hradzka: (plane)
Y'know, I've mostly been avoiding the endless Michael Jackson news -- I cannot believe that ostensible news organizations carried his funeral live -- but I did run across a little clip that quietly horrified me. It was Michael Jackson's young daughter speaking at the funeral, saying that he'd been a wonderful father and she loved him very much, and then breaking down in the sobs she'd been holding back. She was surrounded by other family members; as she spoke, and wept, they were all around her, crowding close, touching her -- and I realized: they're not comforting her; they're trying to make sure they're in the shot.

Those poor kids are so, so screwed.

Whether or not you think Michael Jackson was truly a pedophile -- and lemme tell ya, folks, if you looked through the auction house catalogs of his stuff when he was having the big Neverland yard sale, you would have no doubt whatsoever that he was -- you have to admit that the man was deeply screwed up. Something about him started ringing bells with me recently, and it took a few days to figure it out. Y'know who Michael Jackson reminds me of? Timothy Treadwell.

If you're not familiar with Treadwell, he was a bear enthusiast -- obsessive, actually -- who went camping in remote wilderness for months to film, observe, and, in his mind, "protect" wild bears, until a bear ate him and the girlfriend who had the misfortune to put her faith in him. Treadwell was the subject of GRIZZLY MAN, a brilliant documentary by Werner Herzog. I realized that the accounts of Michael Jackson living the fantasy life of a Peter Pan figure were reminding me of one scene in that movie. Herzog's interviewee, a museum curator, is Native American, and he looks awkward, a little embarrassed, as he carefully tries to explain why Treadwell's actions really squicked him. The traditional view, he explains, is that bears are bears and people are people. You respect them, absolutely, but you're separate from them; you give them their space, and stay in yours, and that shows respect. Studying the bears isn't disrespectful, but Treadwell went farther than that. In the curator's view, Treadwell didn't want to study the bears, he wanted to *be* a bear, and that was nineteen kinds of wrong.

And that's Michael Jackson and children. I make no claim to be an expert on child abuse or deviancy, but I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Jackson's pedophilia was an aspect of his all-consuming obsession with childhood. He loved the idea of childhood, he loved children, he wanted to have the childhood he never had -- but he was a grown man, and he had a grown man's sexual desires, which he turned on the objects of his obsession. Jackson wanted to be a child, but he couldn't, so he became something else. And then he wanted to make the children he knew into something else, too.
hradzka: (wtf)
According to Politico,

For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post is offering lobbyists and association executives off the record, non-confrontational access to "those powerful few" — Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and the paper’s own reporters and editors.

The astonishing offer is detailed in a flier circulated Wednesday to a health-care lobbyist, who provided it to a reporter because the lobbyist said he feels it’s a conflict for the paper to charge for access to, as the flier says, its “health care reporting and editorial staff."

...

"Underwriting Opportunity: An evening with the right people can alter the debate," says the one-page flier. "Underwrite and participate in this intimate and exclusive Washington Post Salon, an off-the-record dinner and discussion at the home of CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth ... Bring your organization’s CEO or executive director literally to the table. Interact with key Obama Administration and Congressional leaders …

“Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No. The relaxed setting in the home of Katharine Weymouth assures it. What is guaranteed is a collegial evening, with Obama Administration officials, Congress members, business leaders, advocacy leaders and other select minds typically on the guest list of 20 or less. …

“Offered at $25,000 per sponsor, per Salon. Maximum of two sponsors per Salon. Underwriters’ CEO or Executive Director participates in the discussion. Underwriters appreciatively acknowledged in printed invitations and at the dinner. Annual series sponsorship of 11 Salons offered at $250,000 … Hosts and Discussion Leaders ... Health-care reporting and editorial staff members of The Washington Post ... An exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will actually get it done. ... A Washington Post Salon ... July 21, 2009 6:30 p.m."


Washington: it's all about who you know. If THE WASHINGTON POST is literally selling political access, that instantly vaults to into the top tier of media malfeasance. It also illustrates a major downside of large government: it winds up being not so much power to the people as power to the people who are politically connected.
hradzka: "Trust me, I know what I'm doing." (sledge hammer!)
I've seen the Somali pirate safari story all over the place (the story: there is a Russian cruise line that will, for five grand plus an additional sum for weapon rental, take you through Somali waters so you can shoot at pirates), so I figure it's my obligation to step up and point out that it is complete and utter bullshit.

