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19/12: Irony Bites

Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
From The Sidney Morning Herald (Australia):

Two men have died and six have been injured after a minibus carrying members of a heavy-metal band tour crashed down an embankment of the Pacific Highway. The booking agent for Geelong-based heavy metal band The Red Shore has confirmed two of the band's members died. An employee for Pan Studios in Geelong has confirmed the company's received news the band's lead singer Damo, 22 , was killed along with the group's driver and merchandiser, Andy, 27. The minibus was in a convoy carrying The Red Shore and All Shall Perish "deathcore-metal" bands on their Christmas Carnage tour. A spokeswoman for the tour organiser said that members of the Califorinia-based All Shall Perish were not involved in the crash.

Full story.
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
This morning Instapundit links to this post by Clayton Cramer entitled What's Gone Wrong in Oakland.

Some quotations from the the San Francisco Chronicle given in the post.

The body count is woven into the civic consciousness here - a number chased by homicide inspectors, studied by criminologists, lamented in churches, reported by journalists. Every mayor leaves City Hall on broken promises to quell the violence, and the killings continue. An additional 115 have been killed this year, putting Oakland on pace for another gruesome record. In the last five years, 557 people were slain on the city's streets, making Oakland the state's second-most murderous city, behind Compton. Most victims are young, black men who are dying in forgotten neighborhoods of East and West Oakland. A handful of their killers, speaking from prison, describe an environment where violence is so woven into the culture that murder has become a symbol of manhood. The inmates say the only difference between these neighborhoods and prison is the absence of walls. The same hierarchies apply - the meanest rise to the top. It's a survival skill that ensures ownership of drug corners, a sense of self-worth, female attention and protection from attack.

Experts fear that the neighborhoods are only getting more violent. There are entire blocks without a single two-parent family, where drug dealers have become the predominant male role models, and children fend for themselves in crowded, chaotic homes where they are routinely exposed to drugs, sex and guns. Criminal families are on their third and fourth generations. Grandparents - the ones who have historically stepped in to help raise fatherless boys and instill a sense of right and wrong - are dying off.
Increasingly, the young murder suspects coming to the station for questioning seem to lack basic morality, said Sgt. Tim Nolan, who has been investigating Oakland homicides for 17 years.
"There are more and more families where there's less and less structure," he said. "Talking to these suspects day in and out, there's a higher percentage today with no sense of right and wrong. It's frightening, but we are creating super-criminals." All it takes is a look, a put-down or a lost fight, and bullets fly. Disrespect has become the No. 1 reason to kill.

Without parents to help them mature, the mental world of these young killers stays stuck in an infantile, egotistic state, said forensic psychologist Shawn Johnston, who has conducted more than 15,000 court evaluations of adult and juvenile criminals in 15 Northern California counties. "What keeps us from killing each other is empathy, and we learn it from bonding with parents who pick us back up when we get hurt or teased as children," Johnston said. "Without it, you get guys who live in a constant state of protecting the fantasy that they are the most important thing this side of the Milky Way. And because they don't have empathy, they will shoot or stab to protect their illusion."

Cramer, the author of Concealed Weapon Laws of the Early Republic: Dueling, Southern Violence, and Moral Reform (Praeger, 1999), points to the parallel with the Southern culture of honor and violence in the antebellum South: the concern with honor (how do I look to others, am I being treated with respect and deference, I must maintain my place and keep others below me in their place) that is defended with violence. But, the differences are what strike him: in the Old South dualists and brawlers were a large minority, not majority; by and large the court system worked. By contrast, in the neighborhoods described by the Chronicle those who use violence have intimidated witnesses to the point that the entire community will not hold murderers to account.

(more below)

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Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
Every technological advance the human race has made, has been used to kill and enslave fellow human beings.

The invention of the bow and arrow made it easier to kill deer to feed the family: and to kill members of the neighboring tribe. Mastering the use of iron gave us better and more durable tools: and swords and armor superior to bronze. Roman engineering prowess built roads and aquaducts that still stand: and enabled them to destroy the walls of any city that resisted them. Dynamite made road building easier: and battlefields much more deadly. Nuclear technology provides low-cost electricity: and bombs that destroy cities. Computer technologies make the internet, and this blog, possible: and create precision-guided weapons and data systems for police-states.

This pattern of human history is one reason I am not thrilled-to-death by the developing genetic technology illustrated in these stories.

Mice with no fear of cats.

Cloned kittens that glow.

Somewhere, perhaps China, I bet a group of scientists is even now experimenting with genetic engineering of humans with the intent of creating ideal soldiers, or ideal mine workers. Bacteria and viruses never before seen in nature, for which humans would have no defense: right now someone is thinking what wonderful weapons these would be.

Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
From the Daily Telegraph (UK) interesting lists with a British twist of things, events, and experiences for Christmas.

One of my favorites:

Immaculate projection
In the first week of December, the Jesuit fathers project a giant full-colour image of the Nativity on the Mount Street side of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in London's West End. It's a glorious rebuke - both spiritual and aesthetic - to the commercial tawdriness all around. This year it will be a Madonna and Child by the Roman Baroque painter Carlo Maratta. RD
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
This past Sunday afternoon, once we had said goodbye to our daughter and her fiancee, we stopped at a department store in Oklahoma City for some Christmas shopping. I have been having problems with a foot and a knee lately, so for the first time in my life I used one of the wheelchairs provided for customers. An interesting experience.

I have two observations. First, once getting off the main traffic aisles the merchandise was almost too congested for easy passage (I was in a simple wheelchair pushing myself along). I wonder if the layout of many stores would pass muster on a ADA challenge. Second, in the space of about an hour of shopping, four people ran into me. No, I did not run into them. These folks were not looking down enough to see me and bumped into me, usually when I was sitting still. btw, I'm not a little guy. They would quickly apologize and move on. And, I guess I have three observations; more people than normal made eye contact and smiled at me, usually women. I am still trying to figure that one out.