chicom bird farm.

Some of you may vaguely recall this post from 2007, in which I mention that the hull of the former Soviet Kusnetsov-class aircraft carrier Varyag had been purchased by a Chinese company “to turn into a floating casino.”

Well, guess what just left the Chinese Navy’s port at Dalian for sea trials?

Oh, and the PLAN named their new Tool of Imperialism “Shi-Lang” which is the name of the Chinese admiral who conquered Taiwan in the 17th century. That’s totally not ominous at all, right?

China is spending a lot of money and effort building a credible blue-water navy. They’re still a long way from being able to stand toe to toe with a modern Western-equipped Navy, but it’s more than a little telling that the Chinese Navy has put so many eggs into the bird farm basket. Aircraft carriers are not for territorial or coastal defense, they’re strictly for offensive operations beyond the reach of one’s own air power. They’re tools of power projection.

(With the Chinese lack of respect for copyright laws and their astonishing abilities in the field of economic mimicry, I sort of expected the first Chinese carrier to be a bitwise copy of the U.S.S. Nimitz, right down to the hull number, but with slightly misspelled detail markings–BEWARE OF JET BLATS on the side of the carrier island, and so on.)


guns in bars, or ZOMG weesa gonna die!

If there’s one thing I can’t stand in a debate, it’s the tendency to toss out an emotional argument for one side of an issue, and then flat-out refusing to acknowledge that the other side may have a valid point or two as well.

Ohio has passed a reform of its concealed carry laws that allows permit holders to carry their legal guns into establishments that have Class D liquor licenses. Predictably, the people opposing that legislation are calling it the “Guns in Bars” law, to invoke mental images of drunken yahoos having a shoot-out over a ball game score or a sideways glance in a sports bar.

The main reason why gun rights organizations push for such laws has nothing to do with bars. (In fact, even with the new Ohio law, it will remain a felony to drink alcohol at those establishments while armed.) Those laws just make it legal for a permit holder to stay armed while eating at a restaurant (most of which have on-premises hooch licenses), or merely walking into an establishment that has a liquor license. That includes bars, technically speaking, but the intent and scope of the law precludes people getting legally tanked at Big Ed’s Sports Bar while strapped. Those laws just mean that Joe Permit doesn’t have to disarm and leave his gun in the car while eating at Chili’s. It keeps everyone safer because it eliminates gun handling in the parking lot, it doesn’t require a firearm to be left unattended in a semi-public space, and it doesn’t give criminals an obvious target for theft or robbery. (As for the “this will cost a life” argument–I know of at least one well-documented case where a permit holder died because he complied with the law and disarmed, only to be mugged and killed in the parking lot on the way back to his car. That argument cuts both ways.) I repeat: it remains a felony in Ohio to drink in those establishments while toting a gun, and will result in loss of carry rights and imprisonment. Also, the law has a provision for any business to opt out by posting a “No Guns” sign at the door.

Now, the argument that such laws will cost lives and increase deadly confrontations at bars is not supported by the evidence. Many states with legal concealed carry have laws that allow the carrying of guns in places that serve liquor. Some of them, like my own home state of New Hampshire, don’t even specify that CCW holders can’t drink while armed. And yet we make it through life without drunks gunning each other down in the bars and taverns of the Granite State over hockey or baseball scores every weekend. I can go down to the bar in town and legally have five beers and a martini while packing a gun. (Why don’t I do that? Because I have the sense to not intentionally make myself impaired while carrying a firearm–and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have the sense to check or care about the law before I head down to the old watering hole.) Ohio’s law is way more restrictive, so why would you assume that this will be a problem, unless you think Ohioans as a whole are much less responsible and more violence-prone than New Hampshireites?

It’s a patently condescending and classist argument because it assumes that other people can’t act in a smart way (especially those low-brow, Budweiser-swilling, conservative gun-toting rednecks), and that the only people who want to legally carry guns are invariably uneducated, violent morons who just don’t have the good judgment to not drink and tote in public, and to not shoot their seat neighbor when they’re pissed off. (As if anyone prone to that kind of behavior is going to give two shits about the legality of the pistol in his waistband any more than he does about the fact that shooting people dead is illegal outside of legitimate self-defense.) 