Every single article ever is quoting one Austrian paper I'd never heard of. I went to their website, and the article about it (apparently the second such article) leads off with a boast of having gotten 100,000 hits. Eventually, they mention this: "Denn erstens ist noch immer nicht geklärt, ob die russische Piratenjagd nur eine Satire oder bittere Realität ist . . ."

Translation: "It isn't clear if the Russian pirate cruise is a satire or harsh reality."

(Two things set off my bullshit detector. One: gun laws in Russia are *insane.* No way a Russian company could pull this off. Two: not a single article about this mentioned the name of this supposed nihilistic cruise line. I mean, if it's a company that people can book passage with, it's got to have a name, right? Or a CEO, who's good for some flamboyant and horrifying quotes? Any journalist would kill to interview the guy who runs that business. And yet, no company, no boss... nothing... aha! bullshit!)
hradzka: (plane)
[personal profile] doqz reminded me of something that happened almost eight years ago. After 9/11, people in Iran held candlelight vigils. They honored our loss, mourned our dead, and shared our sorrow.

hotlinked like sausages.


It might not be a bad idea for us to so honor the Iranian people now.

It is a tiny, useless gesture. But I think it's worth doing something small, public, and somewhat collective to show that the American public -- the public elsewhere, for that matter -- gives a shit, and it's either that or go onto the roof and shout "God is great," which doesn't have the same patriotic connotations here as it does there.

I am on a business trip in the middle of nowhere and am the least socially networked person in the world, so I am very ill-placed to start anything. But those who are better abled than I and are watching events in Iran with great concern might consider giving this a shot.
hradzka: (plane)
Like most people, I've been keeping as abreast of developments in Iran. Tomorrow will be the day that is make or break. The Ayatollah Khamenei made Mousavi an offer he couldn't refuse: "come to Friday prayers and stand beside me to pray for national unity." Who knew Khamenei was a Bob Marley fan? This is kind of like a One Love Peace Concert where Bob Marley is Michael Manley's biggest backer and if Edward Seaga doesn't shake hands Marley's got a shotgun ready.

I will say this: there have been a lot of amazing things coming out of this, but to me one of the most amazing was this video (warning: blood and trauma is visible at the end). That building is a Basij militia HQ. The people inside it have training and guns. The people outside it have righteous indignation. And they try to take the building. A mob of *unarmed people* tried storming a Basij militia HQ. That is some serious goddamn stones, friends. Even more amazing: they didn't immediately break and run when the Basij sent a guy up onto the roof with a rifle. He fires warning shots, and they hold, daring him to shoot them. Which he does. It's absolutely staggering that the people launched that assault. In the face of determination like that, it's not surprising that Mousavi told Khamenei to stuff his invitation. But that's how determined both sides are. They're all-in now. Everything depends on what the security forces do. If they're all willing to open fire on their own countrymen, it's over. If some of them flip, or a lot of them flip, then we have a whole new ballgame.

I've been disappointed with President Obama's handling of the situation, particularly in the beginning. I can understand wanting to play it low-key, but he played it *so* low-key that he pretty much appeared as if he didn't give a crap, which is the bad tack when you've got soldiers shooting protestors. He's slowly improving, but if this turns into an attempted Tienanmen, which I fully expect it will, he really needs to be ready to issue some strong statement.

The irony is that I don't expect Mousavi to be much of an improvement. Remember, one of the big clerics who's in his corner is Rafsanjani, who once famously remarked that Iran should nuke Israel, because even if Iran were obliterated by the retaliatory strike, it'd be okay, because there'd still be plenty of Muslims, but a hell of a lot fewer Jews. So there is not a lot of room for optimism. But I'm going to try to rustle up some hope.
hradzka: (plane)
The names of the other two guards involved in the Holocaust Museum shootout have been released. They're Harry Weeks and Jason McCuiston. One's a retired cop, the other is thirty years old and was a cop in Georgia before he moved back home to the DC area and took the job as a museum guard. It was sheer luck that they were in the lobby. Weeks had been working somewhere else before a supervisor asked him to go work the metal detectors; McCuiston was roaming around serving as a stand-in for guards who went on break. The WASHINGTON POST reports that it was McCuiston's first gunfight; the article hints that Weeks was in one before, about 25 years ago.

