Saturday, May 30, 2009

100 Great Movie Lines

Thanks to Skippy.

Phil Spector - You Won't See Him No More

Yahoo News reports on the sentencing of Phil Spector, 19 years to life.

Phil Spector was sentenced Friday to 19 years to life in prison for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, who was shot through the mouth in the music producer's home six years ago.

Spector, 69, looked straight forward and showed no emotion as Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler ordered a term of 15 years to life for second-degree murder plus four years for personal use of a gun.

Here we discussed it before. What came out in the trial was that the famous music mogul was not the nicest guy in the world, especially with women. My only question is how common is this. Gun owners continually insist they have nothing to do with the criminal actions of others, but can they insist such a thing? What about times, like this perhaps, where the criminal actions are undertaken by one of them? Does that individual suddenly belong to a different group, a different demographic?

It sounds like Phil Spector was a complete maniac with guns, but what about all those partial maniacs?

Much of the case hinged on the testimony of five women from Spector's past who said he threatened them with guns when they tried to leave his presence. The parallels with the night Clarkson died were chilling even if the stories were very old — 31 years in one instance.

I would guess the "partial maniacs" number in the millions. Those are the guys who don't act completely responsibly with their guns, whether they appear on the spectrum near Phil or on the milder end, maybe nothing more that verbal threats to use the weapon, or drinking too much while the guns are within reach. It's definitely a problem, albeit a difficult to quantify one.

What always amazes me though, is how the guys who claim to be responsible, take this kind of talk so personally, as if it applied to them. Why would a responsible, law-abiding gun owner make excuses for or minimize the numbers of these types I call "maniacs?" I repeat to those who take it all so personally, "if the shoe fits, wear it," if not spare us the hysterics.

Another thing I noticed in the sentencing is the "plus four years for personal use of a gun." Wouldn't that have been covered in the second-degree murder charge? Maybe someone can offer a legal explanation on that.

And one final idea, how does this crime and sentence compare to those of Sara Jane Moore and Lynette Squeaky Fromme? Is it like that higher level of punishment one gets for being a cop killer as opposed to a regular killer? Even attempting to kill the President, you get the full whack. Is that it?

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sara Jane Moore

Talk Left is on it as usual.

What a fascinating interview. Isn't it incredible to think that such a matronly old lady could have been involved in the radical groups and done something like this?

Mentioned early in the video is the fact that the attempt to assassinate Ford by Sara Moore was not the only one. Earlier the same month in 1975, Lynette Squeaky Fromme pulled a gun on the President. Although no shots were fired, she was also convicted of attempted murder of a president and sentenced to life. I'm not sure if it's some complicated sentencing guidelines or her affiliation with Charles Manson, but Fromme has not been released yet.

What's your opinion? Are these what you would consider stiff sentences, one for a shot that missed and another for just showing a gun? Is it fair to sentence people more harshly for attempts on the president's life as opposed to regular attempted murder?

And what could this mean for Obama? If President Gerald Ford had two close calls, what might Obama expect? Do you think the security is better nowadays?

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Against the Wind

Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Sex Education in the Bible Belt

Blue Gal, who runs one of my favorite blogs has a wonderful post up on Abstinence Only Sex Education. The map alone is worth some time, but her description of the situation is priceless.

In a perfect world, citizens in states with higher birth-rates among the uninsured would pay a pro-abstinence and prophylactic ignorance tax, which would appear as a line item on page one of their 1040.

"Write the name of your state on line A"

"If your state is listed in Schedule IC (idiot Christianist) subtract $1,000 from your standard deduction."

States that enact medically accurate, age-appropriate comprehensive sex education programs (h/t NCSSE) would be exempt from such tax after three years of reduction in Medicaid birth rates. (I would also push for free roadside condom distribution and including state-funded advertising for Trojans during all sports programming and American Fucking Idol.)

She's a bit more direct than I would be in describing some of the nonsense the Christian Right gets up to. I often think the same thing about our friend Mud_Rake. But they make good points. Until I studied that map, I never realized the extent of the damage this Abstinence Only business can do.

It just happened to Bristol Palin, too. I try not to think about whether Levi is practicing safer sex these days. Bristol's parents are showing their selfish arrogance again by allowing her to be used for family propaganda.

Tabloid media saturation is actually an opportunity to get our national head out of our ass and grow up when it comes to sex. Teenagers need those of us who are adults to be adults. Those dependent, right or wrong, on the public dole can receive lots of information while they are seeking assistance from other agencies.

