31 December 2012

History for the day

On 31 December 1946, President Harry S. Truman officially proclaimed the end of hostilities in World War Two.

29 December 2012

Rico wants his Apple TV now

Rico says that all Apple needs to do us build a cable-ready front end for one of its existing monitors; they're good at that.

Death ain't good enough

Heather Tan has an AP article about a rape in India:
An Indian woman who was gang-raped and beaten on a bus in New Delhi has died at a hospital in Singapore, after her ordeal galvanized Indians to demand greater protection for women from sexual violence that impacts thousands of them every day.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was aware of the emotions the attack has stirred, and that it was up to all Indians to ensure that the young woman's death will not have been in vain.
The victim "passed away peacefully" with her family and officials of the Indian Embassy by her side, Dr. Kevin Loh, the chief executive of Mount Elizabeth hospital, said in a statement. After ten days at a hospital in New Delhi, the Indian capital, the woman was brought to Mount Elizabeth hospital, which specializes in multi-organ transplants. Loh said the woman had been in extremely critical condition, and her condition had taken a turn for the worse, with her vital signs deteriorating. "Despite all efforts by a team of eight specialists in Mount Elizabeth Hospital to keep her stable, her condition continued to deteriorate over these two days," Loh said. "She had suffered from severe organ failure following serious injuries to her body and brain. She was courageous in fighting for her life for so long against the odds but the trauma to her body was too severe for her to overcome."
The woman and a male friend, who have not been identified, were traveling on a bus in New Delhi after watching a film on the evening of 16 December when they were attacked by six men who raped her. The men also beat the couple and inserted an iron rod into the woman's body, resulting in severe organ damage. Both were then stripped and thrown off the bus, according to police.
Indian police have arrested six people in connection with the attack, which left the victim with severe internal injuries, a lung infection, and brain damage. She also suffered from a heart attack while in the hospital in India.
Indian High Commissioner T.C.A. Raghavan told reporters that the scale of the injuries the woman suffered was "very grave" and in the end "proved too much". He said arrangements were being made to take her body back to India.
The frightening nature of the crime shocked Indians, who have come out in the thousands for almost daily demonstrations. Indian television channels said security had been tightened in New Delhi in anticipation of more protests following the woman's death.
The protesters are demanding stronger protection for women and the death penalty for rape, which is now punishable by a maximum of life imprisonment. Women face daily harassment across India, ranging from catcalls on the streets, groping and touching in public transport, to rape.
Singh said he understands the angry reaction to the attack and hopes all Indians will work together to make appropriate changes. "These are perfectly understandable reactions from a young India and an India that genuinely desires change," the prime minister said in a statement. "It would be a true homage to her memory if we are able to channel these emotions and energies into a constructive course of action." He said the government was examining the penalties for crimes such as rape "to enhance the safety and security of women. I hope that the entire political class and civil society will set aside narrow sectional interests and agendas to help us all reach the end that we all desire , making India a demonstrably better and safer place for women to live in," Singh said.
Mamta Sharma, head of the state-run National Commission for Women, said the "time has come for strict laws" to stop violence against women. "The society has to change its mindset to end crimes against women," she said.
The tragedy has forced India to confront the reality that sexually assaulted women are often blamed for the crime, which forces them to keep quiet and not report it to authorities for fear of exposing their families to ridicule. Also, police often refuse to accept complaints from those who are courageous enough to report the rapes, and the rare prosecutions that reach courts drag on for years. Indian attitudes toward rape are so entrenched, that even politicians and opinion makers have often suggested that women should not go out at night or wear clothes that might be seen provocative.
Abhijit Mukherjee, a national lawmaker and the son of India's president, apologized for calling the protesters "highly dented and painted" women who go from discos to demonstrations. "I tender my unconditional apology to all the people whose sentiments got hurt," he told NDTV news.
Several Indian celebrities reacted with sadness over the woman's death. Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan tweeted: "Her body has passed away, but her soul shall forever stir our hearts."
Separately, authorities in Punjab state took action when an eighteen-year-old woman killed herself by drinking poison a month after she told police she was gang-raped. State authorities suspended one police officer and fired two others on accusations they delayed investigating and taking action in the case. The three accused in the rape were only arrested a month after the crime was reported. "This is a very sensitive crime, I have taken it very seriously," said Paramjit Singh Gill, a top police officer in the city of Patiala.
The Press Trust of India reported that the woman was raped on 13 November and reported the attack to police on 27 November. But police harassed the girl, asked her embarrassing questions, and took no action against the accused, PTI reported, citing police sources.
Authorities in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh also suspended a police officer on accusations he refused to register a rape complaint from a woman who said she had been attacked by a driver.
Rico says that, if more men were raped, this problem would go away...

History for the day

On 29 December 1940, during World War Two, Germany began dropping incendiary bombs on London.

28 December 2012

IL-2 Sturmovik

Rico says his friend Kelley (a huge flying game junkie) forwarded this from YouTube:

Noteworthy deaths

The History Channel noted that 2012 saw the passing of numerous figures who made history, some of whom are credited with affecting change in our lives:
Helen Gurley BrownSenator Arlen Specter and Senator George McGovernMike WallaceArthur Ochs Sulzberger, Federal Judge Robert L. Carter, who helped guide the legal assault on racial segregation in America; Russell C. Means, the charismatic American Indian leader; former Boston Mayor Kevin White, and Rodney King, the troubled victim of police brutality in Los Angeles, died this year.
Sports lost baseball's Gary Carter and Lee McPhail, boxing's Bert Sugar and Angelo Dungee, and football's Alex Karras and Art Modell. Penn State football coach Joe Paterno also passed away, his legacy tarnished by the abuse scandal at State College.
The world of science lost the man who performed the first human organ transplant, Dr. Joseph E. Murray; the creator of the first CT scan, Robert S. Ledley; and a modern founder of the ecology movement, Barry Commoner, as well as Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride. And how could we forget Whitney Houston?
May their lives and passions not only be recognized and remembered, but also celebrated for generations to come. 
Rico says there are a number of important figures here, but he could forget Whitney Houston in a second. (He would've said 'in a heartbeat', but she no longer has one...)

Cop punished

Some judgements are just stupid, and Radical Islam has an article about one of them:

