Monday, November 30, 2009

Brief Encounter

This is probably the all-time champion romantic tear-jerker. It is absolutely peerless.

An Affair To Remember? Not even close.
Now, Voyager? Oh, please!
Sleepless In Seattle? Nice try!
The Bridges Of Madison County? Close, but no cigar!

And the musical score? Pianist Eileen Joyce played Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the National Symphony Orchestra. Also peerless.

The story begins in an English railway station and is told in flashback, narrated by the heroine, Laura. Telling the story in a flashback is always difficult to pull off in a movie because the audience has already seen the end of the story and they think they have a pretty good idea of what will follow. But in this case, they are very wrong, the real story is hidden from them and, at the end, they will see the first scene played out again with unexpected poignancy.

For example, when we see Laura enter the train station cafe at the beginning of the movie, it doesn't make much of an impression. But at the end of the movie we see the same shot again and we know that Laura has just tried to throw herself in front of a speeding train.

Directed by David Lean (Great Expectations, Laurence Of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago). A former film editor, his family were Quakers, and watching movies was forbidden.

Celia Johnson (1908-1990) played Laura. A fine actress, she also played Mrs. DeWynter in the stage production of Rebecca, the part played in the movie by Joan Fontaine.

Noel Coward wrote the play ("Still Life").

Another favorite of mine, Harold And Maude, was also directed by a former editor, Hal Ashby, and also written by a gay man, Colin Higgins.

Big Mac IV

Mark your calendars.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in McDonald v. Chicago on Tuesday, March 2, 2010.

h/t Of Arms And The Law.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Where Do I Sign Up?

Watch THIS!

h/t Clue Meter, who remarks:

Lieutenant Colonel Allan West, US Army, got in trouble in Iraq because he fired a round from his M9 sidearm into the wall next to the head of a Tango, in the course of interrogating same.
[Is he wearing a piece?]
[No, I do not mean a hairpiece.]

Product Placement

Seconds after my last post, look what popped up:
Further comment is inadvisable - talk amongst yourselves. Here's a topic: "Breda is neither large, nor a hotel." Discuss!

Israeli Soldier

h/t Breda.

Glow-ball Warming

An excellent posting by Iain Murray which sums up the "Climategate" scandal. Excerpts:

Three Things You Absolutely Must Know About Climategate

First, the scientists discuss manipulating data to get their preferred results.

Secondly, scientists on several occasions discussed methods of subverting the scientific peer review process to ensure that skeptical papers had no access to publication. [...] If you are saying on the one hand that you will not take notice of someone until they have been published while on the other you are working behind the scenes to stop any such publication, I would venture to suggest that you are not operating with any degree of bona fides either towards the media or the legitimate scientific process.

Finally, the scientists worked to circumvent the Freedom of Information process of the United Kingdom. [...] There appears to be a prima facie case that there was a conspiracy to prevent the release of information subject to FOI.
Me, I'm an agnostic on this global warming thing. There's a lot of political theater going on around it, and that's unfortunate. But maybe it would be a good idea if the data used by these scientists were to be audited by an independent agency as part of "due diligence".

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Women, Crime and Guns

From an amicus brief in McDonald vs. Chicago co-written by Don Kates comes this nugget.

In a very interesting section, Kates discusses pro-gun-control academics whose research led them to change their minds, among them Professor Hans Toch of the School of Criminology at the State University of New York (p23):

But, Prof. Toch continues, subsequent research has progressively impacted this: “rates of male firearms ownership tend to be inversely correlated with violent crime rates, a curious fact if firearms stimulate aggression. It is hard to explain that where firearms are most dense, violent crime rates are lowest, and where guns are least dense violent crime rates are highest.”

Toch further notes that in contrast to male ownership, women’s gun ownership is very low where crime rates are low, but high where crime is prevalent. But “[t]his does not imply that urban women are responsible for the urban crime problem” writes Professor Toch; rather “it demonstrates that when violent crimes are high, women arm themselves for protection.”
Good point!

Dave Kopel has more at the Volokh Conspiracy.

The Gospel of St. John

John Moses Browning, that is. From Theo Spark and very funny! Excerpt:

And lo, they didst install adjustable sights, which are an abomination unto the Lord. For they doth break and lose their zero when thou dost need true aim. And those who have done so will be slain in great numbers by their enemies in the great battle. And they didst chamber it for cartridges whose calibers startith with numbers less than the Holy Number 4. And lo the Lord did cause great grief amongst these men when their enemies who were struck in battle with these lesser numbers didst not fall but did continue to cause great harm.

h/t Say Uncle.

