This thread may be subject to daily renewal for a while.
Breaking news from Northern Arizona University [and do let me add: Arizona is a 'stand your ground' state and from what little we know - the shooting took place during a confrontation between two groups of students - self-defense may be on the table. Yike - that alone assures a media firestorm. And what if the shooter was defending a media-sympathetic student from some troglodyte fraternity haters? Oh, brother.]:
Officials: 1 dead, 3 wounded in NAU shooting
One person is dead, three others were injured and a suspect is in custody after a shooting early Friday outside a Northern Arizona University residence hall in Flagstaff, according to a statement posted on the state school's website.
Police were first alerted to shots fired on the northeast end of campus at about 1:20 a.m., the statement said. The shootings reportedly took place outside Mountain View Hall, which houses members of fraternities and sororities.
Three people were being treated for gunshot wounds at Flagstaff Medical Center, according to the NAU statement.
A spokesman said Friday morning that the campus is secure and classes would be held as scheduled. A second spokesman said the incident started with a "confrontation."
A press conference started at 9 AM Eastern.
The FBI standard for a mass shooting is four dead, excluding the perpetrator, so this incident won't enter that database. And until we have more details about the race and motives of the shooter, we won't know if this is ripe for politicization.
FROM THE PRESS CONFERENCE: The WaPo has this:
The suspected gunman — 18-year-old freshman Steven Jones — is in custody, university police chief Greg Fowler said. The injured survivors are being treated at Flagstaff Medical Center.
“We awake this morning to a terrible tragedy on our Flagstaff campus,” university president Rita Cheng said at a news conference.
“This is not going to be a normal day at NAU,” she added. “Our hearts are heavy.”
According to Fowler, the police chief, “two separate student groups got into a confrontation” shortly after 1 a.m. on Friday. “The confrontation turned physical,” Fowler said, and Jones “produced a handgun and shot four other students.”
Delta Chi’s international headquarters confirmed in a statement to The Washington Post that some of its fraternity members were “involved” in the shooting.
“We do not have any information on the victims nor do we know if the deceased individual is a member of the Fraternity,” the statement said. Delta Chi added that the shooting “was not a chapter related incident.”
School officials did not immediately identify the dead student, other than to say he was a freshman. The school has not yet named three wounded students, all of whom are male.
School administrators identified the victims as Nicholas Prato, Kyle Zientek and Nicholas Piring and said the deceased student is Colin Brough.
This witness account from the Arizon Dail Sun does not jibe with the police statement excerpted above:
According to reports from the scene, it followed a party and occurred in a parking lot outside Mountain View Hall dormitory.
"We had just left a party and were standing in the street getting ready to walk home when a guy walked up with a pistol and just started shooting," said an eyewitness, who asked that his name not be used.
"I heard five or six shots and then my friends just tackled him. They got him really quick. We were leaving and it all happened on the sidewalk across from Mountain View."
The shooter was tackled to the ground.
"He didn't get a chance to hurt himself. I saw him in handcuffs when the cops came."
That doesn't square with:
According to Fowler, the police chief, “two separate student groups got into a confrontation” shortly after 1 a.m. on Friday. “The confrontation turned physical,” Fowler said, and Jones “produced a handgun and shot four other students.”
Per the witness, it was one group versus one shooter, and the confrontation began with shots, not any sort of argument. I assume they spoke to more people and are more familiar with witness unreliability so I am more inclined to trust the police version on this one.
Frat bros as victims? The media will choke on this one.
I can't find a transcript of the video described here:
Dad: Daughter met suspected NAU shooter just hours ago
An NAU official has confirmed that the suspected shooter is in police custody. While the investigation is ongoing, one father says his daughter, a student at the school, met the suspected shooter only hours before the incident.
The father is Mark White, who we hear in a news report embedded at Coed.com, just after the text which reads:
It seems as though this wasn’t a premeditated attack, but rather a situation that escalated and got out of hand. Watch this video interview from a father who claims his daughter was studying with Steven in the library before the shooting...
The relevant portion begins at the 1:00 mark. The gist - the shooter met the young lady and a friend in the library around 12-12:30. They got texts about parties and went their separate ways. later, two groups met up, a fight broke out, and shots were fired.
But the upshot seems to be that we've been fed a steady diet of dietary advice that should have been taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.
The article begins:
U.S. dietary guidelines have long recommended that people steer clear of whole milk, and for decades, Americans have obeyed. Whole milk sales shrunk. It was banned from school lunch programs. Purchases of low-fat dairy climbed.
“Replace whole milk and full-fat milk products with fat-free or low-fat choices,” says the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government's influential advice book, citing the role of dairy fat in heart disease.
Whether this massive shift in eating habits has made anyone healthier is an open question among scientists, however. In fact, research published in recent years indicates that the opposite might be true: millions might have been better off had they stuck with whole milk.
Read Chew through the whole thing.
And if you think I'm done milking the puns for all they're worth, well, let's just say there's still meat on that bone.
Ok. I'm done.
Team Obama, apparently abashed by their humiliation by Putin last week, leaks word to the Times that they are still a 'playa' in Syria:
U.S. Aims to Put More Pressure on ISIS in Syria
WASHINGTON — The American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State has begun preparing to open a major front in northeastern Syria, aiming to put pressure on Raqqa, the terrorist group’s de facto capital, according to military and administration officials.
