Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American
There is a double standard: White terrorists are dealt with as lone wolves, Islamists are existential threats
It's all about white male privilege, don't you know? Fortunately, the latest news is that videotape studies have led to a white suspect. Exhale! [Hold that exhale! Per Breitbart, CNN is reporting that the suspect is "a dark skinned male", but CNN jumped the gun on their arrest report, so who knows?]
This has been most obvious in the context of recent mass shootings. In those awful episodes, a religious or ethnic minority group lacking such privilege would likely be collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse) if some of its individuals comprised most of the mass shooters. However, white male privilege means white men are not collectively denigrated/targeted for those shootings — even though most come at the hands of white dudes.
Really? "Most come at the hands of white dudes"? That has been debunked, but the news has not reached SirotaWorld. Our hero links to his earlier presentation of that misinformation and also links to this Mother Jones study of mass shootings over the last thirty years. Let me extract from that and help him with the numbers:
Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass shootings* across the country
Two involved partners (Columbine and Westside Middle School), for a total of 64 killers.
Forty four of the killers were white males. Only one of them was a woman.
Simple arithmetic says that 19 were male shooters of color, unless Mother Jones can't identify white people accurately.
So, are white men over-represented in that group? Well, men are over-represented in this group: men are about half the total poulation but over 98% of mass shooters.
But once we embrace the grim reality that mass shooters are men, white men don't look so bad. In the US, whites are roughly 70% of the population today and were a higher proportion back when this time series begins in 1980 (per this chart, non-Hispanic whites were 80% of the population in 1980).
And 44 of the 63 male shooters were white, which is 70%. So whites are engaging in mass shootings roughly in proportion to their place in the population. Will that track over to bombers? Who knows?
But it does mean that this comment from Sirota is literally accurate but arithmetically inept:
I said that because most of the mass shootings in America come at the hands of white men, there would likely be political opposition to initiatives that propose to use those facts to profile the demographic group to which these killers belong.
Well, most men in America are white so it is not a total surprise that most mass shooters are white. However, on a proportional basis as a profiling technique, race does not jump off the page as helpful in predicting a propensity for mass shooting.
But I think the reality-based community is enjoying their own reality on this one.
Times columnist and global raconteur Tom Friedman outdoes himself as he tries to put the Boston bombing into perspective:
Bring on the Next Marathon
We still do not know who set off the Boston Marathon bombs or why. But we do know now, after 9/11, after all the terrorism the world has seen in the last decade, what the right reaction is: wash the sidewalk, wipe away the blood, and let whoever did it know that while they have sickeningly maimed and killed some of our brothers and sisters, they have left no trace on our society or way of life. Terrorists are not strong enough to do that — only we can do that to ourselves — and we must never accommodate them.
So let’s repair the sidewalk immediately, fix the windows, fill the holes and leave no trace — no shrines, no flowers, no statues, no plaques — and return life to normal there as fast as possible. Let’s defy the terrorists, by not allowing them to leave even the smallest scar on our streets, and honor the dead by sanctifying our values, by affirming life and all those things that make us stronger and bring us closer together as a country.
Seriously? The terrorism he is describing (he opens with the example of a Tel Aviv bombing) is politically motivated. Yet as he notes, we don't even know who the bomber was or what the motive might have been - isn't it a bit early to announce that we will win by ignoring the guy?
And if, just for example, the bomber is a lone nutjob desperately in need of better mental health care and reporting, why does ignoring him make any sense at all? Was Tom Friedman exhorting us to ignore the lone psychos in Aurora and Sandy Hook? He was not - Sandy Hook was a clear signal for an assault weapons ban, but killing and maiming with bombs gets a pass?
It is inconceivable to me that Tom Friedman or his editors would ever run a column telling the Sandy Hook parents that it was time to move on or else Adam Lanza wins. So how the Times let pass this exhortation to the newly legless to just get over it is beyond me.
SOMETIMES THE BIG PICTURE IS THERE IS NO PICTURE: We have star shooters like Mark Chapman who gain their infamy by shooting a celebrity. Why can't we have psycho star bombers whose only motive is headlines and notoriety [and a clean getaway]? Why couldn't the Boston bomber simply be Adam Lanza or James Holmes with a bomb instead of a gun?
We all hope that the investigation will turn up some answers but to prejudge this as conventional terror motivated by some sort of political agenda is premature and Friedmanesque.
I HAVE COMPANY: Sen. Claire McCaskill makes a similar point:
Claire McCaskill: If Boston bombings are terrorism, why not Sandy Hook?
The NY Times reports that the person of interest is no longer so interesting:
Investigators searched a house in a nearby suburb late Monday night, but later said the search had proved fruitless.
Late Monday night, law enforcement officials descended on an apartment building in the suburb of Revere, about five miles north of Copley Square, linked to a man the police took into custody near the scene of the bombings. But on Tuesday morning, one law enforcement official said investigators had determined that the man, who was injured in the blast and was questioned at the hospital, was not involved in the attack.
I assume that this is the Saudi national mentioned by other news outlets, but it would kill the Times to identify someone so plainly, unless they were a white middle-aged Tea Partier.
And white smoke is not just for popes:
Retired FBI bomb technician Kevin G. Miles said the attack could “easily” have been the work of one person.
“A one-man operation could easily do something like this,” Miles said. “It would take some coordination, some know-how and some intelligence, but a lot of bombers throughout history have been one person.”
Miles said the white smoke was indicative of a “commercially available explosive,” such as smokeless gunpowder.
“It can be very powerful. Smokeless powder confined in a pipe bomb can function with the same velocity as TNT,” Miles said.
This story says that white smoke indicated a commercially available explosive whereas black smoke would indicate more powerful, military grade stuff:
The white smoke that emanated from the blasts indicate this was likely a smokeless or black powder, he says, not a military-type explosive such as C-4 or plastic explosives, which give off black smoke.
FWIW, the Times Square bomber's car bomb was built from commercially available explosives. I infer that the absence of high-tech explosives does not prove much about the possible background of the bomber.
WHAT IS A 'TERROR ATTACK'? I have no doubt that this attack could be accurately described as having employed terrorist tactics. But IMHO, calling something a terror attack imputes a motive, and we don't currently know what the motive in Boston may have been.
Just to add my bit to the random speculation, suppose this was (a) the act of a disgruntled ex-employee of one of the businesses on that street, or (b) a jilted ex-lover, or (c) a Hollywood caper film diversion from the real crime, such as a jewlery store vault robbery taking place over the three-day weekend? Would we still call it a terror attack?
Not that I am a reliable Obama apologist, but criticizing him for being a mush-mouth who can't say "terror" seems premature.
Which also means I disagree with this:
The investigation in Boston is just getting started. But we know enough say it was, indeed, an act of terrorism. Terrorism is an act of violence, aimed at non-combatants, designed to intimidate or coerce a population into political change. We don’t know who set these bombs off, but they targeted a high-profile public event guaranteed to capture publicity and compel the United States government to respond. Such acts are inherently political. The bombs in Boston were terrorism.
And if the perpetrator is a jilted nut job of a lover who was incensed that his significant other was running the marathon instead of spending time with him? Still a political act?
Or why speculate about Boston when other examples abound. Was Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, engaged in a poltical act of terrorism? How about the Va Tech psycho?
If I had to bet, I would put my money on terror as the motive. But the President of the United States, in his first statement, should not be betting.
BUT THEN AGAIN: This just in from the White House:
“This was a heinous and cowardly act and given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism,” Obama said in televised comments from the White House. “Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror.”
“What we don’t yet know, however, is who carried out this attack or why,” the president said, pledging to use all resources to find those responsible. ”We will find whoever harmed our citizens and we will bring them to justice,” he insisted.
“We also know this,” Obama said. “The American people refuse to be terrorized.”
Based on his "any time bombs are used" standard he should have called this an act of terror yesterday.
And before anyone starts - yes, President Drone Warrior kills innocent civilians with bombs. But it is not terror because they are collateral damage; we are targeting people designated as legitimate military targets.
THANK HEAVEN FOR SPORTS TALK RADIO: The NY Knicks will host the hated Boston Celtics in the first round of NBA playoff action starting this Saturday. Fraught! As one bright light on WFAN explained, seeing a Boston team will be emotional in the current context, but if the Garden faithful don't boo Pierce and Garnett then the terrorists win.
This bombing at the Boston martathon finish line is awful.
And we can add to this CNN list from 2011:
What is it about mid-April and violence in America?
(CNN) -- Mid-April marks the anniversaries of several horrendous attacks in recent U.S. history:
-- April 19, 1993: the FBI's siege of the Waco compound leaves 76 dead.
-- April 19, 1995: the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City kills 168 people.
-- April 20, 1999: A mass shooting at Columbine High School leaves 15 dead.
-- April 16, 2007: The Virginia Tech massacre kills 33.
The Oklahoma City bombing was timed to coincide with the Waco anniversary. And it's unclear whether the Columbine shooters timed that attack to mark Adolf Hitler's birthday or possibly Waco.
Is there something about this time of the year that makes these types of attacks more prevalent?
Va Tech stood alone, until today.
The head of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms likes Manchin-Toomey:
Alan Gottlieb, Chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said in an email to supporters that "the gun grabbers have stepped into our trap" and that he looked forward to the bill's passage.
“The bill bans any federal gun registry and carries a 15 year prison term for anyone who violates it," he continues. “We protect and expand a good number of pro-gun rights measures as well.
But Dave Kopel says the amendment has the opposite result:
The Toomey-Manchin Amendment which may be offered as soon as Tuesday to Senator Reid’s gun control bill are billed as a “compromise” which contain a variety of provisions for gun control, and other provisions to enhance gun rights. Some of the latter, however, are not what they seem. They are badly miswritten, and are in fact major advancements for gun control. In particular:
1. The provision which claims to outlaw national gun registration in fact authorizes a national gun registry.
2. The provision which is supposed to strengthen existing federal law protecting the interstate transportation of personal firearms in fact cripples that protection.
Somebody may have outsmarted someone else. Now that Tiger has failed to win the Masters legal minds can turn elsewhere.
A golf guy cogently and convincingly explained to me that under the Rules of Golf Tiger Woods should have been DQ'ed, or done the right thing and auto-DQ'ed. And don't be distracted by viewers phoning in complaints - golfers have been giving press conferences for decades and it was Tiger's own admission at a press confrence that led to this debacle.
Well. Under the living, breathing rules of golf we should move on. Anyone nostalgic for the Florida recount should be rooting for Tiger to win this thing today.
