Monday, April 30, 2007

Mud Bugs

Mmmm... Seldom is political news quite so tasty.

Regina Morrison Newman held the 3rd *not quite* Annual Memphisiana Crawfish Boil at her house Saturday.

Mayoral candidate Herman Morris and his lovely wife were both in attendance, as were District 89 Tennessee House candidate Kevin Gallagher and Memphis City Council candidate Ian Randolph.

Former Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Jim Strickland and "Save Libertyland" activist Denise Parkinson, both of whom have pulled petitions to run for the city council in District 5 were in attendance as well.

And of course, any time you offer free food, the bloggers turn up--- David Holt, his lovely wife Margo, , Steve "The Blogfather" Steffens, and I held down that end of the fort.

For more photos, click here.

*Thanks to Paula Casey for clearing up my confusion about Regina's name.

Just the Facts: The Philip Workman Case

Fact: Exit wounds, without fail, are larger than entry wounds.

Fact: Lt. Ronald Oliver has an exit wound on his chest almost twice the size of the entry wound on his back.

Fact: Lt. Ronald Oliver was facing Philip Workman at the time that a bullet passed through his body.

Fact: Ballistics experts have said that Philip Workman’s Colt .45 was not the weapon that killed Lt. Oliver.

Fact: The other two policemen on the scene, Aubrey Stoddard and Steven Parker, claim that they never fired their guns at all.

Fact: Witness Steve Craig claims he saw Officer Parker fire a shotgun at Philip Workman.

Fact: Philip Workman had shotgun pellets removed from his buttocks.

Fact: If such a story is to be taken at face value, then Lee Harvey Oswald’s “magic bullet” has been surpassed in sheer absurdity. Perhaps there was a second gunman on the grassy knoll across from Wendy’s on that fateful day? Because it is a fact that a bullet fired from a .45 caliber gun does not abruptly turn 180 degrees in midair.

Fact: Prosecutors have tried to explain the discrepancy in bullet wound sizes by claiming that the bullet fragmented inside Lt. Oliver, and that only a small chunk exited through his back.

Fact: Prosecutors have never been able to provide a single X-ray establishing that the bullet fragmented inside Lt. Oliver at all.

Fact: Prosecutors are also inconsistent on whether or not an X-ray of Lt. Oliver exists at all. It would be highly unusual not to have one, as X-rays had been in use for almost a century by the time the crime was committed.

Fact: The state’s case falls apart if the magic bullet theory is disproved by X-rays. For even the felony murder statute to apply, the fatal bullet would have to have come from the gun of Workman or a Workman accomplice.

Fact: Only one witness ever claimed to have seen Philip Workman fire the fatal bullet.

Fact: There’s no indication he was ever at the crime scene.

Fact: His sister refutes the idea that he could have been there and seen it, as she was with him at the time of the murder.

Fact: He had a habit of making up information to feed to police--- Claiming rewards was how he supported his drug habit.

Fact: He now claims to have been coerced into testifying.

Fact: With no forensic evidence to back up the state’s case and no eyewitness, the remaining facts of this case do not add up to first degree murder. At best, a case could be made for criminally negligent homicide, arguing that Workman’s reckless crime set into motion a chain of events at the end of which a law enforcement officer tragically lost his life.

Fact: To my knowledge, Tennessee has neither sought nor obtained an execution in a criminally negligent homicide case in its entire history.

Fact: Philip Workman has not disputed that he robbed the Wendy’s restaurant on the night of August 5, 1981.

Fact: Philip Workman has not disputed that he shot Officer Aubrey Stoddard in the arm.

Fact: There are too many things that remain unknown about this case for an execution to be anything short of a travesty of justice.

Fact: You should watch this Sharon Cobb joint and see what Lt. Oliver’s daughter has to say about the impending execution of Philip Workman.


But the just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. For the age that is honorable comes
not with the passing of time, nor can it be measured in terms of years.

The Book of Wisdom, Chapter 4.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Little Angel



On behalf of me and my family, I would like to thank all of you for your kindness, your thoughtfulness and the extraordinary support we have received throughout this difficult time in our lives.

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).

Daniel was a happy, bright and adventurous little boy who was fascinated by trains and knew no fear. He truly enjoyed living life to its fullest. Like the little engine in the story, “The Little Engine that Could,” he never backed down in the face of challenge, no matter how big or how small. To continue life without him will certainly be a big challenge for us all. However, we gather strength from Daniel’s own joyous life and take on this challenge as he would have done.

We will remember Daniel’s life as a beautiful but brief spark of light that touched each of us with his warmth and blessed each one of us with his love. From knowing him and sharing with him our love and joy, our lives will be forever blessed and his memory will never be forgotten. By having had Daniel in our lives, joy came in the morning, and his joy will always be with us.

We have set a tribute fund at St. Jude's Childrens Reserch Hospital to honor Daniel's life and memory. You can make gift to St. Jude by calling 1-800-873-6983 or visiting

Thank you.


Just a few things I've thought were worth commenting on, but perhaps not a full post's worth:

Mass-Debaters (Say it out loud)
I follow elections very closely. Election Day is my Super Bowl Sunday. Yet even I cannot bring myself to give a damn about a debate that takes place almost a year before the first voters get to chime in on the presidential race. If I had stayed home to watch TV, I would have watched "Smallville" instead.

George Tenet has said that he has been set up as the scapegoat for the Iraq invasion. Duh. It didn't really help matters when you fell on your sword, effectively giving the president carte blanche to pin it all on you. If you didn't see this coming, then I understand the current sorry state of our intelligence agencies. Prediction for those who were not clever enough to see this coming: The sun will come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there'll be sun. You heard it here first.

Yes, McCain was a dick.

Thank you, WKNO-HD, for managing to play the wrong broadcast Wednesday night. As I sat down to watch the Bill Moyers show from the other night, I selected it on my DVR playlist only to find out that I had indeed recorded two different showings of "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"--- Which is a good show, don't get me wrong. but I hardly needed two recordings of it! Thank you for being so on the ball that you've apparently made "put in the right tape" fall under the heading of skilled labor.

The Memphis Police have found most of the weapons stolen from the SWAT team van. Congratulations! Much of the last two weeks has been spent discussing guns and responsibility, particularly as it relates to the illegal weapons that make their way into dangerous hands when people irresponsibly leave them in their vehicles while they eat dinner. Say--- How were those assault weapons stolen again?

And while I'm thinking about weapons--- Fuck you too. Conservatives always find an excuse not to talk about the things they don't want to talk about. Statistically speaking, more people are murdered every day with guns than were killed in the Virginia Tech rampage. So please let me know when the bodies start hitting the deck infrequently enough for you to have the balls to have this conversation.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Getting the Band Back Together...

In the days leading up to the 2006 primaries, many of us in the progressive blogosphere had a great home away from home called The Cue. It was nice while it lasted, but as often happens when coalitions are formed around one objective, the Cue became less of a priority once those objectives had been met.

Now, we're doing the same thing again--- But rather than just having one objective, we're going to try and establish a more permanent partnership.

Each of us will still retain our own sites and our own aims. but the "Four Families" of the Memphis Liberal Blogosphere are going to once again have a mutual home away from home.

At least some, if not all members of The Flypaper Theory, West Tennessee Liberal, Leftwing Cracker, and yes, the Freedonian family will be pooling our efforts at Memphis Liberal Blogosphere. We will be joined by Bob at 55-40, Jon Carroll (Formerly Memphis Blue) and hopefully, Vibinc, with more to come later.

I hope this will be a great experience for all of us.

District 89 Updated

I think my friend and brother Cracker said it well; No matter who wins this primary, District 89 will be well represented in Nashville. I would be quite pleased if either of them moved into my district and took on G.A. Hardaway.