An Oklahoma federal judge ruled on 13 December 2012 that the city of Tulsa and two of its senior police officials, Chief of Police Chuck Jordan and Deputy Chief of Police Daryl Webster, did not violate the constitutional rights of Captain Paul Fields, a Tulsa police officer who was summarily punished for refusing to attend a mandated Islamic proselytizing event held at a local mosque.
The judge concluded that “no reasonable jury could find Fields was personally ordered to attend” the Islamic event “because the directive at issue permitted him to assign others to attend rather than attend himself”. However, by doing so, the judge avoided addressing a central issue in this case, stating: “The issue of whether a directive requiring his personal attendance at the event would have violated his First Amendment rights need not be decided here.”
However, the case is not that simple. Here are the facts, as presented by Field's lawyers from the American Freedom Law Center:
In January 2011, the Islamic Society of Tulsa announced that it was holding a “law enforcement appreciation day” at its local mosque.  Like every other “appreciation” event, attendance at that time was voluntary. However, the Islamic “appreciation” event was unique in that included religious proselytizing.
In fact, it was advertised as including mosque tours, meeting local Muslim leaders, observing an Islamic worship service, and receiving presentations on Islamic religious beliefs.  And, as the sworn testimony of Sheryl Siddiqui, the representative testifying on behalf of the Islamic Society, confirmed, the Islamic event was intentionally scheduled to occur on Friday, 4 March 2011, since Friday is the “holy day” for Islam, and the Muslim hosts wanted to ensure that religious worship services were available to the officers.
On 17 February, the Islamic event was no longer voluntary, as Deputy Chief Webster issued a directive via email mandating officer attendance.  The email was forwarded to Captain Fields by his immediate supervisor, Major Julie Harris, and the relevant part stated: “We are directed by Webster to have representatives from each shift—2nd, 3rd, and 4th— to attend [the Islamic event].”
Upon receiving the directive, Captain Fields expressed his concerns to Major Harris, explaining that the order was unlawful, and that it violated his constitutional rights.  Captain Fields told Major Harris that he felt obligated to raise his objections with his chain of command, and she authorized him to do so.
With the approval of Major Harris, Captain Fields responded to the directive that same day by email, stating that he believed it was “an unlawful order, as it is in direct conflict with my personal religious convictions, as well as to be conscience-shocking”.  He concluded: “Please consider this email my official notification to the Tulsa Police Department and the city of Tulsa that I intend to not to follow this directive, nor require any of my subordinates to do so if they share similar religious convictions.”
The following day, Deputy Chief Webster sent an interoffice correspondence to Captain Fields, requesting that he reconsider his position and warning him of the consequences for not doing so.  Captain Fields told Webster that he could not comply with the mandatory order based on his religious beliefs and convictions.
As a result, Webster ordered Captain Fields to appear in the conference room of Chief Jordan on Monday, 21 February 2011 for a meeting.  Captain Fields complied, and the meeting was held.
During this meeting, Captain Fields again explained to Webster and Jordan that he believed the order was unlawful and that he could not, in good conscience, obey it or force officers under his charge who shared his religious beliefs to obey it.  Captain Fields also explained that he had no officers from his shift who were willing to volunteer.
Moments after explaining his religious objections to the directive, Deputy Chief Webster handed Captain Fields a transfer order, and a notice that he was now the subject of an internal affairs (IA) investigation.  Captain Fields was thus immediately stripped of his command and transferred to another division.  Consequently, any opportunity Captain Fields would have had to comply with the order was lost.
The very next day, the Islamic event was made voluntary for Captain Fields’ former shift, and three days later, Deputy Chief Webster made the event voluntary for the entire police department. Nonetheless, the police department proceeded with the IA investigation and punishment of Captain Fields for raising a religious objection to the order.
On 10 March 2011, Captain Fields received an official notification, via email, stating: “You are hereby notified that Chief Chuck Jordan has requested IA to conduct an administrative investigation in regards to your refusal to attend and refusal to assign officers from your shift, who shared your religious beliefs, to attend the ‘Law Enforcement Appreciation Day’ on 4 March 2011, at the Tulsa Peace Academy.”
Following the IA investigation in June of 2011, Captain Fields was suspended for two weeks without pay, and his punitive transfer was made permanent.  A portion of his punishment was recently overturned through an arbitration proceeding. However, the constitutional violations have not been remedied.
In Captain Fields’ official Sworn-Employee Performance Evaluation, which was signed and verified by both Chief Jordan and Deputy Chief Webster, it states: “Captain Fields was disciplined during this rating period for refusing to attend and refusing to direct that officers attend a law enforcement appreciation day at a local mosque.”
Furthermore, Chief Jordan’s testimony reveals that Captain Fields was punished because his Christian beliefs conflict with Islamic beliefs. Chief Jordan testified: “I can’t have a police department where everybody refuses to interact with Muslims because they say it’s their religion.”
As the sworn testimony in the case demonstrated, during the Islamic Event, the Muslim hosts discussed Islamic religious beliefs; they discussed Mohammed, Mecca, why Muslims pray, how they pray, and what they say when they are praying; they showed the officers a Quran; and they showed the officers Islamic religious books and pamphlets that were for sale and encouraged the officers to purchase them. Consequently, Field's lawyer Robert Muise contends that Fields’ objections were completely justified and substantiated.
Muise commented: “One of the tragedies of this case is that the city’s attorneys have decided to publicly vilify Captain Fields by denying the sincerity of his religious beliefs and falsely claiming that his religious objections were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiments.  The bitter irony is that Captain Fields was one of the primary officers involved with helping to protect this mosque from a criminal suspect intent on doing harm, and it was this very incident that served as the justification for the ‘appreciation’ event in the first instance. Captain Fields, a dedicated and loyal public servant, deserves better treatment than this.”

Rico says that, of course, the cop was dumb, too; you don't get to pick and choose where you go as a police officer, and he might've learned something...

The Third Jihad

Rico says you should check out this video on YouTube:

Rape is a nasty thing

People in India are pissed about the recent rape, and Time's got the photos to prove it:

(Some gestures, it seems, are universal...)

Rico says he wishes they'd turn out like this in Philly...

Feinstein's new gun-ban bill

The NRA-ILA put out a comment:
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California and author of the federal "assault weapon" and "large" ammunition magazine ban of 1994-2004, has announced that on the first day of the new Congress, 3 January, she will introduce a bill to which her 1994 ban will pale by comparison. On 17 December, Feinstein said: "I have been working with my staff for over a year on this legislation" and "it will be carefully focused." Indicating the depth of her research on the issue, she said on 21 December that she had personally looked at pictures of guns in 1993, and again in 2012.
According to a 27 December posting on Senator Feinstein's website, and a draft of the bill obtained by NRA-ILA, the new ban would, among other things, adopt new definitions of "assault weapon" that would affect a much larger variety of firearms, require current owners of such firearms to register them with the federal government under the National Firearms Act, and require forfeiture of the firearms upon the deaths of their current owners. Some of the changes in Feinstein's new bill are as follows:
• Reduces, from two to one, the number of permitted external features on various firearms.  The 1994 ban permitted various firearms to be manufactured only if they were assembled with no more than one feature listed in the law. Feinstein's new bill would prohibit the manufacture of the same firearms with even one of the features.
• Adopts new lists of prohibited external features. For example, whereas the 1994 ban applied to a rifle or shotgun the "pistol grip" of which "protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon", the new bill would drastically expand the definition to include any "grip or any other characteristic that can function as a grip". Also, the new bill adds "forward grip" to the list of prohibiting features for rifles, defining it as "a grip located forward of the trigger that functions as a pistol grip". Read literally, and in conjunction with the reduction from two features to one, the new language would apply to every detachable-magazine semi-automatic rifle. At a minimum, it would, for example, ban all models of the AR-15, even those developed for compliance with California's highly restrictive ban.
• Carries hyperbole further than the 1994 ban. Feinstein's 1994 ban listed "grenade launcher" as one of the prohibiting features for rifles. Her 2013 bill carries goes even further into the ridiculous, by also listing "rocket launcher". Such devices are restricted under the National Firearms Act and, obviously, are not standard components of the firearms Feinstein wants to ban. Perhaps a subsequent Feinstein bill will add "nuclear bomb", "particle beam weapon", or something else equally far-fetched to the features list.
Expands the definition of "assault weapon" by including:
• Three very popular rifles: The M1 Carbine (introduced in 1944 and for many years sold by the federal government to individuals involved in marksmanship competition), a model of the Ruger Mini-14, and most or all models of the SKS.
• Any "semiautomatic, centerfire, or rimfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than ten rounds" except for tubular-magazine .22s.
• Any "semiautomatic, centerfire, or rimfire rifle that has an overall length of less than thirty inches," any "semiautomatic handgun with a fixed magazine that has the capacity to accept more than ten rounds," and any semi-automatic handgun that has a threaded barrel.
• Requires owners of existing "assault weapons" to register them with the federal government under the National Firearms Act (NFA). The NFA imposes a $200 tax per firearm, and requires an owner to submit photographs and fingerprints to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE), to inform the BATFE of the address where the firearm will be kept, and to obtain the BATFE's permission to transport the firearm across state lines.
• Prohibits the transfer of "assault weapons". Owners of other firearms, including those covered by the NFA, are permitted to sell them or pass them to heirs. However, under Feinstein's new bill, "assault weapons" would remain with their current owners until their deaths, at which point they would be forfeited to the government.
• Prohibits the domestic manufacture and the importation of magazines that hold more than ten rounds of ammunition. The 1994 ban allowed the importation of such magazines that were manufactured before the ban took effect. Whereas the 1994 ban protected gun owners from errant prosecution by making the government prove when a magazine was made, the new ban includes no such protection. The new ban also requires firearm dealers to certify the date of manufacture of any ten-round magazine sold, a virtually impossible task, given that virtually no magazines are stamped with their date of manufacture.
Targets handguns in defiance of the Supreme Court: The Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects the right to have handguns for self-defense, in large part on the basis of the fact handguns are the type of firearm "overwhelmingly chosen by American society for that lawful purpose". Semi-automatic pistols, which are the most popular handguns today, are designed to use detachable magazines, and the magazines "overwhelmingly chosen" by Americans for self-defense are those that hold more than ten rounds. Additionally, Feinstein's list of nearly a thousand firearms exempted by name contains not a single handgun. Senator Feinstein advocated banning handguns before being elected to the Senate, though she carried a handgun for her own personal protection.
• Contains a larger piece of window dressing than the 1994 ban. Whereas the 1994 ban included a list of approximately six hundred rifles and shotguns exempted from the ban by name, the new bill's list is increased to nearly a thousand rifles and shotguns. Other than for the eleven detachable-magazine semi-automatic rifles and one other semi-automatic rifle included in the list, however, the list appears to be pointless, because a separate provision of the bill exempts "any firearm that is manually operated by bolt, pump, lever, or slide action".
The Department of Justice study: On her website, Feinstein claims that a study for the DOJ found that the 1994 ban resulted in a 6.7 percent decrease in murders. To the contrary, this is what the study actually said: "At best, the assault weapons ban can have only a limited effect on total gun murders, because the banned weapons and magazines were never involved in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders. Our best estimate is that the ban contributed to a 6.7 percent decrease in total gun murders between 1994 and 1995... However, with only one year of post-ban data, we cannot rule out the possibility that this decrease reflects chance year-to-year variation rather than a true effect of the ban.  Nor can we rule out effects of other features of the 1994 Crime Act or a host of state and local initiatives that took place simultaneously."
"Assault weapon" numbers and murder trends: From the imposition of Feinstein's "assault weapon" ban on 13 September 1994 through the present, the number of "assault weapons" has risen dramatically. For example, the most common firearm that Feinstein considers an "assault weapon" is the AR-15 rifle, the manufacturing numbers of which can be gleaned from the BATFE's firearm manufacturer reports, available here. From 1995 through 2011, the number of AR-15s— all models of which Feinstein's new bill defines as "assault weapons"— rose by over 2.5 million. During the same period, the nation's murder rate fell 48 percent, to a 48-year low. According to the FBI, 8.5 times as many people are murdered with knives, blunt objects, and bare hands, as with rifles of any type.
Traces: Feinstein makes several claims, premised on firearm traces, hoping to convince people that her 1994 ban reduced the relatively infrequent use of "assault weapons" in crime. However, traces do not indicate how often any type of gun is used in crime. As the Congressional Research Service and the BATFE have explained, not all firearms that are traced have been used in crime, and not all firearms used in crime are traced. Whether a trace occurs depends on whether a law enforcement agency requests that a trace be conducted. Given that existing "assault weapons" were exempted from the 1994 ban and new "assault weapons" continued to be made while the ban was in effect, any reduction in the percentage of traces accounted for by "assault weapons" during the ban, would be attributable to law enforcement agencies losing interest in tracing the firearms, or law enforcement agencies increasing their requests for traces on other types of firearms, as urged by the BATFE for more than a decade.
Rico says the fact that 'eight times as many people are murdered with knives, blunt objects, and bare hands, as with rifles of any type' won't make the news...

When 'thugs' just doesn't go far enough...

Jan Ransom and Sean Collins Walsh have an article in the Philadelphia Daily News about comments by the Mayor, who apparently likes to call assholes what they are:

Senseless violence and "dumbass" ideas by the National Rifle Association are high on the list of things that get Mayor Nutter fired up. Here's a look at some of his famous utterances:
• "I'm not gonna let some little asshole sixteen-year-old who had a beef with somebody a month ago up in Germantown negatively impact the image of the city," Nutter said after a teenager shot two other teenagers on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during the Fourth of July celebration in 2012.
• "I'm very proud and appreciative that the Philadelphia Police Department and the US Marshals were able to snatch that little asshole up last night within 24 hours of some of the most heinous, egregious activity we've seen in this city in recent times," said Nutter after a man shot and killed three teenage boys in January in Juniata Park who arrived in a car to beat up his stepsons. "If you want to be an idiot, if you want to be an asshole, if you want to be a lowlife in this town, we will track you down like the dog that you are, catch you, and you will be subject to every possible penalty that the law allows."
• "I don't care what your economic status is in life, you don't have the right to beat somebody's ass on the street! None!" That was Nutter's response to a question raised last year by the Daily News after groups of roving youth had attacked people in Center City.
• Last week, Nutter slammed the National Rifle Association's suggestion that schools should have armed guards to prevent another massacre like the one in Newtown, Connecticut that left 28 dead, including twenty children. "I guess, out of last week's bizarre press statement, that Mr. LaPierre would say that firefighters need to have armed guards go with them. I think it just shows that that was a completely dumbass idea from the start with the announcement last week," Nutter said on MSNBC, according to Politico.

Rico says that Nutter is not your average big-city mayor...

The appropriate punishment is, alas, against the law

Stephanie Farr has an article in the Philadelphia Daily News about a really ugly local crime:

A young woman's Christmas, and her life, was shattered when she was kidnapped, raped, robbed, and beaten in her own car by three teenagers over five hours, according to police.
"You'll get sick to your stomach," said Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood, before reciting the facts of the case.
About 11:40 p.m. on Christmas night, the 22-year-old victim was in her Jeep Cherokee in the parking lot of George's Water Ice at Grace and Marshall roads, waiting for her boyfriend to come out of a nearby bar, when three men, one of whom had a gun, forced their way into her vehicle, Chitwood said.
They made the woman move to the back seat and drove her around Philadelphia for hours, police said. One by one, the men took turns in the back seat forcing the victim to perform sex acts, even after she repeatedly vomited on them, according to court documents.
The men also hit her and robbed her of her Coach purse, a wallet, a car stereo, a cellphone, a camera, a GPS, a ruby ring, a diamond necklace, a bracelet, and her insurance and registration paperwork, according to police.
After going through her belongings, the men realized that the woman had a two-year-old daughter, and they threatened her life and the child's life if she said anything to authorities. They then parked the car at Long Lane near Marshall Road, told the woman they would throw the keys under the car and fled on foot, Chitwood said.
After waiting several minutes, the woman got out of the car, grabbed her keys from underneath and drove to her boyfriend's house. Together, they went to the police station around 5:30 a.m., Chitwood said. Shortly thereafter, two cops who were aware of the rape victim's ordeal responded to a call from a woman who said there was a disturbance at her house on Radbourne Road, Chitwood said.
At the house, police found four teens, two of whom were the resident's sons and one of whom, Kevin Jones, said he was a friend of the sons and stayed at the house so he could attend Upper Darby High School, police said. The fourth teen, Kewon Matthews, said he was a friend of Jones', according to police.
Inside the house, the cops saw a Coach handbag that matched the one stolen from the rape victim, Chitwood said. After confirming with the woman resident that the bag was not hers, police opened it and found the victim's stolen items inside. The victim was brought to the house, where she identified Matthews and Jones, both seventeen, as two of her attackers, Chitwood said.
After the arrest of Matthews and Jones, police were able to identify the third suspect as Brehon Rawlings, nineteen, of Yeadon, Chitwood said. Rawlings was found hiding in the bathtub of his home, police said. All three men were charged as adults with kidnapping, rape, robbery, and related offenses and were being held on $500,000 bail each.
"These guys are truly, truly animals," Chitwood said. "This is the kind of crime that shocks the public consciousness."

Rico says there's a line about 'gettin' medieval on your ass' that applies here... (And, gee, three stupid young black men; who'd'a thunk it?)

