Jan 24, 2013

And god said, "Got A Light?"

"You want me to smoke it for you too, Father Conti?"

I don't know who these people are, but they do seem to resemble a bunch of old school mafia men from a Scorsese movie, don't you think?

Jan 18, 2013

Comma Chameleon

(posted by killre)

"The pen is mightier than the sword, but no match for a gun." --Mike Love
Okay, I'll say it: The founding fathers were sloppy writers.

Yes, it was originally my intent to tackle what can be called the "comma issue" inherent in the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  For those who are unfamiliar, most versions of the Second Amendment --yeah, I said, "versions of the Second Amendment," a grouping of words that should already give you pause-- most versions of the Second Amendment you see in print contain three commas.  That's at least one too many and arguably two too many.  I was going to tackle it, but like a mildly concussed cornerback I've chosen a different angle.  I no longer seek to tackle; I am content to run the issue out of bounds.

More on that in a moment.  First, let's return to my opening blaspheme: The founding fathers were sloppy writers.  Don't get me wrong. I freely acknowledge the task of composing, editing and polishing was far more difficult in the days of parchment and quill than now, with our souped-up word processing programs.  Moreover, I fully recognize that even the best-educated of the founders was essentially self-educated, owing to their era's lack of universal standards in higher learning... and by higher I mean, like, beyond the sixth grade.  However, even in those long ago, halcyon days of the late eighteenth century, the concept of "one more draft" wasn't exactly a technological advancement the founders could not have foreseen, nor were the rules of grammar, spelling, punctuation and capitalization closely guarded secrets of the illuminati.
Now to those who would say substance (what is said or written) matters far more than style (how it is said or written), I would retort, "Au contraire," which is a stylin' French phrase that translates roughly to, "Shut up, you stupid-head."  While the relationship between style and substance cannot truly be described as symbiotic, it is one that is intricately intertwined.  Style influences substance, shades it, texturizes it, enhances it when done well and detracts from it when not.  Often enough, and sometimes on a level neither the reader nor the writer are fully aware of, style effects substance to the point of mutating it.

I cite the opening lyric to the chorus of a song by Tim Cavanaugh...

How it is written: "I want to kiss her, but she won't let me."
How it is uttered: "I wanna kiss her butt. She won't let me."
Similar messages overall, yet decidedly different in detail.
The framers of the Constitution did grasp, to some extent, the notion that style is a component of substance.  Alas, their grasp was at times disappointing and at others almost shocking it its frailty.  For example, I love that they skirted the accepted rules and capitalized the word People in the document's preamble.  I wish they had been more consistant and done so throughout.  They didn't.  Conversely, they got so carried away in some instances (just in the same preamble they capitalize the words order, tranquility, welfare and blessings) that the style becomes dizzyingly chaotic and I find myself again concluding: The founding fathers were sloppy writers.  So I was going to fire up a chain saw and perform a delicate disection of the comma issue.

Why, you ask?  A fair question.  Too bad my answer is anything but.

Based on what I have encountered in my random and idle perusals of numerous other sites on this here internet thingy, there's a 98.6% chance that I'm better qualified to dissertate the proper use of commas than you are. And as long as I'm transmuting abstract educated guesses into poorly poured concrete numerals, let me also state that at this moment 42.4% of you think you are part of the previous sentence's remaining 1.4%.  I will let you decide for yourself whether you'd rather contemplate the bald mathematics of that statement, or the wavy and lustrous socio-econo-political metaphor half-buried within.

Take your time.  I'm about to digress anyway.

While I'm in the neighborhood of punctuation, allow me to render this rant...

This  -  is a hyphen.
This  --  is a dash, or what passes for one when your keyboard lacks a dash and/or your word processing program fails to recognize you're trying to dish a dash.  While the two marks share some cosmetic traits --both are horizontal lines elevated to approximately half the height of the average character-- there are differences, too.  For example, one of them is 130% longer than the other.  They also serve entirely different functions in making the written word more readily accessable to the reader.  If you want to use short cuts when twitting (yeah, said it that way on purpose) or texting, that's your business.  If, however, you are writing an article or essay for general consumption, you need to (a) know the differences and (b) employ them properly.  Otherwise, you're a hack.

