Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I, For One, Welcome Our New Hoosier Overlords

Well, the big day is here. At midnight CST, Illinois state government's temporary budget runs out. People are talking about a government shutdown. In Springfield, people are abuzz with the possibility that the Illinois State Fair will actually be canceled this year; it's set to begin in about two weeks, I believe.

I'm torn. On the one hand, when the government shuts down, it's going to break a lot of promises. A lot of school districts haven't hired new teachers for the next term, for example, which begins in about two weeks. And the state doesn't pay its bills for at least 90-120 days under the best of circumstances because . . . well, because nobody has the power to make them do better.

On the other hand, Illinois government sucks, and if you're going to shut something down, it's a prime candidate. I'm hoping this leaves us ripe for invasion by Eastern hordes of faceless supermen, crashing across the prairie in waves of overwhelming violence and ruthlessly asserting total control. I refer, of course, to Indiana.

Don't listen to those who tell you Illinois is a quagmire, Indiana! Roll across the border and I guarantee you will be greeted as liberators! You can do it!

I should probably have spent more time in the air conditioning today and less in the attic. Anyway, the House and the Senate gaveled in and out today, which means they convened session as required by the Governor and then immediately adjourned. This sounds crazy at first, because hey, no budget. But the fact is that in Illinois, the members of those houses are basically powerless unless the leaders are on board and in agreement. They can only vote up or down on a budget agreement; the leaders and the Governor will have to craft one, and they're not even meeting or negotiating. In short, they're not doing their jobs. People think you're a nerd or a weirdo if you talk about how messed up Illinois politics are, but when a crisis like this comes up, they want a solution. The only solution was to vote these clowns out years ago.

Excuses, Excuses

I'm still here and still alive! Tamara's doing a great job keeping up with Ted Stevens getting searched (but he can't be corrupt! He's a Republican!) and Ebay shutting out gun-related sales.

I'm reading my daily blogs, but other than that, I'm spending my days finishing my baby's nursery.

We took one reasonably large room upstairs, which the previous owners had emptied for conversion into a master bath, and demolished it down to bare studs. The house is almost 100 years old, so it's sturdy, but drafty. The studs are very close to actual 2-inch by 4-inch dimensions--about 1 7/8 x 3 7/8. In contrast, modern "dressed" lumber 2 x 4 boards are 1.5 x 2.75 inches (I think?) Anyway, the outside of the house is clad, under the modern vinyl siding, in oak boards a full inch thick. The house is like a giant exoskeleton! The only problem is that there are quarter-inch gaps between many of these boards, and absolutely no attempt to insulate the outer walls. Each room is finished in plaster-and-lathe with about seven layers of wallpaper slapped over it.

So demolition entailed a dumpster, hammers, crowbars, and a LOT of dust and dirt. It didn't help that the walls and ceilings are full of coal soot. We looked like miners most of the time.

Anyway, once the room was down to bare studs, I used expanding foam to seal every opening to the outside, plus all openings into the attic. That was a LOT of foam. then we framed a new dividing wall into the room, which divided it into a larger section, a small section, and a reasonably wide hallway. Luckily the two doors into and out of the room are aligned, so the hall could be straight.

The larger of the two sections is the baby's nursery. The smaller is the bath. It's looking like it will have to be a half-bath at the moment, but if I can cram a shower in there, I will. Currently we have one filthy, slanting, slapped-together bathroom converted hastily from a porch, serving a family of four. This will not do, especially for five!

Anyway, I replaced the ancient single-pane counterweighted window with a modern unit, added insulation, wired in 5 ground-fault circuit-interruptor outlets (temporarily wired into the old lead from the rat's nest of wiring in the attic, but with a line run down to the basement to be attached to the new service and fuse box the minute it's ready) and a small fan/light with a digital dimmer control for both. In a fit of ambition, I even added a vent and ductwork to be attached to the central air/heat pump when that's ready. The pine board ceiling went in next; I like the look of it, and the bonus is that one person with a ladder and a soft mallet can install it by himself. For the past two days, I've been hanging drywall and slinging mud.

Now that I'm done with breakfast and blogging, I'm on my way back up to finish shimming and hanging the frames for the pocket doors. I hope to be completely finished with the baby's room this week and get a good start on the bathroom.

When I'm done, you should be able to go upstairs in the house and see two doors and a tall open portal. One door will be one twin's bedroom (they share it now.) The other door will be our master bedroom. Through the open doorway you'll pass into a windowless but well-lit hallway where you'll see three more doors. The pocket door on your left is the baby's room. The next pocket door on your left is the upstairs bath, and the door at the end of the hall leads into the other twin's dormer bedroom (currently sort of a junk room; it's going to take a ton of work, but maybe less than the room I'm working on now.

