Paul’s Thing

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Convention Watching

DNC_flagI’m watching the Democratic National Convention. Last week I watched the Republican National Convention. I don’t want to give the impression I’m obsessive about politics, but the coming election’s an important one and I want to know what forces are in play.

Last week I watched prime time coverage of the RNC in Cleveland on network TV and the cable channel MSNBC. The commentators talked over most of the minor speeches, interrupted during the major ones, and kept cutting away for commercials. I wish I had thought of C-SPAN, but I hadn’t. Then, on the first night of the DNC in Philadelphia this week, I saw some positive tweets about C-SPAN’s convention coverage and decided to give it a try. What a difference! C-SPAN’s airing the DNC in real time, no commentary, no commercials. That would have been the way to watch last week’s RNC, had I known.

So far I’ve watched two nights of DNC coverage on C-SPAN. Every now and then I’ll click over to MSNBC. The difference is stark. MSNBC and the other cable channels are pushing the idea the Democratic Party is falling apart. Their commentators keep saying so, often talking over convention speakers. Their cameras focus on belligerent Bernie Sanders supporters. C-SPAN, by contrast, doesn’t interject commentary and its cameras are neutral. You see the overall picture, not just isolated troublemakers in the crowd, and dissension takes its proper place. It’s there, but not nearly as disruptive as MSNBC would have us think. As far as I can tell, this DNC is more unified and hopeful than some of the past ones.

Another thing the cable channels do: when they cut away from speakers at the DNC, it’s often to show clips of Trump’s speech at last week’s RNC. Hey, Rachel, Trump got all the oxygen last week and we didn’t hear a peep about Hillary Clinton. This week it’s Hillary’s turn. Let her have some air, will you?

Impressions: I was wowed by Michelle Obama’s speech Monday night, wowed again by Bill Clinton last night. Wowed by the diversity of the people on the convention floor, who collectively look a lot more like America than the sea of middle-aged whiteness on display in Cleveland last week. Wowed by the diverse and inspirational backgrounds of the minor speakers. Wowed by the optimism and positiveness on display in Philadelphia, in sharp contrast to the anger and resentment in Cleveland last week. I hope the difference comes through on network and cable TV coverage, in spite of their efforts to play the “both sides” game.

Okay, Bill Clinton, the elephant (or should I say donkey?) in the room. Apparently Rachel Maddow and other MSNBC commentators had issues with his speech last night. I don’t know what they said during Bill’s speech, because I was watching it on C-SPAN, but I clicked over to MSNBC after the convention went into recess for the night, and that’s all they were talking about. They apparently didn’t believe Bill Clinton, in light of his well-known infidelities, could have been sincere in his admiration of Hillary. But why couldn’t Bill Clinton have been sincere? Why can’t they believe his love and admiration is genuine?

Many husbands play around. Many wives, too. Some couples break up afterward, but some stay together. Forever. Is their love for one another genuine? I have to believe it often is. The Clintons have been married more than 40 years. The Trumps have been married less than 12. Previously, Donald Trump had two other wives, and his first marriage ended at least in part because he was having a very public affair with the woman who became his second wife. Two other prominent speakers at the RNC in Cleveland, Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich, have similar histories. The same cable TV commentators who can’t utter Bill Clinton’s name without also reminding us of Monica Lewinsky never say a word about other politicians’ sexual infidelities. It’s almost as if the Clintons are expected to live up to a different standard than other political figures.

I’m heartened to see on Facebook that many conservative family members and friends are also watching the Democratic Convention, trying to be fair. Many of them were as wowed by Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton as I was. Just as important, at least to me, I hope people are getting the word about C-SPAN and turning away from network and cable TV coverage.

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Air-Minded: PASM Photoblog V

I always tell visitors to come back to the Pima Air & Space Museum at least once a year. There’ll be new stuff, I say. And it’s true.

The Republic F-105D Thunderchief that’s been on display for many years had become an eyesore, its paint brutalized from constant exposure to the desert sun. I was relieved when the restoration crew towed it back to the hangar for new paint, delighted to see it out in public again, looking better than new.