Bristol's mother needed to buy her condoms and tell her to use them, or watch her carefully enough and keep her busy enough that sex with Levi wasn't the only fun she could have.

What's your opinion? Do you think parents who want to teach their kids to abstain from sex until they're older or married but also want to educate them about birth control and its proper use are facing an impossible dilemma? Do you think kids who are old enough to discuss abstinence are old enough to learn about birth control options?

Aren't the highlighted states in Blue Girl's map the same ones which have lax gun control policies? Is there a correlation between the attitudes and educational policies that have led to high rates of welfare pregnancies and the heavy pro-gun position that we're so familiar with?

What's your opinion? What do you think about North Dakota? They've got lots of guns, very few murders and very few births financed by Medicaid. Man, I'm goin', that's all there is to it, I'm goin'.

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pharmacy Shooter Charged With Murder has the whole story (h/t AztecRed).

An Oklahoma City pharmacist was charged today with first-degree murder in the May 19 shooting death of a would-be robber.

Chickasha resident Jerome Ersland, 57, surrendered about noon, his attorney, Irven Box, said. He is being held without bail in the Oklahoma County Jail.

Box thinks a jury will exonerate Ersland.

The charge alleges Ersland shot Antwun Parker, 16, while he was incapacitated and lying on his back. Ersland’s account of the incident doesn’t match the video or the evidence collected at the scene, according to the affidavit written by Oklahoma City Police Detective David Jacobson.

Parker was shot once in the head and five times in the stomach area. The autopsy found Parker was still alive after the head shot and died from the stomach wounds.

Now, if that's an accurate description of what happened, is there anybody who could support the shooter? Is there anyone who would consider this anything less that murder? I would think not, but then I happened to come across what Aztec Red had to say about it.

Initially, this was a good shoot and perfectly within Oklahoma's Castle Doctrine. However, Mr. Ersland went beyond-self defense when he shot an incapacitated person an additional 5 times.

His second mistake was talking too much. Mr. Ersland spent way too much time talking to the press and as a result, there is a record of his account of the event that doesn't match the surveillance video. After a self-defense shooting, the after reporting the incident, any further talking you do on the subject should be done through your lawyer.

As if that's not enough, our friend and fairly frequent commenter, Aztec Red goes on to advise folks expecting to find themselves in the situation that Mr. Ersland did, to use a larger calibre gun. I'm absolutely appalled, but I must admit, not all that surprised by his response.

Calling murder "a mistake," advising defensive-gun shooters not to talk about the incident and recommending heavier firepower in order to avoid the whole mess, are the exact attitudes I often accuse pro-gun folks of having. I've been viciously attacked for making such claims. I've been assured these blood-thirsty types are the rarest of the rare.

What's your opinion? Are the attitudes Mr. Aztec demonstrates on his blog typical? Are you in agreement with him in supporting the pharmacist in this nasty shooting?

The defense attorney thinks the Oklahoma jury will exonerate his client. Lawyers always say that, but the sad fact is in Oklahoma it just might happen.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Military Suicide Rate Going Up

A few months ago we discussed the record year for Army suicides in 2008. Now it seems it's getting worse. CNN reports.

A major United States military post is shutting down for three days following a rash of suicides, the post announced.

Fort Campbell, home of the Army's 101st Airborne Division, is holding a three-day "suicide stand-down training event" starting Wednesday -- the second one it has held this year, a post spokeswoman told CNN.

At least 11 deaths of Fort Campbell soldiers this year are confirmed or suspected suicides, spokeswoman Kelly Tyler said. That's out of 64 confirmed or suspected suicides in the entire Army, according to official statistics. At that rate, the Army is on pace for a record number of suicides this year.

A big focus of the three-day event will be to convince the young soldiers that asking for help is not inconsistent with the other traditional values that have been drummed into them, things like strength and honor. It is a sign of strength, the general will tell them, when they reach out for help.

Do you think that approach will work? Is it possible for young men, trained the way they are for war in Iraq and Afghanistan, to incorporate these mental health principles into their lifestyle? I don't think so.

What's your opinion? It brings up the old questions of personal responsibility and individual freedom. Do you think those 11 soldiers who committed suicide on Fort Campbell this year had sound enough minds to make that decision? Did they enjoy personal freedom of choice the way everyone else does? I don't think so.

I think those poor guys were victims of a system that swallowed them up and crushed the life out of them. They probably suffered from terrible depression or fear or isolation, or perhaps all three, all the while trying to fake it and fit in. It's tragic and sad and something should be done about it. My heart goes out to their families and loved ones.

What's your opinion? What can be done about this terrible ongoing tragedy?

