Just seven weeks after a massacre at an American elementary school, the White House released a photo of the president firing a gun. Strangely, no one seems to think this is in atrocious taste. We imagine the reaction would be quite different if it were, say, George W. Bush.
But a lot of people, including this columnist, doubt that the photo depicts what it purports to show. The White House distributed the pic in response to widespread skepticism of President Obama's assertion, in an interview with a liberal editor and a former campaign coordinator, that "up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time." The man who infamously said that rural Pennsylvanians and Midwesterners "cling to guns" had never before publicly indicated any interest in shooting sports.
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The photo, purportedly shot last Aug.�4 (which happens to be the president's birthday), shows Obama holding a shotgun. The barrel is smoking, indicating that the gun has just been fired. What's odd about it is that the president is aiming straight ahead, as if he were firing a rifle at a stationary target.
But in skeet shooting, the target, a disk known as a clay pigeon, is moving. It is launched from one of two "houses" and travels in a parabolic trajectory across the field. In order to hit it, one has to move the gun so as to follow the path of the clay. It's not impossible that one would fire at shoulder level, as Obama is doing in the photo, but it's unlikely. We therefore surmise that the picture is the product of a photo shoot, not a skeet shoot.
Expressions of dubiety about the photo have prompted some weirdly intense reactions from Obama partisans. Our old pal John Avlon lashes out at "Republican conspiracy nuts" who are "partakers of the paranoid style in American politics" and have succumbed to "the unhinged, hate-fueled impulse" toward "disrespect and near-dehumanization of this president."
Dehumanization? The suspicion here is that when he claimed to be a skeet shooter, Obama was talking to Buncombe--that is, speaking insincerely for political purposes. Has Avlon had so little contact with Homo sapiens that he fails to recognize that is an all too human thing to do? Is he too naive to know it is a behavior characteristic of politicians?
The photo release has provided yet another occasion for journalists writing about firearms to display their basic ignorance about the subject. Here's a correction from the New York Times: "An earlier version of this article misstated the type of weapon that President Obama fired in a photo released Saturday by the White House. It was a shotgun, not a rifle." The BBC made the same mistake, which it corrected without acknowledging error.
Our favorite is this description of the photo from the Associated Press's Darlene Superville:Obama is outdoors amid grass and trees with a rifle cocked in his left shoulder, his left index finger on the trigger and smoke coming from the barrel. He is wearing jeans, a dark blue, short-sleeved polo shirt, sunglasses and headphones.
As already noted, it's a shotgun, not a rifle, and the gun isn't cocked but has just been fired. In addition, the president isn't wearing headphones but hearing protection; earmuffs would also be an accurate term. And although the "sunglasses" are tinted, it would be more correct to describe them as safety glasses.
But let's give credit where due: Obama is indeed wearing jeans and a dark blue, short-sleeved shirt. Superville is probably correct in deducing that it is a polo shirt, even though the placket is obscured by the president's left forearm. She may have a future on the fashion beat.
In an episode of the 1960s sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies," the title characters go skeet shooting at the invitation of a wealthy, sophisticated banker. Hilarity ensues when Jed Clampett insists on shooting with a rifle instead of a shotgun, and then makes the shot anyway. "To do it with a rifle is absolutely remarkable," says the man from the gun club. Clampett's young cousin Jethro then takes a crack at it and hits four targets in rapid succession. "Fantastic feat!" marvels the gun-club guy. (To which Jed replies, looking at Jethro's feet: "Yeah, they is big all right.")
The conceit of "The Beverly Hillbillies" was that the Clampetts were rubes, ignorant even of such obvious matters as the difference between a shotgun and a rifle. Today's journalists are a lot like the Clampetts, albeit without the impeccable aim.
Recycling Is Garbage So what did last week's confirmation hearings tell us about Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel? Let's ask the editorialists at the New York Times. In a Jan.�8 editorial in praise of Hagel's nomination, they wrote:On national security policy, there is much to like about Mr. Hagel, one of a fading breed of sensible moderate Republicans.