I'll try to put pictures up when I can.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Read It. Read It Now. READ READ READ

Just read it without further delay:

Matt begins the story as the cop comes on scene . . .
Ambulance driver continues as EMS treats and transports . . .
And Babs RN tells us how it all turns out as patients hit Small Town ER.

Honestly, I think I identified more with Matt than with AD. I've got about the level of training Matt has--I literally just drive the ambulance. So if I do anything at all involving treatment, I just try to listen hard and do exactly what I'm told. I've often had the overwhelmed feeling Matt describes.
My first day of volunteering as an ambulance driver, I was thrown into a call for a diabetic patient seizing and semiconscious, who we passed on to an ALS (Advanced Life Support, whereas we are BLS or Basic Life Support) to rush off uptown, where multiple pedestrians had just been struck by a car at the square.
It was not a lot of fun, but it taught me a very important lesson: It's possible to feel overwhelmed, feel like you may be doing something wrong, and still do a good job. You don't have to be the all-knowing medic to help as long as you know your limitations and stay on the bounce.

This collaboration turned out to be really cool! I am extremely jealous.


I am Joe's Total Lack of Surprise:

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Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

The quiz sucks rocks, but what the hell?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

You'll Be Happy To Know . . .

That AOL/Google considers this very website you're reading right now (you ARE reading it, right? Don't hurt my feelings) to be the interweb's Number One source on the compelling, contemporary, yet timeless subject of "Jeff Cooper gay finish line okla".

The mind boggles. However, do not attempt to pigeonhole me; I am also highly ranked on the subjects of "Jesse Jackson aND PROPOSED CHANGE TO FIREARM REGULATION" (no surprise there, really) and "gun carrying fags" (Can guns carry fags? Do they smoke them? One wonders. Then one stops wondering and swills Mountain Dew.)

To whoever spent some time perusing these pages from the Wyoming Department of Education, I have important words. Read them and be refreshed:

1. YES, I do want to live in Wyoming. Very much. Is it true that you can't smell Chicago from out there?

2. NO, I promise you that I will never, ever, EVER utter the words "That's just not how we did things back East." Really.

3. I'd like to do some elementary work, but I'm certified up through middle school and I do enjoy the MS kids. My wife would prefer to keep working with kids on the Autism spectrum.

4. Can my parents come, too? Dad's got a beard and lots of guns, but he's a nice guy.

5. Don't mention this to my wife, Wyoming. She is adamant that we will leave Illinois only for warmer places, never colder. She doesn't understand you like I do, Wyoming. What we have is special.

Hey, you know what I just realized? That guy searching for "gun carrying fags" probably wasn't talking about cigarettes at all. That makes Mr. Gwinn feel downright uncharitable. Can't sneak anything by me.

"I'm The Only One Professional Enough to Watch Too Many Movies . . ."

Jermaine Bell is not a smart man.

I don't know him, but I know that much. How can I be so sure?

Well, Jermaine Bell is a guard at Cook County Jail (the Citadel of Damned Souls.) That doesn't necessarily make him an idiot, although I'd be unlikely to buy him a beer for it.

What makes him an idiot is that he did the following three things:

1. He decided it would be a good idea to take out his pistol at the "Schererville Golf and Fun Center"--and managed to fire a round. Why? One can only wonder.

2. When the police arrived to ask him why anyone would do such a thing, he showed them his badge and informed them that he was carrying. Carrying a Glock 7, that is.
No, that's not a misprint--Glock 7. Like the one John McClain took off a terrorist in Die Hard II: Die Harder Again For The Second Time In A Row.

3. While the cops were, presumably, picking their jaws up off the ground and trying to figure out what Bell had been smoking, they made the terrible mistake of asking him why he had busted a cap at the Fun Center.
His explanation? He was trying to engage the safety. That's difficult on a Glock, because they don't have external safety switches. The Glock safety is a small "trigger safety" and is engaged whenever your finger is off the trigger.
In other words, all this mope had to do was to keep his finger off the trigger and his gun would have been safe. Too much to ask from a cook County CDS guard, I guess.

To their credit, Cook County Sheriff's Department says he's been "De-deputized." Good call, guys!

Honestly, I have to wonder whether this story is accurate. Maybe they issued him a Glock 17, and the guy made an honest mistake. Otherwise I can't quite feature it. Or maybe the cops were having a little fun with the reporter . . . although Commander Reno of the Schererville PD apparently told the reporter all about the Glock 7's cinematic origins, so who knows?

I wonder if they did any drug testing? I think I'd be tempted to issue at least a field sobriety test if someone told me "Officer, it's OK! I ass'ently fired my Glock 7 on the fourth hole of the mini-golf, but I'm a guard at Cook County CDS and I'm the only one professional enough, that I know of, on the min-golf to carry a ceramic handgun!"

