Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Monstrous Proposal

It seems that, after every mass school shooting, right-wing troglodytes vie to determine which one of them will utter the most outrageous proposal to deal with the problem of gun violence in order to derail any conversation about sensible gun regulation. The post Parkland shooting news cycle has Fox' Gret Gutfeld taking the prize in this dubious endeavor- he believes that school children should be trained in hand-to-hand combat:

You have to be rational about it, which means hardening soft targets through drills and training. Learning combat. Learning hand-to-hand combat. This works, by the way, for terror, if there’s a terror attack, and it works for school shootings.

...How do you improve upon this rationally? Well, you train them. That simple.

I teach children's judo classes, I teach hand-to-hand combat to children as young as five. It would be a gross dereliction of duty and a violation of any sane code of ethics to suggest to my students that they should attack an assailant armed with a firearm. I would expect to be run out of the dojo if I told the children to emulate scenes from Walker, Texas Ranger. I've had to sit through 'Run Hide Fight' videos yearly for quite some time now, and I would tell my young students to run like hell or to find a really good hiding space.

Gutfeld isn't alone in this idiotic stance- a few years back, new WaPo hire Megan McAddled opined that children should rush an active shooter. Swarm tactics can effectively be used on active shooters, such as the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Church gunman, but the effectiveness of this approach is predicated on having the knowledge to recognize when a shooter is preoccupied, and the body mass to subdue that individual. It's really not an option for kindergartners.

The real problem with this sort of foolishness is the misuse of public airtime to distract from the real issue at hand- the ease with which an unstable individual with a history of making threats and of torturing animals can get a gas-operated killing machine. I believe in the Second Amendment, with one critical caveat- that the whole damn thing be enforced, particularly the clause regarding the 'well-regulated militia'. If you want an Armalite rifle, you should have to prove your competence, not only in the use of said firearm, but in navigating the day-to-day business of living. I would also advocate a probationary period, similar to that which beginning drivers are subjected to. Can't undergo three months of training and evaluation to take control of your shooting iron? Well, you are not mature or stable enough to have it. Teaching hand-to-hand combat to children, promotions are dependent on testing, not only of the students' knowledge and ability to apply it, but of their ethics, the way they approach the sport, the way they approach each other. Incidentally, we promoted a bunch of our beginning students to yellow belts- last week, we told them to engage in self-directed play for a half hour, observing them as they practiced the techniques they have learned and occasionally asking them questions about vocabulary or history. They weren't even aware that they were being tested. The kids are well-regulated, and someone who seeks the awesome responsibility of owning an instrument solely designed to kill humans should be subject to an even greater degree of regulation. No obfuscating bullshit about untenable 'solutions', our society needs action to curtail the low-grade civil war which is putting our children in the morgue, in the hospital, in grief-counseling.

The title of the post is cribbed from Jonathan Swift's masterpiece of Juvenalian satire, but the Gutfelds and McArdles of the world aren't being satirical, they are merely monstrous.

I'll be leaving for Manhattan soon in order to teach, and I will make sure to cherish the kids in our classes. I won't act surprised when our five year-old hand holder grabs one of my meaty paws, I will praise our serious fourteen year-old for her kindness in playing with her younger cohorts. A few weeks ago, the mother of one of our five year-olds asked me about the safety of the sport, and after rattling off statistics, I paused and asked her to look at the adults on the mats- look at the gray hairs, look at people in their forties, fifties, and above playing the sport. My sincere wish is that her daughter decides to stick with the sport, and still plays it long after I haue ſhufflel’d off this mortall coile. I sure hope that she will live in a society which isn't plagued by regular blood sacrifice.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Meanwhile, on the Home Front

Days after the story of brave high school faculty members sacrificing themselves to protect their students, we have a local horror story- twin brothers, one of them a teacher, from the Bronx have been arrested in a bomb plot targeting children: “Under the full moon the small ones will know terror.”

To compound the horror of it all, the teacher, who had been caught having an affair with a fifteen year-old girl, had enlisted the aid of students in dismantling fireworks for bomb-making material. In the annals of bad teachers, I think this asshole is in the running for top dog.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Eagles, Not Puppies

Today's news coverage was depressing, but there was a ray of hope- an interview with survivors of the mass shooting in Florida instilled a sense of pride in me... these kids were compassionate, grateful, and defiant. Their parents have every right to be proud of them. The victims of the shooting were exactly the sort of people this nation needs, generous kids and valiant adults taken from their friends and loved ones by a nonentity who never should have been able to obtain a firearm.