President Obama last week approved two important steps to set the offensive in motion over the coming weeks, officials said. Mr. Obama ordered the Pentagon, for the first time, to directly provide ammunition and perhaps some weapons to Syrian opposition forces on the ground. He also endorsed the idea for an increased air campaign from an air base in Turkey, although important details still need to be worked out.
Just last week! And only a few important details need to be worked out.
Together, these measures are intended to empower 3,000 to 5,000 Arab fighters who would join more than 20,000 Kurdish combatants in an offensive backed by dozens of coalition warplanes to pressure Raqqa, the Islamic State’s main stronghold in Syria. Plans are also moving forward to have Syrian opposition fighters seal an important 60-mile part of the country’s border with Turkey to cut off critical supply lines of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Senior administration officials say the new offensive holds promise and may change the dynamics on the ground. But it comes a year after an American-led coalition started a campaign against the Islamic State that is now “tactically stalemated,” Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said last month.
The Administration doesn't want to admit that they are leaking this in response to last week's embarrassments and the Times doesn't want to admit they are presenting Obama Administration press releases, so we get some window-dressing:
These outlines of the mission have been drawn from public statements of senior commanders briefing Congress as well as interviews with more than a half-dozen military, diplomatic and administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning. Even in describing the goals of the campaign, officials said they would not disclose the kinds of details that might help the Islamic State anticipate exactly how the offensive would unfold.
They don't want to help ISIS, just Obama.
The details are interesting, albeit puzzling:
The origins of the northern front lie in the fight for Kobani, the Syrian Kurdish border city that faced an Islamic State onslaught last year. Kobani showed the potential for using a combined air and ground operation to defeat the Islamic State. The United States and its allies provided the combat aircraft, and Syrian Kurdish fighters, in contact with American Special Operations Forces in northern Iraq, provided the ground force.
The operation now being prepared would expand the Kurdish effort by adding Arab groups. In addition to increasing the number of anti-Islamic State fighters, the inclusion of Arab fighters eases Turkish concerns that the Syrian Kurds are becoming too influential in northern Syria.
The Arab wing of this ground force is called the Syrian Arab Coalition, a conglomeration of 10 to 15 groups whose total numbers range from 3,000 to 5,000 fighters, American officials said. They would fight alongside a larger Kurdish force in the northeast of as many as 25,000 fighters.
American military officials have screened the leaders of the Arab groups to ensure that they meet standards set by Congress when it approved $500 million last year for the Defense Department to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels. Most of the focus of that financing has been on an ill-fated Pentagon training program at sites in Turkey and Jordan that so far has fielded few fighters.
The administration’s plan is to support the Kurdish and Arab fighters and have them advance toward Raqqa, but not try to seize the heavily defended city itself. Rather, the aim is to isolate Raqqa and cut it off from travel and supply lines northeast and northwest of the city.
If we can get the Turks to stop bombing the Kurds, that's progress. As to how 3,000 to 5,000 acceptable Syrian Arabs suddenly arose from the desert when we have been hearing about our inability to find suitable moderate rebels willing to re-direct their rebellion against Assad and fight ISIS, well, don't ask, don't tell.
QUESTIONS I CAN'T ANSWER: At his recent press conference Obama reiterated that Assad was the problem. Yet we will only arm rebels that drop their fight against Assad to take on ISIS. Yet more evidence that I am not a genius like Obama.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first and foremost, let’s understand what’s happening in Syria and how we got here. What started off as peaceful protests against Assad, the president, evolved into a civil war because Assad met those protests with unimaginable brutality. And so this is not a conflict between the United States and any party in Syria; this is a conflict between the Syrian people and a brutal, ruthless dictator.
So in my discussions with President Putin, I was very clear that the only way to solve the problem in Syria is to have a political transition that is inclusive -- that keeps the state intact, that keeps the military intact, that maintains cohesion, but that is inclusive -- and the only way to accomplish that is for Mr. Assad to transition, because you cannot rehabilitate him in the eyes of Syrians.
John Tierney revisits the non-utility of recycling. Read it all, but I will bait you with these two snippets. OK, three:
But how much difference does it make? Here’s some perspective: To offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger’s round-trip flight between New York and London, you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles, assuming you fly coach. If you sit in business- or first-class, where each passenger takes up more space, it could be more like 100,000.
Even those statistics might be misleading. New York and other cities instruct people to rinse the bottles before putting them in the recycling bin, but the E.P.A.’s life-cycle calculation doesn’t take that water into account. That single omission can make a big difference, according to Chris Goodall, the author of “How to Live a Low-Carbon Life.” Mr. Goodall calculates that if you wash plastic in water that was heated by coal-derived electricity, then the net effect of your recycling could be more carbon in the atmosphere.
Pushing against the tide:
As a business, recycling is on the wrong side of two long-term global economic trends. For centuries, the real cost of labor has been increasing while the real cost of raw materials has been declining. That’s why we can afford to buy so much more stuff than our ancestors could. As a labor-intensive activity, recycling is an increasingly expensive way to produce materials that are less and less valuable.
Losing their religion:
Then why do so many public officials keep vowing to do more of it? Special-interest politics is one reason — pressure from green groups — but it’s also because recycling intuitively appeals to many voters: It makes people feel virtuous, especially affluent people who feel guilty about their enormous environmental footprint. It is less an ethical activity than a religious ritual, like the ones performed by Catholics to obtain indulgences for their sins.