They're not clear yet to talk about the details on the gunfight, but from what I've read, here's how it went down: the perpetrator approached the museum carrying a .22 pump-action Winchester rifle vertically, under one arm. I don't know if he wore a concealing garment, like a long coat, or if he was just hiding it using his body; his age probably helped, because nobody really looks at an 88-year-old guy to see if he's packing. As he approached the door, guard Stephen Tyrone Johns saw him and courteously opened the door for him. As Johns did so, the perp deployed the gun and shot him in the upper right chest. A .22 is not commonly considered a man-stopping round, but this one apparently did some pretty serious damage, because Johns later died in the hospital. Johns went down; he was grievously injured and in shock, and was not able to draw his weapon. Weeks and McCuiston were able to, and did. They fired eight shots. I don't know if the perp fired at them, or what distances were involved except that like most gunfights, it was pretty short. Also like most gunfights, the adrenaline dump caused accuracy to go all to hell: only one of the eight rounds Weeks and McCuiston fired scored a hit. A good hit, though; nailed the perpetrator in the face. The round exited through his neck. The perp went down. He remains in the hospital in critical condition and, one hopes, in serious agony.

Police searching the perpetrator's room found another rifle: make and model unknown, described as .30 caliber. Interesting he didn't use that. Reports are that the perp was in financial straits; evidently he sought to combine a hate crime with suicide by cop. He also had a list of targets in his car. This list included locations significant to Jews and blacks, as well as Washington National Cathedral, a local Fox News office, and the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard. The breadth of the perpetrator's hate is truly astounding; he vilified everybody from Barack Obama to Bill O'Reilly. When I was a kid in school, we watched a film of Bill Cosby demonstrating the venality of bigotry by performing a character who systematically vilifies every single ethnicity and type of person imaginable. It's the kind of thing that adults find deeply meaningful and significant and kids find stupid and boring. Reading about the perpetrator, though, made me recall that film: he truly hated everybody.
hradzka: (plane)
I seem to recall that a while back there were some supposedly serious people arguing that Iran was actually really quite democratic, all things considered. These people tended to ignore the fact that the reigning mullahs had veto authority over who was actually allowed to enter the race, but in their view, the US was creating an inaccurate picture of Iranian despotism. The related arguments include: Ahmadinejad is Not That Bad, and even if he is he's Not a Really Consequential Figure and also the Real Power Doesn't Support Ahmadinejad. I'm looking forward to their commentary on this bit of news. The level of fraud in Ahmedinejad's re-election is making Chicago politics look like a garden club election. There are crowds of people protesting on the street; it's reported that there are scores dead. God knows what's going to happen, but it won't be pretty. Really freaky insight at the previous link: Iranian law requires a three-day wait after an election before certification by the council of experts and final approval by the Leader (Khameini). No such thing happened. Iran's former foreign minister tells THE NATION, bluntly, that what we've just seen is not an election, but a coup d'etat.

President Obama seems resigned to having the Iranians getting nuclear power. I think this is a potentially cataclysmic error on his part, and that's not hyperbole.

(Not to say we don't probably need to focus more on the Norks right now. They're doing lots of nuke testing, and they've got a track record of exporting material and expertise, and they're perfectly willing to nuke Seoul just for the hell of it.)

Odds of a small-scale nuclear war in the next two years: dramatically rising.
hradzka: (plane)
A man with a shotgun apparently attempted a mass shooting at DC's Holocaust Museum today. I've seen differing reports, but it looks like only two people wound up shot: 1) a security guard, the first person the perpetrator targeted and 2) the perpetrator, who got his ass lit up by the security team. Neither is reported dead yet. Place your bets now on the perpetrator's demographic; my money is on Islamist fanatic, like the guy who shot the two soldiers at the recruiting office recently. Perhaps this will get some more attention than that case did.

ETA: I lost that bet pretty quickly. Not only is he a white supremacist (see comments for quotes from his website), he's waaaaaaaay older than I'd expected. Guy's a WW2 veteran, a member of MENSA, author of an anti-Semitic book, and likely a certifiable paranoiac.

