20 April 2007

Bomb Bomb Iran

There is a lot of buzz on McCain's off-the-cuff "Bomb Iran" joke. The YouTube video is floating up the charts.

When I first spotted the header at Steve Clemons's The Washington Note blog early Thursday, I did not bother to read the actual post (the picture appeared sufficient)--I simply assumed that Steve or one of his guests was reusing a Carter-era parody song to mock a McCain policy statement. My reaction to the post turned out to be somewhat recursive. Scott Paul wrote,

When I first read it as an unrelated comment to my last post, I brushed it off as a joke.

It's no joke.

Speaking at a VFW meeting in South Carolina, McCain asked when the U.S. would "send an air mail message to Tehran. " McCain replied: "You know that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran? Bomb bomb bomb, anyway..."

Ann Althouse adds,

Is he trying to be Reaganesque?

alluding to Reagan's "The bombing will begin in five minutes" joke.

McCain is undeterred.

"Please, I was talking to some of my old veterans friends," he told reporters. "My response is, Lighten up and get a life."

When reporters asked if the joke was insensitive, McCain said: "Insensitive to what? The Iranians?"

McCain does not have my vote, but he has my support here. Note how Paul missed the euphemism in the vet's "airmail message" prompt . It's the same kind of mail as the one Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) warns Jeffrey (Kyle MacLaclan) about in Blue Velvet when he threatens to send him a "love letter". McCain simply replies in kind--especially to the generation that grew up listening to the Beach Boys.

But the joke is far from new. There were several versions popping up during the Iran hostage crisis (Vince Vance and the Valiants was the best known version), and they persisted through the early 1980s. Some, like Vince's, had a definite Right Wing tinge, but not all.

However, there was no YouTube in the 1980s. In fact, there was barely an embryo of an internet. So, not surprisingly, few people remember the lines like "Went to a mosque, gonna throw some rocks. Tell the Ayatollah..."Gonna put you in a box!" " (from Vince's version), "A-rockin'-n'-a-rollin', Nuke'm 'till the'r glow'n'" or "Bomb Ira-a-an, just like Viet-Na-a-am!" (from other versions) that lurked around the college counter-culture music circuit. Beatnik coffee houses are not the internet and 45s are not CDs.

But no one seems to have bothered to check more recent archives either. Here's one version (Adam Kontras) that appeared almost exactly a year ago.
[Update NOTE: The clip will pop up in a new tab or window. It starts with a brief ad.]

No wonder that the site that distributes the Kontras clip came up with a humorous take:

John McCain Rips Off AtomFilms!!

It is unusual that the same song not only served for multiple parodies at different time periods, but that it spawned versions from both ends of the political spectrum (although the ones from the Left were distinctly more ironic). The fact that McCain tapped into the same channel shows that he still has a sense of humor and can still connect the dots. His critics, on the other hand, are getting stale. Meanwhile, the Corner is poll-watching...

18 April 2007

Gun control

[UPDATE: some changes and additions made to the text; links updated]

Steve Soto beat me to the punch, but the buzz is just beginning to rise. There have been many exchanges over gun control since the Virginia Tech shooting--with some comments being plainly delusional--but, best I can tell, no one proposed a rational approach to policy change following the tragedy. Rep. Jane Harman took the opportunity--in my view, inappropriately--to plug her bill to renew the assault weapons ban. She failed to explain how her proposal would have prevented or mitigated the most recent disaster.

Conservative blogs put on a dog and pony show to convince the masses that it would have been better if Virginia Tech did not have a gun ban because than any half-cocked student or professor with a concealed weapon could have taken out the creep. (And this is only some of the nonsense that's flying out there. There is also a distinct blame-the-victim tinge to their comments.) None of them consider the other likely consequences (especially in light of John Derbyshire's admission of utter inability to shoot straight). With multiple gunmen, the likely outcome indeed would be a possibility--nothing more--that someone would have shot the perpetrator. There is also a distinct possibility that the resulting barrage of bullets would result in significant collateral damage, compounding the tragedy. And, to make matters worse, there is also the possibility that, in a rush to resolve the situation, NYPD style, the police would end up shooting the "hero". And if they did not do it, a bunch of "heroes" likely would shoot each other. Color me unconvinced.

