Sunday, January 30, 2011

WCRN 830 AM Broadcasts Conservative Talk Radio to Central Massachusetts and New England

I wandered out to Worcester on Saturday evening. The city center features a beautiful city hall built in 1898 and a public common covered in snow, like everything else in New England. Not much was going on and not many people were about. But a few doors down from the Worcester Telegram and Gazette building was a brightly lit room with a big picture window facing the street and the common.

The light comes from the broadcast room for WCRN 830 AM, the conservative talk radio station heard throughout central Massachusetts, its 50,000 watt signal reach covers all six states in New England.

I was here to catch up with DaTechGuy, a fellow blogger I met during the Scott Brown Senate campaign a year ago (who did Scott run against, again?). He is still blogging and now hosting his own radio program on Saturday nights starting at 9pm.

Pete wears da signature fedora as DaTechGuy on DaRadio.

John does a decent Ronald Reagan impression.

You can listen to the show here.

Sarah Palin Links Obama, Big Government, and Big Business

Sarah Palin posted an analysis of President Barack Obama's State of the Union Speech on her Facebook page. Here's an excerpt:

Consider what his “big government greatness” really amounts to. It's basically a corporatist agenda – it's the collaboration between big government and the big businesses that have powerful friends in D.C. and can afford to hire big lobbyists. This collaboration works in a manner that distorts and corrupts true free market capitalism. This isn't just old-fashioned big government liberalism; this is crony capitalism on steroids. In the interests of big business, we're "investing" in technologies and industries that venture capitalists tell us are non-starters, but which will provide lucrative returns for some corporate interests who have major investments in these areas.
I think the anti-cronyism message is what got Sarah Palin elected Governor of Alaska. It did get lost in the "Drill Baby Drill" days of the 2008 campaign. The question is, how big is the constituency for that message in the Republican Party?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The H & C Don't Stop Here Anymore

Reading back through President Obama's State of the Union speech gives one the impression he is beginning to consider a little more carefully why some people just did not take to his 2008 campaign slogan of Hope and Change:

Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbors. If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a job for life, with a decent paycheck and good benefits and the occasional promotion. Maybe you’d even have the pride of seeing your kids work at the same company.

That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful. I’ve seen it in the shuttered windows of once booming factories, and the vacant storefronts on once busy Main Streets. I’ve heard it in the frustrations of Americans who’ve seen their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear -– proud men and women who feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game.

They’re right. The rules have changed.
I think I've heard that song before:

When I was a curly headed baby
My daddy sat me down upon his knee
He said, "Boy, you go to school and learn your letters
Don't you be a dirty miner like me"

I was born and raised in the mouth of the Hazard Hollow
Coal cars rambled past my door
Now they're standin' in a rusty row all empty
And the L & N
Don't stop here anymore"
That's an old song, and the truth is that the rules have not changed. There was never a time when you could just walk into a local factory or store and get a job with good pay and benefits for life. That may have happened for some people through hard work and luck, but it's wrong to think it was some kind of norm.

But there's also some reason to think that President Obama gets it:

We are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea -– the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That’s why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. It's why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like "What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?"
Perhaps what we have been most deprived of during this last decade is the chance to shape our own destiny. The long wars and the overhanging specter of job loss and economic stagnation have sapped the American spirit. If the President can get us back to shaping our own destiny, there may be some hope for him yet.

David Wax Museum to Jawbone Oberon on Thursday

The David Wax Museum is releasing its new CD, Everything is Saved, at Oberon on Thursday, February 3. This show promises to be lively and upbeat, and I promise it won't break any hearts that weren't meant to be broken.

I don't know if you will be able to buy tickets at the door, but you can buy tickets online.

Oberon is at 2 Arrow Street in Cambridge. Take the T to Harvard Square and walk down Mass. Ave. towards Central Square. If you get to the Crate and Barrel furnitue store, youv'e gone to far. Arrow Street comes into Mass. Ave. at an angle from the right.

This is the American Repertory Theater's second stage. But if you are walking towards the A.R.T. main stage on Brattle Street, you are going the wrong way. Fans of The Donkey Show on Saturday night, this is your venue.

I hear they are bringing all the musicians out of the museum for this show. Come out on a midwinter night and watch David wax philosophical while Suze plays the donkey jawbone. Oberon will be jealous.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Paul Ryan Had Me at Hammock, Michele Bachmann Had Me at Miracle

Both President Obama's State of the Union speech and the Republican response from Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan lulled me into a semi-somnambulistic coma.

President Obama droned on about winning the future and racing to the top, which sounded like a lot of work:

"We have to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world."
I guess at some point I must have stopped paying close attention and wondered off in the direction of the fridge for a beer. And so, after plopping back down on my couch after as near as I can reconstruct four or five trips, my ears perked as I heard Paul Ryan say the following:

"America's best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency."
Now maybe I'm missing something but while the Republican vision is a bit bleak, it does sound like a lot less work. I only have one question. Where do I get my hammock?