Religious rituals don’t need any practical justification for the believers who perform them voluntarily. But many recyclers want more than just the freedom to practice their religion. They want to make these rituals mandatory for everyone else, too, with stiff fines for sinners who don’t sort properly. Seattle has become so aggressive that the city is being sued by residents who maintain that the inspectors rooting through their trash are violating their constitutional right to privacy.
RECYCLING IS STILL GARBAGE: I was curious to see the reaction to my piece in today’s New York Times on the follies of recycling. It’s a sequel to a 1996 article that set a record for hate mail at the New York Times Magazine, and I wondered if green-minded readers would be any more receptive this time...
My own little recycling story from my time in the Greatest City in the World in the late 80's is this: Our building would dutifully put out its trash on our assigned night, with most of the residents earnestly segregating the bottles into separate plastic bags. Distrustful of our diligence, the homeless would then slash open all the bags and toss the garbage around looking for additional recyclable bottles worth a $.05 deposit.
In the morning the trash trucks would come by and scoop up everything; sometimes, due to budget issues, the trucks were not equipped with a separate recycling section so all the garbage would be tossed into the same place. And as a bonus, from time to time our building would be warned that if our sorting was not even more diligent we would be fined. Some of the less motivated residents would then note that the police could probably go a mile or so north and cite the buildings up there for failing to recycle the glass containers littering over the sidewalk. For even more excitement they could then cite them for selling crack cocaine. Or why take a chance? That might get scary, whereas writing up a bunch of garbage-sorting NYC professionals is only hazardous if you ask them for tax planning advice.
Well, we have all passed a lot of water since then...
Why It Was Easier to Be Skinny in the 1980s
A new study finds that people today who eat and exercise the same amount as people 20 years ago are still fatter.
A study published recently in the journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practice found that it’s harder for adults today to maintain the same weight as those 20 to 30 years ago did, even at the same levels of food intake and exercise.
The authors examined the dietary data of 36,400 Americans between 1971 and 2008 and the physical activity data of 14,419 people between 1988 and 2006. They grouped the data sets together by the amount of food and activity, age, and BMI.
They found a very surprising correlation: A given person, in 2006, eating the same amount of calories, taking in the same quantities of macronutrients like protein and fat, and exercising the same amount as a person of the same age did in 1988 would have a BMI that was about 2.3 points higher. In other words, people today are about 10 percent heavier than people were in the 1980s, even if they follow the exact same diet and exercise plans.
Ok, that's surprising. As a casual follower of this type of research I am aware that a lot of these physical activity and daily diet datasets are based on not wholly reliable surveys. But the authors of this study are surely aware of that, so let's press on to the speculation:
“Our study results suggest that if you are 25, you’d have to eat even less and exercise more than those older, to prevent gaining weight,” Jennifer Kuk, a professor of kinesiology and health science at Toronto’s York University, said in a statement. “However, it also indicates there may be other specific changes contributing to the rise in obesity beyond just diet and exercise.”
Just what those other changes might be, though, are still a matter of hypothesis. In an interview, Kuk proffered three different factors that might be making harder for adults today to stay thin.
First, people are exposed to more chemicals that might be weight-gain inducing. Pesticides, flame retardants, and the substances in food packaging might all be altering our hormonal processes and tweaking the way our bodies put on and maintain weight.
Second, the use of prescription drugs has risen dramatically since the ‘70s and ‘80s. Prozac, the first blockbuster SSRI, came out in 1988. Antidepressants are now one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S., and many of them have been linked to weight gain.
Finally, Kuk and the other study authors think that the microbiomes of Americans might have somehow changed between the 1980s and now. It’s well known that some types of gut bacteria make a person more prone to weight gain and obesity. Americans are eating more meat than they were a few decades ago, and many animal products are treated with hormones and antibiotics in order to promote growth. All that meat might be changing gut bacteria in ways that are subtle, at first, but add up over time. Kuk believes the proliferation of artificial sweeteners could also be playing a role.
Well fine, but let's take a suggestion from Captain Obvious - cigarette smoking is way down, which is surely a good thing, but it is also likely to have contributed to weight gain.
Per Wikipedia, linking CDC statistics:
Smoking rates in the United States have dropped by half from 1965 to 2006 falling from 42% to 20.8% of adults. As of 2013, the number of American smokers is 17.8% according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So we have half as many smokers as formerly. And from ABC News, July 11 2012:
Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking: Average Over 10 Pounds
As more people quit smoking cigarettes to protect their health, many face a new battle: weight gain. A new study in the journal BMJ shows that quitters gain more weight than anyone previously thought.
The research found that those who quit smoking gained an average of 10 to 11 pounds after 12 months, with most of the weight gain in the first three months.
Still, that shouldn't stop people from kicking the habit for good, the researchers said.
Scientists from France and the U.K. conducted a meta-analysis that examined 62 European-based studies of weight gain among people who had successfully stopped smoking. They said the average weight gain was higher than doctors generally thought, though there were substantial differences among study participants.
According to a report released yesterday by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the rate of antidepressant use in this country among teens and adults (people ages 12 and older) increased by almost 400% between 1988–1994 and 2005–2008.
The federal government’s health statisticians figure that about one in every 10 Americans takes an antidepressant. And by their reckoning, antidepressants were the third most common prescription medication taken by Americans in 2005–2008, the latest period during which the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) collected data on prescription drug use.