Big Mac III

Second City Cop has a post on McDonald vs. Chicago, and compares Mayor Daley to General Custer. First SCC notes that 38 states have submitted amici briefs in support of McDonald, and Daley says, "Hey! Where did all these Indians come from?" Then:

Daley is going to lose this one and lose it badly. But by golly, he's going to spend tax money defending this hill until the very last Indian scalps his still twitching corpse.

Actually, that's kind of a pleasing image.
I like the image of 38 state AGs in full warpaint galloping over the crest of the hill, briefcases in hand, and bearing down on the beleaguered Daley.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rebecca And Laura

Spent a rainy evening watching two favorites.

Rebecca, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

And Laura, directed by Otto Preminger.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Louisiana Purchase

That's what the Drudge Report is calling it. A $100 million "bribe" to get the vote of just one moderate Democratic senator: Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

Here's what ABC News said:

What does it take to get a wavering senator to vote for health care reform? Here's a case study.

On page 432 of the Reid bill, there is a section increasing federal Medicaid subsidies for "certain states recovering from a major disaster."

The section spends two pages defining which "states" would qualify, saying, among other things, that it would be states that "during the preceding 7 fiscal years" have been declared a "major disaster area."

I am told the section applies to exactly one state: Louisiana, the home of moderate Democrat Mary Landrieu, who has been playing hard to get on the health care bill.

In other words, the bill spends two pages describing would could be written with a single world: Louisiana. (This may also help explain why the bill is long.)

Senator Harry Reid, who drafted the bill, cannot pass it without the support of Louisiana's Mary Landrieu.

How much does it cost? According to the Congressional Budget Office: $100 million.

That may also explain why the healthcare bill is such a budget-buster. Legislation is like sausage...

As an aside, notice the use of Sneaky Journalistic Trick #27: the phrase "I am told..." in the fourth paragraph. What's that supposed to mean!? Not that what follows isn't true, mind you!

UPDATE: Make that $300 million, not $100 million.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The End Of Days

The New York Times publishes a comparison of five waterfowl guns. The one pictured above is the RBL-12 ("round-action box lock"?) from Connecticut Shotgun. About 3G's.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fall Ramblings

As part of my ongoing effort to explore every nook and cranny of this area, I recently sojourned down an urban nature trail alongside a stream.

This is about 6 miles from the White House.

The trail passes under a highway and then through a (gulp!) tunnel.


The other side.

I like to find places like this: out of the way Jeep trails, two-tracks and service roads.

This is staghorn sumac.

I've got your "affordable health care". Right here!

And more fall colors:

Struck By Lightning

How many Americans are killed or injured by lightning strikes?
The National Weather Service publication Storm Data recorded a total of 449 deaths from lightning strikes between 1998 and 2008. According to the National Weather Service, lightning causes an average of 62 deaths and 300 injuries in the United States each year.


Elsewhere, the intolerable Josh Sugarmann at the Violence Policy Center claims that in 2007-2009, holders of concealed handgun permits murdered 85 people. That's an average of 28 people a year.

The point is clear: you are more likely to be struck and killed by lightning than you are to be murdered by a CHP-holder. Twice as likely.

I should point out that not all of the 85 deaths have been fully investigated or adjudicated yet; some may turn out to be self-defense or accidents. And not all of the slayings involved guns.

Monday, November 16, 2009

New York Times Endorses Second Amendment

OK, well, it was back in 1866, but still:
The Constitution of the United States . . . provides that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” But this restriction is . . . a restriction upon the power of the United States alone, and gave to James Lewis [a Union veteran] no protection against the law of Mississippi, which deprived him, because of his color, of a right which every white man possessed.

It is against just such legislation and such judicial decisions that the first section of the [14th] Amendment is designed to furnish a protection.

Mr. Browning’s Letter and Judge Handy’s Decision,
N.Y. TIMES, Oct. 28, 1866, at 4, col. 1

From McDonald vs. Chicago opening brief.

h/t Of Arms And The Law and the invaluable David Hardy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Long Day

Started work yesterday at 3 PM and worked 'til 11 PM. We wanted to record an interview with the Sec. of State who was in Singapore, 12 hours ahead of us. She was about to board a plane and would be unavailable for a day. So we recorded a "phoner": we have a camera at her end and one at our end and the interview takes place over a telephone line - neither of them can see the other. We couldn't get a satellite link. So after recording the interview from 10:30 PM to 11 PM, the whole crew (about 20 people) rushed to our hotel rooms for 3-4 hours of sleep. Then back at work at 4 AM to receive the feed of the Singapore video and sync it up on the Avid and make it look like a real interview. Our guy, George S., sits in the studio and the Sec. appears on a plasma screen (chromakey) which we see from a camera looking over his shoulder. The interview ran too long so I had to cut it down two minutes for time - it ran about 13 minutes for air. And this editing involved making some tight audio edits - a pleasure with 720p because I can trim to 1/60th of a second instead of 1/30th of a second with NTSC - and adding some over-the-shoulder shots to hide the edits. It worked out well and the director, exec. producer and tech. director were very impressed. After the show, we (the tape director that I work with and I) got some unusually effusive praise: "You guys are awesome!" "You guys are fantastic!" "You guys are rock stars!" We finally got released about 11:30 AM Sunday.