I did open my eyes a bit more for Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's Tea Party response, and not just because she had gone goth with dark blue eyeliner. She really woke me up to an exciting prospect:

"Just the creation of this nation was a miracle. Who's to say that we can't see a miracle again?"
Who's to say indeed. Sometime after midnight I received an email from Barack Obama entitled "We do big things." Do? Sigh. Yes, I think I will take the Republican Tea Party approach for the next couple of years and just sink back into my hammock and wait for the miracle.

I'd hate for the hammock to be the miracle, I'd better buy one myself. I'll bet I can order a hammock off the internet with my laptop from my couch. You know, a laptop is kind of awkward in a reclined state, it might be better to swap for an iPad. America is an exceptional nation.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

No Oscar for True Grit and Other Oscar Predictions

The Academy Award nominations were announced today, which means Oscar predictions must be made. And no, I have not seen all the films nominated, which doesn't stop anyone else from making predictions either.

Best ActorColin Firth
The King's Speech
Last year Colin Firth was nominated for A Single Man and lost out to Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. This year Jeff Bridges is nominated for True Grit and will lose out to Colin Firth. Because that's the way Hollywood works.
Best ActressJennifer Lawrence
Winter's Bone
Jennifer Lawrence wins after Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right and Natalie Portman in Black Swan split the lesbian vote, and Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole and Michele Williams in Blue Valentine split the sympathy for falling in love with a Brokeback man (no Tom Cruise, I do not mean you).
Best Supporting ActorChristian Bale
The Fighter
Hollywood loves giving Oscars to its boxing movies and thinks they have much to say about America: Million Dollar Baby, When We Were Kings, Raging Bull, Rocky, Somebody Up There Likes Me, Champion, Body and Soul, The Champ, even On The Waterfront would not have been an Oscar contender without the boxing theme.
Best Supporting ActressAmy Adams
The Fighter
The third time is the charm for Amy Adams after being nominated for this award twice before for Junebug and Doubt. It's a boxing movie.
Best Adapted ScreenplayAaron Sorkin
The Social Network
Hollywood still loves Aaron Sorkin for the TV show The West Wing and is no friend to Facebook. The best hack award will go to this entertaining hatchet job of a movie.
Best Original ScreenplayLisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
The Kids Are All Right
Hollywood really wants you to see this movie about a lesbian couple raising children together so it must win an Oscar. At least it promises to have strong sexual content and nudity.
Best Feature DocumentaryBanksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
"Exit through the Gift Shop"
Hollywood also really wants to meet Banksy and is willig to play the long odds that Banksy will show up to claim the Oscar. Again, I am not Banksy. I am available for afterparties.
Best Animated FeatureThe IllusionistEven if I have not seen it, I have seen Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon. They weren't awful, they just weren't Oscar.
Best DirectorDarren Aronofsky
Black Swan
This movie also must win one of the major awards, and this is the one I think it will win. Why else would Christopher Nolan be shut out of this category for Inception? Oh right, it's science fiction.
Best PictureThe Social NetworkPay attention, this is complicated: The Kids Are All Right cancels Black Swan for the aforementioned reason, 127 Hours cancels True Grit for the how tough are you vote, Inception cancels The King's Speech for the clever Brit vote, Winter's Bone cancels The Fighter for the gritty realism vote. That leaves The Social Network and Toy Story 3. Who wouldn't prefer seeing what multi-billionaire Mark Zuckerberg did at college than learn about what happened to the childhood toys he left behind?

My big prediction is that the Joel and Ethan Coen brothers' movie True Grit doesn't win any major awards despite ten nominations overall. You remake a classic, you better do the best work of your career. Good isn't good enough, or at least it shouldn't be.

The King's Speech got twelve nominations, so it could do better than the one major award I have predicted. By contrast The Social Network got eight nominations, proving perhaps that it is a great story and not necessarily the greatest movie.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Independent in Union Square Has a New Chef

On Friday night, I shrugged off the new snow and made an expedition to the Independent in Union Square. Word was they have a new chef.

Dinner started with briouats stuffed with potato, goat cheese, currants, and pine nuts. Crispy and tasty. Then came a delicious lamb sausage sandwich topped with sauerkraut and fries on the side. All washed down with a couple of pints of Guiness.

What's wrong with this picture? Nothing.

The new chef, Mark Cina, has remade the menu. Mark hails from Stoddard's, Central Kitchen, and KO Prime, places I have never eaten. OK, maybe I had a few snacks at the Enormous Room above Central Kitchen but that was several years ago. The Independent is an old friend and Mark is a welcome addition.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Keith Olbermann No Longer the Worst Person in the MSNBC World

The new civility has claimed its first media casualty. Keith Olbermann is leaving MSNBC.

That's it for Countdown. No explanation has been given for Keith Olbermann's departure, but it's clear from his signoff that he was pushed out. His signoff also described a personal fantasy involving pajamas and a raincoat. So maybe there is more to this than meets the eye.

