Saturday, April 27, 2013

George, We're Ready

Sheesh. Yesterday gravity quit working. Then there's this one:

I heard a story yesterday on NPR about him. When he was a little poor kid living in east Texas, near Beaumont, he had a great voice. He went out and sang on the street one day, for two hours, and made enough money in a tip jar to feed the whole family for two weeks (he recounted later). He took that money and went to an arcade, and spent it all.

It rained all day Sunday, and in the afternoon Libby and I spent a good bit of time listening to various George Jones cuts on youtube. It was a good time to listen to Mr. Jones. Bobby Dylan was wrong. He did know what was happening. Allus. We wondered a bit, like so many of the commenters on youtube, what had happened to country music. There's probably not one answer, and the ones that are there live at different levels. In some ways it's like what happened to NASCAR. Used to be you bought or even rented a fast car, took it to some track, and ran the hell out of it. And maybe you won some money, maybe even enough to get to the next race. Country was like that. Somebody showed up with something that kicked ass. Some stuff lasted. At some unexpected point there was a new guy in town. Everybody went and listened. The writers bought him a drink.

And just like NASCAR, people got killed. Small planes crashed. Buses ran off the road. The singers ran off the road sometimes too. Waylon Jennings says he did over three hundred dates one year and lost $200,000. Hank Williams, who wrote "House of Gold" posted above? He died in the back of a black Cadillac on New Year's Day, going to a gig. I remember hearing that news on the radio, in Raleigh, in that period in the early '50s when, on Saturdays, WRAL ran a live music program from Central Prison which featured inmates with musical talent. It was country music.

All these people had lived through World War II. Kids from that era fell in love and got married and had kids, and the husbands went off or back off to war, and often got killed. One of the most popular songs of the '40s was "I'll Be Seeing You." Listen to that sometime. Everyone knew, in those days, exactly what it was about. Listen to it and watch the last scene in the film "Galipoli." That's what everyone knew, when 1950 rolled along. By then we were knee deep in Korea. In '51 I road a train with my dad from Raleigh to Denver. He was going to some philosophy convention. The train was full of soldiers on their way to San Francisco and Korea. They were partying hard.

George Jones sang songs, from start to finish, about real life. I can't post em all, but Youtube is there. Check out "Hell is Open All Night Long." That's fairly early in George's career. Tammy introduces George singing "The Grand Tour" in one of the youtube versions available. That is, that song, so hard that I can't hardly imagine being able to sing it without choking up on those searing last lines, is not about George and Tammy. Then comes George and Tammy. Incredible duets, and a doomed love story lived out in front of the world. Read "The Three of Us" by Georgette Jones.

Then there are the wry songs, another level of sadness, mixed with acceptance. "The King Is Gone (and So Are You)." "Last night I broke the seal on a Jim Beam decanter that looks like Elvis." That's enough to spend the morning on. An elegy for the passing of Elvis (another flaming star, another massive irony in the flesh, go read Sheila O'Malley's terrific pense on Elvis sometime, the blog link's at the top of my links below). In the third verse, Elvis gives the singer advice about picking women, as does Fred Flintstone. Reckon Tony Scott listened to that song? Or Quintin Tarantino? And Jesus H. Christ, Tony Scott jumped off a bridge last summer. "The King is Gone" might get you through a night where the bridge beckons.

What happened to country was, the people who knew what life was when the lessons were the '30s, '40s and '50s got older and older, and life was a different story (somewhat) by the time Garth Brooks showed up. Nobody wanted to remember Vietnam any more. The kids wanted to get to town and make money. American Idol made you think that's where "stars" came from, and Carrie Underwood showed up, and somebody told her what to sing next. And Mr. Romney divided us all into winners and losers.

George exasperated his "handlers." There are bad stories about his recording sessions, even the great ones, that nobody should be telling on him. But to his audience, he spoke the truth, and he died essentially "on tour," between gigs that were booked on out into November of this year. And this is like NASCAR too, the old mean NASCAR, which pretty much ended with Dale squished against the wall in the last turn of Daytona.

Libby said we've listened to George our whole marriage you know. Then she went and looked for a picture of our Anna, a little kid of 6 or something, in a swing in the back yard, with headphones on, listening Libby was sure to a cassette of George. We didn't find it. Anna is graduating from East Carolina in a couple of weeks, in her early '30s, married. We've been married since '84, and met playing music at a party right after I'd walked away from life on the road with the Red Clay Ramblers. One time, back stage in Raleigh, a pretty teenaged fiddler and singer named Allison Krause put her feet up on Libby's guitar case. When I got home from that gig I called a friend of mine who ran a record label at the time. I thought I'd "discovered" somebody. "She's taken," he laughed. "New Country?" Like the fog it had put it's little cats feet up on Libby's guitar case, and moved on to Nashville.

