liberals want to make them gay and give our money to the bums. It's hard to sell, but I think it's true.  I think we're taught to be afraid for someone's profit and will to power and I think the ratings game and the 24 hour news give people ideas about how to be a headline for a day and how to stop whimpering and end their lives with a glorious bang as much as any mad Mullah in Yemen.

But one thing I am sure of is that you can't go back -- and that if one thing was better back in the day, another thing was worse.  Another thing I'm sure of is that fear sells and fear is profitable for business and that businesses control government.  Yep, I've got that very Ithaca 49 Saddlegun I bought for 18 bucks at the hardware store in Hamilton, New York over 50 years ago. The single shot .22 that I used to spend hours with shooting cans in the rock quarry -- and I still have dad's Remington  20 gauge I've only fired once in 30 years and I don't think the Obaminator is coming for them, or my  civil war guns or my flintlock either, but I don't trust that we'll either do or be willing or able to do anything that will ensure that no one will blow up a Federal Building or crash an airplane or shoot up a post office or school or night club, but we'll keep howling and demanding, soaking our brains in propaganda -- and failing.

And yet.  And yet most of the people I know here in Florida have a gun or two and not one resembles the people I'm talking about. I'm willing to bet that not one of them  ever "goes postal" or shoots their family or robs a bank.  I'm willing to bet that holds true for the country at large, even with that chasm that separates Urbanite from swamp dweller, north from south, East from West and that fact, given the angry centrifugal rhetoric, is driving the center to the edge where nobody can talk and everybody is full of suspicion and fear and someone else can get rich and powerful because of it..

Those dreamy Autumn afternoons on the hillsides and river bottoms of  my family farm in  Illinois, or camping on my acres of virgin  forest in Northern Michigan with an old rifle are gone with the smoke from Blackfoot and Ojibwe campfires and with my best years. I don't have the 1930's JC Higgins .22 I brought with me on those long Wisconsin canoe trips either.   I have only the memories  and with every year, there will be fewer people who understand or share them: fewer people raised on Stuart Edward White and Hemingway and Baden Powell or the smell of bacon and wood smoke, fewer who will smile at the mention of  Deep River Jim and the Campfire King, the hiss of rain on the Flambeau on a June morning, how loud an eagle's wings over a wide and empty lake are, beating for altitude with a bass in its talons -- and there will be more who will only think of bloody murder and slaughter and danger and fear -- who will tremble and shudder and shrink like sheep at the sight of the knife or the crack of the rifle. If that's our brave new world, I'm not brave enough to face it and I want to go home.

Friday, December 21, 2012

End of the World!!


Over and over with my old Bencher iambic paddles I kept calling CQ only to hear the hiss of interstellar noise and distant lightning crashes. Dahdidahdit dahdahdidah: CQ CQ CQ on 40 and 20 and 18. . . and never a response.  I'm the last man on Earth, or at least the last one with a radio. 

Slowly I notice that the noise sounds a lot like wind in the palm trees and mangroves and the beeping of the timer on the coffee pot down in the kitchen where my wife is making breakfast has woken me up.

The  History Channel has been running apocalyptic nonsense for the last 48 hours non stop. Mayans, Hopi, John of Patmos and Nostradumbass. End times without end.  Now maybe it'll stop and they'll have to dredge up more old legends and manuscripts and reports of signs and portents like they've been swooning over with every forest fire, earthquake, food shortage flood and epidemic  like the ones that have been occurring since a billion years before anyone or any thing took notice.

Of course it's only 66 outside and it's been very rainy for December. . . (queue the doomsday music please. . .)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Maybe now

Maybe now's the time.  The NRA has taken a serious body blow and in general, the American public is losing faith in the extremists of the GOP and its ability to solve our problems.  A CNN poll shows that a majority, albeit a small one, thinks the GOP is too extreme and I don't think we need a poll to show that the National Rifle Association, its frequent unindicted conspirator, is aware that it has blood on its hands. The nation's largest and loudest gun  lobby all but turned out the lights and pulled down the shades for 4 days after the Newtown incident and had nothing to say as 300 protesters arrived at their headquarters on Monday.

