Archive for January 2008

A Father, A Son and a .22 Revolver

All met tonight at a local shooting range. I kept my range membership a secret from the Kid who has been dying to learn how to shoot for years.
He was so excited when he realized what was happening.

He chose the target, an oversized one with a redneck carrying a sawed-off shotgun. At first we sent it out 5 yards, then he moved it out to 10 and I sent it to 15.

He handled the revolver carefully, but with confidence. His first couple of shots I steadied his arms as he felt what the recoil was like. He also pinched himself while squeezing the trigger of the revolver – I would have preferred a semi-automatic but no .22s were clean. I would reload it for him and hand it back then stand behind him while he fired.

He sighted much better than me. I would tell him to target the head – and he would hit the head and neck. I told him to target his heart and pop! pop! pop! I watched holes appear in the target’s chest. At the end of it all I counted 15 misses – most of which were mine as I attempted to shoot the redneck’s hat off and pulled a bit high.

On the way home he admitted he was a little scared, but he didn’t show it. He held the gun with confidence, followed my instructions and amazingly, was a pretty good shot for a first time shooter.

UPDATE: Jan 12, 2008
We shot again today. This time we fired a Remington semi-automatic rifle with scope and banana clip, and a Beretta U22 Neo single action semi-automatic pistol. The rifle would jam each time we reloaded, but the scope enabled us to ping within about 2” of our target at 50 yards. With a better clip I would have loved to take it outside on an open range to see how accurate I could be at 100 yards or more. The Beretta was sweet, very smooth trigger and hardly any recoil. It was too easy to unload the clip into a nice 6” group.

Again the Kid was a natural. While the rifle was a bit heavy for him, he held the pistol firmly and fired well.

Blogger Rule #1: Never Write About Your Personal Life

A friend of mine recently wrote about some personal stuff on his website. Since then he’s been deluged with Dr. Phil-wannabees and haters. He now realizes that it was a stupid mistake. He’s pulled the material off his site but he’s found that Al Gore’s Internet is a Pandora’s Box. What comes out is hard to get back in.

So do yourself a favor: Never write about your personal life. Sure it’s okay to write about an experience or two, but never bare your soul. That’s for your diary, your spouse, or your dog.

I would also add the following rules:

1. Never name your loved ones or your pets. Ever. Use pseudonyms or do what I do and use relationships: the Wife, the Kid, the Marine, the (crazy) Mother-in-Law…
2. Never write about your job – hard to do, but you aren’t the only one who knows how to use a search engine. I made the mistake of publicly naming a previous employer once; I’ve been blacklisted by their subsidiaries ever since.
3. Before you rip someone a new one, sleep on it first. It’s hard I know; I’m doing it right now – but you’ll appreciate it later.
4. Never write about sex. For one thing it’s difficult to write well about; it also invites comments from people more perverted than you.

Mullah Fatboy

Adam Gadahn Loves Doritos

Really needs to stop stuffing his face while he’s on camera.

Rare Sighting Today

I saw a rare thing today:

A sold sign on a house.

The first one I’ve seen in weeks.

UPDATE: 01/25/2008
Over the past 3 weeks I’ve seen 2 more sold signs.
That’s it.
And I’ve caught commercials from realtors talking about how homes are good investments… over the long term.

Comcast Stock Undervalued? LOL…

First Eagle Global Fund thinks so according to Bloomberg.

Comcast has dropped by more than 25 percent in Nasdaq Stock Market trading since mid-October as subscriber growth missed estimates and home sales slumped. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin has enacted rules that may limit Comcast’s growth.

I am a Comcast subscriber for TV and internet – but I won’t be for long. Fios cable hangs in front of my house, and as soon as the fiber is lit, I’m switching. Here’s why.

1. The bill – Comcast rates have gone up by around 10% every year. Add in the cost of the high speed internet, which has become a necessity, and our monthly bill is… embarrassing.

2. The service – Outages are infrequent, but seem to come at a movie’s climax or during the last four minutes of the football game you are watching. The quality of the picture on some channels is absolutely terrible. In our area CBS is particularly bad and almost unwatchable. Comcast has been out twice and never managed to fix it.

3. The attitude – I’m sick of the constant dissing of Direct TV or “the big old expensive phone company.” I’ve seen Direct TV’s picture, and it’s clearer and sharper than Comcast’s. As for the phone company’s fees, compare your Comcast bill to your phone bill. See any difference? Me neither.

The negative ads are so repetitive that after awhile you begin to wonder just what Comcast is afraid of. If Comcast is so much better, why doesn’t its service speak for itself?

Maybe it is because it can’t: Search Google and you’ll see that nothing I’ve written is new. Comcast has had a monopoly on cable, and has tried taking on the phone company. Now Verizon has strung fiber and is peeling away customers like me who are fed up with the big bill, the bad service, and the rude attitude.

Maybe investors have begun to realize that basics matter, like good service, and a quality inexpensive product. If so First Eagle is going to get plucked.