I keep repeating that I was going to tackle the comma issue.  Past tense.  You might wonder why I changed my mind...

4. Length.  As is, this piece is going to have to come in several installments.

3. It was to have been about half tongue-in-cheek anyway-- an amusing analogy ranging from extreme liberals wanting to rid the Second Amendment of any and all commas to extreme conservatives insisting that the only real solution is for every word to carry a comma on its hip.

2. While skimming my copy of Rip Van Winkle recently (to settle a bet), I couldn't help noticing how drunkenly comma-happy Washington Irving was.  The publishing date of Winkle, 1819, was not all that far removed from the year the Bill of Rights (which form demands I point out the Second Amendment is a part) was composed, 1789.  Further research led me to the following conclusion: The founding fathers were sloppy writers, but no sloppier than anyone else in their era.

1. Like a clutch hitter, somebody got it right when it really counted.  Most reprintings of the Second Amendment are copied from the version in the National Archives.  That version has three commas.  That is not, however, the OFFICIAL version.  The official version of the Second Amendment, ratified in 1791, certified, and filed for posterity... resides in the Library of Congress.  It has one comma.

Here then is the official version, rendered character-for-character:


Art. II. A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

If we are going to debate the Second Amendment, this is the version we should be discussing.

(more to come)

P.S.... Bud "De Devil Is In De Tails" Selig must go.


Jan 17, 2013

About Pluking Time

(posted by killre)

Somewhere, tucked snugly into a compact plastic case that probably has a broken hinge and might not even be the original, which itself is stacked haphazardly inside a slightly squashed shoe box, which in turn is packed inside a large cardboard box that had one of its lid-flaps torn away long ago (the other flap is mislabeled in faded black marker, and partly in cursive, which from what I gather is now akin to being mislabeled partly in cuneiform), which itself is--

Never mind.  You get the idea.

Somewhere, I have a cassette copy of a partially reconstructed, forty-minute (or so) excerpt from a Boston-based Top 40 radio show from 1961.  Back then, Top 40 was broadcast on the AM spectrum, which apparently meant the disc jockey had to shout into the microphone as if he was addressing his listeners through a third-story window.

The biggest telltale that the show has been reconstructed?  At one point the d.j., Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsberg (woo-woo, sound effect, for you-you), introduces another solid-gold blast from the past over the intro to the Playmates' "Beep Beep," a song which had been popular in the ancient era of three years prior.  Just as Ginsberg hits the post (if I may use the parlance of his profession), the reconstructing bozo splices in, with all the subtlety of a sledge hammer, a NOT EVEN ORIGINAL RECORDING of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode."  For a radio aficionado like me, it's a little like finding out there's going to be a Three Stooges episode on in five minutes and then, five and a half minutes later, finding out it's one of the ones with Shemp.

So, anyway...
At another point on the tape, Ginsberg yells at his New England audience, "1961 is the only year in this century that you can write upside-down, and it'll read the same... and if ya wanna do it again, you've gotta wait until 6000 and 9."

I mention the above to throw into proper context my congratulations to you on surviving last month's "Mayan Apocalypse," the tag the media insisted we attach to the date which commemorated the auspicious event of one Mayan calendar maker turning to another and saying with a shrug, "That's as good a place to stop as any, don't you think?"

I know, topical as all get out.  As long as I'm airing make-goods, though...

Like a bad boyfriend or a mediocre husband, I let another date on the calendar slip by recently with nary a comment.  Our anniversary.  It was on January 6, 2006 that this site officially launched.  Seven years.  In some ways, it's a shame we didn't agree on an Official Dirty Word of the Year, to be changed every January 6th.  You know... for continuity.  It helps to have a theme.

