Speaking Of Freakishly Tall, Lesbionic Grace

When Rachel Maddow first started making waves about CNN’s live-time broadcast of Michele Bachmann Overdrive’s lazy-eyed “response” to the State of the Union, we here at the imaginary think-tank the Serious Poo-Poo Institute of Technology thought she making a bit too much of it.

Then we watched Maddow’s last segment of last night’s broadcast, when she was able to report more in-depth, reflecting her objection in terms of exactly how long and how passionately CNN and the Tea Party have been dry-humping one another.

We here at the SPIT have not frankly watched CNN since around 2003, when its reporters employed pom-poms in its reporting of the illegal, immoral, and stupid invasion of Iraq by these Untied States of America. We hadn’t realized it had gotten so damned rotten over there.

Watch.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

It’s almost worse than Fox “News.” At least those screwballs don’t try quite as hard to pretend.

Imus and Fox ‘News’ Deserve Each Other

First of all, let us establish early on that Don Imus is a racist blobfish.

You are probably aware of this improbable broadcast celebrity’s misogynistic, racist, bizarre, mean, and un-funny put-down of the Rutgers womens’ basketball team of 2007. Dig a little further, or become an amateur Howard Stern Show historian as I have, and you will understand that Imus’ record on howling racial epithets is a thick, well-documented file folder.

Let us also establish that Rachel Maddow is a Rhodes Scholar and a professional broadcaster whose journalistic endeavors have at times engendered levels of integrity not even approached since those days when one Walter Cronkite held a microphone. I may be hyperbole-ing all over the place here. But not by much.

So, if you must compare and contrast these two stars of radio and television, there is one stark difference between them: One is a racist asshole who cries to Al Sharpton when his decades-long rant finally looks about to cost him his stupid career. The other is an accomplished broadcaster who has actually studied social ills in college and who imparts herself consistently with integrity and grace—freakishly tall, lesbionic grace. But grace.

So how weird is this Imus explosion regarding Maddow’s immediate comments following Keef’s sudden exit at MSNBC, wherein Imus—whose signature comedy radio bit once featured a gigantic worm that would eat local school houses—calls Rachel Maddow a “coward” and “a gutless, sniveling worm?”

I mean, the whole exchange is weird. See to Imus’ wife Deidre (pronounced “dehr-dra”) call Maddow a “back-stabber.” See Imus inexplicably compare Olbermann’s sunset at MSNBC, which was precipitated by a scuttled contract negotiation, with his own, which, as noted, was precipitated by his own and his sidekick’s misogynistic, racist, bizarre, mean, and un-funny on-air comments.

This man—nay, this whole entire dais—needs to be swept off the air and evaluated by a mental health professional. Stat.

Maybe They Should Commemorate the Mountain Meadows Massacre

The Utah legislature is debating a proposal to make the Browning M 1911 the official gun of Utah. Like every state needs an official gun, right?

In the middle of getting completely snarky about this silliness, I wondered how many states could claim an official gun for themselves. (Florida gets the Tech 9, Massachusetts gets the Smith & Wesson, etc:). So I went looking for gun manufacturers by state.

Curious fact. There are 15 gun manufacturers listed on the Buy America Website. Browning is not on the list. I called the good Browning folks in Utah, and they fessed up that they really don’t manufacture many guns in the USA any more. In fact, of the many dozens of models of weapons manufactured by Browning (which now also owns Winchester) only one line of weapons, the .22 caliber Buck Mark pistols and rifles, are made in the USA. All others, which make up the bulk of Browning’s sales in the USA (they are among the leading brand of guns used for hunting, and are the preferred gun of the hunters in my back yard), are made Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Japan… mostly Japan.

Winchester, the gun that tamed the west? Only one line of Winchester weapons, Model 70, is still made in the USA. There are eight other lines of Winchester weapons, and several specialty, limited addition weapons. None of them made in the USA, although Winchester’s website is not as fourthcoming as Browning’s is about where the guns are actually manufactured.

I do not have the time or inclination to track down all the other gun manufacturers to see how many actually build here at home. My guess it is it more than a few use overseas factories. So what’s all this about patriotic gun companies and the NRA protecting the American way and all that?

I’m just saying.

State of the Battle Plan

I thought President Obama did a nice job on the State of the Union. I also think Brady is right. This is a pretty conclusory business plan.

It is not that all the steps between now and actually meeting the education and infrastructure and green jobs goals are not spelled out. You do not expect such details in a State of the Union speech. It’s just that we all know that the steps necessary to actually implement anything the President asked for must be approved by a Confederacy of Dunces. The House of Representatives will ensure that nothing looking vaguely like the President’s plan will get out of Congress. Moreover, the President himself has promised budget cuts so vast that the plan itself seems entirely self contradictory.