A FEAST FOR THE SECOND-GUESSERS: Improbably?
Improbably, the tear followed two more lower-body injuries suffered earlier in the game.
Compensation for injury A can often lead to injury B - this is not neuroscience here. Of course, benching Kobe late in a close, must-win game would require a strait jacket or a thorazine dart gun, but coaches and trainers are supposed to make these tough calls.
New York's new gun laws are already creating consternation and confusion. The Blaze tells us of a NY man who was ordered to give up his guns because he is on anti-anxiety medicine (which introduces some medical privacy questions).
Rochester YNN follows up:
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Thursday, a state Supreme Court Judge ruled guns seized from David Lewis, 35, must be returned to him after he was incorrectly identified as violating the mental health provision of the SAFE Act.
"We know that from the health care agency to the State Police, there was some kind of breach," said Lewis' attorney, Jim Tresmond.
Tresmond says his client was ordered to turn in his weapons last week because he was once on anti-anxiety medication, which is a violation of the SAFE Act. Wednesday, State Police informed the Erie County Clerk's Office that it made a mistake when it said Lewis was in violation of the state's new gun law.
Ooops. The State Police are engaged in a bit of finger-pointing:
In a statement, State Police say they were simply following the law. The statement says, in part:
"The State Police was very clear in its letter to the Clerk's Office regarding the need for due diligence and the need for a positive identification by the County before they removed any weapon. The final determination on whether to revoke or suspend a pistol permit or license rests solely with the County and the licensing officials."
"My impression still stands from when they called last night – they made a mistake," said County Clerk Chris Jacobs.
My impression is that this will get zero coverage.
LESS THAN ZERO: Ok, this is non-coverage.
Meanwhile, Igor Volsky has a useful guide to the background check debate that debunks each piece of conservative mythology about it.
All of my mythology are belong to them! The Volsky piece is a bit of a must-read, hafta laugh melange of stats. My fave is this:
Background checks have already contributed to violence reduction. In the 14 states and Washington D.C. that require background checks for private handgun sales (including Toomey’s home state of Pennsylvania): 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, 17 percent fewer firearms are involved in aggravated assaults, and 48 percent less gun trafficking.
Who can dispute it? And if Connecticut were demographically and culturally comparable to Georgia I would be even more impressed.
Ludwig and Cook (2000) attempted to work around the nutmeg to peaches comparison problem by looking at changes in gun violence in the thirty-two states where the new 1994 Brady restrictions actually took hold versus the eighteen states that already had similar background checks on the books. Their conclusion holds out a bit of hope for us older folks but not so much for the rest of you:
Based on the assumption that the greatest reductions in fatal violence would be within states that were required to institute waiting periods and background checks, implementation of the Brady Act appears to have been associated with reductions in the firearm suicide rate for persons aged 55 years or older but not with reductions in homicide rates or overall suicide rates.
FROM THE MEAN STREET OF ATLANTA: This is from the NY Times Sports Section, in a profile of Josh Jarboe, a young athlete/rapper trying to get his football career on track and into the NFL:
Yet for most of that time, rap was Jarboe’s first love. He joined a group called Black Mobb, and local high school students downloaded its raps to their phones. On weekends, Black Mobb performed at clubs for teenagers and fought rival groups.
Jarboe lost some teeth one night in a fight with Waka Flocka’s crew. That is how he wound up with a gold grill — “my golds,” he called them.
Some patrons would hide guns in bushes and garbage cans around the parking lot before entering, then race to retrieve them as soon as they exited. (Jarboe said that he did not carry a gun, but that others in his group did.)
“Winning the fight isn’t who wins,” he said. “It’s who gets out the door first.”
One night, by the time Jarboe and his friends left a club, another group had lined up in the parking lot, guns aimed at the door. Somebody pushed Jarboe down just as a bullet grazed his neck. One reason he never cuts his dreads is to hide the burn mark.
“I feel so lucky,” he said one afternoon in Atlanta, sitting in the parking lot of the now-deserted club. “There were so many shootouts. Lot of people died.
“That was supposed to be me. Dead.”
Expand background checks. These guys shouldn't be carrying. Oh, wait...
A secret recording of a campaign strategy session between U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and his advisors was taped by leaders of the Progress Kentucky super PAC, says a longtime local Democratic operative.
Jacob Conway, who is on the executive committee of the Jefferson County Democratic Party, says that day, Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison, who founded and volunteered for Progress Kentucky, respectively, bragged to him about how they recorded the meeting.
The head of Progress Kentucky has resigned and is in discussions with the FBI. Ooops.
PAGING TONY ORLANDO. OR DAWN:
David Corn of Mother Jones proudly raked more self-invented muck with this sidebar to the McConnell taping:
(CNN) – One of the questions to emerge from that secret recording of a Mitch McConnell campaign strategy session is whether it proves the Senate Minority Leader is caught on tape misusing his congressional staff.
The DC-based watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics and Washington has asked the FBI to investigate.
CREW officials said the audio recording obtained by Mother Jones magazine raises questions "whether Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), violated federal law and Senate rules by misusing Senate staff or resources to conduct opposition research on potential campaign opponents."
In the Mother Jones transcript, a campaign strategist at the McConnell meeting in February is quoted as thanking "LAs" or legislative assistants (legislative assistant being a title for a specific congressional staff position) for their work in developing opposition research on potential opponents, including actress Ashley Judd, who has since decided against a run for the Kentucky seat.
"So I'll just preface my comments that this reflects the work of a lot of folks: Josh, Jesse, Phil Maxson, a lot of LAs, thank them three times, so this is a compilation of work, all the way through," the unidentified strategist is quoted as saying in the liberal magazine's transcript.
Thank them three times? Is McConnell leading a breakaway Muslim sect? Critical listeners have an alternative theory:
But listen closely, and it's also possible that same adviser may have said "thank them for their free time." It's a bit garbled and all in the ear of the beholder. Listen for yourself here.
Congressional staffers are permitted to volunteer their personal time to political activities.
I think you have to figure the speaker was channeling his inner Tony Orlando.
That alternative view seems to be finding traction, since (per NRO) Mother Jones has noted the controversy in their transcript. Lawyers can mull over this:
CREW executive director Melanie Sloan tells National Review Online her organization listened to the tape “quite closely,” and concedes that the relevant quote is “not conclusive,” but adds: “I don’t actually think it matters.” Sloan argues that the “core question” — which cannot be answered by the tape alone – remains whether or not Senate staffers were paid to conduct campaign research, which is precisely why CREW has asked the FBI and Senate ethics committee to investigate.
And the probable cause for opening an investigation is an ambiguous, illegally obtained tape? Maybe we should open investigations all over Congress. Oh, wait - having the Executive Branch investigate its opponents in the Legislative Branch based on nothing is sort of Nixonian, isn't it?
The NRA sent a letter announcing they would score a cloture vote on the Senate gun control bill if the bill was not amended in ways they found to be acceptable.
Now Dave Weigel (in whom my confidence is limited) and the AllahPundit (in whom my confidence is vast) are telling me that the vote to allow debate to begin (not a final cloture vote!) is being scored. From Dave Weigel (prior to the Thursday morning vote):
And so we have a test, at 11 a.m., of whether Republicans and red state Democrats are willing to buck a fringey NRA position even though it'll knock their ratings down by, at most, a letter grade.
And AllahP, after the motion to commence debate passed with 68 votes including 16 Republicans:
Whole lotta NRA ratings are going down tomorrow.
I am unconvinced - I don't think the NRA said what these guys say it said, and fears (or hopes!) that the Senate has defied the NRA are premature.
This is what I see in the NRA letter (via Weigel):
We hope the Senate will replace the current provisions of S. 649 with language that is properly focused on addressing mental health inadequacies; prosecuting violent criminals; and keeping our kids safe in their schools. Should it fail to do so, the NRA will make an exception to our standard policy of not “scoring” procedural votes and strongly oppose a cloture motion to move to final passage of S. 649.
That is a conditional threat focused on amendments yet to be offered and refers to a cloture vote. Today's vote did not close debate on the bill, it opened it. What was closed was debate on whether the bill should be considered at all. Slowly turn the wheels...
More from the NRA:
During consideration of S. 649, should one or more amendments be offered that adequately address these important issues while protecting the fundamental rights of law-abiding gun owners, the NRA will offer our enthusiastic support and consider those votes in our future candidate evaluations as well.
That sounds to me as if they expect the bill to be debated and amendments to be offered.
Well. I would say this is not the vote the NRA was watching and we are days (or weeks) away from the NRA grading anyone, and if it were just Weigel I would be pounding the table saying so.
SINCE YOU ASK: Surely you are not relying on my expertise about Senate procedures? My two cents is that the Senate invoked cloture on a motion to proceed to consideration of S.649. Eventually, after amendments and debate, someone will move to close debate on S.649 and put it to a final vote. Then we will see (or not) a real filibuster.
As to how the NRA will score that second cloture effort (if it comes to that), the letter says they would wait until they saw what the amended bill looked like.
Far from over? This is hardly begun. And anyone crowing (or fretting) that the NRA failed to scare the Senate is misreading their letter.
UNEXPECTEDLY: Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly sees it as I do:
The fragility of today’s accomplishment is best illustrated by the cascade of Republican “yea” voters on cloture making it clear they were simply voting to “allow a debate.” That doesn’t mean they won’t join the next filibuster (one which the NRA has indicated it will “score”), much less vote for Manchin-Toomey.
Jason Sattler at the National Memo will be eating crow, unless I do:
The NRA threatened to “score” Thursday’s vote against lawmakers’ ratings, hoping to kill the bill before it was even written. But 17 Republicans joined all the Democrats in the Senate except Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Mark Begich (D-AK) for cloture to prevent a filibuster from derailing the debate.
Gavin Aronsen of Mother Jones notes the NRA's watchful eye but does not link it to today's vote.
Oregon man pinned under 3,000-pound tractor saved by teen daughters
An Oregon man says his teenage daughters saved his life last weekend after they somehow lifted a 3,000-pound tractor off him after his boot slipped off the tractor's clutch and flipped.
The girls were 16 and 14.
based on calculations of what percentage of illegal crossers were caught or turned back without crossing.
Turned back without crossing? What, will they ask them to fill out a card ands drop it on their side of the fence? Or count heat signatures from high tech drone imagery of people pausing at the border and then retracing their steps back south?
Or will any Democrats administering this program simply assume that all of Mexico was deterred, thereby assuring that the program is scored as successfully deterring millions and millions of illegal aspirants.
Congressman Joe Burton opens the Bible to find evidence of natural, catastrophic climate change:
“If you believe in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change. That certainly wasn't because man had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.”
The notion that epic, Noah-style catastrophic flooding ocurred during recent Ice Ages went from controversial to Conventional Wisdom among geologists after the details of the Glacial Lake Missoula were pinned down:
About 12,000 years ago, the valleys of western Montana lay beneath a lake nearly 2,000 feet deep. Glacial Lake Missoula formed as the Cordilleran Ice Sheet dammed the Clark Fork River just as it entered Idaho. The rising water behind the glacial dam weakened it until water burst through in a catastrophic flood that raced across Idaho, Oregon, and Washington toward the Pacific Ocean. Thundering waves and chunks of ice tore away soils and mountainsides, deposited giant ripple marks, created the scablands of eastern Washington and carved the Columbia River Gorge. Over the course of centuries, Glacial Lake Missoula filled and emptied in repeated cycles, leaving its story embedded in the land.
Mind boggling. And once geologists knew what to look for, they found evidence of other glacial lakes in Europe and Asia. From Discover Magazine:
Recognition of the Missoula flood helped other geologists identify similar landforms in Asia, Europe, Alaska, and the American Midwest, as well as on Mars. There is now compelling evidence for many gigantic ancient floods where glacial ice dams failed time and again: At the end of the last glaciation, some 10,000 years ago, giant ice-dammed lakes in Eurasia and North America repeatedly produced huge floods. In Siberia, rivers spilled over drainage divides and changed their courses. England’s fate as an island was sealed by erosion from glacial floods that carved the English Channel. These were not global deluges as described in the Genesis story of Noah, but were more focused catastrophic floods taking place throughout the world. They likely inspired stories like Noah’s in many cultures, passed down through generations.
Did they mention Noah? So did the NY Times in a 1996 story about how climate change may have led to Noah's flood around the Black Sea:
LONG before the splendid palaces and minarets of Istanbul lined its shore, the Bosporus was little more than a narrow spillway where fresh water from the ancient Black Sea flowed out to the Aegean Sea and on to the Mediterranean. Then rising sea levels worldwide brought about a cataclysmic reversal. Suddenly, sea water cascaded through the Bosporus with a force 400 times mightier than that of Niagara Falls, the terrifying sound of the roar carrying for at least 60 miles.
In perhaps less than a year, the Black Sea turned brackish and rose several hundred feet, inundating former shores and river valleys deep into the interior. The relentless waters encroached on the land at a rate of half a mile to a mile a day. More than 60,000 square miles of land were soon submerged, a 30 percent expansion in the Black Sea's size, which essentially gave the body of water its modern configuration.
An international team of geologists and oceanographers has reconstructed the history of this catastrophic flood from data gathered by a Russian research ship in 1993. Seismic soundings and sediment cores revealed traces of the sea's former shorelines, showing an abrupt 500-foot rise in water levels. Radiocarbon dating of the transition from freshwater to marine organisms in the cores put the time of the event about 7,500 years ago, or 5500 B.C.
Could it be, Dr. Ryan and Dr. Pittman speculate, that the people driven from their land by the flood were, in part, responsible for the spread of farming into Europe and advances in agriculture and irrigation to the south, in Anatolia and Mesopotamia? These cultural changes occurred around the same time as the rise of the Black Sea.
Could it also be, they ask, that the Black Sea deluge left such enduring memories that this inspired the later story of a great flood described in the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh? In the epic, the heroic warrior Gilgamesh makes a dangerous journey to meet the survivor of a great world flood and learn from him the secret of everlasting youth.
If a memory of the Black Sea flood indeed influenced the Gilgamesh story, then it could also be a source of the Noah story in the Book of Genesis. Scholars have long noted striking similarities between the Gilgamesh and Genesis flood accounts and suspected that the Israelites derived their version from the Gilgamesh epic or independently from a common tradition that might have stemmed from a real catastrophe long before.
Dr. Ryan and Dr. Pittman concede that a link between the Black Sea flood and Gilgamesh and Noah may be a bit of a stretch.
Ah, well. Apparently subsequent research has left this hypothesis up in the air. Still, Noah's flood does seem to be a possible example of a catastrophic but natural climate change. Other than to the Glacier Deniers, of course.
Very little in there for Dianne Feinstein and Mike Bloomberg to like.
I really can'ty glean much about the demographics of the survey audience. They do tell us this:
About The Survey
PoliceOne’s Gun Policy & Law Enforcement survey was conducted between March 4 and March 13, 2013. More than 15,000 officers completed the survey, which was promoted by PoliceOne exclusively to its 400,000 registered members, comprised of verified law enforcement professionals. Only current, former or retired law enforcement personnel were eligible to participate in the survey. The survey sample size was broadly distributed by geography and rank in proportion to the U.S. law enforcement community at large. Respondents comprised a variety of ranks from departments of all sizes, with the majority representing departments of greater than 500 officers. Of those that took the survey, 80 percent were current law enforcement officers and 20 percent were former/retired law enforcement.
As the FBI investigates left wing plotters they ought to also investigate left-cheek butt-dialers. I'm guessing some McConnell aide sat on his not-so-smart phone and left a long, puzzling message on the wrong answering machine.
Senate Republicans appear divided on the gun bill. One faction wants to be the NRA Heroes that kill the bill by filibuster, thereby picking up the donations and street cred that would otherwise go to John Boehner and the House Republicans, who are waiting with shovels for Harry Reid's product.
Another faction of Republicans seems to be in favor of letting the Red State Democrats in the Senate do a very public cliff dive:
WASHINGTON — Several Senate Republicans on Tuesday came out publicly against filibustering the first major gun control legislation since 1993 before it is even brought up for debate on the Senate floor, as advocates inched toward breaking a conservative blockade of the measure.
Mr. Reid’s decision to move ahead came after Senate Republicans began splintering on whether the bill should be allowed full consideration on the Senate floor. Four Republican senators, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, said Tuesday that they would support a procedural motion to formally take up the gun legislation for debate and amendments. Other Republicans indicated that they were inclined to allow debate, joining Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Let's flash to coverage of Mike Bloomberg's promise to provide his own (failing) grades for pro-gun Senators:
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the nonprofit group financed by Bloomberg (I), will unveil a scoring system Tuesday to award lawmakers grades of A through F, much like the National Rifle Association, which has derived much of its power by deploying letter rankings against politicians at election time. The group’s strategists briefed The Washington Post on the plans ahead of Tuesday’s announcement.
The group’s new ratings system would produce a scorecard for senators and representatives that could serve as a guide for voters as well as campaign donors heading into the 2014 midterm elections and in future campaign cycles.
A guide to both voters and donors? Amonsgt the Progressives, that signals a wide divide:
The Mayors Against Illegal Guns scoring system was developed in part because major political donors who support gun control have been seeking guidance about how to direct their contributions in upcoming election cycles, Glaze said.
Some influential Democratic benefactors, including businessman Kenneth Lerer and technology entrepreneur David Bohnett, have warned publicly that they will not write another check to Senate Democrats who do not vote to expand background checks.
The grading system is most directly a threat to Democrats from conservative states such as Arkansas, Montana and North Carolina who could feel compelled to vote against some gun measures because of the large number of gun owners in their states yet rely on donations from liberal donors in places such as California and New York to fuel their campaigns.
The Hollywood and Manhattan libs are entitled to know what they are buying. Let em vote!
FWIW: Here is a preview of the 2014 Senate races. At a glance, no one in either party is making a big effort to appear more liberal.
The three could not have known it, but the police said later that a canvas bag Mr. Ferguson had brought along with him carried 100 more rounds of ammunition that he would likely have continued pumping into the crowd had it not been for the quick reaction of the three men who restrained him.
The men had watched fellow passengers fall forward with head and neck wounds, and sprinted for the end of the train the first time the gunman had reloaded his 9-millimeter Ruger. The second time he stopped to reload, they decided to charge him. Mark McEntee, another Garden City commuter, sprang forward with them.
I'm with McCain - I don't understand this Republican plan to filibuster Reid's gun control bill (that would be DOA in the House anyway), thereby sparing a bunch of Red State Democratic Senators the dilemma of antagonizing either their Hollywood donors or their home state voters.
I suppose the filibustering group wants to be the NRA heroes that blocked the gun bill. Geez, couldn't they be the heroes who let the Dems march off a cliff and (Here's hoping!) gave the Senate back to the Republicans?
The NY Times prompts spilled coffee all over the Upper West Side with this guest op-ed:
The Arab Spring Started in Iraq
ON April 9, 2003, Baghdad fell to an American-led coalition. The removal of Saddam Hussein and the toppling of a whole succession of other Arab dictators in 2011 were closely connected — a fact that has been overlooked largely because of the hostility that the Iraq war engendered.
Them's fightin' words! To a Times audience, anyway. And Barack Obama is still trying to figure out whether Bush's surge was a success, so the possibility of a link between Saddam's overthrow and the broader collapse of Arab dictators is surely beyond his pay grade.
The author, Kanan Makiya, is an Iraqi ex-pat and:
...a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University and the author of “Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq” and “Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising, and the Arab World.”
He also supported the 2003 invasion, but says this about the aftermath:
The first gulf war achieved America’s goals, but the people of Iraq paid the price for that success. They were left with international sanctions for another 12 years under a brutal and bitter dictator itching for vengeance against those who had dared to rise up against him, including Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south. By the time of the American invasion in 2003, the Iraqi middle class had been decimated, state institutions had been gutted and mistrust and hostility toward America abounded.
Both the George W. Bush administration and the Iraqi expatriate opposition to Mr. Hussein — myself included — grossly underestimated those costs in the run-up to the 2003 war. The Iraqi state, we failed to realize, had become a house of cards.
None of these errors of judgment were necessarily an argument against going to war if you believed, as I do, that overthrowing Mr. Hussein was in the best interests of the Iraqi people. The calculus looks different today if one’s starting point is American national interest. I could not in good conscience tell an American family grieving for a son killed in Iraq that the war “was worth it.”
We didn’t know then what we know today. Some, including many of my friends, warned of the dangers of American hubris. I did not heed them in 2003.
But the greater hubris is to think that what America does or doesn’t do is all that matters. The blame for the catastrophe of post-2003 Iraq must be placed on the new Iraqi political elite. The Shiite political class, put in power by the United States, preached a politics of victimhood and leveraged the state to enrich itself. These leaders falsely identified all Sunni Iraqis with Baathists, forgetting how heavily all Iraqis, including some Shiites, were implicated in the criminality of Mr. Hussein’s regime.