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The RE on our Thunderchief’s tail indicates it’s a Vampire, that is to say a 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron jet, from the days the Vampires flew out of Takhli Royal Thai Air Base during the Vietnam war. I too am a former Vampire: I flew 44th TFS F-15s at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, where the squadron is now based (and still flying F-15s). I’ve always felt an affinity toward our old Thud, and that’s the reason why. Big Sal, lookin’ good.

About a month and a half ago I noticed a Marine EA-6B Prowler parked on the ramp by the restoration hangar. This aircraft is entirely new to the museum, and yesterday they towed it out and put it on display. Between tram tours, I walked over and took a few photos. As you can see, a restoration volunteer was still putting a few finishing touches on it.

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The Grumman EA-6B Prowler is an electronic warfare variant of the A-6 Intruder, with an enlarged cockpit housing a crew of four: one pilot and three electronic countermeasures operators. It was flown by the Navy and the Marines, but today the Navy has transitioned to the EA-18G Growler, and only the Marines still fly the Prowler. In a couple of years the Marines too will replace the last Prowlers with Growlers.

You can click on any of the small photos above to see the full sized originals on Flickr, and you should check out the last photo, the one of the Prowler’s nose, which shows all the combat deployments this particular aircraft flew.

My last tram tour of the day wasn’t particularly full, so I decided to have some fun with our visitors. I got on the mic and asked if they remembered Ellen DeGeneres taking a selfie with a bunch of movie stars at the Oscars a couple of years ago. Everyone hollered yes, so I whipped out the selfie stick I’d prepared beforehand and hidden near the driver’s seat. I told them it’d be on my blog, and I keep my promises:

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Here’s a question for the experts: why is the Prowler’s refueling probe canted to the right, while the probe on the Intruder, on which the Prowler is based, is not? Check it out: the Prowler’s on the left, the Intruder on the right. Does anyone know?

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Happy planespotting, everybody!

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Underpants-Gnoming

And now, from the personal back to the political (even though my friends like the personal posts better).

Re Trump’s shouty speech: loved this tweet in spite of not knowing what “underpants-gnoming” meant:

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Naturally, I looked it up. Google steered me to this video clip, which explains it perfectly:

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In the random but disturbing thoughts department, it hit me this morning there’s been virtually no media coverage of preparations for next week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Not a peep, and I scan the New York Times and watch network and cable news daily. During the two weeks leading up to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, there was plenty of coverage: speculation on whether there’d be mass protests in the streets, how law enforcement would handle it, how the stage inside the venue was going to be set up, who the scheduled speakers were going to be, on and on. What do we know about preparations for the DNC? Pretty much zip.

Does this indicate Hillary Clinton’s nomination and acceptance will not be as exhaustively reported as Donald Trump’s? A cynical person might think so. I am such a person. Can you see MSNBC or CNN cutting away from Hillary’s acceptance speech for a “breaking news” report on Trump being sighted at a New Jersey strip mall? I can.

Trump has had wall-to-wall coverage, not just this week but for almost three weeks running. He’s taken up so much oxygen I can’t help picturing Hillary as a fish out of water, gasping in the thin air. Let’s hope our media overlords grant the other side at least one week of equal treatment.

Another disturbing thought: the effect on voter turnout if the DNC turns into a shit show with mass civil disobedience and a heavy-handed police response. I hope I’m wrong, but Sanders supporters have threatened to disrupt the convention, and they’re not alone: remember all the times Black Lives Matter protesters tried to upstage Hillary Clinton at speeches and fundraisers? Tell you what, she’d better be in top form, Jesus and Solomon rolled into one. Trump can get away with threatening protesters. She can’t.

Well, whatever. A lot of folks are heavily invested in anger and hatred, whipped up by the rhetoric coming out of Cleveland. I know Hillary Clinton will do her best to calm the national waters next week. Let’s hope the spirit of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us has more public appeal than the spirit of fucking over all the sons of bitches we don’t like.