My initial instinct was that the gun dealer would be blamed. I was likely mistaken. The state should escape liability. But the university itself--and, yes, I know it's a state institution--may well be on the hook, especially with the latest revelations. Cho's background may also take the wind out of gun advocates' sails.

Here's the news, in a nutshell:

The Centreville man responsible for Monday's shooting rampage at Virginia Tech was questioned by police twice in 2005 after female students complained he was harassing them and was hospitalized after he was reported to be suicidal, the campus police chief said this morning.
In the first case -- in November 2005 -- officers referred Cho to the university discipline system. The next month, at the request of the second female student, officers met with Cho to ask him not to contact her again.

Hours later, a friend of Cho's called campus police to say he seemed suicidal, Flinchum said. Police then contacted Cho again and persuaded him to undergo an outside psychiatric evaluation. Officials said they did not send Cho to the campus counseling center because staff there do not have the authority to involuntarily hospitalize patients.

Cho was admitted to Carilion St. Albans Psychiatric Hospital in nearby Radford, Va., on Dec. 13, 2005. Officials said they believe Cho entered the hospital voluntarily. They would not say how much time he spent there, citing privacy rules. [emphasis added]

To sum up, the kid was 1) a serial stalker, 2) became despondent and suicidal when confronted, and 3)was institutionalized for mental problems as a result.

An average Second Amendment dead-ender will say, "So what? You can't make laws to take all crazy people into account. If someone wants to get a gun, he can get illegally. Are you going to penalize all normal people because of some crazy guy?"

There is a simple concept known as hedging. We don't lock our doors to prevent burglaries--we do it to make them more difficult. We don't invent draconian travel restrictions to guarantee that terrorists will not find their way in. No--we do it to make it more difficult for them. Abortion opponents demand waiting periods, notifications and multiple consultations. Do they think that they are stopping abortions? No--they are making them more difficult, acting as a deterrent in at least some cases. [Note: I don't support these tactics, but for unrelated reasons.]

Why not institute a background check that puts up red flags not only on ex-felons, but and those who satisfy conditions (1), (2) or (3).

Mental health advocates might object that I am proposing taking rights away from people simply because of their health problems. Although this may nominally be true, the health problems are not the cause of the action I propose--it is the specific nature of the problem that makes gun possession an unjustifiable risk.

People enter mental health facilities for a number of reasons. Not all of these pose risk, but certainly, if the cause is depression, suicidal tendencies (a variation on depression, I suppose), drug or alcohol abuse or more pervasive disorders (e.g., schizophrenia), possession of guns poses a risk. Certainly an involuntary hospitalization points to an extensive problem and lack of self-control that would be anathema to gun possession. I am sure there are professional publications that outline all the risk factors for random violence, and they should confirm my theory. I am not suggesting that every behavioral flag should turn into a background check flag, but there is no question that some represent a major change in risk and should be considered in a background check.

Specific forms of obsessive behavior--such as stalking or domestic abuse--are also major risk factors that should be taken into account. Not all stalkings result in abuse, and, of those, fewer still involve weapons, but the risk is unacceptable, compared to the risk from an average person without these problems. Domestic abuse reports and stalking reports--should go into a closed law-enforcement database that is only used for gun permits and sales. I am not suggesting that it should be used for other purposes.

Add these to the restrictions on felons--especially those who were involved in violent crimes or drug-related crimes--and we have a fairly comprehensive background check. On top of this, of course, there is the usual restriction on non-citizens--not even the most zealous Second Amendment advocate would argue against this particular restriction (in fact, they are likely to demand it).

There are some fine points that need ironing. For example, in Wisconsin, the first drunk-driving conviction is not a felony. For my money, someone who drives drunk shows the kind of lack of self-restraint that should result in the deprivation of a gun license, irrespectively of whether the specific offense is a felony. If one drives drunk, what would prevent him from handling a gun drunk?

Worse yet, many states don't even require a license or a permit, so implementing any restrictions would be difficult. But not impossible...

Even Second Amendment zealots admit that civilian gun ownership is meant to support a militia--not the White Supremacist or survivalist kind, obviously, although, some of the true nuts do not make that distinction. And, since the purpose is, ostensibly, "a well-regulated militia", there is no reason why militia-related training--er, gun handling training--should not be required. Want to buy a gun? No problem--just show proof of recent training for the type of weapon you want to buy or sign up for a class. And mandate periodic "continuous education" type training as a condition for perpetual extension of a permit. This should also weed out people who get red-flagged after getting a permit or whose mental condition slowly deteriorates.