It is almost as though the President, having studied the GOOP strategy of saying bullshit and insisting it is true, has concluded that it to be a smart strategy. The President’s plan sounds as grand as a plan can sound, but nothing much will come if it in the 112th Congress. Which is probably exactly what the President expects.

In truth, Obama gave less a State of the Union address than a battle plan for the 2012 election. Tax the rich, tax the oil companies, build infrastructure, support green energy and small business. Don’t fuck with Obamacare.   Make government more efficient.  Cut regulation. That will be the mantra for the next two years.

I am for (most of) it. It’s a good line to stand and fight on. Obama’s track record, however, has been less than stellar when it comes to standing his ground. I am getting in the trenches now. Wonder if Obama will be there in 2012.

President Underpants Gnome

From last evening’s State Of The Union speech…

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.

I like President Obama. I voted for the guy and was in fact an early supporter. Even given that, when I examine Obama’s record as objectively as I can, I still find his list of accomplishments to be astonishing. He will be remembered, I think, as one of the most effective presidents evar…why do you think Republigoats hate the guy so completely?

But. When President Obama starts talking about things like new technologies and green technologies and blah blah blah, it kind of reminds me of these guys:

South Park fans will recognize these fellows as the “underpants gnomes.” This merry band of industrious workers has established a focused business plan:

Phase 1: Collect Underpants
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit

Research. Development. Information. Technology. Green, green, green. Electric cars. Flibbity flobbity floo.

How does any of that mean squat in the same speech where you’re touting pending trade agreements? What is being done to ensure that these efforts rebuild our domestic manufacturing infrastructure? That the train cars, that the electric cars, at all of these new products coming out of this new, tech-driven economy aren’t manufactured elsewhere employing folks who are not Americans? What do these niceties mean for a nation led by a Democratic administration that’s already bent over backward for business, only to have business fold its arms and harumph, so we bend over even more backward? Yet, any effort to stand beside labor seems to be mostly lip service?

It’s wonderful to talk about R&D and new-fangled products and green tech and junk. But if the American manufacturing infrastructure is as weakened as it seems to be, if we are perpetually driven to allow global free trade to tramp all over our rose garden, isn’t such talk just talk?

South Park won’t let me embed any underpants gnomes footage, by the way. So instead here’s a commercial with a kid making a wish sandwich. With peanut butter and jelly.

P.S. Trying to name that tune? “Age of Consent” by New Order.

Not Bloody Likely

And I had to really scour to find the story I refer to in the previous post. Most of the news stories I’ve found on the Internet about gunshots at the home seemed more like this (dateline Alba, Texas):

Alba-Golden Student Fatally Shot in His Home

Written by Clayton Neville
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 07:11
A 16-year-Old student at Alba-Golden high school was found dead in his home early Tuesday morning after suffering a gunshot wound to the chest.

When Wood County deputies arrived to the residence they discovered Loren Wayne Saunders unresponsive and pronounced him dead upon arrival.

The reason behind the cause of death is currently being investigated and more information will be released as forensics results are completed.

 

Or like this:

Antioch, Calif. toddler shot in his home
December 2nd, 2010 11:53 pm PT

ANTIOCH, Calif. — Today, police in Antioch are looking into the shooting death of a 2-year-old child. It is possible the boy was shot by his 4-year-old brother.

Today was the 2-year-old Antioch toddler’s birthday.

Antioch is in the East Bay and is a short driving distance from San Francisco.

All of this started unfolding around 11am on Thursday morning.

The boy’s paternal grandmother was in the living room at 2405 Lemontree Court as the two young brothers played in the bedroom. She heard a shot fired and found the 2-year-old with a gunshot wound to the head.

A neighbor called the police.

The parents of the 2-year-old boy, Eddie Carr and Laqinda Modique, were later arrested.

The mother recently bought the gun and the father had loaded it and put it in a drawer just that morning, reports Kron 4 News.

 

Or this almost identical story, which just occurred in Youngstown, Ohio. This past weekend.

A 2-year-old is in stable condition after an accidental shooting in a South Side home Friday night.

Police responded to St. Elizabeth Health Center where they observed a gunshot wound to the left side of the girl’s face. The bullet entered her lower left cheek, leaving a 5-inch wound before exiting her upper cheek.

Police arrested Wally Moxley, 30, of Youngstown for having weapons while under disability after finding the fired handgun under the couch at his home.

