Monthly Archives: August 2012

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Jeb Bush at the Republican National convention

Jeb Bush delivered a dynamite speech tonight at the RNC on providing parents with choice in education. I also appreciated how he opened.

Before I began my remarks, I have something personal I
would like to share with you. I’ve been so blessed to be part
of a family that has committed its life to public service.

My granddad and my father have been incredible role models
for me and served our country honorably. And my brother,
well, I love my brother.

He is a man of integrity, courage, and honor, and during
incredibly challenging times, he kept us safe.

So, Mr. President, it is time to stop blaming your
predecessor for your failed economic policies.

You were dealt a tough hand, but your policies have not
worked. In the fourth year of your presidency, a real leader
would accept responsibility for his actions, and you haven’t
done it.

Full video below:

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“If someone pointed a gun at you …?” – Mayor Bloomberg’s interesting question

In a press conference this week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York was defending the actions of the police officers who shot the gunman outside of the Empire State Building last week, killing him but also wounding nine innocent bystanders.

Now, I don’t condemn the police for the wounding of those people, simply because I know how densely populated is that area with tourists/commuters/people-selling-things-to-tourists and you name it. Simply put, if you point a gun straight-away in any direction there and fire it the bullet is going to find someone’s body, whether within close-range or down the block. The choice of the gunman to point his gun at the police took away their option not to fire. Using semi-automatics, they fired 16 rounds between them. Yes, they should have been able to do the job with less, but it’s difficult to seriously fault them given the abrupt and terrifying circumstance. I’m assuming at that close-range that many of the bystanders who were hit were hit by bullets or fragments of bullets which had already passed through the killer’s body. The video doesn’t show the officers firing wildly all about. Again, given the density of human flesh in that neighborhood, injuries to bystanders were inevitable. Thank God no one else was killed.

But that’s not why I’m interested in what Mayor Mike Bloomberg said at this press conference. In response to some critical question about the actions of the police officers, the famously pro-gun-control mayor is quoted as saying the following: “Let me ask you this: If somebody pointed a gun at you, and you had a gun in your pocket, what would you do?” It’s a rhetorical question, of-course, meant to defend the actions of the police officers.

It is a funny question on more than one level, coming from him. Firstly, due to the strictness of New York City’s gun control regulations (which he would only be inclined to make stricter) it is almost impossible to conceive of a situation where that reporter would legally be able to have “a gun in [his] pocket.” Merely getting a permit to own a handgun and keep it locked up, unloaded, at home, is a matter of enormous difficulty in New York City, and the authorities are under no obligation to issue it to you at all, even if you jump through every hoop successfully. They can simply say, “Ah, we don’t like your face,” or, “We don’t feel like it today.” It is in their discretion.

And getting a permit to actually carry a loaded handgun on your person in the city is many times more difficult again, and the city actively discourages people from even attempting to do so. It’s long been a matter of contention among those who are interested that you pretty much need to be a Hollywood star, some other kind of super-celebrity or mega-wealthy character in order to be anointed with such a permit. No doubt there are exceptions, but the deck is heavily stacked against any Joe or Jane Schmo, and the Second Amendment be damned (as indeed it is in New York City).

So Mayor Bloomberg’s question —If somebody pointed a gun at you, and you had a gun in your pocket, what would you do?—is kind of ludicrous on the face of it. The answer is: “Mr. Mayor, I wouldn’t have a gun in my pocket, thanks to you and your ilk, so I guess what I would do in that situation is die.”

And indeed, many people have died and do die in this city and others like it for the want of being able to defend themselves against murdering thugs.

Mayor Bloomberg’s question is also funny because it presumes, you’ll notice, that there is a moral right to pull out a gun and defend yourself if someone is threatening your life with one. “If somebody pointed a gun at you, and you had a gun in your pocket, what would you do?” The question presumes not only that anyone would use their gun to defend themselves in that situation, but that it would also be the right thing to do. Continue reading “If someone pointed a gun at you …?” – Mayor Bloomberg’s interesting question

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The (snuff) video for “Duquesne Whistle” by Bob Dylan

The video for Bob Dylan’s new song “Duquesne Whistle” has been released today and is embedded below. A little commentary is below that.

(Via the Guardian.)

The video was directed by Nash Edgerton, and as you can see features a guy trying to woo a girl, having some misadventures and ending up beaten to a pulp. Dylan himself is in it but separate from the main action.

The video doesn’t appear to have been inspired by the song at all (although it’s never impossible for people to come up with massive interpretations). The thinking behind a video like this must be that the song and record stand up by themselves, so why not just create something completely independent? Then you splice them together and maybe you’ll have an interesting interplay. You can see Dylan being into this approach; he loves taking advantage of the accidental. However, I have to say I just don’t dig the fruits of it in this case. The song and the video seem to be fighting one another, and so the combined result is (for me) laborious to watch. I guess I’m old fashioned. I figure if you want to promote a record with a video then the video ought to complement the song rather than essentially relegate it to background music. But to each his own. Continue reading The (snuff) video for “Duquesne Whistle” by Bob Dylan

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Bob Dylan and the McCrary Sisters

The other night (8/26) in Cincinnati, Bob Dylan was joined for his encore by the McCrary Sisters—Regina, Ann, Deborah and Alfreda—who supplied backing vocals for “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Regina McCrary has a long history with Dylan, as a backing singer in his shows and on his records during the 1979 to 1981 period.

She is also featured on the 2003 CD and DVD called Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs Bob Dylan, where a variety of gospel performers do cover versions of Bob Dylan’s songs. On the album she is the lead vocalist with the Chicago Mass Choir.

On the website dedicated to that project, Regina is quoted thusly:

When I got with Bob Dylan, I began to study his music before, to see who this man was. And I came to a realization that this man has been feeding people wisdom and words of encouragement.

And God has been using his hand and his heart and his mind to write music, to write lyrics, to keep people encouraged and keep them uplifted and keep them in the fight and keep them like soldiers, you know. Don’t sit down, don’t lay down. You gotta stand up, you gotta fight, you gotta believe!

And, since I’m not on Facebook, thanks to a friend for forwarding the text of Regina McCrary’s enthusiastic post there after going on stage with her sisters and Dylan the other night. It includes this:


Now if that doesn’t warm your heart you’d better take a trip to the cardiologist.

Below via YouTube are the McCrary Sisters (Regina third from the left) doing their own version of “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Continue reading Bob Dylan and the McCrary Sisters

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Fearful Pakistani Christians build a chapel in the woods … in Islamabad

It’s frankly demoralizing to continue contemplating the seemingly endless reign of brutality and hatred in what we know as the Islamic world. But to pretend it’s not happening is to surrender to a very dangerous delusion.

Via Robert Spencer (for whom the word indefatigable was invented):

In the middle of a forest in the Pakistani capital, a group of Christians has cut down trees to clear land and has begun to build a church out of branches after leaving their neighborhood in fear when one of their own was accused of violating Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws.

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“Duquesne Whistle” – official first single from Tempest by Bob Dylan

It’s Bob Dylan’s newest hit record, and you can listen to the whole thing via this post at NPR. I advise you to do so if you need some cheering up. It certainly gave me a lift this morning.

By the way, I think the NPR writer, Ann Powers, is on the mark hearing Louis Armstrong. And not only in Dylan’s voice, but also in the ebullience and joy of this record.

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Neil Armstrong 1930 – 2012

Neil Armstrong’s death has been reported today, at the age of 82. Although—he being the first man on the moon and all—people the world over knew his name, he did not have any great public profile. The obituaries are describing him as modest and private, and surely he was both of those things.

So there cannot be for most Americans a sense of personal loss as there might be when someone famous but seemingly-very-familiar dies; Elvis Presley, say, or Andy Griffith, or Michael Jackson. Yet I think some might have a nagging feeling that something has slipped away that we might not have fully appreciated while we had it around.

In this—since most of us didn’t know Neil Armstrong as a personality—I’m referring to what Neil Armstrong seems, especially with hindsight, to have represented.

He and Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface of the moon in 1969. Isn’t it so hard to conceive that forty-three years ago the United States’ space program achieved this incredible thing? These days, people absentmindedly leave at the bar small devices containing technology that makes everything NASA possessed in the 1960s look like something from the Flintstones; yet, today, in 2012, the idea of the United States putting humans back on the moon—as a stepping-stone to Mars or anything else—appears almost outrageously fanciful and out-of-reach.

