Hawks, handsaws, assault rifles

>> Thursday, January 31, 2013

It's hard not to love Goblinbooks.  You should, indeed, be loving Goblinbooks right now, and if you aren't, you should go over there and love on it and then get back to me.

I bring it up because I got a good laugh out of a recent entry, "A Message From A Woman Defending Her Babies With An AR-15", which mocks a popular NRA and Republican trope, the female fantasy figure who is endangered and can only save herself with a paramilitary weapon with a high-capacity magazine.  To be more specific, Paul Bibeau, the author of Goblinbooks, is mocking the recent Congressional testimony of Gayle Trotter earlier this week:
"An assault weapon in the hands of a young woman defending her babies at home becomes a defense weapon," she said, alleging that the fearsome appearance of the gun grants the wielder a "peace of mind," and an inherent advantage over criminals.

I think this is the part where somebody is supposed to say that "assault weapon" is a meaningless term that describes "cosmetic" changes to or features of a firearm, but since Ms. Trotter is a representative of a conservative nonprofit who was appearing before the Senate to advocate on behalf of firearms owners, I don't expect anybody will.  But that isn't actually the point I was going to post about.

No, actually, what "A Message From A Woman Defending Her Babies With An AR-15" reminded me of was something else I'd been thinking about lately re: just how fucked up American culture and law are vis-à-vis guns generally.  See, there's a really catastrophic irony concerning the legal and cultural obsession with AR-15s and assault rifles generally, and that irony would be:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

That's the Second Amendment To The United States Constitution, of course.  You probably recognized that if you're reading this blog (though Canadian regulars have less reason to).  Anyway, you probably also realize that this single sentence is the whole root of all the trouble with guns in this country, and I don't mean that because it involves firearms, but because the whole debate over whether firearms can be regulated at all goes back to that little sliver of text and how you read it.

I read it as a right of "the people" as opposed to a right of "persons", two terms that tended to be used as vague and undefined terms-of-art by the Founders (they didn't always use the terms consistently and often seemed to have a "well we know what we're talking about" approach to the definitions), and as a right of the people (or People) specifically concerning States as entities.  I'll point you back to a pretty brilliant summary of the Amendment's historical context by my friend David if you want deeper understanding on that aspect, and merely add that I think you also have to read the Second Amendment in the legal context of Article I, section 8 of the Constitution (and especially paragraphs 11-16 concerning war powers) and Article II, section 2 (limiting Executive power, especially paragraph 1).

And then I'll be a parsimonious bastard and leave it at that, because I'm not all that interested right now in rehashing that legal and historical context (especially uninterested because I think District Of Columbia v. Heller basically renders the historical and legal context of the Second Amendment an interesting academic discussion that isn't hugely vital or relevant).  No, see, the only reason for even going through it all as much as I have is that I have a fairly basic (and I don't even think original) observation I'd like to get off my chest that assumes you know all this contextual stuff except I can't fairly assume you do already know all this context, but I don't really want to get swept away in the context.  So I'm hoping we've hit the high points and if you're hungry for more I've given you the links you need.

So here's the actual observation: it's possible that the most absurd thing about the debate over "assault rifles" or whatever you'd like to call them is that there's probably a much stronger Second Amendment rationale for permitting ownership of them than there is for handguns and hunting rifles, and that rationale is more-or-less based on the entire reason some people want them banned and the same reason gun advocates get hot and bothered about how these weapons are labeled.

I mean, here's the historical context of the AR-15: it's a civilian-grade version of the weapon ArmaLite created under government contract and that entered American service as the M16.  Which isn't something gun advocates like to talk about, because what's happened in the intervening decades is that Colt (which obtained the design from ArmaLite) and companies like Bushmaster that manufacture AR-15 clones have successfully marketed the weapon to the public as something that can be used for target shooting or even hunting.  Which, to be perfectly fair, are things you can do with an AR-15 even though, you know, it's a modified version of a weapon that was designed for the original purpose of providing American teenagers with a reliable, convenient, easy-to-use method of shooting Asian teenagers.

Well, it was.  Sorry.

And that's okay, I guess, insofar as it goes.  I'm not really trying to bash the AR-15--in fact, this is part of the irony of the whole thing.  Gun advocates want you to ignore the AR-15s history as a military weapon rejiggered and mass-marketed to the general public and focus on what it was re-marketed as (namely, Fun!) and gun-control advocates want to point out (not incorrectly) that the modifications to the original M16 design that make the family of weapons salable in the civilian market and the adoption of the weapon for sporting purposes doesn't wholly bury the original and possibly best use of the tool, which would be, you know, killing people (and not necessarily Asians).  All of which, as I tried to say, is ironic.  You see why, right?

Okay, maybe it's just me.  It's ironic that this is where the debate over the AR-15 is because if you go back to the Second Amendment (which is supposed to permit ownership of whatever arms are ownable) and read it in its original context, it would seem that a weapon suitable for militias to use for national defense--i.e. a military-style weapon adapted for civilian ownership and use--is exactly what the Second Amendment contemplates.  Whereas a weapon that's designed for self defense or for sport isn't really within the four corners of the text at all.  Whatever else you can do with an AR-15 or one of its many, many clones and knockoffs, it seems reasonably adequate as a paramilitary weapon to be purchased by or issued to young men (and/or of course, in the Twenty-First Century, women) of suitable age and without conscientious objection, maintained by them under penalty, with which they shall drill in the town square as proscribed by state law or regulation.

Unlike, say, a pistol you might have handy in case there's an intruder, or a bolt-action hunting rifle or shotgun you were planning to use for game in-season.  If you take a four-corners reading of the Second Amendment, I think you can infringe the Hell out of that.

And all this, to be clear, is really fucked-up.

Because I'm not really saying, or trying to say, that we all ought to have AR-15s (though that would make gun manufacturers pretty giddy) and that there ought to be an outright ban on hunting rifles (which would make the same gun manufacturers suddenly sad).  What I'm getting at, or trying to get at, is that the whole "conversation" or "fight" or whatever-you-want-to-call-it over gun ownership is basically borked (in the vernacular sense) outright from the start.  People who don't want to call a thing a military weapon (because arguing that people should own military gear designed to kill lots of other people really does sound kinda nuts, when you get right down to it) are arguing with people who do want to call it a military weapon (because it's a thing pretty much designed to kill lots of people) over whether a legal provision permitting the ownership of military weapons (because we might need to kill foreign invaders) allows a military weapon (supra) to be banned.  Basically.  I mean, I guess you can quibble over whether the "civilian" AR-15 is technically a military weapon, etc., but do you see the real problem here?  It isn't that we don't know what we're talking about--something, by the way, I think gun advocates and gun-control advocates tend to be equally guilty of--it's that we're all fucking crazy to start with.