Tamara Has Betrayed Ussss . . .

How does someone who loves books and war stories go so wrong? Not like Harry Potter?



The latest book lives up to my expectations so far. That's all I have to say about that. Also, I think Tamara misunderstood. She was all upset that the nameless victim of her eavesdropping chose to read Harry Potter books in high school over How to Kill a Mockingbird. She was outraged. I think it's possible that she was actually thinking of To Kill a Mockingbird, the classic about growing up, race and tolerance by Harper Lee. It's a fine book; I used to teach it in the 8th grade.

However, her victim distinctly said HOW to Kill a Mockingbird, which is a classic flash-animated film destined to be loved by schoolchildren for many centuries, but not widely recognized as a classic of American literature.


Yes, I'm putting a strike through Tamara's name from now on. If you think that's childish, check out what I did to her link in the blogroll on the right.

Friday, July 20, 2007

What Am I Thinking?

It's 20 minutes past 10:00 and I'm about to step out the door to drive an hour to get the new Harry Potter book at midnight . . . with a baby and twin boys dressed as Harry Potter . . . by myself.
Could this become evidence at my involuntary commitment hearing?
If you don't hear from me by Monday, something terrible has happened. Send Lawdog.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

God LOLs at Your So-Called "Science"

Spotted on the big, lighted highway sign of the local megachurch between Virden and Girard, IL on Rt. 4:

On the one hand, it's impressive that you have a church so right that God Himself, Creator of the Universe, descends from on high to arrange the letters.

On the other hand, He should probably have used the right "you're"--but after all, He spells in mysterious ways.

I'm tempted to climb up there some night and leave a message of my own:


Vintage Jeff Cooper Still Works

One of the things I like to pick up at flea markets and the like are old magazines, particularly gun rags. Cleaning out my son's new bedroom this week, I found some oldies and goodies.
This is Jeff Cooper's "Open Letter: To a Legislative Hoplophobe" from Guns and Ammo, November 1971.

To A Legislative Hoplophobe*

I shoot. Shooting is my hobby, my principal recreation--my "life style." since childhood I have owned, used, and loved fine guns; and I am well into middle age. My shooting skill was fostered by my country, in high school R.O.T.C., and I have used it in her defense in two wars. I ordinarily practice marksmanship each week, weather and business permitting. I also pay my taxes, obey the law, vote, own my home, and send my children through college (where, incidentally, they hold themselves above pot, polemics, and promiscuity). I cause no riots and march in no demonstrations, and I ask only that you, sir, get off my back.

My guns are as much a part of me as my arms or legs. To disarm me would be as to confine me to a wheelchair. You may think this freakish, but there are a couple of million "freaks" like me in the United States. You may assert that the innocent must often be sacrificed to the public good, but you cannot demonstrate how the public good can be served by my oppression. An individual man is individually responsible for his own transgressions, so let us by all means punish the transgressor, not someone whom you feel, in your total lack of understanding, may conceivably become a transgressor. Get after the criminal, sir, but get off MY back!

Do not try to extenuate by arguing that registration is not confiscation, or that only long guns are "sporting," or that we sportsmen should keep our prizes impounded in some armory, or by any such similar casuistry. We both know what you mean. You just don't like guns. Very well. I don't like you. But let us nevertheless try to live together in dignity and decorum, respecting each other's individuality if nothing else. At such time as I commit a crime, or even have an accident, with one of my personal weapons, you are welcome to my head on a platter. But until that happens, sir, GET OFF MY BACK!

*HOPLOPHOBE. One afflicted with hoplophobia.

Could that man write, or what?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Oh, No He Didn't!

Barack "Barry" Osama has gone and done it now. He actually said it. The Big Lie that every gun grabber has to say sooner or later because if they don't say it, they know their careers are over:

"If you want to go hunt, go hunt. Nobody is trying to take your shotgun or rifle away . . ."

. . . except Barack Obama, who has publicly called for a ban on semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, as well as handguns for good measure. But why let the truth get in the way of a good sound bite?

Well, and there's also Diane Feinstein, who famously said that if she could get the votes for, in her words, a law stating "Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in" she would do it.

And in Illinois, Dan Kotowski, the Reverend James Meeks, Dan Cullerton, Antonio Munoz, Kwame Raoul . . . . the list is too long, but all these people are sponsoring legislation to take away what they mislabel "assault weapons"--just about all of which are rifles and shotguns.

And then there are people like Pete Shields and Sarah Brady of the Brady Campaign, formerly called "Handgun Control Incorporated," who have both called for widespread bans and now claim they don't want to take anyone's guns because that's just too extreme and radical.

