Saturday, April 26, 2008

Better And Better: Book meme

Better And Better: Book meme

I didn't get tagged, but Tam is too lazy to tag people and she told the rest of us to go for it.

1. Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. No cheating!
2. Find page 123.
3. Find the first five sentences.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

Well, I'm a nerd:

"For this reason, physicists call the theory of the three nongravitational forces and the three families of matter particles the standard theory, or (more often) the standard model of particle physics.

Messenger Particles
According to the standard model, just as the photon is the smallest constituent of an electromagnetic field, the strong and the weak force fields have smallest constituents as well. As we discussed briefly in Chapter 1, the smallest bundles of the strong force are known as gluons, and those of the weak force are known as weak gauge bosons (or more precisely, the W and Z bosons)."

Most of this book is not quite that dry; it's The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, and it's meant to make superstring theory and cosmology accessible to the layman. It's arranged almost as a series of essays or lectures, so I'm working my way through it slowly. I've never been able to handle numbers or physics intuitively the way I can manipulate words, but I want it all. When I first saw Tam's take on this meme, I was just finishing my lunch at school and had her blog, IllinoisCarry, and a young adult book called Mortal Engines open in front of me. The book is a semi-steampunk piece about a post-apocalyptic future a thousand years after a final world war--in which cities and towns are mounted huge tracks and wheels, and they travel around Europe eating each other. It's a lot more complex than that and a lot better book than I just made it sound, especially since it's the author's first published work. Frankly, those sentences would have been a lot more interesting (Our Heroes had just narrowly missed being run over by a speeding town, which had smashed the cyborg assassin who had been about to kill them so that the girl could be resurrected as his immortal cyborg daughter--and they'd just realized that a larger city must be chasing it and thus about to run them over.)
Alas, the bell rang as I composed the email, and it was not to be.
Hmmm . . . I'll tag Analog Periphery, Radio Free New Jersey, Bayou Renaissance Man, and Expert Witness. Oops, it looks like Expert Witness already got tagged--he's got his post up already. OK, how about . . . . Plowshare Forge?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Flirting With My Wife

Overheard in a bed:

"Why are you looking at me like that?"
"I'm seducing you with my eyebrows. Please be patient; this may take some time."

And no, it didn't work, but I got a laugh.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Gun Control: ur doing it rong

(Updated--the picture is now a link to the story where I found it at Second City Cop.)

New Chicago City Motto: "Let the bodies hit the floor!"

From an anonymous commenter at Second City Cop comes this idea for a new Chicago city motto. I couldn't resist, but I stress that I am not stealing this idea. All credit to the anonymous (Chicago cop?) who came up with it. I just slapped it onto an image I also don't own. Mayor Hizzoner "Little" Dick Daley has said recently that he thinks Chicago's motto needs to change, but he wants to make it something fairly dishonest like "City of Children." I say the whole city can't be represented by just City Hall and the City Council, so it's not very fair to label them all "children."

Anyway, in honor of the brutally violent summer that many Chicago police officers seem to be anticipating, here's a new travel poster for Chicago, free of charge. Good luck with that, Chicago cops. Stay safe.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Oh, Well, That's OK, then! Wait, What?

So yesterday, I was listening to Daniel Shore's commentary (I think) on NPR on the way home from work. He was very disappointed in the Democratic debate in Pennsylvania, but not for the reasons you and I might be disappointed. He didn't even mention the part I thought was the weirdest--who thought it would be a good idea if the top guy in the Clinton White House got to moderate the debate between Hillary Clinton and any other candidate? When the general election gets started, I hope McCain gets to send his flunkies in to moderate his debates with Obama, too, but I won't get my hopes up.

But that's not what made me shout at my car radio. Mr. Shore was really upset at some of the questions asked of Obama, and the one that drove him the craziest was the question about Obama's friendship with an unrepentant terrorist named Ayers, a member of The Weathermen underground who admits he planted bombs in the Pentagon and police stations and said in an interview published on September 11, 2001 that he's not sorry . . . he only regrets that he didn't set more bombs.

Mr. Shore was exasperated because the moderators didn't mention the very important fact that although Ayers' interview was published on September 11, he'd actually made the statement a few days before. You see, they'd characterized his comments as "insensitive."

Oh, well, OK then. On September 11 it would have been outrageous, but on September 8, 2001, how could have had known that it would someday be considered insensitive to declare that he was glad he'd tried to murder Americans with bombs?
I guess 9/11 really did change everything, huh, Daniel?

If Barack asks you for advice on how not to sound like an arrogant elitist prick, refer him to somebody who gets it.

Hey, Look--A Religious Debate!

Here's something you've probably never seen before: one guy defends the Catholic church, one guy defends atheism. Why haven't people done this sort of thing before? It feels awesome to break fresh, new ground.

But I still want you to go read it at Radio Free New Jersey.

The Earthquake of '08

"Oh, my,  yes" the old man tells his grandchildren, a twinkle in his eye and cookie crumbs on his shirt, "I was there for the great quake of ought-eight.  It sure was something.  I woke up with a baby next to my head--your grandma had a habit of waking in the night and laying your uncle Sean in the bed with us--and the whole bed was shaking.  I could feel the frame of the house shaking, too, and it seemed to go on for a long time, but of course I was very sleepy so I wasn't sure."
"That's scary, grandpa!  What did you do?"
"Well, I sort of growled at the dog to stop running around the room and shaking the bed.  And the shaking stopped, so I was pretty well satisfied."'
"You--wait, what?  I don't get it."
"I imagine the dog felt much the same way."
Hey, I don't promise much at 4:30 in the morning.  We felt the quake pretty strongly here, but for all who've asked, we're fine.  It sounds like there are no serious injuries reported anywhere.  Other than wondering why it went on so long, I have to admit that I was completely clueless about what was going on.  I felt the shaking, all right, and I wondered about it, but the word "earthquake" never entered my mind.  I hope I do a little better if the big one in the New Madrid Fault ever lets go; that one could cause us structural damage and someone could get hurt. 
This one didn't even wake up the rest of the family; Kane and I were the only ones who felt it.  And for anyone wondering if the dog story is true, you'd have to know our dogs.  We have our own little 9mm vs. .45 debate happening at home every day--huge and slow vs. small and fast.  There is much structural shaking.
(I'm trying something new with the email posting here, since it always seems to make the first few lines come out the same color as the background.  We'll see if it works.  Also, I can't access the comments pages at work, so if you want to ask me something, you might not get an answer right away.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gainsaid By Hobbits? What Fresh Humiliation Waits Tomorrow?

OK, OK, so apparently several things I said in reply to the crazy e-feminist wannabe were not true. And I checked, and I'm not registered as a Democrat, so it all counts.

Our correspondent from Hobbiton, John Shirley, informs me that he has shot a Level II-A vest with a 12-gauge shotgun using 1 oz. slugs, and although the slugs did push the vest material about two inches into the target (broken ribs) they did not break through the material--but only if you miss the trauma plates, which apparently stopped 'em cold. Shows what I know--I didn't consider plates. I didn't think most patrol officers wore them.

So, if you're keeping track, it's actually very hard to get a "silencer" legally in Sweden, and a police officer's vest will stop a 12-guage slug, at least the 1-oz. vaned kind I use in a smooth barrel. I wonder whether John tried the saboted slugs, which would have much less frontal area? None of this is a big deal really, just technical details (I don't anticipate a need to shoot through body armor any time soon, and I haven't lost an confidence in my 12-guage) but I know more today than I did yesterday, and that's always good.