 

Then there’s that other pesky problem with using firearms for home defense: a prosecutor may very well like to speak to you after:

Ryan Frederick is currently behind bars in Chesapeake City Jail in Virginia for the shooting death of a police officer on January 17, 2008. He is charged with first-degree murder.

Normally you’d think that a person who shoots and kills a police officer might deserve to spend time behind bars, but Frederick’s case is a bit different. The shooting happened in his own home during what Frederick believed to be a home invasion.

Three days before police began breaking down Frederick’s door to enter his home on a drug warrant, Frederick’s home had been broken into and his belongings rifled through, according to an online Reason Magazine story.

When Frederick’s dogs began barking and he heard someone breaking through his front door, he grabbed a gun that he kept for home protection. As an officer attempted to enter the home through one of the lower door panels, Frederick fatally shot him.

Frederick is 28 years old. He worked for a soft drink merchandiser before his arrest. Friends, neighbors and co-workers reportedly have nothing but kind words to say about him. He has no prior criminal record, although he has conceded that he and his friends have smoked marijuana recreationally. There is no evidence that he was ever growing or dealing marijuana or any other drug, according to Frederick’s criminal defense attorney.

Despite the lack of any criminal record and the fact that the shooting was a tragic accident, Paul Ebert, the special prosecutor assigned to the case, has indicated he may elevate the charge to capital murder so that the state may seek the death penalty against Frederick.

 

Yes, there may be some anecdotal evidence of a good clean firearm discharge. More of the stories, though, look like these, unfortunately.

Don’t take it from me. I’m just an amateur policy wonk and sometimes Web slinger. See for instance what Robert Siciliano has to say about it.

I know that you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. I understand non-lethal doesn’t always work. I get that people love their guns. I also know that when you kill someone it’s your word against a dead mans and facing life in prison is an option even when you shoot and kill an intruder in your own home. Plus, there is always the chance that the same weapon can be used against you.

 

The suggestion that a firearm needs to be kept in someone’s home because the person will need it to protect his home is mostly nonsense. Such occassions, if they ever do arise, are rarely as neat and tidy as the gun owner imagines they will be or as they need to be in order to count on a gun and a gun alone for defense. Most times, when you read or hear about a gun being discharged, it’s all Marvin Gaye or Jam Master Jay. Tragic, not heroic.

And yet, as I indicated yesterday, this delusion is what many folks are going with when it comes to creating public policy on the issue of guns.

Sometimes, this is a very strange country.

This Doesn’t Add Up

I’ve been scouring the Internet today looking for anecdotal evidence of what I tend to think of as the most unlikely scenario in the world.

I referred to the scenario in my previous post: You are a gun owner at home. You hear a noise, so you pull your gun out of your nightstand. You fire a pound of lead into a person’s chest, and it turns out the person was about to rape your cat and steal your TV and poop on your end table. The police show up and pin a medal to your chest and give you a cash reward for your good deed. Buoyed, you stroke and kiss your Glock, put on the safety, and put it back under your pillow to defend your way of life another day.

Well. I found the anecdote in question. Enter Charles Johnson of Ocoee, Fla.

Charles Johnson is a man of his word.

On Oct. 4, 1936, then 19, Johnson promised to love and protect his bride, Berlie Mae.

On Tuesday, he did.

Now 91, he scared off two home invaders with his 38-caliber revolver when the men threatened his wife of 72 years at their home east of Ocoee.

Johnson took a shot at one of the guys who had run into his home and placed a gun at his wife’s head. These home invaders fled. I don’t find the story to be clear about what happened or even on if Johnson’s aim was true. But, apparently I cannot make the claim I wanted to make, that the anecdotal example of a heroic defense of home by firearm doesn’t exist. Reckon it does.

But it did lead me to something else interesting.

Florida is a “Stand Your Ground” state. From what I understand, this means that in Florida and a handful of other states, you have a stronger defense in court if you kill an intruder in your home. You do not have a duty to exhaust every other possibility first, to retreat as much as possible, to call out and warn the intruder first. In a “Stand Your Ground” state, you are on safe legal ground if you simply open fire the minute you discover the intruder in your house. Florida is also a shall-issue state, which from what I understand means that the permit granting authority has no individual discretion regarding permits. You need a permit to conceal carry in Florida, but you do not need a permit to carry a gun in your vehicle.

I would say that Florida’s gun laws are fairly non-restrictive. And I thought that when you let more people carry more guns, this acted as a deterrent to crime.

Here. Let me Google something for you. Ocoee, which is the hard to spell place where Charles Johnson spooked the home invaders, and “home invasion.”

Anecdotally, it looks like Ocoee, Fla. is the home invasion capital of the world.

What gives?

31

Many years ago when I was a news reporter in Northeast Ohio, there was a murder case that was the talk of the town.