Am I supposed to be fooled by this?
Well, we know the answer to that, don't we? I'm NOT supposed to be fooled. Obama supposes that most people who own guns are uneducated rednecks who wear polyester pants, don't live in mansions, and like to get drunk and shoot animals for fun. That's why he kindly gives us permission to go hunting.
Listen, I love hunting. In a few years, there will be four generations of my family in the field during deer season. Four! It's a big deal to us. That said, I would gladly give up hunting for life if these grinning liars would stop telling me how much they respect hunting.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

People, as a General Rule, Suck

Can I just rant for a minute about something you don't care about? Something so inconsequential that even mentioning it makes me a narcissist?

Good. Debit cards.

I like my debit card. I'm well aware that the One-World Government conspiracy (OWGC) and the Guild of Identity Thieves are plotting even now how to use my PIN number to violate me in ways I can't imagine, so don't bother lecturing me. I'm talking about something much more annoying than that.

I have a debit card for convenience. You know what's not convenient? The various clerks and counter help all over central Illinois who believe fervently that if the nifty hologram wears off, the card ceases to work--unless they perform dark voodoo rituals.
I'm standing there, assuring them that I've used the thing at three stores today and it works, but they just can't believe it. "This thing's about had it, huh?" they say, grinning their slack, insincere grins.
"Guess so." I answer. What I want to say is "The crazy part is that if I bludgeoned you to death with one of these four-pound Snickers bars here, they'd put me in jail."

Have you seen the Dance of the Debit Card? The High Clerk (or Clerkess) takes your card, holds it up to the light, flicks it with his thumb a few times, and makes various concerned noises. Then he puts the card gingerly into the center of the "swipe channel" on the register. Since the card reader is designed to work when the card is swiped briskly through it, this does not work. It is followed by swiping the card through slowly, then more slowly. Then the card is placed in the reader and allowed to sit for a few moments. Then it's swiped wrong-side out (just in case.) If you (and the fine people waiting in line behind you) are very lucky, you may now be treated to the rarest spectacle I've been privileged to witness: the Shopping Bag Gambit. This is when the clerk pulls the out the big guns; he will actually pull a shopping bag out and wrap it around the card. The great thing about this is that it requires repeating the entire dance from start to finish. The only thing that is always the same regardless of which clerk is doing the Dance of the Debit Card is the finale, in which the clerk completely gives up and keys in the number by hand.

Last night a lovely young woman drove me so nuts with this routine that I actually turned around and took $20 out of the ATM with the card just to show her how easy it is. My secret is holding the card in my right hand and swiping it across the card reader. There's a picture diagram of my secret printed on most card readers.
"Magic!" I called to her, waving my debit card and my $20 bill.

For all I know, she thinks that's exactly what happened.

I have not mentioned, because I cannot fathom, the gentleman tending the counter at a Casey's station a few towns over who, while wrapping my card in a shopping bag, informed me that the cards with little ducks in the hologram actually damage their computer system.
"These birds peck us to death, man." he told me. "I don't know what it is, but you run one of these cards with the birds, the whole thing messes up. Payments don't go through, it even shuts down the pumps out there sometimes. Whole pump just dies. It's crazy!"

Yes, I think. Yes, it certainly is that.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


i'm in ravenclaw!

be sorted @ nimbo.net

That's right, bitches. Ravenclaw REPRESENT! My kids faked their answers to get into Gryffindor, but I'm cool with the Ravenclaw. If I went to Hogwarts, I'd be in that library all day, yo. All day.

Saw the new Harry Potter movie. It delivered most of the fan service I expect from these movies, so I'm happy. The last third of the movie is a little uninspiring for grownups--the standard tropes come out in force. The following line is just about word-for-word. "I've been thinking about something Dumbledore said to me. No matter what Voldemort throws at us, we'll still have something he doesn't have--something worth fighting for."

Dolores Umbridge is brilliantly performed by Imelda Staunton. Now, this film plays to my biases--stupid freaking Ministry of Magic, "prohibit what must be prohibited"--they don't actually use the line "We're from the government and we're here to help you good and hard," but they could have.

That said, watch this film in the theater and see if you're not fighting the urge to get up and slap that officious little JBT (Jack-Booted Toad) upside her prim little head yourself. I dare you. She's just . . . SO . . . she plays Umbridge as a combination of Goebbels, big brother, and that one nosy old bitch neighbor you hated when you were a kid. Words fail me. Staunton usually plays brusque but lovable "mum" characters, but this time you'll just straight-up hate her.
The kittens alone are enough to send shivers down my spine. Oh, God, not the kittens.

Consider this, a thought I've never considered before: Harry and Dumbledore actually feel some tiny point of empathy for Voldemort, particularly as Harry learns his history in The Half-Blood Prince. Snape . . . well, we all know how Harry's father treated Snape when they were young. Besides, Snape was emo. Cornelius Fudge is never really presented as a bad man so much as a scared politician desperate to do anything at all.