I think Olbermann got fired for a Special Comment he aired in the immediate aftermath of the Tucson shooting in which he called for several political and media to be repudiated and shunned: Sarah Palin, Jesse Kelly, Allen West, Sharron Angle, Tea Party leaders, Glenn Beck, and Bill O'Reilly. MSNBC just decided to apply his own punishment to him.

Olbermann ended by reading a James Thurber story "The Scotty Who Knew Too Much" that ended with this moral: "It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers." That is certainly true of  Olbermann, he always came across as the man who had all the answers and would deliver them with a fervent moral self-righteousness.
Meanwhile, over at CNN they are going the politically correct route. John King apologized Tuesday when a guest, Chicago politics Andy Shaw, used the word "crosshairs" during a discussion of Chicago politics. No word on whether CNN has banned the term "Chicago-style politics," which certainly evokes violent imagery. If all words with weaponry or military connotations are banned on CNN, I'm looking forward to seeing how CNN covers the 2012 Presidential Campaign without using the word "campaign."

OK, maybe Lous Dobbs was the first casualty when he was forced off CNN in November 2009. But that was the old civility, this is the new civility.

Portlandia Coming to Cable is the Next Best Thing to Being There

IFC will premiere the new cable show Portlandia tonight. On Comcast, that will be channel 798 in HD. Based on the trailers, they seem to have captured what it means to live in Portland, Oregon.

When I visit Portland, it doesn't remind me so much of the 1990s as the 1960s. Maybe that's because I lived there as a kid in the 1960s.

But I don't believe they read either the Harvard Lampoon or the Boston Globe in Portland.

The lead in for Portlandia at 10:30pm is the new Onion Network News show at 10pm. Their tagline is "News without Mercy." This may be my new Friday night.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Miss Arkansas Can Be Our Cowgirl Sweetheart

I'll admit, I've seen Magic, and there is always something a little creepy about a ventriliquist dummy. Two dummies, on the other hand, make for a happy couple.

I would have given Alyse Eady the Miss America crown just for this talent performance but she had to settle for first runner up, perhaps because of her comment about being "racially ambiguous." Instead they gave the crown to the unambiguously blonde Miss Nebraska, Teresa Scanlan.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sarah Palin Defends Herself by Staying on Offense

Sarah Palin defended herself Monday on Hannity:

"We mourn with those who mourn, we grieve with those who grieve, and may our prayers cover these families and may somehow, as we read in the Book of Jeremiah, God touch these families and envelope them in the peace that only He can provide and may He somehow supernaturally turn their grief into joy."

"Those on the left hate my message, and they'll do all that they can to stop me because they don't like the message - it's not just me, it's all that embrace the time-tested truths that helped build our country."

"Blood libel means being falsely accused of having blood on your hands."

"Second Timothy 1:7 in the Bible it says that God has given has given us a spirit of power and love and sound mind, he hasn't given us a spirit of fear."

On the question of her political future and whether she will run for President, it's beginning to look that maybe Sarah Palin has something else in mind:

"I am not going to sit down, I'm not going to shut up, I'm going to hopefuly be able to help empower others."
Could Sarah Palin make a career out of going around the country to help candidates who share her brand of consevative populism? That's got to give the Washington, DC establishment some heartburn, both Democrats and Republicans.

Monday, January 17, 2011

True Grit Star Upstages Justin Bieber at Golden Globes

Pop music icon Justin Bieber (age 16) comes up a little short next to True Grit star Hailee Steinfeld (age 14).

Update: the Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais is taking some heat for pointed barbs aimed at a number of Hollywood big shots. I considered blogging, "here's how Hollywood practices the new civility" but perhaps embracing the man who thanks God for making him an atheist is the right way to go. Gervais was funny, you must give him that.

Just Three for Tea in the Senate, But Tea Party Holds Balance of Power in the House

New Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has organized a Tea Party Caucus in the U.S. Senate. He will be joined for tea on January 27 by South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint and Utah Senator Mike Lee.

If Senator Paul can convince Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson and Florida Senator Marco Rubio to join them, they can upgrade from a table to a booth at IHOP, where they serve both hot tea and iced tea.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann organized a Tea Party Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives last July. Wikipedia lists 52 members in the House but that does not appear to count newly elected members.

Will the Tea Party Caucus stick together? With 12% to 18% in the House, the Tea Party Caucus can effectively block legislation. Without them, Republicans do not have a majority. That means the Tea Party replaces the Conservative Democrat Blue Dogs in holding the balance of power.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Republican 2012 Hopefuls Need More Friends

The power of incumbency extends to Facebook, where Barack Obama has a wide lead in the number of friends over the field of Republican hopefuls gearing up for the 2012 election. Some of these listed may be more in the category of wishfuls, wistfuls, or wastefuls.