In a Feb.�1 editorial, after the hearings, they had a slightly different take:There is much to like about the approach to national security policy taken by this decorated Vietnam veteran and former senator who is among a fading breed of sensible, moderate Republicans.
The Jan.�8 editorial also included this trenchant observation:The opponents are worried that Mr. Hagel will not be sufficiently in lock step with the current Israeli government and cannot be counted on to go to war against Iran over its nuclear program if it comes to that.
And here's what they said after the hearing:Mr. Hagel's opponents fret that he will not be sufficiently in lock step with the current Israeli government and cannot be counted on to go to war over Iran's nuclear program if it comes to that.
Not only do the Times's editorialists turn out boilerplate, but they don't even bother updating it to account for new facts. Anyone who marches "in lock step with the current Israeli government" will find himself in oblivion within the next few weeks. Israel held an election Jan.�22 and is in the process of forming a new government.
Somebody should let the Times know of its mistake by sending a form letter to the editor.
He Filed a Schedule SE. She Demanded a Schedule X. "An Oregon man has filed a lawsuit against an IRS agent with whom he had sex," the Associated Press reports from Eugene:According to the suit, [defendant Dora] Abrahamson contacted [plaintiff William] Burroughs about an audit in August 2011. Abrahamson allegedly told Burroughs "she knew who he was, and that it was lucky for him that this was the case, and that they should meet."The agent subsequently flirted with Burroughs over the telephone and via text messages, offered him massages and sent him a photo of herself in her underwear, the lawsuit states.Burroughs initially ignored the woman's advances, according to the lawsuit, but he surrendered after a "provocatively attired" Abrahamson arrived at his home in September 2011, the lawsuit states."She told (Burroughs) that she could be a bitch, or that she could be nice," the suit states. "She said that she could impose no penalty, or a 40 percent penalty, and that if he would give her what she wanted, she would give him what he needed."Burroughs had sex with Abrahamson that day, the suit states.
We blame Chief Justice John Roberts. The permissive construction of the taxing power is getting out of hand.
War Paint "A week after women were cleared to serve in combat, Defense Intelligence Agency employees got a different message," according to U.S. News & World Report:"Makeup makes you more attractive." "Don't be a plain Jane." "A sweater with a skirt is better than a sweater with slacks." "No flats." "Paint your nails." "Don't be afraid of color." And, "brunettes have more leeway with vibrant colors than blondes or redheads."Men and women at DIA were given fashion advice in a presentation prepared by an employee at the agency [last] week.�.�.�. The presentation offered gender-specific advice on how to improve one's success in the workplace through appearance.
The magazine reports that the presentation "raised eyebrows among some employees." Had they been paying attention, they'd have known to use a stencil.
Super Bowl XLVII: Brought to You by Solyndra "While the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers compete to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy this weekend, eco-friendly fans and city leaders in New Orleans are competing to maximize sustainability practices to the fullest," exults a U.S. Energy Department press release:To make this the greenest Super Bowl, the New Orleans Host Committee has partnered with fans and the community to offset energy use across the major Super Bowl venues. The exterior of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome features more than 26,000 LED lights on 96 full-color graphic display panels, designed to wash the building in a spectrum of animated colors, patterns and images. The system draws only 10 kilowatts of electricity--equivalent to the amount of energy used by a small home--and the lights are expected to last for many years before needing replacement. Off the football field, New Orleans is embracing energy efficiency with help from the Energy Department. The city retrofitted four libraries using an integrative design approach--adding motion sensor lights, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, and upgrades to the building envelopes. These improvements helped cut the libraries' energy costs by 30 percent and serve as a standard for other city-owned buildings. New Orleans streets feature more than 1,200 energy-efficient light fixtures. In addition to saving the city money on energy costs--an estimated $70,000 annually--the new lights help the city reduce routine maintenance due to their longer lifespan.Embracing energy efficiency and renewable energy is having a profound impact on attracting developers and private industry in the New Orleans' re-building efforts. The push to re-invent this destination city contributes to making Sunday's game the greenest in Super Bowl history.