Dolores Umbridge is one of the very few characters in this series for whom we are never asked to feel a single drop of empathy. The only people I can think of who come close besides minor throwaways like that reporter What's-Her-Name are Draco Malfoy's father, Lucius (debatable) and maybe the house-elf Kreacher.

Anyway, Staunton makes you feel downright good about hating Dolores Umbridge.

Sorry, Dude.

Apparently I'm the fourth result on Live Search for "hot schoolteacher." That's a little sad.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Who Needs to Pay the Bills? Illinois Has Guns to Ban!

I want to try to explain what's happening in Illinois politics today, but you're going to have to bear with me if you're not from here.

OK, we have a Governor named Rod Blagojevich. He has huge hair, he loves Elvis, and he runs the state as his own personal fiefdom. He got the Democratic nomination for Governor because he's the son-in-law of a powerful Chicago alderman. His father-in-law said this publicly; it's not speculation on my part. That's the guy we're dealing with, OK? Some of you out-of-staters might have heard of The 'Vich before, because he started in politics as a crusading anti-gun Representative in the U.S. Congress.

Now, Illinois is divided into fiefs. You have the Mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, who's loosely allied with Blagojevich. Then you have Michael Madigan, who is both Speaker of the House and father of the Attorney General (Lisa Madigan.) Finally, you have Emil Jones, the President of the Senate. Illinoisans will notice that although I say these people each have their own fiefs, they're all from Chicago, which means they all compete for the same turf and the same patronage. It gets ugly. Daley and Blagojevich dislike each other, but maintain a loose alliance. Jones and Madigan hate Blagojevich, but maintain fierce enmity. Did I mention that ALL these people are Democrats?

Illinois' budget runs out at the end of the fiscal year, which ends June 30th. Logically, this means the Legislature must pass and the Governor must sign a budget by June 30th every year, but this they NEVER do. This year is no exception, but it's actually worse than it sounds. You see, Blagojevich decided this year to propose a new method of taxation--basically, a Value-Added-Tax similar to what's done in Europe. This would have raised tax rates through the roof. The 'Vich tried to sell it as a way to soak the rich corporations, but most people understood instinctively that corporations don't pay taxes--their customers do. The legislature ended up voting unanimously against this tax increase, and The 'Vich threw a hissy fit.

You see, The 'Vich does not live in the Governor's Mansion, a beautiful, stately home provided in the heart of downtown Springfield. No, that would mean he'd have to live down here among the clodhoppers. He lives in Chicago. When he feels the need to descend to Springfield, he summons a state plane, which is flown to Chicago, flies him back here, flies him back to Chicago, and then returns here. If that sounds obscenely cumbersome and wasteful, that's because it is. The result of this has been that the upper leaders in most state departments live in Chicago, too, and have a three-day work week in Springfield so that they can travel on Monday and Friday.

Anyroad, here we are. It's July 10th, and the state is operating on an emergency budget that runs out at the end of July. Blagojevich has been blasting the rank-and-file legislators for a month now, blaming their three-day work week for the budget impasse, while steadfastly refusing to meet with anyone, especially Madigan and Jones. He won't even discuss the budget with these people, instead choosing to skip meetings, cancel meetings, walk out of meetings, screen his phone calls . . . you get the picture.

Well, yesterday things got even stranger. Governor 'Vich has been saying for a few days now that he's going to call special sessions and force the legislators to meet 7 days per week from now on, and this he has done. Of course, he's not doing anything at all to make a budget deal, so they have nothing to vote on, but it costs the state many thousands of dollars and makes him look good to . . . well, surely somebody, so for him it's worth it. The rest of us may hate it, but we elected the slimy little bootlick TWICE(!) so we've earned our lumps. Anyway, today The 'Vich unveiled his new strategery:

Call a special session, to pass a ban on high-capacity "assault weapon" magazines! Yay!

The weirdest part about this, to me, is the reaction of one of Illinois' most respected insider-statehouse reporters, Rich Miller. Miller isn't happy with the ISRA because they were mean to Dan Kotowski, and the ISRA had the temerity to send out an action alert over the weekend warning its members to be ready for just such a trick--an action alert that we now know was accurate in all details except for one: the ISRA said Kotowski and The 'Vich* would be asking to ban "most of your guns." Instead, they merely want to ban "most of your magazines"--any magazine that holds more then ten rounds. Miller asked Kotowski, you see, and Kotowski told him right out that he doesn't want to ban anyone's guns, so there you go. That can't be the agenda, unless of course Kotowski is also signed on as a sponsor to a sweeping gun ban. Oops--he is!

So that's where we are now. No budget, ten days past the deadline, not negotiating a budget, not attempting to initiate negotiations toward a budget--but we're going back to the drawing board on gun control. Gawd Almighty, do I LOVE this state!