There's a little news to report out of both camps:

Kevin Gallagher has launched a new blog called TennIssues. I always like it when a local politician blogs. They don't have paid staff, so you know you're hearing their words and their ideas. It's not quite the same as a US Senator's blog, where the real writing is likely taken care of by a professional writer on staff.

Even Stacey Campfield, the subject of many broadsides on this site, deserves some respect by virtue of having his views out there to be seen by all.

I was quite surprised to receive a phone call from Jeannie Richardson yesterday. It's hard to be certain, as I've met a good many people on one campaign or another, but I believe this is the first time we've ever spoken.

She is a genuinely good person; I'm more than a little jealous of the abundance of riches District 89 seems to have in the candidate department. Spread the wealth, people!

She issued me a standing invitation to her house in District 89, and I'll be sure to take her up on it soon. She also gave me a reason for the lack of public records tying her to the house in the district that certainly sounds legitimate. I don't have the means to check on it further, so I'm taking her at her word.

Both candidates have expressed their wishes to me that this campaign remain clean; I can only hope that those who wish to supplant at least one candidate as the public faces of this race will abide by those wishes.

May the best candidate win.

Jack Black

There are certain phrases in life you never expect to say.

"No more beer, thank you."

"I wish the Pussycat Dolls would wear more modest clothing."

And this one for me:

"I really wish I would have watched American Idol last night."

But at least I got to see this clip via YouTube.

The New Old Media

Jackson Baker (Psst! Kibitzer) wrote an excellent piece for the edition of the Memphis Flyer that came out yesterday about the growing influence of bloggers on American politics today, and the few politicians that seem savvy enough to have noticed it. He was quite generous in not pointing out those politicians not quite tuned in enough to the age of the "New Media".

Perhaps not to be outdone, WMC ran a story about blogs on their 5 PM broadcast. They've apparently been liveblogging the John Ford trial (Couldn't tell you-- I've got more interesting things to read, like fortune cookies), and were so unprepared for the fact that (Gasp!) people read blogs that their servers were unable to deal with all the John Ford-related traffic and they had to shut down their servers.

They've missed out on one important thing, though--- Having your news reporters write an online article and slapping the name "blog" onto it doesn't really make it one. It's the same old story we've seen play out a million times before--- It's what happens when something relevant in pop culture is appropriated by corporate America and the corporate-controlled media. It happens when a manufacturer says it wants an edgy rock and roll song for a commercial and ends up with something that sounds like a lounge singer's rendition of "We Built This City" by Starship. It happens when a fast food joint has commercials featuring "Rap Cat".

And it happens when the mainstream press tries to appropriate blogging. For the one thing they cannot do is replicate the tone of a blog.

It's like trying to teach someone to sing with soul--- You either feel the music, or you do not. The informal voice of a blog has the same effect on a corporate media outlet that garlic has on a vampire, or any Timberlake song besides "Dick In a Box" has on me--- It sends them screaming from the room.

There are great blogs driven by media outlets--- Most notably Volunteer Voters and Nashville Is Talking. It's also important to note that rather than tell Ted Baxter "Write something for the web before you go to makeup", they hired experienced, established bloggers such as Adam Kleinheider and Brittney Gilbert and asked them to head up that part of the operation.

And two of my favorite bloggers write for the Memphis Flyer. The Flyer, of course, is anything but a corporate monolith (Indeed, to me, it seems the Flyer is the antidote to all that ails the corporate media), and Jackson Baker and Chris Davis know how to actually blog.

At the Commercial Appeal, Blake Fontenay certainly seems to have the hang of it-- But Wendi Thomas's articles are just as bad whether any trees are sacrificed to make them or not. Frankly, their efforts in the 2006 congressional race demonstrate that political coverage requires more heavy lifting than they're capable of.

The corporate media demonstrates to us daily why the "new media" exists. Their attempts at relevance to anyone under 40 come off about as "hip" as... Well, the word "hip".

I would like to praise WMC-TV, though. Their discovery that this blogging thing is "hip" is such a bold discovery that I can only compare it to Christopher Columbus--- Someone else that became quite famous by discovering something that millions of people already knew about.

I can hardly wait for tomorrow's bold story of the day--- We've been promised a story about how this porcelain thing makes all the doody whoosh away if you press the handle down. ***UPDATE: Jon Carroll, aka Memphis Blue, via email: "I vote for "cars, have they truly replaced horses?".

I for one cannot wait.

But It Was SUCH A Well-Kept Secret!

The 'Mute strikes again.

I am all for it if someone wishes to remain anonymous in blogging. Everyone's got a theory who Bob at 55-40 is, but no one knows if they're right (Except, presumably, Bob). Being "Dooced" is a very real threat in today's world.

But Wintermute's identity was well known by all. He used to have a picture of himself that popped up as an icon every time he posted (Granted, it looked like it was from the Seventies, but he's still got almost the same mullet). He was anything but camera shy when the bloggers of The 'Cue did a podcast last year. If you click here, you'll see pictures of him, among many others.

And more importantly, he rushes forward to have his moment in the spotlight any time a candidate he backs actually wins something. Whether it's claiming credit for Steve Cohen's victory or Beverly Marrero's victory, he will tell you in a heartbeat just how much he kicks ass. At some point in the conversation, an image of a wolf gnawing off its own leg to get out of a trap may enter your head--- Trust me. It's perfectly normal.

Now, this guy who has never been shy at all about taking credit for someone else's work (If the blogosphere contributed to the Cohen victory, let's put that Stanley Cup in the living room of the guy that we really all coalesced around--- The Blogfather, Steve Steffens) took great umbrage at having been identified in Jackson Baker's article on the District 89 primary between Kevin Gallagher and Jeannie Richardson. I, who have taken no measures at all to be anonymous (One needs only to click on the name I gave myself to see the one my parents gave me), was also identified and quoted in the same article. Jackson is to be commended not only for writing a terrific article, but for pulling some quotable material out of my hazy, "just been woken up after three and a half hours of sleep" brain. It's not an easy thing to do.

Stephen Tapp took such umbrage at having been outed that he took it upon himself to expose the second worst kept secret in the Memphis blogosphere--- That Kibitzer on my favorite blog, The Flypaper Theory, is Jackson Baker. Jackson's friends know it. His adversaries know it (One even named his site "Half-Bakered" as a backhanded compliment).

Now, something that apparently never occurred to 'Mute was to actually click on the name "Kibitzer". It did occur to Sean Braisted. He told us what he found. I went a step further and screencaptured it.

Very clever, Steve.

In fact--- Considering that you've made beating one of the candidates in the District 89 primary your goal in life, and you're angling to position yourself next to the opposition--- How smart is it to try and hurt the best political reporter in the area?

Just asking.
Also see "Sir, You Suck".

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thank God for Bill Moyers

Be sure to watch this on PBS tomorrow night. He expands on many of the themes he discussed during his speech at the Media Reform Conference several months ago and how the mainstream media helped sell the American public on the war in Iraq.

This is a preview of his new show. Its regular timeslot will be Friday nights.

Kevin Gallagher Event at Fresh Slices, 5PM

Kevin Gallagher will be holding a kickoff reception for his District 89 Campaign this evening at Fresh Slices, 1585 Overton Park (Click here if you need a map).

I will be there to wish my friend well as he embarks on his campaign to represent District 89 in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

The small Gallaghers you see in the picture to the left will be the fourth generation of the Gallagher family to grow up in the Evergreen area. It is absolutely vital that a representative be as intimately familiar with the district as Kevin is. You cannot represent the people if you don't know the people. It is their agenda that you should carry to Nashville and not your own.

His opponent in the Democratic primary is someone that I cannot honestly find a bad thing to say about, other than telling her that some of the company she keeps is absolutely loathesome. I'll leave the angry, irrational invective to another blogger (And believe me, he's got plenty of it).