They have scheduled a news conference for Tomorrow, Friday the 21st and have announced that:

"The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."

Wouldn't that be nice, but while that remains to be seen, I'm given to wonder if the changes proposed by others will be meaningful as well, or as is often the case, haphazard, oblivious  to facts and doomed to be ineffective at best.  What I'm hearing and reading rather confirms my worries. My incompletely documented opinion is that most bans aren't effective because they weren't designed to be. Ineffective by design and ineffective because they're unenforceable, many make things worse. Looking at the Volstead act and our "war on drugs" I see massive increases in crime and harmless people having their lives ruined. If a ban is what we hang our hopes on, a ban without further characteristics, we'll be as successful as Reagan's "just say no" billboards or Ford's "WIN" buttons were.  If we refuse to recognize that no weapons at all should be inside an elementary school, we'll get bogged down with descriptions and characteristics that most of us are painfully incompetent to handle. If we let the discussion revolve about ballistics and rates of fire, around plastic gunstocks over wood, gas or recoil operated actions and magazine capacity, we're going to pass more nonsense and walk away dumb and happy until some other crazy bastard pulls another trigger, or God help us, lights a fuse or opens a canister of ricin.

Damaging the influence of  the powerful, fear mongering  NRA, at long last, will not be all that we need if we truly want to protect our schools ( or theaters and shopping malls for that matter) unless we shed some of the self-righteousness we sometimes share with them and take an honest look at our own "meaningful contributions."  Do we share that "more of the same stuff that didn't work" and that "we didn't think of it so it's no good" attitude?  Do we steadfastly repeat party lines and refuse to consider inconvenient and contradictory facts as the economic extremists at the Tea Party do?  Do we draft laws that address other forms of mayhem we haven't thought of yet or do we, as Generals are accused of doing, fight the previous war?

Times have changed.  When my parents were in elementary school one could buy a Thompson submachine gun, the infamous Chicago typewriter, at the local hardware store, but there wasn't much demand except from the gangs and the company would have failed if the Army didn't buy some. As far as I know, nobody was shooting up schools with real, honest-to-Thompson assault weapons. Now they're illegal, but demand for things that look like them is soaring.  I can ask why we are different now, but I can't answer the question.  I just have to accept that we are.

Congressional gun rights supporters are suddenly willing to talk gun control.  So will it be substantive gun control or will congress pull off another fast one giving us some paper that they call gun control but is designed to do nothing?  Will we fall for the usual sophistry and sleight of hand or another toothless ban?  Face it; for 50 years we've enthusiastically  and fatuously blown it. Let's not blow it again.

So maybe it's the time and the season.  It's surely not the time to do nothing or reprise our failures. I hope we can do it right. I hope to hell we can avoid the extremist and not always useful language we're hearing from so many sources.  I hope we can address the question of why current policies have fostered or allowed a real reduction in aggravated crimes yet haven't had sufficient effect on "Amok" crimes; suicide-by-cop crimes where the perpetrator isn't concerned with remaining alive or was seeking to die in the process. This isn't time for shouting and screaming, wailing and mourning or for listening to hysterics. It may be time to listen to people who are used to dealing with suicide  bombers and terrorists -- who are weapons experts, security experts and perhaps even psychologists  -- and tune out the scared and angry amateurs like you and me.

Read more here:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Grimms tales

"They need to change the subject" writes Fred Grimm in the Miami Herald as though anyone who doesn't quite share his assumptions and conclusions  or ill informed and breathless opinions,  must be of an ilk.  It's easier than to address real concerns after all. That might require him to address my concerns and yours rather than to abuse a straw man.

"Gun advocates — a polite term after the seventh mass murder of 2012 — would rather not fumble around on TV just now, trying to invent a sane-sounding rationale that pretends to find civic good in the easy commercial availability of military weaponry" he continues.