CandidateFacebook FriendsMutual Friends
Barack Obama17,822,15210
Sarah Palin2,606,5863
Mitt Romney751,3910
Mike Huckabee522,0792
Ron Paul283,1300
Joe Biden271,9711
Michele Bachmann150,4670
Donald Trump146,8660
Jim DeMint127,1770
Bobby Jindal121,9770
Newt Gingrich100,4890
John Thune74,7540
Tim Pawlenty69,9850
Rick Perry51,4550
Paul Ryan50,9080
Mike Pence45,9230
Herman Cain42,2890
Mitch Daniels39,4130
Mike Bloomberg29,8621
Chris Christie29,3880
Haley Barbour16,8540
Rick Santorum12,2110
John Bolton5,1700
Jeb Bush4,8410
Rudy Giuliani1,8910
Fred Karger6810
Jon Greenspon5810

The fun part of this list: if you are on Facebook too, you can visit these Facebook pages and see if you have any mutual friends.

Note: a Zogby poll suggests that a friendship gap is not everything.

Update 1/21/2011: Add Michele Bachman.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The New Yorker Works a Corruption of Blood on the U.S Constitution

Jill Lepore has written a piece on the U.S. Constitution for this week's New Yorker. It was filed in the magazine in "The Critics" section under the heading "A Critic at Large" and is full of criticisms like this:

"the Constitution has more in common with the Dead Sea Scrolls than with what we now think of as writing."
OK, that jab is actually qualified with the phrase "as an object" so maybe we can't necessarily assume it represents what Jill thinks of the document "as writing." Or maybe we can:

Ye olde parchment serves as shorthand for everything old, real, durable, American, and true — a talisman held up against the uncertainties and abstractions of a meaningless, changeable, paperless age.
Jill Lepore is a Harvard history professor and her piece is variously titled and subtitled:

"The Commandments"
"The Constitution and its worshippers"
"The cult of the Constitution"
Jill goes through a long history where the Constitution was invoked for issues like slavery that are now rightly discredited, which leads her to the Tea Party, which she means you to conclude is the current cult. And what makes Americans susceptible to this cult of the Constitution? You guessed it, the Bible:

"Originalism, which has no purchase anywhere but here, has a natural affinity with some varieties of Protestantism."

"The United States differs from all other Western democracies in the far greater proportion of its citizens who believe in the literal truth of the Bible."

"Many people are now reading it (the Constitution), with earnestness and dedication, often in reading groups modelled on Bible study groups."
So go get yourself of copy of the Constitution as Jill suggests at the "souvenir shop at any history-for-profit heritage site" or take a "heritage tourism" trip to visit the original at its "shrine in the National Archives." Then you can be a Constitution thumper too.

But realize that may put you on the long list of people that over two centuries Jill believes have fiddled with the Constitution. Jill reads a lot into the words of New England farmer and Revolutionary veteran William Manning:

"It was made like a Fiddle, with but few Strings, but so that the ruling Majority could play any tune upon it they please."
Some may call that Democracy but Jill has the idea that this long history of majority rule has ultimately tainted the Constitution:

If the Constitution is a fiddle, it is also all the music that has ever been played on it. Some of that music is beautiful; much of it is humdrum; some of it sounds like hell.
Which brings us to the phrase "no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood" which is in the treason clause of Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution and which Jill thinks you'll have trouble understanding. The idea is that Congress in setting the punishment for treason cannot revoke the inheritance rights of children or other descendant's in the traitor's bloodline.

We do not live under the original document but under a Constitution that has now been amended twenty-seven times. Each amendment creates a new version of Constitution that is a child of the previous one. Yes, they all share the same DNA. But should we really blame our current Constitution for the hell that was done before the anti-slavery amendments, or would that be working a Corruption of Blood?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

President Obama Rises to the Occasion in Tuscon

President Barack Obama's speech in Tuscon on Wednesday was really quite remarkable. It was a potentially awkward venue for a memorial service, a college arena filled with boisterous students and an Arizona guest list that included Senator John McCain with whom he battled in the 2008 campaign and Governor Jan Brewer with whom he sparred over immigration in the summer of 2010.

First he cut through the finger-pointing and blame-gaming that has caught up much of cable news and the blogosphere over the last several days:

"But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. That we cannot do. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let's use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together."
The man who is sometimes described as too aloof showed that as a virtue in dismissing what he called "the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle." And he put in a very eloquent call for civility:

"The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better. To be better in our private lives, to be better friends and neighbors and coworkers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy -- it did not -- but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud."
That got him a standing ovation. But perhaps the high point was a short remark in the middle of the speech:

"We recognize our own mortality, and we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame -– but rather, how well we have loved -- and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better."
That's the spirit! Nothing to do wth politics, everythng to do with our shared humanity.

Sandra Day O'Connor Comes Out of Retirement

The white-haired woman sitting two chairs down from President Obama at the Tuscon memorial service looked familiar. She was none other than retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

She has weighed in on the call for civility in public discussion:
Every American has great sympathy for the victims and the families of victims of the tragic events that took place in Tucson this past Saturday. As we grieve, we must not allow these events to further divide our state and our nation.

We must reject violence and hostility and bring civility and rationale dialogue into our government and our community life. This is a responsibility of every one of us as individuals.

Only we, working together, can restore reason and civility in our public speech and actions.