What the Iowa Caucuses Mean…

By the looks of the winners I believe that the Democrats voted for the Republican that the Democratic candidate can easily beat, and the Republicans voted for the Democrat that their candidate can easily beat.

I can’t vote for either of them.

Kenyan Violence (cont)

Kenyan Pundit has left the country and arrived safely in Johannesburg after a hair-raising ride to Jomo Kenyatta airport in Nairobi.

Mentalacrobatics attended the banned ODM rally in Uhuru Park and took pics (more pics here).

I continued walking towards the centre of town and got as far as The Hilton Hotel before I encountered a crowd running towards me and obviously running away from something. There is only one thing that would make Kenyans break the 100 metre sprint record (we are more of the long distance running types), the police. Or specifically the elite paramilitary police, the General Service Unit.

One thing that I have found extremely heartening is the repetition of peace and unity in the posts coming out of Kenya.
Because I love Kenya – Startup Kenya
This lead to shouts from the crowd of, “You are Kenyans, you are our brothers.” – Mentalacrobatics
I have no political affiliations. The only affiliation I have is with Kenya. – Josiah, The Alpha Quadrant

That’s not cherry-picking. No matter how the bloggers voted, no matter which party or pol they support, they are Kenyans.

Kenyan pride. Maybe after all this is over they will truly have something to be proud about.

Kenyan Violence

So far it’s a mixed picture when it comes to the goings on in Kenya right now. According to Riba Capital Nairobi is calm – at least for now.

Banks were open and the financial system is fully operational and fuel supplies have resumed atleast within Nairobi. Things in general were stable today as businesses opened and people reported to work. However considering Raila has called for a mass action meeting tomorrow at the Uhuru park, most businesses are expected to close and the city centre could turn to a ghost town as was the case in the last few days..

News from Eldoret is tough to get. According to various mainstream news reports, thousands of Kenyans have crossed the border into Uganda, and hundreds have fled to Tanzania. The death toll reported by the media so far ranges from 250-500.

BBC has a map of Kenya showing ethnicity. I don’t know how accurate it is.

Thinker’s Room confirms that shelves in Nairobi are being stocked and things seem slowly getting back to normal. He also postulates that President Mwai Kibaki wasn’t interested in running again until just two months ago. His evidence is pretty strong.

Kenyan Pundit on the other hand is leaving Nairobi for Johannesburg.

After lots of back and forth and mental anguish for me I have decided to head back to Johannesburg where I’m currently based. It’s been a tough day. I’m from a multi-ethnic background and I feel like I’m being hit on all sides – family stranded in Kericho, no word from family in Kisumu and Western, in-laws under siege in Nakuru, relatives businesses being looted at the Coast, my mother emptying out her two stalls at Kenyatta market and carrying out things in plastic bags and duffel bags because mobs have threatened to burn down the market tomorrow – that’s her livelihood – it’s bad enough that she’s had no business for most of December. We are all feeling so helpless and are reduced to platitudes like “let’s hope for the best” and all “we can do is pray” and “it will end soon” and “these guys need to do something” but all we are doing is masking our fear that we are on a precipice.

The BBC is reporting
that the opposition rally in Nairobi will be held tomorrow in defiance of the government ban. I doubt the apparent calm will hold.

Kenya Election Violence

Unfortunately our first post of 2008 is a bad one. So far about 260 people have died in violence in Kenya after President Mwai Kibaki claimed victory and took the oath of office in elections EU observers claim “have fallen short of key international and regional standards for democratic elections”. At least 50 have been killed in a church blaze set by government supporters attacking opposition supporters inside. More here.

Here’s a history of Kibaki’s rul
e and primer on the past 5 years. More background here.

Thinker’s Room has two excellent pieces on the origins of the violence here and here. As Thinking Room notes, the violence began as a political powersharing deal between Kibaki and Odinga who united against the ruling party KANU led by Daniel arap Moi – who was constitutionally barred from seeking another term. The coalition won, and Kibaki took power. Unfortunately he broke the gentleman’s agreement known as the Memorandum of Understanding made with Odinga’s party, thereby setting the stage for today’s violence which has become ethnic in character.

Rioters in Kenya 12-31-07 photo by Reuters
Opposition supporters brandish crude weapons during protests in Nairobi December 31, 2007. Reuters.

The roots of the violence are not political, but tribal – and that’s what makes this particular outbreak especially dangerous. Kibaki is Kikuyu and the leader of the opposition Raila Odinga is Luo. As the Beeb article accurately notes, “With patronage and corruption still common, many Kenyans believe that if one of their relatives is in power, they will benefit directly, for example through a relative getting a civil service job.”

Tens of thousands of armed people are now heading to the Burnt Forest region which has a long history of tribal violence. This area appears to be in the southwestern part of the country, bounded by Eldoret to the north, Kisumu to the west and Nakuru to the southeast.

Local reaction here.
More at this blog aggregator here including these blog posts:

We’re halfway there. Halfway to Nairobi. In a few hours we’ll leave Amsterdam and land in a city that I don’t recognize from the news online. People waving pangas, policemen all geared up and ready for battle…I won’t lie, I am scared about where we are headed.

RibaCapital reports that things may be improving, at least in his area.

Today (01/01/2008), is relatively peaceful and atleast from Eastlands in Nairobi where am publishing this article, I have not heard a gunshot or even seen smoke in the skyline, neither have I seen crowds running and shouting as was the case for the last few days.. I hope this continues to be the case…

Gerald Baraza isn’t as conciliatory:

Now this is our message to the fraud regime of Mwai Kibaki: You are not our president! You do not speak for us! We do not recognize you! You can torture us if you want, you can break our bones, you can kill us if you want but we will never recognize you as our president. We will fight your illegitimate regime to the last man!

Yes, it’s the people’s revolution!

Kenya Violence, copyright The Daily Telegraph

Thinker’s Room lives next to the Nairobi slums and posts pictures of the aftermath. He also notes this – which I find particularly troubling:

Nairobi Women’s hospital reports sharply increased incidences of rape, gang rape and sodomy based purely on numbers of people that have accessed their services. Considering the public transport system has ground to a halt I shudder at the thought of the actual numbers on the ground.

Kenyan Pundit continues writing during a news blackout imposed by the government (yeah, that will settle things down. Right…)

Ethnic cleansing going on in Rift Valley. Kikuyus been targeted all over the province. Guys are being hidden by friends – I have first hand reports of this. My friend’s mother’s house was burnt in Molo last night. Where are these people supposed to go? Meanwhile, ODM supporters in ODM strongholds being beaten, raped, and killed arbitrarily by GSU officers. How does the “government” expect to heal these divisions once they have achieved their objective? Why are the two sides willing to pay such a high cost? We are just now recovering from Molo clashes of 1992! I’m frustated about the lack of options.

He also questions the government denial of the scale of the violence:

Alfred Mutua, the government spokesman, continues to be in la-la land talking about incidents of violence “here and there.” Actually, he is beginning to remind me of Baghdad Bob when the Iraq war started.

Across the border Tanzanian bloggers are following events very carefully. Tanzania does not have the trouble with tribalism that Kenya does since the “Baba ya taifa” Julius Nyerere stressed national unity over tribal politics, often at the point of a gun during his rule.

Reginald Miruko
has some stunning pictures of the violence including this one:
Looters in Kenya

And this one:
Child protesting Kenya Elections

Some pictures (NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT) here picked up via Mashada, Africa’s online community.

UPDATE: 5:45pm EST
The Wife and I are switching between Fox News and CNN. Even the ticker tapes at the bottom are ignoring events in Kenya, although I note that both news websites have it in their top 3.

Is it compassion fatigue? Dean’s World poster Arnold Harris no doubt speaks for many when he writes:

Aside from the politically correct, who are paid or coerced into showing such concern, who in hell in the West really cares what happens in a place such as Kenya?

And on another note, who in the West seriously expects Africans to act other than the way they do?

Don’t want to be macheted? Stay out of Africa, and leave those people alone to work out their own destinies. Which they did for all the ages before there even was a chrisian America.

That means stop trying to bring them democracy. Stop trying to feed them. Stop trying to get rid of the AIDS and other viri that infect much or even most of their populations. Stop trying to enlighten them. Just leave them alone to be whatever nature, their own strengths and their own weaknesses, intended them to be.

The people of Kenya are human beings. They do not deserve the fate that awaits them if chaos takes hold in Kenya.

UPDATE: 9:00pm EST

Kenyan Pundit is reporting that things are looking grim in the Burnt Forest

From a KP reader:

“Approximately 40-50K people are holded up at the compounds of ST. PATRICKS CATHOLIC CHURCH and ARNESENS HIGH SCHOOLl, both in Burnt Forest. There is no running water, food and ELECTRICITY has been cut. THIS MEANS THAT PEOPLE CANNOT RECHARGE THIER CELL PHONES and soon we’ll not be able to contact them. Also, due to the chaos/anarchy in these compounds, means that people, especially women are not any safer than if they were out in the chaos. There has been reports of rapes and molestations. I’ve also heard that the Eldoret highway has been closed by thugs an d that there is no transportion, hence people cannot leave this area. My family in that area feels very helpless and we can only ask that we spread the world and try and get some security in the area.”

Meanwhile Samuel Kivuitu, the chairman of the Election Commission that certified the results admitted that he acted under pressure.

“Some PNU (Party of National Unity) and ODM-Kenya leaders put me under pressure by calling me frequently, asking me to announce the results immediately,” (Kivuitu said)

I should make it clear that there is a difference between taking to the streets to fight for democracy – and ethnic clashes which advance no political agenda. The latter is happening in Kenya, and the only “winners” of the genocide that is looming will be hyenas and vultures.