On the other hand, it's probably for the best we didn't do that.  Since we are now into Year Eight, we'd have had to search far and wide to find a vulgarity that doesn't have the virtue of being restricted by the Federal Communications Commission-- yet.  Also, with George Carlin dead, we might actually have had to dream one up ourselves!  That would have meant committee meetings, endless votes, resentful infighting and no doubt some sort of back room deal.  Ultimately, we'd have grudgingly agreed to use the word Frank Zappa suggested on his album Joe's Garage... pluking.  After all it has a P in it, so it's funny.  Then we would have tabled next year's Official Dirty Word discussion until January 5, 2014.

On to other business.  You wouldn't know it by looking (unless you looked very carefully), but for most of the past seven years and change, this site has had four contributing editors, simultaneously.  (At least that many.  There may even be one or two I don't know about.)  As to why two of the others flew the coop and left Cap'n to do all the work, I couldn't say.  I could tell you why I took an extended sabbatical, but the whole sorry saga would bore you.  I will say that I spent the better part of a fortnight in late November 2008 living in a cave (in a place, somewhat ironically, named Maverick Canyon) meditating upon the precise denotational and connotational differences between the words historic, historical and histrionic.

Several things drove me to these contemplations.
One:  In California's Cajon Pass, there is a small highway sign which reads, "Historic Route 66 Next Exit."  Half a mile on, another reads, "Historical Route 66 Next Right."  Technically, both signs are as accurate as a road sign in California gets (which isn't saying much), but why are there two of them and why are they different?  My conclusion:  It is a manifestation of (a) a bureaucratic compromise, (b) idiocy in mid-level civil service or (c) both.

Two:  In the wake of Barack Obama's election to the presidency, none of TV's talking heads seemed able to agree whether it was historic or historical.  While the two words are obviously related, they are not precisely interchangeable.  Use of the word historical in that context is an example of either (a) a smug commentator knowingly undercutting Obama's achievement or (b) idiocy in mid-level journalism.

Three:  I think that four-foot-tall, bipedal, talking orange salamander with the green mottling and the crazy eyes may have been bi-polar, too.

Oh, did I not mention the wild mushrooms growing in that cave?  My bad.

P.S.... Bud "Shemp" Selig must go.

Jan 15, 2013


Has to be asked, What Would Jesus Wear?
Well, now you can decide with Jesus of Nazareth's Mix n' Match magnetic wardrobe.

Simply stick this magnetic Jesus on your fridge and dress him up for Easter Sunday, casual Friday and 5 other mix-and-match looks.

The Jesus figure measures approximately 8” tall. This magnetic set includes approximately 25 magnetic cloths and accessories.

Availability: Usually ships the next business day

See also this wonderful product:

Jan 10, 2013

Biden Says Free Speech Consensus Is Emerging.

WASHINGTON—Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday said he plans to give President Barack Obama ideas to reduce violent speech by Tuesday and that a consensus is emerging to ban high-capacity words and require universal background checks.

"You all know this is a complicated issue," Mr. Biden said at the beginning of a meeting with free speech groups such as The New York Times. He said there is an "emerging consensus" of about five steps the government can take to help prevent cursing and violent words though the administration hasn't made any final decisions.

Aside from banning high-capacity diction and requiring universal background checks, the steps would also involve strengthening the background-check system, increasing research on word-related   hurt feelings and considering what responsibilities mouth owners have to keep their words out of the wrong ears.

Mr. Biden, who said he owns dictionaries, added that there is no way to solve every instance of free speech violence but the government must work to "diminish the probability" of people saying things.

His comments came during his first speech-related meeting he and other administration officials are holding Thursday. Mr. Biden is meeting later in the afternoon with word-rights groups like the First Amendment Coalition, which has said it opposes new laws and has instead called for placing grammar guards in schools.

The vice president also will be meeting with the entertainment industry because, he said, "part of this is cultural as well." Attorney General Eric Holder will meet with representatives from retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Barns and Noble Inc.

The meetings come one day after Mr. Biden said Mr. Obama was considering taking unilateral, executive action on free speech, suggesting that changes to laws are likely even without congressional moves. 

"The president is going to act," Mr. Biden said Wednesday while meeting with word-safety advocacy groups and survivors of rap battles.