No, seriously.  "Does a Constitutional provision that (regardless of how it's currently interpreted) expressly allows the people to keep and bear militia weapons allow militia weapons to be banned even if the people who don't want them banned don't want them to be called militia weapons?"  I think the answer to that question is probably "Prozac".  I'll be damned, anyway, if the answer is that you can unconstitutionally ban something because the people who don't want it banned are under the misapprehension it's a squirrel rifle, or you can't ban it because squirrel rifles are necessary to a free republic, or if I even can even get my head entirely around all this anymore.

Anyway, I did have to get that off my chest.  Thanks for coming by and reading.








Read more...

Tales From The Spam Folder: Contract Executed: A Special Agent Reverend Kelvin Williams Thriller (free excerpt)

>> Tuesday, January 22, 2013

YOUR IMMEDIATE CONTRACT PAYMENT. (CASE FILE 54AC003)


From:    ATM Fund Release Department (info@aktau-kpi.kz)
Sent:    Tue 1/22/13 7:18 AM
To:


YOUR IMMEDIATE CONTRACT PAYMENT.
CONTRACT#: MAV/NNPC/FGN/MIN/013.


Attention:


The Federal Government of Nigeria has been seriously warned by the United States Government, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, United Nations (UN) and other international bodies to make sure we settle most of our outstanding foreign debts we owed to Next of Kin's. Fund Beneficiaries and foreign contractors that executed contract with us immediately, this program is organized by the Board of Trustees and Directors for the end of the Year "POVERTY REDUCTION AND ERADICATION". We are using our reputable and well known organization to let you know that you are one of our chosen beneficiaries for this program of "POVERTY REDUCTION AND ERADICATION" in your country e-mail directory.


We hereby inform you that you have successfully been chosen and compensated for an International ATM card written out in your name in the amount of $750, 000, 00 in our West Africa regional Annex. Now, for the compensated price, you will have to contact the Finance House and the Compensation Department for your perusals and claims of your compensated price and my dear beneficiary, below is the contact of the Finance House and Compensation Department (FHCD) for the collection and claims of your international certificated ATM card:


But, a very surprising record was discovered in your payment file that is why you have not been contacted about this since then. Records showed that your inheritance payment has been approved four times and duly completed two times. Also we found out that these funds totaling $750,000,00 was transferred directly from the central bank of Nigeria to the below stated bank account on your authorization and an international ATM CARD was also sent to your house address. This has now resulted in bringing the USA and British Government into the case and we really want you to explain to us what you know about this transfer/payment and delivery.


BANK NAME: STANDARD CHATTERED BANK,
BANK ADDRESS, 138-141 1ST FLOOR, EDINBURGH TOWER,
THE LANDMARK, 15 QUEENS ROAD, CENTRAL HONG KONG,
ACCOUNT NAME: INDO-CHINA GROUP LTD,
A/C #: USD114-102-5567-8,
SWIFT CODE: SCBL 11K111


The most baffling part is this payment keeps coming up in every period of debt reconciliation and verification always receives approval like now. NOW OUR QUESTION IS, HAVE YOU RECEIVED YOUR FULL PAYMENT OR ANY PART OF YOUR FUND ENTITLEMENT OWED TO YOU BY THE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT? WE NEED AN ANSWER FROM YOU WITHIN 24HOURS FROM NOW. AND IF WE DO NOT HEAR FROM YOU IMMEDIATELY YOU RECEIVE THIS MESSAGE TODAY, WE WILL ASSUME YOU ARE INVOLVED AND HAVE RECEIVED OVER PAYMENT, WHICH ONE SHOULD BE RETURNED TO NIGERIA


Help us to help you, If not call him immediately you receive this message today on is direct number(  +2348180201715   ) or send me a details email disclaiming the information so that you will be issued with claim identification code (CIC) which will help you to secure your claim and payment from fraudulent officials. And also you will be advised and guided accordingly on how you will receive your legitimate fund entitlement from the Nigerian Government, which will be credited into your nominated bank account within 72hours from now or delivered to you as well to your door step.


Therefore, i would advise you to contact FBI Agent Rev. Kelvin Williams for assistance and inform him that your CASE FILE is 54AC003. Contact him directly via the information below if you are yet to receive your funds.


UNITED NATIONS COMPENSATION AWARD PROGRAM
CONTACT Officer: Rev. Kelvin Williams
EMAIL :(Kelvinwill05@superposta.com)
CELL PHONE:    +2348180201715


Once again it is important to note that your Fund/Payment was released with the following particulars attached to it.

(1) File Number: F1267-2009
(2) Ref. Code: KP23/857/MCL5 /CO
(3) Grant Number: MICC/97846563459/206
(4) Personal Identification Number (PIN): 0866750


Once again stop contacting those people. I advise that you contact Rev. Kelvin Williams so that he can help you in the collection of your ATM CARD payment instead of dealing with those liars that will be turning you around asking for different kind of money to complete your transaction and the FBI agent can also direct you to the paying bank.


Finally remember that I have forwarded instruction to the finance house on your behalf to send the International ATM card to you as soon as you contact them without delay. Please be informed that you should treat this as confidential as ever and in good faith from the Board and Management of the Organization, Also be informed that the International ATM CARD must get to you through a courier company which you will be responsible for the fees as soon as you contact the agent and also if you want the fund to be transferred as well through the paying bank.



What you have to do now is to contact the Rev. Kelvin Williams as soon as possible to know when they will deliver your package to you because of the expiring date, The only money you will send to the agent to deliver your International ATM card to your postal Address in your country is ($150USD) Dollars only being documentation and Security Keeping Fee of the Courier Company so far. Again, don't be deceived by anybody to pay any other money except $150USDollars, beside if you fail to comply with the needed $150 US Dollars required there’s no way we can deliver the International ATM card to your country.



You are to provide the following information.


Your Full Name:....................
Your Address:...............
Personal Telephone Number:................
Age:...................
Sex:....................
Occupation:................
Nationality:....................
Country:.................



Thanks. God Loves and Bless you and your family.



Hope to contact the F.H.C.D soon.



Your's Faithfully,
Koffi Annan
FORMER UN SECRETARY GENERAL
(CHAIRMAN OF FUND RELEASE)

******************************************************

This message has been scanned for viruses and

dangerous content by Kypus Server Appliance E-Mail

Protection Service, and is believed to be clean.