Standard slugs will not defeat common level 2 body armor. I know this because I have tested it, at about 2 meters. (Unless hitting the trauma plate, you will have a section of armor about as wide as a small maraschino jar pushed at least 2" into the target, though. Certainly more "impactful" than standard 00 buck, which didn't even dent the railroad tie backstop.

.223 will penetrate, at least the front side of the vest, and probably most of the "body". .44 Magnum will sometimes penetrate at least the front armor. .45-70 300 grain SJHP at about 1650 fps will blow through the front armor, railroad tie, back armor, and keep on truckin'.

Vest tested was a 10-year old Second Chance.
--John Shirley

The point stands despite my sloppiness. Notice that the calibers that penetrated--.223, .44 Remington Magnum, and .45-70 Government, all predate the widespread use of personal ballistic armor. They were designed for penetration, yes, but none of them were designed to defeat body armor.

Where's All the Gun Control?

The Big Day for new gun control in Illinois came and went, and the local morning news in Springfield reports only one gun bill being called--and failing--on The Big Day.

What does that mean for Illinois gun owners? It means you'd better call your legislators again today! The legislature is still in session, and you know what that means--nobody is safe while the Illinois legislature is meeting. Don't forget to call even if your legislator is on our side, as mine are most of the time--the ones who do the right thing need to be thanked and encouraged to continue. The press and the Chicago Machine are working overtime to make downstate legislators feel like they're isolated and out of touch, but that kind of pressure isn't really possible anymore unless people sit back and let them do it.

The bill that was called yesterday was more or less a throwaway, in my opinion. Surely nobody was so dumb as to think there was any point in it. It would have required that private parties call in to conduct background checks in order to sell guns privately. In some of our neighboring states, you could have a discussion about why that won't make much difference to criminals who already don't obey the law (Is Mookie going to call the NICS hotline to make sure Killah Boy doesn't have a record before he passes him the Lorcin his cousin stole last month?)

In Illinois, it's simpler than that. The law already requires that if I, for instance, sell a gun, I must record the other party's Firearm Owner's Identification info and keep it on hand for ten years. The buyer, incidentally, has to do the same with my information. Obviously no one could comply if the other party didn't have a FOID card, and it takes money, effort, weeks of waiting and a background check to get one in the first place. In effect, I'm doing a background check on him myself, because I'm checking to see whether he's a card-carrying good guy certified by the Illinois State Police as a law-abiding citizen of adult age with no history of treatment for serious mental illness.

Of course, the catch is that criminals don't go through this ridiculous FOID dance when they exchange guns because they are criminals and criminals break laws. So we'll make another law with exactly the same chance of being followed, requiring them to do two background checks instead of one. How could that fail?

Only it did fail, because it's a stupid idea, and downstate legislators (Republican AND Democrat) are deeply mistrustful of the Chicago cadre who tell them otherwise.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Armed and Safe: Today is the day; Call your legislators!

Armed and Safe: Today is the day; citizen disarmament on the move in Illinois

Continuing my normal pattern of parroting everything Armed and Safe says (because 45Superman is often first and better) I want to ask a favor of you. Will you PLEASE call the legislators below and tell them that Illinois citizens don't want gun control? And that they're not going to solve any problems by taking away our magazines or our rifles? They don't seem to get it. I'm not asking you to do anything I won't do; I've printed this out and will be making phone calls this morning before school starts.

Today is the day; citizen disarmament on the move in Illinois

ISRA and the NRA agree that the citizen disarmament extremists will make their move today--apparently they want to mark the anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre by disarming an entire state full of new potential victims with laws that would have done nothing to stop the kind of beast who committed that atrocity.

The bills they will most likely try to pass are HB 758 (a virtual ban of private handgun sales) and SB 1007 (a ban of standard, non-reduced capacity magazines). They may also try to pass HB 4357, which would ban a huge array of so-called "assault weapons," .50 caliber rifles (and ammunition), and standard capacity magazines. SB 1007 is especially threatening, because it has already passed in the Senate (last spring), so passage in the House is the last hurdle it faces before going to Governor Blagojevich for his certain signature (the only hope then would be that he seriously sprain something in his gleeful, mad dash to sign it).

My friends at Illinois Carry and I have compiled a list of representatives who might vote either way on these bills, and need to hear from the pro-liberty crowd:

Representative Suzanne Bassi (R-47th District)
(217) 782-8026
(217) 782-5257 FAX;

Representative Patricia Bellock (R-54th District)
(217) 782-2289 FAX;

Representative Bob Biggins (R-41st District)
(217) 782-6578
(217) 782-5257 FAX;

Representative Sandy Cole (R-62nd District)
(217) 782-7320
(217) 782-1275 FAX;

Representative Joe Dunn (R-96th District)
(217) 782-6507
(217) 782-5257 FAX

Representative Mike Fortner (R-95th District)
(217) 782-1653
(no Springfield FAX listed);

Representative Paul Froelich (D-56th District)
(217) 782-3725
(217) 557-6271 FAX;

Representative Charles Jefferson (D-67th District)
(217) 782-3167
(217) 557-7654 FAX;

Representative Michael Madigan (D-22nd District; Speaker of the House)
(217) 782-5350
(217) 524-1794 FAX;

Representative Sidney Mathias (R-53rd District)
(217) 782-1664
(217) 782-1275 FAX;

Representative James H. Meyer (R-48th District)
(217) 782-8028
(217) 557-0571 FAX

Representative Ruth Munson (R-43rd District)
(217) 782-8020
(no Springfield FAX listed);

Representative Sandra Pihos (R-42nd District)
(217) 782-8037
(217) 558-1072 FAX;

Representative Harry Ramey (R-55th District)
(217) 558-1037
(217) 782-5257 FAX

Representative Ed Sullivan Jr. (R-51st District)
(217) 782-3696
(217) 782-1275 FAX
This is for all the marbles, Illinois gun owners--if you don't step up to the plate today, I don't want to hear about your lost freedom--you should know whom to blame. The Illinois House meets at 10--start early.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I Love the Internets--Swede Corrects My Sweden Facts

We're living in the future, indeed, and that means you really do have to have your ducks in a row, because if you say something inaccurate about a country on another continent, somebody who lives there may show up and set you straight.

Mikael dropped by and corrected me in the Feminist Ezine Fisking the Fisker comments, but I thought his correction deserved to be on the same page as the mistake. Check this out. Here's what I said:

All the countries in Europe that treat "silencers" like what they are--simple devices to muffle a very loud machine--are bad places to live. The author would certainly never want to live in France, or in Sweden, because in those places mufflers for firearms are legal, cheap, and even encouraged in order to lessen the nuisance of noisy guns and increase safety. Step out your door in Sweden, kids, and you're taking your life in your hands. Your evil Swedish neighbor is probably in a sniper hide with a suppressed SIG 550, flipping a coin to see whether today is your day to die.
Because that's what happens to people who are allowed to own weapons.

Of course, I was writing ironically there--I would never disrespect the nation that gave us both the 1896 Swede Mauser and the 1996 Volvo 850R. But Mikael thought I deserved to be taken to task just because some of my facts weren't true! A churlish and provincial notion, but he had a point, so here's his correction:

Sweden has MUCH stricter firearms laws than the US. Silencers are of course totally banned. It takes 2 years in a shooting club to be considered for a handgun licence(and then it's a range licence only, no carry), the same or a hunting licence(requires the passing of a hunting course, and land to hunt on) for rifles. We also have restrictions such as no semi-automatic shotgun can have a magazine that fits more than 4 shells.