But I can honestly say that if I was presented with this choice (Sadly, I do not live in District 89), I would look at it this way: We've got two honorable candidates. I don't think there would be a radical difference in their political ideologies. I suspect that much of the legislation they would sponsor would be similar. One has roots in the community that go back for generations. One changed the address on her voter registration the week she pulled the petition. Which one do I trust more to accurately represent the wishes and goals of my community?

Ths choice is clear.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mainstreaming Ourselves To Death -- by Pam

Pam was having trouble getting logged in, so she asked me to post this on her behalf. - Rick

I will be the first one to shamefully admit that I gave into the mainstream about a year or so ago by creating my own myspace page. Even worst, I got addicted to it and I praised its ability to allow neglectful people like me to stay in touch with long lost friends. G-U-I-L-T-Y.

But, come on now!!! Am I the only one that is disturbed by the thought of having the next POTUS being introduced to the American electorate by being spotlighted on myspace's “cool new people” of the day banner?

Seriously. Give me a f*ing break!! How low can we go?

It was not so long ago when running for the Presidency of the United States required some degree of dignity. Well, until W came in, that is. But, really, did Shrub lower the standards that much? Could you imagine a Truman, or a Lincoln, or a Roosevelt ever getting on myspace? Kennedy... well, maybe, but even that's a stretch...

This is certainly something worth debating in an historical context, apparently. My dear blog partner compared today’s myspace campaign phenomenon to Roosevelt’s fireside chats. A way to reach mainstream America, he reasoned… Well, yeah, but not so much Freed. I don’t think that the fireside chats ever involved belly-bearing pre-adolescents shaking their bon-bons to JT’s sexy comeback, now did them?

Hillary is on the “cool new people” of the day already… What's next? McCain listing “Bomb Iran” as his hobby? Do you really really want to know how Brownback spent his spring-break? Weird Al Yankowitz surely beats Rudy Giuliani’s last campaign ad, now does it?! I can visualize the 2008 dilemma: Geez, I don’t know who to vote for… both Edwards and Obama are on my top 10!! Is so tough!! And... Kucinich so really wants to be my friend!!!

If that is the way is gonna be, then fine, let’s have at it!! But let’s do it right. Screw myspace, I want America to vote on this. The "Survivor" way. All the presidential hopefuls should be dropped on a deserted island, with only whatever it is that they are wearing at the time, and whoever makes it out of there alive gets it: He/she can be the next leader of the free world!! Will the Mormon guy make it out of the island?

No matter who wins --Youtube, congrats: You get the STU 2009 exclusive. Beat that, Gettysburg's address!!!

Furthermore, the next SCOTUS appointment should go down American Idol way. Let America’s mainstream wisdom vote out the best and the brightest legal minds as they see fit. If Sanjaya could not make it, is there any hope for all the Scalias or Thomases out there in the world? Come to think of it, this may be a blessing in disguise…

Finally, I want everybody to be able to vote via text message? Sounds crazy? Well, when was the last time American Idol had a recount? Think about that...

Ok, sarcasm aside, I take the future of this country seriously. We are in deep shit, and the next guy or gal in line has the duty to make this better for all of us. And it is going to be hard and unpleasant because W and his entourage have managed to turn the American dream into an Orwellian nightmare. Given that lovely scenario, I want POTUS candidates to tell me how they are going to fix Social Security, keep the homeland safe, and provide healthcare and education for all the millions of uninsured uneducated children who have been left behind by this Administration... and that's to begin with. I want answers, and I want a plan, and I want accountability. I want him/her to get us out of Iraq. And no, I don’t want to read it about how you are going to do all this on their myspace blog. I want you to make it happen, whether you make it to my top 10, or not.


Friday, April 20, 2007


... to the young lady that I happen to think is the most Beautiful woman in the world for taking her final final today.

You're a brilliant lady, and I know you kicked ass.

Please enjoy your well-deserved celebration tonight.

Reflections on Two Massacres

Eight years ago today, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold looked at Rachel Scott and said "Do you believe in God?" She answered "You know I do". Upon hearing this, they opened fire on her.

Or at least that's the common myth that persists to this day. Eyewitnesses say that there was no actual interaction between the late Miss Scott and the monsters that ripped her, eleven other children, and a teacher from this world, and that if such a conversation happened at all, it was the killers asking that of another girl that survived the slaughter.

As this sad day is upon us, we are a nation mourning another recent massacre. Cho Seung-Hui walked into a dormitory and killed two, then walked into classrooms and killed thiry more, piling up a body count well over twice the Columbine massacre without so much as an accomplice.

In this massacre, just as in Columbine, the human mind reaches out, sometimes in irrational ways, to try and make sense of the insane maelstrom around us. A well-known rightwing blogger tried to make the case that Cho was some kind of Islamic terrorist. A person I was speaking to over on the Nashville Is Talking site, upon finding out the killer was of Asian descent, pointed to an arrest of an Asian man a year before for possession of explosives and tried to insinuate that there might be some kind of link.

In the days to come, the blame will be spread in many directions, almost as scattershot and random as the phalanx of bullets that spawned them. Video games, movies, TV shows--- Any piece of popular entertainment where a gun is featured somewhere.

Of course, that misses the point. The popular gun-driven entertainment is typically either a tale of ill-defined justice, or a tale of retribution. Even Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs was a tale of vengeance carried too far, and that's arguably one of the most disturbing films of all time. There is no popular fiction where someone that randomly murders innocents is seen as a heroic figure. When author Anne Rice felt the need to turn her own work on its head and make Lestat a heroic figure, she "retconned" him into a killer of killers.

Marilyn Manson lacks the popularity he once held, so it's unlikely that he'll be blamed for the Virginia Tech massacre.

That leaves us with video games. Certainly, the violence in the Grand Theft Auto series is over the top, particularly the scene where the game's protagonist fights his way out of a police station. But ultimately, there is nothing in those games that would truly prepare you for actually picking up a gun and commiting acts of murder.

Sometimes, there are no answers. Sometimes, there is nothing and no one to blame. While Virginia Tech was the worst mass shooting of all time, the worst school massacre was actually a 1927 bombing where a man that didn't want to pay taxes bombed the school that he held responsible for his economic problems.

There were no violent movies then. There were no video games. Marilyn Manson's parents weren't even an idea yet.

But you know what the biggest difference after the fact between that massacre and our more modern ones? Responsibility. The bombing was carried out with dynamite and an explosive called pyrotol, and having seen what their product was capable of in the wrong hands, the manufacturers took pyrotol off of the market.

You won't see that this time. After Columbine, the gun show loophole was closed by a citizen ballot initiative--- Not because of any legislative leadership shown by the state government. It was closed because Harris and Klebold bought their TEK-9, one of four guns used in the massacre, from a private seller they met at a gun show. Had they bought rifles only from that dealer, they wouldn't have even been breaking the law as it exists today, as there is no restriction on selling a rifle to anyone of any age in Colorado.

Likewise, Cho took advantage of some of the most lax gun laws in the country to buy his weapons. No permit. No waiting period. The gun show loophole still stands wide open, meaning that you can buy a handgun from a show or from a private dealer without going through a background check.

And I expect to see as much leadership from Viriginia's government as we saw out of Colorado's. It's not as though they're not aware of their weak gun laws--- In two rounds of lawsuits, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has filed suit against twenty-seven gun dealers, seven of them in Virginia, in an attempt to stop the flow of weapons used in crimes committed in New York, where gun legislation is much more strict.

The lawsuit and the need for it address one key concern--- The standard for firearms legislation should be a federal one, and not left to state law. A gun sold in Virginia does not have to stay in Virginia; The very impetus for the lawsuits is that people circumvent New York Law to bring weapons in from out of state where they're much easier to obtain. If gun rights advocates think their right to carry a weapon is federal in its origin, then the rest of the laws governing their sale and use should be federalized as well.