Tommy, can you hear me?

Those from Wisconsin and Illinois have always known that Tommy Thompson is not the brightest light bulb on the tree. That has not stopped him from mulling over his presidential aspirations. Some locals have claimed that he might have had a good chance a decade ago--with Bob Dole and George Bush as eventual nominees, Thompson could have made it interesting, they say.

This is doubtful. Thompson never had the financial backing of Bush, and Dole was running on inevitability--the same kind of campaign that John McCain expected to run in this cycle-- because he "earned" the nomination. As we can see from McCain's predicament, even "inevitable" candidates can take a precipitous drop. However, Thompson was hardly the candidate to knock Dole off the perch.

Thompson is an affable enough guy, but that does not make him presidential material. His faux pas before a group of Reform Jews did not win him any supporters. He made matters worse with a backhanded apology--he was trying to be complimentary. Why didn't Imus think of that!

Well, a day later he tried a different tack:
"I was tired, I made a mistake and I apologized," Thompson told a group of Politico reporters and editors in an interview.

"Have you ever made a mistake?," a testy Thompson demanded of this reporter.
That sounds a lot more plausible (except for the "apologized" part). But why get snippy?

The problem with getting snippy is that you end up saying things that make little sense.
Thompson also noted that he had received an award from the Anti-Defamation League and traveled to Israel last year to accept a "Friend of Zion" award from former Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres.
Is it just me or does this sound like, "Some of my best friends are Jewish people!" (OK, so he actually says, "I am a friend of the Jewish people," but it's the same message.) If someone accuses you of an ethnically insensitive comment, accept it and move on. Don't dig deeper by trying to explain it, or get defensive and snap at reporters. It makes people think that you really meant it.

Thompson is no Mel Gibson or Pat Buchanan, but he really needs a few lessons in public speaking and diplomacy. A briefing session with Kerry and Biden mulling over jokes that should not have been made might help too. Doesn't matter--Tommy is going home empty-handed in any case. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!

Vulture Circus

[UPDATE: Every day seems to bring more!]

The blood of the victims is not even dry yet, but the venom is dripping in full force. And I am not even talking about a misplaced, but, at least, not-quite-in-bad-taste remarks by Dana Perino in representing the President's position. That's mild stuff!

Consider Larry Pratt:
"It is irresponsibly dangerous to tell citizens that they may not have guns at schools," said Larry Pratt, director of Gun Owners of America.
Jacob Sullum has expressed similar sentiments.

How about Michelle Malkin?
Is it too early to ask: "What if?" What if that bill had passed? What if just one student in one of those classrooms had been in lawful possession of a concealed weapon for the purpose of self-defense?
Or John Derbyshire?
Where was the spirit of self-defense here? Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn't anyone rush the guy? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake—one of them reportedly a .22.
At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands. Better yet, just jump him. Handguns aren't very accurate, even at close range. I shoot mine all the time at the range, and I still can't hit squat. I doubt this guy was any better than I am. And even if hit, a .22 needs to find something important to do real damage—your chances aren't bad.
Commenting on Derbyshire's observation, Nathanael Blake also observed,
College classrooms have scads of young men who are at their physical peak, and none of them seems to have done anything beyond ducking, running, and holding doors shut. Meanwhile, an old man hurled his body at the shooter to save others.

Something is clearly wrong with the men in our culture. Among the first rules of manliness are fighting bad guys and protecting others: in a word, courage. And not a one of the healthy young fellows in the classrooms seems to have done that.
One can only hope that Derbyshire and Blake find themselves in such a position one day, so that they can show the rest of us how manly they really are. As for Pratt's, Sullum's and Malkin's queries, I suggest just two words--collateral damage.

Then, there is Answers in Genesis's Ken Ham.
Naturalism (in essence, atheism) has become the religion of the day and has become the foundation of the education system (and Western culture as a whole). The more such a philosophy permeates the culture, the more we would expect to see a sense of purposelessness and hopelessness that pervades people’s thinking. In fact, the more a culture allows the killing of the unborn, the more we will see people treating life in general as “cheap.”