Still, we might have as high, or higher per capita number of fully automatic weapons in people's homes in this country, simply because the "Home Defense" forces(national guard) are required to have their G3A1 in a gun safe at home, also some anti-sabotage teams(such as that of Swedish Steel Inc) are allowed SMGs, I know such a person, I believe he has/had a Carl Gustav m/45 at home. American soldiers in vietnam loved their licenced copy of those I understand.

And last, a comment that you're not going to like: it's true that the one possitive influence of heavy gun control is that crimes of passion have less fatalities in such countries, because for example, the husband walking in on his wife cheating on him isn't going to be carrying a pistol.

Still, I'm doubtful that makes up for the lack of firearms as for example self-defense for women.

I took the information about Swedish "silencer" laws from this article in the Western Criminology Review.

Guess I should have checked further! I knew there were several European countries where mufflers were legal and was only looking for confirmation of specific countries, and I still fouled up.

In this THR thread, Norwegian member UltimaThule says mufflers are legal for hunting and theoretically legal to own, but in practice almost impossible to get. Maybe that's where American confusion comes in.

So remember, kids, stick to what you know--and if someone catches you in an error, admit and fix it. My grandpa always told me that the difference between a professional and an amateur is that a professional knows how to fix mistakes.

Experimenting With Expanded Posts

OK, that didn't work. Have some cute baby pictures while I work this out.

"Is this a dagger I see befo--NOM NOM NOM!"

These probably look posed, but the truth is that Sean is perhaps the stabbiest baby I've ever known. The kid loves to hammerfist, and if he can put something in his hand, so much the better. The best are the nights when I'm dozing with him cuddled in my arms and the little dickens pulls his stabby act with, say, a glass jar of Vapo-Rub from the headboard--and giggles like mad as daddy grits his teeth and tries to look macho.

"Maybe I should just pull that out, huh? I love my work."

"But this can mean only one thing! Somewhere out on the mean streets, Guido the Goatface is frantically trying to kill Rocco "Stitchy Nose" Balducci with a sippy cup."

(No babies or photographers were harmed in the production of this work. The "knife" is a soft rubber training piece.)

Oh, Frontsight, Will You Ever Learn?

For all you non-gun-nuts out there, Frontsight is a training school in the Nevada desert run by a chiropractor named Dr. Ignatius Piazza. Yes, his name does make him sound like a conquistador. Now be quiet and pay attention, because this is important: he published Marko's excellent essay "Why the Gun Is Civilization" without permission and with the wrong attribution.
In his advertising email newsletter. If Sam Waterston began one of his awful life insurance commercials by intoning "Edgar Allen Poe once wrote that 'We're just waiting for the hammer to fall' and I think blah blah blah we'll sell you just enough insurance to cover your funeral if you don't go nuts with the good coffin and the real embalming fluid . . ." there would be a general outcry. Those guys from Queen who aren't Freddy Mercury would be livid at the theft of their art.

Well, this is the same thing, more or less. There is no Major Caudill, and all you have to do to find Marko's name is to Google the phrase "why the gun is civilization." Try it and see.

Frontsight has long been the lovable scamp of the of the firearms community. The people who train there often have good things to say about it; the rest of us wonder what goes on there. They give off a little bit of a grifter vibe. Partly that's Piazza, who has made himself the face and spokesman of Frontsight. He's a fast-talking salesman and his writing can give the impression of a carnival barker. Frontsight sells certificates good for classes or for various levels of membership. They seem awfully expensive to me, but young school teachers with families are not Piazza's target market, and that's fine. Slightly more disturbing were rumors that students at Frontsight had been lectured on the power of Dianetics and pressured to join the Church of Scientology. In the end, that one turned into he-said, she-said, with many former students coming out to say they hadn't been given any Scientology sales pitch.
Then there was the deusie: Piazza and company sold tiny plots of worthless desert to a whole lot of well-heeled shooters, many of whom were Frontsight students. They told these suckers that they were buying lots in a future "Shooter's Community," basically a gated town complete with streets, curbs, water, electricity, community pool, beautiful houses, and of course, berms and backstops and ranges all over the place. You can find this story told in much finer detail elsewhere, but suffice it to say that none of those promised things ever materialized. Last time I checked, Dr. Pizza was still insisting that the community will one day be built, but he and his collected millions on the deal and never got the work started, so that's not looking so good. The best part is that the sheep getting fleeced in this deal bought some kind of complicated futures stock in the land, NOT deeds to the land itself, so there's a way for Pizza to keep their millions of dollars and take the land back anyway.

I'm not saying that taking Marko's essay was worse than this scam, mind you. That's just what brought it to mind again.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


My new best friend, Keith, is in the kitchen right now. Right this moment. You wanna know why Keith is my new best friend?

Because Keith is delivering my new washing machine and dryer, and Keith is doing all the work. We have so much in common! I mean, we're both bald, and . . . . well, the most important thing we have in common is that I was not looking forward to getting these things into place and getting them working, and Keith gets paid to do that for me so I can sit around blogging or something equally useless.

How elderly am I? I'm very excited about my new washing machine. We got huge-capacity models that are supposed to use a third of the water we were using before, so we should spend less time on laundry, which is good, because if we let it build up we can easily kill an entire Saturday or Sunday running loads of laundry through our ancient, mismatched laundry appliances. Mock me if you must. I don't care.

Bad Barry! No Cigarette for You This Week!

"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

No, no, folks, he's right. I fight for my right to keep and bear arms because the last three Presidents didn't budget enough Free Government Stuff for my small town.

No, wait, my mistake, that's stupid. Kiss my ass, Barry.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Fisking of a Fisker: Stick to Things You Understand, Please.

(UPDATE: I got Sweden's "silencer" laws wrong, but I'm going to leave my error. Maybe it will teach me humility. Probably not. Anyway, a guy from Sweden was nice enough to set me straight. Go read it when you're done with this.)

Tamara and the Atomic Nerds and a bunch of others talked about this days ago, so I'm behind the times as usual, but I can't let it go. A fine online publication called "
Feminist Ezine" found Oleg's propaganda site ( ) and the author found herself in such a fit of fear and loathing that she attempted a fisking. To say it didn't go well would be an understatement; I think she may have injured herself. I apologize, but I have to revisit the highlights if only to get them out of my head.

Actually much of the effort has been to keep guns and weapons that are considered "too dangerous" off the streets. Things like rocket launchers, grenades and other items usable by terrorists. Besides, who carries a grenade or an automatic sub-machinegun like a Mac 10 around for self-defense?

That would have been an interesting point and the beginning of a good argument in 1933. 75 years later, after the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1934, it's either dishonest or foolish. Rocket launchers (usable rocket launchers and usable rockets) and live grenades have been very strictly controlled for 74 years now, ma'am. So have submachine guns, sound mufflers, rifles and shotguns less than 26" overall length, rifles with barrels shorter than 16", shotguns with barrels shorter than 18", and a few other items covered by that particular law.

Okay, so apparently anti-gun activists are NAZI children now. That is going to take a big leap of faith to believe. Also, I have NEVER heard of any laws trying to prohibit shotguns, which is primarily a weapon for hunting deer, elk, bears. I could however see laws prohibited automatic assault rifles (like the kind the military sometimes use) because their purpose is not to shoot deer but to go on a shooting spree (aka, to go postal).
Uh huh. If you haven't heard of attempts to ban shotguns, you haven't been paying attention. I kind of suspected that from the rest of the article, to tell the truth. Shotguns are used for hunting, for fighting, for self-defense, for target practice and for competition. The only reason many politicians claim they don't want to ban shotguns is to pacify people like yourself who believe that means they "aren't after the hunters." The problem with that is that hunting is not some sacred right as opposed to defending oneself, family, community. It's not even mentioned in the primary legal guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms, the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In gun control debates, hunting is always a red herring.