It's also important to note that I write this from a state with one of the weaker sets of gun laws in the nation. We're only slightly better off than Colorado and Virginia in that it's illegal to sell any firearm to a minor. We don't require background checks at gun shows or from private sellers. No license or training required, and no waiting period.

One of these days, we're going to see a disaster like Virginia Tech and Columbine unfold before our eyes, and we're going to say "Never again" and actually mean it.

Unfortunately for the victims of the next massacre, it's probably not today.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Gun Genie

This morning, the smoke has settled. The bodies of thirty-two innocent victims have been hauled out of the classrooms and dormitories of Virginia Tech University. Twenty-six more populate the hospital wards around Blacksburg. It was the handiwork of one man, Cho Seung-Hei, his two handguns, and at least five dozen rounds of ammunition.

Gallons and gallons of dried, sticky blood still cover the floors, a grisly reminder of the single most violent shooting in American history. It beat stiff competition to take that dubious honor--- It outpaced the Luby’s shooting in Kileen, Texas which sent twenty-three people to their graves. It outpaced Charles Whitman, whose shooting rampage on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin killed fifteen. Colin Ferguson’s rampage that killed six on the New York City subway looks downright amateur in comparison.

And one thing I kept seeing on every non-media/ “new media” outlet I turned to yesterday, including the comments section on this very site, was “people will still find a way to kill one another”.

No kidding.

Let’s assume for the moment that I can create the perfect world. I’ve come up with a means of identifying and tracking down every gun that is illegally held by an outlaw, and I can be certain that Americans are perfectly safe from firearm violence. We get rid of every gun in this country that is held in private hands.

I’m certain that there will be a rise in murders committed with knives. I’ll grant you that. In 2005, the last year that statistics were available, there were 1,914 murders committed with knives. Of course, there were 10,100 committed with guns, so we could double the murders committed with knives and come out way ahead. And there’s the added bonus of eliminating “bystander deaths”, for while it would be wonderful if bullets that miss their targets magically fell out of the sky afterward, the world simply does not work that way.

Another thing that’s unrealistic is the idea of stuffing the Gun Genie back into the bottle. I would love for it to be possible, but it’s not.

This tragedy unfolded, perhaps not coincidentally, in a state that rivals Texas in the weak gun laws department. To purchase a handgun in Virginia, you need to survive to age eighteen (Not even that if it’s a rifle or shotgun, which you can purchase at age 12). If you purchase the handgun from a licensed dealer, you have to pass a background check, although secondary market purchases (Gun show, private seller) do not require even that. There is no waiting period. There is no ballistic fingerprinting. Police are allowed to keep a record of the serial number for only one year after the purchase. There are no laws regarding Saturday Night Specials, junk handguns that are responsible for many accidental deaths. And the state government has passed a law barring municipal governments from banning handguns inside city government buildings. The state requires no handgun training, and state law dictates that the municipal governments may pass handgun laws of their own.

Ultimately, could any of those things have prevented yesterday’s tragedy? Probably not. No information on the shooter has come out indicating that he would have failed a background check. He was dead by the time a forensic investigator could have checked ballistics on any of the victims. MSNBC is reporting that one of the guns was purchased last Friday, so a waiting period might have helped some--- Apparently, he held onto the weapon just long enough to file the serial number off of it.

But it’s a brilliant time to talk about ways to bring an end to the sickness that grips America today.

If the news out of Iraq today was that thirty-two American soldiers had been killed in the relative safety of the Green Zone in the span of two hours, everyone in this nation would be talking about ways to end it, whether it’s the left saying “It’s not working. Time to end it” or the right saying “We need to stay in Iraq until the Islamofascists are dead”. Regardless of what they may feel is the right course to take, everyone would be shouting “Do something!”

Instead, it was thirty-two American kids murdered in the relative safety of an American university. And those who care more about their right to guns than they care about an American kid’s right to breathe want to continue on with business as usual--- Only with flags at half mast so they can assuage their guilt.

To hell with that. The question is not “Should this lead to a discussion about gun laws?”. The question is “Why did it take this to get us talking about common sense gun legislation?”

What I want is not a ban on all weapons. That whole “can’t stuff Gun Genie back into the bottle” thing. But the following things are really not too much to ask:

• Ballistic fingerprinting. Don’t want your gun matched up to a shooting? Don’t shoot anyone. It’s certainly true that a knowledgeable gunsmith can beat ballistics tests by changing out the barrel, but really, how many people know how to do that?
• Registration. If I cannot buy a car without a VIN number, and I cannot drive it without a license tag that identifies me on the back of it, there is no reason that the serial number of a gun cannot be recorded.
• Waiting period. A cooling down period is really not too much to ask. If you want a gun today for some reason other than immediately killing someone, you’ll still want it next Tuesday.
• Firearm training. If you’re going to shoot, please do so safely. Again, it’s not much to ask. If you need to kill a guy in the front yard, all I ask is that you don’t blow the face off of a three-year-old in the house across the street.
• 50 caliber. There is absolutely no reason this weapon should be in private hands.
• Safety standards. “Saturday Night Specials” and the body count associated with their misfiring could be done away with if even the most basic of safety standards are met.
• End gun manufacturer immunity. If my car blows up because of a known manufacturing defect, Ford owes me damages. If a faulty firing pin leads to a tragic accident in any of the states that have given gun makers immunity, nothing happens.
• Force weapons manufacturers to improve the firing pin design on semiautomatic weapons so that they cannot be modified to fully automatic weapons.

I’m sure I’ll think of more as the days go by.

None of these things infringe on your misreading of the Second Amendment. None of them restrict your access to firearms, other than insisting you know what you’re doing with them to have access.

Preliminary reports are that the Virginia Tech shooter purchased his handguns completely legally, taking advantage of the lax gun laws of Virginia. He broke no laws before walking onto campus and starting a bloodbath.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech Rampage

A lone gunman has gone on a rampage on campus at Virginia Tech. He managed to kill 31 people (Unfortunately, the death toll rose by ten while I was writing this--- Let's pray it goes no higher) and injure many more. It's not known at this point whether he was killed by police or killed himself.

To all the ridiculous gun apologists out there--- Try and tell me how he could have done this much damage with a knife. Hell, I'll be generous--- Give him a machete. Tell me what his body count realistically could have been before someone knocked him on his ass.

One shooter. At least fifty rounds fired. But hey, let's make sure everyone has access to guns, right?

It's now time for us to do what we do after every one of these tragedies; Stand around and say "Never again", while continuing to treat the gun lobby like they're the retarded cousins at the family reunion.

Friday, April 13, 2007

John Edwards In Nashville Monday

Dropped into the Freedonian Mailbag by DK.

I've Found the Missing White House Emails

Exclusive! This is HUGE!!! (Snicker)

Okay, I did some digging around, and have unearthed the 5,000 missing emails. Really. Yes. Me. Uh huh.

And what I've discovered is that the missing emails have nothing to do with the prosecutor firings. They might have been mentioned a time or two in passing, but they weren't the subject.

It all started when George W. Bush opened the following email from Mr. Idris Musa, who claimed to work for the Bank of Africa:

I am the manager of bill and exchange at the foreign remittance department of BANK OF AFRICA. I am writting to seek your coperation over this business deal.

In my department, I discovered an abandoned sum of$15million USD(Fifteen million US dollars)only , in an account that belongs to one of our foreign customers who died along with his entire family in a plane crash that took place in Kenya,East Africa,the Late DR. GEORGE BRUMLEY,a citizen of Atlanta,United States of America but naturalised in Burkinafaso,WestAfrica and contractor with ECOWAS,(ECONOMIC COMMUNITY OF WEST AFRICAN STATES) .

