Bob Owen

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

I went to the annual gun and knife show at the National Guard Armory the other day. I haven't been to a gun show in about fifteen years.

If memory serves me right, the only thing different this time was the lack of cigarette smoke.

The show made for some good people watching. Many of the attendees sported one particular fashion feature: camouflage fabric. If the godless commies (oops, that's from 15 years ago; today it's Islamic fanatics) drop in from the sky a number of people at the show were ready to hide in the woods.

There were only a few interesting or quality firearms. The rest were in pretty rough shape. If you're a collector of crudely manufactured Eastern European rifles you're in luck. There were quite few on display. All reasonably priced at under $250.

I find it curious that the same people who want to be prepared for any problem or any conflict would be interested in these types of guns. So you have 10,000 rounds of ammunition, 300 rations of MREs, 1000 gallons of clean water, ten knives and an assault rifle assembled in Kyrgyzstan in 1980. It has bent iron sights and a bayonet. That helps. After you've burned up all seven of your 30 round mags and completely missed your attackers, you can poke them in the eyes with that rusty bayonet. That'll learn 'em; now they'll need tetanus shots. If you’re going to rely on a gun like that, you might as well have 1000 gallons of lake water to drink.

There were quite a few "talkers" in the sparse crowd. There were the loudmouths who were willing to debate the benefits of the 7.62x54 over the 7.62x56 rounds.

"Sure, ya got yer extra 2mm in length but most of the x56 ammo comes from former Soviet block countries where the gunpowder doesn't have as much energy as that found in the x54 rounds. And the lead is more pure. Yeah, I got about nine thousand rounds in my basement."

"Oh yeah? Umm, umm, umm, but a Czech XLX can fire underwater, so there!"

One stand owner regaled us with the tale of a gun manufacturer that tried to exploit a loophole in federal firearm laws. According this guy, the company read the law that said an automatic weapon "fired multiple bullets with a single pull of the trigger." So the company was going to make a gun that fired fully automatic but get this, didn't have a trigger. How's that work, you ask? Well, he said you load a magazine and when you chambered a round, the gun would start firing and wouldn't stop until it was empty. The stand owner giggled in delight at this. He explained that you could control the amount of rounds you fired by placing a dummy round every third or fourth round. The gun would stop firing when it got to the dummy and you'd rechamber the next round to fire again. Good grief.

His friend bragged that he didn't need an automatic weapon, trigger or no trigger. He had four shotguns. Laying around the house, apparently:

"I got nine rounds in the first one and seven rounds in each of the other three. That’s enough to hold off even the cops." I so badly wanted to ask him why he didn't have nine rounds in each of the other shotguns. However, I thought he might actually have an answer.

I just kept my hands in my pockets and my mouth shut and no one bothered me. I felt sorry for the man who was selling high quality gun safes. He didn't have any tattoos, didn't reek of smoke, and probably brushes his teeth fairly often. I’m guessing he doesn't own a single piece of military surplus gear. As I walked by his stand, he avoided eye contact. I wasn't dressed like a nut, in fact, I had just come from church, but I'm sure he's seen so many weirdoes that he doesn't like to initiate conversations.

What is it about gun shows and military gear? Sure, the armed forces have guns. But they also have cars and computers and I don't expect to find night vision gear and practice grenades at the auto show or gas masks for sale at a computer show.

For each interesting gun, like an old Colt Trooper, there were a dozen junk ones. I saw a lot of one particular brand of pistol. I can't remember the name. They were cheap ($169). They were styled to look like an assault weapon. They looked cheap. I didn't see a single Sig Sauer. Most of the revolvers were either very small, very crappy, very old, or .44 Magnums.

I did see one gun that I've liked but have never seen in person. It's an S&W model 5924. Rather than having a slide-mounted safety/decocking lever it has a frame mounted decocking lever similar to that found on a Sig Sauer P226.

There sure are many different knives. I've never understood the appeal of little jackknives, the kind that look like something a boy scout in 1952 would have carried. They might be high quality but they are small and look like they wouldn't do much. I can understand the collector value but the practical value is nil.