Another great one gone

Mark Thompson has a Time obituary of Norman Schwartzkopf:
For those who came of age during World War Two, or post-9/11, the death of retired Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf (photo) may not be of great moment. But for those of us who came of age during Vietnam, when that war veered from the discredited Gulf of Tonkin to the Tet Offensive to Kent State, he was a godsend.
While there was trepidation before the Persian Gulf War began in January of 1991— a six-week bombing onslaught followed by a 96-hour ground campaign— it pitted a Cold War superpower against Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein (though it was a mismatch that would have to be replayed twelve years later). Nonetheless, the US went wild after the US-led coalition pushed Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.
After a six-month buildup in Saudi Arabia that looked like a martial bolero, Schwarzkopf burst into American living rooms just about the same time CNN did. As intrepid Cable News Network crews stationed in Baghdad followed the twists and turns of incoming Tomahawk cruise missiles, Schwarzkopf briefed reporters from his headquarters in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, two weeks into the war.
“I’m now going to show you a picture of the luckiest man in Iraq,” Schwarzkopf said as a video of an air strike against an Iraqi bridge appeared on a television screen. “Keep your eye on the crosshairs.” A vehicle appeared, driving across the bridge, as an American pilot targeted the span. The truck drove into, and across, the bomber’s crosshairs, and then scooted off screen. “And now, in his rear-view mirror,” Schwarzkopf quipped, as an explosion filled the screen, destroying the bridge, but leaving the Iraqi truck driver alive.
Schwarzkopf was a bona fide American hero, complete with a New York City parade and talks of a presidential run. There had been no such military heroes in this country since World War Two’s Dwight Eisenhower. “By God,” declared President George H.W. Bush, himself now ailing at a Houston hospital, “we’ve licked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”
The son of the superintendent of the New Jersey state police, who investigated the kidnapping and murder of aviator Charles Lindbergh’s infant son in 1932, Schwarzkopf made the Army his career. He won recognition in Vietnam for taking care of the soldiers under his command, and ended up as the third commander of US Central Command, the Pentagon post responsible for the Middle East and Persian Gulf region, in 1988. (His two most recent successors, Army General David Petraeus and incumbent Marine General John Allen, have found their careers derailed, at least temporarily, by scandal.)
General Schwarzkopf’s skilled leadership of that campaign liberated the Kuwaiti people and produced a decisive victory for the allied coalition,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said recently. “In the aftermath of that war, General Schwarzkopf was justly recognized as a brilliant strategist and inspiring leader.”
Following his incandescent fame, Schwarzkopf retired to Tampa six months after the Gulf War’s end. He died there, of complications related to pneumonia, at 78.
Reporters had their own shorthand to spell his complicated surname right: “War Kop, no T.” The author can recall taking his two young sons to the Gulf War victory parade in Washington on 8 June 1991, down by the Lincoln Memorial. He was proud to show them what the US military can do when the stars align.
Rico says we're still the big kids on the block, and there are certain countries who would do well to remember that...

History for the day

On 28 December 1981, Elizabeth Jordan Carr, the first American test-tube baby, was born in Norfolk, Virginia.

Politics for the day

"I didn't realize how much I didn't want to be here until I got here."
Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, on returning to the Capitol.

Rico says we should enable him not to ever have to go there again, come the next election...

26 December 2012

Underwater footage from Fiji & Tonga

Rico says that he does miss scuba diving:

More Bushmaster-using idiots

Josh Voorhees has a Slate article about yet another shooter:
From USA Today:
Police are still trying to piece together exactly what happened in western New York on Christmas Eve, but they now say that it was that first gun— the Bushmaster .223 rifle— that Spengler most likely used to kill two volunteer firefights from long range and seriously wound two others on Christmas Eve, according to The New York Times.
If the name of that gun sounds familiar, it is, because it was the same make and caliber weapon that authorities say Adam Lanza used to kill twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut on 14 December. Before that tragedy, the semi-automatic weapon also made headlines as one of the weapons allegedly brandished by James Holmes, who opened fire at a movie theater in Colorado this summer, and Jacob Tyler Roberts, who reportedly did the same at an Oregon shopping mall earlier this month. It was also the weapon of choice for John Allen Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo during the so-called Beltway Sniper Shootings of 2002.
Time magazine laid out the gun's history earlier this year:
The AR-15 rifle was first developed by the Fairchild ArmaLite corporation in 1957. ArmaLite sold the rights to the design to Colt in 1959, and the weapon was adapted for military use as the M-16; it went in to service in Vietnam in 1963. The modern AR-15 is a demilitarized version of the M-16, and is now manufactured by several companies including Bushmaster, Colt, and ArmaLite. It is a lightweight, small-caliber semi-automatic rifle, with a light recoil and a variety of optional barrel lengths and targeting/aiming devices. ... Depending on the make, model and options, an AR-15 can cost anywhere from $900 to $2000.
Bushmaster, based in Madison, North Carolina, was founded in 1973 by Richard Dyke, who sold the company to Cerebrus Capital Management in 2006, It’s currently part of the Freedom Group, a conglomerate of arms manufacturers whose thirteen brands also include Remington, Marlin Firearms, and DPMS/Panther. In 2011, the company had sales of $775 million, according to its annual report, and sold a million rifles and two billion rounds of ammunition.
In the wake of Newtown and in the midst of mounting public pressure, Cerberus announced earlier this month that it plans to sell off Freedom Group, saying that the Sandy Hook shooting represented "a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level".
The AR-15 is normally one of the first guns name-dropped by gun control advocates discussing the weapons they're most concerned about. Despite that (or maybe partly because of it) the gun also remains one of the most popular semi-automatic rifles on the market. According to an estimate by Guns and Ammo magazine, gunmakers manufactured roughly 1.5 million of the rifles in the past five years alone.
William Spengler Jr., 62, recently set fire to his house and a car, hid behind a berm with a Bushmaster .223 rifle, a Mossberg twelve-gauge shotgun and a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol and fired on the first responders from West Webster, New York, a Rochester suburb. As firefighters ran for cover and evacuated the neighborhood, the fire spread to six other houses and Spengler fatally shot himself, Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said.
Rico says why don't these idiots shoot themselves first and save everyone a lot of trouble? (And he wouldn't want a POS like the Bushmaster if you gave him one.)

Investigating an ammo prop

Josh Voorhees has a Slate article about gubs and the law:
"So here is a magazine for ammunition that carries thirty bullets," David Gregory said on Meet The Press, while holding what looked a whole lot like exactly what he was describing. The NBC anchor was using the item as a prop to illustrate a question to NRA chief Wayne LaPierre about whether banning such magazines could limit the amount of carnage caused by gunmen like Adam Lanza.
The potential problem for NBC, however, is that merely possessing such large-capacity magazines is illegal inside the District of Columbia, where the show is traditionally produced. That fact was quickly— and loudly— trumpeted by conservatives and gun-rights advocates who pretty much demanded police take action. "Will D.C. officials prosecute Gregory?" wrote Breitbart's Warner Todd Huston. "They would anyone else, wouldn't they?" By Christmas night, Huston appeared to have gotten at least part of what they wanted. The Washington Post with the details:
The D.C. police confirmed reports that they are looking into an incident in which David Gregory, the host of the television show Meet the Press, displayed what he described as a high-capacity ammunition magazine. Asked about media reports saying that authorities were looking into the incident, Gwendolyn Crump, the police spokeswoman, responded by email: "Yes. We are investigating this matter."
Police spokesmen gave similar quotes to a handful of other outlets that inquired both last night and this morning. Asked by Politico specifically what was under investigation, officer Araz Alali painted in only broad strokes: "It’s an investigation regarding the issue, this whole entire incident."
To be clear, assuming the prop really was what Gregory said it was, someone at NBC certainly appears to have broken the letter of the law. Here's the provision in question:
No person in the District shall possess, sell, or transfer any large capacity ammunition feeding device, regardless of whether the device is attached to a firearm. For the purposes of this subsection, the term large capacity ammunition feeding device means a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device that has a capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than ten rounds of ammunition.
First-time offenders found in violation of one of DC's gun laws face a max fine of a thousand dollars and/or up to a year incarceration. Still, it's hard to imagine this leading to any serious charges for Gregory or anyone else on the MTP team. But setting aside the issue of what could/should happen with the investigation, the complaints from gun-rights advocates have managed to have at least one not-so-subtle intended effect: shrinking the conversation, however temporarily, from a larger, nuanced debate about gun control and safety down to one about an individual and isolated event. It's not a new PR strategy but it's a productive one. If nothing else, every report today and tomorrow about Gregory and Meet The Press means fewer ones devoted to the larger issue of gun control, or even the smaller one of the NRA's controversial School Shield proposal.
In that regard, the MTP complaints share at least some similarities with the the gun lobby's larger response to Newtown, which was/is a bid to reframe the national debate to include only school safety, and not mass shootings in general. It likely also doesn't hurt that in this case the NRA supporters' focus is on Gregory and Meet The Press, which fall nicely into the traditional media group that LaPierre and his allies have been calling the "national media machine", an apparatus they blame for both demonizing guns and glorifying gun violence.
Here's the video from the show. Gregory brings out the magazine at around the ten-minute mark, but the entire first segment with LaPierre is worth your time:
Rico says that, what with all the crime in the District, this is what they're investigating...

Ancient history for the day

25 December 1066: Nearly three months after his victory at Hastings, William the Conqueror is crowned King of England. The following decade, construction begins on Windsor Castle. Today, nearly a thousand years later, the castle stands as the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, home to the British royal family.