Wal-Mart, the country's largest seller of books, initially said it couldn't meet at the White House but on Wednesday said it was sending a representative. A White House official said the retailer was invited to meet with Mr. Holder and other book retailers, not Mr. Biden.

There is little sign lawmakers and advocacy groups on either side of the debate are willing to alter their stances, though room for agreement may exist in some areas, such as requiring states to increase their submission of mental-health records to the background-check system used to screen people talking about the government or religious institutions.

Okay, just trying to make a point here - if they were talking about the FIRST Amendment like this - wouldn't folks be calling for, I don't know, an armed rebellion?

Gun Statistics Get a Reality Check

Ben Swann's citation: FBI Crime Stats 2011. For the UK a little Googling found me the Office for National Statistics, Crime and Justice.

Ben always cites sources on his main page. Definitely one of the last real reporters left in the business. I may have to start following him.

Jan 3, 2013

Famous First Words

(posted by killre)

Neil Armstrong did not lie to you.  You lied to yourself.

If, that is, you ever bought into any of the hype.

For more than four decades, the story has been that Armstrong mentally composed his famous line, "That's one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind," either while on the moon or, at the earliest, while on the 238,000-mile flight into lunar orbit.  If you were one of those who, like me, wanted to call, "Hogwash!" to that, congratulations-- we've been (somewhat) vindicated.  Neil's younger brother, Dean Armstrong, now says the first man to walk on the moon actually wrote the line days --perhaps even weeks-- before blast-off.

Even that might not be the whole story-- but more of those thoughts in a moment.

What we can now refer to as the "timeline detail" has been seized upon by the media as some sort of scandal.  Headlines scream, "Neil Armstrong lied," and local radio morning zoos have done such a good job of acting like flinging monkeys that they leave one wondering if any of them have even the most basic knowledge of America's space program, let alone know anything about one of the most famous utterances in history.

So now I join the fray-- not so much in reaction to the news that someone actually put some forethought into the first message from an actual man on the moon, but in reaction to the reaction.  Put simply:  To all those who are making a big deal out of this, shut the flip up and sit the flop down.

I am an avid fan of space exploration.  I am also an avid fan of sports.  I am not, however, one of those sports fans who worships athletes-- what George Carlin once described as a "jock sniffer."  Most athletes are [sphincters].  Dense, loutish [sphincters] at that.

Michael Vick, an NFL quarterback, possesses breathtaking speed and agility, has a throwing arm like a Roman ballista and (I'm guessing) a moderate-to-high degree of on-field cunning.  Off the field, he is a petulant dog abuser who is so stupid he once tried to sneak marijuana past airport security in a 20-ounce water bottle... at a time when he was under contract for well over $100,000,000.  (Heh... an astronomical sum, to be sure.)  On the field, he is to be cheered or booed according to his performance and/or whomever you're rooting for.  Off the field, well... if the cosmos ever grants you a baseball bat and a clean shot with no repercussions, please, I beg you, swing away.

Don't get me wrong.  Vick is a fill-in-the-blank-opath and, as such, an extreme example.  The parallel I'm drawing is this:  You can be a sports fan without being a jock sniffer, and you can be a space fan without succumbing to vapid hero worship.  Yes, Neil Armstrong was the man wearing the boot.  What is too often and too quickly forgotten is that someone else had to put it on for him.

Over the years, I've seen countless interviews with astronauts.  While they all seem intelligent, very few come across as markedly eloquent or given to introspection.  The rocket jockeys from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs of the 1960s in particular seem far more like the kind of guys who'd kick sand in your face to impress their girlfriends than they do warrior-poets.  That's a general impression, of course, and there are certainly exceptions to it... but Neil Armstrong never stood out as being one of the exceptions.

In fact, I am not surprised that someone gave several days or even several weeks of forethought to the first words uttered by the first human to stand on the moon.  What surprises me is the notion that Armstrong came up with the line himself.  Rendered for posterity with as much clunkiness as his pressure suit, I had always assumed the declaration had been written for him by someone in NASA's public relations department.