Needless to say, it was too good a deal for George W. Bush to pass up. Before you knew it, significant amounts of the Social Security fund (Remember his drive to privatize? This is what he meant), the National Treasury, and yes, the missing $9 billion from the Coalition Provisional Authority were tied up in what he called "investments".

The following is an instant message exchange between Edward Lazear, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove:

EL6969: What the hell does POTUS think he's doing?
GWBRULES!: What do u mean?
EL6969: This foreign investment thing... It's the Nigerian bank scam!
GWBRULES!: Nuh uh. Can't u read? The email says "Burkina Faso".
EL6969: Yes, yes... They quit saying "Nigeria" because they were having trouble finding people stupid enough to buy into it.
GWBRULES!: It can't be the Nigerian bank scam if it's not in Nigeria. :P
EL6969: Please, just tell him to quit giving them money!
GWBRULES!: But this is how he plans 2 save Social Security!

It's unclear at this point just how much money George W. Bush has lost on this scam. I'm still about 4700 emails from getting to the bottom of it.


"The Culture Of Life"

"We must continue to work for a culture of life where the strong protect the weak and where we recognize in every human life the image of our creator." - George W. Bush, April 13, 2007, National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

Go ahead, Mister President. Ask Sister Assumpta (Pictured with him) what the Catholic Church thinks about your "culture of life".

Ask her if Iraq lives up the Church's "Just War Doctrine".

Remind her of your old nickname... "Texecutioner"... And ask her what she thinks of the death penalty. And while you're at it, ask her what she thought of the joke you made when Karla Faye Tucker asked you to commute her death sentence to life imprisonment on the grounds that she had become a Christian. You know... Tucker Carlson asked you what she would say if she could speak to you, and you mocked her with the "Please... Don't kill me" bit. You're a laugh riot.

Ask her what she thought of your joke at the 2004 Corresponents Dinner... Where you mocked looking for the Weapons of Mass Destruction all over the White House while American soldiers and Iraqi civilians died over your failed gambit. "Nope. Not over here." Real knee-slapper.

Ask her what she thought of your devotion to having the strong "protect the weak" in Louisiana.

In fact, here's a better idea: Tell the truth about stem cell research. Life is not being created just for th purpose of extracting stem cells, and no abortions are taking place to provide us with material. Strip all the BS away, and you've got modern medicine trying to do the same thing Jesus did--- Healing the sick.

Then ask her what she thinks of your veto threat.

Who Would Jesus Hate?

So I was playing around on the CNN website earlier today and saw a question that should be posed ot everyone that claims to be a Christian: "If Jesus lived today, what do you think would be his top priority?"

I was stunned, but not at the fact that the overwhelmingly most popular answer was the right one, "poverty", but at the fact that nearly 2,000 of the 12,683 responses were homosexuality and abortion.

Have these people even read the Bible??? Surely, they can point to a place where Jesus even mentioned those things, can they not?

The Thinking Blogger Award

I was quite honored to go to Newscoma's site the other day and see that I'd been nominated for a "Thinking Blogger Award". Now, this is an honor coming from Newscoma, who writes so well that she makes even "Lost" sound interesting.

Yes, I'm aware that this is a meme, but it's a good one--- It allows me to promote blogs that I like, and that's always a good thing.

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote

Okay, I'm modifying the rules slightly (This way I don't have to pare down my choices as much as everyone else--- It's good to be King of Freedonia!). I will refrain from nominating the blogger who nominated me, though she is easily one of my favorites and a phenomenal regular read for anyone. Tracy's work, no matter whether she's writing about politics or her current bout of bronchitis, is always interesting to read. I love it, and if I go a day without reading it, you know I've been busy as hell.

I'll also refrain from re-nominating her nominees, even though Cup of Joe Powell is another of my favorites.

(Ha! I now cleverly have to dwindle down to seven favorites instead of five!)
Okay... My five in no particular order are:
What can you say about these guys? Pesky Fly is easily one of the best bloggers out there, with a fresh, inventive take on anything. I don't care if you have read a thousand stories on a given issue--- Your reading is not yet done unless you've read his.
Kibitzer is simply brilliant. He not only writes superbly, but has a masterful talent for getting information out of anyone. I've got to tag along and watch him work sometime--- His ability for getting information has me wondering if he has a waterboard set up in the basement.
Autoegocrat is not only a good friend, but the man writes so well that his grocery list would be an interesting read. There have been issues I've had a tough time giving a damn about until I've read his take on it.
Jeff is a published sci-fi writer with a talent for spotting a way to make anything funny.
Christian Progressive Liberal doesn't post as often as I'd like, but damnit, when she does, it's an event. I love reading her take on anything, and I'm jealous of those who got to meet her at the Media Reform Conference.
No one knows exactly who Bob is. I've got a theory, but so does everyone else. But you know what? It doesn't matter. Just enjoy his site and digest the wisdom contained therein. Bob is easily the most quotable of the Tennessee bloggers. I dropped a "Bob-ism" at lunch with friends recently, and no one had to ask where I came up with the phrase.
What can you say about him? First of all, he's the dean of the Memphis liberal blogosphere. He's a walking fountain of information who has easily forgotten more than most of us will ever have the good fortune to know about American politics. And he's an incredibly nice guy and a good friend.
Lindsey has been, according to her site, "picking and flicking emotional scabs since 2003". When she writes about a serious issue, no one does it better. And when she's writing about the odd little snippets of life that we all face every day, she does so with a cleverness that could bring a smile to even the stoniest of faces. As if to prove that God does unfairly heap too many talents upon one person, thereby telling the rest of us to fuck ourselves, she's also a brilliant graphic designer (But does she do windows?).
In the interest of full disclosure, David is one of my best friends in the world. He's the reason I'm a blogger. And he's agreed to be my best man. With all that out of the way, he's a brilliant guy that everyone should read, if for no other reason than picking the mind of a brilliant guy. He added some talent at his site late last year, most of which are not active--- But Desi Franklin is over there writing brilliantly these days, and everyone should take the time to read what she's saying.

Honorable mention goes to Polar Donkey
Frank posts sporadically at best (Almost a month since his last one), but he has such a talent for information that it makes every word on his blog a must-read. Seriously, the rest of us can rail about social inequality for days as it relates to banks vs. check cashing places in poor neighborhoods, the unequal distribution of wealth, or any other of a myriad of social ills. But he goes a step better than that--- He'll show you where he's charted it on maps.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


A couple of months back, I read with great interest Kat Coble's account of her and her husband's dealings with JL Kirk, an alleged "Executive Placement firm".

There are reputable "headhunter" firms out there. They are generally paid by the company doing the hiring. They do not, however, ask that the person seeking a job put $4420 on a credit card, a non-refundable fee that allegedly puts all the efforts of the firm at the applicant's disposal.

JL Kirk does that.

Legitimate headhunter firms don't charge a fee that sounds remarkably like what you just got on your tax return especially since, under the name Bernard Haldane, they built a reputation doing just that.

JL Kirk does that.

Legitimate headhunter firms don't insist that the spouse be brought along for the consultation in the hopes that one will be more scared than the other and they can play them against one another.

JL Kirk does that.

And a legitimate headhunter firm is familiar enough with the internet to know that threatening a blogger gets it 100 times the bad publicity that it would otherwise have had.

JL Kirk apparently does not know that--- For they've sent a "cease and desist" order to Katherine Coble.

Katherine did what all of us as bloggers do--- She published a firsthand account of what she observed when she and her husband visited JL Kirk.

Here's the sick part--- Check out the bottom of page 1 of the cease and desist order:

Moreover, even if statements are literally true, the publisher of those statements is subject to monetary damages where “the meaning reasonably conveyed by the published words is defamatory.” Memphis Publishing Comany v. Nichols, 569 S.W. 2d 412 (Tenn. 1978)

This is a misapplication of the legal standard set out by Memphis Publishing Company v. Nichols, for that case was about a misleading newspaper article regarding a murder. Note the word "misleading". The truth has always been a perfect legal defense in this nation, and always will be, despite the hackery of the attorneys for JL Kirk.