ETA AGAIN: And apparently a convicted felon, stemming from an incident in the early eighties where he tried to arrest the Federal Reserve. Meaning he's prohibited from having guns.

ETA AGAIN: Wow. Quoth the perp:

ACTUALLY, on the road to Damascus — brooding about Rome, relishing the bloody image of the disciple he had stoned to death; sweaty, sore footed, thinking of the blasphemous ravings of the Nazarene — Saul had an incredible, earthshaking IDEA. A light-bulb inspiration. He, Saul — a Roman citizen — suddenly realized how he could destroy Rome! Saul trembled uncontrollably with fear and joy. He would simply promulgate the insane teachings of Jesus! What better way to destroy a Nation — any Nation — than to undermine her hubris; her gods, ethics, mores, history, her gene-pool — in short, Saul would DESTROY ROMAN CULTURE. Then, as night follows day, with her foundations rotted, the Roman Empire would FALL. Saul decided to begin the HOAX by inventing a miraculous encounter on the road to Damascus with the reincarnated Jesus the Christ!

Toward that end — no different than Hollywood script-writers today — Saul created a bogus a la Spielberg docu-drama stuffed with lies, miracles, guilt trips, betrayal, virgin birth, eternal damnation, salvation — a scenario appealing to the superstitious, vulnerable, ignorant yearning sheep — he named his hoax “Christianity.”


That's pretty damn out there: CHRISTIANITY IS A JEWISH CONSPIRACY.

ETA AGAIN: The security guard, Stephen Tyrone Johns, has died in the hospital. In pace requiescat. I've seen reports that he traded fire with the killer after being shot, and others that the killer was brought down by the other security guards; regardless, Johns performed his ultimate duty: the time the killer spent fighting Johns and his colleagues was time that he didn't have to kill museum patrons. Condolences to Johns's family and friends, and thanks to the late Stephen Tyrone Johns and his surviving colleagues for a job well done.


Note, incidentally, how quickly this resolved. Very good work by the museum's security detail. This is how you stop active shooters: you kill them, or at the very least render them physically incapable of rendering further harm. (This is why, while I'm not opposed to requiring permits for civilians carrying firearms, I adamantly support the broadest possible latitude for where and when civilians can carry. Not that folks who lawfully CCW don't commit crimes, but they do it remarkably rarely, and the more people who are lawfully armed in any given place, the less chance any mass shooter will get to make the headlines he's craving.)
hradzka: (plane)
If you haven't seen the news recently, Pakistan is in serious shit.

No, I mean *more* serious shit. The Pakistani government did the dumb thing and handed over part of the country to the sharia-law junkies a while back, and now these guys, Taliban and their ilk, are looking to take over the country. Recently, it looked like they had a chance to move toward the capital, but they pulled back. I can tell you exactly why they did it: they want to be sure they have things set up with their supporters in the military and ISI (Pakistan's equivalent of the CIA). By which they mean, they want to be sure they'll get control of Pakistan's nukes.

I've always figured that there are two two ways the vital fight against Islamism could play out. One is a process that involves the reformation and democratization of the Muslim world. President Bush thought we could start that process; I hoped to God he was right, because the other way things could go would involve a whole lot of people being dead. Well, we may not be doing the killing, but it's looking more and more to me like a hell of a lot of people are going to die. Not at our hand. Our government reportedly has a plan to seize Pakistan's nukes if the government there falls; but given the vast number of Islamist fanatics and sympathizers in Pakistan's government, I really don't think that'll be successful. They might not be able to swing stealing a nuke outright, but holding 'em back, confusing the issue so we don't recover the bombs? Cake and pie. So if Pakistan falls, their nukes are up for grabs.

Here's where I differ from a lot of the folks who believe the above: if Pakistan goes sha'ria, I don't think the first Islamist nuke would be smuggled out to a terrorist group to hit us, or to hit Israel. I think they'd hit India.