******************************************************
Reverend Special Agent Kelvin Williams is a man of Faith and Justice.  On his right shoulder he has a tattoo of Christ in His Passion, on his left shoulder a tattoo of the only Earthly man he reveres, J. Edgar Hoover.  His love of God and familiarity with every deadly weapon invented by man have brought him through crisis time and time again, but now he faces his greatest adventure yet, a frantic chase to collect a documentation and security keeping fee before time runs out, aided only by God's Grace and his latest partner, sexy British MI6 agent Simone du Bolvinski....

CONTRACT EXECUTED: A SPECIAL AGENT REVEREND
KELVIN WILLIAMS THRILLER
Chapter One


“Agent Williams,” Assistant Director Byron Fletchman said, gesturing towards a chair.  “We’ve got another one.”

“Same M.O.?”

“Same M.O.  Inheritance payment.  Nigerian.  Approved four times, completed twice, keeps coming up in debt reconciliation and verification.”

“Leads?”

“Another dead trail, Williams.  The Board Of Trustees And Directors went to the national e-mail directory, sent out a request for personal information with a twenty-four hour deadline.  No response.”

“You think payment’s been made?”

Fletchman slammed his palm flat on his desk.  Williams placid as a glacier until Fletchman opened his mouth.  “Goddammit!  Sorry, Williams.”

“I serve the Lord first and the Bureau second, sir.”

“I know—look, it gets to me.  That’s no excuse.  Look… we just don’t know.  The benefactor won’t respond.  Maybe they’ve been paid, maybe they haven’t.  We’re completely baffled.”

“And you want me to find out.”

“You’re the best we have, Williams.”

“I’ll get right on it, sir.”

“You know what you have to do.  This is important, Williams.  Three quarters of a million dollars are at stake.”

“I’ll bring him to God, sir.  And if that doesn’t work….”

Silence hung in the air like gunsmoke.

“…I’ll bring him to justice,” Williams concluded.

Williams went downstairs to his office and said a short prayer before opening the file already on his desk.  This was big: the United States, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations, and other international bodies were trying to reduce and eradicate poverty, but were being thwarted by a sinister organization of program recipients receiving duplicate inheritances.  The Federal Government Of Nigeria was keen on getting at least some of the money refunded to them, but recipients cleverly refused to respond to the e-mails sent personally by the former Secretary General of the United Nations, who personally drafted and typed each and every message.  The governments involved tried to keep a lid on the emerging scandal, but the funds were initially deposited with a chattered bank in Hong Kong, so everybody within earshot now knew about the problem.

This wouldn’t be easy.  Williams’ last investigation of an unresponsive beneficiary ended in gunfire, the suspect wounded and Williams’ partner, Danny Germaine, dying in Williams’ arms while Williams administered last rites.

Williams’ phone rang.  He picked it up.  “Special Agent Reverend Kelvin Williams.”

Static.  Williams gave the handset a quizzical look and hung up.  The Bureau was having phone problems.

The phone rang again.  Williams picked it up.  More static, but this time he could hear someone breathing on the other end of the line.  “Who is this?”

“I’ve got your money.”

“Who is this?  What money?”

“Your hundred and fifty, preacher.”

“Get that to us and we can release your funds.  But we have to know who you are, and your age, sex, occupation, et cetera.”

“I got your money preacher, but this isn’t going to be easy.  You’re going to have to work for it.”

“The Bureau doesn’t make deals.”  Williams had the phone wedged between ear and shoulder while he tried to initiate a trace via the Bureau’s computer system.

“The hundred-fifty is in one dollar bills, preach.  You’re gonna have to find them.  You’ll be contacted with further instructions.”  There was a metallic click in Williams’ ear, then silence.

Williams looked at his computer screen.  This was impossible.

The call had been placed from inside the building.
 
 

Read more...

Four of these things are not like the others...

>> Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sixty-three percent of registered voters in the U.S. buy into at least one political conspiracy theory, according to results from a recent Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind Poll. The nationwide survey of registered voters asked Americans to evaluate four different political conspiracy theories: 56 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans say that at least one is likely true. This includes 36 percent who think that President Obama is hiding information about his background and early life, 25 percent who think that the government knew about 9/11 in advance, and 19 percent who think the 2012 Presidential election was stolen.Generally, the more people know about current events, the less likely they are to believe in conspiracy theories – but not among Republicans, where more knowledge leads to greater belief in political conspiracies.

The most popular of these conspiracy theories is the belief that President Obama is hiding important information about his background and early life, which would include what’s often referred to “birtherism.” Thirty-six percent of Americans think this is probably true, including 64 percent of Republicans and 14 percent of Democrats.

...

However, belief in such conspiracies is not limited to the political right. Twenty-five percent of registered voters think it’s probably true that President Bush knew about the 9/11terrorist attacks before they happened, a figure that includes 36 percent of Democrats. Similarly,23 percent of those interviewed say that President Bush’s supporters committed significant voter fraud to win him the 2004 Presidential election in Ohio. Belief in this conspiracy theory is highest among Democrats, (37 percent say it is likely true), though 17 percent of independents and 9 percent of Republicans think so as well.
- "Conspiracy Theories Prosper: 25% Of Americans Are 'Truthers'",
Fairleigh Dickinson University press release, January 17th, 2013.

I've seriously been trying to figure out what's going on there since reading about this poll in Salon this morning.  My suspicion is that there's some bias going on here that Fairleigh Dickinson is trying to spin with a kind of feint at objectivity; i.e. the real point of what they were trying to do is to show that way too many Republicans are crazy (or at least ignorant) birthers, but since they don't want to come off like they're picking on anybody, they throw in a couple of "crazy" things liberals believe in to say, "Hey, see, we're equal opportunity nut-counters!"

The thing is, the liberal crazy talk they went for includes one seriously crazy idea that has some currency among the fringe left and paranoid libertarian right, and a not-so-crazy idea that has roots in an admittedly partisan Congressional committee staff investigation (PDF link) and investigative reporting (including a thoroughly-researched and somewhat infamous piece by the admittedly flaky Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. for Rolling Stone; the archived version of the piece is now behind Rolling Stone's paywall, but this analysis by Dan Tokaji highlights some of the virtues and failings of RFK Jr.'s work).

I would like to be utterly clear that I'm not saying that the 2004 Presidential election in Ohio was stolen.  But I'm also obligated to point out that it's not necessarily crazy to think that it might have been.

Which makes it a different beast than the three cryptids FDU uses to round out their poll.

Those would be (1) the allegation that President Bush had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks; (2) that President Obama is hiding important information about his early background and life; and (3) President Obama's supporters committed significant voter fraud in the 2012 Presidential election.

