Thursday, March 30, 2006

Twenty-five years ago today.

Then president Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley. Hinckley missed the President with all six shots but one of the bullets did ricochet off of the bullet-proof glass of the presidential limo and strike the President in the chest. Press Secretary James Brady, police officer Thomas Delehanty, and Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy were also injured, Brady most seriously. The President was taken to George Washington University Hospital where my sister was the resident in charge of the emergency room. Although she never actually treated him -- other people saw to him while she did the paperwork -- she was officially his doctor for the very few minutes it took for his personal physicians to arrive and her signature appears on his admission papers.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Left Behind Again

bracero1I have been left behind again and it is starting to piss me off. I showed up at the docks where the luxurious Right-Wing Conspiracy was boarding for its cruise through the Straights and Narrows of Immigration and I couldn't get on. I got as far as the sign by the gangplank -- "You Must be THIS Angry to Ride" -- and although I stretched and scowled, drawing on my full (and usually more than sufficient) reserves of peevishness, I just couldn't quite measure up. I tried remembering the Alamo but all I got was Peter Ustinov. I thought about the Mexican with the leaf blower who blows the grass clippings off of the sidewalk and onto the street, and the other Mexican who comes along behind him blowing it off of the street and back onto the sidewalk. Event then I couldn't quite reach the arrow on the sign.

So here I am on the dock watching all the people I usually agree with on almost everything waving farewell and drawing away. I wasn't really surprised to see Neal Boortz there on the rail. I agree with what he says 95 percent of the time but he does go on a tangent sometimes. But Thomas Sowell was a disappointment.

I am not altogether alone of course. There are a few others who didn't measure up. Dafydd ab Hugh is one, and Arnold Kling and Bryan Caplan also seem to have missed the boat, so to speak. And, come to think of it the boat sailed with the Presidential suite unoccupied as well.

This is the second time in about a month this has happened. I just couldn't muster the requisite level of indignation to get on board with the Dubai Ports 'outrage' either. At the time I wrote about how unsettling it was to find myself on the same side of a divisive issue as Jimmy Carter. Now I find myself closer to Ted Kennedy than to Neal Boortz on another issue. It's almost enough to make one doubt one's sanity -- almost but not quite.

Like Oliver Wendall Douglas in Green Acres, Dafydd, the President and I find ourselves the only sane men in a world gone batty.

Update: I just bumped into Mat Towery here on the dock. He couldn't get on the boat either. Towery seems to be trying to get Boortz back on shore by pointing out that Boortz's Fair Tax plan would be an excellent way to finesse the issue of getting "guest workers" to pay their share of taxes.

Update: I noticed NRO's Mark Kirkorian on the ship, hurling abuse at someone standing on the dock. Looking to find his target I found that it was none other than George Will. It's starting to seem a bit less lonely here on the shore.

Thursday, March 23, 2006



John "Living one passionate moment to the next!"
Male, 22 years old
United States

Last Login: 3/12/2006
2/11/2006 9:06 PM

john..........where have you been and why am i seeing you on the news? why am i hearing that you murdered someone? we got into plenty of arguments, why didnt you kill ME?

John Christopher Gaumer's page on has been taken down as I write this but you can still find it in Google's cache. The information above is the photo and information that Gaumer chose for his profile as "BIGTHICKDUDE" in the MySpace social networking site. Also above is the last posting on his page by one of his online "friends".

"Perils of online dating prompt safety efforts" is a Reuters Story that discusses the murder. It opens like this
Josie Phyllis Brown never had a chance against her 6-foot-6-inch (2-meter) killer, although his stature was one of the few things she should have known from his Internet profile.

John Christopher Gaumer, who confessed to the murder and led Baltimore County police to Brown's body on February 7, listed his height and other attributes in his quest for dates on, a free Internet social site owned by News Corp. where mostly young people connect for friendship and romance.
As you might gather from the title and the lede the Reuters piece is not so much about the murder investigation as it is about the dangers of online social networking sites. It is fairly typical of the national coverage of the story -- a few paragraphs about the Gaumer and his victim to establish a linkage with and the rest of the story is about how dangerous these social networking sites can be for young people.