What I like about that link to George singing "I'm Not Ready Yet" is, it's what it's like to be in a band, on stage. He forgets a line towards the end. He and the steel player exchange a knowing glance about a little figure the steel player has just played. And later, during that spoken part, that steel player is so subtle and tasteful it makes me cry almost. That's one of the things I love to do in a band--just do little enhancing things that make the whole better. The subtlety of that performance, of all the players and certainly of George himself, it's breathtaking, and probably lost on ninety-nine percent of the audience. Or at least they don't know why they're affected, why they react. It's in the moment, the roar of the engines going past.

Who's gonna fill their shoes, indeed.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Who Are They, Part 2,741

Juan Cole has the best piece I've seen on the very important question of just who are the two young men who bombed the Boston Marathon last Monday, and then held the attention of the United States public for the rest of this week.

Certainly there is speculation in Juan's piece, but it is far more grounded in logic and likelihood than 95% of what you might have heard on your television as the event was "covered" wall-to-wall from start to last night's cheering parade finish in Watertown, MA. One of the worst comments I've seen was from some Arkansas representative, who tossed the idea into the hopper that if more citizens had "Bushmasters," things would have been over with cheaper and quicker. That's all Boston needed, more bullets flying. More than one civilian had bullets going through the walls of his house as it was. The great good fortune at the end of this horror is that one brother is captured, alive. Hopefully he will not meet some zealot's revenge in prison. "We" need to talk to him, for a long time. Whatever his ultimate fate in the legal system, he should eventually be tried for murders. Four innocent people were killed, and he was one of the killers. But he is also 19, and "we" need to gain significant further comprehension of just what ideas were driving his actions.

There was a comment somewhere during the week that the boys has "contracted" the "radical Islam virus." This metaphor is balderdash and we do not need to think about such events and people this way. Indeed, if we look at radicalized people as though they have some "disease," we are more likely to simply kill them--as we are in fact doing in official drone policy. But this is all magic and fantasy. People do things for reasons, unless they are clearly mentally ill. These two young men had reasons. The very important question is, why did they do this.

This is not to say that there isn't "psychology" driving their actions. This is, essentially, what Mr. Cole speculates in the post cited above. Charlie Pierce says that to him this looks more like Colombine than 9/11. That is another way of saying the same thing.

We are, one might almost say, "blessed" to have captured the younger boy alive. More than anything else, we need to know who he is, and what he thought he was doing. It would be really great if various partisans stopped politicizing this whole tragedy, as it continues to unfold. It's not about immigration policy, as many right-wingers have fulminated. It's not about gun legislation. It's not about Radical Islam.

The right wing has successfully created a working fiction--that everything is political to the core, and that there is no pool of shared reality which we can all more or less share in our understanding of. This fiction is a great help in their ongoing efforts to destroy bedrock America. It has stalled efforts to deal in any way with human assisted climate change. It has created a political situation in which absolutely no legislative solution of the obvious problem of firearms proliferation in the United States can be achieved. Indeed, it is now easier to pass local ordinances in which all citizens are actually ordered to bear arms, than to make even modest alterations in the design of magazines or ammunition. (My guess is, soon there will be suits about restrictions on lead shot, since some hunters believe steel shot isn't as effective--why should their "rights" be abridged just because lead shot is poisoning waters where it lands?)

Fox News is the working mechanism which maintains the fiction that all is political, although their approach has become so ubiquitous that it now poisons a great deal of American journalism generally. We are never going to be able to accomplish much in the way of democratic solutions to real problems as long as Fox News offers it's daily ration of "on the other hand." In this sense, the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev brings with it some actual reality, if we can just keep to the facts and avoid leaping to all the stereotypical conclusions being proffered wholesale by politicians and other practitioners of "truthiness."

Losing our perception of reality got us into two wars (at least, and counting). At Mr. Pierce's stand, a guest columnist offers another dose of practical reality:

In the meantime it's Saturday again. Here in central NC a big row of intense storms blew through last night about 7 pm, bringing a dead limb down on the roof just above where I write. After a few hours of rain, we developed a drip just on the other side of the kitchen table. Apparently the metal roof has been holed. Looks like a busy Saturday.