Meanwhile, in the scummy precincts of the internet, the right-wing conspiracy crowd is trying to claim that the shooter was a registered Democrat and an antifascist, contrary to evidence, and the woman-hating contingent is trying to claim him as their latest anti-feminist hero. Needless to say, the Powers that Be won't do a goddamn thing about our mass shooting problem, with the number of 2018 shootings clocking in at thirty. As a matter of fact, Republicans in Congress want to lower the bar for concealed carry to the lax standards of the ungovernable Southron hinterlands- as a New Yorker, I don't want some creepy Florida Man type bringing his shooting irons into Times Square for a little turkey shoot/suicide by cop.

What the fuck would it take to have sanity prevail when it comes to the acquisition of firearms? Frankly, I'm a supporter of the Second Amendment, particularly the first clause, which tends to be elided by the NRA and their minions. I doubt that asshole shooter boy would have been able to last for a day in a bonafide well-regulated militia.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ya Know, I Used to Love the Times

Years ago, I took great pleasure in reading the New York Times. On Sundays, the routine would be 'put on a pot of coffee, make some breakfast, and read the Times'. Once, when a bunch of my brother Vincenzo's West Point classmates came down for a free weekend, one of the regulars, Whisky Joe, and I went to the local Borders bookstore after a long drinking binge and picked up the Sunday Times. Hung over, we split up the paper, he reading the front section, me doing the crossword puzzle, when it hit me... I turned to Joe and said, "Some people have yahooism thrust upon them, they just don't know any better, but we choose to be yahoos- we're sophisticated, educated yahoos." Thus was born the Educated Yahoos Club- the Sunday morning hangover spent with the Times. Back in the day, the Sunday Times was a formidable chunk of paper, and it was a rare treat to read it cover to cover, all while nursing a major hangover.

Since the 90s, though, the Times has left me cold. Their Iraq coverage in the runup to the second Gulf War was appalling, and their habit of hiring mendacious right-wing hacks is maddening. Recently, though, they went too damn far and hired a racial-and-homophobic-slur-slinging apologist for Neo-Nazis to head up their opinion page coverage of tech issues. A simple Google search would have revealed Norton's history of bigotry, yet someone in the organization decided that she would be a good fit. How the hell can I trust the 'paper of record' to chase down the details of a news item when they can't even vet a prospective employee? At this stage, the New York Times is about as credible as the Washington Times, an observation that gives me no pleasure. Would it be possible to liberate Will Shortz somehow?

Monday, February 12, 2018

There Are Consequences to Putting Grifters in Power

I have had the flu on my mind lately- one of my fellow coaches at my volunteer gig has recently gotten over a case of influenza that had her bedridden for three days, and she is indomitable. Additionally, my upstairs neighbor told me yesterday that her two kids are just getting over the flu. There's a full-blown flu epidemic occurring, an epidemic which is believed to be responsible for approximately four thousand deaths per week. I'm not a public health professional, but if I were, I'd be in crisis mode... because there's a crisis going on now, one compounded by the low rate of flu shot effectiveness this season.

In light of the ongoing epidemic, the fact that the current administration had appointed a grifter who purchased tobacco stocks before assuming her position as head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be considered a major scandal. Tragically, the constant cavalcade of scandals and the resultant fatigue has muted coverage of what I perceive should be the current number one domestic policy disaster. The last thing we need is a CDC head who has “certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC Director”, but having no CDC head is almost as bad. Yet again, the Republican war on good government, as exemplified by Ronald Reagan's particular brand of idiocy, which has metastasized in the GOP:

The premise that government is a problem is a self-fulfilling prophecy- government will become the problem. With an influenza epidemic of more-than-common virulence happening, this is a problem.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

North Side Story

I've been busy lately, between work and volunteering, so I haven't been following the Winter Olympics much, but reading about Mike Pence's embarrassing performance in Korea put the grotesque-yet-amusing-to-me notion that Pence would engage in a torrid affair with North Korean first sis and Martin Shkreli doppelganger Kim Yo Jong, then defect to the DPRK. Oh, wow, that would be some tale of star-and-DMZ-crossed lovers.