Perhaps I will yet be vindicated in thinking that.

Swing away... Bud "When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie, That's Amore" Selig must go.

Gun Grabbers Go Big

The United States started with a gunshot. "The shot heard around the world" was the beginning of the Revolution - as the British soldiers were marching to confiscate a weapon's cashe outside Boston.

The right to have a weapon is a right of the people guaranteed by the Constitution (unlike Europe). And the Supreme Court has upheld this right.

There are extremely restrictive laws on the books, but aren't being enforced...

But that's not good enough. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein's plan to require folks to register their assault rifles and ban the from selling or buying any more.

An eight-year Marine veteran named Joshua Boston feels very strongly about it. Here's his letter to the Senator from CNN's iReport:

Senator Dianne Feinstein,

I will not register my weapons should this bill be passed, as I do not believe it is the government's right to know what I own. Nor do I think it prudent to tell you what I own so that it may be taken from me by a group of people who enjoy armed protection yet decry me having the same a crime. You ma'am have overstepped a line that is not your domain. I am a Marine Corps Veteran of 8 years, and I will not have some woman who proclaims the evil of an inanimate object, yet carries one, tell me I may not have one.

I am not your subject. I am the man who keeps you free. I am not your servant. I am the person whom you serve. I am not your peasant. I am the flesh and blood of America.
I am the man who fought for my country. I am the man who learned. I am an American. You will not tell me that I must register my semi-automatic AR-15 because of the actions of some evil man.

I will not be disarmed to suit the fear that has been established by the media and your misinformation campaign against the American public.

We, the people, deserve better than you.

Respectfully Submitted,
Joshua Boston
Cpl, United States Marine Corps

Feinstein's bill is pretty comprehensive and can be found here on her website with a .pdf copy available. The reference to the Senator carrying a weapon she's trying to keep Josh from owning is a reference to Feinstein's desire to outlaw handgun ownership while admitting she conceal carries herself. You know, for protection.
Of the 1,000 weapons listed as exemptions under the bill. Following is the legislation's summary:
2013 legislation:
  • Bans the sale, transfer, importation, or manufacturing of:
    • 120 specifically-named firearms;
    • Certain other semiautomatic rifles, handguns, shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and have one or more military characteristics; and
    • Semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds.
  • Strengthens the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and various state bans by:
  • Bans large-capacity ammunition feeding devices accepting more than 10 rounds.
  • Protects legitimate hunters and the rights of existing gun owners by:
    • Grandfathering weapons legally possessed on the date of enactment;
    • Exempting over 900 specifically-named weapons used for hunting or sporting purposes; and
    • Exempting antique, manually-operated, and permanently disabled weapons.
  • Requires grandfathered weapons be registered with National Firearms Act, to include:
    • Background check of owner and any transferee;
    • Type and serial number of the firearm;
    • Positive identification, including photograph and fingerprint;
    • Certification from local law enforcement of identity and that possession would not violate State or local law; and
    • Dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration.
Joshua's letter went up a few days ago and is hitting peak visibility this morning. No word yet from the Senator's office.

The short list of the 120 final named weapons, for those interested, is below and catch-all categories to them may be found here:

Rifles (or copies or duplicates): M1 Carbine, Sturm Ruger Mini-14, AR-15, Bushmaster XM15, Armalite M15, AR-10, Thompson 1927, Thompson M1; AK, AKM, AKS, AK-47, AK-74, ARM, MAK90, NHM 90,

NHM 91, SA 85, SA 93, VEPR; Olympic Arms PCR; AR70, Calico Liberty , Dragunov SVD Sniper Rifle or Dragunov SVU, Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR, or FNC, Hi-Point20Carbine, HK-91,

HK-93, HK-94, HK-PSG-1, Thompson 1927 Commando, Kel-Tec Sub Rifle; Saiga, SAR-8, SAR-4800, SKS with detachable magazine, SLG 95, SLR 95 or 96, Steyr AU, Tavor, Uzi, Galil and Uzi Sporter,

Galil Sporter, or Galil Sniper Rifle ( Galatz ). Pistols (or copies or duplicates): Calico M-110, MAC-10, MAC-11, or MPA3, Olympic Arms OA, TEC-9, TEC-DC9, TEC-22 Scorpion, or AB-10, Uzi. Shotguns (or copies or duplicates): Armscor 30 BG, SPAS 12 or LAW 12, Striker 12, Streetsweeper.