This guy had shot his beautiful wife to death.

He said he’d heard a noise and assumed it was an intruder. He slipped into a closet with a gun. His wife sprang open the closet doors and he shot her. Sort of a “Burn After Reading,” reversed.

I don’t remember if the jury bought his story or if it got him out of the slam. I think I recall that he got a pretty sizable sentence. But I’ll tell you what. It’s a scenario that seems a hell of a lot more believable then some of the ones usually dreamt up by people to justify gun ownership.

I woke up this morning listening to a repeat of The Stephanie Miller Show. Gun control is of course hot right now as a topic. This fairly unintelligible caller was saying that he needed 31 bullets in his magazine versus ten because his jammies don’t have pockets, and so he’d need the extra bullets to further defend his home from intruders.

But this scenario seems to be so remote: A threatening person enters your home. You pick up a gun from your nightstand, and you successfully fire it into the person’s chest, ending his life and protecting your home. The police shake your hand and send you on your merry way and tell you what a good person you are.

It seems more likely to me that you’ll end up killing someone in your family or yourself and end up in jail or dead.

I mean, you think the guy on the phone this morning regularly takes his gun to a range? You think he’s had classes in gun safety, think he’s bothered to learn how to properly handle a firearm?

And, further: Do you think he has a fire extinguisher in his kitchen?

Well, I mean, come on. If your reason for keeping a firearm in your nightstand is that you have to defend your home, don’t you think you should be equally prepared to defend it from fire? And which of the five types of fire extinguisher does he own? And does he know whether to pick up his A, B, C, D, or K model depending on which sort of fire he’s got?

Does his family have an escape route in case of fire? Has he seen about installing a tougher deadbolt? Reinforced the windows? Locked down his sliding glass doors? Has he plugged unused electrical sockets? I mean, if you’re going to be the kind of guy who’s interested in defending his home and his family, then be that guy or stop with the bullshit nonsense.

There are at least 50 other things a person can do to protect his home. Again, when I was a news reporter, I had the opportunity to attend a self defense class for women. The things these broads learned, fellows, you do not want to know. For instance: Don’t kick him in the nuts. Grab and twist. Also: Shit yourself. And scratch the fuck out of him so you can get his DNA under your nails. It’s amazing the things a woman can do to ward off a rapist if she gets the training. Am wondering if the women in this gun freak’s life have had the training.

Be that guy or stop with the bullshit nonsense. The truth is that there are precious few reasons that a person needs to own a firearm. The most frequent ones you hear from these gun nuts are marginal at best to downright bizarre. I personally think the best reason is “to kill deer to bring to the Bonks to cook and eat.” I’m fond of that reason personally. And for sport generally, yeah, that’s a pretty good reason to own a firearm. Home defense? Marginal at best. Defense against a government gone out of control? Are you serious? Do you remember Waco at all?

Unfortunately, one other reason a guy might want a Glock with 31 shots is because he’s crazy and he has it in mind to kill a lot of people. This is a fact that even the most Second Amendment fundies have trouble facing. See O’Donnell, Lawrence vs. Trent Franks. They have trouble facing it because it is a bloody reality of their fundamentalism.

It is this rabid fundamentalism that leads gun defendors to invent unrealistic scenarios in their heads that will probably never come to pass. These unlikely scenarios sure are a weird thing upon which to build a nation’s public policy regarding firearms.

Yes. I’m Fine, She Said. Please Stop Asking, You Freak.

Sharing today (via my cousin Jonathan, thank you sir) this brilliant vignette from cellists Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic, a scorching arrangement of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” The execution of this piece by these two dueling musicians is nothing short of brilliant. The phrasing, the intensity, the dynamics, and watch the one fellow put harmonics to use! Damn. I could have done without much of the superfluous photography, the action sequences, the camera angles; just show me these two guys playing the shit out of their instruments and it would be entetaining enough. But put on some headphones and prepare for goosebumps. You’re gonna rise some up when you hear this.

By way of context, the original:

And the also excellent 2001 cover by Alien Ant Farm (embedding disabled). I’ve always loved the AAF cover and the video as well. Everything a cover should be. These guys clearly love the song but also love making fun of it. Absurdly self-referential, yet reverent. Chimp included.

I hesitate to mention it, but I do have a bone to pick with Mr. Jackson, though fat lot of good it does me now, I reckon: A crescendo is not a sound, sir. A crescendo is something that is done TO sound. I know there are precious few words in the English language that rhyme with “window.” It is odd though, I think, for a musician to have taken such license with a musical term.

Oh, well. What are you gonna do. Music and a better world.