Monday, December 31, 2012

Experts need a new year's resolution

Story on Washington Post website around 3PM US eastern time, New Year's Eve --

The blood clot that has put Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the hospital is probably in her leg and is most likely a consequence of resting after the concussion she suffered from fainting 21 / 2 weeks ago.

By 5PM, doctors had revealed that the clot is in fact in her head.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

High Tea Party

 New York Times article today on the future of the Tea Party, which apparently is going to involve crypto-secessionism and conspiracy theories about UN treaties --

surveys of voters leaving the polls last month showed that support for the Tea Party had dropped precipitously from 2010, when a wave of recession-fueled anger over bailouts, federal spending, and the healthcare overhaul won the Republicans a majority in the House.

Above is what's widely considered as the crystallizing moment of the Tea Party, with the financial news channel CNBC's Rick Santelli leading highly paid Chicago securities traders in a rant against relief on negative equity mortgages -- the kind of thing that a post-property crash economy might need.

The Tea Party as a political movement -- as opposed to it being the latest manifestation of the paranoid strain in American politics -- always had more to do with the preferences of the economic and financial elite than one particular set of policies. With conservatives again circulating a CNBC video clip to rally the cause, this time of Maria Bartiromo supposedly winning an argument with a Democratic senator over the fiscal cliff, bear in mind CNBC's core constituency and thus the credibility of any "populist" credentials emerging from it.

Monday, December 24, 2012

That's why compassionate conservative was a thing

It's probably best to let Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle Association wallow in their end-of-year irrelevance as they've done themselves so much damage just by speaking, but one thing may be worth noting about LaPierre's Sunday morning TV performance: the man is dripping with prejudice against mentally ill people:

We have a mental health system in this country that has completely and totally collapsed. We have no national database of these lunatics. 23 states, my ... however long ago was Virginia Tech? 23 states are still putting only a small number of records into the system. And a lot of states are putting none. So, when they go through the national instant check system, and they go to try to screen out one of those lunatics, the records are not even in the system. I talked to a police officer the other day. He said, "Wayne," he said, "let me tell you this. Every police officer walking the street knows s lunatic that's out there, some mentally disturbed person that ought to be in an institution, is out walking the street because they dealt with the institutional side. They didn't want mentally ill in institutions. So they put them all back on the streets. And then nobody thought what happens when you put all these mentally ill people back on the streets, and what happens when they start taking their medicine." We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that's got these monsters walking the streets.

Now he'll say he's only talking about the actual spree killers of the world but since we only find who the spree killers are after the fact, his preferred world is one where anyone with mental illness should be committed, if necessary against their will, and even in treatment cannot be considered to safe enough to walk the streets.

It's remarkable that the NRA has managed to select its oft-boasted 4 million members without any of them having a friend or relative who would be subject to such restrictions.


National Review's John Miller has a complaint --

Merry Christmas from Stanford
The prestigious university proves that the smartest people do the dumbest things: It has hired an atheist chaplain.

Which is just wrong. The original San Francisco Chronicle story from which this predictable OUTRAGE inaccuracy sprang was quite clear --

Hired in July by the Humanist Community at Stanford, a nonprofit group independent of the university, Figdor is one of 18 "professional leaders" at the Office of Religious Life who typically work with sectarian student groups that pay their salaries. A graduate theological degree is required for the job, and the leader is entitled to office space on campus, a parking spot and a Stanford e-mail address. The leaders guide students in whatever way is needed, whether offering advice or organizing events. 

But in what's been a thin War on Christmas, it was too good a non-story to pass up.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

When is a lobby group not a lobby group?

Answer: when it's the National Rifle Association. The above is clipped from the NRA's 2010 disclosure (Form 990) as a tax-exempt entity, and it reports zero dollars spent on lobbying. It does spend large amounts on its own salaries (Wayne LaPierre shows as receiving $960,000 in compensation in 2010), consulting firms, and various services related to stirring rage among its members about dark plots to take away their guns. They are not, yet, as fussy about the lobbying distinction as they are about the difference between automatic and semi-automatic weapons.