The other target of the prohibitionists are the magazines. A standard magazine for a small or medium caliber rifle is thirty rounds. In 1994 such a magazine cost $15 and worked reliably. A standard magazine for a handgun held about fifteen rounds and cost $20.

The reasoning for this was simple: Magazine clips that contain 10 bullets are more useful to people who carry automatic weapons (which are illegal in most states). You just hold down the trigger and the handgun keeps firing, a bit like a machine gun, which means the criminal in question has the ability to fire many rounds at a police officer quickly and easily, and is more likely to hit the target as a result. Thanks to the 10 bullet limit the person runs out of bullets a lot faster. Since that law has been in place officers in many American states have seen a dramatic drop in the death of police officers due to automatic weapons.
Here we can see clearly that our subject has never fired a semi-automatic handgun. If you could fire multiple shots by holding down the trigger, your weapon would not be "a bit like a machine gun." It would be one, and IF you lived in a state that allows citizens to own automatic weapons (Illinois doesn't) then you'd still need to have a tax stamp for it, meaning that you'd paid your $200 tax, been fingerprinted, had your background checked by the federal government and waited months, in addition to jumping through a hundred other hoops and waiting for months.

Your last sentence was clearly made up on the spot. The number of police officers killed in the United States using automatic weapons hovers right at zero year after year. The so-called "Assault Weapons Ban" had no effect at all on any fully-automatic weapon; it only applied to firearms manufactured between 1994 and 2004. Since it's illegal for a private citizen to own any automatic weapon manufactured after 1986, that means there were zero automatic weapons affected by the ban. If you don't believe me, check the FBI's Unified Crime Report for 2004, the last year of the ban. It clearly states the numbers killed with handguns, rifles, shotguns, knives, and cars over the previous ten years. Automatic weapons are not mentioned. At all. That's because you can count the number of crimes committed with legally-owned automatic weapons over the last 75 years on one hand. It just doesn't happen.

After production of magazines with capacity over ten rounds was banned in 1994, the prices on the standard magazines had increased to to over $100 for most models. The crippled ten-round versions had to be produced in a way that makes restoring them to standard capacity impossible. Those changes made ten-round magazines less reliable. In 2004, that ill-intentioned law sunset, but several states implemented even more restrictive versions of their own.

Those changes were only less reliable for people using automatic weapons. The new magazines were designed specifically to jam up frequently when used in an automatic gun.
No, they weren't, and again, I have to think it would have served you well to write about something you knew at least a little bit about. Making things up is not going to work. I have to admit, you're the first person I've ever heard make that particular assertion, and I've argued with hundreds of anti-gun activists in my time. I've heard a lot of whoppers, but you don't even seem to care about making yours the least bit believable.
The "new" magazines (shooters call them "post-ban") were designed to hold a maximum of ten cartridges. No other modifications were made on a widespread basis. It's possible that some company, somewhere, manufactured magazines for automatic weapons and decided to make their own product unreliable, but since I've never heard of it and that would be incredibly stupid (literally incredible, as in "impossible to believe") I'll just ask you to name one manufacturer who did such a thing. Just one, please. That should be easy.

Why the need for standard magazines? Ask your local police officer. He is on patrol with a handgun which uses standard magazines and, in many cities, an automatic rifle or a submachine gun with standard magazines. Under stress, even well-trained people can miss. Moreover, a single hit is not guaranteed to stop an attack. Fortunately, he has the benefit of body armor and backup just a radio call away.

Precisely. Criminals are the ones who use automatic weapons and therefore are willing to pay more to find the old standard magazine clips.
Again, the use of automatic weapons by a criminal is very, very, VERY rare and already prohibited by federal law. It's a federal felony for a felon to possess ANY firearm, much less a machine gun. Moreover, your assertion that only criminals would pay for the pre-ban magazines only serves to demonstrate again that you have no idea what you're talking about. You never visited a gun shop, gun show, or public firing range between 1994 and 2004.
It's almost unfair to pick on you like this.

Apparently anti-gun activists are just like rapists and wife-beaters, in addition to being NAZI children. Wow. We agree rape is more about power than sex, but so is high-powered machine guns and assault rifles. Its not about self-defense. Its the feeling of POWER when you pull the trigger on a Sig or an Aug and shoot the target with armor-piercing rounds. That kind of extreme power is addictive and a bit like the first time you sit behind the wheel of a really fast car. You can feel the power in the palm of your hands. You can control it. You feel safe and dangerous at the same time and it gives you an adrenaline rush. Protection? Bah! For the brief instant you are the angel of death and have the power to take lives. It is a power-trip and there is no doubt about it.
OK, at this point I'm not really kidding anymore: You have issues that would best be explored with a professional therapist of some kind.

Some weapons are specifically designed to be used covertly. Weapons like the Colt M4A1 assault rifle (military issue) come with detachable silencers which can pick off enemies at distances without even a whisper. Such weapons are banned because they are designed specifically for assassins, snipers and government agents. They are not the kind of thing you want your wacko next door neighbour owning. Piss off your neighbour and he could shoot you 30 times from 200 yards away and nobody would even hear the gun fire.
So, here we learn four very important lessons:
1. M4's are shipped with suppressors. Who knew? Certainly not the thousands of U.S. soldiers carrying them right now.
2. M4's are available for civilian purchase. Not AR15 carbines with M4 profiles, mind you, we're not talking about your "M4gery" here. Real M4A1's with selector switches, three-round burst, and apparently, a "silencer" in every box. The Firearm Owner's Protection Act of 1986 never passed in this strange parallel dimension where Spock has a beard.
3. "Silencers" suppress all sound and make a short-barreled 5.56 rifle sound like a "whisper." Because real life is basically the same as movies.
4. All the countries in Europe that treat "silencers" like what they are--simple devices to muffle a very loud machine--are bad places to live. The author would certainly never want to live in France, or in Sweden, because in those places mufflers for firearms are legal, cheap, and even encouraged in order to lessen the nuisance of noisy guns and increase safety. Step out your door in Sweden, kids, and you're taking your life in your hands. Your evil Swedish neighbor is probably in a sniper hide with a suppressed SIG 550, flipping a coin to see whether today is your day to die.
Because that's what happens to people who are allowed to own weapons.

The person who wrote the website we are criticizing is extremely paranoid. Next he'll tell you the government is out to brainwash you or something like that . . . . .Told you so. There is some evidence to suggest the United States is becoming a police state, but we would also have to admit the cause of that is more the result of rampant gun crime and the growth of terrorism. If the Jews during WWII had had more guns available to them it would have been one more excuse for Hitler to hunt them all down, which he attempted anyway. Exploring What-If scenarios is a bit time consuming however so we shall skip that tangent.
"The person's" name is Oleg Volk. He grew up in the Soviet Union, so you'll have to pardon him if he's too dumb to realize that governments are benign and totalitarianism is a myth left over from the Cold War. He seems to think that Russians are not necessarily worse people than Americans, and that Russians created a totalitarian regime that ground its people through a bureaucratic prison machine. I believe he was influenced by other paranoid crazies. There was this author named Solzhenitsyn, and a weirdo from England named Orwell, and a bunch of others who wrote these nutty books about how governments sometimes do really bad things, and if there's no one around to put them in check, they do progressively worse things until the normal state of existence is terrible but no one has the power to fight back.

