Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What's wrong with this picture?

The person pictured above is Jared Loughner. On November 30, 2010, he was competent to purchase a Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol in a sporting goods store in Tucson, Arizona. On January 8, 2011, Loughner (allegedly, it has to be said) used the weapon in a shooting spree that killed 6 people and critically wounded U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was apparently his main target. The facts of the shooting spree have been extensively covered in the mainstream media.

Today Loughner was determined by a U.S. District Court Judge in Phoenix to be incompetent to stand trial for the killings and maimings of which he stands accused. So I ask you, what is wrong with this picture? Not the picture of Loughner, which admittedly is a little spooky - but the picture of a society that would allow someone with a demonstrable history of mental imbalance to purchase such a weapon and then find him too crazy to be held responsible for his actions.

Loughner may be - probably is - insane, but what's more insane is a system of gun "control" laws that protects his right to own any weapon he chooses but fails to hold him accountable for how he uses them. That's what's wrong with this picture.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Launch Day 2011

It's May 17 and the new boating season is officially underway. Well at least my boat, Pursuit of Happiness, is in the water so with some major improvement in the weather pattern we have been experiencing of late I am ready for my first outing of the season. I'm pretty sure this easily sets a new personal record for how early the launch date is. I've been known to be rushing around at the last minute to get in the water before the 4th of July so clearly being afloat by the middle of May will extend the season considerably (weather permitting.)

Of course if things had been left entirely up to me I would have procrastinated for a few more weeks just to stay in character but a confluence of events dictated the earlier launch date. I think this is a good thing and although there is much to be done before before POH is truly shipshape (a term I apply loosely), what needs to be done can be done (or put off) as easily on the mooring as on the hard. And if the weather turns glorious I can go for a boat ride whether or not all the work is done!

The launching itself was uneventful (which is good) and went as smoothely as these things can be expected to go. The low point was the weather, which was damp and dreary with a breeze out of the northeast (conditions an old salt might describe as "snotty") but at least the rain held off for the duration of the event so it was not a totally miserable ride down the river to the mooring - in fact it was quite enjoyable since I had put on enough layers of clothing to stay warm and I even felt a little smug as I cruised through the mooring field and saw that almost all of the moorings were unoccupied. It's not just early for me I guess, it's early for almost everybody.

As I said, there is still work to be done and on the way down river I noticed a couple of mechanical issues that may need to be addressed but all in all I think I can declare the 2011 boating season underway! Tonight I believe I will drink a toast in thanks to the boating gods who conspired to make it happen.

Monday, May 2, 2011

R.I.P. Osama bin Laden

I awoke this morning to the headline that Osama bin Laden had been located and killed in Pakistan by US Special Forces. This is, of course, unmitigated good news. After almost ten years of hide and seek, the good guys won the game. The news all day has been nonstop coverage of the operation with new details added as they became known; I have listened with great interest to all of it. So why am I not overcome with joy?

I am glad the hunt is finally over and I am glad of the outcome - as long as bin Laden remained at large there was a sense that the most powerful nation on earth was impotent against a lone militant crackpot. Our inability to bring the mastermind behind the 9/11 attack to justice seemed to be a metaphor for our lack of conclusive success against "terror". So now at least we have closure insofar as bin Laden is concerned. While this is an important development I fear it will prove to be largely symbolic; it will not change anything important in the ongoing war on terror.

For starters, the successful completion of this mission will have no long-term effect whatsoever on the level of US combat troops deployed throughout the region or the duration of their operations. It would be nice to declare victory and bring them all home but we all know that is not going to happen.

More importantly I think is that the death of Osama bin Laden is not going to do anything to reduce the antagonism that has grown in the US against our Muslim communities. Sadly, one of the first news reports I heard this morning concerned hateful graffiti painted on a Muslim prayer center in Portland shortly after the death was announced. It seems a sad commentary on the times when such an event would be an occasion to strike out against others whose only crime is to be of the same faith as the murderous radical who was successfully hunted down and killed. In life, bin Laden divided us as a people and made us afraid and mistrustful of one another - this is a success against us that he will carry with him into death. So he is dead but we haven't won a victory.

Let's be glad he is gone, but there is nothing to celebrate.