The good thing about this case--- It places the burden of proof not on Katherine Coble, but on JL Kirk to prove that their business practices are honest and above board. And somehow, I doubt they really want their business practices going on record in court.

I'm no attorney, but I can sure think of a few questions I would ask.

For instance, I would ask why they didn't file a similar suit against CBS news for filing this report when they were operating under their previous name, Bernard Haldane.

I would ask on what grounds Haldane was investigated by the Illinois Attorney General.

I might even ask why the State of Kansas ordered them to issue $300,000 in refunds after investigating their business practices.

I might ask why, if the statement that Kirk Leipzig purchased the Bernard Haldane franchises is so untrue, then why is the story so persistent? I've found his name listed not only as owner of their offices in Brentwood, but Bellevue, Tacoma (Now Federal Way), Iowa, and Arkansas as well. If this is a deception, then surely he would love the opportunity to set the record straight, right?

My message to JL Kirk Associates: You fuck with one of us, you fuck with all of us. The truth, in this nation, has been and will always be its own best defense. So it's your challenge to prove that she misled anyone in any way. Then, she gets to prove that you mislead people. Think she'll have any trouble finding witnesses?


Sean Braisted checked into JL Kirk's Better Business Bureau Record:
This company has a pattern (more than 2 complaints involving the same allegations usually within 12 months that are significant in relation to the company's size and volume of business) of complaint. Complaints allege the company offers career advancement services including marketing/resume writing, training for improved interview & negotiation skills, job leads/interviews and on-going support once a career has been obtained. Consumers state once they complete the marketing/resume writing and training for improved interview and negotiation skills, the company fails to follow up and provide assistance with job leads, interviews are not scheduled and careers are not obtained. All complainants request a refund to resolve the issues.

In fact, I was planning to do a roundup of all the articles on this, but my friend Newscoma did such a stellar job that all I can do is applaud her and give you a link.

Update 2***
Special thanks to Brother Cracker for writing faster than I did.

"So it goes." Rest in Peace, Kurt Vonnegut

I'm very sad to see the passing of one of America's greatest literary geniuses. Kurt Vonnegut.

He served as a military scout in World War II, and was imprisoned in Dresden. He was one of only seven American prisoners of war to survive the three day bombing raid that flattened much of the city. His experiences from seeing that firsthand served as the basis for his masterpiece, Slaughterhouse Five.

Almost four decades after its release, Slaughterhouse Five is still one of the most frequently banned books in America. Some may think it's because his portrayal of soldiers in a war zone using profanity. Some may think it's because of the sexual content.

But personally, I have a different theory. The reason it raised hackles at the time was that we were involved in a war only slightly less popular than syphillis, and he showed us, for the first time in American pop culture, how horrifying our own means of waging war can be.

The Bombing of Dresden was not particularly well known in America before Vonnegut wrote his masterpiece. But once he did, he etched it into the collective consciousness of the American people.

His Nazi captors had him trying to herd the bodies into mass graves. But there were too many, so they instead handed him a blowtorch to cremate them on the spot.

America was just not prepared to hear that at the time. They're not really any better at hearing it now, as those who support the invasion of Iraq cling to a sanitized vision of war in which bombs only hit military targets and bullets fall harmlessly to the ground if they miss their intended victim.

One of his recurring characters, Kilgore Trout, was based on himself. He wrote in Timequake that Trout dies at the age of 84.

Kurt Vonnegut... Dead at 84.

So it goes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Loving. Google. Earth.

Sure, it was kind of neat being able to see a 3-D view of my house. I used it once to look at an apartment building I lived in at the time, and actually saw an overhead view of my car in the parking garage.

But the cool just got cooler. I just read on CNN that you can now use Google Earth to track the atrocities in Darfur.

I checked it out--- It works very well. This is a screen capture. It allows you to see the latest satellite imagery of the burned out villages.

Technology is making it harder and harder to ignore this region. Sooner or later, the president might even take notice.
Google is doing this in conjunction with the United States Holocaust Museum, and you can also now use Google Earth to check out the sites of the old concentration camps.
Google. It's not just for boobies anymore.

The War Czar

Any time a White House has a problem that it knows cannot be solved, they appoint a "czar". We've got a drug czar, an intelligence czar, and now, according to today's Washington Post, the Bush White House wants to appoint a "War Czar".

Problem is, they can't find anyone to take the gig.

I love my country, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to heal all that ails it... So I'll take the job.

The first thing we need to do is reassert control over our own wars. I'll shift 5,000 personnel from Iraq to Afghanistan to bolster the NATO forces there. Canada is bringing more bodies home from Afghanistan than we are these days--- They and the British are actually dealing with a resurgent Taliban in Southern Afghanistan.

The second thing I'll do is lobby Congress to pass a War Profiteering Act, much like we had in WWII. If Dubya wants to be remembered as a great president, he would do well to remember that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president that got us through our most difficult war, managed to do so while speaking out against the "war millionaires" rather than simply handing them blank checks. A statute against war profiteering might actually help prevent our next needless war.

The third thing I'll do is set out definite timelines with the new Iraqi government based on the September 2008 timetable set out by Congress. That's sixteen months. The new goal of the Iraqi government is to take over another 10% of our work every six weeks, reducing our involvement to a supporting role. Just because this war was started aimlessly doesn't mean it has to end that way. As long as we keep doing the Iraqi military's work, they'll never feel the need to step up. We have to make it clear that we are patient, but not infinitely so.

Fourth--- This is something Dubya claims to do already, but clearly does not--- I'll actually listen to the generals. You know, those guys with all the medals and stripes all over their uniforms that have actually spent decades studying war strategy? I'm thinking they might be more useful in a time of war than the suits at the Pentagon that were telling us we would be greeted by flowers. This would be a significant policy change for the White House, which tends to ignore generals in lieu of advice from someone that a general called the "stupidest fucking guy on the planet".

Fifth--- Let's run our wars like we don't have ADD for a change. Remember that Osama bin Laden guy? I want his head on a pike in front of the White House. We can mummify it, and have Pentagon employees pass it around and take it home every night like it's the Stanley Cup. Okay, maybe those last two ideas were kind of gross--- Just throwing out some ideas. But we're suffering from "mission creep", and it's time to focus. This is a war against al Qaeda--- And even the most novice of war strategists would tell you that creating new al Qaeda factions, giving them a new breeding ground, and giving them a place to practice killing Americans is a pretty bad idea. We couldn't be helping them more right now if we started tasking the White House Communications Department with making al Qaeda recruiting videos. Focus. Ignore the shiny thing on the ground over there.

So whaddya think? Do I have the job?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Restoring the Constitution??? What a Freaky Concept!

I just wanted to thank my hometown Congressman Steve Cohen.

One of the many blights on the congressional voting record of your festering turd of a predecessor was the Military Commissions Act, aka "The Torture Bill". With that vote, Harold Ford, the Republican Party, and a handful of other Blue Dogs" sent a message to the president. And that message, uncategorically clear, was "Torture is the American way. May I help you waterboard this suspect, Mr. President?"

So it is with great pride that I mention Congressman Cohen's cosponsorship of HR. 1415, also known as the Restoring the Constitution Act, which will again illegalize the unconstitutional behavior allowed under the Military Commissions Act.

If this nation is ever to regain moral high ground, we must reclaim our character as a nation. If we're the good guys in white cowboy hats, and those that oppose us are the villains, then our behavior should be a little less like theirs than it is today.

Most freshman congressman personify the definition of "back bencher". They keep their heads down, learn the ropes, and try to avoid pissing people off, improving their odds of a second term.

