Friday, March 13, 2009

Glenn Beck's Daughter

Scott Moss, as a third-generation gun store owner, feels he has his finger on the pulse of the nation. According to Scott, gun sales are skyrocketing because, "people are scared." Do you agree with that? Are the customers in your local gun store lined up three deep at the counter? Or, are these guys exaggerating?

If they're exaggerating, which I feel is a pretty good bet, the question is "why." Would that be to entertain the listeners, or something more like the fear-mongering of recent history? What's your opinion on that?

What do you make of Glenn's story about his daughters? "They both cried," after the shooting lesson. I read elsewhere, since I'd never seen or heard of this Glenn Beck before, that his eldest daughter has cerebral palsy. I wondered if it might have been a bit much to "teach" two girls to shoot when one is severely handicapped and the other is just 17. What do you think? Frankly, to me this guy seems like a bit of a bully. Anybody else see him that way?

Air Soft Guns

Here's an interesting discussion I found about air soft guns. Isn't what Paul Helmke says reasonable? The Brady Campaign does not want to take guns away from people; they're not against the 2nd Amendment. He says common sense dictates that more regulations on toy guns than real ones is absurd.

What's your opinion?

Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative (YCGII)

During the Clinton Administration there was an attempt to address the gun violence in American Cities. It started as a pilot program in Boston but was so successful that it was expanded to 50 other cities nation wide. The ATF was able to trace the history of a certain percentage of crime guns. This obviously provided invaluable information for investigators, especially those interested in identifying "bad apple" gun dealers.

This program was called the Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative (YCGII). Like many another useful program, it reached its peak as Bush took office and thereafter fell by the wayside.

My question is why would anyone object to something like this? Are the legitimate gun owners so afraid that their precious weapons will eventually be taken from them that they oppose even sensible programs like this?

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2004, which The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence fought against, contained a provision requiring the destruction of certain NICS records within 24 hours. This, according to the Bradys, "would result in more criminals, terrorists, and other prohibited purchasers with guns and would undermine public safety." You know how they like to tack special provisions on to large bills and sort-of slip them in.

From the Brady site:
The snipers who terrorized Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. obtained the assault rifle used in their sniper attacks from a Tacoma, Washington gun store called Bull's Eye Shooter Supply. After the sniper suspects were apprehended and the gun was recovered and traced, Bull's Eye claimed to have no record of selling the gun, and did not even know it was missing until the shooting spree was over. The snipers' gun was just one of more than 238 firearms "missing" from Bull's Eye's inventory during the previous three years.

The owner of Bull's Eye, Brian Borgelt lost his FFL (Federal Firearms License), so what did he do? He transferred ownership to his friend and continued to run the place. Does anyone feel he's not partly responsible for the shooting spree? Is there anyone who is so focused on the individual responsibility of the two convicted shooters that they deny the guilt of Borgelt? For me it's a no-brainer. Brian Borgelt is probably a criminal of the first order who sells guns under the table. Either that or he's one of the stupidest businessmen around. He claimed these guns were stolen from his inventory.

After years of legal battles, he agreed to an out-of-court US$2.5 million settlement which would presumably go to the relatives of the dead victims.

This is why I blame gun owners: for opposing programs like the Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative (YCGII), for blocking every effort at closing the so-called gun show loophole, for claiming to have Divine permission and calling it the 2nd Amendment, for turning a blind eye on gun dealers like Borgelt, for insisting that more guns is the solution and not the problem, for continuing to say gun availability has nothing to do with it, and most of all, for questioning my sincerity when I say these things and for relegating me to the ranks of the ignorant or the mendacious.

All comments are welcome.

Anna Nicole Smith

The Miami Herald reports on the indictment of the companion and doctor of the late Anna Nicole Smith.
Anna Nicole Smith's boyfriend Howard K. Stern and two doctors were charged Thursday with giving thousands of prescription drugs to the former Playboy Playmate in the years leading up to her fatal drug overdose in 2007.

Stern and doctors Sandeep Kapoor and Khristine Eroshevich were each charged with three felony counts of conspiracy and several other charges of fraudulent prescriptions. Prosecutors said the doctors gave the drugs - including opiates and sedatives - to Stern, who then gave them to Smith.

The prescriptions were issued between June 2004 and January 2007, just weeks before Smith's death.

