Shootout at VPI

I’m intrigued by the notion held by some that the situation at Virginia Tech would have been idyllic if everyone had a gun. (This is the microcosm of the perfect world in which all of us are armed. You know, like in Iraq.) Oh, I know, they really mean “the right person” — the hero — but let’s take it to the logical extreme where everyone at VPI carried a gun.

How does this fantasy play out? Cho approaches the first two people he killed and draws a gun. Now what? Does one or do both of those victims shoot him on the spot? Hooray! Do they hesitate until he shoots one of them first, then the other kills him? Let’s say he got the drop on them in spite of their weapons. On to the classrooms. Students hear gunfire and all draw their weapons and run to the hallway. When do these 30 students start shooting? When they see he’s dressed in black, armed, Asian?

I get the simple version: a guy points a gun at you and you shoot him first. But in a classroom in chaos, when and whom do you shoot? When the guy next to you draws a gun and starts shooting, how do you know he’s a good guy and not another psycho? Thirty-three people start shooting. How many die? mjh

PS: I wonder if Cho watch Saturday Night Live last Saturday. One sketch involved one roommate shooting another. Third person enters the room and is shot. Then a fourth. Then a couple of cops. Everyone ends up dead. Now that’s comedy.

BioPark Vandals

The vandalism at the BioPark is very sad. The vandals and their parents must receive some punishment, though I don’t think it should haunt them the rest of their lives.

I wonder why this story wasn’t reported when it happened. A full week passed before the BioPark banned the school and that’s when it became news. How did the story remain uncovered until then? mjh

ABQjournal: City Sues Over BioPark Damage By Andrea Schoellkopf, Journal Staff Writer

The lawsuit names Charles Aragon and his mother, Tina Aragon; Desiree Gallegos and her aunt, Elene Marquez; Randy Kowalchuck [whose mother is in prison] and his grandmother, Helen Aragon; and Veronica Rodriguez and her stepfather, Joe Ramos. [mjh: I don’t idolize the “Father Knows Best” model of 50’s families with 2.5 well-behaved kids. But you don’t have to be a social scientist to notice those families are non-nuclear.]

“I asked him, ‘Why did you do it?’ ” [Helen Aragon] said. “You know what he told me? ‘Everybody else was doing it.’ ”

Since then, she said, her grandson has been very depressed and quiet “as if he’s so worried about something.”

She said her grandson, who will turn 13 next month, spends most of his time at home with her watching movies or playing games. Recently, he has begun playing basketball and football with other children.

That little boy has had a rough life and he keeps more to himself,” she said. [mjh: the next Cho?>]

Subverting Democracy

Kremlin justice in the U.S., by Jonathan Chait

AS ATTY. GEN. Alberto R. Gonzales takes to Capitol Hill to testify today, it’s worth keeping in mind what this whole imbroglio is really about. … It’s about whether the Bush administration sought to subvert democracy by turning the federal judicial system into a weapon of the ruling party.

Many people think of democracy as free elections, some other basic rights (like free speech) and not much more. But really, that’s only the beginning. …

Communications professors Donald Shields and John Cragan have found that, since Bush took office, U.S. attorneys have investigated or indicted 298 Democratic officeholders and only 67 Republicans. This massive disparity, which I have not seen any Republican even try to explain, is deeply suspicious. [mjh: Conservatives have a simple and smug explanation: Dems are corrupt and Reps are chaste. Snort. Yeah, right.]

And there are other ways in which Republicans have tried to use the legal system to win partisan disputes. [mjh: read them]

It would be very easy to overreact to all these things and conclude that our democracy is imperiled or that Republicans are wannabe Putins. But almost nobody seems to be overreacting.

Most people are under-reacting. Allowing the security apparatus of the state to help tilt elections is an extremely grave precedent. When the line of acceptable behavior can be moved without much protest, it often can be moved further the next time.

No, we’re not becoming Russia. But becoming just a little bit like Russia still ought to be considered a major scandal.
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Tom Tomorrow's comic

A Conservative Defends Political Correctness — well, sorta …

P.C. Kabuki Theater, By Jonah Goldberg

The reality is that much of political correctness — the successful part — is a necessary attempt to redefine good manners in a sexually and racially integrated society. Good manners are simply those things you do to demonstrate respect to others and contribute to social decorum. Aren’t conservatives the natural defenders of proper manners? …

There’s remarkable overlap between conservative and liberal complaints about the culture. But when traditionalists talk the language of decency and morality, the Left hears bigotry and theocracy. And when liberals talk about sensitivity and white privilege, the Right hears something totalitarian. The result is that the two sides hold separate conversations. And when they do talk to each other, each side is listening for hidden agendas.

TV is to America as Lead Pipes were to Rome

I’m nauseated by recent ads for video screens in cars and vans. One features a busload of unruly children, the other a classroom in chaos. In both, an adult flips down a tiny, worthless video screen and the children are instantly in their seats and transfixed faster than any medication could accomplish.

Leave aside that advertising routinely and perversely presents its customers as idiots. (This speaks volumes about what advertisers think of you and me.) You want discipline, order, quiet — drug ’em, Dan-o! Mesmerize them with TV, the babysitter they have known almost as long as Mom.

Mind you, I have two TVs and no kids. Further, I spent much of my youth and too much of the rest of my life in front of the idiot box, “the chattering cyclops,” as Sideshow Bob put it. I’m also a wireless fan and grasp the notion of always being jacked in. I’m no Luddite. However, for god’s sake, people, have the spine to discipline your children without drugs, electronica or bribes. Have the intelligence to entertain and educate them your own goddamn self. Teach them to read. On long car trips, teach them to sit and do nothing — it is a very valuable skill. If you can’t amuse yourself, your life will always be empty. mjh

PS: As the Journal reported on page one (ABQjournal: It’s Like a Couch on Wheels Albuquerque Demo Spotlights In-Car Satellite TV Service), you can also get a giant screen and huge satellite antenna for your van. Great for tailgating parties where no one wants to talk to anyone else. Now, you don’t have to miss the halftime shows or commercials while you kill yourself with food and alcohol in the parking lot. Go team!

[mjh: A couple of Journal columnists addressed this nonsense and similar commonsense recently]

ABQjournal: Talk Isn’t Cheap, Neither are Car TV Systems By D’Val Westphal Of the Journal

How on earth has my family survived without satellite television in our vehicles?

Silly us, we’ve been spending all our commutes, quick trips on errands and vacations actually talking to each other. … We could’ve been circling the block zoned out to “American Idol” instead. …

To those who opt for mobile satellite TV— many clearly will … — I’m glad you can get service for $4.99 a month. I’ll save my cash for an even safer, greener vehicle, and I’ll spend my drive time talking to my family for free.
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ABQjournal: Don’t Forget You’re Human By Jim Belshaw Of the Journal

The trouble with being invincible is that, when you’re flying around the inside of a disintegrating car or you find yourself in the middle of a dogfight (a very bad place to be, I can attest), your invincibility always takes a beating, and sometimes you take others down with you in the bargain.

So, not to be a pest or anything, when you take Fido out for a run put him on a leash. OK?

And when you’re driving over to the bosque for that morning’s jog, wear your damn seat belt.

RAR – Republicans Against Reform

GOP Unknown Halts Electronic Finance Filings By Matthew Mosk, Washington Post Staff Writer

But before Feingold’s bill [requiring members to file their campaign finance forms electronically instead of on paper] could move forward, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) rose and announced, “Mr. President, on behalf of a Republican senator, I object.”

The objection represented another Senate tradition that is almost as quaint and baffling to outsiders as paper filings — it is called an anonymous hold. The long-standing practice allows a single unnamed senator to stop any bill in its tracks.

Senators voted earlier this year to end anonymous holds as part of their ethics reform bill, but that measure still awaits action in the House. So when Alexander unfurled his objection, there was little anyone could do. …

Campaign finance reform advocate Steven Weissman said he could only laugh — what a poetic way for senate Republicans to slam the brakes on a long-pending disclosure bill. “This is truly ironic,” he said yesterday. “Secrecy is being used to reinforce secrecy.”

Sen. Ima Luddite (R) – Washington Post Editorial

Would that this Luddite had the courage of his or her convictions to explain publicly said opposition to 21st-century custom. … All opposed ought to have the guts to come forward and explain their antipathy to sunshine.
– – –

ABQjournal: Gov. Considers Ethics Special Session, By Felicia Fonseca, The Associated Press [4/1/07]

Senate Republican Whip Leonard Lee Rawson of Las Cruces said Saturday that he doesn’t believe the idea of the special session will be well received by lawmakers.

Ethics legislation would only trap people who are trying to be honest, and the laws can be abused, he said.

“Just because you have an ethics commission or ethics laws, doesn’t make someone ethical,” Rawson said. “Just because you walk in the garage, doesn’t make you a car. Ethics legislation only treats the symptoms, it doesn’t treat the cause.”

The bottom line, Rawson said, is that, if voters elect ethical people, “then you don’t have to worry about ethics legislation.” [mjh: it’s so simple only a simpleton can see it]

VPI, not VMI

When I went to school at UVa 30 years ago, we called Virginia Tech “VPI” (Virginia Polytechnic Institute). I guess they had an upgrade to a university, just like George Mason College University. I knew people at Tech but never made what seemed like an impossibly long drive to Blacksburg. (I was still unacquainted with vast distances so familiar to me now as a westerner.)

I’ll write some other time about what a great world this would be without guns. (Have no fear, gun-freaks — you’ve got guns!) I watched part of the convocation on Tuesday and was struck by a few things:

(1) The only speaker should have been the first, the Vice President for Student Affairs. Her words, tone and demeanor were perfect. Everything else detracted from her opening remarks.

(2) You knew things had turned conventional when the President of VPI offered the biography of the Governor of Virginia. Do we really need to know what the governor did in his youth? (Unless it was march for or against gun control.)

(3) Duhbya could have been worse, even if references to a loving god seem ironic under the circumstances.

(4) When the religious leaders gathered on stage — even a buddhist, but no Hindu, I think — I wondered, “where are the atheists?” Atheists suffer life’s tragedies without magic to comfort us.

(5) I was shocked by the playing of the Star-spangled Banner and the color guard drill. This was not a military situation. These were not soldiers. This wasn’t war. As with 9/11, this was a somewhat international group of victims; people all over the world were hurt by this. We don’t need nationalism, when humanity should suffice. A world without nations or guns in which everyone recognizes each other as human beings? Talk about magic. Even people who can believe in god don’t believe that’s possible. mjh