Oleg also has this regrettable tendency to act like Jews and particularly Holocaust survivors are some kind of authority on the Holocaust. A lot of them aren't as enlightened as you are, you know. A lot of them think that fighting back might have been better than being gassed and cremated for no real reason, or being forced to work yourself to death on starvation rations. They point to irrelevant stuff like the Warsaw Ghetto uprising to indicate that Jews could have fought back if they'd had the weapons and the will. I mean, I've tried to tell them that the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto outnumbered the few thousand troops the Nazis could throw at them, and they only held them off for about 5 months, so clearly that was a monumental failure. Like modern mugging victims, they should have avoided eye contact, made no threatening gestures, and given the Nazis what they wanted.
But what can I tell you? People are stubborn when it comes to resisting genocide.

Yet the states which have the most onerous and restrictive laws, all make exceptions for police and military use. They claim that most models of guns are unsafe to the users...unless the users are police officers. Many politicians have bodyguards armed with the guns prohibited to the rest of us.

And rightly so. Only people who are responsible and knowledgeable of the weapons they carry should be using them. We're not about to start handing out Desert Eagles to school children after all, even in the event of a war children should be the last people given arms. We feel that the police and the military have the proper training, the responsibility and indeed the DUTY to use the best possible weapons for defending America.

This is very important, so I want you to concentrate and read carefully: your feeeeelings are inaccurate and irrelevant. Private citizens have access to the same or better level of training as any police or military officer or enlistee. I won't even attempt to list all the schools here; Google "firearm training" for a start.

No one in their right mind looks for trouble. Yet, we must take up arms in self-protection, wouldn't using effective tools help? Our opposition won't go easier on us just because we use obsolete and ineffective means of self-protection.

That is true, but what if the opposition is forced to use obsolete weaponry or can't even find a weapon period? A criminal could rob a convenience store with a baseball bat or a knife, but it is hardly an effective weapon against a bank teller behind reinforced glass.

Which is why people who only have a stick or a knife generally rob people who aren't behind reinforced glass. Besides, I don't know what kind of neighborhood you live in, but where I live, just about everyone has a gun and none of the bank tellers are hidden behind glass unless you go through a drive-through. I wonder why that is? Could it be that we have a lot of guns but not a lot of bank robbers?

What makes an effective weapon? Semi-automatic clones of army rifles have been generally considered effective. They are reliable, durable and accept a cartridge of sufficient effectiveness. Because the type is so common, ammunition and magazines are relatively inexpensive, though that is changing as restrictive laws reduce their availability. A mothballed rifle and its ammunition can remain usable for decades. For that reason, people who would do us harm would much prefer that we had no access to such useful means of self-defense.

No dispute there. Whole heartedly agree. Statistically however you are 4 times more likely to be murdered or accidentally shot by a relative or a close friend than you are by a complete stranger. Tempers flare, people get mentally disturbed, your uncle goes crazy with lust for your 10 year old daughter and decides to kill you and kidnap your daughter. When he pulls out his old rifle from his Vietnam days you aren't really going to have any time to reach for your trusty .357 Magnum. That is the thing about gun murders. They happen so fast that even if you did have a gun in the house it would be too late.

Wow. I feel compelled to repeat myself: Seek professional help.

So I shouldn't be allowed to own a rifle (unless I kill animals with it, of course) because my uncle might turn out to be a deranged pedophile and then won't I be sorry? Hey, what if you didn't let your crazy violent pervert of an uncle into your house? What if you just didn't associate with him at all?

And why does he have an old rifle from his Vietnam days? Did he steal his issued weapon? Sounds like he's been a bad egg for a long time.

Ability to defeat body armor is one of the useful characteristics of rifles. Just as the crossbow and the longbow challenged the dominance of the armored knight, the rifle reduces the ability of an armored enforcer to operate with impunity against civilians.

So why does regular law-abiding citizens need high powered rifles and/or armor piercing bullets? Answer: They don't. Only criminals and terrorists want that kind of weaponry. We make exceptions for the SWAT team and the military, but otherwise such weapons need to be kept off the streets and away from youth gangs. The last thing we need is teenagers bringing armor-piercing bullets to school.

I'm glad you asked. Here's why:

1. Most body armor worn by police and military is rated to stop handguns. Military infantry wears armor rated a bit higher; it'll stop small, light rifle rounds like the ones fired from an AR-15 and some of the ones fired from AK-47 and AK-74 variants.

That's it. If you get shot with grandpa's 90-year-old .30-06 deer-hunting rifle while wearing one of those vests worn by police officers, it won't even slow it down very much. Not because grandpa keeps steel-cored "armor piercing" rounds in his hunting rifle, but because that vest was never meant to stop centerfire rifle ammunition. This is like being upset that you crashed into a building at 60 mph and the air bags didn't save you. They were never designed to do that, and banning buildings isn't going to make anything better. Remember, you're all about the hunters, right? That means you don't want to take away evil armor-piercing calibers like .30-30 (the most popular deer hunting round in America for over 100 years) or the .30-06, or the various 6.5mm calibers the Europeans love so much (confession: I do too) or the .223 or the .308 or the 1-oz. slugs for my 12-gauge shotgun, because although all of them will go through the average patrol officer's vest like a fact sailing over your head, ALL of them are very popular hunting calibers and NONE of them were designed to penetrate armor.

2. Because if the Jews were rising up against the military and para-military forces of a police state in 2008, their opponents would be wearing body armor and their pistols wouldn't have been very useful. If Americans retain the right to own the weapons that can win that fight, then Americans have less chance that they'll have to fight it. That's worth it right there.

3. Because you can't have the other advantages of the centerfire, smokeless-powder, cartridge-loaded rifle without the penetration that people like you hate so much. The range of the rifle, its accuracy at that range, and its ability to knock down game or an enemy effectively at what is, for very good reason, referred to as "rifle range" are all functions of the velocity at which it projects missiles of a given weight and shape. The only way to make it incapable of penetrating armor designed to stop slower rounds coming from handguns is to take away that velocity and therefore take away the range and power that make the rifle worth having--even to your precious friends the hunters. I am a hunter, by the way, and I get the impression that you're not. You can see I'm not pretending that I don't find your attempt to pretend to be even-handed by pretending to love hunters contemptible.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

From Google: "how to own handgun if you live in Chicago"

You mean without risking prison time, right? Well, you can get elected to the City Council, or you can get hired as a police officer.

Other than that, you're out of luck, buddy. Sorry. That's The Chicago Way.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Chicago Way: School Students Are Political Pawns

Armed and Safe did a better job with this story than I did.

As a school teacher, I wanted to write an angry rant about this, but what can I say that would embarrass people who haven't resigned after finding out that 49% of their students drop out before graduation? Arne Duncan is a fool, but he doesn't seem to mind being a fool. He appears to have embraced his inner fool, if you will. Chicago's schools have been giving kids the day off from school on the condition that they accept a free bus ride to an anti-gun protest (and protest on the desired side, of course) for years. Now they're going to bus them down to Springfield, on a school day, for the same purpose.
How in the hell do you pull this kind of stunt and not get fired? I don't care how anti-gun the board or the parents are--don't any of them give a damn whether their kids get an education? I know the answer to that, but I don't like it, so I keep asking the question. It's an irrational quirk; please excuse it.
It burns, it does. Apparently it's my fault and yours that there's so much violence in Chicago schools. Nothing to do with gangs, or with the complete failure of their educational mission, or gangs, or a total lack of parents who actually want an education for their kids, or gangs. Nope. Legal gun owners who follow every Illinois law, no matter how asinine they may become, are to blame.