*Ironically, although they share the same agenda on guns, these two Democrats--you guessed it--really dislike each other.

HA! . . . I don't get it.

The day is winding down. I have come down out of the attic (air temperature ~125 degrees . . . Celsius) to have a cold BLT and a colder Dr. Pepper provided by my lovely wife, and King of the Hill is on TV. It's the episode where Peggy bought a bookstore on impulse and found she couldn't make it financially without letting Dale sell guns out of the back.

My wife finds this funny, which is nice for her, but all I can think is "Yeah, I could kill a lot of afternoons in a place like that."

Seriously though, of all the ways to purchase a hobby job, is anything more certain to go under than a boutique bookstore?
Oh, yeah--gun shop. Right.

You Have Got to Read This Guy. Daily.

Tom at Radio Free New Jersey has outdone me once again. I posted a petulant little rant about Rudy Giuliani and gun control, and Tom's comment was better than my original post. I chalked that up to the fact that he was writing about his backyard, but today he posted the expanded version, and damned if it isn't a cogent, relevant take on the U.S. gun control movement as a whole, identifying key actions and where they need to be taken--and why.

This is stuff gun owners in Illinois NEED to read, because we are the highest-profile example of urban political distortion on the gun issues. We are going to make ZERO progress until we all (are you listening, ISRA? I'm looking in your direction!) find a way to work with people from Chicago. The hardest part of that might not be getting black folks in Chicago to agree that gun control isn't stopping gang violence in poor Chicago neighborhoods. The hardest part might be convincing the white folks in Wrigleyville and the Gold Coast that allowing black folks in Chicago to arm themselves legally won't be the end of the world. I don't want to paint every white person in Chicago as a racist--that's clearly not true. But the level of animosity between people of all races there is unbelievable, particularly when you've been trained all your life to believe that small rural towns are the last bastions of racism in America.

By the way, the image at the top of the post comes from www.esri.com and shows red and blue counties in the 2004 Presidential election. The more population a county has, the higher its column rises above the counties around it. See those huge spikes right where L.A., Chicago and New York are? Plus Miami, Seattle, Detroit . . . that's why Bush could win decisively in the Electoral College while just barely eeking out an edge in the popular vote. There's a LOT of red on the map, sure--but look at how FLAT it all is. These numbers don't correlate perfectly with gun control, I'm sure, but you get the idea.

Gay Pride, No Bashing! But No Fighting Back . . . .

Two really stupid things happened recently, so some of the stuff I wanted to blog got pushed out of the way. The first stupid thing happened last month when Pride Northwest, the organizers of the Gay Pride events in Portland, OR decided to eject a gay rights activist named Lonnie Wilson from the Gay Pride Parade, following close on the heels of a similarly baffling ejection in Utah. Why would they eject a an activist for gay rights from the Pride events? Hell, why would they eject any gay man from the Pride events at all?

Because Lonnie Wilson has the unmitigated gall to suggest that if gay people don’t want to be bashed and murdered, it would be smart for them to get some training and arm themselves. Now, in Illinois, this idea wouldn’t be very practical, since gays, like the rest of us, are legally debarred the use of arms in public. But in 48 states, it can be done. Wilson, though, went one step further than carrying a gun—he carried his gun openly and this the blissninnies running the Pride events could not abide. Of course, open carry is perfectly legal in Oregon, as it is in most states (but again, I must point out, utterly illegal in Illinois) and Mr. Wilson was well within his rights. And of course, the Pride organizers will never know whether a pack of wannabe gay-bashing tough guys turned right ‘round and went back to hanging out in front of the Dairy Queen and mean-mugging emo kids because they noticed that some of them queers has guns.

Apparently, Pride Northwest as represented by Stefanie Wells (the official who ordered Mr. Wilson thrown out of the event) has trouble with irony:

"Wow you have no clue to the Trauma that you have caused some people at pride by asserting your 'rights'. Did you once stop to think that at least 50% of the queer population has had death threats made upon them, (sic)" wrote Wells. "or that you might traumatize a former student of Thuston High School, I know I didn't!" Wells is referring to the school shooting event at Thurston High School on May 20, 1998, when Kipland "Kip" Kinkel, who was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, killed two of his classmates and wounded 25, after murdering both of his parents.

Quick! Somebody better tell all those Jews in Israel that they can’t carry guns anymore—because other Jews have gotten death threats from neo-nazi wannabes, and an armed Jew is pretty much the same thing as a neo-nazi wannabe, right? Just like an armed gay man at a gay pride parade is pretty much the same thing as a guy with a mullet carrying a “God Hates Fags” sign.