Congresswoman Giffords is a fine example of a public official who brings these efforts and qualities to her meetings and gatherings. May her health be restored and may we all remember the role each of us plays in restoring civil talk to our public expressions.

Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions.

Sandra Day O'Connor

January 12, 2011
As a Republican Reagan appointee who, during her twenty-four years as the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, put limits on but recognized a fundamental right to reproductive freedom, Justice O'Connor has come in for a lot of uncivil public discussion over the years.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sarah Palin Unloads with Both Barrels

Sarah Palin posted a video today entitled America's Enduring Strength with her response to the shootings in Tuscon. You can also read the text on Facebook.

Sarah Palin: "America's Enduring Strength" from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.
With the first barrel, Sarah went after the harsh criticism directed at her in the media:

"But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible."
The blood libel charge has got to sting, and while no names were named my guess is that the counter-responses will tell who thinks they're in the "you probably think this song is about you" crowd.

What's surprising is what's in the second barrel:

"It is in the hour when our values are challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values. Recall how the events of 9-11 challenged our values and we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security. And so it is today."
Just who is being criticized by that statement? Yes, I suspect there will be no more love lost between Sarah Palin and Karl Rove.

Someone, however, has written a very good speech for Governor Palin. Speeches like the one in this video could take her places. That is, if enough people want to follow her where she wants to go.

Sarah strives to take up the high ground with Barack Obama, whose response earlier this week was one of the finer moments of his Presidency:

President Obama and I may not agree on everything, but I know he would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process. Two years ago his party was victorious. Last November, the other party won. In both elections the will of the American people was heard, and the peaceful transition of power proved yet again the enduring strength of our Republic.
Actually, the last election was a split decision, with the Republicans winning the U.S. House and most of the Governorships and the Democrats retaining control of the U.S. Senate. Still I agree the "other party" gets the victory on points.

Update 1/13/2011: One Republicans may not have missed the full implications of what was in that that second barrel. Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman to President George W. Bush, is quoted as saying:
"The strongest way to rise above would have been to talk about suffering, tragedy, hope, strength and recovery. But instead she followed the more conventional political route and made it about herself rather than the victims."
A dog knows when he has been kicked. But the whole point of Sarah Palin being a maverick and going rogue was that the old Republican school needed to be kicked aside.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Second Amendment is Not a Murder-Suicide Pact

It all seems so inevitable. A young man with a mental problem so severe it got him kicked out of college walks into a Tucson, Arizona gun store and walks out with a semi-automatic pistol to take the lives of 6 people and grievously wound 14 others.

At some time in the last two years this young man had also tried to join the U.S. military, but was turned down for reasons that for now are not being disclosed but one can pretty well guess at.

Didn't we see something very similar just over a year ago at Fort Hood?

But what can be done consistent with the right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? That's the one that comes right after the First Amendment that Congresswoman Giffords read in the U.S House just two days before the horrible shooting.

Justice Scalia has laid down the law on the right to own handguns:

"[T]he American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon. There are many reasons that a citizen may prefer a handgun for home defense: It is easier to store in a location that is readily accessible in an emergency; it cannot easily be redirected or wrestled away by an attacker; it is easier to use for those without the upper-body strength to lift and aim a long gun; it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police. Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid."
Nothing could be clearer from Scalia that than that the government cannot ban handguns (see the Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller, followed up by McDonald v. Chicago). But not so fast, Scalia has more to say:

"Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. ... [N]othing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."
Scalia is just one of the nine Justices on the Supreme Court, so what makes his opinion so important? Even if the other four conservative Justices do not fully agree with him on the power to regulate, the four liberal Justices who have voted to allow banning of handguns would presumably support him. In the Supreme Court 5-4 is the law of the land.

A full reading of Scalia makes clear the government can impose limits on the following:

(1) Carrying concealed weapons. As the song says, "He wore the gun outside his pants, for all the honest world to feel." Open carry makes you nervous, but at least you know what you are up against. I once spent several minutes in a Colorado convenience store giving a wide berth to a guy wearing a sword.

(2) Carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. That likely includes machine guns, assault weapons, maybe extended clips for semi-automatics, and certainly RPGs. Local police and sheriffs, many of whom are strong Second Amendment supporters, can advise us on what should be on this list.

(3) Carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings. Can we add office buildings, shopping malls, and plazas? Your idea of sensitive places may broaden if you have, as I have, stood shoulder to shoulder in a crowded subway car with a college kid who is flipping the 4-inch blade on his knife in and out.

(4) Possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill. Can we make a list and check it twice? Screening and mandatory reporting may be needed. And if we can screen for felonies or mental illness, can we screen for drug use too?

(5) Conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. If we can make a national no-fly list, certainly we can make a national no-buy list.

Now I'm sure that there may be some Second Amendment Federalists that will maintain this is a state government rather than a federal government responsibility. It is both. They should read militia clause in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 16 of the Constitution:

"The Congress shall have power ... To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress."
And what is this militia that Congress has the power to organize, arm, discipline, and prescribe training for? Scalia says it means all able-bodied men. And now that we let women serve, I would say it includes all able-bodied women too. And I say it potentially takes in all people able to fire a gun, if the defense of the country comes down to that. We the people of the United States, in other words.

