Friday, May 24, 2013

Harvard Law, folks! Let's give them a round of applause.

I'm beginning to wonder if the GOP might not be making an attempt to undercut the President's legal background by having some of its own HLS grads act like complete idiots.

First example: Congressman Cotton of Arkansas.

Sure, I'm obligated to point out how obliviously unconstitutional the Cotton Amendment was. But stunning stupidity aside, there's something really depressing in his follow-up:

“I sympathize with their plight if they are harmless, innocent civilians in Iran. I doubt that that is often the case.”

He seems to be suggesting that it's more likely that people from a country governed by a domestically oppressive, murderous regime are coming to America in order to attack us than that they're coming to seek shelter and aid from us.

Setting aside the rest of the offensively paranoid racism, that's a really sad--and very unpatriotic--sentiment to hear from a Congressman. I tend to think people from countries that murder demonstrators in the streets who come to the U.S. are probably more interested in taking shelter in our freedoms than attacking them. When the world looks up at the Shining City on a Hill, does Rep. Cotton really believe they're thinking "hey, a shining city on a hill! Let's attack it!"?

Next we have someone who I don't think will ever run dry as a fount of entertainment (unless he's actually elected and put in a position of power, in which case I don't think anyone will find it funny at all): the GOP nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, E.W. Jackson, who doesn't think federal disaster relief is constitutional, says that the idea of GLBT Pride Month "makes me feel ikky all over," and, of course, this:

In an April 28, 2011 statement while he was a Senate candidate, conservative minister and lawyer E.W. Jackson held up the three-fifths clause as an “anti-slavery” measure. The context of his statement was to attack President Obama after a pastor at a church service he attended referred to the three-fifths clause as a historical marker of racism.

“Rev. [Charles Wallace] Smith must not have understood the 3/5ths clause was an anti-slavery amendment. Its purpose was to limit the voting power of slave holding states,” Jackson, an African-American, said in his statement.

The Three-Fifths Compromise was the way that the South was able to dominate American politics until the Civil War. It's why more than half of Presidents before Lincoln were Southern slave-owners. It's why the list of Speakers of the House before the Civil War is dominated by Southerners and slave-owners. To claim that it was an "amendment" is bad enough for someone from HLS (the sort of mistake we expect from the laity), but to claim it was "anti-slavery" is stupid beyond all mortal ken.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Community" inches closer to six seasons and a movie

When Joel McHale made his deal with Satan, it seems he did a good job of reading the fine print:
“Community” has squeaked out a fifth season renewal from NBC. And the Greendale Community College gang undoubtedly owes a debt to the expanding SVOD marketplace for persuading NBC that it was worth investing in what will probably be a last hurrah for the cult-fave series from Sony Pictures TV.

I don't expect the ratings to get any better, but the last few episodes of the season that just ended were surprisingly solid. There's also the added benefit that, knowing this is almost certainly going to be all she wrote, and not having Chevy Chase around to deal with, they can go ahead and give the cast something for their highlight reels. If Alison Brie doesn't have her own sitcom deal within the next few years, it's a sign that there is no justice in the world. Donald Glover needs a feature film (as funny as "Mystery Team" was, the man deserves an eight-digit budget). And poor Danny Pudi has spent too much time stuck in what I call "Spiner's Valley": that career trough that only comes when someone plays an essentially expressionless character for too long and afterwards can't really get any parts that require real acting. They need some showpieces.

Read it with the eyes you use for reading

I'm unsure whether to consider this pastiche or parody, but I'm leaning extremely funny pastiche.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A crazy man and a "fighting rifle"

(Cross-posted at DailyKos)

On March 10th, in the small town of Middlefield, Ohio, James Gilkerson took a right turn too fast onto the State Route 608. Two local police officers--Erin Thomas and Brandon Savage--were patrolling in their cruiser and saw the turn. They pulled Gilkerson over.

Before they could approach his car, he stepped out with an AK-47 holding 40 rounds and opened fire on the officers. Thomas was wounded. The two officers returned fire, hitting Gilkerson. He doubled over in pain and yelled, "kill me!" He stood back up, raised his AK-47 back towards the officers, and started firing again. The officers again returned fire, killing him.

The dashboard camera ran the entire time, and the audio was recorded as well. This footage is now available, though it is extremely graphic, and I wouldn't recommend watching it.

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer released a slide show of items found in Gilkerson's car. In addition to many more high-capacity magazines, he also had literature on corpse disposal, ammunition and explosive manufacturing, a book on homemade weaponry, a book on constructing suppressors, a copy of "Invisible Resistance to Tyranny" (which, according to its Amazon page, promises to teach readers "the many paths of invisible resistance to tyranny - intelligence collection and dissemination, propaganda, support for active operations and, if it should ever come down to it, direct operations against a totalitarian regime"), and a couple of training manuals in gunfighting.

It was one of those last items that stood out to me as I looked through the slides. Specifically, this one:

This manual was recovered along with ammunition and other militant literature from the car of an insurrectionist who attacked police officers in Ohio back in March.

I noticed, as I skimmed past it, the logo on the bottom-right corner.

"Tactical Response"

Tactical Response is the weapons training company run by James Yeager. Mr. Yeager, you might recall, made headlines in January for a web video where he promised to "start killing people" if President Obama pursued tougher gun control:

"James Yeager, CEO of Tactical Response, a Tennessee company that trains people in weapon and tactical skills, claimed in a video posted on YouTube and Facebook that he would "start killing people" if President Barack Obama decides to take executive action to pass further gun control policies, Raw Story reports.

In a frenetic address to the camera, Yeager puts a call out to other gun rights advocates to "load your damn mags" and "get ready to fight" in what he claims will turn into a "civil war" if gun control measures in the country get any stricter."

Transcript: "Fuck that. I'm telling you, if that happens, it's going to spark a civil war and I'll be glad to fire the first shot. I'm not putting up with it. You shouldn't put up with it. And I need all you patriots to start thinking about what you're going to do, load your damn mags, make sure your rifle's clean, pack a backpack with some food in it, and get ready to fight. I am not fucking putting up with this. I am not letting my country be ruled by a dictator. (yelling) I am not letting anybody take my guns! If it goes one inch further, I'm going to start killing people."

Mr. Yeager's permit to carry a concealed weapon was temporarily suspended after that video, but was returned to him last month.

The course book that Gilkerson had with him was for a two-day Tactical Response training program called "Fighting Rifle." Here's the course description from their website:

You know how to shoot your rifle or subgun now let us teach you how to FIGHT with it! This course is far more advanced than any other rifle course you can attend (with the exception of our advanced course) and covers trajectory, battlesight zero, gear set-up, sling configurations, transitions to pistol, use of cover and concealment, practical ready and firing positions, close- and medium-range snap shooting, weapons handling, urban applications, team drills, firing while moving, multiple targets, plus the tactics required to employ this potent tool in combat. Every student leaves this class with empty mags, a red hot rifle, and a smile from ear to ear! This is one of our most popular courses.

This class is great for nearly any magazine fed rifle or subgun and any traditional military style rifle. We will show you how to run your MP5, AR, AK, RPK, FAL, M1A, G3, VZ-58 or whatever weapon you have!

To my knowledge, Tactical Response hasn't made any statements about the Middlefield shooting, not even to comment on the attacker's form and technique. And just because he had what appears to be materials from this course doesn't mean he necessarily received training--I'm confident he could have picked it up from the same source as the other literature in his car, which I assume probably came from a vendor at a gun show or a table at an extremist right-wing rally--but I think it's worth looking into, especially as the course is regularly taught in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

In January, the CEO of this company says he wants "patriots" to "load your damn mags, make sure your rifle's clean...and get ready to fight," because he's ready to "start killing people." In March, someone with his company's training materials from a course on how to better kill people using assault weapons opens fire on police officers with an AK-47 loaded with a high-capacity magazine.

Say what you will, it's a uniquely American story.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Add "claustrophobia" to the list of things I will never forget in my life

Also, as true today as it was when it was written: I mean, except for the part where Art Fleming and Don Pardo are involved. But that shit about not even getting the home game is spot on. I was seriously bummed about that part.

Also, I didn't get to meet Johnny Gilbert, which made me sad. But other than those two things--no home game, no Johnny--it was a total blast. We played a great game (all of our scores were well over $20,000), and I got paid $1000 to play a game and visit L.A. Not a bad deal.

Recommended reading: