Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hot Pink Honeysuckle

I went for a fifty-mile bicycle ride today. The weather was hot and humid and it was like riding through a mixture of steam and honeysuckle. Not that I'm complaining.

There are mountains of honeysuckle growing beside the trail.

Some of the honeysuckle is pink. I've never seen that before.

I saw a groundhog. Just a little one.

On the way home, milepost one is where the beehives are. It looks like the beekeeper has remodeled her hives.

Some Chicago Gun Control Supporters Now Thinking Of Breaking City's Handgun Ban

Violent crime in Chicago is getting so bad that even some gun control supporters there are thinking of carrying concealed handguns:

Coy Pugh, a former state representative and lobbyist for the Illinois Rifle Association, said he knows why even law-abiding citizens might arm themselves.

"In the community that I grew up in, they say it's better for the police to catch me with it than the robber to catch me without it," said Pugh.


h/t Days Of Our Trailers.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Iranian Prisoner Swamp Proposed

From AFP:

The Islamic republic is now said to be seeking a possible prisoner swamp, demanding that the United States reciprocate with a "humanitarian gesture" by releasing several Iranians held in the United States before there can be any talk of releasing the jailed hikers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mother Of Pearl!

As W.C. Fields used to say.

I spotted this old piece in the display case of a local clock shop.

Can anyone ID this revolver? Notice the unusual way it opens: rotate the barrel, then slide forward. The expended cartridge cases fall out, but the live rounds don't, or so I was told.


D.C. Voting Rights Bill

On Wednesday, the Washington Post published an editorial opposing the efforts of Senators McCain and Tester to add a rider to the D.C. voting rights bill (a perennial effort to violate the Constitution) that would restore Second Amendment rights in the District of Columbia.

Here are some great posted comments:

I am more or less neutral on the gun issue. I neither support the total gun control advocated by some, nor the total license advocated by others such as the NRA.

But I do have to ask precisely what D.C. thinks it has accomplished with its gun laws? I've lived in this area for over 30 years, and one only has to watch the nightly news to know that every two-bit street hood can apparently obtain any kind of gun and all the ammunition he wants, the law notwithstanding. In fact, it should technically only be considered "news" on those days that no one is shot in D.C.

I don't really see where much would change if D.C. gun laws were struck down entirely.


Please. You'd oppose the repeal of DC's unconstitutional gun laws even if there were dinosaurs marching down Rhode Island Avenue chomping citizens as they went.

What gun for Rhode Island Avenue dinosaurs?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mayor Daley Circles The Wagons

I love the headline: "Daley: City Anticipating Gun Ban Overturn".

A proposal in Chicago to require gun-owners to carry liability insurance.

"You'll have to show that you have insurance before you can purchase and register a gun, somewhat similar to what you do before you buy a car," said Prof. Harold Krent, Kent College of Law dean.

Of course, for a Constitutionally-protected right, licensing and insurance are clearly not permissible. Liability insurance is not a requirement for buying a car, only for operating it on public roads.

Gun controllers like to use the car/gun comparison, but only when it suits them:

1) You can buy a car without a criminal background check.
2) You don't have to show ID when you buy a car.
3) You can be a convicted criminal and you can still buy a car.
4) Hell, you can be an escaped criminal and you can still buy a car.
5) You can buy a car even if you don't have a driver's license.
6) You can buy a car even if you're under 18.

If getting a "license" to own a gun was as easy as getting a driver's license, I doubt that many Second Amendment activists would complain too loudly about that. But I doubt that Chicago is going to do that.

h/t Second City Cop.

But Did You Actually Read The Book?

I wrote about historian Michael Bellesiles a few days ago here. Now he has a new book, 1877: America's Year Of Living Violently, and a new publisher, New Press. Preview copies of the book have been sent to reviewers, accompanied by a press release which states:

A major new work of popular history, 1877 is also notable as the comeback book for a celebrated U.S. historian. Michael Bellesiles is perhaps most famous as the target of an infamous ‘swiftboating’ campaign by the National Rifle Association, following the publication of his Bancroft Prize-winning book Arming America (Knopf, 2000) -- ‘the best kind of non-fiction,’ according to the Chicago Tribune -- which made daring claims about gun ownership in early America. In what became the history profession’s most talked-about and notorious case of the past generation, Arming America was eventually discredited after an unprecedented and controversial review called into question its sources, charges which Bellesiles and his many prominent supporters have always rejected.