By the way, is there ANY scientific evidence at all that says that survivors of shooting incidents are traumatized by the sight of firearms? If that’s true, how is it that so many new gun owners are people who’ve been mugged or assaulted, sometimes by someone with a firearm? I’m thinking Ms. Wells was the one traumatized by the sight of Mr. Wilson’s gun. Therapy would probably help.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Maybe Rudy Really Doesn't Get It.

Armed and Safe comes through again. Now, I will say up front that I was probably never going to vote for Rudy Giuliani, and that’s probably OK with him, because to a guy from New York City, what I think is not important. I’m just a guy in flyover country. I have a pickup truck. I shoot guns for fun. I mow my own lawn. I’ve never been to a cocktail party in my life. I’m not the Giuliani target audience. I get that.

But I’ve been telling people for awhile that I prefer Giuliani over Mitt Romney for just one very important reason: at least Giuliani wasn’t lying about his positions. Giuliani didn’t say:

“Coincidentally enough, I have discovered on the eve of the national election that I’m pro-gun, anti-abortion, and whatever else you hicksticks in polyester pants are for . . . or against, or whatever you people do when you’re not pickin’ banjos at cockfights.”

But Rudy G. had to go and talk about guns and show me that he just doesn’t get it. Some kid asked him about gun control, and Rudy says “Well, your friends are probably worried about me because I enforced the laws in New York . . . . . . your friends don’t have to worry about me unless they're felons.”

That sounds nice at first. I’m not a felon, so I’m home free, right? But this morning I heard the audio of that statement played on NPR (that’s right, I listen and I pledge, deal with it.) Hearing it, I was struck at what Giuliani was ignoring. “You don’t have to worry about me unless you’re a criminal” is a statement of exactly null value in a discussion of gun control laws, because the very thing that makes gun control so heinous and nasty is that it tends to make criminals out of otherwise law-abiding people. The gun laws in New York City are no exception. You probably don’t know anyone with a NYC carry permit, even if you were born and raised there. But you know OF people with carry permits, because the rich and famous can get them under New York’s discretionary system. So Steven Tyler and the boys from Aerosmith have carry permits, even after the musical felonies they’ve been committing in the long, windswept, barren years since Living On the Edge Don Imus has a carry permit, as does Howard Stern. I’m not saying Howard Stern shouldn’t have a carry permit, but I have to ask myself why he’s considered more responsible and more important than, for instance, me. The end result of these kinds of laws is that people are left with a choice between what they know is moral and ethical on the one hand, and what they’re told is legal on the other. It’s wrong to paint people into that corner, Rudy, period.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

In Which a Redneck Fails to Repair an Automobile

OK, here's the thing, see? I have four automobiles. This is not a good thing. We have two drivers and a "garage" that could conceivably hold two cars, if the roof weren't literally collapsing.

The only keeper is my wife's 2005 Ford Freestar. This thing has been a miracle for us; we bought it right before the pregnancy became pronounced. It's reliable, it has the cool remote-control doors, it has all the space we need for two kids and it actually gets better mileage than anything else we own. It also has an extended warranty, so we don't have to fix all those nifty little gadgets when, inevitably, they stop working.

My wife's other car is her 1995 Camaro. It's a Full Mullet Jacket model, red with t-tops and Z-28 wheels. It also has the universally despised 3.4L V6 that was replaced later that model year with the universally admired 3.8L V6. It has ridiculously little power, lousy brakes, mushy steering and suspension, uncomfortable seats, and ridiculously long doors that make it a chore to get in and out at all. But when we were first wedded, some seven years ago, La Luz de Mi Corazon had never been allowed to choose her own car. Her stepdad had chosen her turd-brown 1979 Malibu, followed by her 1989 Chevy Celebrity in classic "Blowoff Blue" paint. She, however, had always lusted after a red Camaro with t-tops, so we looked until we found one and that's what she By Gawd drove for the next 6 years.
It worked out well; nothing can help you accept that you don't have to have a little red pony car like trying to drive two kids around in it for years. We were the happiest minivan buyers anyone has ever seen.

I also inherited dad's old truck when he upgraded, so we have a red 1986 Chevy K10 pickup. It's a beast, a snarling, lumbering mix of noise and rust. I love it dearly. But it's not reliable and it sucks gas like a mysterious vortex between dimensions. Also like the mysterious vortex, it's never clear where all that gas goes, because this truck has a Chevy 305.
Worst. V8. Evar. Lousy mileage, lousy power, lousy torque--and that's when it was new. This truck would make a great project, and I have a 350 block on the stand in the garage, but the last thing I need is one more way to spend my time. Boredom is not really my problem.

Finally, I have the 1995 Buick Park Avenue--that's my daily driver. This is the car that will not die, at 243,000 miles and counting. It's rusty, the trunk and the taillights are smashed (rear-ended by an uninsured driver, despite the fact that they passed a law against that in Illinois) and the windshield wipers don't work. Also the rear suspension is . . . unconventional, and the power steering pump is making a disturbing clattering sound--it sounds like someone dropped a couple of nickels in there. I'm no botanist, but that can't be good. Oh, yeah, and for some reason it rarely cranks over the first time you turn the key--probably a problem at the cutout for the automatic transmission.