Read more here:

Suddenly everyone is an expert on guns and gun law,  but although I'm hardly a "gun advocate" I do advocate the truth and the truth is that although the police and the military do use some autoloading pistols, real military assault rifles have been banned since 1937 and are not "easily available" at your local Bass Pro Shop or Wal-Mart. That dearly beloved ban left store shelves loaded with extended magazines and the kind of weapons it didn't actually ban.  I'll just assume that my Grimm brother here is as ignorant as most journalists who think that BA in journalism grants poetic license and instant expertise on all matters and not just someone looking for ratings by reaching into that bucket of breathless hyperbole and  cheap drama and pulling out plums about "high velocity bullets" without actually knowing anything about ballistics.  Would the victims have been better off being hit by slow moving .45 ACP slugs or faster moving .22 magnums?  Not really.

So am I changing the subject or is he avoiding honest questions  by lining up straw men like -- well like targets in a shooting gallery?   Is he being honest by asserting that unless you first accept his solution to the problem and don't ask any inconvenient questions you're either being a "gun advocate" or changing the subject?  Well no, if you ask me.  I think I'm right on topic.

No, what matters is the emotion he can cram into another tired repetition or our ritual morning and artisinal outrage -- and that's what sells papers. What apparently doesn't matter is a rational approach to school security.  What's apparent to me is not some culture of violence and video games led by the black robed evil ones at the NRA, but the same kind of tunnel vision that made us spend a trillion dollars on airport security in response to another tragedy that could have been prevented for a few hundred bucks per plane by installing heavier and lockable cabin doors.

So am I changing the subject by insisting that we read the "assault weapon ban" before wanting it back or that we might look at our existing gun control laws  with an eye to seeing what has worked and what hasn't?  Am I avoiding a discussion or is he replacing discussion with stereotypes and  straw men who can't fight back?

So am I "gun advocate" even though I'm not promoting more gun ownership and instead promoting a wider, more informed look at security?  Or is Grimm a greedy, opportunistic hack looking for ratings?  Your answer is more likely to describe you than me, sad to say, because this never has been a rational discussion about protecting the public but a battle of fairy tales and illusions where pragmatism and fact do fear to tread.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What's wrong with us?

This is what I'm going to say about this and this is all I'm going to say. We have a lot of firearms in the USA. We always have had. For a few, hunting for food or furs or hides and protection from wild animals makes them necessary. For many, protecting the hen house, the livestock, the crops, might require a firearm.  For some a firearm is something you shoot at paper targets or clay pigeons with at the country club. For others, it puts meat on the table and for some, they can be relics of history prized for craftsmanship or beauty or historical value. For many, living in a violent and dangerous area, people who have to transport valuables, people who are a target for criminals for many reasons;  having a gun is peace of mind.  For such people, being associated with psychotics and terrorists and hit-men and bandits and deranged murderers is offensive and worthy of scornful denunciation. And don't we hear a lot of it?

We have a lot of people in this country who cannot conceive that any of the above will own one for any justifiable reason or that firearms exist for any other reason but to kill someone, and so these horrifying and otherwise useless pieces of metal must be made to disappear and right now and at all cost. If you don't agree with that, words will be placed in your mouth that prove how deranged you are so don't even try to explain. Many of those people, and  they are in the minority, refuse to discuss what needs to be done to protect us all from crime and the grotesque results of a madman with a gun or a bomb unless and only unless there's a prior agreement to reduce or eliminate or severely curtail the right to own one. For them it's guns and guns alone that explain the needless death of innocents and the notion that the murderer is more guilty than his weapon is offensive and well worthy of scorn and mockery. It's all about guns, guns, guns and guns alone and don't we hear a lot about it?

Welcome to American fear, American extremism and American intransigence. Neither side will talk to the other with the intent to understand, just as with so many things America concerns itself with. Neither side will brook any discussion of the complexity of human behavior and motivation, the cost of reducing risk, the efficacy of anything that has already been tried or proposed, the "other side" certainly being so far into a delusional state or simply so committed to brutality and mayhem that there is no middle ground between "we must trust the people" and "it's too dangerous ever to trust the people" and no point to looking for it.