As Bob Dylan said, "the bricks seem so well timed."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Heroes and Others

The Boston Marathon bombing brings America that much closer to life lived in much of the world, if we weren't already there. It's not like there haven't been these sordid, cruel, stupid events before. Maybe this one just feels a little more like something that happened yesterday in Madrid, or London, or Mumbai. Here's a clear picture of reality:

I particularly liked the moment when some credentials zealot is brushed aside by the doctor. It's heartening that in real moments of life and death, at least now and then the bureaucratic impulse is defeated. May it always be so.

There are some deep similarities between the various firearms generated massacres and this bombing--all terroristic bombings. We have allowed "terrorism" to become a technical term, when in fact it is a concept with a clear, human meaning. We all know this, just as the doctor knew to brush aside the bureaucrat. The slaughter of a sweet eight-year-old boy in Boston is exactly like the slaughter of the twenty children in Connecticut.

And this should be made clear to all of us when in the presence of the lying dissembler, Wayne LaPierre. Some journalist worthy of the name should take Mr. LaPierre by the lapels at the next opportunity and ask just what his "good guys with guns" will bring to the Boston Marathon bombing. "It is an asymmetric situation, you lying cynical sack of offal," some David Gregory should scream at LaPierre, close up, where the spit flecks LaPierre's glasses. Because if Mr. LaPierre knows anything at all, it is surely exactly this obvious fact. The bombing just makes it plainer, not different. There were hundreds of "good guys with guns" at the bombing, instantly ready to defend the civilians.

The utter cynicism of the NRA is to be entirely willing to muddy these waters with obviously false "solutions," which in fact only sell more weapons. Thus proffered like a plate of canapes, politicians searching for a way out of a hard choice like drowning victims of a submarine attack can reach for these life rafts and say, later, from dry land, why yes, I did something. We looked into putting armed veterans in all the schools in America, just like the experts at the NRA suggested. Case closed.

"Good guys with guns"

Friday Morning Update: It appears that the police have caught and killed one suspect, and are chasing the others. This is what good guys with guns do. It does not speak to the fundamental asymmetry of unexpected attacks on civilians or even on military personnel. We can all hope the second suspect is captured alive so further information can be obtained on the reasons for their actions.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saturday, Blessed Saturday; "Contempt"

I've come through getting two adjacent and very bad, broken-down teeth pulled this week. It gave me all of Wednesday off, and I enjoyed the day, slighted dazed on Advil, eating a bit of yogurt and some pudding and watching several Robert Ryan movies, one in which he battles Nazis in near-post-war Berlin, the ruins a big part of the show, then shifting to the waterfront docks of San Francisco in 1950, where the "commies" are taking over the longshoreman's union with the help of the gentle dupe John Agar, freshly married only a year or so to Miss Shirley Temple, brought to tears by John Ford in "Yellow Ribbon," now marching inexorably to his murder by auto after he's discovered the "commie" plot and Ryan's double identity. Ryan's always good. What's with this thing, "charisma," anyways?

I ended the evening with Goddard's "Contempt." I've watched this film three times. First time was back in 1969, at a showing at U.C.-Berkeley, where I sat just behind Fritz Lang, who got up wearing his eye patch and lectured in a difficult German accent on his role in the flim, and on Goddard's "meaning." I really didn't get the movie much that time, or two decades later, when I rented a tape of it and watched it with Libby. We both fell asleep, but it might have been due to our schedules of the era, driving our daughter back and forth to her school 35 miles away, working long days, just tired parents.

This time I really loved "Contempt." Ebert says he thinks Jack Palance is miscast, but I thought he was perfect, and riveting. Bardot is perfect too, and represents her side of a relationship under stress wonderfully, as does her playright husband, Michel Piccoli, in his first major role. Lang as Lang, or as a character named Lang anyways--terrific too. The film moves through marvelous art photos, "sets" including a remarkable villa carved out of the small volcanic island of Capri in the Mediterranean.