So from 2.5% to 10%. of the population from a late 80s starting point. And the weight gain, per the article linked by The Atlantic? Uhh, ambiguous on net, although dramatic for some:
Antidepressants are the most-prescribed drugs in the U.S. for people between the ages of 18 and 44, and more than 10 percent of Americans are on them at any given time. And yet, some people who desperately need to be taking them are afraid to start because certain types of antidepressants have been associated with weight gain.
And some don't.
Two recent studies add more (contradictory, sorry) threads to the depression-weight tangle.
First, a JAMA Psychiatry analysis of more than 19,000 patient medical records found that people taking antidepressants did, in fact, put on a few pounds, but only a small amount. At most, it was only about two and a half pounds, in the case of the SSRI citalopram (which is marketed as Celexa). And people taking bupropion (Wellbutrin), which is not an SSRI, actually lost a half a pound.
Well that doesn't panic me.
However, another study published in the journal PLOS One found that antidepressants come with a strong association with obesity. Among women with a history of depression, those who took antidepressants were 14 percent more likely to be overweight and 71 percent more likely to be obese than women who weren’t on antidepressants.
So anti-depressant use is associated with obesity? Are we going to attempt to relate cause and effect here? No:
One reason this riddle is so hard to solve is that the depression makes some people lose weight, and others gain it. Thus, taking an antidepressant that just doesn’t happen to work very well might lead to weight gain—not because of the drug, but because the depression hasn’t gone away. Importantly, the PLOS Study didn’t measure whether the patients were obese to begin with, and the JAMA study didn’t prove that the antidepressants were responsible for the weight gain.
Well. When in doubt, do some fuzzy math. Per the lead, the population is ten percent heavier today for the same exercise and diet. Let's call that fifteen pounds on a one hundred fifty pounder from 1980.
On the cigarette side, if 20% of the population gained ten pounds, that would average two pounds per person across the full population. That leaves most of the fifteen pound weight gain unexplained.
But on the antidepressant side, if 10% of the population gains, hypothetically, 20 pounds, the average gain per person is still only equal to the cigarette result and the antidepressant studies cited ought to have come up with more decisive results.
So for my money, the cigarette weight gain, whatever it actually may be, probably is more important than the antidepressant effect, even though neither seems to explain much of the fifteen pound apparent puzzle.
One more thought - ritalin and the other ADHD medicines handed out like popcorn to adolescent boys often jam up a growing boys appetite and weight regulation. I have certainly seen young men with a post-ritalin weight management problem. And apparently my anecdotal experience has real science behind it:
Childhood ADHD Linked to Obesity in Adulthood
The NY Times reports on gun violence, so you know we will be seeing some ludicrous statistics. Here we go, with the easy one first, my emphasis:
Those who study these types of mass murderers have found that they are almost always male (all but two of the 160 cases isolated by Dr. Duwe). Most are single, separated or divorced. The majority are white. With the exception of student shooters at high schools or lower schools, they are usually older than the typical murderer, often in their 30s or 40s.
Please, the majority of the country is white, and was more white in the 70's and 80's, so learning that the majority of shooters were white hardly tells us whether any particular ethnic group is under- or over-represented. Oddly, this notion that whites dominate the ranks of mass shooters was also trumpeted by - I kid you not - a French professor who was given guest space in the Times to vent her frustrations.
The Times then elides key information about whether there has been a trend in mass public shootings.
The mass public killings that have drawn such intense public attention are a phenomenon that largely did not occur until two generations ago.
Using data compiled by Dr. Duwe, the Congressional Research Service released a report this year that charted an increase in these shootings since then, from an average of one per year during the 1970s to four in the 2000s and a slight uptick in the last few years. The figures, however, are subject to intense debate, mainly over how to properly define the shootings.
Is that what the CRS said? An important tidbit was left out:
With data provided by criminologist Grant Duwe, CRS also compiled a 44-year (1970-2013)dataset of firearms-related mass murders that could arguably be characterized as “mass public shootings.” These data show that there were on average:
one (1.1) incident per year during the 1970s (5.5 victims murdered, 2.0 wounded per incident),
nearly three (2.7) incidents per year during the 1980s (6.1 victims murdered, 5.3 wounded per incident),
four (4.0) incidents per year during the 1990s (5.6 victims murdered, 5.5 wounded per incident),
four (4.1) incidents per year during the 2000s (6.4 victims murdered, 4.0 wounded per incident),
and four (4.5) incidents per year from 2010 through 2013 (7.4 victims murdered, 6.3 wounded per incident).
These decade-long averages suggest that the prevalence, if not the deadliness, of “mass public shootings” increased in the 1970s and 1980s, and continued to increase, but not as steeply, during the 1990s, 2000s, and first four years of the 2010s.
So most of the increase from the 70's occurred in the 80's, leading the much-quoted James Alan Fox of Northeastern to conclude that this is "a tragedy, not a trend".
But do let me add my own concerns - first, the overall crime rate has come down since the 90's, but these public mass shooting has not. I can think of reasons, such as, vigorous policing and the the burn out of the crack wars discouraged criminals but not crazies. Still, one wonders.
A second concern with the data is that we have generally seen improvements in medical technology and emergency response times. An incident that in the 80's might have ended with four dead and two wounded might end today with three dead and three wounded. That is a win for the good guys, but creates haze around the statistics, since the current FBI reporting threshold requires four dead victims. The New Republic tackles the statistical quagmire of mass killings, mass shootings, spree killings, serial killings, and mass public shootings. Have a nice Sunday!