Here's where I'd start on writing a new law. If you want to buy a handgun, or any other type of gun, you have to take a course. Or perhaps you can just take a refresher and pass a test if your father or grandfather (or mother or grandmother) has sufficiently home-schooled you. But you will have to show up for long enough that your instructor can be satisfied you aren't some kind of nut. And you'll have to show up every few years so that can be reconfirmed. And this can be done under the auspices of your state police, city police, or local sheriff in a simple adult education course down at your town hall or local community college, or maybe even in your senior year of high school.

Of course, some will argue that we just need to enforce our existing laws. I am all for that. But explain to me just exactly what those laws were, how they were circumvented by the shooter in Arizona, and how they can be made more effective to prevent all-too-common tragedies such as this latest one.

More protective laws can be passed, but will they be? Gun control advocates will have to be sincere in communicating that this is not an effort to take away Second Amendment rights from law-abiding citizens. And gun rights advocates must help draw the lines that public safely requires.

A Tribute to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords reads the First Amendment to the Constitution in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, January 6, 2011.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Just two days later on Saturday, Gabrielle Giffords was gravely wounded by a crazed shooter who wounded fourteen people and took the lives of six people:

John Roll63U.S. District Court Judge apppointed in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush
Christina Taylor Green9born on September 11, 2001 and featured in the book Faces of Hope
Gabe Zimmerman30director of community outreach for Congresswoman Giffords
Dorothy Morris76her husband George remains in critical condition
Dorwin Stoddard76retired construction worker and gas-station owner, shielded his wife who was shot in the legs but survived
Phyllis Schneck79retiree originally from Rutherford, New Jersey

This tribute extends to all the victims and their families, who came out of their homes on a Sunny afternoon for a peaceable assembly in a Tuscon shopping plaza.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Gobierno USA Would Like You to Speak Spanish es el portal oficial del Gobierno de los Estados Unidos en español.

What? A portal to an alterntive unverse in which Spanish is the official language of the United States government?

This official video describes how as an illegal immigrant you can fake a social security card and passport, use that to sign up your father and mother for Social Security, and get your sister onto welfare and into college.

The video title "Círculo de Confianza" means, I think, "Circular for Con Artists." It's a public service announcement, or as we must learn to say in official Spanish, "anuncio de servicio público."

Say it isn't so, Gobie.

Ok, my Spanish is a bit rusty, and maybe I am reading to much into the provocative visuals. But where is the English translation?

Could the 2010 Census Out Barney Frank in 2012?

The preliminary census results came in a couple of weeks ago, and confirmed that due to stagnant population growth Massachusetts will be losing one of its ten seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Usually the Democrats and Republicans fight over how to redraw the district lines after each census. But with Democrats in control of the Massachusetts legislature and all ten House seats in Congress, there are no Republicans to fight. One incumbent Democrat will have to go.

Who will it be? Let's look at their age, years in the House, and votes received in the November 2010 election:

DistrictRepresentative in CongressAgeYearsVote %
1John Olver, Amherst742060.1%
2Richard Neal, Springfield612257.3%
3Jim McGovern, Worcester511456.5%
4Barney Frank, Newton703053.9%
5Niki Tsongas, Lowell64354.9%
6John Tierney, Salem591456.9%
7Ed Markey, Malden643465.9%
8Mike Capuano, Somerville581298.0%
9Stephen Lynch, South Boston55968.1%
10Bill Keating, Quincy58046.9%

Here's the case for combining the 4th and 10th districts:

(1) Bill Keating and Barney Frank did the worst of their colleagues in the last election. Rejiggering their districts is the best chance for Democrats to hold all nine seats in 2012.

(2) The 4th district is currently the most gerrymandered district. It borders the 3rd, 5th (nearly), 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th. That makes it the easiest to pull part to parcel among other districts, as they all must have equal population.

(3) Barney Frank is the second oldest and second longest serving member of the delegation, so a retirement by him makes sense. A retirement by John Olver in western Massachusetts would not help as much, as western Massachusetts will want one of their own in Congress. A retirement by Ed Markey is not expected.

(4) A retirement by Barney Frank could also help the national Democratic Party. He is one of the most polarizing figures in the party, perhaps second only to Nancy Pelosi. And his legendary clout is much diminished by the Republican takeover of the House.

(5) The decision on redistricting will be made by the Massachusetts Legislature. Barney Frank has clout in Washington, DC but does he have clout on Beacon Hill? He's rubbed more than a few local reporters and politicians the wrong way, even those who agree with his politics.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Liz Longley and Seth Glier Pack Club Passim

Liz Longley and Seth Glier had them standing in the aisles of Club Passim last night. The sold out show on a Thursday night marks these two as up and comers on the folk scene.

And if you missed getting tickets for the show, you could still watch it live on Concert Window.

Liz Longley was the opener. Seth Glier was the closer. But the show coud just as easily be called a double bill.

This song will eat away at you.

And this song will tear apart whatever is left.

Seth paints a picture of Manhattan from the viewpoint of Shelbourne Falls, Massachustts.

Liz and Seth both hail from Berklee College of Music. Liz got her degree. Seth left after a year, describing it as an expensive paint by numbers class.

This is their "official" video cover of I Want It That Way by the Backstreet Boys, also performed at Club Passim.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The New York Times and The New Yorker Have Their Fun with Elderly Iowa Women

It started with this quote from an editorial on Politicizing Airport Security in the New York Times on November 23, 2010:

"If terrorists learn that elderly white women from Iowa are exempt from screening, that’s exactly whom they will recruit."

Then proceeded to a Shouts and Murmors column called "The Bobbi Files" by Billy Kimball in the New Yorker's January 10, 2011 issue.

Kimball worked up the thesis of a bearded turbaned Al Qaeda recuiter trying to recruit 68 year old Bobbi Eschbacker of Iowa City, Iowa. As usual New Yorkers just can't quite get the pulse of the heartland, or at least can't quite get their made up facts straight.

I don’t believe this Bobbi is from Iowa City, Iowa. Or if she is, she is not an Iowan. You may want to read Kimball's very short piece here for the context of what follows.
The first telephone call took place at 9:44am local time on Nov. 7, 2010. That was a Sunday so if Bobbi volunteers for the church gift shop, she would have been at church. And  in my experience Iowa churches don’t have gift shops - that's for California and Connecticut.

Then we are supposed to believe Bobbi met a turbaned bearded guy at Bennigan’s on Thursday, November 11 at 1:30pm in the afternoon . There is a Bennigan’s in Coralville, just outside Iowa City to the west, but no one in the Central Time Zone eats lunch as late as 1:30 pm. Plus, all bearded turbaned men in Iowa are called Doctor.

Bobbi purportdly tells the guy she could just as easily get a vacuum cleaner at Costco, saying "there's a Costco right near us." The nearest Costco, in fact the only Costco in Iowa, is in Des Moines. That’s a 2 hour drive to get there, and another 2 hour drive to get back. She’d go to the local Sears store, or one of the 2 local Wal-Marts.

She also tells the guy she has to pick her granddaughter up from gymnastics. If she is 68, no Iowa woman has children after the age of 25, so her granddaughter can’t be less than 18, and is more likely over 30. So the granddaughter has to be old enough to drive herself to gymnastics.

OK, maybe I made up the parts about doctors and gymnastics, but if you're a New Yorker you probably thought that was true too, which proves my point.

No, I think we need to give Billy Kimball a full cranial cavity search and put him on the next plane to Iowa City.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

U.S. House Will Open by Reading the Constitution But Why Stop There?

New Republican Speaker John Boehner is opening the new session of the U.S. House of Representatives with a reading of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution took about 4 pages in the original, about 22 pages in my printed edition. That's expected to take an hour or two.

This is actually a very old tradition back when laws were handed down orally from generation to generation. A prominent member of society was appointed Lawspeaker to recite the laws of the community at the annual assembly.

By why stop with reading the Constitution when there is so much more that Congress could be made to read aloud.

(1) The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (ObamaCare). Republicans are always complaining Democrats didn't read the law before passing it. So they can read it to them now, before Republicans take the vote to repeal it. 961 pages or so. If they take shifts that should take just 2 days, 6 days if they stick to business hours.

(2) The Internal Revenue Code. The exact length of the tax code is widely debated and a moving target, but I think Congress could get it read on shifts inside a month. And we can make a rule that if they don't read the section that taxes you, you don't have to pay the tax.

(3) The whole United States Code. It has 51 titles, so that's just one title per week for a year. The Internal Revenue Code is Title 26, so that would come up for reading over the Fourth of July. Twenty-one Congressman speed reading simultaneously should be able to get through the tax code on the Fourth, a sort of 21 gun salute.

(4) The Code of Federal Regulations. Yes, it's impossibly long and the federal agencies add new regulations faster than you can read them, a new issue of the Federal Register is published every day. But Congress can just subpoena some federal bureaucrats and make them read it.

And what should Congress do after they have finished all that reading? I'd hope they get the message and adjourn without passing any more laws.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Don't Ask Don't Tell about XO Movie Night

The Virginian-Pilot has published some "raunchy" videos made a few years back by Navy Captain Owen Honors, then the executive office of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. He became Captain of the Enterprise this past May, but somebody told on him, and now he has been temporarily relieved of duty pending an investigation.

If you want to watch, I won't tell. But, as Captain Honors is finding out, these may not be safe for work.

Will Captain Owen Honors now get drummed out of the U.S. Navy? The XO Movie Night video intros do seem to show that the Honors knew he was flaunting the rules:

"As usual the Admiral and the Captain have no idea about the contents of the video or movie this evening, and they should not be held accountable in any judicial setting."