What will never be discussed is the very reason discussion is futile. That reason is us.  What we don't want to talk about and what we cover up and distract from with epithets like Libtard or gun nut, with shibboleths like the NRA or the Brady Bunch or the Gungrabbers or the Gun Culture or even made up discussions is that it just may be that the enemy is not some piece of metal and explosive, some nefarious group of bogeymen, but something to do with who and what we Americans are and why we seem to be different, so angry, so afraid, so filled with self pity and lack of compassion.  It just may have something to do with the reason Switzerland with a widespread love of shooting and hunting; Switzerland where there are 46 guns per hundred residents has virtually no gun crime, nobody shooting up the schools and movie theaters -- and the US with about twice as many has vastly more than twice as much. What causes that difference is something we need to talk about.  Without doing that, all we will hear are rationalizations of prejudice and peremptory proclamations of belief  --  but that's up to you the people, because I'm too disgusted to give a damn any more.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Oh my God, not again

 What do we do to protect our schools?  Is this one of those questions that have no real answer or at least not one definite answer? What can we propose that does more than give in to the predictable shouts and demands of the irrational and angry and fearful and uninformed?  What can we do that isn't something that has already failed to have any effect or that we're already doing?  What can we do to calm the irrational, the ill informed, the hysterical and fear ridden?

Certainly none of the solutions we've so passionately offered and instituted and defended against criticism have done anything we can point to as having helped: the three day waiting period, the background checks, the late "assault weapon" ban, the ban on "Saturday Night Specials," the ban on sending guns through the mail without a Federal license, the ban on automatic weapons that's been here since 1937, the restrictions on how many guns you can buy in a year, how much ammunition. . . the need for criminal background checks and fingerprinting -- how short a barrel can be and even whether a sporting  gun can legally be made to look like a military weapon --   Sure, the overall rate of violent crime may continue to decline and perhaps some of that is due to these measures or to more people being in jail, but there will be more incidents as there are in countries with draconian gun control laws. At every one we can be sure there will be calls to make murder even more illegal, to somehow confiscate all guns from the 175 million people who own them -- and the same mouldy arguments will be trotted out again and discussion of whether experience anywhere has given us a reason to be hopeful, will not be heard.  Still I have a good idea what will happen.

The media will chew on this for days striving to raise the discussion to the point of mania, because it's good for ratings. As I watch, the network nitwits are prattling about whether we should go back to that fraudulent "Assault Weapon Ban" which really only banned newly made fake assault weapons made overseas and left millions already in circulation. It made us liberals feel good.  It made nothing better.

People will be afraid to send their kids to school.  When heads begin to cool, there will be a search for heroes and the folk psychoanalysis of perpetrators by the usual hired opinionators.   The same old axes will be ground.

There will be more earnest insistence that banning things make them go away, even if there are 200 million in the country, perhaps much more. More idiocy about making psychotics "just say no" by passing a ban, a restriction, a law.  

What we should be asking is what I asked just now -- how do we protect the innocent, the helpless without increasing helplessness? How do we protect our schools? How do we keep the dangerously insane off the streets and how do we keep them from acquiring bombs, guns, crossbows, knives and yes, airplanes?  How do we do this without harming those people who need guns: farmers, for instance and people who use them to feed their families.  Do we need to argue for weapons with smaller magazines?  Shorter barrels, longer barrels, longer waiting periods, sanity checks?  All I can say is that we'll argue and in a fashion no more or less likely to produce an answer then in the past. There will be all or nothing parties and neither will make any sense.  The NRA will act as though Obama is going to take all our guns,  Fox will imply that he already has.  Bumper stickers will appear on cars and trucks.

Will anyone ask that we calmly assess how much danger must be seen as unavoidable in a free society and how much authoritarian control and how much less liberty we will or can accept in the interests of safety.  One side will say arm the kids and blame Obama, the other will insist that the theoretical saving of one life justifies anything at all.  Anyone in the middle won't be heard and the extremes won't listen.