BIT DO LET ME NOTE SOME PROGRESS: I believe Nick Kristof still has good credentials on the left side of the street. So when he actually admits that some of the progressive vision about gun control is flawed, it may represent a bit of a breakthrough:
We’ve mourned too often, seen too many schools and colleges devastated by shootings, watched too many students get an education in grief. It’s time for a new approach to gun violence.
We’re angry, but we also need to be smart. And frankly, liberal efforts, such as the assault weapons ban, were poorly designed and saved few lives, while brazen talk about banning guns just sparked a backlash that empowered the National Rifle Association.
My, my. I have to admit, as soon as someone starts talking up an assault weapons ban I take that as evidence that they no nothing about that issue (and I speak with the conviction of a convert on that).
But Mr. Kristof is in a different category. Back in 2004 he mourned the death of the assault weapons ban but aired the alternative argument and did focus on magazine capacity:
Critics of the assault weapon ban have one valid point: the ban has more holes than Swiss cheese.
''The big frustration of my customers is that [the ban] removed things that were kind of fun and made it look cool, but didn't affect how the gun operated,'' said Sean Wontor, a salesman who heaved two rifles onto the counter of Sportsman's Warehouse here in Meridian to make his point.
One was an assault weapon that was produced before the ban (and thus still legal), and the other was a sanitized version produced afterward to comply with the ban by removing the bayonet mount and the flash suppressor.
After these cosmetic changes, the rifle is now no longer considered an assault weapon, yet, of course, it is just as lethal.
Americans are infatuated with guns. And when you’re infatuated, you sometimes can’t think straight. Maybe that’s why, three weeks after the Tucson shootings that shook the nation, we’re still no closer to banning oversize magazines like the 33-bullet model allegedly used there.
Today, he has moved on to science and high tech:
What we need is an evidence-based public health approach — the same model we use to reduce deaths from other potentially dangerous things around us, from swimming pools to cigarettes. We’re not going to eliminate guns in America, so we need to figure out how to coexist with them.
He makes a point I accept, with a caveat:
More than 60 percent of gun deaths are suicides, and most of the rest are homicides. Gun enthusiasts scoff at including suicides, saying that without guns people would kill themselves by other means. In many cases, though, that’s not true.
OK, but let's not conflate suicides and magazine capacity or assault weapons. We have not seen a rash of suicides where the victim shoots himself twenty times and bleeds out.
Public health experts cite many ways we could live more safely with guns, and many of them have broad popular support.
A poll this year found that majorities even of gun-owners favor universal background checks; tighter regulation of gun dealers; safe storage requirements in homes; and a 10-year prohibition on possessing guns for anyone convicted of domestic violence, assault or similar offenses.
We should also be investing in “smart gun” technology, such as weapons that fire only with a PIN or fingerprint. We should adopt microstamping that allows a bullet casing to be traced back to a particular gun. We can require liability insurance for guns, as we do for cars.
It’s not clear that these steps would have prevented the Oregon shooting. But Professor Webster argues that smarter gun policies could reduce murder rates by up to 50 percent — and that’s thousands of lives a year. Right now, the passivity of politicians is simply enabling shooters.
I would score that as definitely maybe. And the liability insurance is just a transparent ploy to make guns unaffordable, thereby assuring that only criminals will have them. Yes, we require cars to be registered and insured and the driver to have a license, but those laws are often ignored even thought a car is quite visible on a public street. Just how would an insurance requirement be enforced on the mean streets of New York, where the police are essentially not allowed to stop and chat with young black men? And who wants to see inner-city thugs actually arrested and jailed? Not progressives!
Still, we have a prominent progressive casting about for new ideas rather than recycling nonsense. That is progress.
This is a debacle:
Doctors Without Borders says U.S. airstrike hit hospital in Afghanistan; at least 19 dead
KABUL – U.S. forces may have mistakenly bombed a hospital in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least 19 people, including three children, in an incident that will likely raise new questions about the scope of American involvement in the country’s 14-year war.
In a statement, Doctors Without Borders said an airstrike “partially destroyed” its trauma hospital in Kunduz, where the Afghan military has been trying to drive Taliban fighters from the city.
The airstrike killed at least 12 Doctors Without Borders staff members, the group said. Three children were also reportedly killed. At least 37 other people were seriously injured, including 19 staff members and 18 patients and caretakers. Officials warned the death toll could rise as dozens of people remain unaccounted for.
Military officials in Afghanistan confirmed that there was an airstrike, saying it was targeted at insurgents firing on U.S. servicemembers assisting Afghan Security Forces.
“I am aware of an incident that occurred at a Doctors without Borders hospital in Kunduz city today,” said Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “I have spoken with [Afghanistan] President Ghani regarding today’s events. While we work to thoroughly examine the incident and determine what happened, my thoughts and prayers are with those affected.”
A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity to speak freely, said U.S. special forces soldiers were on the ground advising Afghan special forces. The official said that the U.S. troops detected incoming fire from the Taliban, so an AC-130 gunship was authorized to return fire, at an area that was apparently close to the hospital.
Officials with the relief group repeatedly informed the U.S.-led coalition of the hospital’s precise GPS coordinates over the past few months, hospital officials said. The location of the hospital was last conveyed to the international coalition three days ago, officials added.
Once the airstrike began Saturday, hospital officials immediately reached out to U.S. military officials in Kabul and Washington, according to Jason Cone, executive director of Doctors Without Borders in the United States.