Speaking of Home Repairs and Children . . . .

. . . . well, maybe you weren't, but I was. To myself. Just now.

Anyway, I thought I'd share a photo of the light fixture in Kane's bedroom. He used to have a more conventional fixture--a three-speed ceiling fan with a nice, bright light for reading. But I made the rookie mistake of putting bunk beds in that room and not giving Kane his way about something or other (this would have been about three weeks ago.) What could be more natural than that he would then climb up on his bed, lean way out into space, and rip the ceiling fan right out of the ceiling?* I mean, that's what you'd do if you didn't get your way, right?
I'll replace it when I get around to it. I've got a lot of other work to do in this place.

*To be fair, he had a lot of help from the inbred monkey rednecks who owned this house before us. They did use a metal wiring box, which was a step up from the rest of the house, but they did not actually attach it to the ceiling joists. They just set it in (backwards!?!) and screwed the fan directly to the plaster-and-lath ceiling under their cheap institutional fiber tiles. A squirrel having a good day could have torn it down, so it had no chance against an enraged monkey.

Rush Limbaugh's Bedtime Prayer Answered

Apparently the Obama campaign wasn't as persuasive as they thought. That delegate from Carpentersville, IL (Town Motto: "If you've got an enema for Illinois, stick it in here.") has told a Chicago news radio station that she's actually not going to quit as an Obama delegate.

Wondering what all this blather is about? Read this.

Choose Your Own Adventure: 11-Year-Old Runaway

A case for your consideration, ripped from today's headlines and based on a true story:

If you read the link above, you know that Kane ran away on Tuesday night. Kane is my 11-year-old son. He and his brother Donovan are twins. Briefly, their history is this:
  • 2 years of neglect and abuse with their biological mother
  • 2 years of foster care with their cranky great-grandmother
  • 2 years of foster care with their great-aunt and uncle (my in-laws), with promises that they would be adopted permanently
  • Almost six years with Melissa and I. They've been adopted and are here permanently.
So, Kane's going through an evil phase where he hates his biological parents, but they're not handy, so he makes do with hating us. He's threatened to run away many times, but last night, he went through with it. Right before a typical Illinois spring thunderstorm hit. To his credit, he did come back. And to be fair, Kane has serious cognitive and emotional delays from the treatment he received as a child.

Now, this semester has been a roller-coaster of grades. At the beginning of the semester, Kane was doing no work and was on track to repeat the 6th grade. When the last report cards came out, he had begun turning in his work and managed to make the Honor Roll. Last week, he came home all excited about the Honor Roll Party, which is to be held this coming Friday night. I told him then that he could go to the party as long as he stayed out of trouble until then.

Fast forward to this week, when he threw stomping, screaming tantrums in public, refused to accept being sent to his bed as punishment, then ran away from home when we persisted, and even after that continued to refuse to go to bed for the night--then went to school the next day and bragged to a teacher that he would "do something" so she wouldn't be seeing him at school the next day.

Tonight he asked me whether he would be allowed to attend the Honor Roll party on Friday. I told him that of course he would not, and that he should have known what the answer to that one would be. He was utterly shocked that I would dare keep him from the party. A whole new tantrum resulted, and I sent him to bed again.

Now, here's the interesting part: I told Melissa about this, and she told me that she'd had a similar experience. Today, she was telling her army of individual education aides the Saga of the Journeys of Kane, and one of her aides (a mother of two, mind you) was also shocked. Kane earned the party before he ran away, she declared, and therefore it cannot be taken away as punishment for other actions.

So what do you think? Thumbs up or thumbs down on young Kane's party?

I'm not going to change my decision, but I was surprised that an adult took that stance. I wonder if any readers will agree that I'm doing the wrong thing here.

Hilarious But Pointless Barack Obama News Story . . . yay.

I don't like Barack Obama much, but I can't help but picture him waking up to phone calls like this and saying "What the hell are you people going to put me through today?"

See, it's like this. In Carpentersville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago (there are probably really friendly, nice suburbs around Chicago, but I haven't been to one yet) two neighbors got into it over . . . . well, probably over nothing. Why lie to you, my loyal readers? You know how these things work. Neighbors don't need much excuse to hate each other.

The problem is that one family is black, and the other is Hispanic. That means that, in a Chicago suburb, everything they say to each other has a racial undertone. If it doesn't have one when it's said, it will be given one by everyone who hears it. So here we have these two neighbors, who report that they have "clashed" before.

Mrs. Ramirez-Sliwinski (a trustee in Carpentersville? I thought only prisons had trustees) notices one day that her neighbor's children are playing in a tree. Their tree. On their property. Now, class, what is the correct response?

A. Mind your own business. Kids have been climbing trees for thousands of years.
B. Mind your own business. It's not your tree, it's not your yard, and they're not your kids.
C. Go stand in someone else's yard and yell at someone else's kids to stop playing on their own property.

If you picked A or B, don't beat yourself up. You have probably never lived in a Chicago suburb or, if you did, you may not have met anyone in the city government. Of course, the answer is C.

All that is dumb enough, but Ramirez-Sliwinski told the kids they were being "monkeys."
Now, I call kids monkeys all the time, both as a parent and as a professional. But white kids, Mrs. R-S! You can call white kids whatever you want. But you're an Obama delegate, which means you're a Democrat, which means that you should know that a certain number of words per year have to be removed from polite society whether any offense is intended or not--indeed, whether any reasonable person would take offense or not. That's the Chicago Way.
You 'ave been, how you say? 'Oist by your own petar'.

So here we have a dumb argument between neighbors over nothing, which people on both sides chose to escalate until it ended in a police visit, a "stop being a stupid busybody" ticket, and Ramirez-Sliwinski stepping down as a delegate after the Obama campaign "persuaded" her.
(Again, if you haven't lived near Chicago, the word "persuaded" may not be appreciated in the fullness of its rich, textured, and multi-layered meaning. They didn't ask nicely.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Don't You EVER Do That Again!

I know I promised a fisking, but I just fixed that last trainwreck and I'm spent. It's been a long day and a longer night. It started last night when we went to visit a friend in the hospital and Kane decided to ruin everyone's night with a stomping hissy fit in a Pizza Hut, then did his best to rip the door handle off the van. When we got home, there were lies, there were shouts, and there was refusal to go to bed. It wasn't good. Then he told us he still had homework to do.

Tonight he was grounded to his bed, along with his brother. We let them come downstairs to have dinner at the table, but Kane didn't manage to get a bite in his mouth before spitting on his plate, so back to bed he went. When I went back upstairs to talk to him and give him another chance to come have dinner, he was browbeating his brother because Donovan refused to run away with him. Donovan's not always very patient with us mere mortals, but he's beginning to get it into his head that this house is actually a pretty sweet deal in some ways; besides, there's been a thunderstorm waiting to pounce all day.
More threats to run away from home from Kane. Yawn. I put him back on his bed and sent Donovan downstairs to eat.

