Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, January 31, 2011

In Defense of the US Response to Egypt

Hi Everyone,

I'll start by saying that I think the time has come for the US to come out and openly call for regime change - including the departure of Mubarak in very short order - or at least publicly endorse any evidence that Egypt is on that path. That said, I'd like to defend the Obama administration's response to the crisis in Egypt so far.

There is increasing talk about resentment being directed at the United States because the Obama administration has not been seen to do more to get rid of Mubarak. The assumption seems to be that the Obama administration is torn between their loyalty to Mubarak and their pro-democracy principles. Along with this seems to be that the US is either continuing to prop up Mubarak or at best doing nothing to get rid of a dictator who is their responsibility. But I think these critiques are not 100% valid.

First, Mubarak was not put in power by the US. Unlike many tin pot dictators around the world in the past 50 years or so (Pinochet, Marcos, Samoza, Batista etc), it's very hard to make the case that the current regime in Egypt was installed by the US. Mubarak's regime can trace its lineage with unbroken line of succession to the military regime of General Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser was a Soviet protege, not a US one. Nasser was succeeded by his long time friend and political ally, General Anwar El Sadat. Sadat was initially a Soviet client as well. It was only after the Egyptian military recognized the unfeasibility of a military solution the existence of Israel and he decided to shift away from a war policy to a peace policy, that Sadat also moved away from the USSR and towards the USA. When Sadat was assassinated for that shift, he was succeeded his protege, General Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak also began as a Soviet client - he graduated from a post-graduate training program at the USSR's Frunze Military Academy. My point here is that this is not a case of the US installing a despicable regime for its own purposes. Rather Egypt's military regime came to the US and offered its services and the US accepted - gladly.

Second, from very early on in this crisis, statements by both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have pointedly avoided mentioning Mubarak by name even while singing the praises of the friendly relations between Egypt and the United States or the "Egyptian people" and the United States. In a crisis like this for the US to make a point of not mentioning Mubarak by name is tantamount to a withdrawal of support. When these ominous omissions are combined with direct admonishments against using violence to put down the uprising, these kinds of statements amount to announcing US preference for Mubarak to leave (on the assumption that Mubarak can't stay without a crack down and the demonstrations won't stop until Mubarak goes). These basic statements have been embellished with progressively more direct calls for "dialogue," "reform," "transition," and "democracy." I'm increasingly convinced that all the evidence points to the US government effectively throwing Mubarak under the bus.

Third, suppose President Obama had come on TV on Wednesday of last week and said something like "the United States is calling for the resignation of President Mubarak..." That would probably cause celebrations in the streets in the short term. But it would have risked making whatever transitional government replaces Mubarak look like exactly the kind of US installed puppet, that Mubarak never really was. Some might also argue that such a move would have alienated some other US allies in the region with authoritarian regimes. But other than Yemen - which is teetering regardless of what Obama says about Mubarak - I'm not sure which other crucial allies would be likely to reverse their pro-US stance over this. I think the main motive for Obama's caution is a fear that the new regime in Egypt would appear to be anything other than a government of, by and for Egyptians.

This is certainly a messy situation and I'm not trying to say reasonable people wouldn't disagree about what exactly Obama should say and when. But I do think there is an increasing trend in the press - picking up on anger being voiced in Egypt and around the world - that Obama is either somehow pro-Mubarak or feckless.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Meanwhile upriver

Sudan is about to split into two countries. The largely non-Muslim southern part of the country just voted overwhelmingly to be an independent country. This new country would be poor and land locked. Although what oil reserves Sudan has seem to be in this part of the country. The Chinese are the major players in developing those oil fields right now.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

My Perspective on Egypt

Hi Everyone,

I thought I'd share my thoughts on what is going in Egypt right now. Its very hard to predict how events will play out in the midst of a crisis. It doesn't look Mubarak is going to come out of this crisis still being President but he could stay in power if the army backs him and he cracks down with escalating violence or he simply waits out the riots while using the army to protect the things he cares about. But the medium and long term prospects are more amenable to prediction. Here are three thoughts I've had about the medium and long term prospects for events in Egypt.