Thank you, Congressman Cohen, for being aggressive enough to help the party stare down the president.

Make him blink first, Steve.

Via V-Squared

Let's Hope He Doesn't Shop While He's Here!

Bad things happen when Senator John McCain goes shopping.

So naturally, I felt a little queasy when I found out he's coming to Memphis on April 16th. If he does shop while he's here, there's no word yet on whether he'll be wearing a flack jacket and carrying a military and Blackwater entourage with him.

Battle Cry

“How are you doing, Scott?” I said. We knew each other a little--- He was just a couple of degrees of separation from my circle of closest friends. But he was a good guy, and we always got along when our paths crossed.

“Excellent, praise Jesus,” he answered. “Has our Lord been good to you?”

I grew up in the South, so I’m certainly accustomed to talking to Christians. But you can talk to a Baptist minister for at least ten minutes without hearing the overwhelming displays of religiosity that I’d heard out of him in ten seconds.

“Um… I can’t complain too much,” I said, wondering what was going on. “How have you been?”

“Let me tell you, buddy,” he said. “I became an alcoholic. I drank so much that I was even going to work drunk. Finally, I got a DWI and got fired. Thankfully, Jesus entered my life.”

“Uh huh,” I nodded, resisting my overwhelming urge to tell him that was way more information than I needed.

“You should come to my church some time,” he said, fishing a tract out of his pocket.

I wanted to say something witty, like “Thanks, but I’m a Jesus-holic, and my life was empty until Jack Daniels entered my life”. Instead, I politely took the tract and deposited it safely in File Thirteen once I got home. I shudder to think of how many trees are killed every year so that people of religion can shove tracts that they know will go unread into your hands.

“Thanks. Well, I’ve got to go,” I told him, politely lying so as to neatly avoid saying “I don’t care to continue this conversation”.

“It was good seeing you, praise Jesus,” he said, shaking my hand. “May the Lord be with you.”

“May the Force be with you, Scott,” I said before I walked away.

That encounter puzzled me a little bit. Some days later, I mentioned it to another friend.

“He’s replaced one addiction with another,” she told me. “This one’s healthier—It won’t get him fired or arrested unless he chains himself to the door of an abortion clinic. But it’s all surface. He’s done nothing to address why he has an addictive personality in the first place.”

“First real temptation he encounters,” she continued, “and he’ll be back on the sauce. Until he addresses his real issues, his life will consist of bouncing back and forth between the bottom of a bottle and church to confess and pray for strength.”

She was right. The very next time I saw Scott, he was so drunk he could hardly stand. And he was crying, bemoaning the fact that his faith wasn’t powerful enough to overcome his love of alcohol.

I thought of Scott and his struggles today as I read an article from the upcoming issue of Rolling Stone about the “Battle Cry” movement. I thought of him as an eighteen-year-old girl talked about how her faith has lifted her out of a life of drug use and premarital sex.

On the surface, it sounds healthy enough. You’ll never find me anywhere saying that keeping teenagers off of alcohol and drugs, and encouraging sexual abstinence (Okay, at least now that I’m not a teenager anymore) is somehow a bad thing.

But Battle Cry founder Ron Luce has taken it far beyond any healthy level. If this is such a healthy thing… Then why does he feel the need to scare teenagers into buying into it?

He tells them allegedly true stories; The girl who left Christianity and wound up being date raped; The girl who dated a non-Christian and is now a bisexual working in the porn industry, supposedly due to his corrosive influence.

He tells them that life on the streets of America has become so decadent that a woman can be raped on the streets, and that Americans will walk blithely past.

Now, I don’t know much about where Luce lives--- But if a woman was being raped on the streets of Memphis (It does not, as some might incorrectly believe, matter which neighborhood), she would be in as much danger of being trampled by the people turning out to help her as she would be of the rape continuing. I’ve lived in many cities; None are any different.
Luce doesn’t simply tell impressionable children about the word of God. In fact, he spends so much time railing against secular targets that God and his Son almost become a corollary to his sermon.

He encourages children to confront the managers of lingerie stores (Apparently, in his mind, God insists on women covering their womanly parts with garments from Wal-Mart). He works hard to instill the children at his events with a “warrior mentality”, telling them that not only secularists are out to kill them, but that nonfundamentalist Christians are their enemies too.

"The devil hates us, and we gotta be ready to fight and not be these passive little lukewarm, namby-pamby, kum-ba-yah, thumb-sucking babies that call themselves Christians. Jesus? He got mad!"

"I want an attacking church!" he admonishes the crowd.

Jesus did get angry. But not at those who hadn’t accepted the word of God, as Luce seems to believe. It was at those who claimed to believe, yet did not live up to Christian ideals.

He was angry at the Pharisees for neglecting “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith”. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which do indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanliness,” He told them.

“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.’”

In his fervor to work up an anti-secularism jihad, Ron Luce has preached of love of God without actually managing to love what God stands for.

To date, he has sent 53,000 “teen missionaries” to foreign countries, so that they may preach about the things he believes God loves--- Teen abstinence, sobriety, and laissez faire capitalism.

And despite his complaints that the secular world has “branded” teenagers by having them wear clothing from name brand designers, he has sent them forth with “Battle Cry” themed t-shirts, purchased from any of the dozens of vendors dotting the landscape at every corner at a Battle Cry event.

Have we not already seen how this movie ends? Have we not seen the product of youth stirred into a fundamentalist fury?

I am a Christian. And I am proud to be one of the people that Ron Luce hates. If the rock band POD believes appearing at Battle Cry events is a good thing, then give me my U2 any day of the week.

Monday, April 09, 2007

No More Deals? How About No Empty Catchphrases?

The grieving family of slain Code Enforcement Officer Mickey Wright lashed out angrily when the man that killed their loved one, Dale Mardis, received a twelve year prison sentence as part of a plea bargain. Wright’s widow had to be restrained to keep from attacking the defendant as he entered his plea, and another relative kicked the interior walls of the courthouse so hard that the drop ceiling tiles above him fell out.

Their grief, their anger is certainly understandable. Part of the problem, though, is that they believed a jingoistic public relations slogan that was conjured out of thin air simply to make Bill Gibbons’ District Attorney’s office sound “tough on crime”.

“No deals. Hard crime gets all the time.” There were few radio or television outlets Memphians could turn to without hearing it during every commercial break. It was more ubiquitous than a Corey B. Trotz commercial or news coverage of Anna Nicole Smith’s death.

Of course, as with most catchphrases, this one had little to do with reality, and was directed at people that know precious little about the inner workings of the justice system.

No one likes to hear the term “reduced time” in reference to violent offenders. But there can be little doubt that the criminal justice system would grind to an abrupt halt without plea bargains. The wheels of justice turn slowly enough without every defendant deciding they have nothing to lose by pleading their cases in front of a jury.

It would also be next to impossible to shut down any form of organized crime, be it La Cosa Nostra or the Gangster Disciples. The only way to get information on anyone in a leadership position is to bust someone lower on the food chain and entice them to roll over on their leaders.

But the most dangerous side effect of such a policy is this one--- Some defendants will be acquitted.

And that’s the reason for the plea bargain that caused the current controversy. The charge against Dale Mardis was first degree murder. Proving a motive for a murder is not a required element of a trial--- But if a jury doesn’t hear a plausible one, it starts questioning the rest of the case.

The motive that the district attorney’s office built the Mardis case around was extreme racism--- That Mardis was so overcome by his hatred of black people that he felt compelled to murder Mickey Wright.

Witnesses had some forward recently that called that motive into question, insisting that Dale Mardis was no racist at all.

The slam dunk of a case against Mardis turned into a shaky one. Rather than take a chance on him going free altogether, they struck a bargain--- Twelve years in exchange for a guilty plea.