Friday Night Video

With its melding of themes of rebellion and gun culture, Green Day's Last of the American Girls probably wouldn't survive a National Rifle Association popular entertainment cull. Luckily, Green Day and its video characters are clearly sane compared to the NRA.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The lunacy will be televised

Today, 21 December 2012, the National Rifle Association just had a collective mental breakdown on national television. The centerpiece was a proposal for a new armed national militia sponsored by them to patrol every school in the country. Here's the transcript. The usual disclaimer check against delivery doesn't do justice to the insanity of the real thing. To set everyone's mind at ease, Wayne LaPierre said, inter alia,

And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn't planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this very moment?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

George and Dick's excellent adventure

The perfect metaphor for what happened to visions of a US-allied and Texas Tea-spouting Iraq after the 2003 invasion --

Several Middle Eastern traders said they had been approached by small UAE-based companies offering a type of fuel oil dubbed in the market as "Iraqi special blend" that included a combination of different fuel oil blends from the Middle East, or with an origin described as Iraqi. The specification indicates this is a cocktail of products blended in storage tanks and usually offered from the quiet Gulf port of Hamriyah and bunkering hub Fujairah mostly via ship-to-ship transfers (STS), trading sources said. "This Iranian fuel oil, disguised as Iraqi origin, has been flooding the market in Fujairah and depressing both cargo and bunker premiums in September," said a Middle East-based trader.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Someone determined to strike Benghazi

Perhaps the most damning sentence in the unclassified version of the independent US State Department review of the attack on the Benghazi consulate --

The Board found that there was a tendency on the part of policy, security and other U.S. government officials to rely heavily on the probability of warning intelligence and on the absence of specific threat information. The result was possibly to overlook the usefulness of taking a hard look at accumulated, sometimes circumstantial information, and instead to fail to appreciate threats and understand trends, particularly based on increased violence and the targeting of foreign diplomats and international organizations in Benghazi.

The dots were, and are, still not being connected.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Inside job

The photo shows George Bush signing the portentously named but no less pernicious Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Bill of 2005. The law gave the gun industry -- manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and trade associations -- blanket immunity from civil legal actions intended to hold them accountable for having maximized the availability of guns, regardless of consequences. For current political purposes, note Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell smirking as the bill is signed. 2005 was probably the peak of the Bush madness --he's been reelected and Iraq was not yet obviously a disaster -- but we're still stuck with the legislation rammed through in those political bubble years.

Monday, December 17, 2012

We don't "move on"

In the media coverage of the Newtown massacre, there's an understandable focus on the number of children killed. As there should be. There's not enough focus on how this is yet another attack by the decentralized network of spree killers with a disproportionate number of female casualties, but that's for another day. The above picture is of Christine Greene, who was murdered aged 9. A neighbour had taken her to see a public meeting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords when the event was attacked by Jared Loughner. Just a reminder that we've had child victims of the spree killer network -- and its support infrastructure -- before last Friday.

It's not fair when the target needs more than one bullet

Robert VerBruggen at National Review's The Corner is in the running for the most sociopathic conservative reaction to the Newtown massacre. Here's his previous submission. Now today's:

I am doubtful that these reforms would do much to curb gun violence. An “assault weapon” fires at the same rate as an ordinary semiautomatic rifle, and the .223-caliber ammo in Lanza’s rifle is banned for deer hunting in some states on the grounds that it’s too weak. High-capacity magazines sometimes stop shootings by jamming, and shooters are often (though not always) able to change magazines without incident.

This is a masterpiece of faux concern and faux passivity. Larger magazines help stop spree killers because they might jam! Spree killers aren't even using the biggest bullets they could use! Taking together with his previous post, note the worldview that the environment under which citizens can -- to use the recent examples of where the decentralized network of spree killers has struck -- meet their elected representatives, go to school, church, or shop, should be determined in part by whatever minimizes the effort on the part of animal hunters.

UPDATE: More on this very strange person from Slate.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Every column a college essay

Ross Douthat in his New York Times column today --

But if the ideal of the Good Place, the lost Eden or Arcadia, can stir up the residue of religious hopes even in hardened materialists, the reality of what transpired in the real Newtown last week — the murder in cold blood of 20 small children — can make Ivan Karamazovs out of even the devout. In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s famous novel ...

March 2010The narrative of the Iraq invasion, properly told, resembles a story out of Shakespeare ...