Everyone probably remembers who Anna Nicole is from the time of her headline-grabbing inheritance case after the death of her billionaire husband, J. Howard Marshall. Just in case, you can find all those gory details as well as those of her titillating modelling career on Wikipedia.

What I find interesting in this story is the question of personal responsibility. If she was an adult person, who took drugs willingly, and that caused her death, how can the boyfriend and the doctors be held responsible? I realize they're not being charged with murder or even manslaughter, but I take that to be only a technicality. The charges of fraudulent prescriptions are probably the best the government can do in a case where these people are being blamed for her death. Do you agree with that analysis?

Documents obtained by The Associated Press after Smith's death showed Eroshevich authorized all 11 prescription medications found in the model's hotel room the day she died. Most of the drugs were prescribed in the name of Stern, her lawyer-turned-companion, and none were prescribed in Smith's own name.

The quantity was staggering. More than 600 pills - including about 450 muscle relaxants - were missing from prescriptions that were no more than five weeks old. Ultimately, it was a syrup - the powerful sleeping aid chloral hydrate - blamed with tipping the balance in the toxic mix of drugs and causing her death.

It sounds to me like they were lucky to be cleared of more serious criminal charges at the time of her death. What's your opinion? Is Anna Nicole Smith an example of a person with diminished capacity? Was her tremendous pill addiction such that she was no longer fully responsible for her actions, in this case, actions which resulted in her own death? Would that cast some of the burden on those around her? I say yes.

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I Will Never Love You More - Soko

I'll bet Microdot knows Soko. (via Skippy)

R. Gil Kerlikowske, New Drug Czar

The Washington Post reports on the appointment of the new Drug Czar. Seattle Police Chief R. Gil Kerlikowske will head the Office of National Drug Control Policy. In a clear departure from the Bush Administration's approach, treatment instead of incarceration will be part of the new plan.

Chief Kerlikowske said "it's an incredibly complex problem." Formerly the focus was on cutting the supply of illicit drugs from foreign countries; now it will be on curbing drug use in communities across the United States.
"The success of our efforts to reduce the flow of drugs is largely dependent on our ability to reduce demand for them," Kerlikowske said yesterday at a ceremony attended by his former law enforcement colleagues. "Our nation's drug problem is one of human suffering, and as a police officer but also in my own family, I have experienced the effects that drugs can have."

Kerlikowske's adult stepson, Jeffrey, has been arrested in the past on drug charges, an issue that the police chief referenced in his remarks yesterday.

During the campaign, President Obama promised to offer first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentences in a drug rehabilitation center rather than in prison. With this initiative, the administration will be embracing an idea that has broad support in theory but has yet to be widely practiced. What do you think? Is this part of the solution? Certainly this would ease the prison overpopulation problem, but would it produce better results with regards to reducing the demand for drugs in America?

What about the question of personal responsibility? Isn't a lot of this policy based upon the idea that drug addicts are less culpable for their actions simply because they're addicted? Is that a problem? Does it undermine the foundation of holding people to a standard of personal behaviour? If the addict gets a break, say treatment instead of prison, does that somehow harm the non-addicted offender who has to do jail time? Is that what the responsibility demanders are upset about, that it's not fair?

What's your opinion?

Got to. This America, Man

Thanks to Kottke and John Cole.

Suspect: I’m sayin’, every Friday night in an alley behind the Cut Rate, we rollin’ bones, you know? I mean all them boys, we roll til late.
McNulty: Alley crap game, right?
Suspect: Like every time, Snot, he’d fade a few shooters, play it out til the pot’s deep. Snatch and run.
McNulty: What, every time?
Suspect: Couldn’t help hisself.
McNulty: Let me understand you. Every Friday night, you and your boys are shootin’ craps, right? And every Friday night, your pal Snot Boogie… he’d wait til there’s cash on the ground and he’d grab it and run away? You let him do that?
Suspect: We’d catch him and beat his ass but ain’t nobody never go past that.
McNulty: I gotta ask you: if every time Snot Boogie would grab the money and run away… why’d you even let him in the game?
Suspect: What?
McNulty: Well, if Snot Boogie always stole the money, why’d you let him play?
Suspect: Got to. This America, man.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

School Shooting in Germany

CNN reports on the terrible school shooting that happened this morning in Germany.

A gunman dressed in military gear killed 16 people Wednesday in a shooting spree in Germany before he was shot dead by police, police spokesman Rainer Kloeller told CNN.