Nevertheless, they did it, back then, and this guy, Neil Armstrong, seems to have taken that “one small step” in stride, not endlessly exploiting it for sponsorship deals, book contracts, speaking tours and so on, but largely just going about his life afterwards, doing serious things but avoiding the glaring limelight that his moment in the moonlight surely earned him for the rest of his life.

And now he is gone, that particular human being who did that very particular thing on July 20th, 1969. Continue reading Neil Armstrong 1930 – 2012

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The new holocaust denial

… is calling people “holocaust-obsessed.” A must-read by Ron Rosenbaum.

It’s so convenient, isn’t it, to deplore those who are said to be “holocaust obsessed.” It allows one to avoid all the troubling implications of the past for the future. It allows Jews to avoid having to be a Debbie Downer at dinner parties when the subject comes up, usually in the context of discussing the kind of threats to the state of Israel that are even more explicit and realizable today than those to the Jews of Europe in the prewar era. It’s so unchic, so indicative of “ethnic panic.” It makes you think of that scene in Annie Hall in which Woody Allen feels like he’s been transformed into a black hat Hasidic at the dinner table of Annie’s Christian family.

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Empire State Building shooting

Update 10:45 a.m.: So, although reports continue to be somewhat contradictory, it does appear at this point to have been an isolated shooting, based on a personal motive, unconnected to terrorism. The picture will be clearer after a few hours, but I think it would be pointless for the likes of yours truly to continue updating at this point.

So, signing off, with a prayer for the recovery of those who are being treated for their injuries as a result of this morning’s events.

Update 10:28 a.m.: Local TV now interviewing people outside kvetching about not being able to get where they’re going.

Two are reported dead, counting the gunman. Eight others reported injured.

Suspect was reportedly fired from his job yesterday, according to local CBS News television. They also report that it was the manager of the business who was shot and killed by the gunman, at about 9 a.m. today.

Update 10:15 a.m.: NY Post says it was a “dispute between coworkers” which spilled out onto the street.

Update 10:09 a.m.: Shooter was “disgruntled employee” of a business located at the building, according to a report on NBC New York.

At least 10 people shot at the Empire State Building in New York City this morning, including reportedly the gunman. In addition to the total lock-down by the NYPD around 34th St. and 5th avenue, the FBI is on the scene. At this stage all the injured are said to have been taken to hospitals.

Based on watching the police activity on TV and laying down of markers, it appears that at least some of the shooting took place right in front of the building on 5th avenue between 33rd and 34th. Some victims reportedly found in the lobby.

The obvious remark is that no one would start shooting at that location unless they were fully prepared to lose their own life in the process. It is one of the iconic sites in Manhattan were there is always a police presence and an expectation of possible terrorism. If anything, at this point, it is surprising the gunman managed to shoot so many people. But at this point what we really know is nothing. Will update this post if it seems justified.

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Dave Mustaine and Ry Cooder

A few weeks ago while on stage in Singapore, Dave Mustaine, the lead singer of Megadeth, is reported to have said:

“Back in my country, my president … he’s trying to pass a gun ban, so he’s staging all of these murders, like the ‘Fast And Furious’ thing down at the border … Aurora, Colorado, all the people that were killed there … and now the beautiful people at the Sikh temple.”

He continued, “I don’t know where I’m gonna live if America keeps going the way it’s going because it looks like it’s turning into Nazi America.”

Ry Cooder, who is promoting a new album called Election Special, gave an interview to the UK Guardian round about the same time as Mr. Mustaine was lecturing on political science in Singapore. Excerpts from that:

Look, what did Gore Vidal say recently? The interviewer asked him what he thought of the Republican party and he said it’s not a party any more, it’s a Hitler Youth mindset and they’re out to destroy the country, and he was 110% right.


Romney is as bad as anyone can be. He’s a dangerous man. He’s a cruel man. He’s a perfect creation for what the Republican party is all about. And that is to say, a rapacious capitalist. Anyone who ran Bain Capital is not your friend. All they’re going to do is rape and pillage the land. Continue reading Dave Mustaine and Ry Cooder