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Reading the Signs

IMG_1027From the political to the personal. That’s how I roll here at Paul’s Thing.

Yes, the beard is gone. Like an infant discovering its tongue, I’d become obsessively aware of the hair on my face, touching it, scratching at it, thinking about it day and night. The symptoms were like a series of signposts, and they read: “A shave / That’s real / No cuts to heal / A soothing / Velvet after-feel / Burma-Shave.”

By the way, this must be the sixth or seventh beard I’ve shaved off. Donna hasn’t noticed once, and her record is unbroken.

So what’s with the bandage? No, it’s not a shaving cut. It’s the result of having another basal cell carcinoma removed, this one near my right eye. I went to a doctor who specializes in Mohs surgery. It took a while, what with the doctor removing a layer, leaving to examine it under a microscope, coming back for another slice, etc, but Donna says once it’s healed I’ll be as pretty as Muhammad Ali. She should know: she had a skin cancer removed from her nose with Mohs surgery last year. There’s no scar at all, and she’s even prettier than Ali in his prime.

When I left the doctor’s office yesterday morning I was wearing a thick gauze pad and plenty of tape. The dressing was supposed to stay in place two days, but part of the tape covered the inner corner of my eye and drove me crazy. Not only that, my glasses slid down to the end of my nose and I had to tilt my head way back to read. One day was all I could stand. It’s not bleeding, so thin bandages . . . which I was supposed to start wearing tomorrow anyway . . . will have to do. The things we do for vanity!

Our daughter Polly’s been living with us for more than a year. I’m not as upset by this as I was six months ago, because at least she has a job now and isn’t underfoot all the time. Over the past few months she’s interviewed with a few Phoenix-based human resources outsourcing companies, but none of the jobs have panned out. We try to be optimistic, but suspect there’s a red X on her record from a previous job in that career field . . . either that or it’s her lack of a college degree in a field where virtually everyone else has one.

How much longer is this going to go on? We don’t know, obviously. Polly’s dating again, and maybe that’s her escape plan. The job she has, working as a cashier at Ace Hardware, doesn’t quite pay enough for her to move into her own place, or at least that’s what Donna maintains. I wonder, though . . . Tucson is full of people working low-paying jobs and somehow managing to make ends meet.

I’m sharing some pretty personal stuff with you here. I hope you realize I’m not complaining . . . I’m mostly thinking out loud, wondering when our daughter will finally become a person in the world.

I’m through with the Republicans and their hatefest of a convention. I snarked on Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech, and so did everyone else. Sadly, everyone else is still going on about the goddamned speech, ignoring the truly frightening excesses on display in Cleveland, and now I’m embarrassed to have been part of the chorus. Republicans are going to do their thing no matter how much we try to shame them. It’ll be the Democrats’ turn next week, and maybe Hillary can calm things down and get a positive bump while she’s at it. Hey, it could happen! Not that it’s likely to. . . .

I was taught to indicate a trailing-off thought by ending a sentence with a period followed by an ellipsis. . . . Yes, that’s how it’s done, with a full space after the period and thin spaces between the dots of the ellipsis. When I do it, though, it looks fussy and pedantic. Why can’t we just trail off without the period? Like this . . .

(. . . trailing off now . . .)

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The Abyss Has No Bottom

trump-entranceI take my title from Nancy Nall’s daily column: “The abyss really has no bottom, does it?” Yes, she’s referring to Trump, specifically the plagiarized speech Melania Trump read on nationwide TV last night, an act of chutzpah almost as breathtaking as Donald Trump’s appearance in a field of blinding light and mist, itself surely plagiarized from a Watchtower pamphlet’s rendering of Christ greeting the chosen at the gates of Heaven.

Although we skipped most of the Republican Convention’s opening night, we made sure to watch Melania’s speech, which we figured would be the high point of the evening (I bet Donna Trump would interrupt Melania on some pretext or another, and I’m still in shock he didn’t).