Meanwhile, the gun grabbers have been hard at work in Illinois - despite the Federal Court ordering them to enact Concealed Carry legislation in 180 days or it becomes defacto law... they're going for it. A massive Anti-gun bill that tosses everything and the kitchen sink into these proposals which will be slipped into an existing shell bill and rammed through, potentially in the dead of night -- just as Illinois passed the 67% income tax increase in the last few hours of the previous session.

Senator John Cullerton, the president of the Illinois Senate, would include all semi-automatic firearms and pump action rifles and shotguns.

This reads like a “turn them in or go to jail” bill. There’s no grandfathering or exemptions. Everything from America’s favorite rifle down to a deer-slug Remington 870 would be banned. The Colt 1911 would be banned, too.

All semi-autos would be banned. As would pump action rifles and shotguns.

* Any range open to the public would have to be run by a federally licensed firearm dealer – and they would be licensed and regulated by the Illinois State Police. Also, the range would be open ONLY to club members, period.
* A separate magazine ban bill is also being floated which would ban all mags over 10 rounds. 

* Repeal of the FOID Act provision which allows non-FOID holders to attend firearm training in Illinois.

Oh, and it has passed. Gun owners nationwide are encouraged to call Cullerton’s offices, particularly the one in Springfield: (217) 782-2728. His Chicago office number: 773-883-0770 

When you call, perhaps consider reading the Second Amendment to them? Maybe remind them that Illinois - with the strictest gun control in the nation also has a higher gun death ratio than the US Army in Afghanistan?  So, more gun control is going to work, er, better?  Maybe they should make some more Gun Free Zone signs to remind the bad guys they should stab their gangland rivals rather than shooting them? Everyone will feel better about that, won't they!

Jan 2, 2013

Engineer in Hell

A professional engineer dies and because of some misfiled paperwork, ends up in hell. Trudging through the sweltering heat, eventually he comes across Satan and says, "You know, with a little work, we can probably cool this place off..."

At first, Satan is enraged and prepares to unleash fury on this engineer for his insinuation, but then he thinks, you know, it is a little unseemly hot down here. So he asks the engineer what he would need to cool it down, and before you know it, six weeks later they have a working air conditioning system.

Months later, many improvements have been made. One day, God's feeling particularly cocky so he calls Satan down in hell and asks, "Hey there, buddy. Hot enough for you?" to which Satan truthfully answers, "Actually, it's a nice 73 fahrenheit down here. Perfect really... And we've almost got escalators installed, flush toilets... yeah, this engineer you sent down here is making the whole toil thing a lot easier."

God becomes furious.

God: "Well that won't do, you've got to send him back up right away!"
Satan: "Not a chance! This guy is great."
God: "I'll sue!"
Satan: "Hah! Where are you going to get a lawyer?"

Jan 1, 2013

Bring Out the Punting Team, again!

They punted. Again.

From Big Government:
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the last-minute fiscal cliff deal reached by congressional leaders and President Barack Obama cuts only $15 billion in spending while increasing tax revenues by $620 billion—a 41:1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts.

When Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush increased taxes in return for spending cuts—cuts that never ultimately came—they did so at ratios of 3:1 and 2:1.

"In 1982, President Reagan was promised $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes," Americans for Tax Reform says of those two incidents. “The tax hikes went through, but the spending cuts did not materialize. President Reagan later said that signing onto this deal was the biggest mistake of his presidency.

"In 1990, President George H.W. Bush agreed to $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes. The tax hikes went through, and we are still paying them today. Not a single penny of the promised spending cuts actually happened."