Indeed, as I type these out, I can't help noticing that they're all different beasts, really.  We have one assertion that's fairly thoroughly debunked and wasn't terribly plausible to start with, an assertion that's vague and improbable to the extent it's relevant to anything at all, and a vague assertion that can't fairly be assigned and probability at all and so far as I know hasn't been particularly investigated one way or another (but may not be inherently irrational, anyway).

I think it just has to be said that the September 11th, 2001 attacks on Americans have been thoroughly investigated, have been looked at from quite a lot of angles by quite a lot of people, and there's just no plausible argument whatsoever that the Bush Administration had foreknowledge of the attacks in the kind of context the FDU survey seems to imply.  That is, it's clear that there were some bureaucratic foul-ups and entanglements that led to some information that might have prevented the events not landing on the right desks or being evaluated in what, in retrospect, might have been a preferable manner; and it appears that the Bush Administration made an at the time justifiable policy decision that in retrospect seems to have been mistaken not to prioritize the infamous August 6th, 2001 Presidential Briefing and may have chosen the assessments of Pentagon analysts who underestimated Osama bin Laden's threat to the country over assessments from the CIA.  Which, you know, looks like some bad calls in hindsight, but I think we have to understand that there are Presidential decisions that look bad from any reasonable perspective--invading Iraq without an exit plan comes to mind as an obvious example--and Presidential decisions that might have seemed reasonable at the time but look pretty terrible in the rearview (not irrelevantly, that list happens to include doing nearly almost everything the CIA has ever thought was a good idea, so I find the Bush Administration's decision to ignore the CIA one of the fewish times they happened to be right about a national security issue more ironic than awful).

But we know who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and we know who planned them, and we have a pretty good grasp of how events unspooled.  So if the implication of "President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks before they happened" is supposed to be that Bush planned the attacks or at least allowed them to go forward, well, there's no evidence of that and it's a fairly stupid assertion.  The fact is that the Administration didn't need to allow three thousand people to die and several thousand more to be injured to come up with a casus belli--all it takes to get a blank check for a war, really, is making up a bunch of horseshit about weapons of mass destruction supposedly being somewhere sometime in the country you want to attack.  And it's pretty obvious, anyway, that Afghanistan wasn't the war the Bush neocons wanted--they wanted Iraq, a country that was running a pretty good record of giving other nations pretexts for war in those days even if you didn't fib (or, charitably, misconstrue) re: WMDs.

Of course, vagueness is an endemic problem with the questions and data showing up in the FDU press release.  Is President Obama hiding something about his background and early life?  Well, if you're talking about his birth certificate, which has been published and vouched for by all sorts of officials, I think it's safe to say "no".  If you mean there's something else the President is hiding--probably not anything relevant at this hour, no.

Let me digress a moment, and tell you how I know Americans landed on the Moon.  Only I need to digress again and remind you there's a Sherlock Holmes story, "Silver Blaze", that contains one of the most famous exchanges in the Holmes canon:

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

 "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

"The dog did nothing in the night-time."

"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes. 

From this, Holmes correctly deduces the perpetrator of the crimes being investigated is someone the dog knew well enough not to be excited by.  But the key thing, obviously, is sometimes the fact the dog doesn't bark is as much a piece of evidence as anything else.

In the case of the Moon landing--getting back to that as we wind our way back to the President--let's observe that the United States was in the midst of a "space race" against the Soviet Union; that the Soviet Union had an active space program that included devices to track launches and trajectories of near-Earth objects; that the Soviet Union would have derived enormous political benefit from beating the United States to the Moon; that the Soviet Union had spies and infiltrators throughout the American government (not to mention free access to public information like American newspapers); that it would have provided the Soviet Union an enormous propaganda coup, not to mention enormous national satisfaction and schadenfreude,  to humiliate the United States on the world stage (and, indeed, they seized every opportunity they ever had to do so--e.g. the crash of Gary Powers' U2 plane behind Soviet borders, which they played out to give the United States a chance to deny they were flying spyplanes in Soviet airspace, only to reveal after the American denials that they not only had wreckage, but also a living pilot).  And yet, when the United States proudly announces we've put men on The Moon, does the dog bark?

You know, the dog does not.  The dog publishes the news in their state-run newspapers (though, amusingly, they only put a small item on the front page and then the rest of it made page five) and the dog abandoned his plans to put anyone on the moon and focused on orbital programs, a field to which the United States had devoted relatively little effort.  You can bet your ass, your lower intestine, pretty much everything under your belt that if even a whiff of fakery had come to the Soviets by way of their radar arrays or whispers from their American moles, Brezhnev would have been everywhere screaming, "Shenanigans!  Shenanigans!"  Or however you say that in Russian.

This is how I know that President Obama doesn't have any really awful skeletons in his closet and is a U.S. citizen (above and beyond his birth certificate and his being vouched for by government officials in Hawai'i): I really think Hillary Clinton wanted to be President.  I really think John McCain wanted to be President.  I'm not completely sure Mitt Romney wanted to be President, but he sure acted like it sometimes and spent a lot of money on wanting to be President.  I think there are a lot of really wealthy, really influential, really powerful people who would have loved to whip out a copy of Barack Obama's Really Actually 100% True Not Fake Authentic Birth Certificate showing he was the Kenyan love child of Bill Ayers and, I dunno, the late Tokyo Rose or somebody, and would have loved to have him seized by Homeland Security agents in the middle of a nationally televised debate and deported in front of millions and millions of astonished Americans.  I think any of these same people frankly would have settled for a fifth-grade History essay with an opening paragraph reading, "Karl Marx was very interesting and there were many good things about Karl Marx but also many bad things about Karl Marx."

Yet, when I listen, I hear no barks, no growls, no yips, no murmured whines.  Yeah, I hear the braying of jackasses from off in the distance and wonder that Donald Trump isn't in Prison-For-Assholes (hey, it could be a thing), but the dogs, the dogs don't bark.

So that version of "Obama is hiding something" is pretty nutty, yeah.  Doesn't mean there's nothing, I guess.  He probably hasn't disclosed full details of the first time he jerked off, so I guess you could say he's hiding that (and really, personally, I don't need to know, so thank you, Mr. President).

And then there's the question FDU asked--this really, really vague question--about whether Obama's supporters, unnamed and unknown, committed some kind of voter fraud in 2012 somewhere, with or without the President's knowledge, consent or permission.  And I would have to be fair and say it isn't crazy to wonder about that, but there's also really not any evidence of it, and so if you think that's true, well, you may not be crazy per se but you may or may not be thinking rationally.  If you think Democrats stole the election because they're Democrats, or because nobody possibly could disagree with you, or because you had a dream about a dancing midget in a red room who also informed you the gum you like is coming back (sorry, been watching Twin Peaks again), you might just be crazy or stupid, or crazy and stupid.  But if you have some specific evidence that ought to be investigated, I can't positively say there'd be nothing to it.