One reviewer, Scott McLemee at Inside Higher Education had this to say:

These sentences have absorbed and rewarded my attention for days on end. They are a masterpiece of evasion. The paragraph is, in its way, quite impressive. Every word of it is misleading, including “and” and “the.”

Bellesiles has a certain claim to fame, certainly, but not as “the target of an infamous ‘swiftboating’ campaign.” He is, and will be forever remembered as, a historian whose colleagues found him to have violated his profession's standards of scholarly integrity. Arming America won the Bancroft Prize -- the highest honor for a book on American history. But far more salient is the fact that the Bancroft committee took the unprecedented step of withdrawing the prize.

It is true that he drew the ire of the National Rifle Association, and I have no inclination to give that organization's well-funded demagogy the benefit of any doubt. But gun nuts did not force Bellesiles to do sloppy research or to falsify sources. That his scholarship was grossly incompetent on many points is not a "controversial" notion. Nor is it open to dispute whether or not he falsified sources. That has been exhaustively documented by his peers. To pretend otherwise is itself demagogic.

If a major commercial press wants to help a disgraced figure make his comeback, that is one thing, but rewriting history is another. The New Press published many excellent books by important authors. It is out of respect for that record that I want to invite it to make a public apology for violating the trust its readers have in it.

Ouch! That's gonna leave a mark...

h/t Clayton Cramer.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Gunmen Armed With Knives and Cleavers..."

That's how local anchorman Jim Vance of NBC's channel 4 news began his report on the latest attack in China.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Travel Notes

I applied one of those rain-repellent treatments ("Rain Clear") to my windshield before setting out for Indy and the result was quite interesting. Even heavy rain beads up and rolls off the windshield. Worked pretty well. I recommend it.

When I asked Roberta X which was the most interesting key in this collection, she did not hesitate.

At the range Sunday, we had, among many others, a Colt Pocketlite in 380, a Colt Detective Special in .38 SPL, a Ruger Mk III in .22-LR and a Kimber Ultra CDP in .45 ACP.

At the corner of College Ave. and 53rd St, someone had renamed the street "Fingerbang Ave." I am informed that this is the name of a fictitious boy-band from the TV show "South Park".

Down the road a bit at Taste, they have the most delicious confection I have ever eaten: bread pudding with chocolate and caramel syrup, slivered almonds and whipped cream.

On the way home, the Garmin GPS routed me through the Cumberland Gap on Interstate 68. The speed limit here is 65. I have just been passed by a Maryland State Trooper, just visible in the fog ahead as a blurry dark shadow.

My crappy old '95 Toyota Corolla purred like a kitten for over 1500 trouble-free miles.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dayton Ham Convention

Every year, in mid-May, the city of Dayton, Ohio becomes the geek capitol of the world.

There is a 20-acre flea-market extraordinaire, with such rarities as a cadaver tank...

...and an F-16 simulator.

But most visitors are there for the world's largest display of amateur radio gear, new and vintage.

This is an original Morse code embosser: the dots and dashes were embossed on the paper tape for reading later.

This is a beautiful homebrew kilowatt linear amplifier. Absolutely impeccable design and construction. A work of art!

Inside AND out! We "ooohed" and "ahhhed" over this for some time.

Analog test equipment was abundant.

Need a vacuum tube? There are millions of them here, mostly unused, in original boxes.

If you have vacuum tubes, you'll need a tube tester. Remember those? Every drugstore had one. This one is pre-WWII.

It's really amazing how well some of this very old equipment has been kept (or restored); it looks brand new.

Over at the Begali booth, a tiny Sterling engine was on display. The base plate is about 4" by 8".

A collector of rare keys was selling his collection. You could probably buy a pretty nice house for the price of these keys. I believe I overheard him selling one key to another collector for over $4,000.

I really wanted to own this Narco Omnigator Mark II.

We arrived at 8:45 AM and finished at 5:45PM, with only a quick break for a cheeseburger. We were tired and dehydrated and sunburned, but we had a wonderful time.

Back at Roseholme Cottage, Tommy and Slinky dozed peacefully. They had seen their mistress disappear like this on the same day each year for nearly two decades, and they took her absence in stride, knowing she would return.