Although I always feared, and warned in 1993, that the emergence of sectarian strife was a risk after Mr. Hussein’s fall, my greatest misjudgment was in hoping that Iraq’s new leaders would act for the collective Iraqi good.
Out with the evil, in with the beneficient? That was one of Bush's many miscalculations as well.
FWIW, here is a 2007 post ruminating on whether the Iraq result was a failure of conception or implementation. I think people who supported the inital invasion would prefer to fault Bush's lack of planning for the post-war reconstruction (I know I do.)
As to the notion that the Arab Spring took inspiration from the overthrow of Saddam Hussein rather than the election of Nobel Prize winner Barack Obama, well, maybe with the souring of Springtime in Egypt and the disaster in Syria the Times is looking for a way to Blame Bush.
The NY Times covers the political wrangling that led to Connecticut's new restrictions on gun rights. Yet I fear something is missing from their summary of the key parts of the bill:
The new laws include a ban on the sale of magazines carrying more than 10 rounds and requires registration of existing ones. It also includes an expansion of the existing assault weapons ban, requires background checks on all firearms sales and sets up a registry of weapons offenders.
But while gun-control advocates hailed the bill and gun supporters condemned it, the legislation did not contain some elements gun owners feared. It did not compel residents to surrender any existing weapons or magazines and included no limits on the quantity of legal firearms and ammunition residents could own.
And a bit later, in describing the process:
The leaders appointed a task force on guns, mental health and school safety, which comprised members of both parties. The guns subcommittee was led by Mr. Looney and Representative Craig Miner a fierce gun-rights advocate and a chairman of the legislative sportsmen’s caucus.
Gun-control advocates worried that a bipartisan approach would result in a bill missing the two most important items on the table: an expanded ban on assault weapons, and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines — the kind Mr. Lanza used in the shooting.
Wait, the two most important items were the bans on assault weapons and high clip magazine thingys? Adam Lanza was mentally ill (as were the infamous shooters at the Aurora theater, the Arizona shopping mall, and Va Tech, to note a few) - wasn't somehow linking background checks with expanded mental health reporting part of this puzzle? (As to how that expanded mental health reporting would have disqualified Adam Lanza's mother, who was purchasing guns legally after passing background checks, who knows?)
Not in Times World, which is certainly revealing although of course utterly unsurprising.
But since you ask, the Connecticut bill did include a few mental health wrinkles. Not enough to alarm advocates for the mentally ill, fortunately, but enough to irk them. However, the description of the changes on the State of CT website reads like an advocacy wish list:
Among its mental health provisions, the bill creates a 20-member task force to study the provision of behavioral health services in Connecticut and report to the legislature by February 1, 2014. It also requires the Department of Mental Health and Addition Services (DMHAS) to:
1. administer a mental health first aid training program, in consultation with the Department of Education (DOE);
2. implement an assertive community treatment (ACT) program in three additional cities (programs currently operate in Manchester, Middletown, New Britain, and Norwich); and
3. provide case management and care coordination services to up to 100 people with mental illness who are involved in the probate court system and are not receiving these services.
Finally, the bill requires the Department of Children and Families (DCF) commissioner, by January 1, 2014, to establish and implement a regional behavioral health consultation and care coordination program for primary care providers who serve children.
The bill makes various changes to the process for grieving adverse determinations (e. g. , claims denials) by health insurers. Among other things, it reduces the time health insurers have to (1) make initial determinations on requests for treatments for certain mental or substance use disorders and (2) review claim denials and other adverse determinations of such requests. It expands the role of and qualifications required for health care professionals who evaluate the appropriateness of adverse determinations. The bill also requires the Insurance Commissioner to seek input on methods the department might use to check for compliance with state and federal mental health coverage parity laws and report on these issues to the Insurance and Public Health committees.
How much any of that has to do with gun homicides I don't know. However, suicide prevention was certainly on people's minds. And the main background check change related to mental health is this:
Anyone who is voluntarily committed will now be prohibited from owning a firearm or getting a permit within six months. Similarly, the law signed Thursday extends the time a person who was involuntarily committed is prohibited from owning a gun from one year to five.
Obama spoke about both sides rebuilding trust in the gun debate. In other news, a Congressional "leader" prattles on about non-reusable high capacity magazines. My trust that Congressional Democrats have a basic understanding of the issues is not increasing.
And I see that the campus police were warned that Aurora shooter Holmes was homicidal and dangerous a month before his spree. My trust that our legal system will be reworked to respond with a bit more urgency to this sort of warning has not been enhanced by anything Obama has said. Actually, my recent experience has been the opposite - the liberal cheerleaders like to talk about gun violence as including suicides until the topic turns to the link between gun violence and mental health; then the talk is all about homicides.
And even there the evidence is described as murky at best. For reasons that IMHO represent a political viewpoint, violent mentally ill substance abusers are typically counted separately from the violent mentally ill and omitted from the violent mentally ill total. And prison surveys of the violent mentally ill overlook the fact that many mass killings are a murder-suicide, with no prisoner available to be part of a subsequent survey.
Our deference to and deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill has not been widely discussed; this letter from Clayton Cramer is a vivid starting point.
They told Glenn that if he voted for Romney female politicians would be objectified rather than respected. And they were right!
President Obama assessed the beauty of California’s attorney general Kamala Harris, calling her “the best looking attorney general,” during remarks at a fundraiser in Atherton, California.
“You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake. She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country — Kamala Harris is here.”
Fox and Fiends gave him a pass and the NY Times couldn't find anyone quotable so they buried it in a Keystone story. Well, we know Obama and his team respect women so this will get a pass from the libs [OK, some but not all libs - Blue on Blue reported here.]. Symbolism only emanates from the Right.
SOOO HETERO... BuzzFeed rebuts Obama, whose hotness meter is clearly dated.
GAFFE INCOMING: From the White House transcript it is clear that Obama knew he was choosing to skate on thin ice, so he can't go with the "Totally Clueless" defense (my emphasis):
Second of all, you have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you'd want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake. She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country -- Kamala Harris is here. (Applause.) It's true. Come on. (Laughter.)
And shouldn't we deplore what sounds like heightism in this shout-out?
We've got some elected officials who are doing incredible work -- great friends. First of all, somebody who works tirelessly on behalf of California every day, but also works on behalf of working people and makes sure that we've got a more inclusive America -- a good friend of mine, somebody who you guys should be very proud of, Congressman Mike Honda is here. Where is Mike? (Applause.) He is around here somewhere. There he is. Yes, I mean, he's not like a real tall guy, but he's a great guy. (Laughter.)
He waved toward the assembled officers and local politicians and added, “We’ve got to get past some of the rhetoric that gets perpetuated, that breaks down trust, that’s so over the top that it just shuts down all discussion.”
In contrast to some of his earlier, more emotional remarks about the impact of gun violence, the president portrayed the debate as one of a principled difference that needs to be bridged.
If he really wants to rebuild trust he could take a step in that direction by dropping his phony stat about 40 percent of guns being obtained without a background check.
Nor does it bolster his credibility when he tells a room of California's One Percenters that the Newton shooting was done with a semi-automatic weapon and then "corrects" himself to make it an automatic:
I just came from Denver, where the issue of gun violence is something that has haunted families for way too long, and it is possible for us to create common-sense gun safety measures that respect the traditions of gun ownership in this country and hunters and sportsmen, but also make sure that we don’t have another 20 children in a classroom gunned down by a semiautomatic weapon -- by a fully automatic weapon in that case, sadly.
Nor, since we don't lack for constructive suggestions, is it helpful for him to impute evil intent to his opponents, as he when he damns the Republican party with faint praise:
I want to find some common-sense gun safety legislation that we can get done. And I do believe that there are well-meaning Republicans out there who care about their kids just as passionately as we do.
Uh huh. Some Republicans care about our kids but others just chortle maniacally when they read about mass shootings.
But let's give the President props for lightening a grim subject with a bit of comedy. We are back in Denver and he is extolling legislation to enhance background checks:
So this does work. And, by the way, if you’re selling a gun, wouldn’t you want to know who you’re selling it to? Wouldn’t you want to know? Wouldn’t you want in your conscience to know that the person you’re selling to isn’t going to commit a crime? (Applause.)
I bet they applauded! These background checks will predict future crime? I mean, I've read about these ubiquitous drones and seen Minority Report, so I guess the future is now!
Obama also delivered a lesson on the limits of the human imagination. Well, his, anyway:
How do you rebuild some trust? And I told the story about two conversations I had. The first conversation was when Michelle came back from doing some campaigning out in rural Iowa. And we were sitting at dinner, and she had been to like a big county, a lot of driving out there, a lot of farmland. And she said, if I was living out in a farm in Iowa, I'd probably want a gun, too. If somebody just drives up into your driveway and you're not home -- you don't know who these people are and you don't know how long it's going to take for the sheriffs to respond. I can see why you'd want some guns for protection.
Well thank heaven Michelle went to Iowa! I have not had that good fortune, yet I figured out the rural problem all by myself. Probably just dumb luck. Or reading the headlines.
The NY Times has been going on about Leaning In, in an attempt to solve one of the vexing problems of the 80's, to wit, why do women's wages lag that of men? The current collapse of working class male wages is of no concern to their audience, so we press on.
WASHINGTON — In a long-awaited interpretation of the new health care law, the Obama administration said Monday that employers must offer health insurance to employees and their children, but will not be subject to any penalties if family coverage is unaffordable to workers.
So a low-income worker will get a subsidy for his own health care but not the wife and kids. Or, the spouse could get a job and they could lose the subsidies. In addition to experiencing the tax woes described above.
And sociologists will puzzle over why working class marriage is ever less popular.
Public Policy Polling looks for (and receives!) some cheap traffic by releasing a "How Dumb Are The Rubes, ANyway" survey of some of the great conspiracy theories of the current day.
Yeah, yeah, those Romney voters sure are maroons, aren't they? But my favorite Q&A got short shrift in the press release, which told us that
13% of voters think Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, including 22% of Romney voters.
From the crosstabs we learn that 5% of Obama voters think he is the anti-Christ and another 8% aren't sure.
The NY Times continues their contribution to a serious national dialogue on guns with these two old chestnuts. First, from a piece on the urgent yet faltering effort to expand background checks:
But no background check is required for about 40 percent of gun purchases, including those made online or at gun shows, federal officials estimate.
Federal officials who offer that estimate, including Obama, are getting Three Pinocchios from WaPo "FactChecker" Glenn Kessler. His gist - the 40% figure comes from a stale 1994 study and includes gifts and estate transfers. A better estimate is about 20%.
Report Links High Rates of Gun Violence to Weak State Regulations
By ERICA GOODE
Many states with the weakest gun laws have the worst rates of gun violence, ranking high on numerous indicators, like gun homicides and suicides, firearm deaths of children, and killings of law enforcement officers, according to a report to be issued Wednesday by the liberal Center for American Progress.
At least they mention suicides; the last time they ran this con they completely omitted the word.
Alaska ranked first in overall gun deaths, the report found, with 20.28 deaths per 100,000 people in 2010 — more than twice the national average — followed by Louisiana and Montana, all states that prior analyses have judged to have weak gun laws. Eight of the states with the highest levels of gun violence were among the 25 with the weakest gun laws, the report found.
Yeah, yeah. The last report was ranking states like Montana high on gun violence based on a high suicide rate and a very low homicide rate. I am confident that the same pattern held up one year later. And if eight of the top ten are among the lower half of all states in terms of their laws, is that a stastically meaningful correlation? I would have thought pure chance would put five of the top ten in the lower 25. Where is Nate Silver when the Times needs him!?! [Per this binomial calculator, the odds of getting 8, 9 or 10 of the Top Ten states landing in the lower 25 are about 5.4% if the underlying process is 50/50. Put another way, if a coin was tossed for each of the top ten and each state coming up heads was put in the lower 25, there would be about a 5.4% chance of getting 8, 9 or 10 heads.)
Late in the story the fly in the ointment is noted again:
Dr. Azrael, of Harvard, noted that the factors that were driving gun violence differed from state to state — in states like Montana and Idaho, for example, the rate of gun suicides greatly outstrips the rate of homicides committed with firearms.
It will be interesting to peruse the study when it hits the intertubes. The lead tells us that low control states score high on "numerous" indicators, such as "gun homicides and suicides, firearm deaths of children, and killings of law enforcement officers". Yet I think we will find states like Montana ranking high on just one factor. The suspense mounts!
Should suicides be counted in the overall gun violence statistics? I would boldly say "No", and "Maybe". If the topic is making mental health part of a robust background check system, and denying guns to people judged to be at risk of suicide, then yes, the suicide rate is relevant. And there is evidence that the suicidal impulse can be transitory, so lack of access to something quick and decisive like a gun can have an impact on the suicide rate (1, 2, 3).
But when Obama et al start talking about gun control in terms of assault weapons and limiting magazine capacity, I think it is fair to note that the link between those factors and suicide is not firmly (or even vaguely) established. Are we facing a national crisis of suicides by people who shoot themselves sixteen time and then bleed out? I missed that report.
HMM: From the study, here are the Top Ten:
Some of those states look legimately violent, not suicidal. And pardon my idiocy, but doesn't the Times mention Montana? I am seeing this on my screen:
Alaska ranked first in overall gun deaths, the report found, with 20.28 deaths per 100,000 people in 2010 — more than twice the national average — followed by Louisiana and Montana, all states that prior analyses have judged to have weak gun laws. Eight of the states with the highest levels of gun violence were among the 25 with the weakest gun laws, the report found.
Yet Montana doesn't make the Top Ten for overall gun violence. So why is the Times leading with it? [This interactive map gives each state's rank in each category; in 2010 Montana was 3rd in overall firearm death rate and 3rd in firearm suicide rate, but 36th in firearm homicide rate. Its aggreagte rank was 13, so it missed the Tragic Ten.]
Here are the criteria that went into the gun violence index:
Obviously, a low-crime high-suicide state like Montana will score poorly on the suicide and overall death scale (and isn't that double-counting?) but not stand out in the other factors.
SUFFER THE CHILDREN: The overview of the CAP report tells us that "children" are 0-17 years old. Yet when I click to the fact sheet for Louisiana, I see that "children" are 0-19, which means a lot of high school grads (and dropouts) that have become gangbangers are still counted as children. OTOH, Alaska seems to be based on 0-17. Baffling. The footnotes spend me to the CDC, so my morning is coming undone.
BACK IN ALASKA: The CAP fact sheet says this about Alaska:
From 2001 through 2010 Alaska had the highest gun homicide rate among
children ages 0–17 of any state in the country, at three times greater than the
If am am handling the CDC database correctly, (IF!) there were 37 total firearm homicides from 2001-2010 in the 17 and under category; 18 of those were attributable to Alaskan Indians, who are about 15% of the populaton and show other signs of social breakdown (which probably hurt the violence against women stats as well).
Well. Even setting aside half the youth homicdes, Alaska's rate would still be 1.5 times the national average. And apparently, by other measures Alaska's overall homicide rate is not a standout problem.
JUSTIFIED: Kentucky is 21? Get Raylan Givens on the line. And Texas is 23, which doesn't fit the image at all.
Just a speed bump:
WASHINGTON — Unable to meet tight deadlines in the new health care law, the Obama administration is delaying parts of a program intended to provide affordable health insurance to small businesses and their employees — a major selling point for the health care legislation.
The law calls for a new insurance marketplace specifically for small businesses, starting next year. But in most states, employers will not be able to get what Congress intended: the option to provide workers with a choice of health plans. They will instead be limited to a single plan.
This choice option, already available to many big businesses, was supposed to become available to small employers in January. But administration officials said they would delay it to 2015 in the 33 states where the federal government will be running insurance markets known as exchanges. And they will delay the requirement for other states as well.
The promise of affordable health insurance for small businesses was portrayed as a major advantage of the new health care law, mentioned often by White House officials and Democratic leaders in Congress as they fought opponents of the legislation.
Supporters of the health care law said they were disappointed by the turn of events.
Supporters are disappointed? Critics are confused! What about individuals, who were supposed to be buying coverage through state run exchanges and collecting generous ObamaCare subsidies. Is that also delayed?
Not yet - the individual exchanges parallel the small business exchanges but are officially on track, for now anyway.
The WaPo spreads hope and sunshine for the US:
European industry flocks to U.S. to take advantage of cheaper gas
German chemicals giant BASF, which operates the plant here, has announced plans for wide-ranging expansion in the United States, where natural gas prices have fallen to a quarter of those in Europe, largely because of American innovations in unlocking shale gas.
Among those most affected are energy-intensive industries such as steel and chemicals, because they use natural gas as a raw material and power source. With Europe lagging in energy production, manufacturers on the continent warn that a chain reaction could shift more and more investment to U.S. shores.
“It’s become clear, with the drop in gas and electricity prices in the United States, that we are, at the moment, at a significant disadvantage with our competitors,” said Gordon Moffat, director general of Eurofer, the main lobbying group for European steel manufacturers.
And there is a chain-reaction critical mass metaphor in play:
“It’s a very slow process, but it’s a continuous one,” said Harald Schwager, the head of BASF’s European operations, referring to the manufacturing outflow. “Once a customer of ours decides to build a new factory in the U.S., then this customer will request from us to be close by with our production. And so, over time, you see a self-accelerating process, which will move production into the U.S.”
Europe's Greens won't get out of the way, so Europe's only hope is that Obama can derail the US fracking effort in the next three years, although he hasn't been that obtuse yet. Or, they could back Andrew Cuomo for President in 2016.
Ezra Klein goes after Justice Scalia with a fluffy argument from authority:
Scalia’s gay adoption claim: Even wronger than I thought
On Wednesday, I wrote about Justice Antonin Scalia’s comment that “there’s considerable disagreement among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not.”
It turns out Scalia’s comment was wronger than I thought — and wrong in a way that Scalia, in particular, should have known.
It relied, remember, on the idea that sociologists are, in some significant way, split on this question. That’s not what the American Sociological Association thinks. Here’s its official statement on the matter:
And he cites their comments in support of gay marriage, before delivering his knockout punchline:
Pretty definitive. And here’s the punchline: That paragraph isn’t buried in a press release on its blog or in an editorial from its trade magazine. It’s from the amicus curiae brief that the ASA filed in the very case Scalia was commenting on.
Oh, well, it was in an amicus brief! Well, maybe Scalia read this amicus brief:
AMICI CURIAE BRIEF OF SOCIAL SCIENCE PROFESSORS IN SUPPORT OF HOLLINGSWORTH AND BIPARTISAN LEGAL ADVISORY GROUP ADDRESSING THE MERITS AND SUPPORTING REVERSAL.
Hmm. These social scientists are on a different page from their colleagues. Here is a bit of the table of contents:
I. Compelling Evidence Shows that Children Benefit from the Unique Parenting Contributions of Both Men and Women. ............ 5
II. The Claim of “No Difference” In Outcomes of Children Raised By Gay and Lesbian Parents and Intact Biological Parents Is Empirically Undermined by Significant Methodological Limitations. ......... 13
It's almost as if, contra Klein, there is disagreement among social scientists, just as Scalia said.
Or maybe Scalia was thinking of this brief by Leon Kass warning against politicized science; from the table of contents:
ARGUMENT ............................... 5
I. THIS COURT HAS RECOGNIZED THAT UNRELIABLE EXPERT OPINIONS ARE A SERIOUS THREAT TO THE INTEGRITY OF THE LEGAL SYSTEM..... 5
II. SOCIAL AND BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE IS FREQUENTLY SHAPED AND DRIVEN BY POLITICS AND IDEOLOGY .................. 7
III. THE EFFECTS OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE ON FAMILY LIFE ARE UNKNOWN, AND CURRENTLY UNKNOWABLE. ........................ 17
IV. INCONCLUSIVE STUDIES ARE OFTEN USED TO ARGUE THAT CONTROVERSIAL POLICIES ARE SCIENTIFICALLY SUPPORTED....... 25
V. THE COURT SHOULD RELY FOR ITS DECISION IN THIS CASE ON THE LAW, RATHER THAN ON SPECULATION AND IDEOLOGY MASQUERADING AS SCIENCE .......................... 30
The notion that social science is politicized should not come as a surprise to anyone, even Ezra. And the idea that Scalia should simply defer to the ASA and pretend these rival briefs do not exist is absurd.
On next to no evidence Adam Liptak of the Times concludes it was the conservative Supremes who voted to take up the Prop 8 gay marriage case from California:
Who Opted to Take Gay Marriage Case? Ask Justice Scalia
By ADAM LIPTAK
The answer lies in the gap between two numbers. It takes four votes to hear a case and five to decide one.
If nothing else, this week’s arguments provided a telling glimpse into the process through which the court selects its docket, one that is usually shrouded in exceptional secrecy. The arguments also cleared up most of the mystery of whose idea it had been to hear the case, a challenge to Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage.
