Alas. The producer who interviewed me for the Colbert Report just called to say that the big two-parter about "possible alien invasion" had to be trimmed-down to make room for fast-breaking stories.
Alack, that means they had to cut the calm and reasoned straight man from the piece. In other words... me. Ah well. I'm still a friend of the show. In fact, you should still tune in! It will be funny and you can try to guess where "Brin woulda been."
The topic - "whether and how the universe might be dangerous" - is one that simultaneously merits thought, argument... and humor.
= TUCSON & THE "MAGAZINE" PROBLEM =
While thoughtful folks point to recent, tragic events in Arizona, appealing for Americans to tone down the horrifically polarized rhetoric of recent years, we all can see the opposite going on. In an era when all scientists are painted (by one side) as conspiring traitors and liars, you can tell that we have entered what Robert Heinlein forecast as "The Crazy Years."
One element to the Tuscon rampage that I haven't seen mentioned, so far, is the role that was played by the gunman's use of an insanely large capacity, 31-round magazine, which allowed him to spray a helpless crowd, killing several elderly bystanders, a federal judge and a nine-year old girl, and critically injure the district's freely elected representative to the United States Congress, before he could finally be brought down, when his automatic pistol ran out of bullets.
Let's be plain here. The insistence of the NRA and other gun groups, on preventing any restraints on magazine size, or on the sale of assault rifles and automatic weapons, is not based on tradition or any legitimate personal need.
Their stance of utter resistance to any constraint, is defended on the basis of "slippery slope" arguments. They maintain that any legal restraint on gun ownership is inherently part of a plot to eventually eliminate all forms of gun ownership.
Now, lest anyone mistake me for a reflex lefty nannystater, let me avow that slippery slope arguments do have enough historical support to logically merit a proper place in any discussion. Firearm registration records in European countries, before World War Two, were later used by both Nazi and Communist tyrannies to strip the populace of registered weapons. This fact - recited ad nauseam - offers a core of justified fear that should be part of any reasoned discussion.
Elsewhere, I've tried to analyze the central fear of gun rights supporters... a crux worry that is deeply American and that (indeed) many liberals share. I tried to logically derive a solution that could satisfy any reasonable person... even one who wants to keep secret the kinds of weapons that would be most useful in a mass insurrection against some future Big Brother tyranny. See my moderate suggestions in: "The Jefferson Rifle: Guns and the Insurrection Myth."
To be clear... right-wingers often repeat their mantra that "liberals want to take away our guns." But they cannot point to any mainstream (non lefty-dingbat) democrat or liberal voices who have made any such moves, in decades. Indeed, most thinking people now know that the flood of guns and ammunition that has filled America is long past unstoppable. It has come in tsunami layerings that are by now almost sedementary, a layer so thck that future geologists will find fossils of glocks and colts in the very rocks! Firefighters are asking for bullet proof gear, before they go into some burning homes, so sure are they that the closets -full of ammo will go off.
Liberals aren't pushing for gun control. Given the hot rhetoric of Culture War and violence pouring from men like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, more and more liberals are buying weapons of their own.
But no. Even so. A line has to be drawn somewhere. If only because the world will not follow a Pax Americana that has gone insane.
A good place to start is with those 31 round magazines. They are only good for one purpose, pouring a lot of bullets into a crowd of people, too fast for anyone to react. You cannot come up with another scenario for such awful things. Even if you are in a B-Movie gun fight with a horde of motorcycle-riding zombies, that will take place over a period when you can change your freaking magazines. Heck, Lady Lara Croft does just fine with seven or nine-round clips.
Time and again, we have seen mass murdering gunmen brought down by brave citizen bystanders... at Columbine and when Reagan and Ford and Robert Kennedy were attacked... and in Tucson. For the most part, the take-down happened as soon as the bastard ran out of bullets!
This is one case where the slippery slope is all the nutters have. There are no other justifications for allowing Big Clips. If you can fantacize ever needing one... fantacize being part of the next unarmed crowd.
--See also my article: Names of Infamy: Deny Killers the Notoriety they Seek