I’ll be honest: at the time I didn’t realize Melania had copied parts of Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic Convention speech. When it was over, though, I checked in on Twitter, where a lot of people had picked up on the similarities, Googled the original, and had begun to post side-by-side comparisons.

Later that night I turned the TV to MSNBC, where Melania’s plagiarized speech was the number one topic. This morning, listening to NPR as I brushed my teeth, catching a bit of Fox News at the gym, and scanning the New York Times online, it seems to me the mainstream press is still making up its mind whether to call plagiarism by its name or to soft-pedal it. I’m gonna predict they’ll go easy on Melania in the spirit of “balance,” and that they’ll be live-Googling every sentence and phrase spoken by Hillary Clinton and other speakers at next week’s Democratic Convention, looking for examples of plagiarism from the other side. But that remains to be seen.

In the real world, it’s perfectly clear big parts of Melania Trump’s speech were lifted, word for word, from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech. Today the pundits are trying to figure out who did the lifting. Not me. I already figured out who did it.

Remember those phone calls from Trump “spokesmen” who turned out to be Trump himself using fake names? Remember that bizarre testimonial letter from Trump’s “doctor,” who said things like “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency”?

C’mon, Donald wrote that speech. I don’t think he saw anything wrong with plagiarism … not when he did it, anyway … and if he did, I don’t think he had a high enough opinion of people to think any of us would catch on.

I love it when pundits speculate on why Trump does this or that. Is he playing some kind of long game? Is he manipulating people to achieve some kind of genius goal we cannot fathom? Occam’s razor, people, Occam’s razor. The simplest explanation is the correct one. Everything I’ve seen in my life and career bears this out. What you see is what you get with Trump: he’s not playing the vulgarian buffoon, he is a vulgarian buffoon.

And there is no bottom to how low he’ll go. Mark my words.

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Lafayette, Please Accept Our Thoughts & Prayers

Lafayette-We-Are-HereWith regard to yesterday’s terror attack in Nice, I wish there was some strong, effective “Lafayette, we are here” assistance we could offer our long-time friends the French. But how can anyone predict and prevent this kind of lone-wolf terrorism?

It’s safe to say we already share terror network intelligence with France and other Western nations. Any such nation-to-nation intel sharing would be highly classified, and for that reason if it has been successful in preventing planned terror attacks, we won’t hear about it for 40 or 50 years.

Beyond sharing intel, though, what can we do? There’s no military response, not inside France. We (and the French, and several other nations) are already bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and sending special operations forces after other terrorists in the Middle East and Africa. What else can we do?

I hesitate to ask why we in the USA aren’t experiencing large-scale attacks like the ones in France. I feel that would be asking for it. Some of our own mass shootings have turned out to be lone wolf terrorist attacks, different only in scale from what the French are experiencing. Huge crowds gather on the streets of American cities all the time.* We’re as vulnerable as anyone else.

Seriously, though, have any American politicians publicly admitted there’s not much we can do to prevent lone wolf terrorism? Sure, you can catch the stupid wannabes before they get their stuff together, but what about the true lone wolves, the ones who keep their plans to themselves until the moment they strike? The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, said this to his countrymen yesterday: “The times have changed, and France is going to have to live with terrorism.” True enough, but I can’t imagine our leaders admitting such a thing to us.

What does living with terrorism suggest to you? To me, it conjures visions of a police state with martial law and curfews and prohibitions against mass assembly. That’s what clamping down will inevitably lead to. Hmm … would I rather be clamped down on by Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?

*Some day our kids and grandkids will learn about the planned terror attacks the Obama administration successfully prevented. I’m sure there have been many, and I want to believe we’ve helped the French and others prevent a few as well. I hope Americans of a few decades from now will better appreciate President Obama than the ungrateful assholes who snipe at him now.