As it turns out, it would seem the conservative members of the court, making a calculation that their chances of winning would not improve with time, were behind the decision to take up the volatile subject.
The aha moment came on Tuesday.
After Justice Anthony M. Kennedy suggested that the court should dismiss the case, Justice Antonin Scalia tipped his hand.
“It’s too late for that now, isn’t it?” he said, a note of glee in his voice.
“We have crossed that river,” he said.
That was a signal that it was a conservative grant.
Really? Why was it not a signal that Scalia thought in December and thinks now that the liberal wing of the Court had over-reached?
We are offered this speculative recap of December's process of selecting cases:
They then confronted a second, much more ambitious case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, No. 12-144, concerning whether the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. Most observers thought the court would hold the case while it worked through one on the 1996 law, and some thought it might deny review, letting stand an appeals court decision that had struck down Proposition 8.
Instead, the court granted review in the case. That was a surprise and a puzzle. Who had voted to hear it?
One school of thought was that the court’s four liberals were ready to try to capture Justice Kennedy’s decisive vote to establish a right to same-sex marriage around the nation.
That theory was demolished in the courtroom as one liberal justice after another sought to find a way to avoid providing an answer to the central question in the case. The decision to hear the case, it turned out, had come from the other side.
Ah, well then. I understand the need for Times reporters to blame the dastardly conservatives for every little thing, but...
Back in December, Kennedy looked like an automatic fifth vote for gay marriage, as Scalia had predicted in his Lawrence dissent back in 2003 and explained by James Taranto.
However, Trouble in Liberal Paradise! Earlier in March, Kennedy, speaking in California, bemoaned the fact that the Court and not the Congress was deciding so many Federal issues. Cold feet? Maybe! In which case, the four liberals who were counting on Kennedy to be a hero might have been regretting ever taking the case at all.
Well, speculation is fun. Tom Goldtein, who surely knows more about this than me, backs the conservative faction hypothesis:
Students of Windsor and Hollingsworth have always recognized a basic tension between the theories of gay-rights advocates in the cases. The challenge to DOMA is undergirded by a sense that marriage is a matter for state rather than federal regulation. The challenge to Proposition 8 is a direct challenge to just such a decision by a state.
A majority of the Court seems poised in Windsor to invalidate DOMA Section 3 on the theory that the federal government has no interest in adopting a definition of marriage applicable to 1100 statutory provisions that as a practical matter alters the very nature of what it is to be “married.” That role, the Court will rule, is historically reserved to the states. So DOMA is a federalism case.
Some thought that Justice Kennedy would want to carry forward the project of Romer and Lawrence and be remembered eternally as the hero of gay rights. But they appear not to have fully grasped the concerns of a mainstream conservative Justice with taking so fundamental a step as finding a constitutional obligation to redefine so basic a social institution based on social science that to some appears quite new.
But if DOMA is going to be decided as a federalism case, Hollingsworth becomes a much harder case for the plaintiffs. That ruling in Windsor implies that California should have a parallel right to decide the definition of marriage for itself – i.e., that Proposition 8 should be upheld.
In fact, there is a realistic chance that the Court’s most conservative Justices understood that dynamic from the beginning and for that reason voted to grant certiorari in Hollinsgworth.
Well. People covering this one are earning their paychecks.
FWIW, Adam Liptak sniffed a conservative plot back when the Supreme Court took both cases last December. Really? Obama had just been re-elected, gay marriage won in several states, so the liberal bloc of the Court decided to play defense and the conservatives figured that now was the time to strike? Hmm...
Rush Limbaugh says that the left won the gay marriage debate when they successfully changed the definition of "marriage":
We Lost Once We Modified the Definition of the Word "Marriage"
The language game, the left really excels at changing the language to benefit them politically, and they do it in such a way that a lot of people on our side have no idea what's happened until it's too late and the issue is already lost, which this issue is. This issue is lost. I don't care what the Supreme Court does, this is now inevitable -- and it's inevitable because we lost the language on this.
The left won but I am not sure who the "we" is that lost. I am familiar with other conservatives who seemed to have no problem with gay marriage as long as it arrived by way of the legislative process rather than judicial cram-down. Justice Kennedy seems to be looking for a way to sidestep his own logic and let the shift in public opinion in favor of gay rights run its course.
Ann Althouse makes the point that other than the conventional definition of marriage, gay marriage opponents were a bit short of coherent arguments. Religious disapproval doesn't qualify in our secular state; moral disapproval was cast aside with Lawrence v. Texas.
And there is the concern that homophobic hyper-macho young men already disinclined to marry the young women they are impregnating will be even less inclined if marriage is re-branded as a "gay thing". But pandering to homophobes is a pretty weak foundation for social policy, and perhaps the broad change in attitude will sweep that away.
Dairy Finds a Way to Let Cows Power Trucks
FAIR OAKS, Ind. — Here at one of the largest dairy farms in the country, electricity generated using an endless supply of manure runs the equipment to milk around 30,000 cows three times a day.
For years, the farm has used livestock waste to create enough natural gas to power 10 barns, a cheese factory, a cafe, a gift shop and a maze of child-friendly exhibits about the world of dairy, including a 4D movie theater.
All that, and Fair Oaks Farms was still using only about half of the five million pounds of cow manure it vacuumed up from its barn floors on a daily basis. It burned off the excess methane, wasted energy sacrificed to the sky.
But not anymore.
The farm is now turning the extra manure into fuel for its delivery trucks, powering 42 tractor-trailers that make daily runs to raw milk processing plants in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. Officials from the federal Department of Energy called the endeavor a “pacesetter” for the dairy industry, and said it was the largest natural gas fleet using agricultural waste to drive this nation’s roads.
I know what you're thinking - with natural gas so frackin' cheap, is it really economical to recycle free manure? Well, kinda maybe:
Still, not everyone is convinced that the time is ripe for more manure-powered vehicles, particularly when regular natural gas remains abundant and cheap.
“The market is just not firm yet,” said Michael Boccadoro, a bioenergy consultant from California who is finishing a study of the possibility of neighboring dairies in the San Joaquin Valley sharing a single digester. “It’s all a tiny bit premature.”
And this is not precisely a game-changer:
Dennis Smith, director of the Clean Cities program for the federal Department of Energy, said about 8,000 large-scale dairy and swine farms across the country could potentially support similar biogas recovery projects. When coupled with landfills and wastewater treatment plants, he said, there is potential to someday replace as much as 10 billion gallons of gasoline annually with renewable fuel.
The US uses roughly 3 billion barrels of gasoline per year, or 126 billion barrels. So we are talking about an 8 percent saving, which is fine as one more way to nibble around the edges of our hydrocarbon usage.
Well, as the technology develops I think this guy can lead the way in recycling manure.
The NY Times describes the results of the search of Adam Lanza's home:
Sandy Hook Killer’s Home Contained Large Cache of Weapons
By RAY RIVERA
An extensive assortment of ammunition and weapons, including rifles, knives and samurai swords; damaged computer equipment; journals, a newspaper clip of a school shooting at Northern Illinois University and a report card from the time Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary School.
If I have the dates right, here is the article mentioned above:
When news breaks on college campuses — as it did when a gunman killed five students at Northern Illinois University last week — reporters from the college paper are often the first journalists on the scene. For reporters at The Northern Star, the student newspaper, the incident became far more personal when they learned that one of their own staff members was among those killed.
The significance eludes me. FWIW, the Northern Illinois shooter had three semiautomatic handguns and a shotgun. Most of the shooting was of the handguns:
...police later collected 48 shell casings and 6 shotgun shells.
And lest you wonder how he managed to kill six people without an assault weapon, he did have an image of an assault gun on his t-shirt.
The Times put together this 2008 list of other recent campus shootings. Whether any of these inspired Adam Lanza remains a mystery.
An obesity breakthrough, for fat mice anyway:
After weight-loss surgery, new gut bacteria keep obesity away
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The logic behind weight-loss surgery seems simple: rearrange the digestive tract so the stomach can hold less food and the food bypasses part of the small intestine, allowing fewer of a meal's calories to be absorbed. Bye-bye, obesity.
A study of lab mice, published on Wednesday, begs to differ. It concludes that one of the most common and effective forms of bariatric surgery, called Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, melts away pounds not - or not only - by re-routing the digestive tract, as long thought, but by changing the bacteria in the gut.
Or, in non-scientific terms, the surgery somehow replaces fattening microbes with slimming ones.
If that occurs in people, too, then the same bacteria-changing legerdemain achieved by gastric bypass might be accomplished without putting obese patients under the knife in an expensive and risky operation.
If you can read this and not hear "Ka-ching", you have no future in Big Pharma or VC.
In a blast from the past, Laurence Tribe made the states rights case against the Defense of Marriage Act prior to its eventual passage in 1996:
Defenders of the proposed law cite judicial decisions allowing one state to decline to enforce certain determinations of another on "public policy" grounds -- marriages entered in one state, for example, to evade the bigamy laws of the state where the partners live. But states need no Congressional license to deny effect to whatever marriages (or other matters) may fall within this category. They can do so on their own.
This sidesteps the issue of Federal benefits, taxation and so on for married versus unmarried people.
When the sales clerk introduces himself as "Dover. Ben Dover." you know you're in the midst of a Bad Moment.
One more for the ASCII file.
Some combination of deceitful advocacy, blind obtuseness and political correctness has afflicted both sides of the gay marriage debate with brain lock. Jill from Brilliant at Breakfast provides some lunchtime fare with an extended excerpt from the Supreme Court transcript illustrating two easy questions no one seemed able to answer.
First, who could possibly be harmed by gay marriage and what possible state interest could there be in not allowing it? The attorney meant to argue against gay marriage had no clear answer here. I doubt that is becasue he is stupid, and he shopuldn't be advocating in favor of gay marriage, so that leaves me thinking he was burdened by political correctness.
A reason to oppose gay marriage was offered by black ministers in Massachusetts when that state's Supreme Court opened the discussion in 2003. This is from a Feb 10 2004 article now archived, but excerpted here:
Bishop Gilbert A. Thompson Sr., who as pastor of New Covenant Christian Church in Mattapan heads the largest Protestant congregation in Massachusetts, said black ministers have many reasons for speaking out against gay marriage.
"We're weighing in on this because we're concerned with the epidemic rate of fatherlessness in America and in our community, and we don't think gay marriage helps that cause," he said.