Broadripple Art Fair

This afternoon we visited the annual Broadripple Art Fair, a very large outdoor gathering of artists in every media: painting, sculpture, wood carving, pottery and ceramics, photography, etc. Check out this amazing spherical pot: the color inside it is so pure that it doesn't seem three-dimensional, it just seems to float in space. Amazing.

Tam and Roberta peruse an exhibit.

For five dollars, a poet would write a poem just for you, and Roberta X threw down the gauntlet. Here is the poet, slaving over her work.

"What the heck?"

It's a toothbrush holder.

This is a spectacular spherical carving from burled wood, mounted on a turntable above a mirror.

And what art fair would be complete without a guy playing a didgery-do?

By the end of the show, our very own "Alpha Geekette" was laden with mucho art.

The Monon Trail

I have now tried my bicycle on Indy's Monon Trail and I hereby pronounce it in every way equal to Virginia's W&OD Trail.

Here we see a couple of cyclists, and, passing them and looking back, we see Roberta X, Tam and Shooting Buddy, flying down the Trail.

Just off the Trail we discovered this little spice shop. They offer free samples for sipping, and we were all absolutely floored by their Black Cherry Balsamic Vinegar. Ambrosia!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

There, But For The Grace Of God, Go I

Gun confiscation in Kenya:

Samburu, Turkana and Marsabit residents oppose the operation and accuse the government of failing to protect them in the past after they surrendered guns.

"We'd rather commit suicide. To hand over our guns is like stripping naked. Our people were killed, our animals taken away; many families are poor now... We'll never repeat the mistake we made two years ago," said an elder from the village of Lerata.

But the police say things are different this time. "This operation is different. We have used a different approach; it will succeed [as it is] well planned and involves the largest number of security forces," said Assistant Police Commissioner Marcus Ochola.

"The government is not using force, nobody will be harassed. We have gathered adequate intelligence reports. Security measures to protect all communities are also being implemented," he said.

He added that the operation involved paramilitary and regular police; rapid response units and aerial surveillance.

"Those who have gone into hiding will be tracked," warned Internal Security Ministry Permanent Secretary Francis Kimemia in the town of Isiolo, where five people have been detained for resisting security forces.

The Grace of God, and the Grace of Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, James Madison, Patrick Henry....

It could happen here, folks, if we let it.

h/t Maddened Fowl.

Location, Location, Location

Or maybe it's Repetition, Repetition, Repetition.

From Guns, Holsters and Gear.

Broken Guns

Some of the 200 firearms turned in at Uptown Baptist Church on Saturday as part of the city's annual gun buyback program. Virtually all of the guns were non-functional and not likely to be used to commit crimes.

Historian and author Michael A. Bellesiles got into a world of hurt when scholars began checking the sources of his book Arming America. Bellesiles had argued that early Americans were not nearly as well-armed as had been thought, and that gun-ownership in 18th and 19th-Century America was actually rather rare. Instead, he argued, the idea of an armed public was the creation of the 20th-Century NRA-rightwing-gunlobby, etc.

Bellesiles's sources for his book were probate records of the 1700's and 1800's. In poring over thousands of wills filed during the previous two centuries, Bellesiles said that he found very few firearms mentioned in wills, and those he did find were frequently described as "broken" or "damaged".

Arming America received glowing reviews in The Right Places (New York, Boston, The Bay Area) and also won Columbia University's Bancroft Prize for the best work of history by a new author.

Maybe Bellesiles's ambition got the better of him, because the unraveling began when other historians noticed that Arming America used wills from 19th-Century San Francisco as source material. These records had long been assumed irretrievably lost in the 1906 earthquake and fire, and no copies, facsimiles or summaries were known to exist. Anywhere.

When contacted for details on where he had discovered these long-missing files, Bellesiles mentioned the San Francisco Public Library; but they didn't have them. Then the California Historical Society in Sacramento; nope. Then the Mormon Research Library in Salt Lake City; nix.

Other researchers began looking deeper into the sources. They found many instances in which wills listed guns, and Bellesiles had appended "broken" or "damaged" where it did not exist in the original. An investigation was begun. The Bancroft Prize was rescinded and Bellesiles resigned his professorship.

In Chicago last Saturday, a gun "buy-back" program netted over 4,000 firearms, air-guns, replicas and what-have-you's.

At Uptown Baptist Church, one of two North Side collection points, area residents had dumped 200 rifles by 12:30 p.m. Saturday, including a machine gun that had been in a fire. Another man presented a box of replica handguns, each worth $10.

Virtually all of the guns turned in Saturday at Uptown aren’t the kind likely to be used to commit crimes.

“There’s not a functional gun in the lot,” said Sgt. Alex Silva, a 23rd District CAPS officer.

I'd settle for a functional historian.

h/t Second City Cop.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Holder: Fourth Amendment May Have To Be "Modified" To Fight Terrorism

WaPo reports.

Silly me! I thought that Holder took an oath to protect the Constitution, not dismantle it.

Contrast Holder's ideas about the rights of men like Shahzad, who is an American citizen, with the way the Administration wants to protect the rights of illegal immigrants, who are not citizens. It seems as though non-citizens will soon have more rights than U.S. citizens, in their own country!

There's no reason to panic and defenestrate the Constitution because of a bomber.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Interrupt Us?

Great headline in today's WaPo:

Coitus: AARP Says Worries, Not Mores, Interrupt Us ​

UPDATE: Hey, they changed the title!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Never Again!

In 1943 the Bureau of the Census provided confidential Census data on Americans of Japanese descent to assist in placing them in internment camps for the duration of World War Two. You can read more about it in this article in Scientific American from 2007.

Something to think about as we all fill in our own ethnic information for the 2010 Census.

You can find a hi-rez copy of the memo by image-Googling "Census Japanese internment memo"

Shahzad's Gun

Via the NYT we learn that bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad, back in March, had purchased a Kel-Tec 9mm Sub Rifle 2000 from a dealer in Connecticut. The gun's serial number is E7L98. After the two-week waiting period (what the?!) he came back on March 15th and purchased the gun.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in his testimony on Wednesday before the Senate committee, urged that suspects on terrorism watch lists be blocked from buying guns and explosives.

“When gun dealers run background checks, should F.B.I. agents have the authority to block sales of guns and explosives to those on the terror watch lists — and deemed too dangerous to fly?” the mayor asked. “I believe strongly that they should.”

Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office has released data showing that suspects on the terror watch lists were able to buy guns and explosives from licensed dealers in the United States more than 1,100 times from 2004 to 2010. Such a statistic seems irrelevant in Mr. Shahzad’s case, as he was on no such list in March.

It is unclear whether, in the 50 days Mr. Shahzad was a registered gun owner, he ever once pulled the trigger.
The suspect had a clean criminal and mental health history, he purchased a long gun (not a pistol, for which a permit is required in Conn.), waited the required two-week period, and may not have ever fired the thing. All fully in compliance with the Brady Center's recommendations.

He seems to have acted alone in his bomb-making, so there's no "conspiracy" charge. It looks to me like he didn't break any laws at all until he lit the fuse in Times Square. Except, of course, for the Sullivan Act! But you don't need a gun to violate the Sullivan Act: George "The Mad Bomber" Metesky was charged with violation of the Sullivan Act for carrying his little pipe bombs around NYC.

And as the Times so accurately (and uncharacteristically!) points out, Mayor Bloomberg's proposal wouldn't have stopped Shahzad from buying a gun, since he wasn't on any Federal list in March.

Any lawyers care to weigh in?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Long Haul

Yesterday was a glorious day. Just look at these flowers blooming outside the Embassy of Turonistan. So some bicycling was in order.

The W&OD Trail was in wonderful condition after the brutal winter we suffered. Just look at all of those beautiful buttercups!

I don't know what these wildflowers are called, but there were millions of them lining the trail.

Pretty far from home now, but not quite as far as I wanted to go.

That's it, Milepost 31. From my house to the trail is 4.5 miles, then thirty-one miles on the trail is just over 35 miles, making a round-trip of 70 miles.

Pedaled for over 7 hours. I was exhausted when I got home. Had a couple of cold beers and a quick bowl of spaghetti and fell into bed at 9 PM.

Monday, May 3, 2010

"Zombiesat" Threatens Other Satellites

A geosynchronous satellite has stopped responding to commands and is drifting toward other communications satellites. The nearest is only 2-degrees away at 36,000-km. My high school math makes that about 628 kilometers.

This is not the first time this has happened. There are more than 160 dead communications satellites parked at two "dead zones".

This time, though, the zombiesat is drifting toward the living.

Yahoo News.

First Russ Meyer, Now This

Joseph Sarno, the director of such cinematic epics as "Sin In The Suburbs" and "Moonlighting Wives" has died.

His obit, in the NYT.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Mad Bomber

The discovery of an improvised bomb in New York City yesterday brings to mind a previous bomb, or rather, series of bombs in the 1940's and 1950's.

More than thirty small pipe bombs were placed in phone booths, subways and theater seats in NYC. No one was killed; more than a dozen people were injured. Some of the bombs did not explode and were discovered months after they had been planted. Several bombs rolled out onto the work benches of upholsterers who were attempting to repair theater seats that had apparently been vandalized.

In 1957, police arrested 53-year-old George Metesky and a grand jury handed down 47 charges, ranging from attempted murder to violation of the Sullivan Act (well, he did have to carry those bombs, didn't he?).

I thought it was interesting that the newspapers used the word "terrorism" in their headline, back in 1957:
The second headline could have been written by Monty Python (falsetto): "He was a quiet man, but handy with a fuse!"

A psychiatrist consulted by the NYPD in an early example of criminal profiling, predicted that when arrested, the bomber would be wearing a double-breasted suit, buttoned.

Metesky held a grudge against Con Edison for a workplace accident in 1931 that had exposed him to harmful chemicals and disabled him. He was never tried, but sent to a mental institution; it was thought that, due to his advanced tuberculosis, he would only live a few weeks. Instead he responded to treatment and completely recovered from the disease.

Metesky spent nearly 18 years in mental institutions. In 1973 he received a new psychiatric evaluation and was declared "harmless". Since he had never been convicted of anything, he petitioned a court for his release. Because he had already served two-thirds of the 25-year maximum sentence he would have received had he been convicted, he was released. The judge told him, "not to do it again." A good thing he did, too, because Metesky later told a reporter that he was still angry with Con Edison.

George Metesky died on May 23, 1994.

NYT's Thomas Friedman

This morning NYT columnist Thomas Friedman had this to say about Mexico:

The Narcos are the drug cartels who are now brazenly attacking each other in turf wars and challenging the state for control of towns. The success of U.S. and Colombian efforts to interdict drug trafficking through the Caribbean and north from Colombia have pushed the cartels to relocate their main smuggling up through the spine of Mexico. President Felipe Calderón is bravely trying to take them on, but the Narcos have bigger guns than the Mexican Army - most smuggled in from U.S. gun stores.

He needs to hear from us that the kinds of heavy weapons being used in the narco-wars. - machine guns, grenades, RPGs, etc. - are not available in U.S. gun stores.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


At Connecticut Ave. and L Street this morning, somebody dug where they shouldn'ta.

National ID Cards

The experts seem to agree that there is no real security in biometric ID cards. Storing the biometric data on a central computer (not on the card itself) would offer more security, but would still be possible to spoof. And would be a huge privacy nightmare.

And the more faith we put in these cards, the less suspicious we become of their authenticity. Some experts say that this is actually a liability. For example, a Social Security card printed on paper is trivially easy to forge, so it requires other forms of ID to confirm the user's identity. But a biometric card would be a "get out of jail free!" card, could not be questioned, paradoxically making it much more valuable for forgers.

And a card can always be stolen and used by a person who resembles the card-holder.

You may remember the case of the Mexican citizen who was recently executed in Texas. Mexico complained that he should have been informed that he was entitled to contact the Mexican Consulate at the time of his arrest. Fine.

But now some of the same people are saying that American police must'n't dare ask arrestees about their nationality or visa status.

Well, you can't have it both ways.

According to an op-ed in the NYT, there has been a federal law in place since 1940 that requires foreign visitors to the U.S. to keep their documents with them at all times and produce them when asked. If a police officer asks for ID, a pedestrian in America can answer, "Sorry, but I'm a citizen!" and that, presumably, ends the interview; without probable cause, the officer can't press the matter. But a driver does have a legal obligation to produce a driver's license. And traffic cops have lots of tricks for spotting fake ID's - did you know that your place of birth (the state, anyway) is encoded into your Social Security number? That's why traffic cops frequently ask motorists, "Where were you born?" - if the answer doesn't match the SSN, the ID may be a little hinky.

Mark my words, if something isn't done, ten years from now, in the next Census, the Census-takers will all be carrying fingerprint machines, to fingerprint all 300-plus million of us.