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Moto Maintenance & Other Updates

Another day in Ed’s shop:

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Work in progress: rear wheel done, front wheel off and ready for new bearings and a fresh tire

I bought a set of motorcycle tires a while back because they were on sale. The rubber on the Honda was still good, but who knew when or if another sale would come around? Last weekend I rode the bike on an errand and noticed it didn’t feel right. I checked the tires and found the front, which looked normal, almost flat. Plugging leaks in motorcycle tires isn’t a smart move, so I called my friend Ed to see if he had time to help me put the new set on. He had all day Wednesday available, so we did some additional work while we were at it.

While the wheels were off we checked the brake pads, pulled the old front wheel bearings and replaced them with a new set, replaced the fluid in the final drive, and changed the engine oil and filter. Even though we were working in Ed’s air-conditioned shop, it was still hot and sweaty work. We started at 9 AM and finished up at 3 PM, and I was beat for the rest of the day. I’m sure Ed was too. What a great friend!

This morning I decided to take the bike to the corner car wash before it got hot. That would have worked out fine, except I managed to pull one end of an elastic strap under the seat, and had to remove the saddle when I got home to fish it out. Removing the saddle’s a bit of a job and by the time it was done, working in my own decidedly un-air-conditioned garage, I was drenched all over again.

But hey, the Honda’s in great shape and clean to boot, and Ed and I are talking about another cross-country ride together … as soon as it cools down, that is.


Chewie, our cat, is 20 years old and on her last legs. There’s not much more than a skeleton underneath the fur, and her back legs are stiff. She can no longer jump, so she uses the ramp I made for the doggies to get on and off the couch. I’ve seen her stagger a couple of times. She’ll eat a bit of baby food, but mostly just drinks water or chicken broth. And then pees on the floor. One of the things she’s started to do in her old age (that she never would have considered doing when she was younger) is snuggling up with Schatzi, who seems happy to let her do it.

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Chewie & Schatzi

Donna called a couple of vets about putting her to sleep. I don’t know that Donna will be able to take that step. I probably would, but I’d always wonder afterward … the old girl doesn’t act like she wants to die, and other than peeing on the floor, is there any reason not to let her live out her days? That’s the trick, though, knowing whether she’s happy or miserable. How can you tell?


It was so hot at the air museum this Monday, admissions cancelled the afternoon tram tour. I worried that the cancellation had something to do with me, because on the late morning tour one of my passengers got sick and bailed out.

As I was driving and narrating, I noticed an older British tourist looking ill. He had been looking at the airplanes, but now he had his head down, looking at his lap. I kept my eye on him in the rear view mirror. As I slowed to say something about one of the airplanes he stood up as if he wanted to get off the tram, so I came to a full stop and let him off, asking if he was okay. He said he was, and started walking back to the snack bar, which was nearby. The snack bar has air conditioning, and I figured he was trying to get out of the heat. The other passengers seemed okay, so I continued the tour.

It was only afterward I began to think the man might have been experiencing heat stroke. I should have called admissions on the walkie-talkie, as we are supposed to do if a visitor has a medical issue. What if admissions had cancelled the afternoon tour because my passenger fainted in the snack bar? Damn it, I should have called in!

I tore myself up all the way home, then called a couple of other museum docents to see what they would have done. Surprisingly, they said they would have done just what I did. I also learned that no one had fainted, which was a relief.

Still, though, I could have done better. If a visitor has a serious medical emergency, I’m confident I’ll know what to do and will be all over it. If it’s iffy, like what happened Monday, well, I always monitor the passengers in the mirror and from now on I’ll be trigger-loaded to stop the tram and offer assistance, even if it does embarrass the visitor. Heat stroke is a pretty awful experience, if you’ve never experienced it. I did once, after a brutal hare & hounds run in Singapore, and I’m not likely to forget it.

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Race War? Not Yet, Real Americans.