Those two paragraphs manage, with a marvelous economy of prose, to state a few well-chosen facts, give a few generally false impressions, and get on to other topics. Let's start with the first sentence: "... although his stature [6'6"] was one of the few things she should have known from his Internet Profile". This gives the impression that the information Gaumer provided was sparse, misleading or false. Actually, he had provided quite a bit of information -- all of which appears to either be accurate or at least to fall within the allowable range of self-deception for a 22 year-old college male. Warning signs abound on his page including an online survey he posted which reads, in part--
Name: John
Birthday: November 23, 1983
Birthplace: K.I. Soyer AFB, Michigan
Eye Color: Green with a touch of gold, but change with clothing
Hair Color: Brown but highlights in the sun
Height: 6'6 I'm an ogre.. almost a legal Giant
Right Handed or Left Handed: Left mostly but both!
Your Heritage: Gookianarian lol ask me about my story/ German, Irish, and english
Your Weakness: Pens, Beautiful tall slender woman, oh you were asking for one lol!!!
Your Fears: Dying alone, my parents dying, my sister never being truly happy
Your Perfect Pizza: EVERYTHING...except hmmmm no no EVERYTHING
Goal You Would Like To Achieve This Year: SKYDIVING, but I'm doing that 9/18 but anoth would be eating blow fish!
Your Best Physical Feature: eyes
Single or Group Dates: Single dates that way you can break the ice without too much
Cappuccino or Coffee: Coffee
Do you Shower Daily: multiple times usually im a dirty orge
Do you want to get Married: Yes
Do you belive in yourself: i have my moments
Do you think you are Attractive: I do but I have to work hard to achieve that
Are you a Health Freak: I use to be but I'll eat a fatty Mc fatty burger
Do you get along with your Parents: YES!! my parents are my best friends
In the past month have you Drank Alcohol: YUP!!!!!!!
In the past month have you Smoked: nope!
In the past month have you been on Drugs: nope except supplements to be the SUPER BEAST!!!
In the past month have you gone on a Date: YES and had some great ones
In the past month have you gone to a Mall: omg every week
In the past month have you been on Stage: no but its my secret passion
In the past month have you been Dumped: not really
Ever been Drunk: YUP YUP drinking it up
Ever been called a Tease: shit I tease myself too much to do that
Ever been Beaten up: HA!!! I'm an ogre
Ever Shoplifted: yes
How do you want to Die: sleeping or in glory
In a Boy/Girl..
Favourite Eye Color: any
Favourite Hair Color: any I'm not too pickie
Short or Long Hair: i perfer short but depends on the person
Height: 5'0 -6'6 but i like 5'11 tehehe
Weight: slender but not pickie..but the girl can't weigh more than me
Best Clothing Style: indie/goth/ preppy the works
Number of Drugs I have taken: dont matter
Number of CDs I own: A LOT
Number of Piercings: the merrier
Number of Tattoos: 1 so far
Number of things in my Past I Regret: too man to count
So, yes his profile does give his stature -- 6'6", an ogre, almost a legal giant -- but it also suggests him to be a narsissist who is taking supplements to become "the SUPER BEAST." He describes himself as an "ogre" three times (actually as an "ogre" twice and as a "filthy orge" once which I take to mean an ogre who is not a careful typist.)

He also gave his age -- 22, which makes him five years younger than his victim who, despite his having met her on ", a free Internet social site owned by News Corp. where mostly young people connect for friendship and romance" was 27, divorced, a single mother and old enough, and experienced enough to have known that she should be more careful. Please understand that I am not implying that the victim was in any way responsible for her fate, but only that the Reuters story omits her age (and his, for that matter) because it would distract from their use of the MySpace murder as an introduction to the discussion of the perils of online social networks populated by underage children pretending to be older and lurking pedophiles, pretending to be children.