First, on the demonstrations themselves. It's very important that the Muslim Brotherhood were not the initiators of this wave of protests and still don't seem to be the driving force for their continuation. The reason I think that's important is because I've read research that suggests that onlookers observe who the first demonstrators are. If the first people on the streets are perceived as radical or fringe elements, onlookers discount the significance of the protests and stay home and watch the whole thing from their windows or on TV. But if the onlookers start to see people they perceive as mainstream, regular people ("middle class" if you like), they are increasingly likely to join in. In particular, I think this sort of argument is made by Susanne Lohman's article "The Dynamics of Informational Cascades: The Monday Demonstrations in Leipzig, E. Germany 1989-1991." World Politics v47, n1 (1994): 42-101.

Second, Egypt's percapita GDP is about $6,000 (2009). That's right about at the level that some studies suggest we should expect that IF a democratic regime emerged out of this, it could last for years - which might be enough time for it to increase its prosperity enough to stabilize. It's also at about the level where dictatorships get more durable. A third possibility could be that Egypt will enter a period of alternating elections and coups d'etat. We saw a lot of that in Latin America and in Turkey for a while. An interesting starting point for this line of reasoning might be an article by Adam Przeworski and Fernando Limongi "Modernization: Theories and Facts" World Politics v 49, n2 (1997): 155-187.

Third, Egypt does export some oil and natural gas but it's not considered a major exporter. To put Egyptian oil production in perspective, it is far below the rank of a country like Mexico in terms of oil exports. This may be good news for Egypt. There is a fair amount of evidence that reliance on oil exports is negatively correlated with the emergence/survival of democracy. These findings actually seem to hold for any economy that is dependent on the export of a single, valuable commodity. For a good starting point for this kind of reasoning, see Michael Ross' article "Does Oil Hinder Democracy?" World Politics v53 (2001): 325-361.


Friday, January 28, 2011


I didn't think I could like congressional Republicans any less.

For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. (Smith's spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.)

Given that the bill also would forbid the use of tax benefits to pay for abortions, that 13-year-old's parents wouldn't be allowed to use money from a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA) to pay for the procedure. They also wouldn't be able to deduct the cost of the abortion or the cost of any insurance that paid for it as a medical expense.

Thank God this won't make it past the Senate. But these people are an election away from running this country!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sudden Political Flux

Egypt is balanced on the thin edge of a knife tonight. We have seen "people power" uprisings enough over the past 30 years to know that what happens on Friday evening in Cairo may be dispositive. If the police and army turn out in force and brutally repress, then keep it up for a few more days, the government may survive. We have seen this happen in Tienanmen square in 1989 and Tehran in the summer of 2010. If they waiver and crowds grow, it may be all over very quickly. I can foresee terrible violence or a million people out in the streets of Cairo, plus huge crowds in all the other major cities, demanding Mubarak to leave. Mohammed El Baradei has come to play the role of Vaclav Havel, Cory Aquino, and many others who have offered themselves as a crisis solution. Because 2/3 of the population is under 30 with large unemplyment, the prospects for massive demonstrations of people that have known nobody but Mubarak as president are huge. At this point, the odds of the Egyptian government surviving are still better than even, but waning fast.

That's the situational read. But here's the deeper commentary I want to make. We've seen this over and over again and are still trying to understand how suddenly, one day, a seemingly stable regime can collapse in a matter of days. Politics normally moves at a glacial pace. But sometimes a situation can become entirely fluid. That metaphor may be helpful or not for understanding a phenomenon we could call sudden political flux. Here's how I offer to explain the situation. We can call a state an "institution" but in the end it's just a bunch of people. The body politic is a human thing. The primary mechanism for sustained political structures is expectational. We see the same thing in markets. While the stock market normally moves slowly, it can suddenly move into periods of wild fluctuation as we saw in the Fall of 2008 and into 2009. The metaphor of "free fall" is not bad either - it describes a sudden, unexpected, but accelerating and seemingly uncontrollable event. We have also seen sudden breakdowns of order in places like Los Angeles in the 1992 riots, 1968 riots nationwide. In fact, one lessons of the past 30 years, both political and economic, may be that crisis is endemic to human social, political, and economic systems.

I do not know if a model can be made to predict when crises will occur or how they will resolve. It may be possible, but part of what makes them crises - sudden political flux, market collapse, riots - is that they are not predicted and the relevant actors are unprepared for them. Their spontaneity is their main feature. Moreover, organized premeditated attempts to create political flux through general strikes are rarely effecive. They also involve a set of decisionmakers not normally involved in political decsionmaking. What happens on the streets of Cairo tomorrow will be decided by huge numbers of individual, ordinary people -- protestors, police, soldiers -- in addition to the normal actors, their commanders and powerbrokers. The prerequisite to sudden political flux is mass communication - not mass media. The ability of vast numbers of human beings to participate in political drama is necessary for crises to occur. It may be observed that market crises also appear to be connected with bubbles and mass participation.