The upshot of this bizarre little fantasy is that I now have the musical North Side Story running through my head:

Kim Yo-Jong
I just met a girl named Kim Yo -Jong!
And now the USA, just seems so dull and gray. TO MEEEE!

Kim Yo-Jong, say it soft and it sounds Byronic, say it loud and it sounds atomic!

It's going to take a lot of soju to dislodge this earworm from my skull.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

I Used to Like Driving

Like most Americans, in my youth I actually enjoyed driving. The American love for driving is legendary, and I used to buy in to some extent. Those days have been over for a while- driving is now an annoying task that has to be undertaken in order to get from point A to point B. This week has been a terrible week on the roads of the region. On Wednesday morning, there was a twenty-five car pileup on the Tappan Zee Bridge during a snowstorm. Luckily, management cancelled a meeting concerning our company health plan that was scheduled for that morning, so I didn't have to fight the horrors of rush hour compounded by some serious dumbassery.

Yesterday, while driving home from work at stupid o'clock, I passed a terrible accident that had occurred in the opposite side of the highway, a wrong-way crash that landed seven people in the hospital and closed the Bronx River Parkway for six hours. Seeing the extent of the police activity, I immediately turned out the all-news radio station for the litany of horrors. Luckily, I wasn't affected by this crash, which was eerily similar to another wrong-way crash which delayed my homecoming for over an hour a few years ago.

Theoretically, I should enjoy driving- I have a small car with a manual transmission that is fun to drive under ideal conditions... it's the conditions that leave something to be desired. The roads are in rough shape, and the drivers are worse- people are distracted, they are aggressive, I have noticed recently that a lot of them have trouble even staying in lane. More and more, the roads seem like the 'suicidal race' that that Stang-fella sang about decades ago. Fun fun fun, my ass!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Trump Taint

By this time, it seems that Donald Trump has a corrupting effect on just about everybody he comes into contact with. Take, for instance, John Kelly, who rose through the ranks of the US Marine Corps, then was nominated Secretary of Homeland Security before being appointed White House Chief of Staff. If Kelly had refused to serve under the Trump administration, he probably would have been remembered as an honorable and good man, a dedicated public servant. Well, that's all gone to shit, like anything that falls into Donald Trump's clutches.

Kelly has revealed his rather lackluster racism (heh, lazy Hispanics are going to steal your jobs, paradoxically) and now he's on record as having defended a serial wife-beater. Put simply, this man with a remarkable career has turned out to be a shitbag. The real question about the Trump taint is whether Trump surrounds himself with deplorable people, or whether being around Trump actually makes people more bigoted... it's probably a mixture of the two- Trump chooses people with unsavory characteristics as his minions, and the normalization of vileness makes them even more unsavory.

I really can't muster any sympathy for Kelly. I could be intoning 'how the mighty have fallen', but the guy chose to throw in his lot with the most contemptible politician in US history, so his sink into a moral morass was entirely predictable.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Pyongyang on the Potomac

Yet another entry in the 'this is not normal' column, Donald Trump wants a military parade, a canned show of force that allows him to swagger with vicarious valor. The U.S. really doesn't have a tradition of this sort of thing, which is more characteristic of Pyongyang than Peoria:

Trump is basically Kim Jong Un with an even worse hairdo... he's a trust-fund kid who rode on his more talented, ruthless father. This new wrinkle, this ego-boost on the taxpayers' dime and the use of soldiers as props, demonstrates the depth of Trump's venality and an alarming-yet-cartoonish authoritarian streak. While Trump's parade would be a waste of money and resources, veterans' benefits are not being properly funded. Even more egregiously, the war in Afghanistan continues, with the Taliban resuming control of large regions of the country. Throwing a parade without a victory is reminiscent of Suetonius' anecdote of Caligula's 'war on the sea' after his failure to invade Great Britain:

Finally, as if he intended to bring the war to an end, he drew up a line of battle on the shore of the Ocean, arranging his ballistas and other artillery; and when no one knew or could imagine what he was going to do, he suddenly bade them gather shells and fill their helmets and the folds of their gowns, calling them "spoils from the Ocean, due to the Capitol and Palatine." As a monument of his victory he erected a lofty tower, from which lights were to shine at night to guide the course of ships, as from the Pharos. Then promising the soldiers a gratuity of a hundred denarii each, as if he had shown unprecedented liberality, he said, "Go your way happy; go your way rich."