The pace is languid, interior, yet full of fireworks if you look and listen for them. "Contempt" is a truly modern novel, or more accurately, a poem. There are always several levels at play, of irony, meaning, misunderstanding. Approaching it as a simple "story" is making a disastrous initial mistake; possibly that's what caused Ebert to call the film a "failure." (And this is a bit ironic since there is much oblique reference to the philosophical problem of story-telling through the film--reference not only in the conversations, but in the actual visual experience.) The Odyssey Lang is creating in the "plot" is seemingly comprised entirely of photos of statues, and of empty seascapes--something which rather reasonably enrages Palance's producer: who then recreates the sculptural pose of the Discus Thrower for a moment as he hurls the disks of film canisters about the screening room. This is poetry, or poetic logic. "Contempt" is choc-a-bloc with it. While we "see" this poetry in image as well as listen to it in the passing dialogue (as rich as Elliot, in at least four languages!), there is the further irony of Lang explaining to an uncomprehending Palance that the Odyssey's characters are really but simple folk living in a simple time, a straight-forward culture where things are just as they seem--unlike our own he implicitly makes clear.

"Contempt" is a movie I may have to actually buy, if TCM doesn't hurry up and show it at 3 AM some Sunday morning. I want it on my small shelf of saves. My favorite line--perhaps Lang quoting Brecht on Hollywood, or perhaps Lang saying "I don't need a producer." The film should be watched with Truffaut's "Day For Night," made ten years later as a sort of comment on "Contempt" among other things. Apparently "Day for Night" cemented the two directors' animosity. Once they'd been close friends.

Here is a google search for images of Villa Malaparte, where much of "Contempt" takes place:

The Villa is as enigmatic and provocative as the film, and must have inspired Goddard in many ways. As a mason, I am breathless. The man who built the villa, Curzio Malaparte, was unknown to me. Here is a short biography:

One imagines that Goddard was at least familar to some degree with Malaparte's work. His remarkable life would surely be worthy of a film. That he built the villa while being mostly in prison in Rome, at the hands of Mussolini, who he had initially championed in the '20s. Well, as I say, there's a film here.


Now here it is, sunny Saturday. We go down to Greenville, NC, to play a contradance this evening. We'll drive back afterwards, just in time to rescue the three Houdahenians from starvation. Yesterday when I got home I let them all out into the wilds. Two came back, but one, Wuzzy, was late as the dusk fell. I called him over and over. At one point, far away down in the darkening woods, probably at least to the little stream, I heard some dogs. Still no Wuzzy. Momma cat, who now lives most of the time on the kitchen stoop, walked out with me looked (I thought) worried. It was too dark to go very far. I called some more, sat on the stoop and asked Momma if she heard her boy. She looked at me, then out into the woods. I went inside, finally. Some later I came back into the kitchen and there he was, looking in through the French doors. He was fine if somewhat excited. He kept looking backwards, out the door, as he ate his supper, as though something might have been chasing him. But it wasn't a pack of dogs, or if it was, he only heard them and skedaddled. None of the boys are up for dogs. Little Momma might have taught them some stuff about that, as she's got great self-preservation instincts obviously, but we took them in too soon. So as a trade off, they are sweet, purring things, each with their own personalities, and the thought of them encountering something ferocious and beyond their athleticism and optimism is not a happy one.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Martinsville, April 2013 Race

Jimmie Johnson is the Babe Ruth of NASCAR. He's won the championship 5 times. Last year he was a little off. This year seems to be a return to form. He started off by winning Daytona. At Martinsville he had the pole. As the race settled in he allowed a few contenders to lead a few laps. Probably had a smoke and a ham sandwich.

Then he won the thing.

Afterwards he circled the track in the opposite direction and did burnouts at each "corner." Here he's passing in front of our seats in turn 1, displaying the checkered flag. As you can see, everyone was not pleased with his win. At Martinsville they're mostly Junior fans. And judging from the piles of Blue Lite cans under some spots on the bleachers, perhaps Brad the Kez is also appreciated.

Jimmie's won at Martinsville eight times now. You win a huge grandfather clock when you win there, so he's got eight of the things. That approaches the furniture situation at Johnny and June's house in '79, when we played for Rosanne's East Coast Wedding Reception.

This Saturday the Texas Speedway hosts the "NRA Shootout," the next NASCAR event. They give away pistols to the winner. We find NASCAR's naivete at being used by the NRA almost as remarkable as the mainstream media, and the United States Congress. We will be watching something else, and recouperating from our contradance gig down in Greenville. These days we can always watch the cats playing outside. They've brought in 3 snakes so far.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Who Are They?

I'll start today by enshrining forever the following brilliant post (and read its brilliant comments as well) by Mr. Edroso:

Ok, you see how Taranto did that, right. The commenters did, over and over, if you're not yet sure. (I'll bet you are.)
So this is a guy, James Taranto, who has a terrific job being a paid columnist for the Wall Street Journal. That's pretty remarkable. A very major member of the mainstream national press pays this man to write this column!