Totally worth the loss of sleep. Although, in truth, I have edited harder projects under worse time pressure for more difficult producers. So it was easy to say, "Aw, shucks! 'Tweren't nuthin'."

One good day at work can make the rest of the week a pleasure.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Just Shook Hands With Alan Gura!

Yup! There he is on the far left. Next to him is Randy Barnett, who blogs frequently on The Volokh Conspiracy. The subject under discussion here was Incorporation of the Second Amendment, and all of the panelists agreed that it was going to happen, it was just a question of how. The audience consisted of about a hundred law students, plus me and two other old guys.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Man Drives Bugatti Veyron Into Salt Marsh

Driver claims he was distracted by pelican, cellphone.

Maybe the dude will wake up and get himself a real Bugatti, like this 35B:
Straight-eight, supercharged, wheel spokes integrated with the brake drums to improve cooling...

Now, THAT'S a f%#@ing Bugatti!

Two Japanese Subs From WWII Found Off Hawaii

In this picture, our friendly deepsea photobot HURL rests on the deck of the I-14 and examines the deck gun.

One of the Japanese craft, the I-201, was capable of speeds of about 20 knots while submerged, making it among the fastest diesel submarines ever made. Like other Japanese subs, it had a rubberized coating on the hull, an innovation intended to make it less apparent to sonar or radar.

The other, the I-14, was much larger and slower and designed to carry two small planes, Aichi M6A Seirans. The aircraft, which had folding wings and tails and could carry a torpedo or 1,800-pound bomb, were housed in watertight hangars inside the submarine. They could be brought onto the deck and launched by a catapult. (The only existing Seiran is in the hands of the Smithsonian.)

D.C. Court of Appeals Applies Heller Retroactively

The defendant, Frederick Plummer, was charged and convicted of possession of an unlicensed handgun from an incident in October, 2003. He filed an appeal in 2004, claiming his Second Amendment rights had been violated. That was denied. Now, after Heller, he comes forward again.

DC: Defendant never even applied for a [nonexistent] permit, therefore he has no standing.
Court: The Defendant's conviction gives him standing.

The license required is also prohibited:

In light of the handgun registration and licensing scheme in effect at the time of the incident in this case, Mr. Plummer could not have registered his handgun, but registration was a prerequisite to obtaining a license, despite the Second Amendment right to keep a handgun in his home for defensive purposes.

The court seems reluctant to allow D.C. to keep people in jail for a "paperwork felony" resulting from D.C.'s "too-clever-by-half" gun registration scheme: require registration, prohibit any new licenses, restrict renewals to previous licensees only, require annual renewals, and pretty soon there will be a defacto handgun ban in D.C.

So the court sent Plummer's case back to the lower court to see if he could pass muster as a licensee (adult, no criminal record, no mental health history, no vision impairments) and presumably if he qualifies, his conviction could be overturned.

h/t Arms And The Law.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just In Time For Christmas

Nightmares of H.P. Lovecraft Nyarlathotep Statue $219.99

Boondock Saints Action Figure Assortment Set $28.99

Buck Rogers Atomic Disintegrator Pistol Gold Deluxe Edition $174.99

Star Trek Classic Captain Kirk Chair Prop Replica $2,199.99

Monday, November 9, 2009

Scientists Link Sunlight To Homicide

"Sunlight As Pathogen"
"Sunlight Found To Be Homicide Vector"
"Sunlight As A Risk Factor For Homicide In The Home"
"Shady Or Peril?"

On Aug. 26, 2006, something unusual happened in New York City.

It was a Saturday in the heart of summer, the kind of day that averages more than two homicides. Yet the police reported no killings.

One other thing happened that day: It rained.

In fact, an analysis by The New York Times of rainfall and homicides for the last six years shows that when it rains substantially in the summertime, there are fewer homicides.

When there was no precipitation, there was an average of 17 homicides every 10 days. But when there was an inch or more of rain, the average dropped to 14.

That does not surprise Vernon J. Geberth, a former Bronx homicide squad commanding officer. He said that when there was a downpour, the police would sometimes joke, “The best cop in the world is on duty tonight.”