I am reading between the lines a bit but I took that to mean that these inner-city ministers are trying very hard to persuade twenty year old gangsta wanna-bes that marriage is a great idea. Although they subsequently got help from Beyonce, who dressed like a hooker and told them to put a ring on it, these ministers seem to be concerned that if marriage is re-branded as a "gay thing" that it won't help them break through with their hyper-macho target audience.
Well; I'm not a black minister. Maybe inner city youth aren't so homophobic now (or ever), or maybe we shouldn't let the homophobia of inner city youth drive our social policy. But I don't see proud progressives saying "I understand gay marriage might further reduce marriage in the inner city, but it's a small price to pay". Instead, they are pretending there are no foreseeable consequences whatsoever. If another progressive experiment wreaks even more havoc in the inner city, well, who could have seen it coming, right?
Various judges extended the brain lock to the subject of marriage as an instrument of procreation:
JUSTICE KAGAN: Well, suppose a State said, Mr. Cooper, suppose a State
said that, Because we think that the focus of marriage really should be
on procreation, we are not going to give marriage licenses anymore to
any couple where both people are over the age of 55. Would that be
MR. COOPER: No, Your Honor, it would not be constitutional.
JUSTICE KAGAN: Because that's the same State interest, I would think, you know. If you are over the age of 55, you don't help us serve the Government's interest in regulating procreation through marriage. So why is that different?
MR. COOPER: Your Honor, even with respect to couples over the age of 55, it is very rare that both couples — both parties to the couple are infertile, and the traditional -
JUSTICE KAGAN: No, really, because if the couple — I can just assure you, if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.
Mr. Cooper eventually makes one of two good points. He reminds the court that the man is likely to be fertile whether the womon is or not, and the woman has an interest in assuring his monogamy.
The obvious point to which he barely alludes is simple leadership by example - it is entirely possible that both of these adults have children/nieces/nephews of marriageable age, and both would want to set a positive example of the importance of marriage.
MR. COOPER: It's designed, Your Honor, to make it less likely that either party to that — to that marriage will engage in irresponsible procreative conduct outside of that marriage. Outside of that marriage. That's the marital — that's the marital norm. Society has an interest in seeing a 55-year-old couple that is — just as it has an interest of seeing any heterosexual couple that intends to engage in a prolonged period of cohabitation to reserve that until they have made a marital commitment, a marital commitment. So that, should that union produce any offspring, it would be more likely that that child or children will be raised by the mother and father who brought them into the world.
I understand the progressives who want to pretend the possible problems don't exist. I am baffled by the hired mouthpiece's reticence on these points.
CREEPING TOWARDS HONESTY:
Brilliant quotes Amanda Marcotte at Slate:
We've given the homophobes plenty of time to think this over. It's time to move on without them.
I'll feel a certain comfort - cold, perhaps - when prominent progressives write that yes, gay marriage may prompt homophobes including inner city black males and working class whites to be even less interested in marriage than they are now, but that is OK. Move on without them.
But to conduct a broad social experiment while insisting that there is no experiment underway at all is... well, pretty typical, but still scary.
SINCE YOU ASK: As part of the war on working class marriage, let's not forget the Unaffordable Care Act subsidies, which apply to the employee but not the spouse or kids.
The NY Times traces the evolution of Bill Clinton's position on gay marriage, from his signing of the Defense of Marriage Act to his current opposition to that law. Clinton's current story is that his heart was always in the right place but those rube voters and his pesky pollsters forced him to sign the bill. And take out radio ads touting his signing of the bill.
Whatever. This could be an article on any prominent Democrat on any number of important issues, such as Hillary or Kerry on the Iraq war vote, the Patriot Act, or No Child Left Behind. It could be Obama's story on gay marriage. When a party's guiding principle is 'what do I need to pretend to believe in order to get elected?', a constancy of positions is not to be expected.
As to the issues before the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Roberts will be keeping his eye on history; his goal will be to avoid a decision that will look absurd and be overtaken by public opinion within a few years. That said, with the tide running so strongly in favor of gay rights, it would be (IMHO) a shame of the Court tried to lead in a situation where they could easily choose to follow (as they did with Loving v. Virginia.)
In trying to split that difference I predict the Court will find some gay-friendly non-bold middle ground to rule on these cases.
A mega-rich guy is trying to buy a legislative result and the NY Times applauds:
Bloomberg’s TV Blitz on Guns Puts Swing Senators on the Spot
The commercial is an unambiguous appeal to gun owners: a middle-aged hunter, rifle in hand, vows that he will fight to protect the Second Amendment. But in a sensible, father-of-the-house tone, he also urges voters to support comprehensive background checks, “so criminals and the dangerously mentally ill can’t buy guns.”
The man behind the advertisement is not known for his kinship with the gun crowd: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the nation’s fiercest advocate of restrictions on firearms since the December rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Determined to persuade Congress to act in response to that shooting, Mr. Bloomberg on Monday will begin bankrolling a $12 million national advertising campaign that focuses on senators who he believes might be persuaded to support a pending package of federal regulations to curb gun violence. The ads, in 13 states, will blanket those senators’ districts during an Easter Congressional recess that is to be followed by debate over the legislation.
One might think this next passage belongs on the editorialpage rather than a straight news story:
In a telling sign of how much the white-hot demands for gun control have been tempered by political reality, Mr. Bloomberg’s commercials make no mention of an assault weapons ban once sought by the White House and its allies, instead focusing on the more achievable goal of universal background checks.
One might say that the white-hot demand for a ban on assault weapons encountered the reality that such a ban made no sense.
Eventually the Times admits that Mr. Bloomberg may be a flawed messenger:
The N.R.A. plans to roll out its own lobbying campaign, using print and broadcast advertising to reach lawmakers during the recess. But its leaders said that their investment was unlikely to rival the intensity of Mr. Bloomberg’s spending, to be carried out through Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group he co-founded.
“Can we match Mayor Bloomberg dollar for dollar?” asked Chris W. Cox, the group’s chief lobbyist. “No one can. We don’t have to.”
He predicted that voters and senators would resist a message from an out-of-state magnate who is associated with government limits on soda and salt.
“What he is going to find out is that Americans don’t want to be told by some elitist billionaire what they can eat, drink and they damn well don’t want to be told how, when and where they can protect their families,” Mr. Cox said.
Thomas E. Mann, a Congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution, agreed that Mr. Bloomberg “is not popular in many of the states he is going into right now.”
The Times resisted the temptation to denounce Mr. Bloomberg's opponents as anti-Semitic rubes... for now.
Liberals know that the NY City cops are deplorable racists, so they thrilled to the recent tape recording played in court recently. However, neither ThinkProgress nor the NY Times editors took the trouble to review the context of those recordings as presented by the NY Times' own reporter:
Recording Points to Race Factor in Stops by New York Police
For years, the debate over the New York Police Department’s use of stop-and-frisk tactics has centered on whether officers engage in racial profiling. Now, a recording suggests that, in at least one precinct, a person’s skin color can be a deciding factor in who is stopped.
The recording, played on Thursday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, was of a conversation between a patrol officer and his commanding officer in the 40th Precinct in the South Bronx, a violent command that recorded the highest number of police stops in the Bronx in 2011.
Libs were so thrilled by this confirmation of what they already knew that they felt free to stop reading. Too bad. The Times presents the denoument early in the story:
The commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack, urged the officer to be more active, emphasizing the need to conduct more street stops. “We go out there and we summons people,” Inspector McCormack said. The way to suppress violent crime, he said, was for officers to stop, question and, if necessary, frisk “the right people at the right time, the right location.”
The officer who surreptitiously recorded the conversation last month, Pedro Serrano, began pressing Inspector McCormack about who he meant by the “right people.” The conversation grew heated.
After an exchange about Mott Haven, a particularly crime-prone neighborhood, the inspector suggested that the police needed to conduct street stops of the people creating “the most problems” there.
“The problem was, what, male blacks,” Inspector McCormack said. “And I told you at roll call, and I have no problem telling you this, male blacks 14 to 20, 21.”
Had eager libs pressed on, they would have found some interesting details buried at the end:
At first, Inspector McCormack can be heard lecturing Officer Serrano about how “99 percent of these people in this community are great, hardworking people” who deserve to go about their days in peace. But the citizens, he said, were troubled by crime, and he went on to describe how a woman in her 60s was shot coming out of an elevator at 10 a.m.
The ambiguity in how the phrase “stopping the right people” is used by police commanders, and how it may be interpreted by patrol officers, was evident in the recordings played in court.
Pressed by the officer on what he meant, Inspector McCormack offered examples of people who should not be stopped, like an elderly person violating a parks rule by playing chess. He also cited the stop of a 48-year-old woman who was intercepted on her way to work as she took a shortcut through a park that was closed for the night.
“You think that’s the right people?” Inspector McCormack asked the officer skeptically.
But with Officer Serrano challenging him, the inspector never offered a clear answer.
“So what am I supposed to do?” Officer Serrano asked, after Inspector McCormack used that expression again. “Is it stop every black and Hispanic?”
The exchange continues until the inspector brings the conversation to a close, telling the officer, “You’re very close to having a problem here.”
The inspector continued, “The problem is that you don’t know who to stop and how to stop.”
In a later passage of the recording, which was not played in court, Inspector McCormack seemed to suggest to others there that Officer Serrano was trying to put words in his mouth. “He’s adding on that I wanted him to stop every black and Hispanic.”
So Serrano, who knew he was secretly taping the conversation, tried to coax his supervisor into saying something memorably stupid, and sorta kind succeeded. Well, that's close enough for the Times and Think Progress.
When you are relying on Nixon-era deceptions to justify your drone program, folks may get balky:
Obama’s Nixonian Precedent
By MARY L. DUDZIAK
ON March 17, 1969, President Richard M. Nixon began a secret bombing campaign in Cambodia, sending B-52 bombers over the border from South Vietnam. This episode, largely buried in history, resurfaced recently in an unexpected place: the Obama administration’s “white paper” justifying targeted killings of Americans suspected of involvement in terrorism.
On Page 4 of the unclassified 16-page “white paper,” Justice Department lawyers tried to refute the argument that international law does not support extending armed conflict outside a battlefield. They cited as historical authority a speech given May 28, 1970, by John R. Stevenson, then the top lawyer for the State Department, following the United States’ invasion of Cambodia.
Since 1965, “the territory of Cambodia has been used by North Vietnam as a base of military operations,” he told the New York City Bar Association. “It long ago reached a level that would have justified us in taking appropriate measures of self-defense on the territory of Cambodia. However, except for scattered instances of returning fire across the border, we refrained until April from taking such action in Cambodia.”
