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Jerry Falwell - dead

Famed televangelist and founder of the "Moral Majority" Jerry Falwell is dead.

I must admit, there is part of me that wants to cheer that he's gone, will no longer be able to spread hate and intolerance and his twisted notion of Christianity. But really, it's so sad: a life wasted on fear and small-minded bigotry.

Some say hell is reserved for those who believe in it; if so, I hope Jizo Bodhisattva will soon help the poor guy out of it.

LAPD assaults immigration demonstrators

According to CNN, the LAPD today opened fire on and assaulted protesters engaging in a demonstration for immigration reform.

In Los Angeles, California, police in riot gear fired rubber bullets to disperse a crowd at MacArthur Park at the end of a day of peaceful rallies at the park and at City Hall. Witnesses said police gave no warning before moving in around 6 p.m.

Police said a protester had knocked down a motorcycle officer.

No arrests or serious injuries were reported.

Footage broadcast on CNN International shows cops clubbing people to the ground for not clearing the area quickly enough, and threatening those who attempted to turn back to help fallen friends.

CNN's coverage downplayed the danger of rubber bullets; they are less lethal than metal ones, certainly, but people are killed by them on occasion.

Regardless of one's opinion on the complex questions of immigration, this is abhorrent infringement on free speech.

Spread this number

09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0 (hexadecimal notation).

What's so magic about this number, you ask? It’s an HD-DVD Processing Key, and it the movie industry would like to censor it to keep monopoly control over the manufacture of HD-DVD players.

This is not the first time the industry has tried to maintain its monopoly by infringing free speech - a few years back there was the DeCSS case, which led to people putting the code on t-shirts to demonstrate the absurdity of trying to censor such information.

VA Tech shootings and guns in the U.S.

Posted to the Cyberdojo today:

"Robert Agar-Hutton" writes:

> In China or Korea - He couldn't have gone and bought (legally) the
> gun!!!

Well, yes, but if anyone thinks strong gun control laws keep guns
away from determined bad guys, read the news about the shooting murder
of the mayor of Nagasaki; firearms are strictly banned in Japan.

Gun control laws keep guns away from bad guys about as well as
drug control laws keep heroin away from junkies. If your nation doesn't
have a heroin problem, it's not because prohibition laws make it
impossible for people to get drugs, it's because your society has given
people better options than smoking or shooting up addictive synthetic
opiates. (Hurray for you!)

If your nation doesn't have a violent crime problem, it's not
because prohibition laws make it impossible for people to get weapons,
it's because your society has given people better options than killing
each other. (Hurray for you!)

A determined killer doesn't even need a gun - one guy in China a
few years ago got ten people in one bloody night with an axe and a
knife. In the U.S., we have a higher *non-gun* murder rate than the
total rate for the U.K. or Japan - we beat and stab each other to death
at a higher rate than you guys shoot, stab, and beat each other.

The right of self-defense: Parker v. District of Columbia

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recent struck down D.C. gun laws that pretty much prohibit private ownership of firearms; this piece in The Weekly Standard by Erin Sheley gives a good look at the story.

Gun control laws are about as effective as drug control laws

Letter to the editor, Baltimore Sun:

The logic of gun control ("Ban assault rifles, save Maryland lives", February 27) is seductive: take away the bad guys' guns and they can't hurt us.

But the hard fact is that gun control laws keep guns away from bad guys
about as well as drug control laws keep heroin away from junkies.

It's easy to turn away from that unpleasant truth into the sort of factual
and logical errors that Mr. Helmke falls into.

First, we must be accurate in our terms. It is unfortunate that advocates
of stronger gun control have consistently obscured the meaning of "assault
rifle". Assault rifles - carbines capable of selective automatic or
semi-automatic fire, such as the M-16 carried by American soldiers - are
already so heavily regulated as to be effectively banned for civilians. The
National Firearms Act of 1934 strictly regulates all automatic weapons, the
only sort capable of anything resembling the "spray" of bullets that Mr.
Helmke mentions.

who says crime doesn't pay?

In South Korea, at least, thieves not only make more money but have greater job satifaction than police, 79.3 versus 65 percent. Keep in mind, that's the gangsters in jail giving that result.

"Tens of thousands" march on D.C. demanding withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq

ABC News reports on today's Iraq war protest. They put attendance in the tens of thousands, and note that there were only about 40 counter-protestors. I've seen the number of pro-war protestors shrink at each of the three marches (pre-invasion, March 2006, and this one) that I've participated in; seems it's getting harder and harder for even the most stubborn Bush fan to believe in this war.

More details to come.

shortwave "numbers stations": creepy spy stuff

When I was a kid, my folks got a multi-band radio that picked up not just AM and FM, but shortwave and audio channels from TV. (If memory serves, they got the radio with a big stack of game tickets from an arcade in Atlantic City.)

While we mostly used it to listen to Johnny Walker or Brian and O'Brien in the mornings, or listen in on TV shows while in the tub in the evening, every once in a while I'd fool with the shortwave. Sometimes I'd pick up a weird channel with someone reading numbers, ghostly voices reciting nonsense.

Tim Kreider on invisible Saddam Hussein

From Tim Kreider's artist's statement for last week's The Pain -- When Will It End?:

I just could not let Saddam die. I know the man was a brutal dictator and a butcher and I ought not to celebrate him as a figure of fun. Partly it’s just that perverse impulse in me that refuses to take seriously what everyone else regards as unassailably sacrosanct or taboo. I am inexplicably cheered by the idea of his surviving, Elvis-like, in our imaginations. Perhaps he lives on as a symbol of the ineradicable authoritarianism and brutality in the world, a reminder that as long as human beings are cringing hierarchical animals that defer to authority, the sociopaths among us will inevitably rise to the top. Wherever there is a country held together by fear, wherever people are raped and tortured in secret prisons and buried in mass graves, Saddam is there. Wherever we bankroll dictators and look the other way from atrocities, whenever we smile and shake hands with devils for the sake of political expediency, Saddam is there. Wherever there is misguided and hubristic American bungling, wherever we turn brutal dictatorships into chaotic bloodbaths, Saddam is there. [Saddam] is with us always.


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