“The bombing continued for more than 30 minutes after American and Afghan military officials in Kabul and Washington were first informed,” the organization said in a statement.
Even trying to view this charitably, it appears that the Taliban was smart/ruthless enough to take up positions near a hospital and we were dumb enough to take the bait.
Obama was going to throw it in on Afghanistan anyway - his legacy, don't you know - so this hastens the inevitable.
From the Times:
Firefighters’ Union Backs Away From Endorsement of Hillary Clinton
The International Association of Fire Fighters, one of the country’s more politically powerful unions, has abandoned its initial plans to endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton for president, according to union sources.
Harold A. Schaitberger, the union’s general president, informed Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, in a telephone call on Monday. According to a union official, Mr. Schaitberger told Mr. Mook that the executive board and rank-and-file members — the latter were recently polled — did not support a Clinton endorsement.
Left unmentioned, since the Times will be endorsing Hillary unless Biden goes transgender, is any mention of Hillary's post-9/11 efforts to position herself as a champion of first responders, which obviously includes firemen.
And how is that working out?
Mr. Schaitberger worried that a Clinton endorsement could deeply divide the firefighters, according to a union official who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the endorsement decision. Members tilt Republican, but the union typically endorses Democrats for president because of their stances on labor and other issues of importance to firefighters. Union officials have cited Mr. Biden’s decades-long record of leadership on these issues.
MONEY WELL SPENT, or, I FEEL A SONG COMING ON: Drudge flags a story noting that Hillary spent $9,000 for a consultant to select some rock songs for the campaign trail. As someone nearly said, authenticity is the key to politics - once you can fake that, you've got it made.
So what song? "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" is out, and she has no easy choice such as "You Can Call Me Al". Hmm, that makes me think of "Call Me" - good energy, but maybe not for her. And "Call Me Maybe" cuts too close to home if donors are drifting away.
In any case, it will be money well spent if she can avoid the awkwardness around her Senate kickoff in 2000:
Billy Joel’s suburban-angst anthem “Captain Jack,” which colorfully describes a young man’s drug use, desperation and, well, masturbation, would make an odd campaign theme song for anyone, let alone the nation’s first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But the 1973 song, which includes the unforgettable lines “Your sister’s gone out/ She’s on a date/ You just sit at home and masturbate,” was played Sunday — apparently by mistake — in the Westchester, N.Y., college gym where Clinton announced her candidacy for the United States Senate.
“The message that got out by mistake was, ’Let’s say yes to drugs,’ ” Clinton’s unannounced opponent in the race, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, said the next day in his daily press conference.
I leave it to the wisdom of the many JOM commenters to save Hillary some money and come up with a playlist for her. I'm hearing Bob singing "I Threw It All Away" but I know we - and she! - can do better.
Ok, since I seem to be Stuck On Bob, what about Idiot Wind?
Someone's got it in for me
They're planting stories in the press
Whoever it is I wish they'd cut it out quick
But when they will I can only guess
AN OLDIE BUT MAYBE NOT-SO-GOODY: There is roughly no chance Joe Biden goes with that other golden oldie "Hey Joe".
NOW I AM IN PAIN: From Porchlight:
"I have a sinking feeling that "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" might make the Hillary list.
I asked for that.
Did Obama just have a press conference or was I watching a "Best of Saturday Night Live" sketch?
I should await a transcript [link], but a few stray highlights:
On Syria, Obama mentioned Assad's despicable use of barrel bombs on his civilian population several times. But is a no-fly zone a good idea? NOT SO FAST, haters - it's complicated, and has been for years. And Obama won't do half-measures. Far better to do no measures. And Hillary's call for a no-fly zone is just political grandstanding, unlike the calls from the Republican haters, who are just "half-baked" and full of "mumbo jumbo". An awkward moment, and how come no one keeps Obama current on Hillary's shifting winds? [More from the WaPo.]
In a moment even more detached from reality Obama addressed the question of why there seems to be a growing perception that Putin is winning and Obama is losing.
His gist - the US economy is growing, we are the world's economic bright spot, and the Russian economy is shrinking. Putin is shoving his troops into the Syrian quagmire, which will be a long term mistake, and anyway, his only allies in the region are Libya and Syria (but not Iran?!? With whom he is coordinating air strikes, while monitoring their compliance with the nuclear deal? [my bad, Obama linked them elsewhere]), and how is that working for him, so c'mon, haters, this is what winning looks like!
Obama also addressed gun control. Sorry, "liberals" don't talk about "gun control" anymore; "progressives" talk about "gun safety".
In any case, his gist is that all Republicans oppose gun control, so let's not talk about the Democrats who also oppose it; let's talk about the kooky Republicans reasons for opposing common sense gun safety laws. Those reason range from unconvincing to silly, but let me spend the most time on the absurd idea that I want to confiscate everyone's guns and permanently empower myself. C'mon, haters, serious up!
Well, he omitted "half-baked" "mumbo jumbo", so there is that. Such a small, unimaginative, divisive President committed to leading half the people. Is this really his idea of a way to promote national dialogue? I am sure that in his mind he scored this as 'Obama 1, Strawmen 0", but acknowledging the actual concerns of serious opponents is often a better negotiating ploy. Obama is not even pretending to lead here; he is just delivering fundraising soundbites for the DNC.