The plan is to sell those last three for whatever we can get and buy a 4-door sedan or possibly a small pickup truck for cash (I hate payments, but I love paid in full.) Then we can have two vehicles, two insurance payments, and the ability to mow our property without moving any cars.
To that end, I spent today replacing the wiper motor in the Buick so that the new owner doesn't die when it rains ('cause I'm a nice guy.) I spent literally hours sweating over this; the hood actually had to come off at one point. No kidding. The stupid motor is held in by three metric bolts that can be turned about 1/32nd of a turn at a time--IF you flip the wrench over between turns. Luckily, I was in the shade, where it only got up to about 93 degrees Fahrenheit. About 4:30 in the afternoon, I finally had the damn thing bolted in and wired. I turned on the key, turned on the wipers, and cussed with alarming and charming facility and agility for about a minute straight. Is there anything worse than seeing your project fail and knowing you still have maybe an hour of cleanup and repair to do anyway? Most of today was literally wasted.
Oh, and now I have no idea what's causing the wipers not to work. There's no sound from the wiper motor or the washer fluid pump, but the the fuse checks out and the motor is now brand new. I'm out of ideas unless it's the switch on the turn signal stalk.

So now you know Don's Shame. Defeated by the GrandpaMobile. Oh, the humanity. Oh, the ignominy.

I Love My Wife

Neanderthal Man: "Hey, you know what they've come up with now?"
Fairy Princess: "You know I never know what they've come up with now."
Neanderthal Man: "Check this out--it's an inflatable hot tub. Is that cool or what?"
Fairy Princess: "Oh my . . . if I had $500 on me, I would buy that right now."
Neanderthal Man: "Well, let's sell a gun!"
Fairy Princess: "OH NO! We are not selling any guns."
Neanderthal Man: [with feeling] "You have never been hotter. Ever."

(That's right, kids, when you're old and married you end up at Meijer on the 4th of July, because baby formula and dog food can't wait. You'll get old, too, kid, and when you do, you'll look sillier than me because I don't have a lip ring or "SLIM SHADY" tattoos down my forearms.
Also, ladies, fear not, la luz de mi corazon will have her hot tub this year. It's budgeted into her dream master bath, scheduled for completion after the nursery and the upstairs bathroom.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

July 4th, 2007

If you're not from the United States of America, please bear with me a moment. On this day, most Americans don't feel right if they have nothing to say about why the 4th of July matters so much to us.

People are going to be writing variations on the theme "I'm so glad I have freedom" today, and that's a worthy thing to write about, but I don't want to be another guy writing the same thing. So I'm going to get pedantic and boring for a moment. Not every American remembers now that our nation was not established on July 4th, 1776. It's easy to forget. July 4th is actually the official day given for the publication of the Declaration of Independence, a document that sought to tell the rest of the world why we were about to fight a war against our legal government, overthrowing both King and Parliament. Not someone else's King and Parliament, not some invader--our legal and rightful sovereign, King George III and the Parliament of Britain. We forget rather easily now that these people we blithely call "Americans" were Americans the way the Welsh were Welsh. They were British subjects, and they called themselves British subjects. They did not propose to repel a foreign invader, but to destroy and repel the army of their own King--the man many of them had sworn allegiance to as soldiers of the British crown!

George Washington wasn't born a general, after all. He learned to be a soldier in the service of his King. When the Americans declared that they were independent of the British Empire, only about one third of the colonists were willing to say they approved. Revolution appeared to be impossible, but we shouldn't make the mistake of thinking loyalists and neutrals were only cowards. Many of them were appalled at the criminal intentions of their representatives and wanted no part of revolution against their King, no matter what grievances they may have been nursing against him themselves.

Those who believed that revolution was necessary were considered fools by two-thirds of their countrymen. Those who believed that King and Parliament had betrayed British principles of justice were called madmen and criminals. And if there's anything to remember about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, it's this: these were men with everything to lose. These were men who had made great successes of themselves under the King and the Parliament. They were the cream of British society in the Americas. They had fortunes, land, families, and positions of influence. They risked all those things plus the hangman's noose by signing the Declaration. They signed it anyway because they believed that they had a chance to deliver on the promise of British justice and fairness.

The war they fought was not perfect, nor was the nation it created--nor is the Constitution that replaced that nation and created the one we have now. All they managed to do was to create a nation that allowed more freedom and power for the individual citizen than just about any nation in history. Blow stuff up, go to a picnic, sing patriotic songs with your neighbors. If today is not a day worth celebrating, I can't think of one.