"Official Terrorist Hunting Licenses -- No limit" were available. Har har har. There was also a Remington 700 with a custom stock. It looked like a children's toy: A large flag motif covered the entire stock. It was if someone had melted a flag and made a gunstock out of it. There is no limit to bad taste, however patriotic it may be.

Some of the stands weren't bad. A few of the knife displays were nice with high quality or collector quality items. I asked a guy what made one of his knives sell for $1000. He explained about Damascus steel in a sensible way, with no mention of bone crunching ability or piercing a man's heart from 21 feet. He had a number of auto knives; I didn't ask if there were any requirement to purchase them (e.g., only licensed peace officers can possess switch blades in Minnesota).

So that was my fun last weekend.

Lenin called them useful idiots. Bush and Rumsfeld might call them elected idiots.

Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) wants to introduce legislation to reinstate a military draft if the U.S. goes to war against Iraq. Did military leaders say they need more volunteer soldiers? Nope. Is there anything preventing anyone from enlisting of his own accord? Nyet.

It's just Chuck's way is throwing a wrench into things.

(NY Times) President Bush and his administration have declared a war against terrorism that may soon involve sending thousands of American troops into combat in Iraq. I voted against the Congressional resolution giving the president authority to carry out this war — an engagement that would dwarf our military efforts to find Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

But as a combat veteran of the Korean conflict, I believe that if we are going to send our children to war, the governing principle must be that of shared sacrifice. Throughout much of our history, Americans have been asked to shoulder the burden of war equally.

That's why I will ask Congress next week to consider and support legislation I will introduce to resume the military draft.

I believe that if those calling for war knew that their children were likely to be required to serve — and to be placed in harm's way — there would be more caution and a greater willingness to work with the international community in dealing with Iraq. A renewed draft will help bring a greater appreciation of the consequences of decisions to go to war.
So he want our armed forces to deal with Al Qaeda, Saddam, North Korea and now Gomer Pyle. Voting against a Congressional resolution didn't get him what he wanted. But instead of taking his ball away because he didn't win, Charlie wants to force all the other players to juggle extra ones.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Amish Tech Support (Laurence Simon) fisks Edward Hegstrom of the Houston Chronicle. Hegstrom's article is titled "More detentions feared in Muslim registrations."

An essay Hegstrom might be working on for his next piece: Where are we going to put all the robbers and thieves when we clear out our prisons to make room for every Mulim in America?

Here's an excerpt from Amish Tech Support (the newspaper parts are in italics, Simon's comments are not):

"It is outrageous that there has not been more of an outcry" in Houston, [an immigration lawyer] said.

Trying out for the job of Houston's idiotarian Muslim spokesperson, are we?

Men who come from any of the 20 listed Muslim nations are required to appear at the nearest Immigration and Naturalization Service office to be photographed, fingerprinted and interviewed.

Twenty Muslim nations? Fine, just for the sake of argument, name them.

Males aged 16 and older from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria and Libya were required to register by Dec. 16.

That's five, but notice something there... why not Muslim females? I mean, if these people are being harassed because they are Muslim, then why not register and question the women, too? Are women Muslims any less Muslim in their Muslimness requiring registration?

Back to the count of Muslim nations.

Those from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen must register by Jan. 10.

That's 13 more... total of 18 Muslim nations. Yes siree. All those Muslims from North Korea... yes, it's an outrage that they aren't screaming their heads off at this indignity and harassment of Muslims because they are Muslims.

News of the "cloned baby" was all over TV last night. I can't get on even the local news with my announcement that I'm the first human to have walked on Mars. Next time I'll have to mention I met aliens while visiting the red planet. That would boost my credibility.

(ABC News) For the group that claims to have created the first human clone, the announcement is an important step toward fulfilling the mission given to them by beings from another planet.
Did these folks really deserve any prime time news coverage? It's a blogger of course, Tim Blair, who has the best coverage:
CLAIM: That a human clone has been born.

SOURCE: Brigitte Boisselier, president of cloning society Clonaid, and a member of the Raelian cult.