So we wait anxiously to see if Egypt will suddenly change its political system over the next twenty four hours.

What may be observable about political crises of this kind is that, like market crises, they cannot be handled by slow ameliorative efforts. It only spirals further out of control. To use another metaphor, a situation like this is referred to as a movement. Only brutal, dramatic, swift, and stunning action can arrest (literally and figuratively) a movement in its tracks. The situation tomorrow may be determined in a matter of an hour.


On-Line Univeristy

During the State of the Union, the President commented that the United States has fallen to 9th place in terms of undergraduate degree holders,and he made several references to China and South Korea, indicating these are our competitors.

So I did a little fact checking. In fact this statistic is a bit off. We have fallen to 9th place compared to OECD countries, i.e industrialized nations. Neither China nor South Korea are in the OECD. That doesn't mean we shouldn't look at what these nations do to pick up on good ideas. But the comparison is unfair and inaccurate. It plants the idea, although in very diplomatic terms, that we should watch out for the "Yellow Peril".

Furthermore, when you adjust Elementary & High School test statistics for poverty (i.e dump the test scores of kids on school lunch programs and special assistance) the U.S. suddenly ranks much higher.

According to the is Census in 2009, 49.1% of the U.S. population has an AA degree of higher. According to the OECD in 2007 45% of 25-64 year-olds had and AA (upper Secondary) or higher. This puts us in 12th place among OECD nations. But it represents about a 4% drop since 1997.

My employer pays for many of its employees to get BA, MA, and PhDs in fields related to it's mission. This is a great, but many of the schools are on-line schools like University of Phoenix, Chapman, etc. The people going to the local CSU are taking several years to complete their degrees because the class loads, assignments and the like are heavy enough that they can't take more than one or two classes a semester. The people going to Chapman are done in a year. That is a huge difference, and I am not convinced it's a good one. The end result is not the same. The CSU grad is much more professionally prepared than the others who are doing the "resume-building" degrees.

So many universities are offering on-line programs for primary degrees that this frightens me. I can see running an Executive Program On-line because the students often have work experience in the field and university degrees from reputable programs. But I worry about the quality of education being offered for higher degrees. I know that these universities offering on-line degrees are money makers and that they make education more available to more people. But I ask the Citizens, is this really a good idea? Is it "education on the cheap" so to speak?

You still need the professor and the classroom time where critical thinking and discussion can take place. I don't think that a blog or Web cam discussion can really replace that. I read a lot of stuff in college that without a classroom discussion or lecture, I wouldn't have understood. The best schools are still offering that. Or am I just old fashioned?


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Concealed Handguns and Personal Safety

Many on the right like to argue that society is breaking down, that law enforcement agencies in particular are incapable of protecting law abiding individuals. They argue from this premise that allowing as many law abiding citizens to cary concealed hand guns will enhance the personal safety of the armed individual as well as general public safety. The logic is that when criminals are forced to consider that any given potential victim may be armed, they will not attack/rob as many people as often.

In the wake of the shootings in Arizona, CNN interviewed a witness who was carrying a concealed hand gun at the time of the shooting. He said he carried it because it made him feel safer. He was in the grocery store when he heard the shots. When he looked out the door of the grocery store, he saw a man raising a semi automatic hand gun. As the man told his story, he said he had a split second to decide to draw his own weapon and fire, run away for cover, or confront the man he saw raising the gun without drawing his own weapon. He chose the last option. That is fortunate because when he grabbed the man's arm, he found out that the guy raising the gun was not the shooter but one of the victims who had tackled Loughner when he stopped to reload.

The man being interviewed was fairly candid about how close he came to compounding the tragedy rather than preventing or resolving it. He pointed out that he could easily have shot an innocent man and in doing so made himself appear as a "second shooter" to anyone else in the crowd who might have had a concealed weapon or to responding police/security.

This story underscores many of what I consider to be the myths around the idea that having lots of random people carrying concealed hand guns makes any of us safer. This man being interviewed could easily have turned a tragic shooting with 20 or so victims into a chaotic free-for-all with many more victims. Or he could have been shot by the police while brandishing his weapon in a well intentioned attempt to secure the situation himself. Furthermore, in the end, this man in the interview was confronted with a truly violent crisis that was a potential threat to his safety. Unless he is a cop, a soldier, etc or lives in an unusually dangerous neighborhood, this will probably be the most dangerous situation of this sort he ever sees in his life. And yet, his hand gun ended up not doing him any good at all and may have made his situation worse.