I've always thought that the outcomes of a policy are the necessary test of it's effectiveness, but we're talking about America the hysterical and ill informed.  It's about believing in a policy and if it doesn't work, it's because you didn't believe or didn't make it authoritarian or even Draconian enough.  And so I have to ask again -- what can we do to protect the weak, the helpless, the innocent that works and doesn't unnecessarily tread on the rights of all?  I fear, given the way we are, that the answer is nothing.

Lawyers, Guns and Money

Is the title of the song and as the song goes, the shit has hit the fan, at least for John Hammar, an ex-Marine from Ft. Pierce, Florida, a town just a few miles north of me.  I'm sure you've heard that he's been jailed under one of Mexico's tough and comically ineffective gun control laws.  Of course your sense of comedy may differ on this point.

Seems Hammer and his friend had planned to drive across the Mexican border near Matamoros in a Winnebago filled with surfboards and camping gear -- and an old shotgun he'd inherited from his great grandfather which, as purchased from Sears, has a 24" barrel -- an inch too short for Mexico, although just fine in Florida.  US officials  told him that all he had to do was to file some papers with the Mexican authorities and it would be legal, but they were wrong and Mr. Hammar now sits chained to a cot in a Mexican jail cell hoping at least for Lawyers and money.  No more guns please.

Fox News of course is running around screaming and yelling about "trumped up charges" which seems strange, US laws about barrel length being just as arbitrary as Mexico's and carry punishments at least as severe.  In fact US laws require gun owners to know more than you'd expect the average lawyer knows and are just as arbitrary as concerns lengths and dates of manufacture and type of stock. It's possible in fact for a gun to be quite legal to send through the mail and an identical one with a one digit serial number difference to be felonious.  It's possible to own a handgun to which fitting a folding stock can put you in jail for being below a certain arbitrary barrel length.  Mexican law, unbeknownst to Hammar and his advisors, classifies a nearly antique relic from Sears Roebuck as a military weapon, a practice quite akin to the US classification of an ordinary rifle as being an assault rifle because of the shape of the stock or the country of manufacture.

But I digress.  Our Republican friends and faithful defenders of chaotic reasoning are hinting that this is all Obama's doing and that were he a real 100% American President like John Wayne, he'd be down in Matamoros waving a pair of six guns and displaying a pair of something even less attractive.  Life being somewhat less of a vintage cowboy movie than Fox would like us to think, he isn't.  He's in Washington being the president; a task that requires him to deal with more serious things like North Korea playing with ICBMs and trying to prevent the Middle East from once again dragging us into a war. Traducing Obama --  that's what Fox does.  That's what Fox is for.

I'm sure that if we still carry enough clout with Mexico, we might, or rather the Executive branch might be able to get the man released, even though pleas from Mexico to have mercy on their citizens have been rudely and routinely snubbed.  We are as you know, God's own chosen "leaders of the Free World" and fuck you very much.  I do hope we can because it looks like the man never intended to break any laws, just as so many Americans run afoul of so many counter-intuitive legal niceties of our crazy quilt of emotionally driven crime bills, bans and statutes.

Mexico, as I said, is a nice example of the failure to prevent people from  causing  problems by controlling and banning objects or substances.  That, low tax, business friendly, country with a weak government has become a slaughterhouse despite it's tough, restrictive gun laws and the even tougher gun laws in China have produced a flood of  mass school stabbings and that country is now considering registering kitchen knives and cleavers.  Meanwhile, despite stringent gun control measures, and because of its drug laws, the drug cartels have made Matamoros one of the most dangerous places in the hemisphere. The jail in question recently lost 20 inmates  in a single gang related fight despite the illegality of weapons in a prison.