Obama also noted that on the mean streets of Chicago the level of violence we saw in the Oregon shooting is an everyday (or at least, every weekend) occurrence, so of course stricter laws would help there as well. How that coexists with "Black Lives Matter" and the end of stop and frisk in New York City was left unexplained. [But The American Interest notes the tension, i.e., contradiction:
Moreover, all the evidence suggests that stricter gun laws would fall disproportionately on the same people who have always bear the brunt of tough criminal justice policies. The Washington Post‘s Radley Balko noted last year that “47.3 percent of those convicted for federal gun crimes were black — a racial disparity larger than any other class of federal crimes, including drug crimes.” According to the Bureau of Labor of Justice statistics, state, local, and federal governments arrested black people for gun crimes at a five times higher rate than they arrested whites. More than three out of four gun arrests were in urban areas. So people who empathize with the message of the Black Lives Matter movement—that young, black men in America’s cities are treated unfairly by the criminal justice system and that mass incarceration has devastated too many communities—should think further about what the draconian gun policies they pine for would actually entail.
Most socially liberal gun control champions don’t see themselves as pushing policies that would abet racial profiling or worsen the problem of mass incarceration. They see themselves as going after their political enemies—socially conservative white men in red states. And it may in fact be possible to craft narrow gun policies—like requiring more background checks at gun shows—that would mostly affect people in this demographic. But few intelligent observers are under any illusions that this type of symbolic half-measure on gun control would meaningfully cut into America’s gun violence statistics.
UPDATE 1: From the transcript, an snippet of Obama on Syria:
This is a hugely, difficult, complex problem. And I would have hoped that we would have learned that from Afghanistan and Iraq, where we have devoted enormous time and effort and resources with the very best people and have given the Afghan people and the Iraqi people an opportunity for democracy. But it’s still hard, as we saw this week in Afghanistan. That's not by virtue of a lack of effort on our part, or a lack of commitment. We’ve still got 10,000 folks in Afghanistan. We're still spending billions of dollar supporting that government, and it’s still tough.
So when I make a decision about the level of military involvement that we're prepared to engage in, in Syria, I have to make a judgment based on, once we start something we’ve got to finish it, and we’ve got to do it well. And do we, in fact, have the resources and the capacity to make a serious impact -- understanding that we’ve still got to go after ISIL in Iraq; we still have to support the training of an Iraqi military that is weaker than any of us perceived; that we still have business to do in Afghanistan. And so I push -- and have consistently over the last four, five years sought out a wide range of opinions about steps that we can take potentially to move Syria in a better direction.
I am under no illusions about what an incredible humanitarian catastrophe this is, and the hardships that we're seeing, and the refugees that are traveling in very dangerous circumstances and now creating real political problems among our allies in Europe, and the heartbreaking images of children drowned trying to escape war, and the potential impact of such a destabilized country on our allies in the region. But what we have learned over the last 10, 12, 13 years is that unless we can get the parties on the ground to agree to live together in some fashion, then no amount of U.S. military engagement will solve the problem. And we will find ourselves either doing just a little bit and not making a difference, and losing credibility that way, or finding ourselves drawn in deeper and deeper into a situation that we can't sustain.
And when I hear people offering up half-baked ideas as if they are solutions, or trying to downplay the challenges involved in this situation -- what I’d like to see people ask is, specifically, precisely, what exactly would you do, and how would you fund it, and how would you sustain it? And typically, what you get is a bunch of mumbo jumbo.
So these are hard challenges. They are ones that we are going to continue to pursue. The topline message that I want everybody to understand is we are going to continue to go after ISIL. We are going to continue to reach out to a moderate opposition. We reject Russia’s theory that everybody opposed to Assad is a terrorist. We think that is self-defeating. It will get them into a quagmire. It will be used as a further recruitment tool for foreign fighters.
And on gun control safety:
The reason that Congress does not support even the modest gun safety laws that we proposed after Sandy Hook is not because the majority of the American people don’t support it. I mean, normally, politicians are responsive to the views of the electorate [unless the topic is ObamaCare or the Iran non-treaty - TM]. Here you’ve got the majority of the American people think it’s the right thing to do. Background checks, other common-sense steps that would maybe save some lives couldn’t even get a full vote. And why is that? It’s because of politics. It’s because interest groups fund campaigns, feed people fear. And in fairness, it’s not just in the Republican Party -- although the Republican Party is just uniformly opposed to all gun safety laws. And unless we change that political dynamic, we’re not going to be able to make a big dent in this problem.
For example, you’ll hear people talk about the problem is not guns, it’s mental illness. Well, if you talk to people who study this problem, it is true that the majority of these mass shooters are angry young men, but there are hundreds of millions of angry young men around the world -- tens of millions of angry young men. Most of them don’t shoot. It doesn’t help us just to identify -- and the majority of people who have mental illnesses are not shooters. So we can’t sort through and identify ahead of time who might take actions like this. The only thing we can do is make sure that they can’t have an entire arsenal when something snaps in them.
And if we’re going to do something about that, the politics has to change. The politics has to change. And the people who are troubled by this have to be as intense and as organized and as adamant about this issue as folks on the other side who are absolutists and think that any gun safety measures are somehow an assault on freedom, or communistic -- or a plot by me to takeover and stay in power forever or something. (Laughter.) I mean, there are all kinds of crackpot conspiracy theories that float around there -- some of which, by the way, are ratified by elected officials in the other party on occasion.
