Does This Bother Anyone Else

Am I the only one who thought the U.S. Secret Service did a pretty good job of handling the guy who jumped the fence and ran for the front door?

I’m especially appalled at the suggestion that snipers should have shot him after he jumped the fence. It’s reported that the only weapon on him was a small folding knife, so if the White House door had been locked, he would have just been a guy with a tiny knife running around outside a building. I think the secret service did a great job of stopping him without hurting him.

Look, keeping the President safe is easy. Just lock him in a bunker for four years, or maybe move him in secret between several different bunkers. Never let him make an appearance, never tell anyone where he is. If safety is the only thing that’s important, that would do the trick.

But that’s not the kind of government we have. Our leaders can’t treat U.S. citizens as an enemy to be contained and subjugated, and so our leaders go out in public and the White House looks like a comfortable southern mansion with a nice fence around it.

I mean, look at that fence. When you build a fence like that, you expect people to climb over it. They could have gone with something more secure — like a prison yard wall — but they didn’t, because that wouldn’t look much like a democracy, and so from time to time, people will jump the fence. That kind of vulnerability is part of the tradeoff we make to have an elected President instead of a President-for-life.

As it happens, Gonzalez turns out to be an Iraq war veteran with 15 years in the military. He apparently had some mental problems which might or might not be service-related. Neighbors report that he was paranoid about people breaking into his house. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out Gonzalez jumped the fence because he wanted to warn the President about some imagined peril.

But whatever his thinking, it would have been a sad thing to shoot him dead on the President’s front lawn.

Update: It turns out that Gonzalez made it much further into the White House than had been previously reported, according to Washington Post journalist Carol D. Leonnig:

An alarm box near the front entrance of the White House designed to alert guards to an intruder had been muted at what officers believed was a request of the usher’s office, said a Secret Service official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The female officer posted inside the front door appeared to be delayed in learning that the intruder, Omar Gonzalez, was about to burst through. Officers are trained that, upon learning of an intruder on the grounds, often through the alarm boxes posted around the property, they must immediately lock the front door.

After barrelling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family’s living quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot-long East Room, an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses.

Gonzalez was tackled by a counter-assault agent at the far southern end of the East Room. The intruder reached the doorway to the Green Room, a parlor overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture, according to three people familiar with the incident.

So, maybe only one cheer for the Secret Service. But I’m still glad they didn’t shoot him.

Let’s go to the tape. Do watch the whole thing, from beginning to end, but after you do that, let’s start watching it, again, starting at 3:40 into it.

3:50 MPD squad, lights and sirens on, screams to a stop, and two cops leap out and join the struggle. The one furthest from the camera brings his fist — it’s not clear if he’s holding a small weapon in it — up and down seven times, apparently striking Jenkins repeatedly.

4:05 a third and fourth squad car scream to a stop, and a cop in a wool cap runs over, and at 4:06 shoves one of the cops out of the way, and begins kicking Jenkins.  While Jenkins is being kicked and punched by several cops, one voice can be heard to shout, “Put your hands behind your fucking back.”

4:25 One of the cops screams about “something sharp,” and the cops take a break from the beating long enough for Jenkins to roll to a sitting position. He’s then dragged out of view of the closest squad camera, and the beating continues, with one of the cops taking what appears to be a cigarette break, looking back from time to time to the camera, then for whatever reason, positioning himself so that he blocks the view of Jenkins.

Over on the forums at, Buck Eight and Squad51 sum it up thusly:

I watched the video and didn’t really have a problem with it. Things always look worse on video. Now that Dolan has the FBI getting involved and the story is ALL over the news, the guy is in for a big payday. I hope nobody loses their job over this.

Tasing, spraying and joint locks/pain compliance all look a hell of a lot better to someone watching a video (ie: a jury) than punches and kicks raining down.…tml?page=3&c=y

…I doubt that any of the officers will be in serious trouble over this. Kicks our part of our use of force training when dealing with combative suspects. This will be ruled a policy failure and kicking will disappear. The reason that the other officers will not get into huge touble or worse is that they where responding to an officer need help call and when they arrived saw that one officer was fighting with one and they responded to that with force to take one that they had reason to believe had assaulted an officer and he was dealt with. we have a good relationship with the county prosecuters I doubt that they would get much milage out of this. Not only that but I bet you money that if he does sue it is settled out of court for basically lawyers fees….if you watch the video in its entireity..yeah this is a no brainer the cops are in the clear…

Happy to be here proud to serve.