Then Kane disappeared, leaving only a scrawled note on the inside of the front door: "I ran AwAy Because you don't can NEVER understand." I was sure he was in the house, probably on his bed, laughing at stupid dad. I even wrote "I don't believe you. Thanks for playing" on the back of his note and took it upstairs. But I didn't find him. I searched the upstairs, the downstairs. No sign of him. We checked outside, the garage, the workshop . . . . nothing. Melissa took the van and drove around while I watched the baby. Nothing. I took the van and made concentric circles out from the house. I checked the town square, the park, the school, stores . . . . nothing.

We checked my parents' house. They joined the search. They ran into the school principal outside the school, and he took down our numbers. We checked the house of a boy Kane had told Donovan he would run to, though he'd never been there before. We looked for the house of a girl Donovan thought Kane might try to find. We checked the routes out of town to the south, since Kane had once threatened to run away to the next town over and live, I kid you not, under a weeping willow tree. In January. When it got dark, and the thunderstorm broke, we went home for a photo and to make sure he hadn't come home and we went to the police station. That's not a fun conversation.

We were just about done and ready to sign the report when Kane called me from the home phone.

It's a long story, but yes, he ran away, and yes, he was in the places we looked, but he hid from us when he saw the car, and yes, he's in big, big trouble. But tonight we're just going to get some sleep and be glad he's here.
(And yes, we went back to the station so Kane could have a conversation with the police officers about his actions.)

RE: Defending Charlton Heston Against the Internets

In comments on my Charlton Heston tribute, reader MoE thought it best to attack Heston's character in a way that was, he told us, "not subtle." Well, I should have expected that. I did write the thing partly as a defense of Heston, and after all, the Chicago Tribune tried to tell me that Heston was "successful, but controversial." But would I listen? I would not, and look where it got me. Upbraided by the internets. That'll learn me to say nice things about people when they die.

"Which feds you talking about, Don? The feds that shot their best friend in the face with a shotgun, and never even got questioned by 5-0? Or, is it the feds that killed the (admittedly superfluous) assault rifle ban?"

I'm talking about the feds who have a long history of ignoring due process and the rule of law, making up law as they go along, and prosecuting people for things they themselves do without censure. If you need a specific group, you have my permission to take my words to mean "BATFE." That's close enough. You don't like Dick Cheney; fine. You're glad the Congress allowed the Assault Weapons Ban to sunset; I am, too.
But if you had a stronger point to make here, it would have to have something to do with the topic at hand.

"Comparing the "assault on your rights" of having to get a license to own a gun to the systematic murder of an entire race of humanity is not only facile, it lacks anything approaching logical rigor, and it is in fact, hate speech."

Did Heston do that? Or did he simply point out that the Weimar Republic and the Nazi regime required similar licenses, implying that it's a bad idea because it's a favorite of tyrants? Perhaps you should provide a quotation. By the way, I live in a place where a Firearm Owner's ID card is required to own--or touch--a gun or ammunition. I hope you don't. It's no way to live.

"My knives aren't subtle. Heston played into the hysteria of the gun lobby, and that drew a LOT of negative attention from the people that the gun lobby desperately needs: the middle. I assume he did it intentionally, as he persisted in the wild rhetoric to the end, and that harmed gun owners' causes more than helped."

Well, again, I can't address the substance of your charge, since you didn't provide the statements you found wild and hysterical. I don't recall reading anything from Heston that made me think of hysteria, but I won't try to prove a negative. Maybe you could provide a sample of two or three hysterical, wild things Heston said.
As for hurting the cause, maybe he did and maybe he didn't. It's hard to say, since the NRA was so successful in the political arena during and after his tenure. Concealed carry was expanding, the assault weapons ban was allowed to die, and politicians were scrambling to get on the NRA's good side and stay there. The biggest political losses of the era were blamed on the NRA's influence, and membership was growing. The NRA had around 4 million members, plus, according to polls, another 14 million who assumed they were members and another 28 million on top of that who believed they were "affiliated" in some way through a hunting club or the like. Compare that to the membership of the Violence Policy Center (7? 9?) or the Brady Campaign. Put all the anti-gun groups together and compare them; the NRA had been, was then, and is now a tsunami of membership compared to their drops.
What was the damage, precisely, that you think Heston did to the NRA? What failures did he cause? What problems?

"The Brady Bill Set and other super-left-wingers *profit* from people like Heston; they can turn to the middle and say, 'look at those gun nuts, aren't they crazy?' and the middle looks at an over-privileged white guy making extreme statements ( cold, dead fingers) and agrees."

If the middle agreed, why did they vote Charlton Heston's way? Why was gun control a political loser then (as it is now) if the vast middle was against all those awful gun nuts? The election returns belie your assertion.

"Did he throw gas on the flames of leftist sentiments for increasingly restrictive gun regulation, and sound like an idiot while doing so? Unreservedly, yes."

I'll just repeat here that I think it would be really neat if you quoted a statement or two in which Charlton Heston, while serving a term as President of the NRA, sounded like an idiot. As for inflaming people, I'm sure you can find people who were inflamed, so I won't bother asking. As I said, only a coward can avoid controversy. Someone somewhere is going to take offense at what you say if you're taking a stand. The closest thing I can think of was his statement on "white pride" being as valid as "black pride or red pride." To you and I, that sounds like racist code-speak. But in Heston's generation, there were no "White Pride Worldwide" websites. "White Pride" has a specific meaning, and almost everyone who uses that phrase today is talking about a violent white nationalist movement with neo-Nazi elements. I don't believe that's what Heston meant at all. What did he say that's got you so upset that you have to bring it up on the occasion of the man's death?

"I do though, hope that more level-headed and thoughtful people will lead the NRA from here on out (but I don't have *much* hope of that)."

Everyone has his own definition of what "thoughtful and level-headed" means, and it could usually be translated as "agrees with me." Bob Ricker of the AHSA front group for the Brady Campaign told us on Bitch Girls a few weeks ago that he didn't care what a bunch of gun nuts on the internet think, since the "target audience" of the AHSA is "thoughtful, educated people." He meant people who think "reasonable gun restrictions" include whatever the AHSA thinks they should be, of course, and that means they also think "reasonable gun restrictions" include the Brady Campaign's ideas, since they're one and the same.

"As gun owners, we should be striving to take the venom away from the debate. "

Venom has its place. Maybe some anti-gun politician will pass away and we'll want to trash him as a "crank" who "poured flames on the right-wing nutcase sentiments." You'll be sorry you painted yourself into that corner when that day comes.

"And since you stuck your neck out on a personal assessment, I will too: if you can watch Soylent Green and listen to him blubbing that "Soylent Green is peeeeeeeepil" and still think he's a great actor, I guess my opinions on acting are just as looney as my opinions on guns."
Have you ever seen The Ten Commandments? Ben Hur? He did all right. Clearly I wouldn't have been writing about him if all he'd done was act, but he was pretty good. Admittedly, though, he only won his profession's highest award once. How many Oscars do you have?

Hey, that was fun. I responded to this one mostly because it was posted on my blog and that's what I do here. Next I'm going to fisk a fisker, not because it matters but because the sheer stupidity this next one hurt my head. Did you know the best defense against a rapist is laughter?
Neither did I. I don't think even the Illinois State Police could believe that one.