I just don’t get how you can call yourself an educated, open-minded person when you’re perfectly willing to boil down an argument to the least honest, most emotional, most willfully misleading implication of the law while completely ignoring the other side of the debate…just because you disagree with the law in question.

if i have to get mugshotted to get into a titty bar, the terrorists have won.

San Francisco is considering making all public venues photograph and ID their guests.

Off the top of my head, I can think up about a million different ways this would greatly benefit stalkers, criminals, and law enforcement, and precisely zero ways this would contribute to public safety.

Looks like it’s not just the social conservatives who get all excited about surveillance and police state methods. Not that I’m a fan of Team Red, but some of my liberal friends should remember this one for the next time someone on the left side of the aisle works themselves into a froth about the excesses of the DHS bestowed on us by George II.

Surely, that would have absolutely no effect on the kinds of events where people would rather not make their identities known…like, say, political rallies for radical causes, or sexually-flavored entertainment venues. Because if you want to stay anonymous, you clearly have something to hide.

And I just know that if that proposal had originated with a Republican governor–or worse, a Republican POTUS as part of some Patriot Act overhaul–the folks in SF would be among the first to make signs and clog the streets of Berkeley in protest. Remember, kids–it’s only fascism when the other team proposes it!

At the current rate, I predict that we’ll see those nifty back-scatter Porn-O-Tron scanners on the street within ten years, and mounted on all police cruisers as soon as the technology fits onto a dashboard. And the first ones fielded will be in urban areas that vote blue. You know, to catch bad people with guns, and terrorists. Who could be against that?

The politicians of both major parties have a weird sort of amnesia. They forget that the nifty tools they put in the law enforcement tool shed when their team is in charge stay in the tool shed when the folks from the other team take over the front office.

shit! it’s will sasso in a tank!

(Alternate post title: “Rainbow Six: Chicken Commando“)

To protect us from the evil scourge of cockfighting, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Steven Seagal staged a raid on a suspect…with dozens of SWAT ninjas in full kit, and an armored personnel carrier.

This is the kind of thing that makes law enforcement look like heavy-handed, jackbooted goonery.  No doubt they had camera crews with them, and that Sheriff Joe in fact decided to take all the sexy hardware along for the bust precisely because it’s photogenic.  But is this still “peace officer” work?

When you serve warrants and stage raids dressed and acting like you’re in urban combat in Fallujah, you look like an occupying army instead of community law enforcement officers, and then you can’t be surprised if people treat you like one.  Us vs. Them mindset, special rights and weapons for the King’s Men, overwhelming force by default in the name of “officer safety”, and the broadest leniency and benefit of the doubt when it comes to the use of force…I don’t see that kind of route to be a healthy one for public safety.

Is the job of the police officer a dangerous one? No doubt.  Are most police officers like Sheriff Joe and his tank-riding cockfight-busting ninjas?  Hell no.  But am I the only one who finds serving a cock-fighting warrant with a fucking tank and a platoon of SWAT just a tad excessive?  What kind of attitude does that kind of swagger generate toward the police?

Tens of thousands in taxpayer money spent on some flash bang theater. Thousands of dollars in property damage.  One unarmed suspect arrested. 115 chickens euthanized on the spot. Well done, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.  Well done, indeed.

hippies: entirely useless, or cheap reactor shielding at least?

Our hippie friends across the river have a nuclear power plant in their state, Vermont Yankee.  It’s an older design, similar to the Japanese Fukushima I reactor.   Vermont Yankee generates 73% of the energy used in the state of Vermont.

Naturally, the hippies want it shut down, and the state senate has voted to not renew Vermont Yankee’s operating license past 2012.  Presumably, the magic unicorns roaming the Green Mountains will step up to the plate, touch their horns to the transformers, and feed five thousand gigawatt hours of magic energy into the grid annually to make up for Vermont Yankee’s capacity.  Or something.

Yes, Vermont Yankee is of the same design as the Fukushima I plant that had a radiation leak.  After a 9.0 quake nearby, and after being hammered by a tsunami and losing power for the cooling system as a result.  And that radiation leak has killed 0 (in words: zero) people due to radiation exposure so far.

