Saturday, March 6, 2010

The "Open Carry" Question

Yesterday I went to the local grocery store. Nothing unusual about that. But as I'm standing in the checkout line, I notice that the man in front of me is openly wearing a large revolver (looked like a Colt, but I didn't ask) on his side. Which is perfectly legal here in Arizona. But is it sensible? I mean, this is Flagstaff, the epitome of "safe". And the guy with the sidearm appeared to be young, solid, and healthy (and very white, not that it matters); not a likely victim of violence.

"Open Carry" laws have been getting a little more notice lately, with NRA members wearing their guns into Starbucks, and 'Tea Party Patriots' taking their sidearms to political rallies. There are many 2nd amendment advocates circulating the (baseless) paranoia that Obama wants to 'take their guns away', leading to a boom in gun sales.

I find that I have mixed feelings about "Open Carry" in action. I'm a gun owner myself, but I have no inclination to carry my pistol around in public. I don't feel threatened in my life, but I could see how that could change if it became common that almost everyone around me were openly armed. Put simply, for self-defense I'm used to relying on my physical size and ugliness, and the fact that I live in a low crime city. I become more nervous about the uncertainty of the mental stability of someone if I see that they are armed, especially when there's no logical reason for them to be. Heinlien's old adage that "an armed society is a polite society" neglects to point out that it is also a very nervous society. The more armed people around, the more likely that one of those armed people is unstable. That is what I'm uncomfortable with.

I grew up with guns around, and was taught strict gun safety. Only carry a gun if you're planning on using it, and only point it at something you intend to shoot. Those rules work fine for hunting and target practice. I'm assuming that the people who carry guns in public feel that they "might need it" for self defense, no matter how incredibly unlikely that is. Hell, the gun is the most likely thing to be stolen from them.

I realize that there could be individual situations that leave a person feeling threatened, such as domestic violence issues. For all I know, the shopper in front of me might be worried that his lover's husband was after him. But I'm not convinced that this is the common motivation. Fear is frequently an irrational emotion. There's a very real difference between a specific threat and a vague unspecific (and usually unreal) threat. It would be nice to be able to ask each person carrying a gun what exactly they are defending themselves against, because I doubt that it's a 'specific' for most of them.

Again, I find that my feeling are mixed: I do believe in the right to keep and bear arms, but I have doubts about the sensibility of guns in mainstream public life. I may be wrong, but it strikes me that more weapons make violence more likely, not less.

And totally aside: the gentleman at the grocery store was buying about a dozen boxes of "pop tarts" and a head of celery. I shouldn't question another person's dietary choices, but really?

Friday, March 5, 2010

I Am (as usual) Confused

There's something strange about republican imagery and fundraising tactics that I don't quite understand. Some Republican goofball left a copy of an RNC fundraising presentation in a Florida hotel room, and now everyone can see it. The power point slide above seems to be getting the most attention, and it is rather amusing in a very weird sort of way. But I'm not sure that I 'get' the author's intention.
Okay, I can understand the "Obama as the Joker" image has some propaganda value. Rather childish, but I can see how the caricature implies "evil". The same for the "Pelosi as Cruella" image; silly, but I get the point.
Now to the parts I don't understand: Pelosi and Reid as "American Gothic"? This is supposed to imply...what? That they're like a classic portrayal of "Americana"? That they're "old"? (Not exactly a campaign tactic that helps republicans, in my opinion). That Harry Reid carries a pitchfork? This hurts them how?
And the caricature of Harry Reid as "Scooby-Doo" leaves me really confused. I'm certainly no expert on "Scooby-Doo", but I did see the cartoon in my youth. A large, goofy dog with a "snack dependency" (I always thought it was a thinly veiled drug reference) who bumbles around, but is always the "hero" by the end of the show. Correct me if I'm right, but Scooby always solves the mystery and stops the villain in the end. So is the point that Harry Reid is a clumsy hero? That he's a snack addict? My understanding of the parody is unclear. Making an analogy that Harry Reid is a "good guy" doesn't strike me as all that damning. If anything, comparing Harry to Scooby is more complimentary to him than a lot of things I might say about him; I have my doubts that he'll 'save the day' at the end of the episode.
I do understand the use of caricature in political attacks; it's a very old technique (Thomas Nast springs to mind). But this amateurish attempt is beyond feeble. Pelosi and Reid are both rather easy targets for parody in reality, but this attempt seems to completely miss the shot.
Am I missing something?

Marching Boobies

It's Friday, it's March. Therefore, March-ing Boobies.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Nearly America's Most Powerful Atheist

With Charley Rangel stepping down, I was so hoping that Pete Stark would become chairman of the House Ways and Means committee. Alas, he chose to avoid the controversy:

Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) won't take the helm of the House Ways and Means Committee after top Dems expressed worry he would become a lightening rod for controversy and GOP criticism.

Stark was in line to take the post from Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), who stepped down yesterday amid ethics controversies. In his place, Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), the third-ranking Dem on the panel, will take over.

Stark has a history of making controversial statements. Last year, during a town hall meeting, he told a constituent who opposed health care reform that he wouldn't "dignify you by peeing on your leg. It wouldn't be worth wasting the urine."

In private meetings yesterday, DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen and other Dems expressed their concern to Stark and openly wondered whether he would be able to win a vote of the full Dem caucus. Stark agreed to step aside after those meetings, sources told Hotline OnCall.

Levin, by the way, will have some help as he figures out how to wield his first gavel over a full committee. His brother, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairs the upper chamber's Armed Services Committee.