Let them fight it out

Quentin Hardy has an article in The New York Times about Google vs Microsoft:
It has taken years, but Google seems to be cutting into Microsoft’s stronghold: businesses.
Google’s software for businesses, Google Apps, consists of applications for document writing, collaboration, and text and video communications— all cloud-based, so that none of the software is on an office worker’s computer. Google has been promoting the idea for more than six years, and it seemed that it was going to appeal mostly to small businesses and tech start-ups.
But the notion is catching on with larger enterprises. In the last year Google has scored an impressive string of wins, including at the Swiss drug maker Hoffmann-La Roche, where over eighty thousand employees use the package, and at the Interior Department, where ninety thousand use it.
One big reason is price. Google charges fifty dollars a year for each person using its product, a price that has not changed since it made its commercial debut, even though Google has added features. In 2012, for example, Google added the ability to work on a computer not connected to the Internet, as well as security and data management that comply with more stringent European standards. That made it much easier to sell the product to multinationals and companies in Europe.
Many companies that sell software over the cloud add features without raising prices, but also break from traditional industry practice by rarely offering discounts from the list price.
Microsoft’s Office suite of software, which does not include email, is installed on a desktop PC or laptop. In 2013, the list price for businesses will be four hundred dollars per computer, but many companies pay half that after negotiating a volume deal.
At the same time, Microsoft has built its business on raising prices for extra features and services. The 2013 version of Office, for example, costs up to fifty dollars more than its predecessor.
Google is getting traction” on Microsoft  said Melissa Webster, an analyst with IDC. “Its ‘good enough’ product has become pretty good. It looks like 2013 is going to be the year for content and collaboration in the cloud.”
Microsoft has also jumped on the office-in-the-cloud trend. In June of 2011, it released Office 365, and now offers its software in both a cloud version and a hybrid version that uses cloud computing and conventional servers. Office 365 starts at a list price of $72 a year, per person, and can cost as much as $240 a person annually, in versions that offer many more features and software development capabilities. Microsoft says it offers more than Google for the money, but the product has not won many converts from Google.
In a recent report, Gartner, the information technology research company, called Google “the only strong competitor” to Microsoft in cloud-based business productivity software, though it warned that “enterprise concerns may not be of paramount importance to the search giant.”
Google is tight-lipped about how many people use Google Apps, saying only that in June more than five million businesses were using it, up from four million in late 2011. Almost all these companies are tiny, but, in early December, Google announced that even companies with fewer than ten employees, which used to get Google Apps free, would have to pay.
Google’s revenue from Apps, according to a former executive who asked not to be named in order to maintain good relations with Google  amounted to perhaps a billion of the $37.9 billion Google earned in 2011.
Shaw Industries, a carpet maker in Dalton, Georgia with about thirty thousand employees, switched to Google Apps this year for communication tools like email and video-conferencing. Jim Nielsen, the company’s manager of enterprise technology, calculated that using Google instead of similar Microsoft products would cost, over seven years, about one-thirteenth of Microsoft’s price.
Shaw is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, run by Warren E. Buffett, but the close friendship of Buffett and Microsoft s founder, Bill Gates, did not sway Nielsen. “When you add it up, the numbers are pretty compelling,” he said.
In addition to the lower price, Google has simplicity in pricing. Nielsen said he had to sort through eleven pricing models to figure out what he would pay Microsoft. But his prime motive in choosing Google  he said, was online collaboration. “As people in their daily lives become more electronically social, they want to bring that into the office,” Nielsen said. “Video is more appealing than a written letter.” Google, he said, is “constantly making it better for teams to work, inside and outside the company, with controlled access.”
Microsoft says it does not yet see a threat. Google “has not yet shown they are truly serious,” said Julia White, a general manager in Microsoft s business division. “From the outside, they are an advertising company.” In 2011, 96 percent of Google s revenue came from advertising. Even though Microsoft sells a similar product, she said most companies did not want to depend exclusively on clouds for documents and communication. Microsoft now has some of its own workers entirely online, she said, while others use both local computers and the cloud, to get a feel for how various companies work. Although she would not break out numbers, White said Office 365 was “on track to be our fastest-growing business”. She said that Google, to be a threat, would need to “provide a quality enterprise experience” in areas like “privacy, data handling, and security”.
But, according to the General Services Administration, out of 42 federal government contracts for which Google and Microsoft competed in 2012, Google won 23 deals, and Microsoft ten. The rest went to another company, Zimbra, which is owned by VMware, a maker of cloud software.
Microsoft’s biggest and most profitable sector, its business division, brought in nearly $24 billion in the 2012 fiscal year that ended in June. Almost none of that came from Office 365, but from the familiar older-style software that depends on computers located within the corporation.
As the two behemoths slug it out in the enterprise market, their cloud-computing software is changing the way businesses operate. Internet-based computing makes it easier to communicate both within and outside a company. Fixing software and adding features can be done automatically, the way consumers get the latest version of Facebook when they go to its site.
“People were looking for cheap email at first, but now it’s about collaboration, calendaring and data storage online,” said Webster of IDC. Over time, her firm says, software revenue will be at least 50 percent from the cloud, which could challenge the complex way Microsoft prices and discounts its products.
White, the Microsoft manager, said Google “helped amplify a lot of the conversation around cloud productivity.” That is a far cry from last February, when Microsoft put a video on Google's YouTube web site lampooning Google with a parody of the old television show MoonlightingGoogle, the video suggested, would automatically change around a buyer’s software. But cloud-based software is supposed to issue automatic updates and feature changes. Microsoft has issued several updates to Office 365, though, unlike Google, it lets customers delay the changes for up to a year.
Rico says you could buy Apple products and get a small slice of the Cloud free, of course...

History for the day

On 26 December 1941, Winston Churchill became the first British prime minister to address a joint session of the United States Congress.

Devotion to duty

Rico says that, according to an article in The New York Times: "the President will leave Hawai'i to work toward a compromise with returning lawmakers".

If Rico is ever so lucky as to get another vacation in Hawai'i, nothing could get him to leave early...

Ain't religion fun?

Jodi Rudoren has an article in The New York Times about religion:
Amid outrage across the Jewish diaspora over a flurry of recent arrests of women seeking to pray at the Western Wall with ritual garments, in defiance of Israeli law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, to study the issue and suggest ways to make the site more accommodating to all Jews.
The move comes after more than two decades of civil disobedience by a group called Women of the Wall (photo) against regulations, legislation and a 2003 Israeli Supreme Court ruling that allowed for gender division at the wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, and prohibit women from carrying a Torah or wearing prayer shawls there.
Although the movement has struggled to gain traction in Israel, where the ultra-Orthodox retain great sway over public life, the issue has deepened a divide between the Jewish state and Jews around the world at a time when Israel is battling international isolation over its settlement policy. Critics, particularly leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements in the United States, complain that the government’s recent aggressive enforcement of restrictions at the wall has turned a national monument into an ultra-Orthodox synagogue.
“The prime minister thinks the Western Wall has to be a site that expresses the unity of the Jewish people, both inside Israel and outside the state of Israel,” Ron Dermer, Netanyahu’s senior adviser, said in an interview. “He wants to preserve the unity of world Jewry. This is an important component of Israel’s strength.”
Sharansky, whose quasi-governmental nonprofit organization handles immigration for the state and is a bridge between Israel and Jews around the world, said that Netanyahu asked him to take up the matter, and that he expected to have recommendations within a few months. He and Dermer said the agenda would include improvements for Robinson’s Arch, a discreet area of the wall designated for coed prayer under the court ruling, and the easing of restrictions in the larger area known as the Western Wall plaza, along with the more sensitive questions regarding prayer at the main site.
Sharansky said the Jewish Agency itself stopped having ceremonies for new immigrants in the plaza about two years ago after the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which controls the site, said that men and women could not sit together. Under pressure from the international groups that provide its financing, the agency passed a resolution on 30 October calling for a “satisfactory approach to the issue of prayer at the Western Wall”.
Asked whether he could imagine a day when women could wear prayer shawls and read a Torah at the wall itself, Sharansky said: “I imagine very easily a situation where everybody will have their opportunity to express their solidarity with Judaism and the Jewish people and the state of Israel in a way he or she wants, without undermining the other. That’s as much as I want to say at this moment,” he added. “Now I have to share this vision with the appropriate bodies.”
Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and widely respected figure, has been called upon before to broker peace with the diaspora over questions of religious pluralism, most recently during a harsh fight over conversion. Anat Hoffman, the chairwoman of Women of the Wall, reacted with cautious optimism to Netanyahu’s initiative, but said it would not stop the Israel Religious Action Center, of which she is executive director, from filing a Supreme Court petition as soon as next week challenging the makeup of the heritage foundation’s board. “It’s a good thing that, after 24 years, the highest echelons in Israel are actually paying attention to this rift that is breaking diaspora Jews from Israel,” she said. “The table that should run the Western Wall should have everyone who has an interest in the wall sitting around it.”
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the head of the heritage foundation, said in an emailed statement that he was unaware of the Sharansky initiative and therefore “does not have an opinion about it”.
While Hoffman said the women’s group would be satisfied if it were allowed to pray at the wall once a month with full regalia, her religious action center wants hours each day, between scheduled prayer times, when the gender partition is removed and people can freely enjoy the site as a cultural monument. “If in the end what happens is that the Robinson’s Arch area will be run by the Jewish Agency instead of the antiquities department, then we’re talking about who’s going to take care of the air-conditioning in the back of the bus,” she said. “I don’t care about that. I don’t want to sit in the back of the bus. I want to dismantle the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.”
Abraham H. Foxman, the director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he recently discussed the wall and other questions of religious pluralism with Netanyahu in Jerusalem. “This is a wise initiative, but it’s only a beginning,” Foxman said.
Rico says he can only shake his head over these subtle, yet stupid, distinctions...

