Saturday, April 4, 2009

Arming-Up for the Revolution

Charles M. Blow wrote a wonderful opinion piece for the New York Times, in which he describes the increasing response on the part of the gun community to arm-up. Feulling this movement according to Mr. Blow are some of our favorite characters, Chuck Norris, Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck. (thanks for the tip George)

The statistics are fascinating.

According to the F.B.I., there have been 1.2 million more requests for background checks of potential gun buyers from November to February than there were in the same four months last year. That’s 5.5 million requests altogether over that period.

One concern is that the same talk on the part of the conserviative pundits which inspires these unprecedented gun purchases, might inspire the Timothy McVeigh types to take drastic action. This we've discussed before during the time of the Tenessee shooting. Jim Adkisson's chilling manifesto provided concrete evidence of what the conservative rhetoric can lead to.

The following video which was linked in the NYT article brings up some interesting points.

Do you think it's inciteful and irresponsible for Glenn Beck to discuss things like FEMA consentration camps? What do you think about Bill Maher's point that we live in a free-speech country where people can say what they like, but this is still irresponsible talk?

Do you think FOX News runs these programs as a smokescreen to deflect attention from the real issues? What about the idea that many of these conservatives, starting with Rupert Murdock himself, are just in it for the money, that they'd change sides to make more? Is that a fair description of the right?

What are your thoughts?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Binghamton NY - 12 Dead in Murder / Suicide

The New York Times reports on the rampage murder / suicide that took place in the Binghamton Immigration Services Center, where at least 12 people were killed.

According to several news reports, the police said the 42-year-old gunman then killed himself with a bullet to the head.

“While the situation is still developing and details are being gathered, we do know that a gunman entered the American Civic Association in Binghamton this morning and that there are fatalities,” Governor Paterson said in a statement Friday afternoon.

I'm sure sensible people everywhere will recognize that this has nothing to do with the availability of guns. This man certainly could have killed those 12 people and himself using any number of potentially dangerous implements. The fact is though, just like this one the other day and this one the day before that, he used a gun.

They're happening now faster than I can write about them.

What's your opinion? Do you buy that pro-gun idea that the gun is an inanimate object and the problem is the man who uses it wrongly? What about Vice-President Biden's ominous comments? Ominous for the gun lovers, I'd say.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to deal with this terrible, terrible violence,” Mr. Biden said.

What's your opinion? Please feel free to leave a comment.

Tasered to Death In Florida

The Miami Herald reports on the tragic death of a Broward County man who was tasered for resisting arrest.

A Parkland man who was Tasered on Tuesday during a scuffle with Broward sheriff's deputies in front of the Sawgrass Infiniti car dealership in Tamarac has died in the hospital, according to authorities.

The man, identified as John J. Meier Jr., 48, had been running in and out of traffic on West Commercial Boulevard while wearing only a pair of shorts. He was violently resisting arrest when he was Tasered, according to BSO spokesman Jim Leljedal.

One of the problems with tasers is that they invite the trigger-happy tendencies of the policemen who carry them. What better toy could the sadistic power-drunk law enforcer have on his utility belt than this one? In most cases, it's an incredibly effective torture device that leaves no discernible permanent damage. But, not this time. In fact the Broward County Sheriff's office is no stranger to this type of tragedy.

Tuesday's incident, the third death of a Taser victim in BSO custody since the agency instituted the weapon, may have been fueled by drugs, Leljedal said.

An investigator with the Broward Medical Examiner's Office declined to discuss an autopsy performed Wednesday.

Leljedal said the autopsy showed no trauma or injuries other than minor scratches and Taser marks on Meier's right side.

His death appears to have been caused by cocaine toxicity or excited delirium, though a toxicology test has not been finalized, Leljedal said.

Does the man's toxicity level really have anything to do with it? What do you think? Aren't most suspects who receive a shot of the old taser under the influence? Is that supposed to be some kind of surprising revelation explaining the death?

Do you think the cops tend to misuse the taser? We've all seen too many reports like this. Do you think all these people would have been shot dead with the policemen's service weapons if tasers had not been available? Is that the idea? Are they killing fewer thanks to the taser?