The story is from last July, but somehow I missed it.

Lost the referring blog. Can someone enlighten (no pun intended) me?

Vanished Persian Army Said Found In Desert

The remains of a mighty Persian army said to have drowned in the sands of the western Egyptian desert 2,500 years ago might have been finally located, solving one of archeology's biggest outstanding mysteries, according to Italian archaeologists.

Bronze weapons, a silver bracelet, an earring and hundreds of human bones found in the vast desolate wilderness of the Sahara desert have raised hopes of finally finding the lost army -- 50,000 strong -- of Persian King Cambyses II, buried by a cataclysmic sandstorm in 525 B.C.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

God Forgive Me, But This Is Funny!

It seems that a fistfight broke out at, of all places, The Washington Post newsroom a couple of days ago and the Usual Suspects (Aka media bloggers) have been having a field day with it.

Politico reports that 68-year-old feature editor Henry Allen had leveled some very harsh criticism on an article written by Monica Hesse, calling it "... the second worst story I have seen in Style in 43 years."

A colleague of Hesse's, Manuel Roig-Franzia, who was working with Hesse on another article, walked over to Allen and told him, "Henry, don't be such a c--- sucker."

Allen swung at Roig-Franzia, landing at least one punch before the two could be separated.

This has lead to some hilarious comments at Politico:

"Calling someone a c--- sucker at the ultra-PC Washington Post? Isn't that a hate crime?"


"Heet heem weeth choo purse, Manuel!!"

That's every kind of stereotyping, but still funny! Somebody somewhere is channeling Hank Azaria.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Open Carry Movement In Virginia

The Virginia GOP has, for years, held an important annual meeting at a venue that bans firearms. The Virginia Citizens' Defense League has complained about the poor choice of venue for all those years, without getting any results. So this year they decided to act.

From the Firearms Coalition:

On October 17th about 250 VCDL protesters gathered in a shopping mall near the Innsbrook Pavilion, the private, anti-rights event center where the annual Republican Roundup was being staged. The well organized protest included a moon-bounce and other distractions set up for the kids, an airplane towing a "Guns Save Lives" banner, and even a hot air balloon proclaiming the same message. Local shops, restaurants, and hotels welcomed the protesters - who were mostly openly carrying sidearms - and even offered special discounts. A good and safe time was had by all.
Nice work!

Nice Shootin', Sister!

Military Police officer Kimberly Munley was directing traffic, heard the shots and entered the building, looking for the shooter. She had recently been trained in an "active shooter scenario". The training involved immediately entering a building where there was an active shooter, rather than surrounding the building and calling for backup. She went in there after him, spotted him coming around a corner, and she shot him four times. She was also wounded, but is expected to recover.

Great job!

Here's an update from the NYT:

Update | 1:30 p.m. A message posted on the Twitter feed @hope2forget30, which appears to be maintained by Kim Munley, the police officer who reportedly shot the suspected gunman and was wounded, contains this a wry answer to the question “What are you doing?”

still recovering from a long night of work from Saturday!

And a correction: I said she was a Military Police officer but she is apparently a civilian police officer assigned to Fort Hood.

The Police Blotter

Two interesting crime stories rise to the surface this morning.

The first involves the unusual death of a Census worker a month ago:
Investigators probing the death of a Kentucky census worker found hanging from a tree with the word "fed" scrawled on his chest increasingly doubt he was killed because of his government job and are pursuing the possibility he committed suicide, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.

His family still strongly believes he was murdered. The deceased's truck was found not far from his body, which raises questions: "If somebody else was there, how did they get away? Did they walk? Why walk when there was a truck there?"

The other story is of the terrible mass-murder in Cleveland. Local folks say the police didn't look into the disappearances of the women because they were poor and black.

Well, OK, you may have a point there.

But the families with missing relatives are reluctant to step forward. Why?
Police say there's only one way for the families of missing women to know for sure if their loved ones are among the victims found in suspected serial killer Anthony Sowell's house: Give DNA samples. But relatives with checkered pasts in the hardscrabble neighborhood seem reluctant to come forward.

People, please! You can't have it both ways. If you want the cops to look for your missing daughter, you have to cooperate. And you can start by at least telling them she's missing.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Census To Count Non-Citizens

That's not big news, really. The Census has always counted non-citizens. The very first Census counted slaves, fer cryin' out loud. The Constitution calls for an "actual enumeration" of "persons", which, the Supreme Court has ruled, means everybody, and it has to be an actual count, not a survey augmented by statistical estimation tools.