There is, to be sure, a certain fascination to crimes with an Internet tie-in. Gaumer left quite a trail in the Internet -- not just on MySpace but on other sites as well. He had pages on,, (an edgy "dating" site with an ironic name under the circumstances), AIM, etc. and viewing the information on his pages feels a bit like wandering into a crime scene and going through the accused's sock drawer to see what he was all about. With Gaumer it doesn't take long to figure that out. He was about as subtle as a leg-humping dog. A bit more online snooping will turn up stories such as this one[warning: sexual situations, mild language, a bit creepy] that offer further confirmation.

I must admit that the social networking tie-in to the reporting on this story irks me a bit. Meeting new people online is risky -- not because it is something you do on the Internet, but because you are meeting new people. People you just met are people you don't know much about almost by definition, and whether you met them on the Internet or at a bar or a club makes very little difference. The internet does provide more opportunity to lie about their personal appearance, age and gender but meeting someone in a noisy club provides them an excellent opportunity to lie about everything else. Imette St. Guillen, a 24-year-old student at John Jay College , apparently met her alleged attacker in a bar where he was employed as a bouncer but the news stories about the event (such as this AP story from MSNBC) do not feel the need to explain to us what dangerous places bars can be.

I attribute the fixation on the MySpace tie-in to two things: First, the media love to run stories about things that people are worried about and people, especially parents, are worried about what goes on in these somewhat-mysterious online meeting places. Usually, when these fears are overblown as they are in this case, the stories will have alarming titles but the actual text will be more measured and reassuring -- usually, but not always. Which brings us to the second point. MySpace, the site you usually see singled out, was recently aquired by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, owners of Fox News. Reuters in particular, but most of the other non-Fox news outlets in varying degrees, takes delight in casting MySpace, now owned by their competitor and political adversary, in the most unflattering light possible.

Background: For a bit more intformation on the stories I have mentioned here you might check out Steve Huffs CrimeBlog for information about the Gaumer investigation and Johnsville for analysis of the Littlejohn investigation in New York.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

V for Vendetta

v_logo I saw the film V for Vendetta last night at the late show. It's a rather long movie and the late show was really late. The ten o'clock show didn't get out until 12:35 am and, by the time the trailers were over the late show didn't start until nearly one in the morning. I hope the Friday late show was better attended than my Saturday night one. I enjoy midnight showings and I hate to see theaters lose money running them. I bought a small popcorn which will have helped the theater recoup about half of the pay of the girl who sold it to me. The theater's take on my ticket may have paid the projectionist when combined with the tickets of the other three people attending the show. By the time projectionist followed me out at 3:15 and locked the door I'm aftaid the theater was out a bundle on their decision to run a late show of the Wachowski brothers' latest offering.

Since the Park Place theater in Morrisville, NC appears to have run their Saturday late show as a public service, instead of for profit, it behooves me to say that I appreciate it. I want to assure them that the local movie-going community appreciates their efforts on our behalf and that the low attendance should be blamed on the film, which is deeply flawed.

What's wrong with the film? Alan Moore, who wrote the original graphic novel but asked to have his name taken off the film, sums it up nicely in his interview at
a_logoWhen I wrote "V," politics were taking a serious turn for the worse over here. We'd had [Conservative Party Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher in for two or three years, we'd had anti-Thatcher riots, we'd got the National Front and the right wing making serious advances. "V for Vendetta" was specifically about things like fascism and anarchy.

Those words, "fascism" and "anarchy," occur nowhere in the film. It's been turned into a Bush-era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country. In my original story there had been a limited nuclear war, which had isolated Britain, caused a lot of chaos and a collapse of government, and a fascist totalitarian dictatorship had sprung up. Now, in the film, you've got a sinister group of right-wing figures — not fascists, but you know that they're bad guys — and what they have done is manufactured a bio-terror weapon in secret, so that they can fake a massive terrorist incident to get everybody on their side, so that they can pursue their right-wing agenda. It's a thwarted and frustrated and perhaps largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values [standing up] against a state run by neo-conservatives — which is not what "V for Vendetta" was about. It was about fascism, it was about anarchy, it was about [England]. The intent of the film is nothing like the intent of the book as I wrote it. And if the Wachowski brothers had felt moved to protest the way things were going in America, then wouldn't it have been more direct to do what I'd done and set a risky political narrative sometime in the near future that was obviously talking about the things going on today?