In fact, Nixon had begun his secret bombing of Cambodia more than a year earlier. (It is not clear whether Mr. Stevenson knew this.) So the Obama administration’s lawyers have cited a statement that was patently false.
Citing false statements to justify a secret program is not really convincing. Sort of a castles, sand problem.
The Department of Homeland Security just can't get behind the idea of developing a metric to evaluate progress (or lack thereof) in securing our borders:
Officials Concede Failures on Gauging Border Security
More than two years after Homeland Security officials told Congress that they would produce new, more accurate standards to assess security at the nation’s borders, senior officials from the department acknowledged this week that they had not completed the new measurements and were not likely to in coming months, as the debate proceeds about overhauling the immigration system.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers were taken aback at a hearing on Wednesday in the House of Representatives when Mark Borkowski, a senior Homeland Security official, said he had no progress to report on a broad measure of border conditions the department had been working on since 2010. The lawmakers warned that failure by the Obama administration to devise a reliable method of border evaluation could imperil passage of immigration legislation.
Even the "Wave 'em in" Democrats had to pretend to be shocked, shocked:
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, a Democrat and strong a supporter of President Obama’s immigration proposals, was more blunt. “I would say to the department, you’ve got to get in the game,” she said.
Obviously, these Dems will eventually accept whatever bone the Administration tosses them. If any:
Obama administration officials said on Thursday that they had resisted producing a single measure to assess the border because the president did not want any hurdles placed on the pathway to eventual citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally.
They also said security conditions could change very rapidly along the border depending on where smugglers tried to bring people and narcotics across, and where border agents were concentrating their technology and other resources.
“While border security is complex and cannot be measured in a single metric,” said Peter Boogaard, a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, “in every metric available to measure progress, we’re heading in the right direction, including decreased apprehensions and increased seizures.”
It's complicated! And the dog ate their study.
Democrat passivity notwithstanding, Republicans seem to have a bit of an issue with this:
Amid contentious discussions in Congress over immigration, one point of wide agreement is that an evaluation of border security will be a central piece of any comprehensive bill. A bipartisan group in the Senate is working to write legislation that includes a “trigger,” which would make the path to citizenship for more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the country contingent on measurable advances in security at the borders.
Lawmakers have been pressing Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to devise a measure they can use to judge if the Obama administration’s claims of significant progress in border enforcement are justified. Republican senators in the bipartisan group have said a border standard is pivotal to their efforts.
“We need to have a measurement,” Senator John McCain of Arizona insisted at a hearing in the Senate last week.
“We need to assure the American people that we have effective control of the border and we have made advances to achieve that,” he said. “I need to have something to assure people they are not going to live in fear.”
We eageraly await an opportunity to assess the quality, consistency and odor of the BS to be shoveled upon us if and when Team Obama can be persuaded to address this.
The NY Times strains herocially to keep a straight face while explaining that in New York, the gun nuts were on the other side of the aisle:
New York Governor Favors Easing Newly Passed Gun Law
ALBANY — In the wake of the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York pushed through the State Legislature gun control measures that included not only a tougher assault weapons ban but also a tighter restriction on the maximum legal capacity of gun magazines.
But after weeks of criticism from gun owners, Mr. Cuomo said on Wednesday that he would seek to ease the restriction, which he said had proved unworkable even before it was scheduled to take effect on April 15.
They had to pass the bill to see what was in it. And what was in it was as ludicrous as the proposed "solution":
The gun-control law, approved in January, banned the sale of magazines that hold more than seven rounds of ammunition. But, Mr. Cuomo said Wednesday, seven-round magazines are not widely manufactured. And, although the new gun law provided an exemption for the use of 10-round magazines at firing ranges and competitions, it did not provide a legal way for gun owners to purchase such magazines.
As a result, he said, he and legislative leaders were negotiating language that would continue to allow the sale of magazines holding up to 10 rounds, but still forbid New Yorkers from loading more than 7 rounds into those magazines.
“There is no such thing as a seven-bullet magazine,” Mr. Cuomo said at a news conference. “That doesn’t exist. So you really have no practical option.”
So if a worried homeowner sleeps with ten bullets in the magazine of her bedside Glock she would be in violation of the revised law. Of course, if an intruder burst in with a ten round magazine, the concerned resident would only know whether the assailant was in compliance with the new gun law if he only managed seven shots without reloading. Do we feel safer yet?
I guess that if New York cops are allowed to continue their stop and fisk tactics that ten bullets in a ten bullet magazine will become an available criminal for aggressive prosecutors looking for excuses to bust guys they want to bust anyway.
But how this new law could possibly deter an Aurora type spree killer loading up for his big event is beyond me.
Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor
Most low-income students who have top test scores and grades do not even apply to the nation’s best colleges, according to a new analysis of every high school student who took the SAT in a recent year.
The pattern contributes to widening economic inequality and low levels of mobility in this country, economists say, because college graduates earn so much more on average than nongraduates do. Low-income students who excel in high school often do not graduate from the less selective colleges they attend.
Only 34 percent of high-achieving high school seniors in the bottom fourth of income distribution attended any one of the country’s 238 most selective colleges, according to the analysis, conducted by Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford and Christopher Avery of Harvard, two longtime education researchers. Among top students in the highest income quartile, that figure was 78 percent.
The findings underscore that elite public and private colleges, despite a stated desire to recruit an economically diverse group of students, have largely failed to do so.
Mr. Leonhardt eventually succumbs to a popular progressive myth that "economic diversity" can serve as a proxy for racial diversity in the event the Supreme Court invalidates affirmative action:
Elite colleges may soon face more pressure to recruit poor and middle-class students, if the Supreme Court restricts race-based affirmative action. A ruling in the case, involving the University of Texas, is expected sometime before late June.
Colleges currently give little or no advantage in the admissions process to low-income students, compared with more affluent students of the same race, other research has found. A broad ruling against the University of Texas affirmative action program could cause colleges to take into account various socioeconomic measures, including income, neighborhood and family composition. Such a step would require an increase in these colleges’ financial aid spending but would help them enroll significant numbers of minority students.
Huh? Bringing in more poor kids on a color blind basis won't be helpful, as the Times editors noted last fall - although there are proportionately more poor black kids, in absolute terms there are many more poor white kids. Of course, that doesn't mean that schools won't pretend to be pursuing economic diversity as a cover for racial preferences.
But there is a second problem, leading us to wonder whether Mr. Leonhardt even read his own article or the underlying study. From the article:
Among high-achieving, low-income students, 6 percent were black, 8 percent Latino, 15 percent Asian-American and 69 percent white, the study found.
That is the pool from which colleges will fish more "minority", i.e., non-Asian minority, students?
Delving into the study we also learn that high achieving blacks and Hispanics are more likely than high achieving whites to (a) live in urban areas with magnet schools, (b) end up applying to better colleges. From Mr. Leonhardt:
Top low-income students in the nation’s 15 largest metropolitan areas do often apply to selective colleges, according to the study, which was based on test scores, self-reported data, and census and other data for the high school class of 2008. But such students from smaller metropolitan areas — like Bridgeport; Memphis; Sacramento; Toledo, Ohio; and Tulsa, Okla. — and rural areas typically do not.
Ms. Hoxby and Mr. Avery, both economists, compared the current approach of colleges to looking under a streetlight for a lost key. The institutions continue to focus their recruiting efforts on a small subset of high schools in cities like Boston, New York and Los Angeles that have strong low-income students.
Top schools are having no trouble finding talented black kids from the NYC magnet schools; it is the bright light shining in rural Kentucy that is getting overlooked, and that light is more likely to be white. I am relying on Steve Sailer and his readers for this:
- For every low-income, high-performing white kid who applies to college like a smart kid, there are 11.7 who apply like poor kids.
- For every low-income, high-performing black kid who applies to college like a smart kid, there are 3.7 who apply like poor kids.
- For every low-income, high-performing Hispanic kid who applies to college like a smart kid, there are 3.2 who apply like poor kids.
- For every low-income, high-performing Asian kid who applies to college like a smart kid, there are 1.5 who apply like poor kids.
So schools could do a better recruiting job with every racial group, but viewed on a color blind basis the white group is clearly under-recruited now.
STRAY THOUGHT: Per Sailer, the study looks at "poor" based on estimated income, without any reference to a parents educational atainment. Consequently, a divorced mom on child support with a college degree can be just as 'poor' as a working class mother from working class parents. That can lead to this sort of result:
Among high achievers, 51% have a parent with a graduate degree, while it looks like about 82% are children of bachelor degree holders.
I have a suspicion that this study, based on income, will be oversold as focusing on class. I am also struggling with this (Leonhardt):
The researchers defined high-achieving students as those very likely to gain admission to a selective college, which translated into roughly the top 4 percent nationwide. Students needed to have at least an A-minus average and a score in the top 10 percent among students who took the SAT or the ACT.
Of these high achievers, 34 percent came from families in the top fourth of earners, 27 percent from the second fourth, 22 percent from the third fourth and 17 percent from the bottom fourth. (The researchers based the income cutoffs on the population of families with a high school senior living at home, with $41,472 being the dividing line for the bottom quartile and $120,776 for the top.)
No regional cost of living or average salary adjustments? A person earning $40,000 per year with a college degree living in Kentucky is not "poor" they way a person with that income living in Manhattan would be.
The election and the North Korean missile tests give Obama the excuse to do what he wanted to do anyway:
MOSCOW — The United States has effectively canceled the final phase of a Europe-based missile defense system that was fiercely opposed by Russia and cited repeatedly by the Kremlin as a major obstacle to cooperation on nuclear arms reductions and other issues.
Russian officials here have so far declined to comment on the announcement, which was made in Washington on Friday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as part of a plan to deploy additional ballistic missile interceptors to counter North Korea. The cancellation of some European-based defenses will allow resources to be shifted to protect against North Korea.
Russian leaders on several occasions used meetings with President Obama to press their complaints about the missile defense program. At one such meeting, in South Korea last March, Mr. Obama was heard on a live microphone telling the outgoing Russian president Dmitri A. Medvedev in a private aside that he would have “more flexibility” to negotiate on missile defense after the November presidential election in November.
Pentagon officials said that Russia’s longstanding objections played no role in the decision to reconfigure the missile interceptor program, which they said was based on the increased threat from North Korea and on technological difficulties and budget considerations related to the Europe-based program.
Left unmentioned: the clarification that Russian objections played no part in the decision was made during the opening monologue on SNL.