Finally look at this situation from the point of view of a responding police officer. Suppose you are a cop responding to a frantic 911 call about shots fired at the local mall with several victims down. You pull up in your cruiser and jump out drawing your weapon. In an instant you have to survey the crowd for the shooter. You have every reason to believe that you are the first police officer on the scene yet you see a couple of people in civilian clothes holding pistols amid a panicked crowd with several people on the ground wounded. Would that situation make your job easier or harder?

At a minimum, a cop in this situation would have to confront the armed people he sees and tell them to disarm. That takes time. Assuming the people with guns that (s)he sees first are innocent bystanders trying to protect themselves with their legally carried guns, the cop still has to identify and stop the perpetrator. Having to disarm bystanders slows that down at best and at worst presents opportunities for further tragedy.

As an unarmed citizen, I feel safer with faster response rates by police, fewer people throwing bullets around in a crisis, and an environment in which trained law enforcement agents (accountable to democratically elected representatives) can perform their duties as efficiently as possible. To be honest, I simply do not understand the thinking that bring people to the conclusion that a world with high numbers of secretly armed civilians makes any of us safer.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Meanwhile in the Middle East

Tunisia is undergoing a period of severe political instability. Massive street demonstrations calling for the resignation of President Zine Ben Ali who has been a relatively benign dictator since 1987. The latest reports have Ben Ali fleeing the country with the Prime Minister he appointed having taken power. These demonstrations have been going on since December but the rest of the world has taken little notice (probably because Tunisia isn't a major oil exporter and the government doesn't take high profile anti-western or anti-American positions). You can see Tunisia's CIA World Fact Book profile here.

According to the Polity IV project which provides broad measures of the level of democratization in countries, Tunisia (higher scores mean more democracy, lower scores mean a more authoritarian regime) has seen a period of significant improvement in political freedoms in the first half of Ben Ali's rule but has recently been slipping backwards in a more authoritarian direction.

Tunisia's economic situation makes me cautiously optimistic about their medium future. They have a fairly diverse economy and a relatively high per capita GDP for a non oil exporting country. There are concerns though. Decades of rigged elections has left a party system that has been untested in a fully democratic environment. We don't really know if they are up to it. In many new democracies, party systems become badly destabilized and in the worst cases, this can make people disillusioned with democracy and/or provoke a coup d'etat. But if the parties can manage to represent constituencies and compete with each other without resorting to violence, things could get very interesting in a good way.

Tunisia is a cross roads here. It is entirely possible that they could emerge from this with something resembling a stable democracy. If that were to happen in a predominantly Islamic country in North Africa it would be a great development for the region!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

And in other news . . . California has a New Governor

Governor moonbeam is back! And his opening salvo reminds us why we love practical Jerry. He opened by proposing that 48,000 state employees turn in their cell phones . This represents a 50% cut.

One commentator suggested that he also look at all the unused landlines that the state is paying for, but that are not being used. The article mentions that in a 2009 audit, they found 8000 unused lines in LA county alone. The annual cost: $1.5 mil .

Brown is an interesting and parsimonious character. He never moved into the governors' mansion in his first term, and brought to bear his monk's frugality to Sacramento. Then there is the story about the A $100 million hole in the carpet in the governor's office. Before leaving office, Ronald Regan offered to replace the carpet in the governor's office at his own expense. Brown refused. Near his desk, a hole opened up in the carpet. One day, Davis informed Brown that GSA has been scheduled to fix the hole. Brown was angry. "Don't you understand -- that hole has already saved us a couple of hundred million dollars. "People can't come in here and rail against me for not funding something, when there's a whole in the governor's rug."

So far, he refused office space on K Street in Sacramento for his transition team, preferring to use his Oakland campaign offices.

Apparently, the other thing Brown's time in seminary taught him was the need for sacrifice. He is going to be making some very unpopular cuts normal liberals would never suggest, such as cutting spending on public libraries. But that is the nature of the beast. We go from flash (Arnie) to stash.


Blood Libel? Not Bloody Likely

So you have all heard by now that Sarah Palin claimed that those who drew a connection between Saturday's Tucson massacre and right-wing rhetoric are engaged in a "blood libel." What is a blood libel? The term comes from the late middle ages. It specifically refers to the false accusation that Jews used the blood of Christian babies as part of their matzoh recipe for passover. It more broadly refers to the related accusation that "the Jews" were and are responsible for the death of Jesus. A blood libel is not just another word for "false accusation of resopnsibility for murder," however. When abstracted from the context of anti-semitism from which it arose, the "blood libel" could be defined as follows: a false accusation that an unpopular ethnic or religious minority engages in unspeakable, secret crimes employed to encourage hatred of and violence against that group. The first key to understanding the terror of the blood libel is the power relationship: the ability of the majority which controls the public narrative to "libel" a minority. The second key is that the crimes are secretive and hard to prove, so that the accused group is forced to try to "prove a negative." How can Jews prove that no baby blood was used in the matzoh? The third key is that the crime is unspeakable: rather like accusations of pedophilia, the accusation alone creates a permanent stain. Cannibalism used to be like that - less so now because it is viewed rather as fantastical.

First, it is obviously absurd for conservative Christians - or Conservatives of any stripe - who just won the last election to claim such a minority status or victimhood. They are as close to "the majority" as you get in this country. Certainly they cannot be said to be analogues of the Jews at any time.

Second, nobody is accusing Tea Partiers of engaging in regular assassination or such a thing. It doesn't even look like a blood libel. Blood libel is not "guilt by association."

Third, there is no such odiousness about he accusations being made. Liberal commentators, even at their worst, are not accusing right wing commentators of doing unspeakable things like pedophilia or cannibalism.

What is happening is a discussion that we need to have. People show up with guns to Tea Party rallies and mutter about the Second Amendment. Some talk openly about resistance. Militia members prowl around with their guns and their heated anti-government hate and rhetoric. They have dark thoughts about cabals and the need to take matters into their own hands. Conservative groups have helped produce a theory they embraace - entirely false - that the Second Amendment enshrines a right to use violence to resist the federal government if you consider it to be tyrannical. There is a short road from saying that the Second Amendment right to bear arms is about the right to defend society against abstract tyranny to the statement that guns are needed now to defend against this Obama-tyranny now. The more mainstream conservatives don't endorse this Second Amendment construction openly, but they don't engage or deny it either. They want the votes of these extremists, so they won't contradict or condemnt them. And in subtle ways some even knowingly encourage these extremists a little. Coded language communicates that "I'm on your side" even without explicitly endorsing them. Even now we hear condemnations of this murder but not condemnations of the notion that political violence is enshrined in the Second Amendment if you really think the US government is tyrannical and unjust. And what is worse, the rhetoric used by even mainstream conservatives to describe Obama, the Democrats, and Health Care Reform are already every bit as bad as they could possibly be (tyranny, Nazis, communists, gulag). Those are the words that would justify political resistance with violence if taken literally, and if you believe the Second Amendment enshrines violent resistance with guns. That is what they are being called out on.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Violence? What violence?

The defensive response from many on the right that their rhetoric is not violent or doesn't incite violence is just offensive. Here is a great example of what passes for humor on the political right. It's a hunting license for killing Democrats. You can buy one at the "patriot shop" (the name of course implying that if you don't like what they sell you must not be a patriot).

UPDATE: Dr. Strangelove pointed out that the product linked above has been taken down since I first posted this. But I found several other products at the same website that are nearly as indicative of the pervasive violent subtexts of the American right. Here, Here, Here and Here.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Roll-Giffords Shooting, Policy and Politics

The big story right now is the murder of a federal judge, John Roll, and the attempted murder of Representative Giffords (D-AZ) by a deranged young man (the police have him in custody and are currently seeking a possible accomplice) at a mall in Tuscon. A number of other people were also killed and wounded including a 9 year old girl. The Sheriff has publicly called out the right wing demagogues who whip up "prejudice and bigotry" and lamented that Arizona seems to have become the "capitol of it."

All of this is about to kick off a debate in this country about how responsible for right wing political violence are Republicans like Sarah Palin and others who are trying to ride the Tea Party to political power. Tea Partiers will say that this is the act of a lunatic and that it has no connection to politics at all. I agree that the man the police have arrested is probably mentally ill. But that does not mean that these murders are a-political or have no connection to the rhetoric and policies of the right.

The man may have been insane and murderously suicidal. But the nature of his murder/suicide is a product of right wing politics and policies. His choice of targets and the weapons he used (and therefore the number of victims) are the products of the politics of the American right.

There are murder/suicides occasionally in the United States. The overwhelming majority of them are obviously apolitical affairs in which somebody snaps and kills their family and then kills themselves. These kinds of events spike when the economy goes south. There have been a couple of incidents like this near where I live. They were well covered and there is no ambiguity at all about their nature. There is no mention of politics or anything that could even be called politics by a deranged mind. These are entirely personal tragedies.

The Roll-Giffords shooting is obviously different from that pattern. The perpetrator seems to be mentally ill and it may be that he was tackled before he could kill more people and then himself. It may also be the case that even if there were no political rhetoric for him to feed off of, he would have snapped and shot up his community college or his family or something. But the fact remains that the targets of this murderer had no connection to him at all. He chose them because of their political positions. Judge Roll had recently ruled in favor of an immigrant group in a lawsuit they had brought against the State of Arizona. Representative Giffords (D-AZ), like many Democrats, had been threatened since her vote for the health care reform bill. In the 2010 election her opponent held rallies around his firing automatic rifles with the headline for the event being "Get on Target for Victory in November. Help Remove Gabrielle Giffords from Office. Shoot a Fully Automatic M16 with Jesse Kelley." The shooter clearly chose to commit the crime he did because of politics. The atmosphere created by the right gave the shooter his inspiration for the how to manifest his mental illness. The shooter's web pages are full of references to secret government mind control projects and his desire to establish a new currency. These may seem nuts to most of us but these kinds of fantastic theories about economics combined with over the top paranoia about the government are relatively common among the tea party crowd.

There are attacks by mentally deranged killers in other modern societies as well. In some countries where gun control laws are stricter, these attacks take place with either knives or with firearms with low rates of fire. But in the US, the weapon of choice is often a semi- or fully automatic weapon. In the Roll-Giffords shooting, the shooter was using a semi-automatic 9mm handgun and shot 20 people before he was tackled while trying to reload. I imagine that we will hear that he had a high capacity clip in the thing and probably bought it all legally despite a long history of ringing alarms bells about his mental state (I just heard on CNN that he was rejected from the military for undisclosed reasons and has had "numerous" run ins with authorities while a student at the local community college).

So in my opinion this is a case of right wing chickens come home to roost. We have a lunatic who's particular victims, it is becoming increasingly apparent, were chosen after the shooter was inspired or egged on by the environment of right wing rhetoric. I'm also convinced that if there had been a years long drum beat by the left of violent rhetoric directed at Republicans and their allied institutions (say churches) and some lunatic with a website full of left wing inspired rhetoric murdered a right leaning federal judge and a Republican House rep there would be a hurricane like howl of condemnation of anyone to the left of Genghis Khan for their complicity in the violence. Hell, Sarah Palin accused Obama of being a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer because he once had coffee at a neighborhood association meeting with a former member of the Weather Underground.

UPDATE: I could also have pointed out that if this guy turns out to be a psychotic schizophrenic (which it looks like might come out), we owe his attack in part on the defunding of mental health provision that took place in the 80s. Since then, we've relied primarily on the prison system to treat the severely mentally ill - that means that people like this guy who are showing clear signs of being a danger to themselves and others are left on their own until they actually commit a violent crime.


Saturday, January 08, 2011

Will Nobody Rid Me of these Meddlesome Politicians?

So the Tea Party has turned to murder, at last, to the very "second amendment remedies" Sharron Angle advocated earlier. An Arizona Congresswoman was gunned down at a grocery store I used to shop at when I lived there. A federal judge was killed in the attack; she may live. Her husband, it turns out, is an astronaut.

The goal of this attack is to try to literally make Democratic politicians afraid for their lives so they won't take certain courageous votes. That's political terrorism pure and simple. I don't suppose the GOP will let us punish it in the manner they claim is 100% OK by the US Constitution and that they have written into law: by locking the perpetrator up indefinitely overseas, by torturing him for months at a stretch, all as part of an endless "war on terror," then using the laws barring material aid to terrorists to shut down all the tea party cells and Fox News.

The almost unbelievable part of this is that it is a tempest in a teapot. Americans by and large want solutions to the problem of unaffordable health insurance and aren't horrified by the prospect of buying health insurance, something that 80% already voluntarily purchase. Yet this is the cause celebre of these right wing lunatics.