Please leave a comment.

O.J. Simpson Appealing

CNN reports on the legal action taken by O.J.'s lawyers in Las Vegas.

In the 47-page brief filed Tuesday, Simpson's attorneys accuse Clark County, Nevada, District Judge Jackie Glass of judicial misconduct, saying her behavior constituted "cumulative error that was so egregious and prejudicial that the defense could not get a fair trial."

The judge inflicted herself into the trial proceedings, issued improper jury instructions, improperly admitted hearsay evidence and refused to allow defense attorneys to fully cross-examine witnesses, the filing alleges.

I described the trial as a travesty of justice. To me, the charges were ridiculous. Kidnapping, they called it. Give me a break. Even if the actions of Simpson and his accomplices qualified for the legal definition of "kidnapping," I felt there was plenty of reasonable doubt that he may have been doing exactly what he said, trying to take back what belonged to him.

After his sentencing, I predicted the whole thing will be overturned in a year or so. General opinion of O.J. is such that, by spending a year or two in jail for this nonsense the public blood-lust will have been appeased, but in America a sentence like this cannot stand in such a high profile case. We can't lock someone up for 10 or 15 years for such a mickey-mouse crime. We cannot put people away for what we think they've gotten away with in the past. Where are all the law and order guys when something like this happens?

What's your opinion? Did O.J. Simpson get away with murder once and then pay a heavier price later as a type of compensation? Is that right? Or, do you think he's a womanizing brute whose incarceration best serves the public interest? Is he like Phil Spector in that regard?

Please tell us what you think.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Obama Taps Sotomayor - Gun Crowd Begins to Worry

The biggest news in the country right now is President Obama's selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice Souter on the Supreme court. Her current assignment is on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York.

The New York Times published an article outlining some of her decisions in order to anticipate how she might stand on the important issues, but with the following proviso:

Judge Sotomayor, whom President Obama announced Tuesday as his choice for the Supreme Court, has issued no major decisions concerning abortion, the death penalty, gay rights or national security. In cases involving criminal defendants, employment discrimination and free speech, her rulings are more liberal than not.

One fascinating bit of evidence has been offered as an indication of her ideas about guns. As a graduate student at Princeton University, she published several papers, including Deadly Obsession: American Gun Culture. Here's what the Second Amendment March site has to say about it, taking the quote from

In this text, the student Sotomayor explained that the Second Amendment to the Constitution did not actually afford individual citizens the right to bear arms, but only duly conferred organizations, like the military. Instead of making guns illegal, she argues that they have been illegal for individuals to own since the passing of the Bill of Rights.

I can imagine what kinds of comments that would generate. But The Second Amendment March site doesn't allow comments, just like the Brady Blog. Do you find something wrong with that? Is not inviting comments the indication of some problem?

That synopsis of the thesis written by Sotomayor made me wonder. If she's right, it's the gun enthusiasts who are in violation of the 2nd Amendment. If she's right, and I'm sure she's not the only one who ever come up with such an interpretation, then it's a distortion of the spirit of the 2nd Amendment to insist upon individual rights in this regard.

I suppose if she had been around during the Heller debate things might have been different. But that's water over the dam, huh? I can't wait to see what the future brings.

What's her position on capital punishment? As a minority woman, I don't suppose she's in favor of it, isn't it just the white male conservatives who go for that? What do you think?

What's your opinion? Is her nomination a big problem for the gun movement in America? Could this be why Obama seems to have avoided the issue; could he be biding his time and waiting for the right moment to begin making a move?

Please tell us what you think?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sunken Treasure off Elizabeth New Jersey

New York Magazine (thanks Earl) published an absolutely fascinating article a couple weeks ago called Secrets of the Deep. I saw it on, where I never fail to find something great.

I read every word in this incredibly informative report about the waters in and around Manhattan, New York. But the story that captivated my imagination the most is this one because I grew up exactly there in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

23. 1,600 Bars of Silver, Weighing 100 Pounds Apiece
In 1903, a barge in the Arthur Kill—the oily, mucky arm of the harbor between Staten Island and New Jersey—capsized, spilling its cargo of silver ingots. It carried 7,678 bars; about 6,000 were recovered soon after. The rest are still down there. At today’s prices, they’re worth about $26 million. Every now and then, someone tries to find them. So far, no luck.