Is there a lesson we even need to consider thinking about?  Is tough talk and tough law the best solution to systemic failures of a society, or are such policies the result of  parsimony and a distaste for looking for the roots of problems?  Is the prohibition of  Marijuana and "get tough" drug laws the root failure here? Oh but we're Americans so why consider what happens abroad as being a lesson?  We're unique!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Robots Rule

There was moaning at the bar when the last NASA Space Shuttle returned to Earth, destined to become a museum exhibit, but the sentiment that it was all over for our geriatric space program may have been misplaced.  Yes, the shuttle was a flawed compromise and would never be designed in such a configuration today, but the real flaw was that it was designed to transport and support human beings and the need safely to do that dominated the design.

Enter the X-37B.  It looks a bit like the old shuttle, but without the crew, it's smaller, lighter and cheaper.  Because it rides on the nose of a Delta rocket, we don't have to worry about junk falling off some giant fuel tank and best of all, if we lose one, we only lose some money and not men and women.

It's the 21st century and robots rule.  Robots don't breathe, don't care much about the temperature or the quality of the food or need to use a toilet or to sleep.  They don't even get nervous. The experimental US Air Force X-37B or at least its successors has a robot arm to be used to fix or dismantle or refuel satellites and can transport objects to and from orbit - just like the old Shuttle fleet, but the crew stays safe at home.  It's scheduled to be launched today, weather permitting, from Patric Air Force Base, near Cape Canaveral.  A larger X-37C space plane will follow.  After that, who knows? 

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Holy Boast

See this guy?  He tells us he's a Christian, but like virtually everyone who does, he's not likely to have any meaningful understanding of what that might mean, other than to tell his troglodyte audience he'd like to punch me in my disbelieving mouth. A theologian?  A historian concentrating on First Century middle eastern and Roman political history? A disciple of Jesus of Nazareth?   A miserable worm who doesn't have the brains or ambition to have a real job and has to make a living raising the rabble to a frenzy of tribal brutality?

Oh,  I think you know where I'm going with this: the War on Christmas.  It's the Sport of Idiots, by idiots and for idiots.  It's  cheap con men and their war on freedom and as the days grow shorter and darker the crawling Christmas warriors come out of the woodwork like roaches, using their Fox fed fraud to attack our constitutional right to a secular government.  Want to know why I defend the second amendment so firmly?  Read on.

Matt Barber, professional troll and anger monger on Christian Hate Radio says that people who don't want his cheap plastic sheep and donkeys in their face and on their public property, should be punched in the mouth.  I'm sure the illuminated plastic idols people like him worship would agree because you know that Jesus loved idolatry.  That's the reason he was so fond of the Roman occupation of Jerusalem, their pagan idols, their Son-o-God, virgin mothered emperors and the corruption of the Temple. He was also very fond of people who set themselves up as authorities to administer punishment on the basis of their own self-defined piety. Just ask Matt, he's a scholar, you know -- the right hand of the Son of Yahweh and the lord high executioner for the Holy Ghost.  The Gospel according to Barber would have you punch infidels like me in the mouth if we don't want our tax money paying for his pagan rituals and plastic holy inaction figures Made in China and planted on the town square. And yes, it's a pagan celebration with no basis in either the Bible or history.  Just ask the Pope.

 Dare we ask Matt how he feels about how his tax money is used -- to teach geology or history or cosmology or physics or other things that reduce his dimwitted delusional dogmas and dreams of power to the level of  idiocy?  Let's not bother.  You can't argue with drunks, madmen or idiots so where are we going to get with all three in one bloated, Bible babbling shitbag?

 So here we are with the seasonal smokescreen, that sleazy haze, that slick, sick pretense that seeks to cover the war on freedom that has for centuries soaked the Earth with the blood of men who would be free and think free.   My religious freedom is not subject to Christian approval  or disapproval and that freedom does not include the right to abuse others - even for real Christians, so if I suggest, for the purposes of argument, that we erect a huge, brass Yamataka on the courthouse lawn, a neon Kali, an effigy of Cthulhu, rubber tentacles wiggling or a bright electric blue Krishna seducing the bare breasted milkmaids in the bushes, I'm subject to the same constitutional proscription as the practitioners and celebrants of any other nonsense no matter how much faith they have.