Too bad; I've always had a special liking for the irascible Stark. He's the only self-avowed atheist in congress, and a very outspoken "no bullshit" liberal. It would have been quite entertaining to watch him chair the heavily lobbied 'Ways and Means' committee, which is among the most significant posts in congress.
(Disclosure: I've had many contacts with congressman Stark over the years; he represents the district where my mother lived, and defeated my father for a state assembly seat many, many years ago. I've always admired his integrity and liked him personally.)

A Loss to the Blogging Community

The blogger known as Jon Swift has left us.
I can't say I had much of a connection with Jon/Al, but I did enjoy reading his biting satire. I feel slightly bad that I dropped him from the blogroll as part of my most recent update, based on there being no new posts in almost a year. It's a sad loss for the community of bloggers, and my heart goes out to his family and friends.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Lady And The Knuckleball

It's March, and time for baseball. Here's a baseball story that I found heartwarming:

The fraternity of knuckleball pitchers is small, and Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox is its active godfather.

Eri Yoshida hopes to expand that roster and break the gender barrier at the same time.

Yoshida, the petite 18-year-old who became the first female drafted by a Japanese professional team, Kobe 9 Cruise of the Kansai Independent Baseball League, made her pro debut on March 26, 2009, at the Osaka Dome. She learned how to throw a knuckleball as a young girl by watching video of Wakefield.

On Tuesday, at the Red Sox player development complex, Yoshida, wearing a gray Boston T-shirt with Wakefield's name and number on the back, met her idol and pitched with him.

"I'm impressed," Wakefield said. "She spun a couple, but for the most part it was very good. She was able to take the spin out of a lot of them and they had quite a lot of movement on them."

Yoshida, who stands 5-foot-1 and throws her knuckleball with a sidearm motion, is in the United States to pitch in the independent Arizona Winter League. She got her first win on Feb. 12, tossing four shutout innings for the Yuma Scorpions. But she admitted she was nervous working with the 43-year-old Wakefield.

(cool video at the link, BTW)

At age 18 and 5'1", Eri Yoshida has already progressed further than any female before her in professional baseball. The knuckleball is notoriously difficult to pitch, and almost impossible to hit. I know that when I faced a knuckler in college ball (many years ago, and I only faced one), I realized that there was absolutely no way that I could hit the pitch. So I basically took every pitch and hoped that I could draw a walk (knuckleball's are hard to throw for strikes).

So here's wishing Eri the very best of success in her career. Even if she doesn't become a star, maybe she'll inspire more young women into baseball.

Kirkpatrick Proposes Pay Cut

Color me slightly surprised: My congresswoman, Ann Kirkpatrick is proposing a congressional pay cut:

Representative Ann Kirkpatrick is today launching a push to make Members of Congress show a personal commitment to cutting federal spending. She is introducing the Taking Responsibility for Congressional Pay Act, which will cut pay for all Senators and Representatives by five percent starting January 1, 2011. If the bill is passed into law, Member salaries will be reduced for the first time since April 1, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression.

“Families across the country are getting by on lower wages and finding ways to cut back during the downturn, and these are the folks that pay our salaries. The federal government’s budget is in much worse shape, so why shouldn’t senators and representatives have to feel the same pinch?” asked Rep. Kirkpatrick.

The proposal itself is fine, but I'm surprised that it's Ann making it. In her time in congress, she's been mostly a milquetoast moderate, and has made very few legislative proposals. She's been the epitome of the "nice, polite democrat" and avoided any controversy.

So, does this proposal mean anything? Not really. A 5% congressional pay cut would be a purely symbolic gesture in terms of deficit reduction. It would look good for a campaign photo-op, though. I seriously doubt that it will pass, or even get out of committee, unless a number of more powerful congress critters decide that it could help their re-election bids.

But what the heck, it's actually kinda nice to see Ann taking some action. Even a symbolic gesture is a bolder move than what I'm used to from her.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Olympics Final

(nope; not even in curling.)
I saw this over at Outside the Interzone, and had to pass it on. Lockwood is a genius.

Talking To A Texan

Those who know me know that my youngest sister lives in Texas, and is my exact opposite on almost every issue political, religious, or philosophical. She's a 'fundamentalist christian' right wing proud 'tea party patriot', so when we happened to be on the phone last evening, I wanted her take on the Texas Governor's primary. Most all of us have crazy family, but I find myself seeking to find out which flavor of crazy I'm related to. It's a bad habit.

She didn't disappoint me. "I'll never vote for Perry. He's a LIBERAL!" she said. And she thinks Kay Bailey Hutchinson will take her guns away (not a bad idea, really...except she doesn't actually have any guns...and nobody is trying to take them away today.) Really, when Perry is too "liberal" for you, what choice do you have?

So I asked her about Debra Medina. She had never heard of her.

Then I asked her who'd she vote for: she sort of "forgot" to register to vote, so she wont be voting. Which made me laugh. She sends me around a dozen "tea party" type emails every week. But didn't bother to register to vote.

In a way, I find that reassuring.

The Quiet Zone

Yesterday, I didn't quite notice what I wasn't hearing: train horns. Beginning yesterday, downtown Flagstaff became a "quiet zone" where trains don't blow their horns at each intersection. I live two blocks from the train tracks, and I've lived around downtown for so many years that I barely notice the noise, but with an average around 70 trains a day, the constant blaring can get annoying. Still, it's somewhat odd to not hear something I was so used to. And at least one conductor didn't get the memo, or couldn't quite break the habit.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Thank you calendar gods for putting an end to February, the most dismal month of the year. March brings the promise of Spring, and, of course, the return of baseball. I feel better already.

Never Too Old To Rock n' Roll

Went out to see moe. last night. Wonderful show. But bouncing back from dancing 'til 1:00 am seems to get a little tougher with each passing year. Aging ain't for sissies, I tell ya'.