Obama Honors Blacks as Well as Confederates

On Digby's Hullabaloo there's a post about the traditional ceremony which President Obama continued: placing a wreath on the Confederate Memorial as part of the Memorial Day Ceremony. Obama had been urged from some quarters to discontinue the recognition of the Confederate fallen. He decided to not only continue with that, but added something. USA Today has the story:

A solemn President Obama is at Arlington National Cemetery where he just laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, the resting place of unidentified servicemembers from World Wars I and II and the Korean War. (The remains of a Vietnam War casualty were exhumed in 1998 and identified through DNA testing as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down in 1972.)

In keeping with long-standing tradition, the president also sent wreaths to several other war memorials, including the Confederate War Memorial at Arlington Cemetery. Obama also sent a wreath to the African American Civil War Memorial across the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. He is the first president to pay such a tribute to the estimated 200,000 African Americans who died in the conflict that ended slavery.

The controversy stemmed from the fact that some people feel the Confederate fallen were traitors, enemies to the fatherland and to continue honoring them feeds into their descendents' racism, bigotry and divisiveness. What do you think? Is there anything to those claims, in your opinion? Is it normal for a country to honor and respect the fallen rebels who attempted to overthrow its government?

Obama's usual way of sidestepping these extremely emotional arguments was done, in this instance, very smoothly by adding the honoring of Black Civil War soldiers to the ceremony. Not only did that balance out in some way the honoring of the Confederates, but it took some of the focus off his decision to continue doing so. I say, well done, Barack.

What's your opinion?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Peaceable NRA Convention One Weekend, Slaughter and Mayhem the Next

Reading Catherine's wonderful blog A Time for Change, I was tipped off to the latest high profile shooting which took place yesterday. Ironically, the location was a suburb of Phoenix, where last weekend the NRA Convention took place. The local news covered the story like this:

The suspect, a 37-year-old whose name has not been released, was invited to the same high school graduation party as his ex-wife, 38, and shot and killed her and a 32-year-old man Sunday, according to Mesa police.

Six other people were injured, including two boys, 10 and 8 respectively, and a police officer who was shot in the arm. The injured appeared to have non life-threatening injuries that may have been caused by bullet fragmentation.

How many times have we heard it lately that someone got upset, went out to the car and came back in, shooting? Here's one that comes to mind, but these incidents are now literally daily occurrences. And how many times have we heard that this has nothing to do with the law abiding gun owners? The answer to that is too many to count.

Here's what I say, this nameless 37-year-old may very well have been a law abiding gun owner until yesterday. In Arizona it's no big deal to have a gun in the car. I realize it's an assumption, but if this is the case, what we've got is yet another illustration of "gun flow," the one which is more about people. Some percentage of lawful gun owners goes bad. When that happens, you've got something worse than when guns are simply stolen or sold to the criminals, you've got guns and people both moving in the flow to the dark side.

My gun enthusiast friends say it's very rare, which to them is 1%. I doubt that. I'd say it's higher. And I'd also point out that the only ones we become aware of are the multiple murders. Lesser crimes, even single murders barely make the news any more. What about the even milder crimes that so-called lawful gun owners commit. Whatever the true percentage is, when you multiply it against the 50 or 80 million gun owners in the country, you've got a big problem.

Let's say the assumption was all wrong. Let's say he's already a convicted felon who owned the gun illegally. Who's to blame for that? I say who's to blame are all those who work so hard to make guns as available as they are. The availability of the gun was crucial in this case. Whether he was legal or not, if the gun hadn't been available in his car, he might have punched his wife or got into a fight with the guy he killed. Fewer guns mean fewer gun violence incidents.

What's your opinion? Do you think he was a legal gun owner or a criminal? Do you think this story illustrates the gun availability problem? Why are gun owners so reluctant to admit this? Is it because further gun restrictions would inconvenience them? I think that could be it.

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Guantánamo and Guns - What's Going On?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal's web site, published an interesting article, which examines the question of why can't the Democratic Administration get things done.

Frustrated liberals are asking why a Democratic-controlled Congress and White House can't manage to close the Guantánamo prison or keep new gun-rights laws from passing.

After all, President Barack Obama pledged to shut down the military detention center on Cuba for suspected terrorists. And Democratic control of the government would suggest that any gun legislation leads to tighter controls on weapons, not expanded use.

Last week the Senate voted 90-6 to join the House in blocking the transfer of any prisoners from Guantánamo. By way of explanation, the lawmakers said they need more information on where detainees will be sent.

Also Wednesday, the House voted overwhelmingly to join the Senate in letting people carry loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges. More than 100 House Democrats and 174 Republicans voted for the gun measure, which was attached to an Obama-backed bill imposing new restrictions on credit card companies.