Xmas cartoon

Rico says, courtesy of his friend Kelley, this Doonesbury:

25 December 2012

The CMU boys, plus forty

Rico says these were taken at a 2012 reunion at Alan's vacation home in St. Michael's, Maryland:
 Bob Barlow
 Alan Brecher
 Jeff Elliott
 Steve Lee
Not present, though remembered:
Shannon Matheny (a former roommate)
Dan Gilbert (a former roommate)
Linda Payne (Rico's girlfriend, Bob's one-time lover, and Alan's wife for a time)

Probably not

Jason Dearen has a Time article about printable gubs:
Downloading a gun’s design plans to your computer, building it on a three-dimensional printer and firing it minutes later. No background checks, no questions asked. Sound far-fetched? It’s not. And that is disquieting for gun control advocates.
Representative Steven Israel, a Democrat from New York, said the prospect of such guns becoming reality is reason enough for the renewal of the Undetectable Firearms Act, which makes illegal the building of guns that can’t be detected by X-ray or metallic scanners. That law expires at the end of 2013.
At least one group, called Defense Distributed, is claiming to have created downloadable weapon parts that can be built using the increasingly popular new-generation of printer that utilizes plastics and other materials to create 3-D objects with moving parts. University of Texas law student Cody Wilson, the 24-year-old Wiki Weapons project leader, says the group last month test fired a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle– one of the weapon types used in the Connecticut elementary school massacre– which was built with some key parts created on a 3-D printer. The gun was fired six times before it broke.
Though no independent observer was there to verify the test, a short video clip showing the gun firing and breaking was posted to YouTube. Federal firearms regulators said they are aware of the technology’s gun-making potential, but do not believe an entire weapon has yet been made.
“What’s chilling is that last month a group of kids used a 3-D printer to actually manufacture key parts of the AR-15 and fire six bullets,” Israel said. “When the act was last renewed in 2003, a gun made by a 3-D printer was like a Star Trek episode, but now we know it’s real.”
Even with gun control pushed to the top of the national political conversation, Wilson is steadfast about reaching his goal of making a fully downloadable gun. This weekend, he and his partners plan to print four new lower receivers– the segment of the gun that includes the trigger, magazine, and grip. He keeps three of these AR-15 parts– one black, one white and another green– in his tidy student apartment in Austin, Texas. While saddened by the Connecticut mass killing, Wilson said that protecting the right to bear arms by giving everyone access to guns is more important in the long term than a single horrible crime. “Clearly what happened in Connecticut was a tragedy,” he told The Associated Press. “Still, by affording the Second Amendment protection, we understand events like these will happen.” He said he discussed with his partners whether they should suspend their effort, and they all decided it was too important to stop.
Wilson acknowledged there still are many technical hurdles to creating a complete gun from a 3-D printer and provided no estimate on when his goal might be reached.
Special Agent Helen Dunkel of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, which helps enforce gun laws, said the agency is familiar with Wilson’s project. She didn’t offer an opinion, but noted there is nothing illegal about making many types of guns at home. Exceptions would be high-powered weapons like machine guns and those not detectable by airport scanners.
Advances in 3-D printing technology are fueling Wilson’s goal. The printers were developed for the automobile, aerospace, and other industries to create product prototypes from the same hard plastics used in toys like Legos. Hobbyists mainly use the printers to design Christmas ornaments, toys, and gadget accessories.
Prices on the machines have fallen as the consumer market grows, leading to a surge in interest from people in the so-called “maker” scene. Low-end 3-D printers can now be purchased online from between $1,500-$4,000. The more high-end printers needed to make gun parts are still priced from $10,000 and up.
Stratasys Ltd. of Eden Prairie, Minnesota makes 3-D printers. Shane Glenn, director of investor relations, said gun-making was never something envisioned for the machines.
“The gun issue is something that the 3-D printing industry will have to address going forward,” Glenn said.
Right now, most people interested in 3-D printing rent time on one. There are a number of businesses and co-ops in major cities that allow access to the machines for a nominal fee. At San Francisco’s TechShop, which features a 3-D printer for its members, “assembling firearms is strictly prohibited and our staff is trained on that policy,” company spokeswoman Carrie Motamedi said.
Wilson acknowledged his idea has met resistance from those active in 3-D printing. “The early adopters of 3-D printing technology seem to be an educated, more liberal group who were against firearms to begin with,” he said. Wilson said some are worried the gun project might spur regulations that will hurt or curtail their projects.
Early schematics created by Wilson’s group were posted on Thingiverse, a Brooklyn, New York-based website that serves as a hub for 3-D printing aficionados. After the school shooting, Thingiverse took down Wilson’s links. The site’s spokeswoman Jenifer Howard said its focus is “to empower the creative process and make things for good.” Howard said Thingiverse’s terms of service state that users cannot use the site to share content that contributes to the creation of weapons. Wilson said the group has already posted the links on its own website.
Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley technology forecaster who teaches at Stanford University’s engineering school, said Defense Distributed’s work carries on a long tradition of tech geeks using innovation to make a political point, in this case on gun control and Second Amendment freedoms. “If you want to get people’s attention in Washington, you say something. If you want to do it in Silicon Valley, you make something,” Saffo said. He said the technology exists now for a highly-motivated group to make a plastic gun on a 3-D printer that could avoid airport scanners. But the equipment is still too expensive for most people. “Nobody right now needs to worry about the bright teenager making a gun on a printer in their bedroom,” he said.
Rico says he's dubious that this will work; people don't understand how much pressure even a .22 generates, and you'll note that they only made 'some parts'...

Deportation would be one solution

Tirdad Derakhshani has a short article in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
A petition calling on the government to deport Piers Morgan (photo) for voicing antigun views had amassed more than 47,000 signatures, three days after it was posted on the White House's petition website by Infowars.com.
Morgan has called for stricter gun-control laws in the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, and called a gun advocate who appeared on his CNN show an "unbelievably stupid man".
The petition demands that Morgan, a foreign national, "be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights" and for using his television show "to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens". Morgan sticks to his guns, as it were: "Bring it on, you goon," he tweets. "Americans murdered with assault weapons in movie theaters, temples, schools, shopping malls," he said recently, "where does it end?"
Rico says it ends when the good guys shoot the bad guys first... (And it turns out that Morgan is a citizen of Britain, where we should return him immediately.)