Today a Senate committee rejected a bill that would have required the Census Bureau to ask people if they are citizens. Some people saw this as a grandstanding play by the GOP, since it is obviously unconstitutional to reapportion the House except by an "actual enumeration" of "persons" - that cannot be changed by legislation, only by Constitutional amendment.

As a result of counting millions of non-citizens, several states would gain or lose Congressional districts. Projections are that after the 2010 Census, California will gain five new House seats, Texas will gain three, and Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Utah will gain one each. Since the number of seats in the House of Representatives is frozen at 435, some states would have to give up seats: Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

In my view, this is the biggest problem with our illegal immigration situation: their vast numbers are beginning to erode the mechanism of representative democracy. I'm not comfortable with the Census asking people about their citizenship, either, but it seems to be the lesser of two evils.

Here is a NYT article on it.

And here is the WaPo reporting on the Senate action today.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What's "aperçus"?

I read it here.

As in:
A more postracially robust version [of "Sanford And Son"] features Sanford père as the genius behind a community-based auction site, with his son, Lamont, the reluctant Webmaster. Think of the opportunities for fleet-footed banter and sophisticated, pun-based aperçus. Like “Frasier,” but postracial.


On the web I found a local bicycling club that makes and publishes turn-by-turn routes in the Northern Virginia area. Yesterday I selected a 34-mile ramble that includes Lake Barcroft and Lake Accotink, and crosses the Capitol Beltway twice. It's a combination of rolling hills through quiet suburban streets, connected by bicycle trails (some paved and some not) and parks. I used this as a sort of orienteering exercise as much as anything else. Including the ride to and from my house, it was a total of 50 miles. I started at noon and didn't return home until after dark; more than six hours of pedaling. I probably burned over 3,000 calories.

I only averaged about 8 mph due to the hilly terrain and frequent stops to check directions - there are about a hundred turns with directions like "BR TRO Queensberry 0.3 L T@SS Bristol", i.e. "Bear right to remain on Queensberry Drive for 0.3 miles, then turn left onto Bristol Street at the stop sign at the T intersection."

Had a blast! Got stopped by a Fairfax County patrol car; the officer admonished me for deliberately and flagrantly running a traffic light (guilty!), but fortunately it was only a warning and I didn't have to surrender my piece. Brother! That would have been an imbroglio!

Here's a GPS map that I made along the way. The route begins in Bluemont Park in the Seven Corners area and proceeds clockwise. The yellow lines indicate where the GPS unit "lost lock".

Elvis Molests Nun, Escapes In UFO

From today's "Yeah, Sure" file comes this report of a home invasion in Detroit:
Home intruder shot, killed in Detroit

A 67-year-old Detroit man said two robbers may have been after his gambling proceeds before one of them was shot dead on the city's west side this morning, according to police. The elderly man who was shot in the shoulder by a gun pulled out during an ensuing struggle, told police two robbers broke into his apartment door at 6:15 a.m. Investigators on the scene this morning said they found scales, baggies and other indications of drugs in the apartment. One of the robbers, a 45-year-old Detroit man was shot. Investigators are still searching for the other suspect.

"But, your Honor, surely the thieves brought the scales and baggies with them!"

Seriously, though, still dealing dope at 67? That's my definition of "gambling."


Shooting Back

Author Charles Remsburg interviews firearms instructor Dave Spaulding in Remsburg's new book, Blood Lessons: What Cops Learn from Life-or-Death Encounters, available from Calibre Press.
[Police Officer] Katy Conway, in her twenties and still fairly fresh to patrol, had just pulled away from the stationhouse in her marked unit one winter night when a stranger with a boom-box flagged her down. “He ran up to her lowered window, dropped the ’box, pulled a .357 magnum, and shot her point-blank multiple times,” Spaulding says.

“The highest round struck her vest, but others drilled into her pelvic area and thigh, bad wounds. She was momentarily in shock. He yanked her door open, shoved her into the passenger seat, and started to drive off.

“She radioed for help on her lapel mic, her voice exceptionally controlled. He told her, ‘Bitch, shut up or I’ll shoot you more.’ But she was the one who pulled the trigger. She was able to reach her 9mm and she blasted him into oblivion.”

Spaulding says she later told him: ‘I knew someone was going to die that night, and it wasn’t going to be me.’

More here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet

Ammunition sales up 42%, says the Washington Post. The stuff is just flying off the shelves.

The Post points out that these increased sales of ammo and guns are coming at a time when violent crime is low and actually declining, drawing the inference that gun owners are acting irrationally.

Yet the Post is quick to offer sympathetic coverage (and editorial endorsement) to every slipshod academic study that links increases in violent crime to increases in civilian firearms ownership.