STATUS: Utter bullshit.

Friday, December 27, 2002

Oooooh, aaaahhhh.

Son: eight years old, reading quietly.

Son: six years old, also reading quietly.

Whiskey: twelve years old, Macallan, in my glass.

Brian Lambert with a good observation in the Pioneer Press:

What's troubling about the so-called established media's remarkable underplaying of Lott's comments is that it lends greater credence to the belief that the real bias in modern media isn't liberal or conservative but fear of losing access to people of influence.

As Kurtz and others have pointed out, individual political bloggers are rapidly acquiring readers and influence because they, unlike beat reporters, have no fear of retaliation by powerful politicians. Bloggers don't depend on personal access to political leaders. They can interact with sources and watch C-SPAN (which covered the Thurmond party live) and say whatever they like, without fear that Lott's office will stop returning their calls.

Monday, December 23, 2002

That didn't come out quite right.

Last night my wife, the boys and I went to my sister's house for a Christmas dinner. We piled in to the station wagon and drove out to the farm. My parents, other sister, brother and my sister's in-laws were all there with their families, too.

So this morning we have a "few" new toys on the living room floor. Two of the toys were joint gifts to my sons. Meaning they share. Somehow my younger son now thinks he isn't the sole owner of his other toys. And he complained all about it to me. In the whiniest of ways.

To calm him down I explained that his toys are his and I would never, ever make him share. Big Grin.

Moments later he asked his brother to play a two player game. I reminded him that what's his was his and only his. He's mulling over this dilemma right now.

How Lott shows he is sincere:

(ABC News) In his first public remarks since resigning as Senate GOP leader, Sen. Trent Lott confessed he had "only myself to blame" for the racially charged scandal that brought him down.
Owning up to it like a man, right?
But the senator also alluded to unnamed political enemies who have been lying in wait for a chance to pounce and found it 2 1/2 weeks ago, when Lott's praise of Sen. Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist run for president ignited a firestorm of criticism.

"A lot of people in Washington have been trying to nail me for a long time," Lott said in an interview Sunday with The Associated Press. "When you're from Mississippi, when you're conservative and when you're a Christian, there are a lot of people that don't like that. But I fell into their trap and so I have only myself to blame."
He only left out that he has nice hair as a reason why people hate him.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Christmas is just around the corner and I have nothing left to do except celebrate. The only motor skills I’ll be exercising in the next few days involve eating and tearing wrapping paper. It’s very relaxing to have all the gifts wrapped and snuggled under the tree.

I’ve never understood those who wait until the last minute. Procrastination I understand. Pride in one’s procrastination, that I don’t get. Check with a coworker or relative who’s not done with holiday preparations. They seem to revel in the challenge of getting gifts on December 23, even if that means windshield wiper fluid, car air fresheners (hey – why do you think they’re shaped like little Christmas trees?) and super size candy bars from the gas station that stayed open late.

The only thing at my house that isn’t ready for Christmas is the weather. We had a little dusting of snow but I refuse to call it a white Christmas when I can see blades of grass sticking up through the snow. It’s like so many middle fingers mocking the paltry snowfall. The grass may be brown but it’s kicking the snow’s ass.

The boys and I went to Southdale last night. My younger son still needed a present for mom. He knew right where to go because he insists on getting her the same thing every year.

We went to Southdale straight from school so the mall wasn’t crowded. I haven’t been there in quite a while even though I drive by it frequently. We visited the Mac store. Acrylic, white and all very cool. Didn’t see Lileks.

What can’t you buy at a mall? Don’t say cars because there is now a Mini dealership inside Southdale. Though they look like toy cars the $25,000 price tags let you know this is the real thing. The boys thought the Minis would be a good choice for our next car until I pointed out the back seat. There’s a place for a butt but nowhere to put feet, even for a six- and eight-year old.