Which is still different from what set us off on this walk through the woods.  Because when we're talking about Ohio in 2004, we aren't talking about something vague, we're talking about some fairly specific allegations that might or might not be true, but they're not wholly implausible nor are they lacking in any evidence.  So it might not be the least bit crazy or even stupid to answer FDU with a "somewhat true" or an answer that causes you to be lumped in with "probably true" or "unsure" or "don't know".  I would go so far as to say that the allegations are specific enough and raise enough concerns for "unsure" or "don't know" to be rational, informed, non-paranoid answers.

Nor can you say there aren't dogs barking over the 2004 Ohio results.  While John Kerry didn't contest the Ohio results, third-party candidates did and obtained a recount; Kerry later expressed skepticism about the results, as did other Democrats, and a Democratic congressman had his staff research and author a 102-page report spelling out many of those problems.  Within days of the 2004 Presidential election, much of the media was already tamping down voter fraud concerns by calling them conspiracy theories, and other media venues responded over time by suggesting those media sources were, intentionally or simply as a result of institutional myopia, furthering a cover-up.  There's at least food for thought there.

The best logical argument that there wasn't electoral fraud in Ohio in 2004 turns out to be questionable in a really interesting way; the question that an accusation of fraud in 2004 begs is, "Then why didn't they steal the 2008 and 2012 elections?"  Because elections are kind of like Pokémon, in that you have to catch them all, and (besides) we know that what Karl Rove has really hankered for is Republican control of Washington far into the foreseeable future.  The interesting problem, though, is that the answer to this question could be, "Who says they didn't try?"  Which is an interesting question and also, frankly, a miserable, frightening and depressing one.

I don't want to give this enormous amounts of screen space, because I'm not convinced, myself.  It's just an interesting idea.  Something to talk about.  And not wholly irrational, though there's also no good evidence for it.  But the idea is that maybe the GOP tried for repeats in 2008 and 2012, and they simply screwed up because their polling data and their assessments of the demographics led them to underestimate what the turnout for Obama would look like.  If you're going to steal an election, after all, you don't want to do the old banana republic thing where El Presidente walks away with 300% of the vote; what you want is a squeaker that's close enough nobody will doubt it could be true, but not so close it begs for a recount.  So you need good data going in, a really accurate projection of what the results will look like, and if you've drunk your own Kool-Aid and think you already have pretty good numbers and nobody's going to turn out for the other side and you're just trying to fix a fight you're already looking good in when the truth is you're being rope-a-doped, well....

We're getting off topic with this, because the real topic is that the FDU thing has me scratching my head.  But I can't resist pointing out that this scenario, which may be total bullshit, produces one of the most entertaining and fascinating (and, again, frightening) explanations for Karl Rove's bizarre meltdown on Fox News on election night, where he insisted that the Ohio results were still too close to call even if Fox's math nerds were saying to put a fork in Mitt Romney in OH.  There's even an unsubstantiated account that hackers may have played a role in preventing a debacle in Ohio.  Which I'm not endorsing; I'm just saying it's interesting, is all, and I don't know that thinking there might be something to it puts you in the same tinfoil-hat-wearing crowd as a 9/11 truther.

Especially, again, in light of the fact that I think there's pretty good evidence that the 2004 Ohio election was flawed, and the real question isn't so much whether it was a good election, but whether the problems changed the outcome and whether they were intentional or merely the result of errors or incompetence.

So I don't know who FDU thinks they're serving with their framing of this particular public experiment.



Read more...

Let's have ourselves some fun!

>> Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ross Meyer, a manager at Gun World and Archery, a Nevada gun store, said some of his customers buy AR-style weapons for defense – but many also simply enjoy shooting the guns.

"A lot of them, it’s just kind of fun to go out and shoot," said Meyer. His store sold out of the 150 AR-style weapons it had in stock within three days of the shooting in Newtown. "And then also the high-capacity magazine, that’s fun to have."

"Semi-autos are just one of the most fun to go out and shoot when it comes to the recreation of it," Meyer said.
NBCNews.com, January 16th, 2013

Hey, y'know what else is fun?  I mean, I think it would be fun.  It seems like it would be fun.  Getting really, really blotto, I mean totally shit-faced, three-sheets-to-the-wind, royally fucked-up drunk and driving a rented high-performance automobile with the pedal-to-the-metal on either the longest public straightaway you could find or maybe someplace with tight and twisty streets, like the locations used in that great old John Frankenheimer movie, Ronin.

I mean, the driving in Ronin looks pretty fun already, to be honest.  Squealing around those cobbled intersections blanging up against street vendors' wagons; blasting up alleyways designed for medieval foot traffic that are barely wider than your car at--shit, they're probably only doing thirty-five, to be honest, and in those claustrophobic lanes it's still like some kind of awesome rollercoaster ride.  I was going to say it would probably be fun to do this sober, except I'm not sure: I've heard, though I don't recall where and it might not be true, that Robert De Niro's anxiety in those scenes wasn't actually acting, that what reads as concern about whether he and Jean Reno are going to catch up with that little black box is really De Niro trying not to shit his pants because barreling up a cobbled alleyway at any speed greater than a leisurely jog is kinda intense.  So, y'know, I figure put back a couple of shots of bourbon to remove any inhibitions.

Speaking of which, slamming back a coupla shots also works wonders for alleviating any anxieties you might have about unprotected sex, which is also a lot of fun, albeit admittedly more legal than whisking along a public thoroughfare wasted (unless you're making porn in L.A.); of course having unprotected sex is kinda dumb, right, but so what?  If the criteria for whether something is a good idea is going to be how much fun you can have doing it, gods know, dump those raincoats, ladies and gents.  (Besides, you wouldn't believe some of the advances they've made in medicine--e.g. boys, you get some clap that causes Mr. Jones to fall off, pack it in ice, hie thee to a hospital and they will shoot it and you full of the latest and greatest antibiotics Big Pharma can bottle and sew it back on like you'll never know it was gone.)


(And hey, when are you gonna make it back to Haiti, amirite?)

I am just glad as hell, though, that we're finally scrapping stupid ideas like public safety and really focusing on what's important for a society where millions of people are always jostling up against one another with their competing interests and concerns (and not to mention their disparate competencies, judgments, emotional states, mental health statuses, etc., etc.) and really focusing on what's important, which is how much fun something is.  Because I can think of all sorts of fun things can do, plus I know of some people who have some, shall we say, interesting ideas about fun and why should I have all the fun--besides which I not only don't see standing in their way as being a whole lotta fun or even being in the kinds of places they troll for vict--no, wait, loaded word, fun-sharers, we can call them; I don't think it's too fun to be in their notion of fun-sharing places, yeah.