We've already discussed this at some length, the idea being that although the gun amendment was attached to another piece of legislation, it certainly didn't avoid scrutiny. So what explains its passage?

The gun votes were less surprising to many Democrats than were the Guantánamo developments. The NRA remains among the most powerful lobbies, and many lawmakers take care to stay off its political enemies list.

"People do not want to be on the wrong side of this particular cultural divide," said Rep. David Price, D-N.C., who supports tougher gun controls. "It's too bad there's not a more responsible national organization" to counteract the NRA, he said.

Now, there's an interesting idea: a national organization to counteract the NRA.

Many Democratic lawmakers predicted that Obama will resolve the Guantánamo problem and eventually turn to gun issues, where he has advocated ownership rights with "common sense" regulations.

"I do believe that down the road the president will start working on some of the gun violence issues," said McCarthy, the New York Democrat. "But let's face it," she said. "We've got an awful lot of issues on our plate right now."

What' your opinion? Do you think Congresswoman McCarthy is right that Obama will eventually get around to the gun issues? What about the strength of the NRA, would Obama be able to stand up to it? Or do you think Obama has already decided to "stay off its political enemies list?"

Please leave a comment.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Guns Allowed in National Parks

The New York Times published an article written by several people with differing viewpoints on the recent legislation . The law passed by Congress this week to reform credit cards, of all things, now allows gun owners with state permits to carry guns in public to take their loaded handguns and other firearms into the parks. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) sponsored the concealed weapons bill by attaching it as an amendment to the Credit Card reform bill of Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

Ted Kerasote, author, avid hunter and resident of Grand Teton National Park says the bill will increase poaching.

Ever since Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, was created in 1872, parks and wildlife refuges have been the de facto hunting grounds of armed people tempted by animals who have lost their wariness. Living within Grand Teton National Park, I see this all the time: a deer gunned down by the side of the road, its antlers chopped off; a moose waylaid just inside the park boundary; a coyote shot as it watches a car go by. These killings are perennial, often remove spectacular, genetically fit individuals, and create one more enforcement burden for park rangers.

Allowing visitors to carry loaded firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges, as legislation just passed by Congress does, will only make such poaching worse while making a ranger’s job more risky.

The reason it will make the Park Rangers' job more difficult was well summed up by Paula Dinerstein, senior counsel for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Currently, a ranger can in effect assume that a loaded weapon will be used for poaching and prevent its use, without having to catch someone in the act in a remote place.

John R. Lott Jr., senior research scientist at the University of Maryland and the author of “More Guns, Less Crime” and “The Bias Against Guns,” highlighted the success of concealed carry laws in general and in the State of Florida in particular.

Here is a prediction. Just like the ruckus over passing concealed handgun laws, the fears about guns in national parks will soon be forgotten.

Given the size of the National Parks and the relatively low population density, even in tourist season, this legislation is unlikely to have much impact on crime one way or another. So, Prof. Lott's prediction is probably a good one, at least in part. I'd say concealed carry laws may very well continue to be a topic of discussion long after the National parks issue is forgotten.

What's your opinion? Is this "much ado about nothing?" Why did Sen. Coburn introduce the amendment the way he did, by attaching it to another unrelated piece of legislation? Isn't that the way the Tiarht Amendments were done? Is there some advantage in doing it that way? This method doesn't seem to avoid the spotlight, but does it facilitate passage in some way?

Is this another victory for the gun lobby? Do you think they could be successfully accomplishing exactly what they fear from the anti-gun folks, a gradual and incremental movement towards their ultimate goal? What do you think that goal is?

I'm afraid the overall direction is a deceptively dangerous one for America. Pro gun folks want more guns and less restrictions, on college campuses, in churches, in national parks, everywhere. Often these changes are extremely controversial, actually going against the wishes of those most directly involved, most of the students in colleges, most of the pastors in churches and most of the Park Rangers in national parks. Yet, the gun crowd keeps getting its way.

As the restrictions are lessened, more guns need to be produced. Record sales have been reported over the last year. Huge increased in the total number of guns will inevitably result in proportionally huge increases in gun flow into criminal hands. As this increases, law enforcement won't be able to keep up with the increases in gun violence. That's my prediction.

Professor Lott and his fellow gun lovers always seem to disassociate themselves from the misuse of guns, they are after all, law abiding citizens. Unfortunately, such a disassociation is impossible. As we have seen, almost all guns in America which are in the hands of criminals today started out as legitimately owned firearms. Gun flow is inexorable and whether the pro gun crowd want to admit it or not, they are involved. It all starts with them. It is an unavoidable result of the policies they fight for.

What's your opinion?