What's you opinion? Please leave a comment.

Cool Building

The Miami Herald has the story of the Bacardi Headquarters on Biscayne Blvd.

Miami is moving to designate the famed, mural-adorned Bacardi headquarters on Biscayne Boulevard as historic, an action that would bar demolition or alteration of the landmark blue-and-white tiled tower and its square-annex companion.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Viva La Liberta!

Unless you're already an opera fan, it may be difficult to watch the whole thing. The subtitles might help. But, I can assure you, in this short 8-minute piece there is absolutely everything from murder and vengeance to rousing calls for freedom. There's that strange religiosity on the part of the vengeance seekers, asking God to bless their efforts. There's the famous seduction on the part of the protagonist as well as its associated infidelity and jealousy. At the 6-minute mark begins one of the greatest ensemble numbers in all of opera. It was written by Mozart and his librettist Da Ponte during the period leading up to the French Revolution. "Viva La Liberta!" which they translate as "Let Freedom Reign," is repeated about fifteen times.

Now, that's a timeless political message. What do you think?


The New York Times reports on a new technology that will replace the little yellow post-its, which I and everyone I know have become quite dependent upon.

In a nutshell, Reqall is an effortless personal reminder system. You speed-dial its toll-free number (888-9REQALL) and dictate whatever it is you want to remember.

You can also create these reminders by e-mail, by typing them into a Firefox plug-in, or even by typing them into an instant-message program once you’ve set up Reqall as a buddy. But unless you live at your computer, using the cellphone is the real killer app.

That’s it. You go through your life, dictating these little tidbits that would ordinarily be relegated to scraps of paper or the back of your mind — and therefore, probably, lost.

Reqall transcribes your utterances into text and collates them at You can also have them sent to you by e-mail or as text messages to your cellphone.

If your reminder included a date or time, Reqall recognizes it as a calendar event. It can shoot a reminder to your cellphone 30 minutes in advance.

I usually get onto these things five years after everyone else, but this one sounds good. Part of my reluctance, I think, is that I hate to give up what I'm familiar with and risk not being able to fully use the replacement. Of course, that's increased by my tendency to not read the instructions. The famous advice, "When all else fails, read the instructions," was written for me.

The NYT article goes on to describe the pro version of Reqall, with a few more sophisticated features, the GPS tracking device that can actually prioritize your tasks based upon your current location. It costs very little, $3 per month, they said. I found that a bit surprising. I thought the whole idea in this business was to get 10 million users and sell the software to Google. But, what do I know.

What's your opinion? Could a gadget like this replace the ubiquitous post-it slips? Would you use one? Is the technology going too far? I've already got more beepers and remote controls and cell phones and other devises than I have time to use. Do you think that's something to be worried about or embraced?

Please leave a comment.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Another California Family Slaughtered

CNN reports on what's becoming daily fare on the news waves.

Devan Kalathat, 42, shot his family Sunday night at his Santa Clara townhouse, killing two adults and three children.

Kalathat killed his 11-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. He killed his brother-in-law, sister-in-law and their 11-month-old daughter.

Kalathat's 34-year-old wife, at least so far has survived the attack but sustained multiple gunshot wounds and remains in critical condition.

"Family dynamics and personal relationships may have played a factor," Cooke told reporters Tuesday. He said Kalathat was employed as an engineer and nothing indicated he was facing "layoff or financial crisis."

Investigators believe Kalathat used two .45-caliber semi-automatic pistols, both of which he owned.

Cooke said Kalathat bought one of the pistols in February and the other nearly two weeks ago -- roughly the same time his wife's brother, Poothemkandi, arrived in California from India.

Often I hear from the gun crowd that stories like this prove that the gun control laws, of which California has the best, do not work. I say two things to that. One, it might be valid if a passport and strip search were required to travel from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. In Nevada there are among the softest gun laws in the country and it's an afternoon's drive from most of California. And two, If this Indian man was so easily able to buy guns in his home state of California, maybe the gun laws they do have are not enough.