As much as the Wright family must hate that Mardis will be a free man in twelve years--- Who wouldn’t?--- There was a very realistic possibility that if the district attorney’s office was forced to go to trial with a weak case, there might well have been an acquittal and no prison time at all.

This case provides an object lesson neither in the inherent flaws of the justice system, nor in the evils of plea bargaining. The greatest lesson that can be taken away from this is to recognize that criminal justice should never be reduced to slogans that could fit on a bumper sticker.

Bill Gibbons made an irresponsible promise and based an irresponsible ideology upon it. It was nothing short of an appeal to voters to see his office as one that criminals look upon and quiver with fear. There were barbarians at the gate, and he was all that stood between the peaceful people of the city of Memphis and an angry, raging, criminal horde that salivated at the thought of running roughshod over their lives.

No precise numbers are available, but one of the worst kept secrets of our system of criminal justice is that the vast majority of criminal offenses end not in the defendant being found guilty by a jury, but the defendant agreeing to slightly less time in exchange for a guilty plea.

That District Attorney Gibbons doesn’t seem to grasp this concept makes one wonder just how fit he is to hold office. At the very least, the voters deserve an explanation.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Perfectly Safe. Uh huh.

I know, I've already talked about McCain's insane comments that Iraq is a perfectly safe place for Americans to walk around...

But here's a photo demonstrating just how safe he felt.

Oh, and just in case that isn't enough--- It seems that the Iraqi insurgents want to send a message about how safe it is too. 21 Iraqis died to bring you John McCain's photo op.

The latest massacre of Iraqi children came as 21 Shia market workers were ambushed, bound and shot dead north of the capital.
The victims came from the Baghdad market visited the previous day by John McCain, the US presidential candidate, who said that an American security plan in the capital was starting to show signs of progress.


So I've been checking out some of the right wing blogs whining about the Pelosi talks with Syria... They're running pictures of Nancy Pelosi, who wore the head scarf when visiting Syria, complaining that she was willing to dress in Syria as women are expected to dress in Syria.

From Little Green Footballs:

The modern Democratic leadership.

Yes, I guess it's quite horrible for someone on a diplomatic mission to observe the traditions of the land she's visiting, huh?

So... Were you as harsh on Laura Bush?

When Reality and Right Wing Rhetoric Collide

How horrible it is that Nancy Pelosi would dare talk to Syria!!! You know, the nation that helped secure the release of the fifteen British soldiers held in Iran for several days.

It is time for conservatives to wake up and smell the new paradigm. Our military is overstretched. I know it. You know it. We all know it. Iran knows it. Syria knows it. Britain knows it.

So the days when George W. Bush could do some braindead saber-rattling to try to create the world in his vision are gone. He has nothing to threaten anyone with. What does he possibly have to hold over anyone's head to bend them to his iron will? Shall he threaten to hold his breath until he turns blue in the face?

He can't send American troops to another nation without pulling them out of Iraq at this point--- Something he has demonstrated over and over that he's not even willing to discuss.

If America is to exert any influence on the world at large, that influence must bypass the Oval Office. Through bad foreign policy that has led to him not being taken seriously throughout the rest of the world and bad domestic policy that got the rubber stamp Republicans thrown out of Congress, George W. Bush has been neutered.

Thank goodness the Democratic congressional delegation is willing to take up the slack. Despite the last six years and three months of deplorable leadership, America still has much positive to offer the world through the proper use of soft power. Be grateful that someone out there is willing to spread that influence.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

39 Years

Early morning, April fourth
A shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last---
They took your life
They could not take your pride

-"Pride (In the Name of Love)
by U2
Thirty-nine years ago today, a sad chapter in history was written with an assassin’s bullet. It didn’t happen in early morning, as Bono sings, but at 6 PM as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his entourage prepared for dinner.

As the life’s blood ebbed from his veins and onto the cold, unforgiving concrete of the Lorraine Motel’s balcony, he departed a world forever changed from the world of Jim Crow that he was born into.

When he was born, black children were forced to attend inferior schools, guaranteeing that they could never gain a solid foothold in American society. A black passenger on any form of public transportation was forced to sit in the back, leaving a shorter walk for whiter passengers. A black man could work in the same fields as a white man, labor just as hard, and walk away at the end of the day without the money to feed his children. Or the white man could simply refuse to hire him.

By the time he died, he departed a changed America. Schools had been integrated, and the seeds of equality had been sown, if not yet in full bloom.

So very few people leave the world around them changed, save for their nearest and dearest friends and family. Their lives begin and end in obscurity. Dr. King was not one of them. When one looks at all the changes that took place directly because of him, it becomes difficult to believe that he achieved all of this in thirteen short years.

He told us of his dreams, where the sons of slaves and the sons of former slave owners would sit together at the table of brotherhood. He told us he might not get there with us.

And true enough, he didn’t. Whether one believes it was James Earl Ray or not, someone that feared nothing more than equality for all mankind saw fit to rip him from our world.

Dr. King’s message was a radical one, not unlike that of Jesus Christ almost two millennia before. And just like Jesus Christ, he was cut down for that message by someone that had much to lose if Dr. King’s vision became a reality.

As much as Dr. King accomplished, if he was still with us today, he would look at the world around him and take note not only of what we have accomplished, but where we have failed.

His hard work, his sacrifice, did not spell the end of the American ghetto. The backlash of those who would not live in a racially mixed society has spawned white flight, creating and perpetuating new American ghettos in its wake. Subconscious racism is still racism; Most sociologists studying white flight place the “magic number” at 6%--- Once 6% of the homes in a neighborhood are owned by blacks, the white residents start to feel “outnumbered”. Their fear of lowered property values becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as they unload their homes at fire sale prices and move further out into the suburbs. And sadly, as with many other aspects of American life, the most egregious are rewarded--- The earliest to move and spawn the white flight are the only ones that get fair market value from their homes.

There is a zip code in the city where Dr. King breathed his last that has an infant mortality rate higher than most Third World nations. A lethal combination of poverty, pollution, crime, and reduced access to healthcare robbed 202 babies of their lives before they saw their first birthday in 2002. Many of their bodies are buried in Shelby County’s Potters Field, which stands almost directly in the shadow of Wolfchase Galleria, our greatest monument to the gods of commerce.

Poverty grips many of the streets in the city where he was killed. And just like animals in the wild, hungry predators single out the weak and the wounded, preying upon them with tax preparation scams, furniture rental ripoffs, exorbitant check cashing prices, home improvement scams, and a million other con games designed to separate the poor and the uneducated from their hard earned money.

Thank you, Dr. King, for your hard work, and your sacrifice. It is now up to the rest of us to see to it that this sacrifice was not made in vain.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Straight Talk, My Arse.

There is pandering. There is Koolaid drinking. And then there is complete, blithering idiocy on a scale that would make even George W. Bush shudder.

John McCain has been displaying that just recently.

To quote Dennis Miller back from the time years ago that he was actually funny, I don't mean to go off on a rant here... Wait. Yeah. Yeah I do.

John McCain made a mockery of the threats that our soldiers, our contractors, and even our journalists face today. CNN's Michael Ware was not only right to call him out on it--- But that's what needs to happen more often.

All too often, out of fear of being called "liberal", the mainstream media is far too slow to play the "bullshit" card. Any preposterous claim made by this administration or any of its apologists goes completely unchallenged, so complete absurdity is accepted as fact.

I would like to thank the man that's been reporting in Iraq for four years for debunking the myths spread by a man that spent a few minutes on a Baghdad street surrounded by Blackwater operatives.

Give it up, Senator McCain. Not only is it not time for you to be president, but your senate career seems to be well past its expiration date.

For as much as I know it may look like it sometimes, Capitol Hill is no place for fools.


We need to make this happen more often. About 150,000 times more often, by my estimates.

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan