Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pretty funny

Of course, if you still think Fergie is only a British Royal, this won't make any sense...

Ok, this should take the edge off a depressing week...

Turn on the volume and click right here...
Of course, this doesn't change the fact that in all my years of martial arts training, I have never been attacked by a block of wood, or a stack of concrete...

A dark day indeed...

I've tried writing this so many times, I've lost count. Here goes...

Sometimes. Sometimes you have to accept the truth that there are monsters in this world.

We do not live in an easy world. Things don't always make sense. There are uncomfortable truths...

1. The average jackass can not so easily kill 32 people and wound another 20 with anything less than a firearm. He might murder someone, or multiple someones, with a myriad of other tools, but nothing short of a gun would'v turned an untrained prick into this kind of killing machine.

2. Guns really don't kill people -- people kill people. A firearm is nothing more than glorified clockwork and potential energy stored in a chemical powder. It takes someone's will to pull the trigger. And while there is no doubt in my mind that guns are designed to make killing something else easier to do, a gun left alone will never shoot, and it will never have the capacity for evil.

3. If there had been one armed, brave person in the crowd, this might've ended differently... Assuming that potential defender had both the requisite will, and the opportunity to grasp the emergency, this too is true. Guns are mere tools; it is the intention of the shooter that is good or evil. The Secret Service did a study of school shootings in 2002, and noted that most school shooting incidents were stopped by means other than law enforcement intervention. In 1/8 of the cases, the shooter committed suicide, otherwise, the victims resorted to "self-help" before the cops arrived. Just a guess, but I bet few of the victims who fought back were equally armed.

4. The genie is out of the bottle. We live in the 21st Century. Technology is what it is. Ban, restrict, limit what you want... Virginia Tech has a total ban on weapons on its campus. No guns, no how. A fat lot of good it did them -- because you can't put the genie back in the bottle. Sometimes you just have to accept the truth that there are monsters in the world, and they will rampage when they will. Good people must always fight them when we see them.

Tragedy will always test us; it will test us as individuals, as communities, and as a nation. That test of character has its own kind of logic and purpose.


Check these links out. Feel free to discuss.

And as a bonus, check this out, in which the VT spokesman seems to say, "Porn, not a good idea -- but within a student's rights to participate. Responsible gun ownership, unacceptable behavior from a student."

Well, I'm reminded of one of my favorite lines from the Revolution: I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The House of Cash, or "I fell into a burining ring of fire."

Last Tuesday, Johnny Cash's house in Tennesee burned to the ground.
He and his wife June Carter Cash lived there their whole married life. They owned two other homes, including one in Jamaica, but this was a unique, one of a kind house which they always considered home. They were the only family to live in the house.
You may have glimpsed the home if you ever saw Cash's "Hurt" video.
He wrote many of his final songs in the house.
In the movie "Walk the Line," when Cash literally stumbles onto the house being built, it marks the start of his long, slow turnaround from drugs and despair.
After Cash died, the house was sold to one of the Brothers Gibb (yes, of the Bee Gees...), but it was being renovated before occupancy when it burned down.
The only thing left now are the chimneys.

Little by little, we lose this Republic

I don't usually talk politics, but this really burns me up in a fundamental way...

In 1789, when the Founding Fathers argued in the heat of the Constitutional Convention, one of their major concerns was checking the potential for tyranny in a strong, centralized, national government. They built a series of tripwires and safeguards into the Constitution to keep this from happening. Most of us are familiar with the two major safeguards, the three branch government, and the checks and balances system that keeps each of the three branches as watchdogs over the other two.

But there are many smaller safeguards built in, all designed to keep anyone from centralizing power in one place of the government for too long, or too tightly.

One of those safeguards is the Electoral College.

Now, I recognize that those of us who grew up learning civics from Schoolhouse Rock did not hear much about the Electoral College until the 200 election. Those who grew up after Schoolhouse Rock probably know even less. Good news, Schoolhouse Rock corrected that mistake and for its Mega-Box Set DVD release, created a brand new song:

[Cheerleaders, as a cheer:]E-L-E-C-TOR-AL
Electoral College - we've got a tale to tell!
[Sung by voting box:]So what if we don't have a football team?
At least we never have to write a theme.
No classes, no professors, no tuition,
Yet we're the goal of every politician.
[With cheerleaders:]'Cuz everyone who graduates becomes the president.

I'm gonna send your vote to college,
When you vote for president,
And if you'll let me share some knowledge,
You'll understand this big event!
The folks who wrote our Constitution
Had the idea for this plan,
And it's been used in our elections
Since our government began.

When you pull down on my levers for the person of your choice,
You're also choosing state electors, who will have the final voice.
They're called the electoral college, and they'll meet to stipulate
Who the voters have selected to be the winner in each state.
Now, the number of electors
That your state is going to get
Is based on total population
That's a formula that's set.
And when the popular vote is counted
To find a winner in each state,
Each state will pledge all of its electors
To choose the winning candidate!

[Winning candidate:]I like it! I like it!
[Cheerleaders:]E-L-E-C-TOR-ALElectoral College - and we deserve a yell!

And even if the vote is close,
And someone wins by just a little, tiny hair,
Electors give that person all their votes,
And it's considered fair and square!
I'm gonna send your vote to college
When you vote for president,
And now the electoral college
Will work the way our founders meant.

[Spoken by vote box:]So what if they don't have a big macho football team?
[Sung, with cheerleaders:]It's every politician's special dream!
[Vote box:] 'Cuz everyone who graduates,
[With cheerleaders:] Yes, everyone who graduates,
Everyone who graduates becomes the president!

So there, now you know. What the song doesn't tell you is "Why?"

Well, here's the deal. We could have a popular vote for President in this country. Lot's of people think it's a good idea. But... The population of urban centers outnumbers those who live in rural areas. The Founders well understood that geographic differences would tend to creat common cause among the voters of a region. Certainly not everyone in a particular place will vote the same way. But if I'm a politician courting a popular vote, I would do much better to go to New York City and say, "I'm for giving more money to better roads and services," than to Kansas to say, "I'm for farm subsidies." Nobody in New York cares much about farm subsidies, but someone in Kansas might care about roads. How am I going to campaign?

So the Founders created an apportioned system to account for regional differences. Now a politician has to travel and pander -- I mean, court -- voters with many different issues. He, or she, has to build consensus. The candidate can't as easily write off the issues important to key, but dispersed, minorities.

If we went to a straight popular vote, the urban centers of New York City, Las Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore/Washington, Philadelphia, along with smaller, but important urban concentrations would dictate the winner of the next National election. New York City alone would outvote Maryland, Connecticut, and Rhode Island -- combined. BTW, Right now, these jurisdiction would vote Democratic. And the Red State vs. Blue State competition is why the key champions of a popular vote right now are Democratic. But while a popular vote would sew up the election for the Dem's in 2008 (Guess what: it's probably already sewn up, Dems! So chill out!), it is extremely short sighted if you take the view of keeping power decentralized.

Two states have approved a bill to do away with the Electoral College, Hawaii and Maryland. This is an effort to amend the US Constitution, until the conditions are met for the amendment, the approvals have no real effect. A third state legislature, California, put a bill before their governor, but he *ahem* terminated it with a veto.

The Founding Fathers recognized that those with power tend to work hard at accumulating more power. Hence the checks and balances. The politicians who passed these bills tend to be lawyers: they know the Constitution and understand it. But they are ignoring the wisdom of the document. When the Constitutional Convention ended, someone asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government the country had. Franklin told him solemnly, "A republic, if you can keep it."

"If" indeed.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Holy Kusari! This is Weird and Wild Stuff!

Oh, Steve, "Ninja Master"... Did you know what lies the Englishman would tell in this video interspersed with you authentic teachings?

Please, Great Buddha Above, let the upcoming Mythbusters episode be better...

"You're Five-by-Five, Buf."

Whedon Fans, Rejoice!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer returns in all new, Joss Whedon scripted adventures in Dark Horse Comics new series, "The Long Way Home," or as everyone calls it: Season 8.

Yes, this is it, the official story of what happened after we saw the remainder of the Scooby Gang drive away from the big, gaping hole that had been Sunnydale in a battered schoolbus. No more fan fiction. No more wear on the VCR searching for clues about Buffy's whereabouts in Angel, Season 5.

At post-time, two issues of the comic have been released, though I only managed to get the first issue last week. I didn't realize how much I missed Buffy and her friends until I saw them back in action. Things have apparently changed in Buffy's world, and we are thrown into the midst of it all. Buffy no longer fights alone, but has melded 500 other slayers into an army, complete with support, logistics, research, and transpo. Buffy uses an energy weapon to crack a force field so quickly it took me two readings to realize, "Hey, where's she get an energy weapon from?" There's a home base in a remote Scottish castle, from which Xander Harris runs a high-tech command center. And we also meet Buffy's sister, Dawn, apparently a college student now, and... Well, her problems have gotten a bit bigger.

We know Giles is still involved, though we don't see him. Willow has gone missing, but no one other than Dawn seems overly concerned. As for the rest of Buffy's usual supporting cast? Anyone's guess. I'm guessing all will be revealed in time. And speaking of time, we don't really know how much time has elapsed since the end of Season 7.

As for problems... Buffy's been keeping busy on the demon killing front, and the US Army has been poking its nose into Sunnydale's smoking pit. They dragged someone out of it too. Someone with a longstanding grudge against the Buff-ster. Oh, and there's a mysterious floating person who has Buffy and her Slayer Commandos under surveillance.

I'm glad to have them all back -- even if it is in monthly comic book form. It's been way too long.

Rashida Jones, "The Other Woman" on The Office