A big problem with American gun culture is how much of it is driven by racism and fear of—or eagerness to engage in—race war. I started thinking about this Thursday night, when live reports about shots being fired during a protest march in Dallas began popping up on Twitter. Within minutes of these initial reports, when people were still saying four gunmen on top of a parking garage were taking coordinated shots into the crowd, a former US congressman posted this:

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He quickly deleted the tweet, but several readers took screen shots while it was up. Here’s a guy eager for race war. Based on minimal information, hysterically reported and mostly wrong, he takes a read on the situation and knows who’s responsible. He’s itching to start shooting black thugs. Just as soon as he finds him some brave Real American white knights to lead the charge while he hides behind them.

It’s best to cool your jets when mass shootings happen. Initial reports are almost always wrong. Friday morning I said on Facebook I’d resist reacting to thuggish posts about the shootings in Dallas. I had former Congressman Joe Walsh’s tweet in mind. At the time Walsh posted it the shootings were still going on and the gunman or gunmen (no one knew) could have been anyone, even ISIS-inspired terrorists trying to take advantage of the confusion created whenever there’s a big protest march (adding to the confusion, about 20 open-carry assholes were participating in the protest march, rifles strapped over their shoulders … it’s a miracle they all weren’t shot dead on the spot by the police).

Now we know the death toll is six: five police officers and the gunman. Nine others, seven cops and two civilian bystanders, were wounded by gunfire. We now know there was just one gunman, not four. And he was shooting on the ground, not from on high in the parking garage. The parking garage is where he was eventually cornered, then killed after a lengthy standoff.

Even this information may change. Dallas police arrested three other suspects, and as far as I’ve been able to determine, they haven’t released them yet.

I’ve heard Muslims say, whenever there’s a mass shooting, they pray the shooter’s name doesn’t turn out to be Ibrahim, and I know what they mean. I hoped the Dallas shooter wouldn’t turn out to be a black man gunning for white cops, and then he turned out to be just that. The attacker, according to Dallas Police Chief David Brown, was “upset about the recent police shootings” and “said he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.” Which, in the minds of Joe Walsh and other mouth-breathing racists, means the entire Black Lives Matter movement wants to kill whitey, so grab your guns boys. And you black guys? Don’t you dare grab yours, because everyone knows gun rights are for whites only.

Fraught times. But we’ve been here before. We’ve always been here, from the days of slavery and fears of slave uprisings to the Jim Crow era to the Black Panthers in Oakland in the 60s and 70s.

You know, it’s possible to hate how police kill black men, women, and children for minor crimes or no crimes at all, and still hate cop killers. It’s possible to support the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement, and at the same time support the men and women in law enforcement.

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Who says it has to be one or the other, that if you support the cops you have to STFU about them killing black people left and right? The Joe Walshes of the world, that’s who. And fuck them.


An interesting side issue is growing concern over the method used by Dallas police to kill the gunman in the parking garage. When it became clear he wasn’t going to surrender and that sending police in after him would likely result in more policemen getting shot and possibly killed, they rigged explosives to a remotely-controlled bomb removal device and maneuvered it close enough to the gunman to set it off and kill him.

The media’s been calling the device a robot, and yeah, that’s what these things are commonly called, but they aren’t robots and good reporting should make that clear. Uninformed and credulous people, based on what I see on social media, are already making Skynet comparisons and wondering about the morality of using such a devilish device.

Science fiction robots (which, sadly, some people need to be reminded don’t exist) are autonomous machines with artificial intelligence capable of acting on their own: the murderous robot from that Will Smith movie, Optimus Prime from Transformers. Actual robots, the kind that exist today, are the sorts of machines used to make automobile engines and frames, devices programmed to do repetitive tasks with minimal human supervision.

A bomb disposal robot is not a robot, per se; there’s a live human controlling it, telling it where to go and, in this case, when to detonate the explosives it’s carrying. It’s just a tool, and I don’t see any moral issues with its use. The guy wasn’t going to surrender, he was still armed and presumably had plenty of ammo remaining, and additional policemen might have been killed if they tried to take him by hand. I don’t have any issue with the police killing a perp in a situation like that, and it’s not like they didn’t try to talk him down first.

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