More WW2 for the day

Joseph A. Gambardello has an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
On 1 November 1946, a B-17 Flying Fortress on a flight from Naples to an airfield outside London slammed into the Mont Blanc mountain range with such force that the wreckage and remains of its eight airmen were scattered over a wide area on both sides of the Italian-French border. Eight months later, the mountain known as the Aiguilles des Glaciers started to give up the wreckage and dead in a process that continued for more than three decades. The body parts were interred at Arlington National Cemetery under a tombstone bearing the names of all those lost.
Now, thanks to DNA testing, some of the remains have been identified as those of Staff Sergeant Zoltan Joseph Dobovich, originally of Riegelsville in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. They were returned to Dobovich's family in a ceremony at Philadelphia International Airport after a flight from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Honolulu.
Veterans belonging to the Patriots Guard and Warriors Watch provided a motorcycle escort for the hearse on the trip to the funeral home in Mount Holly.
A military funeral will be held at the Brigadier General William C. Doyle Veterans Cemetery in North Hanover Township in Burlington County, New Jersey, and Governor Christie has ordered the American and New Jersey flags to fly at half staff at state facilities in Dobovich's honor.
Carlton Dobovich, the airman's nephew, who was born after Sergeant Dobovch died, said the family was grateful that his remains had been identified. "It really feels good knowing he's been identified and we'll have him close so we can visit him," he said.
Carlton's father, Anthony, a World War Two veteran who died in 2006, is buried in the same cemetery. His father and uncle were very close as boys, and Anthony Dobovich would be "delirious" if he were alive to learn his brother's remains finally had been identified, Carlton Dobovich said.
Zoltan Dobovich was the youngest of five children, the nephew said. Their parents were Hungarian immigrant farmers, and their father died when Zoltan was a young boy.
Zoltan Dobovich was eighteen when he joined the Army in Allentown on 7 December 1943, the second anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. After serving in the infantry, he joined the Army Air Corps as a radioman during the war. It was in that position that he boarded the postwar flight from Naples to the Bovingdon airfield northwest of London. Also on board were Colonel Ford L. Fair, chief of staff of the European Air Transport Service, and Colonel Hudson H. Upham, assistant chief of staff for traffic for the service, who was listed as the pilot on the flight manifest.
The purpose of the predawn flight remains unknown, and Carlton Dobovich said his efforts to get an answer have been unsuccessful. After the plane failed to arrive at Bovingdon, it was reported missing. An air search for the missing plane was called off after eighteen days, according to the European-based Committee for the Commemoration of the Crew of the B-17 of the Aiguilles des Glaciers. An inquiry established that the plane was about ninety miles off course when it hit the mountain for reasons unknown.
In July of 1947, a French army alpine unit chanced upon the crash site. It recovered documents and the remains were interred that October at Arlington.
Between 1972 and 1988, as the glacier atop the mountain retreated, additional wreckage and remains were recovered on the Italian side of the border.
DNA testing recently established that some of the remains belonged to the 21-year-old DobovichCarlton Dobovich said the match was made from Barbara Rice, a cousin in Georgia whom they had not known existed.
In an email, Francis Raout, a young soldier in the French unit that found the wreckage in 1947, said he was grateful to have "rendered service" to the nation "whose sons liberated France. I would never have thought that, in 2012, I could offer my sincere condolences to the family of Zoltan Dobovich," he said.
Also killed in the crash were Major Lawrence L. Cobb, the copilot; Lieutenant Alfred D. Ramirez, the navigator; Master Sergeant John E. Gilbert, the flight engineer; Technical Sergeant William S. Cassell, the assistant radio operator; and Staff Sergeant William A. Hilton, the assistant engineer.
Carlton Dobovich said he had been informed that the remains of only four airmen have been identified.
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, which is in charge of identifying military remains, did not respond to a request for additional information.
Besides his nephew, Dobovich's survivors who are still alive include his niece Rosalie Baker and nephew Joseph Dobovich.
Rico says that it's nice, after all these years, for them to be properly buried...

Another great one gone

Bob Thomas has an Associated Press obituary about Charles Durning:
Charles Durning grew up in poverty, lost five of his nine siblings to disease, barely lived through D-Day, and was taken prisoner at the Battle of the Bulge.
His hard life and wartime trauma provided the basis for a prolific fifty-year career as a consummate Oscar-nominated character actor, playing everyone from a Nazi colonel to the pope to Dustin Hoffman's would-be suitor in Tootsie.
Durning, who died at age 89 in New York City, got his start as an usher at a burlesque theater in Buffalo, New York. When one of the comedians showed up too drunk to go on, Durning took his place. He would recall years later that he was hooked as soon as heard the audience laughing. He told The Associated Press in 2008 that he had no plans to stop working. "They're going to carry me out, if I go," he said.
Durning's longtime agent and friend, Judith Moss, told The Associated Press that he died of natural causes in his home in the borough of Manhattan.
Although he portrayed everyone from blustery public officials to comic foils to put-upon everymen, Durning may be best remembered by movie audiences for his Oscar-nominated, over-the-top role as a comically corrupt governor in 1982's The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
Many critics marveled that such a heavyset man could be so nimble in the film's show-stopping song-and-dance number, not realizing Durning had been a dance instructor early in his career. Indeed, he had met his first wife, Carol, when both worked at a dance studio.
The year after Best Little WhorehouseDurning received another Oscar nomination, for his portrayal of a bumbling Nazi officer in Mel Brooks' To Be or Not to Be. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe as the harried police lieutenant in 1975's Dog Day Afternoon.
He won a Golden Globe as best supporting television actor in 1991 for his portrayal of John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald in the television film The Kennedys of Massachusetts and a Tony in 1990 as Big Daddy in the Broadway revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Durning had begun his career on stage, getting his first big break when theatrical producer Joseph Papp hired him for the New York Shakespeare Festival.
He went on to work regularly, if fairly anonymously, through the 1960s until his breakout role as a small town mayor in the Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning play That Championship Season in 1972. He quickly made an impression on movie audiences the following year as the crooked cop stalking con men Paul Newman and Robert Redford in the Oscar-winning comedy The Sting.
Dozens of notable portrayals followed. He was the would-be suitor of Dustin Hoffman, posing as a female soap opera star in Tootsie; the infamous seller of frog legs in The Muppet Movie; and Chief Brandon in Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy. He played Santa Claus in four different movies made for television and was the Pope in the television film I Would be Called John: Pope John XXIII.
"I never turned down anything and never argued with any producer or director," Durning told The Associated Press in 2008, when he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Other films included The Front Page, The Hindenburg, Breakheart Pass, North Dallas Forty, Starting Over, Tough Guys, Home for the Holidays, Spy Hard, and O Brother Where Art Thou?
Durning also did well in television as a featured performer as well as a guest star. He appeared in the short-lived series The Cop and the Kid in 1975, Eye to Eye in 1985, and First Monday in 2002, as well as the four-season Evening Shade in the 1990s.
"If I'm not in a part, I drive my wife crazy," he acknowledged during a 1997 interview. "I'll go downstairs to get the mail, and when I come back I'll say: `Any calls for me?'"
Durning's rugged early life provided ample material on which to base his later portrayals. He was born into an Irish family of ten children in 1923, in Highland Falls, New York, a town near West Point. His father was unable to work, having lost a leg and been gassed during World War One, so his mother supported the family by washing the uniforms of West Point cadets.
The younger Durning himself would barely survive World War Two. He was among the first wave of US soldiers to land at Normandy during the D-Day invasion and the only member of his Army unit to survive. He killed several Germans and was wounded in the leg. Later he was bayoneted by a young German soldier whom he killed with a rock. He was captured in the Battle of the Bulge and survived a massacre of prisoners. In later years, he refused to discuss the military service for which he was awarded the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts. "Too many bad memories," he told an interviewer in 1997. "I don't want you to see me crying."
Tragedy also stalked other members of his family. Durning was twelve when his father died, and five of his sisters lost their lives to smallpox and scarlet fever.
A high school counselor told him he had no talent for art, languages, or math and should learn office skills. But after seeing King Kong and some of James Cagney's films, Durning knew what he wanted to do. Leaving home at sixteen, he worked in a munitions factory, on a slag heap and in a barbed-wire factory.
Durning and his first wife had three children before divorcing in 1972. In 1974, he married his high school sweetheart, Mary Ann Amelio.
He is survived by his children, Michele, Douglas, and Jeannine. The family planned to have a private family service and burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Rico says it always amazes him to read the back story on these unknown heroes...

History for the day

On 25 December 1991, Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev went on television (photo) to announce his resignation as the eighth and final leader of a Communist superpower that had already gone out of existence.