George Clooney's being attacked for making ["Good Night, and Good Luck"], but he still had the nerve to make it. Presumably it's not illegal — not yet anyway — to express dissenting opinions in the land of free? So perhaps it would have been better for everybody if the Wachowski brothers had done something set in America, and instead of a hero who dresses up as Guy Fawkes, they could have had him dressed as Paul Revere. It could have worked.
It should be pointed out, in fairness, that Moore is a bit hard on the film. This is not to say that the parts he dislikes are not there, or that they are less annoying than he lets on, but that the film is not without its pleasures. The acting is good throughout with Natalie Portman and Stephen Rea being the standouts. The special effects, the pacing and the direction are all fine. The writing is maddeningly uneven -- there are long sequences that capture the feel of Moore's original and are actually quite involving, and there are also long sequences that have been added to update the story and are jarring and annoying.

pc_logoWatching V for Vendetta is a bit like attending a live performance of MacBeth with a troupe of fine actors doing excellent preformances on one side of the stage and a troupe of monkeys hurling feces at the audience from the other. I can't really recommend it, but if you are determined to go you should try to ignore the monkeys... and wear a raincoat.

Update: 22 March

A few other reviews of V for Vendetta that share my point of view (more or less) are Jason Apuzzo's at Libertas and my friend Bill's at SciFiDimensions. Jason's piece draws parallels to a relatively obscure film that you can read about here.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Spelling Checker Humor

Some years ago I worked for Unisys and the spelling checker in Microsoft Word could not recognize the name of the company. Every time I spell checked a document with the word "Unisys" in it my computer would helpfully suggest "Anuses" as a replacement -- which struck me as so funny that I never added the word to my personal dictionary.

Blogger's spell checker also can't spell Unisys but it's suggestion of "Unisex" is not as funny. On the other hand, the other day I misspelled the word "pedophile" (in teleoscope: Blinded by my anti-Reuters Bias) and Blogger's spelling checker suggested "bedfellow".

Friday, March 03, 2006

UN Discovers Weather

We all know the swell job the UN does at soothing the tensions in international disputes, but did you know that they predict the weather, too?
GENEVA (Reuters) - Cool sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific point to a La Nina phenomenon, but it is too early to predict the impact on global weather, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Friday.
So there you have it: "La Nina conditions unusually early in the year, too soon to predict that impact on the global weather" says the UN meteorologist. The Reuters reporter scribbles for a minute, nodding, and responds "Yes, I see. What impact will this have on global weather?"
The phenomenon was also not expected to last long, the U.N. agency said in a statement.

Combined with other oceanic and atmospheric conditions, the temperatures were "consistent with the early stages of a basin-wide La Nina event," the WMO said.

But the agency said it very early in the year for the appearance of a basin-wide La Nina, which can upset normal weather and bring heavy rains and droughts, and this made it hard to predict its impact.

"There is some additional uncertainty over the extent to which typical La Nina rainfall and temperature patterns will occur," it said.

Furthermore, the phenomenon was expected to be relatively short-lived, with a return to what the agency called "neutral" conditions by the middle of the year or shortly thereafter.

In the Philippines, where a community of 1,800 people was entombed by a landslide last month on Leyte island, the national weather bureau has said that typhoons, flood and rains since November might be linked to development of La Nina.

The WMO said careful monitoring would be needed for indications that La Nina could last longer or even turn into an El Nino event, which can also have devastating climatic effects and occurs when sea surface temperatures rise substantially.

"Neither of these two scenarios is considered likely, but cannot be ruled out at the current time," the WMO said.
Now we know. The La Nina will be brief unless it last longer. It may also turn into its opposite, El Nino. As a possible result of any of these eventualities it may rain less, more or about the same. It may be warmer unless it is colder. But no matter what happens it will be "devastating."

Nasty stuff, weather.