Of course, all my ideas are based upon the much debated idea of a significant and unstoppable "gun flow." My strongest contention is that guns move from the good guys to the bad guys, as in the case of the Marshall brothers last week who had their 10 weapons stolen by escaped convicts. And, as if that weren't enough, some of the good guys themselves move over to the dark side, as in this case in California and others we've recently discussed, like this one.

The other necessary presupposition to understand my ideas is that gun availability plays a factor. A large percentage of murders and suicides are done in the heat of the moment. If guns are not available in that moment, chances are there would be less damage. When you multiply that by the staggering numbers of incidents, it's clear that the availability of weapons plays a significant part.

What's your opinion? Do you think "gun flow" either does not exist or the minimal percentages are a write-off? Do you think the theory that gun availability plays a part in the problem of gun violence is a ploy on the part of the gun control folks? Or, do you agree with me on these two ideas?

Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ronald Reagan 28 Years Ago

Yesterday was the 28th anniversary of the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. Also shot in the attempt were Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy, District of Columbia police officer Thomas Delahanty, and President Reagan's Press Secretary, James S. Brady. Fortunately all four survived. Jim Brady suffered the most serious damage, but out of this dramatic incident came the Brady Law, enacted under President Bill Clinton 13 years after the shooting.

The Brady Law requires criminal and mental health background checks for gun purchasers at Federally licensed gun dealers. Since the law took effect in 1994, over 1.6 million dangerous people have been denied gun purchases at the point of sale.

My hat comes off to the folks over at the Brady Blog, who confront incredible resistance in order to carry their message of hope for a safer America. This resistance comes in many guises, not the least of which is the continual accusation on the part of pro gun folks that the Bradys are less than sincere, that they have ulterior motives, more sinister motives. It boggles the mind that anyone could find fault with an organization that can claim 1.6 million gun purchases denied due to their background checks.

What's your opinion? Do you remember those dramatic hours of Reagan's shooting? Do you think there might have been other Hinckleys among those 1.6 million? Do you think there are too many guns in the United States?

$2.6 Million for Wrongful Incarceration

At first glance it seems like a lot. But, after spending 14 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit, Olmedo Hidalgo may not agree with that. The New York Times has the report.
New York City and State have agreed to pay $2.6 million to a man who served almost 14 years in prison before he was cleared in the 1990 Palladium nightclub shooting that left a bouncer dead, the man’s lawyer said on Monday.

The city will pay $2 million to the man, Olmedo Hidalgo, to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit he filed against the Manhattan district attorney’s office, the Police Department and other defendants, said the lawyer, Irving Cohen.

He said that the state would pay an additional $625,000 to resolve a case filed in the Court of Claims.

The District Attorney, Mr. Morgenthau defended his office’s actions in the case, saying the original convictions were based on “substantial evidence, including multiple eyewitness identifications and a confession.”

Mr. Hidalgo’s lawsuit against the city, charged that despite “clear-cut proof” that he was not guilty, the district attorney’s office “continued to dig in its heels until it had no choice — in light of the overwhelming factual support of Mr. Hidalgo’s innocence — but to consent to vacate his conviction and dismissal of his indictment.”

What Morgenthau didn't say in his statement was that there was another confession by, as it turned out, the real killer. That, along with other questions, might indicate that the case should never have ended in a conviction in the first place.

A while back when we discussed the Joshua Kezer case, we talked about the problem of over-zealous prosecutors who bend the rules. For me it's a fascinating question: whether these guys do it in a sincere attempt to further justice or if they simply become so ruthlessly competitive that they lose sight of truth and justice.

What category do you put Morgenthau in? Is it excusable that overturning a wrongful conviction can take years? Do you see this as a total disregard of the prisoner's rights?

What about the amount of the settlement? Wouldn't it exacerbate the economic crisis if too many of these cases came to light? Is it right for wronged prisoners to receive such windfall payouts? What do you think?

Please leave a comment.

Monday, March 30, 2009

North Carolina Shooting - Eight Dead reports the local news in and around Raleigh North Carolina. Today it's bad news.
A lone gunman burst into a North Carolina nursing home Sunday morning and started "shooting everything," barging into the rooms of terrified patients, sparing some from his rampage without explanation while killing seven residents and a nurse caring for them.