Here was Obama on Chicago:
And I’m deeply saddened about what happened yesterday. But Arne is going back to Chicago -- let’s not forget, this is happening every single day in forgotten neighborhoods around the country. Every single day. Kids are just running for their lives, trying to get to school. Broderick, when we were down in New Orleans, sitting down with a group of young men, when we were talking about Katrina, and I’ve got two young men next to me, both of them had been shot multiple times. They were barely 20.
So we got to make a decision. If we think that’s normal, then we have to own it. I don’t think it’s normal. I think it’s abnormal. I think we should change it. But I can’t do it by myself.
Yeah, we are going to get guns off the streets of Chicago without arresting any young black men, or even ruffling their feathers. Obama is right - he can't do that by himself.
This can't be the headline and lede Team Obama hoped to see at the NY Times:
Obama’s Call at U.N. to Fight ISIS With Ideas Is Largely Seen as Futile
UNITED NATIONS — President Obama called upon a conclave of world leaders on Tuesday to fight violent extremism not just with weapons but with ideas, jobs and good governance, a strategy he has long advocated. There are few signs that it is succeeding.
“This means defeating their ideology,” he said. “Ideologies are not defeated with guns. They are defeated by better ideas — a more attractive and compelling vision.”
Hmm. I infer there were no follow-up questions asking Obama to detail the better ideas that defeated Hitler. For my money it was a combination of guns, Stalinism, and the democratic vision of the Western leaders, but two of those are not on Obama's little list. I hope.
And since the West lost China to Mao and Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh, does that suggest to Obama that communism is superior to Western democratic ideals? Just asking (Yeah, I agree - why ask?).
Finally, and with respect to ISIS, Obama is in the grip of a fundamental misperception. ISIS is not participating in some sort of an electoral contest in which competing sides are trying to cobble together a coalition that can attract 51% of the vote. My goodness - ISIS releases recruiting videos in which prisoners are beheaded en masse or burned alive. That is not an attempt to appeal to a mass market.
So while Obama tries to present his better governance ideas that may attract popular support from 50% or 60% or 70% of a population, ISIS is trying to recruit the 1 percenters intent on joining the craziest, baddest asses on the planet. And what sort of recruiting numbers might the ISIS approach produce?
If there are a billion Muslims worldwide then let's say there are 500 million men, maybe 50 million of whom are of military age. If one tenth of one percent join ISIS, that is 50,000 recruits. What are the odds that there are 50,000 angry, disaffected Muslim men in the world? What are the odds that Obama will craft a message that wins the hearts and minds of 99.99% of its target audience, thereby draining the ISIS recruiting pool? High school girls are joining ISIS from England - does Obama imagine that this is a cry for reforms to their National Health Service? Were the three girls who left Denver to join ISIS just frustrated Hillary supporters?
The Times includes this telling detail:
Even Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. acknowledged in a candid moment when he arrived in New York that little would come of Tuesday’s meeting. He asked a group of reporters who were following him if they would stay awake at the United Nations meeting and “30 speeches about how we’re going to go after ISIS.”
When you've lost Joe...
A large group of well-intended people without guns can be subdued by a small group of crazies with guns. Is this really news to Obama?
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" said Emerson, and it is pretty clear that our Peerless Leader is not a man of little mind. Obama's speech to the United Nations included some thoughts on Syria and Libya. One snippet:
On this basis, we see some major powers assert themselves in ways that contravene international law. We see an erosion of the democratic principles and human rights that are fundamental to this institution’s mission; information is strictly controlled, the space for civil society restricted. We’re told that such retrenchment is required to beat back disorder; that it’s the only way to stamp out terrorism, or prevent foreign meddling. In accordance with this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad, who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children, because the alternative is surely worse.
Support Assad, oppose him, say what? Why is it our business? Let's flash back to 2002, when Obama boldly supported Lincoln's side in the Civil War and Roosevelt's efforts (post Pearl Harbor!) in WWII. Here is Obama on Saddam:
Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power.... The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.
But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors...and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.
Ah, that famous dustbin of history, where Saddam and his sons might have joined, well, the Castro brothers, or the Kim Il-sung monsters of North Korea. Was Saddam as evil a dictator as Assad? Is Assad more of an imminent threat to the US?
At another juncture, Obama spoke about Libya:
Where order has completely broken down, we must act, but we will be stronger when we act together.
In such efforts, the United States will always do our part. We will do so mindful of the lessons of the past — not just the lessons of Iraq, but also the example of Libya, where we joined an international coalition under a U.N. mandate to prevent a slaughter. Even as we helped the Libyan people bring an end to the reign of a tyrant, our coalition could have and should have done more to fill a vacuum left behind. We’re grateful to the United Nations for its efforts to forge a unity government. We will help any legitimate Libyan government as it works to bring the country together. But we also have to recognize that we must work more effectively in the future, as an international community, to build capacity for states that are in distress, before they collapse.
So getting rid of an evil dictator with no credible plan to replace him was not so great an idea in Libya. Nor was it a great idea in Iraq, but it would be just the thing to do in Syria. An arguable difference was that Saddam was not actively quashing a rebellion at the moment in time we invaded - that was earlier, after which we imposed no-fly zones over parts of the country, something Obama refuses to do in the course of opposing Assad.
Still, if our friends on the left are only willing to support military action under their 'responsibility to protect' concept, they might want to assess the impact of providing the rebels we back with nothing more than pretty speeches support, creative hashtags and ineffectual handwringing. Encouraging rebels to fight when they lack the means to win is not doing them a favor.