Minneapolis is in Hennepin County; the County Attorney — the guy whose office prosecutes felonies in HennCo — is Mike Freeman.  squad51 and his friends have a “good relationship” with county prosecutors.

The quote?  That’s from Officer Richard Walker, early on in the stop.  Tim Dolan, the Minneapolis Police Chief, has ordered all of his officers to watch the video. The kicking it seems, was too much even for him.  “Dolan said the actions of Officer Richard Walker, the initial officer involved, ‘all appear to be very appropriate.'”  He just doesn’t like the kicking. Walker not stopping the thumping?  Doesn’t bother Dolan.  Nor does the thumping bother squad51 and his friends at  After all, they have a “good relationship” with the county prosecutors.

What will they learn from this?  A skeptic might think that they’ll learn to station cops in front of the cameras to block recordings of the kicking in the future.

Either that, or there’ll be an in-service on the use of the erase button.

But I’m sure they’ll all watch the tape. Hell, maybe they’ll even use some CI money to buy doughnuts for Movie Night.  Been done before, after all.

I just visited the Apple store in Old Orchard for some accessories for the new hotness, and I spotted something I’ve never seen before:

License-plate-specific reserved parking? This must be reserved for one person, and including the plate number makes it easy for mall security to recognize the right car, but don’t they have parking stickers or something?

I don’t understand what the issue is when people talk about making English the official language.

It was one of the questions at the presidential debates of both parties. Closer to home, Fran Eaton at Illinois Review links approvingly to an article by Phyllis Schlafly and to a report that Carpentersville has passed a symbolic resolution to make English its official language, commenting that “it should also be the state and nation’s policy, as well.”

What the heck does that mean? Talk about making English the official language is pointless without discussing the details of what exactly it means to have an official language. Do supporters of English as the official language really want the United States Congress to pass a symbolic resolution? That would be pretty shallow.

I assume supporters have something more specific in mind, as must opponents, but neither side ever spells out the details. Do the supporters just want to make sure that English is considered necessary and sufficient for legal purposes? Do they object to non-English signs in government offices? At airports? In supermarkets? What about “E Pluribus Unum” on the back of our money? Is that just caving in to the Latin Lobby?

Is it just me? Am I the only one who doesn’t know what “official language” means? Or is it just feel-good legislation for the anti-immigrant crowd.

In the bathroom at the hotel where we stayed last week:

Larger Imageconserve


As part of Hyatt’s commitment to conserve the environment, we will change bed linens and towels as necessary or upon request.

If you wish to have your linens and towels replaced daily, please contact the hotel operator.

Yeah, I’m sure they’re just very committed to the environment…

I heard some radio talk show host discussing the idea of sending a delegation of former Presidents of the United States to try to get Israel to settle down. I have no considered opinion on the matter, but I was rather peeved that the guy kept referring to “President Clinton.” Bill Clinton is not the President anymore, and people technically shouldn’t be using the title.

You may have heard of Senators and Governors being called by those titles long after they are out of office, and that’s okay. They are allowed to keep the honor of the title for holding the office. But the rules are different for the President (and the Vice-President).

The general rule—established by Thomas Jefferson, I believe—is that official titles which are only held by one person at a time should not be used after the person leaves office. Note that it’s the title, not the office, that has to be unique. There’s only one Governor of Illinois, but there are many people with the title of Governor. There are also a lot of Senators, but there’s only one President.

There’s also only one Vice President, so he loses the title too when he leaves. I’m not sure about the Chief Justice of the Supreme court.

So what should Bill Clinton be called? (Please don’t go there.) The answer is that he reverts to his previous title, which is the highest title he held before becoming President. Ex-President Bill Clinton is now Governor Clinton.

Jimmy Carter is also still properly referred to as Governor Carter.

As for George Bush Senior, well, he’s now back to being Ambassador Bush.

It’s not that important, and I don’t know why this bothers me, but does.

Lenny Kravitz’s album 5 has been out for a few years now. I remember especially enjoying its hit single “Fly Away” which had an energetic video to go with it. You can hear “Fly Away” on Lenny Kravitz’s MySpace page (you’ll have to click the song yourself, I can’t figure out how to link to it).