Posting From Email

I'm a little swamped over here, but I wanted to try out this email posting thing.  If I can do it right, it will make my life a lot easier.  I never post from work, so my blogging time is limited.
Not a lot happening with me today except the usual Busy Busy Busy.  Got a meeting in 20 minutes, got a new student coming in (poor little guy's having a heartbreaking year, so of course he had to move 2,000 miles in the middle of it and start over at a new school.)  Got another student leaving the country in a month so he'll miss the last month of school (but what's a month between friends, right kids?  May is a blowoff month anyway, dude.)
Did it work?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Charlton Heston Is Gone--Feds Still Can't Have His Rifle

I was planning to relate a story about Charlton Heston here. It was a story about a really vicious wannabe feminist who once told me that she knew all about Heston and what a hateful, violent racist he was because she'd once had dinner with the man.

I'm not going to tell that story in any depth, because the point was to explain how I knew she just wasn't telling the truth. That's unnecessary, because Charlton Heston has already explained it in his own words, and he did a better job than what I had in mind. So here, to refute both her outright calumny and the more subtle knives of the Chicago Tribune ("Controversial" is not your best code word, folks. Only cowards can avoid controversy) are the words of Charlton Heston, from his famous speech "Winning the Culture War" delivered at Harvard in 1999. (Click the link to read or listen to the entire speech.)

Let me back up a little. About a year or two ago, I became president of the National Rifle Association, which protects the right to keep and bear arms of American citizens. I ran for office. I was elected, and now I serve. I serve as a moving target for the media who've called me everything from "ridiculous" and "duped" to a "brain-injured, senile, crazy old man." I know, I'm pretty old, but I sure Lord ain't senile. As I've stood in the crosshairs of those who target Second Amendment freedoms, I've realized that firearms are -- are not the only issue. No, it's much, much bigger than that. I've come to understand that a cultural war is raging across our land, in which, with Orwellian fervor, certain accepted thoughts and speech are mandated.

For example, I marched for civil rights with Dr. King in 1963 -- and long before Hollywood found it acceptable, I may say. But when I told an audience last year that white pride is just as valid as black pride or red pride or anyone else's pride, they called me a racist.

I've worked with brilliantly talented homosexuals all my life -- throughout my whole career. But when I told an audience that gay rights should extend no further than your rights or my rights, I was called a homophobe.

I served in World War II against the Axis powers. But during a speech, when I drew an analogy between singling out the innocent Jews and singling out innocent gun owners, I was called an anti-Semite.

Everyone I know knows I would never raise a closed fist against my country. But when I asked an audience to oppose this cultural persecution I'm talking about, I was compared to Timothy McVeigh.

From Time magazine to friends and colleagues, they're essentially saying, "Chuck, how dare you speak your mind like that. You are using language not authorized for public consumption." But I am not afraid. If Americans believed in political correctness, we'd still be King George's boys -- subjects bound to the British crown.

That was Charlton Heston.

He was a great actor, too, and I'm one of those people who doesn't care much what an actor has to say about anything--but Heston's words have power of their own. There's no need for a celebrity to speak those words; they're not compelling because Charlton Heston is famous. They're true and they're simple and they're clear.

That was Charlton Heston. I'm glad his battle with Alzheimer's is over, but I do wish we hadn't lost him. Rest in peace, Mr. Heston.

(UPDATE: Better click the Tribune link quickly; they've already changed their headline from something along the lines of "Actor Was the Face of the NRA" to "In Mid-Life, Liberal Actor Migrated to Conservatism, Became the Face of the NRA." Next it'll be "Heston Battled Alzheimer's, Was Exploited by Gun Lobby."

Friday, April 4, 2008

Married People--A Free Tip

A comment in "Ladies--A Free Tip" got me thinking about all the different ways men and women try to understand each other, and the things I've tried in my own marriage. In particular, it reminded me of something I read once and found really impressive. It's a series of short articles by one Julia Grey describing her time as a "frigid wife." The thing that really struck me about Grey's account and her analysis was how even-handed it was. Obviously there are parts of it that any man is going to find insulting--see the post titled "Disgust" for advice on whether you should bathe and brush your teeth daily. But for the most part, Grey really seemed to have put a lot of thought into what her husband thought and felt. Putting myself in someone else's shoes is kind of a specialty of mine, but the closer you are to the issue, the harder it is to see the other side, and it doesn't get much more emotional than love and rejection between a husband and wife.

Here's her introduction. As I sadly noted in comments, my wife wasn't interested in reading this, so maybe it wasn't as good as I thought. But on the other hand, maybe it can help someone else, since we're apparently not the only ones trying to figure this out:

I used to be a "frigid" wife.

I knew even before I got married that I wouldn't be able to keep up the "schedule" of sex my husband and I had established during our courtship, and once I even warned him that it was going to have to slow down. But I think that went in one ear and out the other at supersonic speed, touching nothing in between.

Sure enough, not long after we got married sex became a battleground for us, and we struggled with the problem like two fish flopping around next to each other in the bottom of an open boat: gasping for a natural breath and injuring ourselves with every pointless, ineffectual spasm.

To me it seemed simple: he wanted me to be his sexual appliance, a handy-dandy love machine that could be switched on and off at his command. I felt no desire, and I didn't want to "submit" to being handled and penetrated when I wasn't in the mood. If he really loved me, this sex thing, this "merely physical" part of our lives, wouldn't be such a big freakin' deal. And his pissy, furious responses to my refusals only made me more sure that he didn't really love me. He just wanted to use my vagina.

To him it seemed simple, too. If I loved him -- as I consistently claimed -- why didn't I want to make love?

Notice that neither point of view is necessarily completely reasonable--her assessment of her feelings is basically an assertion about his feelings, and when she assesses his feelings, she flatly contradicts what she said about him at first. He can't be both the semi-rapist she was depicting in her own mind at the time and the poor bewildered guy who just wants to express his love a few lines later. She's telling us what she thought at the time, and what she now believes he was thinking at the time. She's not promising that either point of view is necessarily true.

Law & Order: Grammar Police

You know, I realize this will come as a shock to most of you, but this blog is not what conventional wisdom likes to call "influential" or "widely read." I tried, for a time, to carry myself with a certain dignity and refuse to pander to the lowest dregs of our society just to gain some temporary internet notoriety--but I gave that up when I realized that it wasn't increasing my hit count.

So now I'm pulling out all the stops and giving America what it wants--a series of lectures on grammar and usage!

This week, we'll start with a minor irriation that flared up for me just this past week as I was reading a popular webcomic, Ugly Hill.

Populous is not a noun, people.

"Populous" is an adjective. It modifies nouns. It is used to indicate the degree to which a place is filled with population. For instance, Chicago is a very populous city. Greater Metropolitan Virden is not a populous place.

"Populace" is a noun. The populace of a place is the population of that place, and it's usually only used to refer to a population of human beings. Both words sound like "POP-you-luss" when spoken aloud, but they're only homophones. Substitute at your peril.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Protesting Your Own Violent Behavior . . . The Chicago Way

Hmmm. . . . I don't think I get it. Students and parents want to stop the violence at their school--well, that makes sense. The problem is that the black students and the latino students don't seem to be getting along (well, that's the parents' version--a police officer lets slip that we're really talking about a black gang and a latino gang, the Gangster Disciples and the Latin Kings.) So it's not the students--not all the students--but a sizable number of gang members causing the biggest problem. Why are they in the school? Good question.
Remember poor Ruben Ivy? The young teenager who was shot and killed near a Chicago school a few weeks ago? Well, he really was 15 and it really was tragic when he was shot, but what the evening news didn't tell you was that his tragedy started years before when he first began building his long felony arrest record. His rap sheet was as long as his murderer's was.

So what's the solution to a school full of violent gang-bangers who hate each other a lot? Put them together in a large mob and get them chanting and feeling a little wild. Peace and tranquility should follow.