My right to defend myself  from cowards and bullies and the peasant crusades they attempt to launch is real however, no matter how firmly some believe it isn't and I trust Messrs. Remington and Kalashnikov will represent me well and loudly should Mr. Barber or his rabid, unwashed, vermin hoard of zombies follow his bloody flag into battle.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Nehil novus sub solis

I had to laugh at a recent article about the alleged 20th anniversary of the "text message."  Why? because it points out the trouble we English language speakers make for ourselves by having made English the product of journalistic shorthand babble and public ignorance.  Obviously what the eager to be hip, slightly older than young CNN journalist meant was an electronic message sent by mobile phone and not a written or typed or inscribed on a clay tablet message -- nor even a telegram or radiogram or Telex or teletype or Telefax or any of the relatively (in youth culture terms) ancient ways of  delivering text to a distant recipient. I mean really, we still have messages in text written in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Isn't there some sort of  axiom that would show that messages in text are text messages?  Sure as hell should be, even if it's not what the hipsters are saying this week.

The article includes the traditional chuckle about LOL and OMG, but has already forgotten the  little shorthands of the ASCII message age back in the 1990's:  and all the emoticons used to prevent hostile misunderstandings e-mail brought us. Forgotten by nearly all of us are the hundreds of devices of the telegraph age like QSL? or 73, meaning "did you understand" or "best regards" or even ARL46 -- Happy Birthday. Times change and most everything you think is brand new is older than that. An Egyptian scribe might add a symbol to the word "mut" so you'd know he was talking about a vulture and not your mother -- rather an important distinction.

Yes, technological confusion and ignorance of the history of technology is overwhelming amongst our born in the 1980's  "tech savvy" population, many of whom couldn't reproduce or accurately describe an early 19th century telegraph system,  but  that medieval scribes were "texting" and the Marquis du Sade was "Sexting" sould seem obvious to those not primed to think only in the ephemeral and vague terms of teen jargon:  people who think the world is very new -- people otherwise known as Americans.  

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Burn more gas for Jesus

It's hard to believe these people actually exist and harder to believe they've managed to worm their way into positions of respect and influence in America -- but that's the kind of country we are, babbling about the bible, scrawling godblather on the walls, rolling on the floor making gargling noises,  respecting and electing people who can't stop using God's names as toilet paper while shilling for the oil cartel.

Take the American Family Association, which in the right wing tradition has named itself innocuously with insidious intent; wrapping itself in God, Gospel and flag and having little to do with the American Family other than to deceive them and exploit their superstitions.

Take Bryan Fischer, the director of issues analysis for the AFA who, ostensibly in the interests of American families and their health and welfare, insists that the air isn't getting worse, the ice caps aren't melting at an ever accelerating rate and if we try to reduce our use of petroleum and coal, God will feel like a spoiled kid with a birthday present he doesn't like and probably, if we're lucky, sulk off to his room.  If we're not lucky of course, he'll send us more Katrinas and Sandys and earthquakes and floods and fires to burn us, our families and cuddly kittens to death -- amen.  So much for analyzing that issue, Bryan.  So much for the ironically titled "Conservatives" who see such vermin as allies and use their ravings to justify their rape and pillage of our liberty and our planet.

“You know, God has buried those treasures there because he loves to see us find them” 

said Fisher, who thinks you're stupid enough to think that some supreme being speaks through crooks and liars like him and hopes you'll go right out and buy an even bigger truck or two just to put a smile on God's face. Yes, Oil is God's little surprise and he'll just cry if you don't dig it up, burn it all as quickly as possible and poison us all by doing it.  If we don't do our part to end life on earth, how will all their twaddle about end times seem when it doesn't happen?

But of course, God doesn't give a shit what we do and we go on taking such people seriously and electing them and their representatives to public office and we go on railing and screeching at people who disagree and unfortunately none of them or us will be here in a hundred years or a thousand to defend ourselves when historians argue about how we let things get so bad -- how we let a rich and prosperous and free country turn into what I'm afraid it will become.