People like Taranto have sadly been elected to run my state, North Carolina. The Republicans now control the whole Legislature, both houses, and the Governorship. They are, pretty much en masse, as self-certain, arrogant, and (as clearly proved in Edroso's comments), appallingly stupid, as Mr. Taranto. Yet, like him, they are all making great salaries, and on the state taxpayer's dime no less in the case of the NC Legislature, hard at work making North Carolina as big a laughingstock as some of our "sisters" to the south and west. This past week, some 14 of our legislators signed on to a bill creating a North Carolina State Religion. The bill has apparently died a-borning, proving that there is yet some small mercy sprinkled in the aether, like pine pollen at the start of Spring. Still, they put it out there, to the extent that even Ms. Maddow (bless her heart) took the time to notice us all the way up in New York, and to put up pictures of the Fab Fourteen, one of 'em being the head of the State Senate.

I'm starting to think we ought to go back and look at some ancient history.

This is how it was in North Carolina when I was a kid, in the 1950s. My dad and I took a train trip from Raleigh to Denver in 1950. When we left Raleigh we left from the White Waiting Room. If I got a drink of water there, it was from the White Water Fountain. In the early '50s Jesse Helms ran a successful campaign for some guy named Willis Smith, who was running for US Senator against the former Chancellor of UNC, Frank Porter Graham. Later in the decade, Republican President Eisenhower sent troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to protect small children who were in the process of integrating the Little Rock school system (in a very token kinda way). The General who "won" World War II was then pretty much reviled as a "Communist" in these parts. Our own Legislature, then solidly Democratic, devised something called the Pearsall Plan*, which aimed to postpone school integration in North Carolina by possibly generations through a process of calculated tokenism, minimalism designed by lawyers. The logic was rather as Taranto's, above. You can look it up if you like. It forever disgraces North Carolina, but eventually it passed away, and by the early 1970s (!!) North Carolina public schools were pretty much integrated de jure at least.

*[Here's a description of the Pearsall Plan:
Note other remarkable features of its context, such as the racial makeup of the commission. Of course, 16 whites, 3 blacks! And by the way, another achievement of our current Legislature is the repeal of the just recently passed NC Racial Justice Act. Ain't nobody here but us chickens.]

Of course it took all that time, work, even blood, the slog of the late '50s through the mid-'60s, the murders of many earnest people trying simply to make things better, fairer, the beatings of many more, and then just when there was some sort of corner finally being turned, a Voting Rights Act, A Public Acomodations Law. Why of course there was the Vietnam War, and the "Southern Strategy." And Mr. Helms was still slogging on too, and got elected by North Carolina to the US Senate in 1972, where he stayed nearly as long as Strom Thurman, Thurman surely being an invented character, somebody Vonnegut thought up, or Doctorow, as amazing as South Carolina's current wonderboy, Mr. Sanford.

Here in NC we joke that we are the valley of humility between two mountains of conceit. Apparently we are in the midst of continental uplift. Virginia and South Carolina may have closed their public schools to thwart integration, but we're looking at establishing the Religion of North Carolina. No doubt it'll be more or less Baptist.

This is what it took, over and over and over again, to get from White Waiting Room to the goddam Vietnam War. This is the cavalcade of History, and how American Representative Democracy often operates.

Apparently the fires of discontent amongst the North Carolina racists and bigots and generally dumbass smoldered unquenched, from the moment they took those White Only signs down, till today, 60 years later more or less. Our Legislature toils at the work, their sleeves rolled up. So far amongst other things we've reneged on a contract with the City of Raleigh concerning a valuable state property, to the consternation of even the CEO of the communications company that long ago gave Jesse Helms a home and a platform. On the energy front, fracking is now welcome in NC, no further questions asked. Being considered: more weapons in schools for safety, less early voting time, less time for voter registration, a new voter-i.d. law, a slick law which would penalize parents of students voting where they attend school with higher taxes, stricter laws concerning abortion and a new law which would require those seeking a divorce to wait two years and attend forced counseling sessions. Last year, even before our elections, we passed a state constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage.

For that matter, I've had "serious" conversations with people, on bulletin boards devoted to NC issues, who maintain with all the gravity of a Supreme Court Justice that the American Civil War changed absolutely nothing, that slavery is still just as "legal" as it ever was, that everything since Lincoln is unconstitutional. That's the long view. Possibly Justice Scalia agrees?