I must mention how well behaved my sons were at Southdale. I wanted to look at the new stores and I wanted to take my time. I played fairly. First, I fed them. Then I bought them a treat. Finally, to cement my position as unquestioned mall leader I told them that if there was any fighting or whining I would be looking forward to significantly smaller December and January electric bills. If the PlayStation, DVD player, PC, TV and VCR don’t get used for three long weeks of Christmas break I’ll save a lot of money. Ha ha ha; they would behave, my little loyal followers. Sure, they were “loyal” like Saddam’s supporters but sometimes us dictators have to do what works.

We visited Santa Claus. My younger son was eager but polite. My older son, who’s now a 33rd degree eight year old, knows the secret. He wouldn’t sit on Santa’s lap. However, he sat next to Santa. There was a look in his eyes… the beard is real, that fat belly is real, perhaps…? Santa is here all by himself but the reindeer could be outside getting into shape and the elves, well, if they do exist they’d be busy making all the toys about this time, right? That woman taking the pictures might be a little young to be Mrs. Claus but hey – if you lived above 89 deg N latitude you’d dress like that, too. Maybe I’ll just pretend to fall for this, if only for the sake of my little brother.

We went shopping. We looked at shoes (eyes rolled, quiet groan). We went to the Cutlery with its vast Swiss Army Knife and sword display (hey, those are real swords; dad’s not so bad after all; oh, but he’s not buying us one). We visited the Mac store (where are the games?). We went to Bath and Body works (please, let’s get this over with). We looked at more shoes (borrrrring). We looked at some clothes (losing patience, it’s getting hard to be good).

“Dad, I gotta go,” the younger one said. Damn! I thought I had all the aces and face cards. I forgot all about the bathroom pass, which trumps them all. Game over.

We moseyed over to the restroom. It was near where we parked and I didn’t have the energy to go back into the mall. Next stop: the parking lot.

Something curious happened in the rest room. Or, should I say, didn’t happen. My younger son insisted on locking himself in a stall. The boys and I were the only ones in the rest room. You could hear a pin drop. Or a tinkle or a splash. I heard nothing.

A quick flush later and he emerged with a smile and said he was ready to go home.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

No Backs.

We’re suspending play of the slug-bug game. Two young boys were taking it a little too seriously.

Not long ago I had to amend the rules of the game. No longer would a party under the age of 18 be allowed to “slug” another party under the age of 18. It would still be acceptable for a minor party to slug a parent.

Yellow VW Beetles would continue to count double (and triple on Tuesdays).

Early this morning, as my wife ran in to the bakery, our sons waited in the car. The older one spotted a yellow Beetle. Knowing that he could not slug his brother, he eagerly waited the return of his mom. It’s a long reach from the right, rear seat of the car to the driver so he removed his seat belt to facilitate a good slug.

The younger one was not pleased with this. He acknowledged that he didn’t see the Bug first but felt there had to be some sort of technicality that said he could claim credit if the original spotter couldn’t reach an eligible receiver.

Next a backpack went flying, followed by screams and tears all around.

Game over.

Monday, December 16, 2002

CNN, Fox and MSNBC are having a great big live, breaking news alert circle jerk right this minute. Did I mention it’s LIVE!

Al Gore will not run for president in 2004. Yawn. It's not as if it's four weeks before the general election and he steps down. And it's not like the Democratic Party doesn't have a dozen other high-powered folks who are jumping at the bit to run. Or does it?

Did you see him on Saturday Night Live last night? Good grief, it was awful. He was trying to parody himself in every skit I saw (I just couldn’t watch the whole thing).

That's what he's come down to, a parody of a stiff, boring politician whose claim to fame is losing the 2000 presidential election (even though he really won, wink, wink, heh, heh, heh). He’s Kenny Bania and Ovaltine: Not interesting going on boring. Thank goodness he’s an infrequent recurring character.

I suppose his political party members saw that terrifying kiss he planted on Tipper at the opening of SNL. Someone must have had a gun to Lorne Michael’s head last night. It was painful to watch and in the future millions of voters will retch at the sight of Gore’s lips.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

The leader of the Congressional Black Caucus calls for the leader of the Congressional White Caucus to step down:

(Indianapolis - AP) - The chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus says Trent Lott should resign his US Senate seat. That's what Michigan Congressman John Conyers told the National Black Caucus of state legislators yesterday. The lawmakers are holding their conference this week in Indianapolis.

Monday, December 09, 2002

Tim Blair:

MISS TURKEY has been crowned Miss World. A legal challenge may follow if she tests positive for traces of chicken or duck.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Where are the adults in Berkeley?

(Daily Californian) Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has admitted responsibility for stealing and trashing about 1,000 copies of The Daily Californian that carried the student newspaper's endorsement of his opponent, police said yesterday.

Bates, who earlier denied stealing the newspapers to the Daily Cal, released a statement yesterday apologizing for his involvement in the theft.

One made the ultimate sacrifice so that others could live.

Today my boys are having some friends over. That means it's time to clean the house, especially the playroom. If I told you they like this I'd be lying. I told the kids that they would be doing most of the work. I wasn't lying.

I told them that I only had so much patience. After a designated period, I would "finish the job" and explained that wouldn't be fun for them. Anything in the way would be thrown out. Legos, being smallest and weakest on the toy food chain, would be the first to go. Why? Because a Sears Shop Vac will pick up all but the largest ones. The operator of the Shop Vac, using a proper extension tube, doesn't even need to bend over. Brightly colored pieces of plastic disappear quickly and effortlessly.

The boys didn't really believe I'd vacuum up toys. I pointed out a small Lego in the middle of the room. You could almost hear music from a spaghetti western. The kids stared at me. I stared at them. I turned on the vacuum cleaner. They didn't flinch.

Whoosh. Click, click, click. The small toy put up a brief struggle as it banged the inside of the black tube before landing amongst the dust in the belly of the Shop Vac. I started to move toward the next Lego but I had made my point. Two very surprised youngsters leapt into action and picked up the remaining small toys. I had a feeling that they might ignore some of the larger pieces. I casually mentioned that I was thinking of getting a much larger, more powerful Shop Vac, one that could handle even larger Legos...

Friday, December 06, 2002

I've had no time to blog lately. Work. Hockey for the kids. Helping the kids with homework. I haven't even read others' blogs lately. But here's a good excerpt from James Lileks today:

If you’d lived under Saddam’s rule all your life, and you saw the Americans coming to kill him and his clan, and you believed in your heart this was really about oil . . . would that really matter? Would it matter to you at all?

Sunday, December 01, 2002

The Minneapolis Star Tribune comments on the killing of Tyesha Edwards in an editorial titled Tyesha Edwards / In another country she'd be alive.

They keep saying that Tyesha Edwards was killed by a stray bullet when everyone knows that in the heart of a city there's no such thing. Every bullet expelled from a gun has someone's name on it, and the reprehensible people who pull triggers are guilty of inflicting misery no matter whom it hits.
I wonder when all those spent rounds at my local pistol range are going to jump up off the floor, straighten themselves out and go looking for victims.What does the Strib think we could do?
Another constructive step would be to visit the Lagoon Theater in Uptown Minneapolis or the Southdale Center in Edina to see Michael Moore's powerful documentary film "Bowling for Columbine." Whether or not you like Moore's slant on politics, and despite his rather loose way of dealing with fact, the film overall is a gripping indictment of the fear and paranoia that produced and sustain America's gun culture. It's hard not to walk away embarrassed about our great country's deepest flaw: its propensity toward random violence unknown in other advanced societies. Tyesha Edwards, by all accounts a curious student, might want us to discover why this is so, and then to do something about it.
The Minneapolis police have said that Tyesha was killed by a known gang member. Does the Strib really think there's a gang member alive that would A) go watch Moore's sorry excuse for a documentary and B) actually lay down his arms as a result? And why is it okay to recommend a movie that plays fast and loose with facts? (Instapundit has some links about this here, here, and here.) Think the Aryan Brotherhood or KKK have some movies that twist facts about gun ownership and use? Would those any less legitimate for people on the other end of the political spectrum to recommend?

Facts? We hate guns; we don't need no stinkin' facts.