July 2012 (Aurora Colo. masssacre): In the process, his crime has probably also solidified the Batman movies' status as a cultural touchstone for our era of anxiety. Every human society has feared the anarchic, the nihilistic, the inexplicably depraved. But from the Columbine murderers to the post-9/11 anthrax killer, from the Virginia Tech shooter to Jared Lee Loughner, our contemporary iconography of evil is increasingly dominated by figures who seem to have stepped out of Nolan's take on the DC Comics universe: world-burners, meticulous madmen, terrorists without a cause.

March 2012: No, this was where the Tebow story was always destined to end up. Denver was his Galilee; New York will be the Roman Colosseum. Or to be pop cultural rather than scriptural: Denver was District 12 in Suzanne Collins’s Panem, and the Meadowlands will be the Hunger Games arena.

[cont'd every column for next 20 years]

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Also covered by the 2nd Amendment

National Rifle Association website, retail area.

It's not fair when the target tries to run

At National Review's The Corner, Robert VerBruggen defends the spree-killer weapon of choice, the semi-automatic:

In hunting, a semiautomatic gun reduces the recovery time between shots, which is especially helpful during drives, when the targets are running.

Franchise competition

There are many possible points of discussion of the Newtown, Conn. massacre. One is the possibility that the sequence of spree killers are competing with each other: the bar for outrage is being raised with each attack. A high school. A mosque. A temple. A congresswoman. A shopping mall. A cinema. And now an elementary school. And each one with a supportive infrastructure of information, money, and access to guns and tactical equipment to support the raising of the bar next time.

Didn't we just have a big debate about whether and how long it took to refer to the Benghazi consulate attack as terrorism? Yet the word "tragedy" is preferred for what is clearly a decentralized and competitive terror network operating within the country.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Great timing

On Friday December 14, 2012, Charles Cooke at National Review's the Corner sees a big problem in an American classroom.

The problem being complaints about Christmas carols being sung in school. Tell that to the parents in Connecticut.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Leviathan is for wimps

Some Wall Street Journal opinion page musings on the proper role of the state from economists Edward Prescott and Lee Ohanian --

High tax rates—on both labor income and consumption—reduce the incentive to work by making consumption more expensive relative to leisure, for example. The incentive to produce goods for the market is particularly depressed when tax revenue is returned to households either as government transfers or transfers-in-kind—such as public schooling, police and fire protection, food stamps, and health care—that substitute for private consumption.

Tell us who we are

Ian Paisley Jnr in the UK House of Commons debate yesterday on the flag riots in Northern Ireland --

In giving meaning to the words in her [Secretary of State for NI] statement, that nobody can be in any doubt about the Government’s support for the Union and its flag, will she go to Northern Ireland at her earliest convenience and reiterate again and again the view that Ulster’s Britishness is not diminished whatsoever?

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A short time ago in a region very very close

John McCain speaking in Bahrain today --

This is the perception in Syria, where everything that people said would happen if we did not intervene has now happened because we have not intervened -- growing radicalization, sectarian conflict, the collapse of the state, and now the spectre of chemical or biological weapons being used.

Note that his list of supposed consequences of the US not intervening in Syria describes exactly, in reverse order, the results of the McCain-supported US intervention in Iraq.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Iran assisting dissident Irish republican extremists

The three stages of Improvised Explosive Device with Explosively Formed Projectile origin stories --

1. So complicated to engineer, only the Iranians could be helping Al Qaeda do it.
2. Technique so generally known that Syrian insurgents could be teaching themselves.
3. So simple, even the Irish can do it.

Or else, if phase 1 is reinstated, we have Hezbollah-on-the-Foyle.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Fill in the blanks

The summary diagram above is from a document issued yesterday by European Council President Herman van Rompuy, Towards a Genuine Economic and Monetary Union -- a title that will come as news to those who thought they'd signed up to EMU in the 1990s. Anyway, among the revealing things about the diagram is that as it moves from top to bottom, from actions in areas of finance, budget, economics, to political accountability, it gets less specified, to the point where the accountability line calls only for "commensurate progress": there are no specific actions at all.

Maybe after they're done getting us to genuine EMU, they'll work on that accountability thingy.