For about 35 minutes, it was also the darkest.
Fox Butterfield, Is That You? "Chicken Wings Flying to No. 1 Super Bowl Snack Despite Rising Prices"--headline, WRDW-TV website (Augusta, Ga.), Feb.�3
We Blame George W. Bush
- "Tripped Breaker Blamed for Super Bowl Power Outage"--headline, WDSU-TV website (New Orleans), Feb.�4
- "Power Company Blames Superdome for Super Bowl Power Outage"--headline, Miami Herald, Feb.�4
- "Officials Blame Super Bowl 2013 Blackout on 'Abnormality' in System"--headline, Times-Picayune (New Orleans), Feb.�4
- "Beyonce Not the Cause of Super Bowl Blackout, NFL Says"--headline, Associated Press, Feb.�4
Too Late for the Super Bowl "With Brown Out, GOP Mulls Romney Energy"--headline, Boston Herald, Feb.�2
Just Ask Ray Lewis "Super Bowl Ads Best Capture Audience When Arresting Party's Entirety"--headline, Denver Post, Feb.�4
One Man's Terrier Is Another Man's Freedom Fido "Goodbye Barney: Thousands Mourn Bush's Terrier"--headline, Associated Press, Feb.�2
He Was for Tweeting Before He Was Against It
- "#SecKerry will start tweeting from @StateDept. Tweets from him will have his initials -JK"--tweet, @StateDept, Feb.�4
- "Just kidding. Used at the end of a sentence to make it completely void, therefore contributing nothing to the conversation and wasting everyone's time."--definition of "jk," UrbanDictionary.com
Is There a Photo?
- "Villaraigosa Takes Obama's Gun Control Reform One Step Further"--headline, KCBS-TV website (Los Angeles), Jan.�16
- "LA Mayor Shoots Down Rumors of Cabinet Position"--headline, Associated Press, Feb.�2
Shortest Books Ever Written "Geraldo Rivera and Common Decency"--headline, Commentary website, Feb.�3
Another Failed Obama Initiative
- "U.S. Proposes to Protect Wolverines"--headline, New York Times, Feb.�2
- "Hoosiers Knock Off No. 1 Wolverines"--headline, Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, Feb.�2
Do Women Know About Shrinkage? "With the economy teetering on a knife edge, it is clear that this is the worst moment to initiate an indiscriminate budget cut. Government spending at this time can spell the difference between growth and shrinkage."--editorial, New York Times, Feb.�4
Life Imitates the Onion
- "NATO Admits Slovenia, Mummenschanz, Czech Republic"--headline, Onion, July�23, 1997
- "Slovenia to Send Up to 4 Soldiers to Mali"--headline, Slovenian Press Agency, Feb.�1, 2013
We Guess They'll Get Their Money Back
- "Hoover Institution director John Raisian and Policy Review editor Tod Lindberg announce that the February-March 2013 edition of Policy Review, Hoover's bimonthly journal, will be its last. The journal's online archive will remain available on the Hoover Institution website."--Hoover.org, Feb.�1
- "Texas Regents Order Policy Review"--headline, ESPN website, Feb.�4
We Recommend the Tikka Masala "Zucker Shakes Up CNN, Still Eyeing Curry"--headline, Accuracy in Media website, Feb.�1
- "Selling My Eggs to Make Rent"--headline, Salon.com, Feb.�3
- "Are Free-Range Eggs All They're Cracked Up to Be?"--headline, New Zealand Herald, Feb.�4
You've Gotta Admit, He's Got Game "NJ Man Shot Deer From Truck While Using Girlfriend as Gunrest: Authorities"--headline, South Jersey Times, Feb.�1
Remember to Spay or Neuter Your Pets "Top European Football [sic] Matches 'Fixed', Europol Finds"--headline, BBC website, Feb.�4
Stone Cold Sober as a Matter of Fact "Elton, the 'Gay' Dog, Spared the Gas Chamber"--headline, ABCNews.com, Jan.�31
Hey, Kids! What Time Is It? "Time for a Reboot With North Korea"--headline, Washington Post, Feb.�2
Questions Nobody Is Asking
- "What's Happened to Gov. Christie's Twitter Chatter?"--headline, Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb.�3
- "If a Real Raven Fought a Real 49er, Who Would Win?"--headline, Gawker.com, Feb.�3
- "What's That Other 90 Percent of Our Brains For?"--headline, Free-Lance Star (Fredericksburg, Va.), Feb.�1
Answers to Questions Nobody Is Asking
- "Katie Couric: Larry King 'Lunged' at Me During Our Bad Date"--headline, New York Post, Feb.�2
- "Why This Lump of Whale Dung Is Worth �43,000: It's an Aphrodisiac and Was Used to Annoint the Queen. A Dog Walker's Discovery on Morecambe Beach Is Truly 'Floating Gold'�"--headline, Daily Mail (London), Jan.�31
Look Out Below! "San Diego Drops Red-Light Cameras"--headline, U-T San Diego, Feb.�1
It's Always in the Last Place You Look
- "What We Will Lose When Tom Harkin Leaves the Senate"--headline, TheNation.com, Feb.�1
- "Muslims Find a 'Shtender' at UK Jewish Study Confab"--headline, Times of Israel, Feb.�3
Too Much Information "Youngest American Woman Billionaire Found With In-N-Out"--headline, Bloomberg, Feb.�4
Everything Seemingly Is Spinning Out of Control "Women in Paris Finally Allowed to Wear Trousers"--headline, Daily Telegraph website (London), Feb.�3
News You Can Use "Don't Fire an Employee And Leave Them [sic] in Charge of the Corporate Twitter Account"--headline, Forbes.com, Feb.�1
Bottom Stories of the Day
- "Scottish Independence: SNP Welfare Plan Not Outlined"--headline, Scotsman, Feb.�1
- "Google Data: Americans Care Less About Sarah Palin Than Ever Before"--headline, U.S. News & World Report website, Feb.�1
Sick as a Dog David Eddie, an advice columnist for Toronto's Globe and Mail, printed the following query the other day:We live in a family-oriented neighbourhood in the heart of our city. Dozens of kids ride bikes, play soccer and so on while adults chat and watch. Last summer, one of my neighbours (with three sons) told me he saw a woman walking her girlfriend on a leash. I told him he must have been fantasizing. Sure enough, a woman with long dreads and multiple piercings (I'd seen her before; she rents a basement apartment on the street) came around the corner walking her girlfriend on a leash. We've seen it many times since then, in the middle of the day. My four-year old daughter asked me why the lady was wearing a leash. I told her that she was pretending to be a dog and that the other lady was playing the owner. My daughter loves inventing her own play scenarios and easily accepted my explanation. This has been going on since last summer, so it's obviously a happy, long-term relationship. But I don't love having to explain S&M role-play to my four-year old and would appreciate if the dog-walking happened after, say 9 p.m. What would you do?
After some horsing around, Eddie gets to the advice:If your daughter somehow discovers the truth--well, that's no biggie, either, in the grand scheme. Just take her hand in yours, look into her eyes, and say: "Honey, it takes all kinds to make up this world." Maybe it'll help her grow up to be ultra-tolerant and hard to surprise.
We think we'd be a tad more judgmental than that, though it's hard to dispute the premise that "it takes all kinds." We worry, though, that the girl is going to grow up with some very warped ideas of what constitutes "a happy, long-term relationship."
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