It is the season, after all

Rico says that, as a good curmudgeon, it pains him to say so, but Merry fucking Christmas to one and all. Just to be fair, he'll say it as many ways as possible, using Google Translate:
Geseënde Kersfees
Gëzuar Krishtlindjet
عيد ميلاد مجيد
Շնորհավոր Սուրբ Ծնունդ:
З Калядамі
শুভ বড়দিন
Весела Коледа
Bon Nadal
Sretan Božić
Veselé Vánoce
Glædelig jul
Gelukkig kerstfeest
Feliĉa Kristnasko
Häid jõule
Maligayang Pasko
hyvää joulua
Joyeux Noël
feliz Nadal
Frohe Weihnachten
Καλά Χριστούγεννα
મેરી ક્રિસમસ
jwayeu Nwèl
חג המולד שמח (no, surely not)
मेरी क्रिसमस
Boldog Karácsonyt
Gleðileg jól
Selamat Hari Natal
Nollaig Shona
Buon Natale
ಮೆರ್ರಿ ಕ್ರಿಸ್ಮಸ್
메리 크리스마스
ວັນຄຣິດສະມາດ Merry
Verbum Caro
Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus
Linksmų Kalėdų
Среќен Божиќ
Merry Krismas
God jul
کریسمس مبارک
Wesołych Świąt
Feliz Natal
Crăciun fericit
С Рождеством
Срећан Божић
veselé Vianoce
Vesel božič
¡Feliz NavidadKrismasi Njema
மெர்ரி கிறிஸ்துமஸ்
మెర్రీ క్రిస్మస్
Mutlu Noeller
З Різдвом
میری کرسمس
Mừng Giáng Sinh
Nadolig Llawen
לעבעדיק ניטל (no, that's wrong, too)
and in the language that started this whole project for Rico (and isn't in Google's list, for some reason): Mele Kalikimaka...

More Django

A.O. Scott has a review of Django Unchained in The New York Times:
“It’s better than Lincoln,” my teenage daughter said, as the end credits rolled at a screening of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. She was teasing me— it’s a sad fact of my life that some of the people I’m fondest of do not seem to share my fondness for Steven Spielberg’s latest movie— but also suggesting an interesting point of comparison:
Lincoln and Django Unchained, the one a sober historical drama and the other a wild and bloody live-action cartoon, are essentially about different solutions to the same problem. You could almost imagine the two films, or at least their heroes, figuring in the kind of good-natured, racial-stereotype humor that used to be a staple of stand-up comedy (and was memorably parodied on The Simpsons): “white guys abolish slavery like this” (pass constitutional amendment); “but black guys, they abolish slavery like this” (blow up plantation).
A more substantive contrast might be drawn between the approaches of two filmmakers— both steeped in the history of popular cinema and both brilliant craftsmen whose skill inspires admiration, as well as a measure of suspicion— to a subject full of pain and fraught with peril. Spielberg, in his ambitious, history-minded projects, hews to the proud (though sometimes mocked) tradition of the Hollywood A picture, in which big themes are addressed with appropriately sweeping visual and emotional gestures. Tarantino finds inspiration in what are still frequently seen as less reputable genres and styles: Asian martial arts movies, spaghetti westerns, blaxploitation.
Not that you need, at this point, to choose. Among Tarantino’s achievements has been his successful argument that the maligned and neglected B movies of the past should be viewed with fresh eyes and unironic respect. His own tributes to the outlaw, outsider film tradition— flamboyant in their scholarly care and in their bold originality— have suggested new ways of taking movies seriously. Django Unchained is unabashedly and self-consciously pulpy, with camera moves and musical cues that evoke both the cornfed westerns of the 1950s and their pastafied progeny of the next decade. (The title comes from a series of Italian action movies whose first star, Franco Nero, shows up here in a cameo.) It is digressive, jokey, giddily brutal, and ferociously profane. But it is also a troubling and important movie about slavery and racism.
As such, Django Unchained is obviously a companion to Inglourious Basterds, in which Tarantino had the audacity to turn the Nazi war against the Jews into the backdrop for a farcical, ultraviolent caper. He did not simply depart from the facts of history, inventing, in the title characters, a squad of mostly Jewish-American killers led by a United States Army lieutenant from Tennessee; he rewrote the past in the vivid, visceral language of film fantasy. The point of Inglourious Basterds was not to engage in counterfactual speculation about a successful plot to kill Hitler, but rather to carry out a vicarious, belated, and altogether impossible form of revenge, using the freedom of cinematic make-believe to even the score.
Like Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained” is crazily entertaining, brazenly irresponsible and also ethically serious in a way that is entirely consistent with its playfulness. Christoph Waltz, who played the charming, sadistic SS officer Hans Landa in Basterds, here plays Dr. King Schultz (photo, right), a charming, sadistic German bounty hunter (masquerading as an itinerant dentist) whose distaste for slavery makes him the hero’s ally and mentor.
That hero, first glimpsed in shackles and rags on a cold Texas night in 1858, is Django (played by Jamie Foxx), who becomes Schultz’ sidekick and business partner. Schultz is an amoral gun for hire, tracking down fugitives and habitually choosing the first option offered in the formulation Wanted: Dead or Alive.
Over time, the traditional roles of white gunslinger and nonwhite sidekick are reversed, as the duo’s mission shifts from Schultz’ work to the rescue of Django’s wife, Broomhilda (played by Kerry Washington, photo, left). After the couple tried to run away from their former plantation together, they were whipped and branded (the horrific punishment is shown in flashback), and Broomhilda was sold.
Django and Schultz’ search for her leads them to Candyland, a Mississippi estate whose debonair master, Calvin Candie, is played with almost indecent flair by Leonardo DiCaprio. Candie is assisted in his savagery by Stephen (played by Samuel L. Jackson), a house slave who may be the most shocking invention in Django Unchained. He is an Uncle Tom whose servility has mutated into monstrosity, and who represents the symbolic self Django must destroy to assert and maintain his freedom.
The plot is, by Tarantino’s standards, fairly linear, without the baroque chronology of Pulp Fiction or the parallel story lines of Inglourious Basterds. But the movie does take its time, and it wanders over a wide expanse of geographic and thematic territory.
In addition to Tarantino’s trademark dialogue-heavy, suspense-filled set pieces, there are moments of pure silliness, like a gathering of hooded night riders (led by Don Johnson), and a late escapade (featuring Tarantino speaking in an Australian accent) that perhaps owes more to Bugs Bunny than to any other cultural archetype.
Of course, the realm of the archetypal is where popular culture lives, and Tarantino does not hesitate to train his revisionist energies on some deep and ancient national legends. Like many Westerns, Django Unchained latches onto a simple, stark picture of good and evil, and takes homicidal vengeance as the highest— if not the only— form of justice.
But in placing his story of righteous payback in the Old South rather than the Wild West, and in making its agent a black former slave, Tarantino exposes and defies an ancient taboo. With the brief and fascinating exception of the blaxploitation movies and a few other works of radical or renegade art, vengeance in the American imagination has been the virtually exclusive prerogative of white men. More than that, the sanctification and romanticization of revenge have been central to the ideology of white supremacy.
In Regeneration Through Violence, his classic study of the mythology of the frontier, from colonial times to the eve of the Civil War, the literary historian Richard Slotkin identifies two essential mythic figures: the captive, usually an innocent woman held against her will by ruthless and alien usurpers, and the hunter, who is obsessed with protecting her honor and, sometimes secondarily, securing her freedom. (The Searchers, with John Wayne as the hunter and Natalie Wood as the captive, is perhaps the most sophisticated modern version of this narrative.)
Broomhilda and Django certainly fit those roles, and yet the roles, historically, were not intended for them. Some abolitionist works like Uncle Tom’s Cabin could paint slavery as a form of captivity, but the canonical captives of antebellum American literature were white women kidnapped by Indians, who, after the Civil War, were often replaced by freed slaves as objects of superstitious terror. The idea that regenerative violence could be visited by black against white instead of the reverse— that a man like Django could fill out the contours of the hunter— has been almost literally unthinkable.
But think about that when the hand-wringing starts about Django Unchained, and ask yourself why the violence in this movie will suddenly seem so much more problematic, so much more regrettable, than what passes without comment in Jack Reacher or Taken 2. Tarantino is a virtuoso of bloodshed, that is for sure, and also more enamored of a particularly toxic racial slur than any decent white man should be. But decency in the conventional sense is not his concern, though in another sense it very much is. When you wipe away the blood and the anarchic humor, what you see in Django Unchained is moral disgust with slavery, instinctive sympathy for the underdog and an affirmation (in the relationship between Django and Schultz) of what used to be called brotherhood.
So maybe it’s not so different from Lincoln, after all. And if Django Unchained is not better, it is arguably more radical, both as cinema and as (fanciful) history. A double feature might be just the thing, if you have five and a half hours to spare..
Rico says if that doesn't make you go see it, nothing will.

Casino Deposit Bonus