Meanwhile, however, I’d like to discuss these lyrics:

Oh I want to get away.
I want to fly away.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Let’s go and see the stars,
The milky way, or even Mars.
Where it could just be ours.

Is anybody else bothered by the cosmology implied by those lyrics?

For one thing, the Sun is a star. It’s just really, really close. The next nearest star is called Alpha Centauri, and it’s about 265,000 times further away. That isn’t what bothers me about the song, though. After all, Lenny obviously means he wants to go and see the other stars. Let’s talk about those.

All the stars we can see in the sky, including Alpha Centauri, are part of a large group of about 100 billion stars that are organized into a thin disk called a galaxy. It’s a big disk: From one edge to the other is about 24 thousand times greater than the distance between the Earth and Alpha Centauri, or 6.3 billion times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Our Sun, and therefore our planet, is also in this disk, somewhere around half way between the center and the rim.

If you go out at night someplace far enough from a big city so that the sky is truly black, you can see this disk. You’ll have to wait for your eyes to adapt. We’re embedded in the disk, so we see it edge-on. It appears as a faint uneven band of light stretching across the night sky.

If you travel the earth following that band, you’d see that it stretches around the entire sky of our planet. We’re in the middle of a glowing ring of light. The ring is patchy and uneven, and appears to wander around between the stars. Our ancestors staring up at the sky during the late hours gave it a descriptive name: The Milky Way.

The stars are part of the Milky Way, and so are we. So Welcome to the Milky Way, Lenny. Make sure you try some of the food here, it’s really good.

Actually, that’s not what really bothers me either. I’m bothered by the reference to Mars, specifically to the implication that Mars is something special. It’s not.

With apologies to all those who study Mars, it’s a cold, nearly-airless jerkwater little planet that’s practically right next door. Many nearby stars will have planets just like it, or far more interesting.

So when Lenny Kravitz sings

Let’s go and see the stars,
The milky way, or even Mars.

it’s a lot like someone earthbound in Chicago singing

Let’s go and see Paris,
The World, or even Joliet.

Addendum: Actually, if you do the math, if the nearest star is as far as Paris, then Mars is the corner bar. On the other hand, if the Milky Way is the size of the Earth, then Mars is like a speck of dust on your skin.

On Eminem’s latest album, Encore, there’s a track called “Mosh” in which he lashes out against President Bush and the war in Iraq. At about 3:30 there’s this bit of tripe:

Let the president answer a higher anarchy
Strap him with an AK-47, let him go, fight his own war
Let him impress daddy that way

You see the problem don’t you?

The notation AK-47 stands for Automatic Kalashnikov rifle 1947 model and refers to an assault rifle designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov and produced in Russia for the armed forces of the Soviet Union. It was the preferred weapon of our enemy (which “makes a disctinctive sound when fired”—name that movie). It’s a simple and inexpensive weapon that is easy to manufacture and maintain, and therefore it’s very popular with irregular forces and recreational shooters. It is not, however, what American soldiers use.

If you’re going to send George Bush off to war, you’d equip him with an M-16.

This bother anyone else? Or is it just me?

Ogre repeats an old Marine joke which I’m just a little too smart to enjoy anymore:

A Sailor is relieving himself in the head when a Marine walks in and steps up to the urinal beside him.

After a few seconds the Sailor finishes, shakes, zips and walks over to the sink to wash his hands. The Marine also finishes, zips-up, and walks to the door.

Just then the Sailor says, “Hey Marine! When I was in boot camp, they taught us to wash our hands when we finished!”

The Marine looks at the Sailor and says, “When I was in boot camp, they told me not to piss on my hands.”

That’s a good joke, but I wonder if I’m the only one who wants to yell at the Marine, “Good! But did you touch your dick?

That’s because somewhere along the way I’ve learned that you don’t wash your hands because pee is dirty. In fact, urine is normally sterile. The reason you should wash your hands is because your crotch is dirty.

So the Marine in the joke is acting under a false assumption and is, in fact, behaving in an unsanitary manner.

Does this bother anybody else? Or is it just me? Everybody else just laughs at the joke, don’t they? It’s just me, isn’t it? I hate when that happens.