So who are these people? "American Fascists," that's as good a term as any. They have a whole TV network now, and that same network carries the most popular sports in the country as well: NASCAR, NFL, Major League Baseball. In our state, the most popular college team, UNC, can be found on "Rush Radio." While you're waiting for the game, might as well suck up a dose or two of Pure-T Hate complements of Rush hissef, or any of the others they feature.

I read this week that there's an ammunition shortage due to panic buying across the country. That's voting by gawd. We may be watching the destruction of a united country, state by state, into fiefdoms. Where's the feds when state after state pass trumped up building codes designed specifically to make a woman's health clinic close down? Go check the upstairs bafroom, Junior, Uncle Sam's been a mighty long time, and there's water dripping through the dining room ceiling. The constitutional law geniuses have had decades to work on their nifty arguments, and Mr. LaPierre can get up on your TV and pontificate as long as he wants, and no one even responds with the obvious: Hey didn't that DA and his wife down in Texas carry weapons, and weren't they expecting trouble?"

It don't look good. Tomorrow I'm going up to Martinsville and watch the millionaires zoom around the Paper Clip, beating up their expensive gas guzzlers for 500 laps. I might even take off my ear protection and mainline the power. I'll be wearing #18. He's due. Hopefully Kyle won't start talking politics at some point. He's a race car driver fer gawd's sake.

The pundits say Mr. Obama still aches to find some deep compromise point with these people, some way to cut the Gorgon's Knot. It's certainly the generic hope of any politician of true good will. It's what Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman hoped. As we're seeing day by day here in NC, these people are not of good will. Never was. Never will be.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Have you noticed how Wayne LaPierre and the NRA generally present themselves not as lobbyists, or as simply members of a group via paying dues to it, or as subscribers to the NRA magazine (Best Ammo For Saturday Varmit Huntin'; Why Did My Ruger 627-B Jam Up--Questions and Answers). No way. Ever since the Newtown murders (if not before), the NRA presents itself as a foreign potentate, available for public remarks just exactly now, on a busy schedule. They are oracular, and calculatedly so. They expect--demand--deference.

In LaPierre's initial presser a week after Newtown, no questions were allowed. This was, in fact, a theft of power, and the press writ large let it happen. Then there was LaPierre's first appearance with David Gregory. That time he did allow a certain sort of question, but once again, LaPierre controlled the flow of the conversation. I never heard any sort of serious followup. Couple of weeks ago, same interviewer, same relationship. Gregory talks to LaPierre like he's the King of Siam. No matter how rediculous LaPierre's assertions, they just get to stand there.

What's being constructed by the NRA is a facade of omnipotence. LaPierre is the Pope of Rifle. Couple of days ago there was a new big presser, with former Arkansas Congressman Asa Hutchinson driving the bus. Charlie Pierce reports:

I particularly noticed the following:

...task force led by Asa Hutchinson, a former Republican congressman from Arkansas, who unveiled the plan before a packed news conference with an unusually heavy security presence, including a bomb-sniffing yellow Labrador retriever. A dozen officers in both plain clothes and uniforms stood watch as Mr. Hutchinson spoke; before the event began, one of them warned several photographers to "remain stationary" until it was over....

By all means read the whole piece. But notice. This is set up like a press conference in The Sudan. (Or like a George W. Bush personal appearance.) There is a psychological game at work. The NRA is working tirelessly to establish itself as a entity which has the literally last word on anything involving firearms in the US. And their efforts are in many quarters succeeding. Already many local and state governments defer to whatever the NRA happens to assert re firearms. In my state, within days of LaPierre's assertion that what all schools need is more guns our Legislature and our Governor were setting up a study aimed at how best to implement this idea. There has been much discussion, across the country, about the NRA actually teaching school guards. And so it goes. There's also the parallel illusion being foisted: talking about "real solutions" to our fire arms problem is dangerous, so we have to have bodyguards at hand. Thus does the NRA sell fear 24/7.

Meanwhile, the NRA is now opposed even to the provision of the weapons legislation being considered by the United States Congress which makes it illegal to purchase weapons for a third party. Back when I was a kid, if you wanted to buy a pint of whiskey, you could find some guy hanging out near the liquor store and get him to go in and get a bottle for you, for a small fee. That, by the way, was illegal. But it's not illegal at the moment to run that same dodge with firearms.

So, no doubt, the photogs "remained stationary." Too bad one of the great photographers who covered WW II wasn't in the room. He or she would surely have recognized the trappings. The NRA frequently warns of "jackbooted thugs." I guess they know exactly how intimidating jackboots can be.

Here's Dana Millbank's report on the presser: