Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Grandstanding Old Party (both of them)

I tried to watch some of the continuing and endless hearings on “Benghazi”, today with Leon Panetta sitting in front of the bloviating blowholes.   And again, I couldn’t watch it for long.

For all the posturing, the GOP attacks on the administration amount to “We would have done this better than you”.   That’s fine and understandable.   It’s also irrelevant.   I’d love for Mr. Panetta, since he is retiring to say, “Look, folks.   We screwed up in Benghazi – badly.  We can waste another few hours listening to each of you make speeches about how horribly we handled this, or we can start working together to make something like this less likely in the future.   Your choice.   What we can’t do is pretend that we can prevent such things from happening at all.   The world is changing rapidly.   The mideast and far east are experiencing massive growing pains, and we need to be involved in these areas to make sure our interests are served and protected.   Diplomatic jobs in these areas will continue to be dangerous for the near future.  The staff in Libya understood this.   So again – we can work together to make sure we have the funding, processes and capabilities to do the work we need to do, and to reduce the likelihood of tragedies like Benghazi.   Or we can continue to waste time creating campaign video snippets showing each of you Standing Up To The Administration.   So – what’s your pleasure?”

I continue to hope and dream…


Secretary Clinton forgot one thing (that Condoleezza Rice always remembered) – a woman must remain emotionless in any testimony in front of the idiots in Congress. It is quite understandable that she lost her temper at Senator Johnson, but she played right into the GOP’s narrative when she did so. That one sound bite will be paraphrased, repackaged, and repeated until we all feel like throwing up…

After Newtown

This one hit me harder than most.   My youngest is the same age as these kids, and attends a small-town school just like Sandy Hook…

After the fear and anger began to settle, I forced myself to THINK – how can these tragedies be avoided?   I couldn’t think of any easy answers, and I don’t think we should expect there to be.   I was gratified that the President did not state it as a simple problem with a simple solution, but promised to work quickly to define actions that would make these tragedies less likely.   I am choosing to have confidence that the Adminstration will work hard to do this, and do it well.

Of course, the news and the rest of our idiot media seem to have very quickly retreated into their useless “they said/they said” crap, so eager to be seen as showing “both sides” that they utterly fail to do any analysis, investigation, or real reporting (with very few exceptions).   Once again, it was our premier satirist, Jon Stewart and his team at the Daily Show, who made the only real attempt to look at the tragedy, to understand the issue(s), and talk about what might be done about it.   If you haven’t already, you can watch him HERE.

What do I think?

I think the media likes to make it seem like these are the only two views, but these are actually two extremes:

  • Take away bad guns – or all guns
  • No new gun laws – or no gun laws at all

But it’s not simple; it’s not either/or.  Like most serious issues, it’s what psychology and philosophy call an “over-determined” problem.  There are multiple interrelated factors that need to be understood and dealt with.   It’s not caused just by guns or mental illness (or evil or stupidity, i.e., ‘bad guys’), but by a confluence of factors.  A basic way to state what we need to look at could be:

“Stop or at least inhibit the confluence of ‘bad guy’ and gun”

If we frame the problem intelligently, and AVOID TAKING INTRANSIGENT ‘POSITIONS’, then we have a real chance to help reduce (but probably not eliminate) these tragedies.  The truth is usually somewhere between two extremes…

What are some of the things I think need to be part of any discussion?

  • Screening and background checks – these are largely in place, BUT:
    • It’s too easy to get guns, including consumer versions of cool military weapons.   There must be some improvement of screening to make guns – especially military mocks – a little harder to obtain.   This is harder than it sounds.  How do you define who should be allowed to buy a gun?   We need to at least talk about it and TRY to make it less likely that bad guy joins with gun.
    • Congress repeatedly modifies appropriations and passes ‘mini-laws’ that make it difficult for background checks to be done well under current law.   And these checks need to be improved in light of Newtown.
    • Federal and local agencies must have the funding to validate, investigate, pursue, and prosecute violations of laws meant to prevent screened individuals and groups from obtaining weapons.   Right now they choose to prosecute ridiculously few of the violations that ARE reported.
    • The parameters of screening – who should not be able to purchase a weapon – must be sufficient to reduce the confluence of bad guy and weapon.   This should be the primary judgment criteria for such screening.
  • What guns should be available?  Currently legal guns are based on what could conversationally described as a threshold based on:
    • Caliber – size of projectile and destructive power
    • Firing rate – the ability to delivery many projectiles (bullets) quickly

Since the 1930s, machine guns have been illegal, and since 1986, it has been illegal to own any fully automatic weapon – one able to fire multiple times with one depression of a trigger.   Both these restrictions were supported by the NRA.

The main killing weapon used at Newtown, the AR15, is a semi-automatic version of the standard military issue (since Vietnam) M16 rifle.   Its caliber is identical to the M16 and legal for sale to the public.  Should the thresholds be modified to include military-‘type’ (e.g., .223) weapons barred for sale to the public?   Retired General Stanley McChrystal and others think there is no need for a private person to have a weapon this destructive (his word), and that its use should be limited to Military personnel.   This should be part of the discussion.

  • Ammunition is regulated less effectively (to put it mildly) than the weapons that require it to function.   Ammunition should be subject to the same level of background check as weapons purchases.   Legal threshold definitions can be modified to also limit the size of storage/loading cartridges (‘clips’), although these are not difficult to fabricate (basically a metal box and springs).   This should be part of the discussion.
  • Education is a big factor.   Why not require proper training for the acquisition of any weapon, especially firearms?
  • There are social/cultural factors as well.   We have too many movies, games, and social institutions that glorify a “gun = manliness” mentality.   We need to stigmatize and de-idolize the Rambo mentality.
  • We need to talk about the illegal – criminal – acquisition of guns.   It is still too easy to get guns, especially handguns, illegally.   Remember, the majority (by far) of gun crimes and deaths are from handguns.   This MUST be a part of the discussion.

There are more factors, I’m sure, but these seem like a minimum.

Remember, though, especially in these days of so-called fiscal conservatism:   Are we willing to pay enough to resolve this problem, or at least severely reduce it?   The Justice Department, our Police Forces, the BATF, and the FBI – are we willing to pay for our authorities to be able to enforce laws of this type – even existing laws?

We have many types of crime and wrongs in the country, and many of them are more commonplace than gun violence.   But as a nation of moral people, of parents, families and villages, shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to deter future slaughters (sorry – the blunt word is accurate) like what happened in Newtown, in Aurora, at Virginia Tech and other places?   I revere our Constitution and all of the rights it enshrines – but I cannot excuse doing nothing by pointing to the Second Amendment.

As Our President has reminded us, we are a great Nation, capable of solving tough, complicated problems.   I pray that we won’t fail at this moment because the work of finding solutions is too hard for those we elected to office.

Bloviating Blowholes – an Unending Outgassing

Today’s (and the last week’s or so) chapter – Peter King of NY.

This nitwit is so deperate to make a scandal out of the tragedy of Benghazi that he refuses even to listen to David Petraeus (at least according to initial reports after today’s hearing).

Dimwit version of testimony and the initial reports after the event:  ““Now, he clearly believes that it did not arise out of a demonstration,” said  Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) “It was not spontaneous, and [there was] clear  terrorist involvement.”  [Read more at: ]

Actually, Ambassador Rice never said that the attack was definitively spontaneous and caused by the film or “arose out of a demostration”.

A more, shall we say, reasoned (than reactive) understanding of inital reports and Ambassador Rice’s comments might be:

  • There were protests
  • Extremists took advantage of the protests to attack the compound

But that isn’t as exciting as seeking a scandal, is it?

It’s tragic enough that we were unprepared for such an attack, and that good people died.   This is a problem that must be analyzed, and prevented from recurring if possible.

But must Republicans (and the salivating media) always be so desperate for the next [fill blank]-Gate that we can’t actually look at facts before we fart from our mouths?

The GOP is Still Afraid of Math and Science

Proof?  This is their reasoning so far regarding the results of the national election:

Senate:        GOP loses seats +
House:         GOP loses seats +
President:   GOP loses
= GOP has mandate to preserve tax cuts for “Job Creators”

Media and The Horse Race

I’ve railed (mostly privately) about the pathetic media – both print, voice and video – and their nearly total focus on the ‘horse race’ aspects of the Presidential campaign.   Why don’t they examine ‘real issues’?   Why don’t they hold the candidates and their surrogates to at least a minimal standard of honesty?

With the exceptions of (1) Fox News, which is a pure political appendage of the Republican Party, and (2) MSNBC, which is a pathetic sort of “Anti-Fox”, the other major outlets all focus mainly on “how will this impact the polls” and other such nonsense (How did this look to the ‘WalMart Moms’?; What is the ‘Twitterverse’ (really) saying?).

I used to think that this was simply part of the media’s fear of losing access.   Outside of the campaigns, I still think this is true.   The media knows or believes that if they are too “hard” (whatever that means.. could it be that legendary idea of ‘hard news’?) on the reps or candidates of whichever party, they risk losing the cooperation of these people – interviews, background, etc.   To these folks, access is everything, and the parties know this and use it to tame the media.

But I realized that isn’t all of it, especially as regards the behavior of the media during presidential campaigns…   I realized that politics has become just like Sports or the Weather…   The media outlets are desperate to be the first to predict the outcome correctly.   Have we ever seen such a ridiculous and escalating focus on polling and surveys?   And what the heck is a “Poll of Polls” and who thinks that actually means anything??   I’ve been well trained in data collection and analysis, and I can tell you it’s nonsense.

It’s a sad state of affairs.   We have no one helping us to dig through the bullshit to find the facts buried under it.  And O Yes, Virginia, even though the ridiculous “Fact Checker” industry has become a joke, there Really Are Such Things As Facts.

They just don’t sell well.

David Stockman Knows S***

David Stockman (Reagan’s first Budeget Director, and himself a Private Equity pioneer) explains Mitt Romney’s fabulous (or is it “fabled”?) business experience.

Read it

The Fed (up)

It occurs to me that we haven’t had a Fed Chairman worth a bucket of snot since Paul Volcker.   Anyone done any study of how Fed actions (or inactions) contributed to the 90s bubble and the 2009 crisis?

Mitt the Unprepared

I’m bothered by a growing sense that Mr. Romney just doesn’t seem to take seriously the need to prepare and understand the issues he discusses.   The latest case in point – his comments in Israel regarding role of different factors in the prosperity of nations (N.B. the words in the speech were pretty much verbatim from Romney’s book “No Apology: Believe in America”).   He mischaracterized and showed a deplorably shallow read of one of the greatest books of recent times – Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel”.  If you haven’t read it, you should – if you’re interested in the arc of history.

I’ll let Mr. Diamond speak – here

CPAC Run; Run CPAC, Run

It doesn’t help the so-called “CPAC” when their most fervent reception is given to a Quitter.


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