The ISI has a long history of killing people in India. The train bombings? That was Pakistan. The Mumbai attacks? That was Pakistan. And India hasn't responded, in part because their politicians are spineless and in part because they know that if they go to honest-to-gods-no-kiddin'-war, the same Pakistani factions that have no compunctions about using terrorist tactics against Indian civilians will cheerfully go nuclear. Pakistan has enough nukes to cripple India, and there are Pakistanis in positions of great power who are *itching* to use 'em. I read, years ago, an article about Pakistan's dreamers of great war, and one of the most horrifying details was a retired general who literally had a painting of Pakistani nukes being launched toward India *over his fireplace.*

Here's the thing: Pakistan has enough nukes to cripple India. But India has enough nukes to *obliterate* Pakistan.

Which means that in India, there are people who go to bed knowing that they might wake up to an unthinkable number of dead, and might have to order an unthinkable response.

I think that there are remarkably good chances that by the time President Obama leaves office, the planet will have seen its first nuclear war.
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
Everybody knows who Jared Diamond is. He made his name with THE THIRD CHIMPANZEE, wrote GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL, and another book about why societies collapse -- stuff like that. Very respected, very popular, very successful.

Apparently, a hell of a bullshitter, as well. In a NEW YORKER article, Diamond wrote about the desire to seek vengeance, and illustrated his discussion with an account of a Hatfields-and-McCoys thing in Papua New Guinea. The tribes in question were the Handa and the Ombals, and Diamond spun a real cycle-of-violence tale: a pig wrecks one guy's garden; as the pig belonged to a guy of another tribe, the offended party killed a member of said tribe; and then the nephew of the murdered man set about a three-year campaign of war and attempted assassination to get his revenge, which he achieved when his troops manage to paralyze an important guy in the other tribe. Real blood-n-guts stuff. The kicker is that the nephew, a nice guy in all other respects, cheerfully relishes the suffering and paralysis of the guy he selected to pay for his uncle's death.

And none of it is true. The nephew was never a fighter, he wasn't even related to the uncle, no pig ever went into a garden, and when stinkyjournalism.org sent a guy over to Papua New Guinea to check things out, he saw the guy who'd supposedly been paralyzed walking down the road toting a bag of dirt.

The subjects of the article have now sued. Diamond would have gotten away with this, but he made the mistake of using real people's names. He got away with it for a while, because the NEW YORKER is not a big seller in PNG, but once they found out -- man.

Academic/journalistic fraud is weird stuff. The biggest example I know of is a guy named S. Walter Poulshock, who performed the rather remarkable feat of *making up his entire dissertation.* He referred to imaginary primary source documents, letters that didn't exist, that sort of thing. Best part: when it came out, he was about to be granted tenure at Rutgers.
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
Everybody knows who Jared Diamond is. He made his name with THE THIRD CHIMPANZEE, wrote GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL, and another book about why societies collapse -- stuff like that. Very respected, very popular, very successful.

Apparently, a hell of a bullshitter, as well. In a NEW YORKER article, Diamond wrote about the desire to seek vengeance, and illustrated his discussion with an account of a Hatfields-and-McCoys thing in Papua New Guinea. The tribes in question were the Handa and the Ombals, and Diamond spun a real cycle-of-violence tale: a pig wrecks one guy's garden; as the pig belonged to a guy of another tribe, the offended party killed a member of said tribe; and then the nephew of the murdered man set about a three-year campaign of war and attempted assassination to get his revenge, which he achieved when his troops manage to paralyze an important guy in the other tribe. Real blood-n-guts stuff. The kicker is that the nephew, a nice guy in all other respects, cheerfully relishes the suffering and paralysis of the guy he selected to pay for his uncle's death.

And none of it is true. The nephew was never a fighter, he wasn't even related to the uncle, no pig ever went into a garden, and when stinkyjournalism.org sent a guy over to Papua New Guinea to check things out, he saw the guy who'd supposedly been paralyzed walking down the road toting a bag of dirt.

The subjects of the article have now sued. Diamond would have gotten away with this, but he made the mistake of using real people's names. He got away with it for a while, because the NEW YORKER is not a big seller in PNG, but once they found out -- man.

Academic/journalistic fraud is weird stuff. The biggest example I know of is a guy named S. Walter Poulshock, who performed the rather remarkable feat of *making up his entire dissertation.* He referred to imaginary primary source documents, letters that didn't exist, that sort of thing. Best part: when it came out, he was about to be granted tenure at Rutgers.
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
Disney options story in 3...2...1...

SYDNEY (AFP) – A pet dog that fell overboard in rough seas off Australia has been reunited with its owners after surviving alone on an island for four months, reports said.

Sophie Tucker, apparently named after a late US entertainer, fell overboard as Jan Griffith and her family sailed through choppy waters off the northeast Queensland coast in November.

The dog was believed to have drowned and Griffith said the family was devastated.

But out of sight of the family, Sophie Tucker was swimming doggedly and finally made it to St Bees Island, five nautical miles away, and began the sort of life popularised by the TV reality show "Survivor."

She was returned to her family last week when Griffith contacted rangers who had captured a dog that had been living off feral goats on the largely uninhabited island, in the faint hope it might be their long-lost pet.

When the Griffiths met the rangers' boat bringing the dog to the mainland they found that it was indeed Sophie Tucker on board.

"We called the dog and she started whimpering and banging the cage and they let her out and she just about flattened us," Griffith told the national AAP news agency.

"She wriggled around like a mad thing."

Griffith said that when the dog was first spotted on the island she had been in poor condition.

"And then all of a sudden she started to look good and it was when the rangers had found baby goat carcasses so she'd started eating baby goats," she said.

Sophie Tucker, a member of the Australian cattle dog breed, had been quick to readjust to the comforts of home, complete with airconditioning, Griffiths said.

"She surprised us all. She was a house dog and look what she's done, she's swum over five nautical miles, she's managed to live off the land all on her own," Griffiths said.

"We wish she could talk, we truly do."
hradzka: (plane)
Looking at the case of police officers who were murdered in Pittsburgh, I'm noticing some interesting stuff coming out. Richard Poplawski, the perpetrator, allegedly opened fire immediately on officers entering the home he shared with his mother. Reportedly, his dog peed on the carpet, and Poplawski's mother got angry and told him she was going to evict him. The cops came in response to a domestic disturbance call. They'd been out there before on similar calls, so the PD was familiar with the Poplawskis. So it basically began in the same way that most shootings of police officers begin: with a routine call. Most police officers who are killed by gunfire are murdered during a routine traffic stop, when the perpetrator unexpectedly opens fire. That's what Poplawski did.

He had a Kalashnikov of some sort, a handgun of some sort, and what the New York Times describes as a "22 long rifle." .22LR is the name of a cartridge, not a firearm, and you can fire it from handguns or pistols, so your guess is as good as mine on that one. He's reported to have exchanged hundreds of shots with police. That'd be a little surprising. Ammo is hella expensive these days, and most people don't keep vast amounts of it on hand, though Poplawski was reportedly stockpiling. If I had to bet, I would guess that his first murder, as the police were coming in the door, was committed with the handgun. Subsequent murders probably done with the AK. I do wonder, though, if a lot of the rounds he exchanged with the cops after the murders were .22s. Because it's not uncommon in the slightest to buy hundreds of those at a time.

My guess is that the shootings were probably relatively impulse-driven. Example of previous behavior: Poplawski joined the military. Than he decided he missed his girlfriend and wanted to see her. So he deliberately got a dishonorable discharge. Yeah, that's thinking ahead, guy. While the murders were likely not politically motivated, it turns out that Poplawski is a political fanatic and active white supremacist who believes Jews run the country. He posted regularly to the white supremacist Stormfront forums, and had tattoos related to the movement. Also, he had domestic battery charges from roughing up a girlfriend, and was arrested for violating the order of protection she had against him.

Gun owners reading this will have had two alarm buttons go off: what was this guy doing with firearms? The domestic battery stuff and the dishonorable discharge mean that he is legally prohibited from owning guns. Those are two of the questions on ATF Form 4473. Whatever guns this guy had, he had illegally. Be interesting to know how he acquired 'em. If he made a straw purchase, then the guy who made it for him is going up the river, big-time.

Binghamton

Apr. 3rd, 2009 05:41 pm
hradzka: (plane)
More substantive comment after actual information comes out. Right now it's in the early stages, so the media keeps putting out inconsistent reports. He had a rifle; no, he had two handguns; he took hostages for hours; no, he just walked into a room and started firing. Right now, we don't know much about the crime, other than that it was at a civic association building that served lots of immigrants, the dead are in double digits, and the gunman is dead, too.

According to what seem to be fairly stable reports, the gunman was 42-year-old Jiverly Voong, himself an immigrant from Vietnam. Not recently; he was a US citizen and his sister told ABC News that Voong had been in the US for almost thirty years, but ABC also says that she told police her brother had been taking language classes at the center, so I'm not sure what the whole story is there. Voong, who was recently laid off from IBM, is reported to have opened fire on a citizenship class.

My brief comment is that this shooting, coupled with the one in Germany recently, scare me. Because both of those guys are reported to have done things that were -- I hate to use this word -- innovations made by Seung-Hui Cho when he killed over thirty people at Virginia Tech. The German perpetrator, like Cho, had two handguns, one a .22, but he killed plenty of people because he took the care to make sure the people he shot were dead. He didn't just shoot and move on. Voong, for his part, is reported to have *backed his car against the back door of the civic association building,* in order to prevent his victims from fleeing that way. Cho had chained the doors of the building he chose for his rampage.

Historically, mass shooters seem to have taken inspiration from other perpetrators -- in the wake of Kimveer Gill, whose story led journalists to report on the misogynist rampage of Mark Lepine, there were incidents in which the perpetrators targeted women and girls. So they've emulated people whose work struck an emotional chord. What they *haven't* done, by and large, is made careful study of previous incidents to see what tactics resulted in a larger body count. Voong did.
hradzka: (peej reads news)
How is it that I only now learned of the great courage and nobility of Space Bat?

The FOX News article is terrific, and is packed with historic details:

In the hours before Discovery's liftoff, NASA's Final Inspection Team (called the "ICE team") investigated whether the creature would pose a risk to the shuttle if its body impacted the orbiter's sensitive heat shield tiling. Ultimately, NASA officials signed a waiver confirming that the bat was safe to fly with.

"The bat eventually became 'Interim Problem Report 119V-0080' after the ICE team finished their walkdown," the memo said. "Systems Engineering and Integration performed a debris analysis on him and ultimately a Launch Commit Criteria waiver to ICE-01 was written to accept the stowaway."

This isn't the first time a bat has attempted to travel into space. Another bat was seen clinging to the side of the external tank attached to the shuttle Endeavour on its STS-72 flight in 1996. That one maybe have been a bit more cautious, though: It flew away to safety right before launch.

Coincidentally, an astronaut aboard that flight, Koichi Wakata of Japan, also flew on Discovery this week, making him the first spaceflyer to share two rides with bats.
hradzka: (donuts?)
The New York Times magazine has a really interesting story on Shane Battier, an unconventional basketball player, and the analysts figuring out things that matter not so obviously in basketball.

Battier’s game is a weird combination of obvious weaknesses and nearly invisible strengths. When he is on the court, his teammates get better, often a lot better, and his opponents get worse — often a lot worse. He may not grab huge numbers of rebounds, but he has an uncanny ability to improve his teammates’ rebounding. He doesn’t shoot much, but when he does, he takes only the most efficient shots. He also has a knack for getting the ball to teammates who are in a position to do the same, and he commits few turnovers. On defense, although he routinely guards the N.B.A.’s most prolific scorers, he significantly ­reduces their shooting percentages. At the same time he somehow improves the defensive efficiency of his teammates — probably, Morey surmises, by helping them out in all sorts of subtle ways.
hradzka: (plane)
A few years ago, a guy named Muzzamil Hassan formed Bridges TV with the idea of promoting a positive image of Islam. The initial press was positive; the results were, to be charitable, unfortunately mixed. Still, he kept going, as the Bridges TV CEO.

Unfortunately, he didn't work too well on promoting a positive image for himself: his wife recently moved to divorce him and filed for an order of protection. It required him to be out of their house as of last week.

So he cut her head off.

This is, for me, a "holy shit" story: the crime is so appalling that you can't feel anything but horror. But the irony is really disturbing, too. If he'd shot her, hit her on the head with a golf club, the crime would be terrible, but it wouldn't have the same connotations. Because the people most associated with beheadings today, aside from lunatics, are Islamist fucktoons. And when Muzzamil Hassan decided to kill his wife, he picked an Islamist fucktoon way of doing it. Counterproductive, to put it mildly. I have no idea if the man honestly believed in what Bridges TV was ostensibly trying to do, or if he was an Islamist fucktoon all along, but my guess is that Bridges TV is not coming back from this one.