But I think that is just part of the gag. So is the statement about "gutless" complaints not being made to the XO's face. The Huffington Post sees gay-bashing in some of the jokes, but I think they could just as easily be a subversive commentary against the old DADT policy. Captain Owens tells many of the sexually charged jokes on himself.

The USS Enterprise has a crew of 6,000, so this is comparable to a small town cable access channel. By that standard, these videos are funnier than anything you will see on CCTV or SCAT. And if they have to keep the language cleaner on SCAT, there are no children watching on the USS Enterprise.

This may feel like a waste of your taxpayer dollars, but the military has a long tradition of printing its own newspapers complete with comic and cartoon artists. Because entertaining the troops and imparting news and information with a touch of humor has long been understood as one of the best ways to build morale.

I do hope those calling for dismissal will at least thank Captain Honors for his service to the country. His official bio says he has more than 3,400 flight hours in 31 different types of aircraft with more than 700 landings on 15 different carriers, has flown 85 combat missions in three different wars, and has been awarded the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Joint Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medals, Meritorious Service Medal, and various campaign/unit awards.

Update 1/4/2011: The investigation did not take long and Captain Owen Honors was thrown overboard today (dare I say shit-canned?) by the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces, Admiral John C. Harvey Jr.:

"While Captain Honors' performance as commanding officer of USS Enterprise has been without incident, his profound lack of good judgment and professionalism while previously serving as executive officer on Enterprise calls into question his character and completely undermines his credibility to continue to serve effectively in command."

OK, "profound lack of good judgment and professionalism" and "undermines his credibility" are fair points on which one might agree or disagree but was it really necessary to impugn his character? Admiral Harvey has a master's degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, which will call into question his character in some people's minds.

Update 1/5/2011: The following was posted yesterday on a "We Support Captain O. P. Honors!" Facebook page by Lu Anne Honors. Assuming this was posted by the Captain's wife (we have no way to verify), that shows a lot of class:

"O.P. and I appreciate all of the support posted on this page. We are unable to comment further at this time due the ongoing investigation. Please give Capt. Mewborne your full support and focus your efforts on the upcoming deployment. You will be in our thoughts and prayers every day."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Age 112 Is a Long Life to Ponder

Onie Ponder of Ocala, Florida passed away this past Friday January 31 at the age of 112.

Think about it. Onie Ponder was born on September 3, 1898 during the horse and buggy days. Today she has a Wikipedia page.

Onie was 13 when the Titanic sank, 16 at the outbreak of World War I, and 22 when women were granted the right to vote. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 that ushered in the Great Depression occurred when she was 31, The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor when she was 43.

Onie was 65 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. I wonder if she bristled at his 1960 inauguration speech when he spoke of the torch being passed to a "new generation of Americans born in this century?" That was half a century ago and she apparently was not quite ready to pass the torch.

The year Onie was born, the U.S. had 45 states and William McKinley was President. She has lived under 20 Presidents. In the last Presidential election, she is reported to have voted for Barack Obama. Only the butterflies know who she voted for in the disputed Florida recount of 2000.

Onie lived most of her life in Ocala, Florida but did spend two years working as a bookkeeper for Kidder, Peabody & Co. in Boston.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Big Brother Has Some New Year's Resolutions for You and Me

I was going to make New Year's resolutions this year, but am still working on my 2009 list. Then I see that the federal government has made some resolutions for me:

Drink Less Alcohol
Get a Better Education
Get a Better Job
Get Fit
Lose Weight
Manage Debt
Manage Stress
Quit Smoking Now
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Save Money
Take a Trip
Volunteer to Help Others

That's a lot for the federal government to ask. How about I just pay my taxes.

And I should "quit" smoking now but only drink "less" alchohol. What's that about?

But some of those resolutions would be good for the federal government itself: Lose Weight, Manage Debt, Save Money, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Get to it.

Amp the New Year up to 11

Well it's a new year, 2011.

The Great Recession is long over unless you've hit 99 weeks on your unemployment. Or if you just lost your job, then it's just starting.

The stock market is doing great, as long as you look at the 1 year or 2 year average, and not the 3 year or 5 year.

We have a new Congress, the 112th, starting January 3. They'll sit from January 3, 2011 to January 3, 2013. OK, the leaders are all the same as the old Congress: Boehner, Pelosi, Reid, and McConnell. But Boehner and Pelosi switched places.

The double zeroes are conclusively behind us. Goodbye 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010. You can give the 0 on your keypad a bit of a rest. Get ready to pump out 11s.

Nigel: The numbers all go to 11. Look, right across the board, 11, 11, 11 ...

Marty: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to 10?

Nigel: Exactly.

Marty: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?

Nigel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not 10. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at 10. You're on 10 here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on 10 on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?

Marty: I don't know.

Nigel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?

Marty: Put it up to 11.

Nigel: 11. Exactly. One louder.

Marty: Why don't you just make 10 louder and make 10 be the top number and make that a little louder?

Nigel: [pause] These go to 11.