Then turning his attention to his triumph, in addition to a few captives and deserters from the barbarians he chose all the tallest of the Gauls, and as he expressed it, those who were "worthy of a triumph," as well as some of the chiefs. These he reserved for his parade, compelling them not only to dye their hair red and to let it grow long, but also to learn the language of the Germans and assume barbarian names. He also had the triremes in which he had entered the Ocean carried overland to Rome for the greater part of the way. He wrote besides to his financial agents to prepare for a triumph at the smallest possible cost, but on a grander scale than had ever before been known, since the goods of all were at their disposal.

Looks like a case of history repeating, with Little Gloves taking on the role formerly played by Little Boots.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Dotard's Dow Down, or The Trump Slump

It's been rather annoying to hear Donald Trump taking credit for a stock market that has been rising since the Bad Old Days of the 2008 crash, so it's with a rueful sense of irony that I note the karmic retribution that is the current stock market dip on the very day that Little Gloves is in Ohio touting the economy. I actually hold a lot more stock than is typical for someone at my pay grade, and am frugal enough to be able to sock away the maximum I am eligible to put into my 401(k). I'm not happy about this seeming free-fall in the stock market, but I was long convinced that it was a bubble to begin with. At least this should shut up that asshole in the Oval Office for a while. In the meantime, I think I will invest some money in booze stocks- they are bound to be profitable the way people are being driven to drink.

Also, if Democratic strategists don't start hammering home the 'Trump Slump' meme, they aren't worth their consulting fees.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Succumbing to Sportball Spectacle

It's that time of year again, the great Debordian spectacle that is Superbowl Sunday. I typically work during the game, not giving a hoot about the superb owl, but this weekend I've been working a run of graveyard shifts, so I will be free during gametime. The plan is to meet a bunch of friends at a local bar and indulge in Mass Consumption of beer and chicken wings (in other words, just like a typical Tuesday).

This year's game pits a loathsome team against a team with loathsome fans, a matchup which promises to be the greatest display of Northeastern d-baggery since these assholes palled around:

The Superbowl is a weird institution, a broadcast in which the commercials are as important an element as the event itself. I don't even have a television, but if I hear the phrase 'Dilly Dilly' again, I'll plotz. It's going to be weird to be in a place that's broadcasting the game for the first time in a decade or so, but it's an opportunity to hang out with some good friends, in a place where we are valued regulars... that's worth being subjected to 'Dilly Dilly', the Pats and Philly.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Nothing New from Nudnik Nunes

The first clue that Devin Nunes' memo would be a ridiculous waste of time was its scanty page count. If you are going to shock and astound in only four pages, you had better be (PDF)Fredric Brown. Morons were expecting something more substantial:

There was a reason why this was 'nowhere in the press'.

Nunes' (PDF) four page memo, roundly ridiculed on websites and by Democratic Congresspersons.

The target of the FISA warrant, Carter Page, attracted the notice of the authorities as early as 2013. The opposition research referenced in the memo was initiated by the conservative Washington Free Beacon, though it was picked up by the law firm Perkins Coie on behalf of the DNC. To me, the memo, bizarrely, serves to elevate the profile of Carter Page at exactly the time when the Trump Administration should be shoving him down the Memory Hole. The release of the memo also serves to antagonize the FBI, which has historically supported right-of-center political causes. As one internet commentor noted, the FBI may be the organization which prevents the truck bomb from going off, but they are also the organization which participates in witch hunts, particularly right-wing ones. This newfangled antagonism between GOP and FBI was an unforced error on Nunes' part... this is the kind of shit which happens when you put an idiot in charge of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Channeling New Order?

I figured I needed a break from politics and current events, so I'm falling on the old 'post a video' gambit. I have long been a fan of Portland band The Decemberists, I mean, how could I not love a band that released an album named after the Táin Bó Cúailnge. For the record, I am also a big fan of Horslips.

The latest Decemberists track is pretty anomalous, being uncharacteristically synth-heavy, but once Colin Meloy starts crooning in his unmistakable voice, everything falls into place:

While the synthesizers have a bit of a Giorgio Moroder vibe, the guitar has a sound reminiscent of New Order:

It's an interesting stylistic shift for the Decemberists, a much more radical departure from earlier sounds than when they channeled the jangly college-radio rock sound of REM:

It'll be interesting to hear how the new single sounds when performed live.