Tim Kretschmer, 17, began his rampage at a school where he used to be a student in Winnenden, a small town about 20 kilometers (12 miles) northeast of Stuttgart.

Three teachers and 10 students were killed at the Albertville-Realschule Winnenden school in the shooting, which began around 9:45 a.m.

On his way out of the school, the gunman killed a person who was working in a hospital nearby, then hijacked a car, taking the driver hostage.

One thing that immediately comes to mind is these incidents aren't limited to the United States. In fact, we've discussed shootings before which took place in Europe. In all these cases I get the impression the disturbed young men in Finland and Germany are influenced by America, by the films, by the news, by the culture. What do you think? Does that make sense to you?

Unlike many of these reports, this article mentioned the provenance of the gun.

Police raided his parents' home later and found they had a collection of of 14 guns.

The pistol used in the killing was part of the father's collection, authorities said. The guns were legally owner by the father who is a member of a gun club. German gun laws are fairly restrictive and require owners to control access to them. Do you think the gun control issue is taken seriously enough?

Of course this reminds me of a big discussion we had a few months ago in which I partly blamed the father of a teenaged boy for the fact that the boy stole three guns from his father. The reaction was overwhelmingly in support of the poor gun owner who wasn't quite up to the task of securing his guns safely and preventing his 15-year-old from taking them.

I suppose this is more or less what happened in Germany this morning. The 17-year-old psycho took a gun from his dad's collection. He then proceeds to kill a bunch of people. Does the dad bear some of the responsibility for this bloody mess? Do gun owners in general? I say yes to both propositions.

What's your opinion? What conclusions can be drawn from the fact that incidents like this happen also in Europe?

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Death By the Barrel

Craig A. Lambert wrote an article entitled Death by the Barrel which appeared in the September 2004 edition of the Harvard Magazine. Although a bit outdated, I believe he makes several interesting points in reviewing the book by Professor David Hemenway.
Hemenway’s new book, Private Guns, Public Health (University of Michigan Press), which takes an original approach to an old problem by applying a scientific perspective to firearms. Hemenway, who directs the Harvard Injury Control Research Center at the School of Public Health (, summarizes and interprets findings from hundreds of surveys and from epidemiological and field studies to deliver on the book’s subtitle: A Dramatic New Plan for Ending America’s Epidemic of Gun Violence.

"The gun-control debate often makes it look like there are only two options: either take away people’s guns, or not," he says. "That’s not it at all. This is more like a harm-reduction strategy. Recognize that there are a lot of guns out there, and that reasonable gun policies can minimize the harm that comes from them."

In his book, he points out the fascinating idea that the United States is not a particularly violent society. Often comparisons are misleading, for example, comparing America to Colombia, Mexico, and Estonia makes America appear a truly peaceable kingdom. A more relevant comparison is against other high-income, industrialized nations. The percentage of the U.S. population victimized in 2000 by crimes like assault, car theft, burglary, robbery, and sexual incidents is about average for 17 industrialized countries, and lower on many indices than Canada, Australia, or New Zealand.

"The only thing that jumps out is lethal violence," Hemenway says. Violence is not "as American as cherry pie," but American violence does tend to end in death. The reason, plain and simple, is guns. We own more guns per capita than any other high-income country—maybe even more than one gun for every man, woman, and child in the country. A 1994 survey numbered the U.S. gun supply at more than 200 million in a population then numbered at 262 million, and currently about 35 percent of American households have guns.

He agrees with the pro-gun community in saying that guns don’t induce people to commit crimes. "What guns do is make crimes lethal," says Hemenway. They also make suicide attempts lethal: about 60 percent of suicides in America involve guns. "If you try to kill yourself with drugs, there’s a 2 to 3 percent chance of dying," he explains. "With guns, the chance is 90 percent."

To me that's an impressive comparison, successful suicides are 3% with drugs, 90% with a gun. Hemenway goes on to shed some light on the fallacy of comparing guns with cars, something I've attempted myself. Naturally, the PhD from Harvard does a better job of it.

Gun deaths fall into three categories: homicides, suicides, and accidental killings. In 2001, about 30,000 people died from gunfire in the United States. Set this against the 43,000 annual deaths from motor-vehicle accidents to recognize what startling carnage comes out of a barrel. The comparison is especially telling because cars "are a way of life," as Hemenway explains. "People use cars all day, every day—and ‘motor vehicles’ include trucks. How many of us use guns?"

Another very fascinating angle Hemenway comes up with is that all the attention on so-called assault weapons may very well serve the purposes of the pro-gun folks.
Though assault weapons have attracted lots of publicity from Hollywood and Washington, and NRA stands for National Rifle Association, these facts mask the reality of the gun problem, which centers on pistols. "Handguns are the crime guns," Hemenway says. "They are the ones you can conceal, the guns you take to go rob somebody. You don’t mug people at rifle-point."

And America is awash in handguns. Canada, for example, has almost as many guns per capita as the United States, but Americans own far more pistols. "Where do Canadian criminals, and Mexican criminals, get their handguns?" asks Hemenway. "From the United States." Gang members in Boston and New York get their handguns from other states with permissive gun laws; the firearms flow freely across state borders. Interstate 95, which runs from Florida to New England, even has a nickname among gun-runners: "the Iron Pipeline."

What's your opinion? Do you think the excessive attention paid to military style assault rifles has distracted us from the real problem? Does that make sense? What do you think Prof. Hemenway would suggest as a solution? Do you believe him when he says he's interested in reasonable gun policies which will minimize the harm that comes from guns? Or do you think all anti-gun talk leads to banning?

Please leave a comment.

10 Dead in Alabama Shooting

CNN carried the story including this Anderson Cooper telephone interview with a spokesman for the Alabama State Troopers.

It sounds eerily familiar, doesn't it. This might turn out like the disgruntled ex-employee who went off the deep end in L.A. over being fired. At that time we said we've probably not seen the last of this, what with the economy the way it is. In this case we just don't know yet; it's too early.

What we do know is that he had some pretty serious firepower.
The gunman ended up at the Reliable Metal Products plant in Geneva, where police rammed his vehicle, forcing him to get out. He fired a 30-round burst with what appeared to be an M16, grazing Police Chief Frankie Lindsey with a bullet.

"Then the subject entered the business. Within minutes, shots were heard. ... Law enforcement officers found him dead,"

Earlier in the CNN report they referred to the murder weapon as a "semi-automatic." Also the spokesman for the State Police on the video said that. But, "[h]e fired a 30-round burst with what appeared to be an M16," sounds to me like fully-automatic. What do you think? Aren't the M16s made with a switch that toggles between semi- and fully-automatic?

I often seem to be repeating myself, but I think it bears repeating. The availability of the gun often plays a part in these tragedies. Guns like this, which are primarily made for killing humans, are too accessible, in my opinion. What's your thought?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Juárez Mexico, the Most Violent City

The Miami Herald reports this story with an interesting headline, "Drug war has Juárez, Mexico, on verge of humanitarian crisis." That sounds pretty bad.
In 2008, more than 1,600 people were killed in Juárez in drug-related violence, often assassinations carried out in daylight. Some 6,000 people died in drug-related violence across Mexico last year. More than 100 people have been killed so far this year in Juárez, including at least six policemen kidnapped from their police post, their heads showing up a few days later dropped off at the police station.

Recently, the city's police chief was forced to step down after criminal gangs threatened to kill at least one officer every 48 hours unless Chief Roberto Orduña left his post. To prove their point, gunmen left signs on the slain bodies of a police officer and a jail guard. Days later, gunmen in two cars fired high-powered weapons at a convoy carrying Gov. José Reyes Baeza, killing a body guard and injuring two agents.

The answer has been for the Mexican Army to deploy about 2,500 soldiers in Juárez last spring. Another 5,000 soldiers were deployed last month to take charge of the police department. There have been mixed reports about how well this is working.

Much of the bloodshed is being orchestrated by Joaquin 'Shorty' Guzman, one of the world's most wanted men, who leads a cartel from the Pacific-coast state of Sinaloa. Guzman has already turned his homeland into his own personal fiefdom.

Blamed for the deaths of 600 people already this year, the drugs baron has become enraged by the Mexican government's attempts to curtail his operations.

In one recent shoot-out, he exacted revenge by killing seven federal agents and beheading them. Armed with AK-47 assault rifles - known in Mexico as cuernos de chivo (goat's horns) due to their curved magazines - they also pumped more than 100 rounds into two police officers who had the temerity to stop one of their men.

Last year, Caracas Venezuela was the most violent city in the world; perhaps Juarez is vying for that honor in 2009. What do you think? Even at this terrible pace, can Juarez reach the incredible murder rate of Caracas, 130 per 100,000?

Do you think it's possible that most of the guns used in these drug wars are coming from the United States, as has been reported? It seems to me they'd require larger shipments than could be smuggled across the border from the States a few at a time. What do you think?

In the big picture, isn't it the demand for drugs in the U.S. that's driving all of this? Isn't the failed "war on drugs" responsible then for all of this violence? Do you think the Obama Administration will be able to do something about that? Should Obama take this seriously given all the other problems, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy, etc.?

I'm not sure who's doing the warning here, but this statement comes from the UK's Daily Mail.
Barack Obama has been warned that Mexico's drugs lords now pose as big a threat to U.S. national security as Islamic insurgents. The U.S. is now planning to deploy the military to the border to try to contain the bloodshed.

What's your opinion?

Monday, March 9, 2009

World Builder

(via Kottke via Waxy)

World Builder from Bruce Branit on Vimeo.

Church Shooting in Illinois

CNN reports on the tragic church shooting which took place yesterday in Maryville, Illinois, which left the pastor dead and three others wounded, including the shooter.
The pastor of a Maryville, Illinois, church was shot to death during a service Sunday in front of horrified parishioners who then tackled the gunman, state police said.

Fred Winters, the pastor of the First Baptist Church, was shot and killed during the 8 a.m. service, and the attacker and two parishioners suffered knife wounds in the attack, authorities said.

The gunman entered during the service and walked up to the pulpit.

Winters and the gunman apparently exchanged words before the 27-year-old man fired four shots, hitting the pastor's Bible and then the pastor.

This is the first major incident of its kind since Jim Adkisson killed two and wounded six in the Knoxville Tennessee Unitarian Church. In the Tennessee case, Adkisson pleaded guilty last month in a deal that allowed him to avoid the death penalty and will face life in prison without parole.

The motive in the more recent killing is unclear at this point. You'll remember that Adkisson was driven by an obsessive hatred of liberals. Sometime after the Tennessee killings, the State of Arkansas erupted into a legal battle over whether parishioners should be allowed to carry guns in church. Apparently in that state it had been forbidden. In Illinois, I've been told recently, there are much stricter regulations about carrying guns anywhere, not just in church.

Do you think if the other parishioners had been armed they would have been able to prevent this tragedy? I don't see how? Perhaps arming the church-goers, or the teachers for that matter, might help in very limited circumstances. They might be able to prevent a drawn-out stand off with hostages and force a quicker bloodbath, but I agree with Paul Helme, who said on one of our recent videos, these killers are looking to get killed, they're not afraid of death nor are they deterred by armed security. What's your opinion?

What do you think about the difference between the immediate reaction of the parishioners who subdued the gunman in this case and the inaction on the part of the passengers on the bus with the Canadian Cannibal? What could account for such a difference?

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Star Trek - The Menagerie

Gene Roddenberry wrote a masterpiece entitled The Menagerie. This very early Star Trek episode, which first aired in November 1966 as the only two-part one ever made, shows why the series was destined to become a never-ending success. There are so many great moments in this story, the Tolosian power of illusion, Spock's loyalty to Pike, Bones sticking up for Spock, the fact that Kirk's predecessor, Pike, was so much like him, but nothing is as unforgettable as the Green Orion Slave Girl.

Star Trek XI will be released in May 2009.

Scott Lewis vs. Paul Helmke

Scott Lewis of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus debates Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign. Both made good points, I thought. Helmke said putting more guns on college campuses will just add to the violence, which, having some knowledge of the frat house and college dorm atmosphere, I find hard to dasagree with. Lewis countered that with fact that in Colorado and Utah there has been concealed carry on college campuses with not one single problem.

Jamie Colby, the Fox Newsperson, asked Scott Lewis about the fact that the Northern Illinois shooter had had a permit. Lewis seemed to be quibbling when he pointed out that he didn't have a concealed carry permit only the type required to purchase the gun legally.

Helmke made a nice clarification, without accusing anyone of lying. On the SCCC web site apparrently it says concealed carry permit holders are five times less likely to commit violent crimes. Most States, Helmke pointed out, won't release the information of who has a concealed carry permit so it's not possible to come up with any statistics to prove that they're not committing the same crimes as everybody else.

Here's the video. Please feel free to comment.

The Bradys and a Million Moms

Some gun enthusiasts say every one of these people is either ignorant or lying. What do you think?