Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why We No Longer Deserve Nice Things, #3

A few weeks ago, a young man named James Eagan Holmes entered a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and opened fire with a variety of weapons including an AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle, a Remington 870 shotgun and a 40-caliber Glock pistol.  All of these weapons, his equipment (reports state that he wore a ballistic helmet, vest and gas mask) and his ammunition were all purchased legally.

That includes a 100-round drum magazine for the AR-15.

I've stated before on this blog (back after the Virginia Tech shootings) that high-capacity magazines are good for only one thing, and that it to enable you to fire as many bullets as possible before reloading.  Leaving aside the stupidity of having an AR-15 for hunting purposes, if you need 100 shots to bring down a deer you may as well stop hunting altogether.

Now, high-capacity magazines and assault rifles were briefly banned in the United States, and a ban on such weapons was briefly discussed in the wake of the twelve deaths in Aurora (now thirteen; one of the survivors has miscarried).

Enter US Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin.  In a riposte to a proposed bill by Senators Lautenburg of New Jersey and Feinstein of California, he stated that banning or limiting high-capacity magazines would infringe on our Constitutional rights.

Most people have never had shots fired back at them in anger, apart from the military and law enforcement, so under stress a lot of people immediately adopt the Imperial Stormtrooper School of Marksmanship dictum of spray and pray, as illustrated thus:

All those shots, at that range, and all the man managed was to wound the two would-be robbers. NJ Governor Chris Christie went a step further, accusing Lautenburg of grandstanding and saying that it was too soon to discuss gun control.

Well, Governor, how about now?

And now we have Associate US Supreme Court Justice Antonin "Fat Tony" Scalia on Fox, holding forth on gun control.  What's very telling is that he suggests that hand-held rocket launchers may, in fact and in law, be considered protected under the Second Amendment - because, being hand-held, could fall under the idea of "bearing arms."
But how would the Court decide on that?  "Very carefully."

I don't want to see the first test case of that bit of strict constructionism gone horribly awry.  Fat Tony, Johnny Two-Face and Sammy the Weasel were major mistakes on the part of the Senate, and should never have been confirmed.

But they're there now, for life.  We're stuck with them (and never mind the hard right's calls for Johnny Two-Face to be impeached - it ain't gonna happen, kids).

There is a multiple-victim shooting in the United States roughly every week, somewhere in the country.

And don't give me that shit about "Well, cars kill more people than guns, so we should outlaw driving." 


A car's intended purpose is to get you from Point A to Point B, preferably with air conditioning and a good sound system.  A gun's intended purpose is to kill.  That's what it's made for, that's what it does, and many of them are good at it.

So we avoid a reasonable public discourse on gun control in this country.  Our politicians are afraid to say anything for fear of being terrorized by the NRA, and besides (says Governor Christie) it's not time yet.

But when the next cranky loser with a legal gun permit and a legal arsenal starts shooting up the next crowded theater or Luby's Restaurant or McDonald's or school, should we act all surprised?

And that's another reason we no longer deserve nice things.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Politics of Bombs

Yesterday, a powerful bomb ripped through a conference at the National Security HQ in Damascus, Syria.  The device killed the country's Defense Minister and several others, including President Bashir Assad's brother-in-law.  A report that the Interior Minister was also killed turned out to be untrue - but he's badly hurt nevertheless.

Responsibility was immediately claimed by the Free Syrian Army, which claimed that it was an inside job carried out by one of their people working in the Defense Ministry.  An Islamist group also claimed the attack, but that claim's dubious.

Coupled with unconfirmed reports that President Assad and his family have taken refuge at the port of Latakia (and an additional report that Assad's British-born wife's already shifted ho for Russia), this could signal the beginning of the end for the regime in Syria. 

Which, on balance, wouldn't be a Bad Thing. Bad things have been going on in Syria for the past 14 months, already.

The same day a nondescript long haired guy wearing plaid shorts and a backpack was spotted on security video at the airport in Burgas, Bulgaria.  He seemed to be waiting for something.

He was.

As a group of Israeli holidaymakers boarded a bus, he walked up to the vehicle and hit the thunder button, killing seven and injuring 23.  Bulgaria's Interior Minister announced that the guy was traveling with forged papers, including a bogus Michigan driver's license.

Israel's government immediately blamed Iran (who said, "Not us, motherfuckers") and promised dire consequences.

Now, you might ask why I'm doing this.

The use of bombs as Propaganda of the Deed has a long history - the Haymarket Riots, the Troubles, the July 7th London bombings, etc - but they don't exist in a vacuum.

The Damascus bombing was a deliberate attack on a military target as part of a civil war.  The Free Syrian Army was trying to whack the regime's command structure, a classic decapitation attack.  And it was justified in just that way.

The Burgas bombing targeted civilians, and was more the pure type of Deed Propaganda.  However comforting Israel's knee-jerk reaction may be to its citizens and the Israel lobby in the USA, no one to my knowledge has claimed any responsibility yet.

Which is kind of the point to doing things like this.  You blow up a busload of people, then stand on your head and wiggle your ears at your adversaries, shouting, "Nyah nyah!"

This didn't happen in a vacuum.  So, who done it?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I Hate to Say "I told you so..."

But ...

I told you so.

That Can's Been Kicked

A British defense analyst has announced that Iran is "Two years" away from developing the capacity to build an atomic bomb.

I recall watching the news during the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and after the theocratic government was installed it was opined by our own CIA that Iran was "Two years" away from developing an atomic bomb.

"Two years."

A Friedman Unit is supposed to be only six months, but of course this predates the Friedman Unit.

So, it's been about thirty-two years since Iran was supposed to be "Two years" away from The Bomb.

Meanwhile, the sanctions against Iran are having an effect.  Iran's stockpiling oil that no-one wants to buy on tankers, it's usual storage facilities rapidly bulging at the seams.  Its national airline may end up completely grounded owing to a lack of maintenance and spare parts.  And the fear of military action or invasion will grow.

Fear, as I've said several times here, is a powerful motivator that can cause people to acquire weapons.  Fear, after all, is what has induced shaky minds to stockpile guns since 2008, and caused even queasier mentalities to formulate and pass "Stand Your Ground" laws.

So the economic constraints from the sanctions, coupled with the incessant warmongering by the neoconservatives and the Israeli lobby here in the USA, may actually bring the pipe dream of intelligence analysts since 1980 to reality.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Offered Without Comment

There are two errors or prejudices on the subject of government in America, which lead to the most dangerous consequences.

It is often said, that "the sovereign and all other power is seated in the people." This idea is unhappily expressed. It should be—"all the power is derived from the people." They possess it only on the days of their elections. After this, it is the property of their rulers, nor can they exercise or resume it, unless it is abused. It is of importance to circulate this idea, as it leads to order and good government.

The people of America have mistaken the meaning of the word sovereignty: hence each state pretends to be sovereign. In Europe, it is applied only to those states which possess the power of making war and peace—of forming treaties, and the like. As this power belongs only to congress, they are the only sovereign power in the united states.

We commit a similar mistake in our ideas of the word independent. No individual state, as such, has any claim to independence. She is independent only in a union with her sister states in congress.

- Benjamin Rush (one of the signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia, January 1787)