Look, there is no technology that is absolutely 100% safe–but nuclear energy is the safest, cleanest, and most efficient form of energy generation we have yet invented.  There’s no such thing as a human birthright to be free from all conceivable dangers from cradle to grave.  To be human means to constantly juggle risks and benefits, because we have to constantly work for our survival on this little blue pebble.  Yes, a nuclear accident can cause thousands of deaths, but higher food and energy prices due to insufficient energy supply to keep billions of people warm and fed would kill many more than that. Nuclear energy is indispensable at this point…unless you want to see the Chinese and Indians build a few hundred coal plants in the next few decades, you don’t mind millions of brownish-hued people in Over Thereistan starving in the dark, you feel great about rolling blackouts and $500/month energy bills, and you like driving to work under a permanent dome of coal-burn haze.

Chernobyl resulted in fewer than a hundred deaths, and a few thousand people with radiation-related health problems, mostly from the area 20 miles around the plant.  That’s the worst nuclear accident in history, and that death toll is unacceptable, and proof that nukes aren’t safe, despite the fact that hundreds of reactors worldwide have been running for decades without any accidents. Automobile accidents kill 30,000 people in the U.S. every year…and that’s the price of freedom.  More miners die every year digging for the coal that runs coal-powered plants than people have died of nuclear accidents in the history of the technology.

Hippies: Sometimes, They Don’t Make Sense.  But then again, the nuclear debate has never really been about what’s safe for people.  It has also never been about what’s good for the planet–otherwise the anti-nuke crowd wouldn’t push to get rid of a technology whose only current viable large-scale alternative, coal power, requires the burning of 8,600 tons of CO2-generating coal per plant and day.

aw, jeez….not this shit again.

In a spectacular display of Not Getting It, some of the Republicans in the Live Free Or Die State are getting cocky about having a supermajority in the NH House and Senate again…and they’re trying to use it to roll back the gay marriage law.  Of all the issues on the table, they make gay cooties a priority once again.

In past elections, I’ve voted for a few Republicans for local office–whenever there wasn’t a Libertarian running, or whenever the Democrat on the ballot was more of a douche than the Republican.  Should the NH Republicans be successful in getting our gay marriage law repealed, I will never again vote for another Republican in this state.  I’m sick and tired of the debate.  We shouldn’t have it in a state that has LIVE FREE OR DIE as its motto.  We shouldn’t have it because the straight majority shouldn’t be able to vote itself special rights they can deny to gays, or blacks, or Jews, or Christians, or left-handed people.  We shouldn’t have that debate anymore for much the same reason why we shouldn’t have a debate about reintroducing miscegenation laws. This particular culture war is pretty much over.  There are just too many people nowadays, both liberal and conservative, who recognize that the state should have precisely fuck-all to do with licensing, condoning, or promoting marriage between two consenting adults.

Now, I realize that I’m once again poking the hornet’s nest with a stick by talking about homosexuality, and inviting certain commenters to leave their feces-obsessed ramblings all over this here Interblog.  I do, however, want to put a theory out there:

Most opposition to, disgust with, and fear of homosexuality in this country is simply male discomfort at the thought of male homosexuality. The arguments against homosexuality and gay marriage come wrapped in convenient religious or pseudo-biological arguments, but to me, it looks like it’s simply a moral cloak wrapped around the fact that a lot of straight American males are grossed out at the idea of two men having sex.  (Note the relative popularity of lesbian vs. gay porn among straight males—ask a college frat brother what he thinks of two hot chicks getting it on, and he’s much more likely to give that a thumbs-up than the idea of two hot guys getting it on.)

On a side note—I throw up a little in my mouth whenever I hear someone referring to the Defense of Marriage act.  Talk about a positively Newspeak name for a piece of legislature.  How do you defend something by making sure there’s less of it?  How does it “defend” my marriage when my home state doesn’t let a gay couple get the same legal benefits my wife and I enjoy?  And do come back to me when the straight marriages in this country don’t have a 50% divorce rate.  If social conservatives wanted to defend the institution of marriage, they should start with the straight folks first.  But I’m utterly convinced that most of the anti-gay marriage hullabaloo is just personal disgust and discomfort packaged in convenient selective bits of Scripture.

(And lest anyone accuse me of “being hostile toward religion” again…I have an awful lot of friends who are a.) Christian, b.) good people, and c.) in favor of equal marriage rights.  Keeping marriage and government apart isn’t exactly a new-fangled radical idea.  Render unto Caesar, and all that.)