I’m not at all saying that the person who committed these murders at Virginia Tech was driven by a belief in millions of years or evolution. I don’t know why this person did what he did, except the obvious: that it was a result of sin. However, when we see such death and violence, it is a reminder to us that without God’s Word (and the literal history in Genesis 1–11), people will not understand why such things happen.

Yes, naturalism and belief in evolution are the driving force behind such events. I guess, Ham added the second paragraph to avoid being unfavorably compared to Ward Churchill and his "Little Eichmans".

Another great find is a self-proclaimed "school shooting expert" Jack Tompson, playing the role on Fox News. Thompson blames everything on video games. "In order to pull this off, with this high a body count, Bill, one has to have rehearsed it to get ready to do it," he said. An idiot Fox anchor plays foil by suggesting, "[Students] described the gunman as chaining the doors behind him...--that sounds like premeditation, does it not?" Then he finishes off the interview, "Jack Thompson, ... he's an attorney and a specialist... Unfortunately, we can use that word in school shootings in America today..."

In case you're wondering, Thompson is the ambulance chaser who specializes in suing schools where such events occur.

The worst, by far, however, is Debbie Schlussel. Not content waiting for information to trickle in, she came up with an advance theory.

* The murderer has been identified by law enforcement and media reports as "a young Asian male."

* The Virginia Tech campus has a very large Muslim community, many of which are from Pakistan (per terrorism investigator Bill Warner).

* Pakis are considered "Asian."

Of course, one must also blame the pro-Muslim bias of the liberal media.
So who is the shooter? What is the shooter's nationality? What is the shooter's religion? Waiting to find out. And wondering why the police and media are referring to the shooter as "Asian" and not by specific nationality.

Why am I speculating that the "Asian" gunman is a Pakistani Muslim? Because law enforcement and the media strangely won't tell us more specifically who the gunman is. Why?

Even if it does not turn out that the shooter is Muslim, this is a demonstration to Muslim jihadists all over that it is extremely easy to shoot and kill multiple American college students.

I wish I was making this up! Schlussel goes through multiple updates
The shooter has now been identified as a Chinese national here on a student visa. Lovely. Yet another reason to stop letting in so many foreign students.

The shooter has now been identified as a South Korean national, who is a permanent resident.
The headline still says "S.KOREAN w/Student Visa".

But Schlussel is not done. When a reader points out that "Paki" is a slur, she goes ballistic.

When another reader tried to play her game, she got worse.

Ms. Schussel, you are a empty-souled, vampiric monster.


And, in case you're wondering if she really blames the Muslim-loving media, take a look at another post.

Hmmm . . . I'm sure of all the thousands of students at the memorial mourning the dead at Virginia Tech's convocation, today, the Washington Post took this and chose this particular one at random for its cover shot at its website, WashingtonPost.com. Just a random photo, right? I mean, I'm sure this objective mainstream media outlet would nevah evah have an agenda . . . .

What's the Post's offense? Just having a few Muslim women at the front of the photo. It's interesting that Schlussel does not believe in randomness of the photo after pointing out for two days that there are a lot of Muslims on the Virginia Tech campus. She also eventually mimicked Malkin by posting about the bill to prohibit universities from becoming gun-free zones. There are at least three other posts where she suggests that the shooter was either a Muslim terrorist or trained by Muslim terrorists, because he did such a "professional job".

Malkin may eventually outdo Schlussel for the honor, but, for my money, Olbermann should pronounce Schlussel Worst Person in the World! Unfortunately, Olbermann left Schlussel in third place, giving the "prize" to Derbyshire.

H/t on some links to ScienceBlog and Steve Benen.

17 April 2007

How the State Department protects democracy

There is a bunch of really funny stuff here.

Some is incredibly ironic.
"We see democracy being hijacked all over the place," committee member Chester Crocker told his colleagues.
(I wonder how Chester feels about Dick Cheney.)

Some is just poetic.

"Poverty is a cancer that affects democracy," Atwood argued.

"The real cancer is corruption," Gershman rebutted.

(I wonder how Gershman feels about Dick Cheney.)

And some is linguistically odd.
"We've already gotten some outstanding recommendations. . . . I think the other recommendations are great. . . . I couldn't agree more. . . . I agree completely. . . . Great comments. . . . I find myself in violent agreement with what's been said around the table." [emphasis added]
That would be from the former and future Stanford professor Rice.