But I'm glad we've come to this, this bold new perspective.  What's wrong with a little hedonism, y'know?

Let's go out and have ourselves a good time, kiddos.



Read more...

Johnny Marr, "The Messenger"

>> Friday, January 11, 2013

 
 
 
Now that is a classic opening riff.  Classic if you're of a certain age.  (My age, which is now too old; a little older, a little younger.)  That's the sound of Johnny Marr coming home.

How'd I miss this?  The clip was posted in November, though the album won't be out 'til this coming February.  (That's how they do it these days.  The single's leaked to the Internet, goes up on YouTube or a webblog or maybe even iTunes four to six months before the record comes out.  They used to keep moratoriums and embargoes on music, you'd hear it when it finally came out--or maybe a week early if you were very, very good.)  But I did miss it, and now I'm kicking myself.  This is very good Marr, shiny and shimmery.  You can almost imagine Steven crooning over it that no one will ever, ever love him, much less understand his poetry--

Which in some ways is a shame, granted.  The Smiths have been gone far longer than they were ever together, and it seems likely to stay that way, and maybe for the best.  It has to be a terrible burden to have a ghost clinging to you your whole life like that, everyone wondering about your old band, the one you were in before the whole entire rest of your career and life happened.

This being the irony of The Guardian piece that introduced me to the above video; the whole thing is about how Johnny Marr has moved on from The Smiths, but since you're not allowed to move on from something like The Smiths, it ends up being a whole article about The Smiths.  Which isn't a bad thing, necessarily: it's a pretty good profile, actually.  It's just that when we talk about The Smiths being a ghost, we must mean a ghost in the same way a black hole is a ghost: a star burns for awhile, it collapses and dies and becomes something invisible and hidden and yet so infinitely there that it will pull in every single thing that comes near it and nothing that gets pulled in will ever come back out again.  Johnny Marr is no longer in The Smiths, The Smiths, The Smiths; The Smiths (The Smiths, The Smiths) don't talk to one another and The Smiths, The Smiths, The Smiths will never reunite and play together again; The Smiths (Smiths, Smiths) are dead, long live The Smiths (The Smiths, Smiths).

A bit like all those Paul McCartney interviews where they still want to talk to him about The Beatles, poor thing.

It may be the stretching and tearing effect of the black hole's proximity that causes The Guardian to keep on saying the new record is Marr's first solo effort, though.  "Johnny Marr And The Healers" released a record in 2003, which had some cuts I liked though I never listened to the whole thing.  I guess it didn't do well enough for anyone to want to remember it, or maybe Guardian is relying on the technicality that Johnny Marr And The Healers would be a band (though I wonder if this rule applies to Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, et al.).  Whatever.  I guess this is nitpicking, sort of, and (besides) I'm not about to begrudge Mr. Marr whatever promo value he gets in calling The Messenger his first solo record as opposed to "his second album in ten years", which isn't as exciting (he isn't Kate Bush, after all).

I look forward to hearing more from it.



Read more...

Viral load

>> Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Image copyright 2012 Paul Pierson/The Enliven Project



Brother Seth and I exchanged words.  Not blows--this exchange occurred on Facebook and Seth is a gentleman, which means he's unlikely to resort to his fists; and I, meanwhile, am an attorney, which means I'm likely to respond to any show of force with wretched, craven shrieks of, "Oh God, not in the face, it's my moneymaker!" and  "I'll sue!"

We came to words over a miserable illustration, and it didn't even depict anyone in a compromising position involving farm animals and fifty gallons of baby oil.  No, the picture in question is an illustration by Paul Pierson for The Enliven Project, which was picked up by Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post and has apparently gone viral since.

Which is unfortunate.  The image has problems--many of which are pointed out by Amanda Marcotte at Slate.  Marcotte's response is devastating, but only scratches the surface of self-evident problems with The Enliven Project's statistical methodology.

Here's the methodology Enlighten used:


For those of you who have asked, here is the background on the stats we used:
  • Some reports suggest that only 5-25% of rapes are reported to authorities.  Other suggest that close to half are reported.  We assumed 10%, which is dramatic, but possible.
  • Of the rapes that are reported, approximately 9 are prosecuted.  
  • Of the prosecuted, 5 result in felony convictions.  This is across the board for all felony prosecutions, not just rape.
  • Assuming that 2% of reported rapes are false and a 10% reporting rate, the graphic assumes that 2 of 1000 rapes are falsely reported (assuming a rape can’t be falsely reported unless it’s reported in the first place)

A few things to notice.  The 5%-25% number for reported rapes comes from a British report published in 2007, the fifty percent comes from an American Department Of Justice clearinghouse that includes data accumulated between 1973 and 2011, and the 10% comes from... well, they made that up.  The "9 are prosecuted" (they presumably mean nine percent) comes from a survey of crimes reported in the United States from 1950-1998.  I'm having a helluva time figuring out what the "5 result in felony convictions" is based on, but the source linked to is a DOJ bulletin titled "Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 2006".  [EDIT: As best I can tell from another quick survey of "Felony Defendants", the number here seems to be a bizarre reading of a line on page 3: "Murder defendants comprised 3% of the defendants charged with a violent felony, while rape defendants accounted for 5%. (See Methodology for the specific crimes included in each offense category.)"  Enliven's interpretation is contradicted four pages later: "Regardless of adjudication method, a majority (72%) of convicted defendants were convicted of the felony offense with which they were originally charged (figure 7). More than three-fourths of defendants convicted of driving-related, weapons, or murder offenses were convicted of their original arrest charges. In comparison, about half of convicted rape defendants were convicted of their original arrest charges."  Good grief.]   The "2% of reported rapes are false" comes from a pamphlet or bulletin offering prosecutors advice for dealing with "False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault" (emphasis added).

This is not nitpicking.  The graphic Enliven created is presumably intended to have an effect, to convey some kind of information that inspires one to action.  But what, exactly, is it conveying?  If we look to the title of the page it appears on and ignore the captioning on the graphic itself, it seems to be confronting us with "The truth about false accusation"--but the truth of false accusation where and what and when and how?  In Great Britain in 2007?  In the United States in 1962?  In urban areas as opposed to rural counties?  Stranger rape as opposed to non-stranger rape?  And if we consider the graphic itself--as presented, say f'r'instance, in the context of the Washington Post's blog page, where it makes no pretense to truth about false accusations of rape somewhere and somehow but, rather, is billed as "The saddest graph you’ll see today", we're further divorced from any context or meaning.  Is the saddest truth that so many rapes are unreported, or that so few are prosecuted?

We have no idea.

Marcotte's points at Slate are worth visiting in brief, though you should read her critique.  The most notable one to call attention to is the fact that the graphic's author confusingly conflates rapes and rapists, when it's indeed probable that many rapists commit multiple rapes; this is especially important to notice when you're looking at the upper-right-hand corner of the chart and realize that a serial rapist may only be jailed one time.  One also has to point out that there is a difference between whether a rape occurred and whether someone was falsely accused of the rape: consider, as an example, the Ronald Cotton case, in which an innocent man was mistakenly accused despite a victim's heroic efforts to bring her rapist to justice; she nevertheless misidentified Cotton as her attacker and Cotton spent ten years in prison while another man bragged about getting away with the crime until DNA exonerated Cotton and brought justice round to the right man.

The thing here is: this issue is too important and complicated to be bullshitted about like this.  I'm not pointing out these methodological and presentational flaws to say that rape should be minimized as a social or legal issue.  What I'm saying is, well-intentioned but completely lazy and divorced from reality visuals intended to rouse gut reactions do not help--in fact, they hurt.

One of the things that needs to be emphasized on that particular score is that the methodological and presentational flaws in the Enliven graphic may in fact understate whatever problem it is we ought to be talking about.  That is, Enliven makes assumptions about the frequency of rape occurrences and reportage that may understate the number of rapes that occur and aren't reported.  Meanwhile, the fact that the image is so direly wrong about whatever it's trying to say certainly makes it possible for people who want to dismiss issues involving sexual violence for whatever reason to do so by pointing out that individuals concerned about sexual violence are (for lack of a better word lacking in sexist connotations) "hysterical".  Or at least ill-informed and lazy with their use of facts.

What we need are adult conversations.

For instance, we need to make sure we know what we're talking about.  By this, I don't mean making some bogus and ignorant Todd Akinish "distinction between "legitimate" rape and (by implication) "fake" rape.  What I mean is that we use the word "rape" within the legal system in ways that are both maddeningly specific and unconscionably vague, to describe wide ranges of misbehavior that may have different causes and may not merit one-size-fits-all solutions.  And outside the legal sphere, we're prone to use the word in so many ways and in so many contexts that it risks losing meaning altogether.

For instance, if we're talking about "unreported rapes", it might be helpful to know whether we're talking about unreported non-consensual sex between strangers, unreported non-consensual sex between non-strangers (note the emphasis I made above relevant to the "False Reports" pamphlet), and unreported statutory offenses of any kind.  Not because there's some difference in "legitimacy" or some such nonsense, but because the approaches we might take to encouraging women to report rapes committed by strangers might be different from the strategies we might take to encourage women to report date rapes or rapes committed by spouses or boyfriends, and none of the approaches we take to encouraging women to report are likely to have much bearing on how we encourage victims and families to report child molestation (i.e. statutory rapes, where consent is irrelevant because the victim's status makes consent impossible to begin with).

Perhaps more critically, we might observe that from the perspective of deterring rapists, deterring non-stranger non-consensual sexual assaults may be as (relatively) simple as the kind of educational programs that became very popular on college campuses in the 1990s, where young men are told that "no means no" and that it's simply wrong to have sex with anyone if there's any doubt whatsoever of their consent.  Whereas stranger rapists are likely suffering some psychological pathology and certainly aren't educable in any case (I sincerely doubt anyone willing to grab and assault a complete stranger doesn't know what they're doing is wrong unless they are suffering a psychiatric disorder that renders them incapable of making the distinction at all).  And pedophiles are yet another category requiring another program altogether.

The tendency in the law and in society, however, is to lump all of these things together.  (The Enliven graphic certainly does--they have to, at least in part because reports like "Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 2006", although informative and useful, aren't so fine-grained as to distinguish between defendants who plead to one kind of rape or another.  [Correction: "Felony Defendants" does offer a definition of rape on page 16: "forcible intercourse, sodomy, or penetration with a foreign object. Does not include statutory rape or non-forcible acts with a minor or someone unable to give legal consent, nonviolent sexual offenses, or commercialized sex offenses."  N.b. the definition used specifically excludes non-forcible rapes, e.g. the stereotyped date rape scenario in which someone has sex with an incapacitated victim without the use of force.  Which, y'know, some of us would call a form of rape.])  Again, lest someone mistake the point here: distinctions are not between "legitimacy" and whatever the opposite of "legitimacy" implies; the distinctions we're drawing are between how we, as a society, need to deal with different kinds of crimes and categories of behavior.  We might well agree date rape and child molestation are equally immoral and we might decide they ought to be punished equally by a court of law, while also readily noticing that one might be prevented by general education of boys and girls as soon as they're ready to learn about sex and the other only by identifying specific individuals with deviant sexual urges and offering them intense therapy (for instance).

We need to figure out whether or not we should even be talking about these things at the same time at all,  because they may only look like the same issues.  For instance, there's an unfortunate possibility that pedophilia is a sexual orientation; child rape can not and should not be treated as anything other than an ugly, serious criminal offense, but (and I've mentioned this above) if it's a neurological imperative that must be restrained, it's in a different remedial category from other kinds of sexual assault.  Maybe we shouldn't be talking about it at the same time we're talking about other kinds of rapes--maybe we even need new terminology, going back to what I wrote earlier about agreeing upon what we're talking about in the first place.

The Enliven image generates a lot of heat but no light.  It's meant to shock, but there's no point in our being shocked for the sake of being shocked.  I'm doubtful of the point of being shocked at all, actually--not because rape (of whatever sort) doesn't offend the moral conscience, but because I think this is a situation where anger ought to be portioned off to its proper place and a sober look needs to be had as to how we reconcile our moral values and our laws, how to adapt our customs without losing sight of our traditions.  How we solve our problems instead of alternately ignoring them or screaming incoherently about them.

I feel like I need to mention, you know, that we are talking about complicated problems.  We have an adversarial system that gives those accused of crimes a sacrosanct right to face their accusers in public; there's a great deal of value in that principle, but it's obvious that's a setting in which someone who has already been violated in the most personal way conceivable might face humiliation and further trauma.  I don't have a real answer to the point I'm raising there, only that I wish people would look at it as a complicated piece of work and not just a matter of whether little meeples on a chart ought to be beige or red, or if "enough" of them are, or only a mere two are black and that somehow says something about the other 2,498.

There's also one more thing I'd like to point out by way of a comparison or contrast.  Slate ran a critique of the Enliven graphic on the same day they ran another graphic:




I mention it because the Tuskegee Institute did exactly what I think Enliven failed to do: they took a shocking, ugly crime, and they came up with a simple, stark visual representation that effectively communicates something to the viewer.  And they did that in part by being precise: 

In 1959, Tuskegee defined its parameters for pronouncing a murder a "lynching": "There must be legal evidence that a person was killed. That person must have met death illegally. A group of three or more persons must have participated in the killing. The group must have acted under the pretext of service to justice, race or tradition."

Obviously, Tuskegee offered the chart as a historical item, though lynchings were a contemporary problem in 1959; but what they offered here was content and context for dealing with something appalling in a manner that I think incites or encourages action.  There is a wrong here, and we know where it is and where it was and what it is: we have a place to focus our attention.  If the Tuskegee graphic is a form of propaganda, it at least has the virtue of being intellectually honest.  It comes by its power to shock through the truth, without forcing numbers through a strainer and throwing them at a wall to see what sticks in the audience's mind.

Well, I wish someone at Enliven had bothered to do the same.

Read more...

Tales from the spam folder: Do I know you?

>> Thursday, January 03, 2013



Classmates.com sends me spam.  I mostly ignore it.  High school was a miserable time, it's remarkable I survived it at all, and the few people I care about from that era, I've mostly stayed in touch with one way or another.  And there's quite a lot of people from that miserable, dark epoch whom, let's be honest, I don't want knowing me now; that is, the person they associate with my name is a dead stranger, long buried in forsaken ground, and I don't want to be associated with him.

So Classmates.com sends me spam, and I mostly ignore it.  Sometimes there's a twinge of regret: Classmates.com is inspired by the fond memories many people seem to have about their teenage years.  From my own recollections, I have to suspect most of these memories people think they have are illusions, fantasies, whitewashes of the collective misery that being a kid often entails even if you're a kid who was doing relatively alright psychologically and otherwise.  Even if everything is working out for you, being a teenager means dealing with seemingly arbitrary rules as you go through repeated, mandatory exercises that you'll eventually discover are entirely irrelevant to nearly everything.  Your ability to take a test will never be tested; you'll probably never write an essay unless you go into academe or become a writer, and then you'll discover nearly everything you were taught about writing essays in high school was wrong or inapplicable or simply not what any reader who isn't a high school teacher is looking for; most of that math will be useless unless you go into a mathy career, and, here again, it's likely you'll learn better, faster, smarter ways to do it all in college or beyond; nobody will ever, ever care what grade you got in gym; etc.  And sillier still is the social melodrama that will become absolutely and utterly meaningless within seconds of graduation, when the entire caste system high school imposes completely disintegrates and you enter brave new worlds where you'll actually be judged by arcane things like "competence" and "personality" and "responsibility", etc.  I've got to say that in retrospect the glory days that Classmates.com is meant to celebrate are really a complete waste of time even if you're one of the people who misses them, whom Classmates.com caters to.  And yet the social convention that you're supposed to miss all this and I don't sometimes makes me feel regretful, alienated, at odds... actually, come to think about it, it mostly evokes the exact same emotions I felt at the time.  Gee, thanks, thanks bunches.

But Classmates.com sends me spam, which I mostly ignore.  Mostly.  Today I get the spam excerpted above, and I have to tell you that while I have wiped many of my memories of that era away to such a degree I suspect a psychologist would find it clinically interesting, I really, for the life of me, do not remember a fellow student named MrbigloverLarry.

At all.

This actually shouldn't surprise me at all: although Classmates.com calls MrbigloverLarry a "peer", looking back at the part of the spam I redacted, I see that MrbigloverLarry C. actually was a couple of years ahead of me, and if he didn't go to the same junior high as I did, we might not have crossed paths at all.  So this may not be a fault of my taking an imaginary meat tenderizer to my adolescent memories and pounding them into submission, but rather a false claim on the part of Classmates.com.  He would have been called across the stage before I even started going to the high school it appears we both attended.  I hardly knew ye, MrbigloverLarry--by which I mean I didn't know you at all--and I feel like it's my loss.  I'm not sure where that name originates--French, perhaps, with that final syllable surely being pronounced something like "ehr", I guess--but no doubt you would have had any number of interesting things to say about the customs and traditions of your family's home country.

As for Scott P.: I think he would have been a senior when I started high school, and therefore might have crossed paths with MrbigloverLarry C.  I knew many Scotts in high school, I think, including one who's one of the few I've stayed in touch with over the many intervening years while others I went to school with were forgotten.  But the thing that draws one's attention, of course, is his profile picture, which consists of a kind of smiley face assembled out of three handguns and an array of what appears to be nine clips.  I have to admit, this doesn't exactly convey to me that Scott P. is anyone I want to stay in touch with.  I hope this doesn't sound like a typical pansy liberal intellectual-type's prejudice against guns or whatever; it's just that when the very first thing you want everybody in the world to know about you or associate you with is the three pistols and relatively copious amounts of ammunition you may or may not be carrying around, well... it doesn't instill confidence, much less bravery.  A perfectly reasonable profile pic of yourself wearing camouflage and an orange vest while sporting a rifle would convey that you are a hunter, that you like hunting and being outdoors and shooting things, and one can hardly object to that unless you're out of season without a license, or you're hunting castaways on your foreboding private isle o'mystery; for that matter, a profile pic showing you at the range with your goggles and pistol is hardly objectionable even if I have reservations about the utility of hobbyist target shooting.  And needless to say, a photograph of yourself armed in civilian or military uniform, as a law enforcement officer or soldier, seems completely unobjectionable as well.

But a smiley face of small arms... I have to confess, Mr. P., this doesn't conjure up associations with healthy outdoorsmanship, lawful hobbying, or service; it rather suggests somebody in his basement lasciviously stroking his chrome and hoping somebody breaks in soon or for the abrupt collapse of Western civilization if he's really, really lucky.  Zombies or graboids might be beyond all realistic hope, but a man can dream.  Actually, lasciviously keeping one's gun porn in the basement is a best case imagining; one also readily imagines Mr. Smiley Face strapping on his bulletproof vest and strolling down to the local multiplex or schoolyard, sorry.

In short, thus, we have someone I never knew but might have liked to, and someone I could have known but would rather keep out of range of.  I don't believe I'll be responding further to the request; these peers of mine are strangers, or ought to be.








Read more...

Another proud member of the UCF...

Another proud member of the UCF...
UCF logo ©2008 Michelle Klishis

...an international gang of...

...an international gang of...
смерть шпионам!

...Frank Gorshin-obsessed bikers.

...Frank Gorshin-obsessed bikers.
GorshOn! ©2009 Jeff Hentosz

  © Blogger template Werd by Ourblogtemplates.com 2009

Back to TOP