Authorities said Robert Stewart also wounded three others, including the Carthage police officer who confronted him in a hallway of Pinelake Health and Rehab and stopped the brutal attack.

The local report includes some videos which give a good feel for the place: a small town about an hour from Raleigh. The police chief said it's a small town based on faith and faith will get them through. He fielded one question from the journalists about the weapons used, but naturally declined to comment, the investigation being open.
A witness told CNN affiliate WRAL that Stewart was armed with a rifle, a shotgun and other weapons.

That's quite a frightening sight, more weapons than he has hands to hold them. But what about motive? The wife had some interesting comments on that.

Authorities searched Stewart's home, 2530 Glendon Carthage Road in Carthage, Sunday night. While they declined to comment on a possible motive, Stewart's ex-wife said he had violent tendencies. Sue Griffin said she was married to Stewart for 15 years.

“He would get mad because of things that didn't go his way. He never really hurt me, but he would get mad and blow up,” Griffin said.

The pro-gun folks keep talking about how ridiculous it would be to "infringe" the rights of so many in order to limit the damage done by so few. The question keeps getting back to percentages. They often say it's only 1% causing problems. I seriously doubt it's that small, but does the fact that gun enthusiasts make statements like that indicate that there is a threshold beyond which even they would agree to stricter gun control?

I can answer that. No, the answer is no. There is no percentage of violent or criminal gun abuse which would make the gun rights people agree to stricter controls, at least none of the gun guys I know would ever agree to such a thing. What say ye?

My own opinion is there are too many guns out there and too often some raging maniac has such easy availability to those guns that he does serious damage, like Mr. Stewart did yesterday in North Carolina. My contention is in some of these cases, had the availability been more difficult, no damage would have been done at all. Reducing the total number of guns, even though it would significantly inconvenience some people, would go a long way in correcting this situation.

What's your opinion? Have you noticed an increase in these stories lately? Is it the economy that's triggering these people, do you think?

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Italy Makes the International News

First, the Pope has to be mentioned. His insensitive and politically incorrect comments about condoms have been daily fare for the last ten days. The latest is the Facebook Condom Campaign. Pretty funny stuff, if it weren't so sad and serious.

Next we have Foxy Knoxy. She too has been big news lately. Here in Italy the Perugia murder case has often been the number one story on the TV news since the grisly events took place in 2007. Amanda Knox is back in court these days and therefore back in the news.

But, the one that made me really notice, is on CNN today. They're calling him the "Italian Fritzl."
Police in Italy say they have arrested a grandfather and his son for allegedly sexually abusing the elder man's daughter for more than a 25 years, in a case likened to Austria's Josef Fritzl.

The 41-year-old son, identified by police only by the pseudonym Giovanni, was arrested February 16; his 64-year-old father was arrested March 16, Turin Police Inspector Iolanda Seri told CNN Saturday.

Both men were imprisoned, and were charged with sexual abuse of their daughter and sister, who is now 34 and has been identified by the pseudonym Laura. Both men have denied wrongdoing.

Giovanni is also charged with sexually abusing the eldest of his own four daughters, who are aged 21, 20, 11 and 6, Seri said.

What do you make of the Pope's comments? Couldn't it be said that the Catholic Church has always been perfectly consistent in its teachings on birth control and the indissolubility of marriage? Could his recent comments be nothing more than a continuation of that? Isn't there something to be said for being consistent in one's position? Doesn't that in itself engender respect? What's your opinion?

What do you think about Amanda Knox? Is it conceivable that such an innocent looking young girl could have been involved in those deadly sex-games that supposedly went on in Perugia? Do you think this is just another case of a study abroad student who got hooked up with the wrong crowd? Or do you think the Italian commentators might be right that it was she who corrupted the innocent but older Italian boy?

And finally, what do you make of the fact that there's another case like Josef Fritzl? Does that mean there are many of these happening all over the place and finally they're coming to light? I personally cannot understand incest. A lot of the other things we discuss, the criminal and moral deviations, I can understand, but incest leaves me at a loss. Are there any incest apologists out there who might anonymously enlighten us?

But, these Fritzl-type characters are more than incest guys, aren't they? There's sadism and big-time control going on there too, don't you think?

Please leave a comment.