16 November 2010

The Peace Price

An item in the Nov. 16 Harper's Weekly Review reports that "Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to push his cabinet to freeze most construction on West Bank settlements for 90 days--in exchange for a $3 billion package from the United States in security incentives and fighter jets--so that peace talks could continue."

Under such conditions, the prospects for peace are as dim as ever.

04 August 2010

Bullet Points

In an eye-opening article published in the August 2010 issue of Harper's magazine, titled "Happiness Is a Worn Gun," writer Dan Baum estimates that there are 250 million firearms owned by private citizens in the United States. And among those gun owners, 6 million have permits to carry a concealed pistol.

Baum, himself a handgun owner and holder of a concealed-carry license, traces what he calls "the gun-carrying revolution" to Florida, whose cocaine-driven murder rate in 1987 ran 40 percent higher than the national average. But instead of restricting access to guns in the face of such slaughter, he writes, the Florida legislature took the view that citizens should be able to defend themselves and ordered police chiefs to issue any adult a carry permit unless there was good reason to deny it. "In the history of gun politics, this was a big moment. The gun-rights movement had won just about every battle it had fought since coalescing in the late 1960s, but these had been defensive battles against new gun-control laws. Reversing the burden of proof on carry permits expanded gun rights. For the first time, the movement was on offense, and the public loved it."

To his credit, Baum is candid about the heightened sense of power carrying a handgun has given him: "There’s no denying that carrying a gun has made my days a lot more dramatic. Suddenly, I’m dangerous. I’m an action figure. I bear a lethal secret into every social encounter." And he has to "remind myself occasionally that my gun is not a prop, a political statement, or a rhetorical device, but an instrument designed to blow a ragged channel through a human being."

Currently in the United States, 37 states have "shall issue" laws, which require law enforcement authorities to issue a concealed-pistol license to an adult citizen unless he or she has a state-mandated reason for disqualification, such as a felony conviction. With 250 million firearms in private hands, guns are here to stay.

Gun ownership and control is a hot-button subject that invariably fans emotional flames no matter what position you take on the issue. Baum deserves credit for having written a balanced, well-researched, and personally revealing article. He has advanced--and elevated--the discussion.

27 April 2010

On the Road

In March 2009, my friend and former chiropractor, Mike Lewis, left Seattle by motorcycle on a 5-year journey to the world’s continents. Leading up to his departure, he sold his house and his business, storing whatever possessions were left.

Now, a year later, Mike has made it to the southern tip of South America. He’s documenting his trip with photographs and movies, which you can see here. You can also follow Mike's journey on his blog.

It takes a lot of courage—and stones—to make a move like this. Buon viaggio, my friend, and buona fortuna.

04 March 2010

Short Fiction

Titled "Almost Over: What's the Word?" this story was written by Lydia Davis, and it appears in The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, published in 2009. Here it is:
He says, "When I first met you, I didn't think you would turn out to be so ... strange."

That's it, end of story.

02 February 2010

Addition Problem

"... and as an added bonus ..." We see this come-on everywhere nowadays, but it makes no sense. After all, a bonus, the dictionary reminds us, is "something in addition [italics mine] to what is expected or strictly due" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed.). So, an added bonus is something added to something added. "Bonus" is a solid noun, perfectly capable of standing alone. It shouldn't be rendered meaningless by marketing drivel.