(Bonus: the article has one of the single stupidest quotes I've read this week, courtesy of Erie County DA Frank A. Sedita III: "Obviously, this is the worst form of domestic violence possible." No, Frank, YA THINK?!)
hradzka: (plane)
Pope Benedict has rescinded the excommunication of Richard Williamson, formerly a Catholic bishop. Way formerly. Twenty years ago. Actually, I'm not sure if he is or was really a bishop, as he was excommunicated immediately upon consecration, as was the bishop who consecrated him and three other guys who were consecrated at the same time.

It was an internal Vatican power thing: the reports I've read have not been completely clear, but from what I gather the consecrating bishop, one Marcel Lefebvre, was in a traditionalist split-off group called the Society of St. Pius X, and I guess he decided to make his own bishops in order to boost said group -- without going through the appropriate channels. I don't know if the excommunication being rescinded means they're bishops again, or if they're priests, or just lay Catholics.

Why is Pope Benedict making this move? Well, two reasons. First, Benedict himself is a traditionalist who has some sympathies with folks who, for example, prefer the Latin mass to the vernacular. Second, the Society of St. Pius X has 150,000 members. That's a hundred and fifty thousand more Catholics, if Benedict can reconcile the split.

Nobody who wasn't Catholic would give a rat's ass about this, except for one minor problem: Richard Williamson is a Jew-hating loon who last week gave an interview to Swedish television in which he denied the Holocaust. As you can imagine, we Jews are a little pissed. It's a blow to Catholic-Jewish relations, and it's a real shit sandwich for the Pope. (I actually feel a little for Pope Benedict on this one: Williamson was thrown out for being consecrated in defiance of papal authority, not for being a Jew-hating loon, and on getting back in he immediately sets about making things more difficult for the Pope. Way to get off on the right foot, there, guy.)

Anyway, I heard about that on NPR this morning. But there was something else... )
hradzka: (plane)
Just in case you were sleeping peacefully: an excellent round-up of January 10 anti-Israeli protests that turned nasty.

¤ In London, protesters physically attacked police officers with unrestrained abandon and no fear of arrest;
¤ In Copenhagen, Hamas supporters screamed in public that they want to kill all Jews;
¤ In Calgary, neo-Nazis marched alongside leftists and Muslim extremists, in a grand coalition of anti-Semites;
¤ In Los Angeles, a car full of Israel-supporters barely escaped serious harm when an enraged mob tried to attack them;
¤ In Duisburg (Germany), police broke into a private home and tore down a flag displaying a Star of David, to appease stone-throwing protesters;
¤ In Belfast, an Israel-owned mall kiosk was surrounded and menacingly harrassed;
…to name just a few, as you will see in the reports listed below.


Of these, two are of particular concern to me: the one in Calgary and the one in Los Angeles. And not just because they're near where I live. Neo-Nazis -- seriously, they call themselves the "Aryan Guard" -- showed up at the Calgary demonstration. And they marched. And the organizers let them. That tells me everything I need to know about the people who organized that rally, and I don't expect to ever see them quoted with respect in any mainstream publication. Ahhh, who'm I kidding? Nobody will remember this. Most interesting bit: the "anti-racist" organizations that protested the Aryan Guard when they marched on their own didn't raise one little peep of objection when they joined with this crowd. That tells me something about them, too.

And Los Angeles. There's video of this one. Watch it. After the crowd does some milling and chanting, a car pulls up. The car's occupants have an opposing political view. They've got an Israeli flag in the sunroof. The stoplight changes, so they're stuck in front of the crowd. And the members of the crowd start working themselves up to attack the car. The protest security guy repeatedly heads the most irate one off, thus barely preventing the mob effect. When the light changes, the car peels out. If it were me, I wouldn't have waited.

This protest, incidentally, was organized by the good Communists of International ANSWER, who also ran the protest where an attractive young woman told Jewish counter-protestors to go back to the ovens.

Ignore these people at your peril.

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The collected poems from my descent into madness year spent writing daily poems are now available from Lulu as the cheapest 330-page book they would let me make ($16.20). If that's too pricey, you can also get it from Lulu as a free download, or just click on the "a poem every day" tag to read them here. But if you did buy one, that'd be awesome.

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