Matt Y. Gets Creepy

Hard on the heels of his post defending Bill Bennett’s claim that being black means you’re more likely to commit crimes, Matt Yglesias veers off into creepy social-engineering land with this:

Some of us are interested in finding policy tools that would somewhat increase the natural rate of population increase in this country.

Excuse me? “Some of us” are trying to figure out how to make more American babies faster? I don’t know what Matt’s been smoking in darkened rooms lately, but we’ve got millions of people already living in poverty in this country. Young, old, middle-aged, white, black, and other; maybe Matt and his buddies could wait until those people are taken care of before implementing their plan to impregnate the females.

A Swift Kick In the Bennett

Bill Bennett, Good Morning America
8.6MB QT movie of Bill Bennett segment on Good Morning America, featuring interviews with Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) and Robert George (New York Post)

On Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes, Bill Bennett blusteringly defends his comment that “…it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down” by saying:

This is like Swift’s “Modest Proposal.” Uh, for people who remember their, their literature, you put things up in order to examine them. I put it up, examined it, and said that is ridiculous and impossible no matter who advances it.

Sadly, the man who was the Secretary of Education seems to have missed a few lessons in his literature classes. Swift wrote “A Modest Proposal” as an indictment of the poverty the Irish were forced to endure under the control of one of the richest nations on the earth: England. Swift argued that the landlords of Ireland had sucked so much life out of the poor, they might as well go ahead and eat the flesh of their children. That “the want of venison [due to over-hunting] might be well supplied by the bodies of young lads and maidens, not exceeding fourteen years of age nor under twelve.” That this culling of the unwanted Irish herd would not only reduce the number of papists, but that it would provide an income for adults (from the sale of their children to the butcher), that it would induce marriages and pregnancies, and “prevent those voluntary abortions.”

The difference between Bennett and Swift couldn’t be more vast. Bennett believes his line about killing every black child reducing the crime rate. He hasn’t apologized for saying that. He said it would be a reprehensible thing to do, but that could simply be because his process involved abortion.

Swift, on the other hand, was mocking the people who were ignoring the suffering of the poor on their own doorsteps. He wasn’t discussing the feasibility of a scheme that he was “examining.” He was jabbing a knife in the unprotected back of the upper class who simply let the suffering go on and on. His proposal didn’t end (as Bennett’s did) with “That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.” Swift wrapped up with an alternative to eating the children of the poor:

After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject any offer proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual. But before something of that kind shall be advanced in contradiction to my scheme, and offering a better, I desire the author or authors will be pleased maturely to consider two points. First, as things now stand, how they will be able to find food and raiment for an hundred thousand useless mouths and backs. And secondly, there being a round million of creatures in human figure throughout this kingdom, whose whole subsistence put into a common stock would leave them in debt two millions of pounds sterling, adding those who are beggars by profession to the bulk of farmers, cottagers, and laborers, with their wives and children who are beggars in effect: I desire those politicians who dislike my overture, and may perhaps be so bold as to attempt an answer, that they will first ask the parents of these mortals, whether they would not at this day think it a great happiness to have been sold for food, at a year old in the manner I prescribe, and thereby have avoided such a perpetual scene of misfortunes as they have since gone through by the oppression of landlords, the impossibility of paying rent without money or trade, the want of common sustenance, with neither house nor clothes to cover them from the inclemencies of the weather, and the most inevitable prospect of entailing the like or greater miseries upon their breed for ever.

So. Bill Bennett’s not just a racist talk show host, former drug czar, and former Secretary of Education, but he’s a stupid, racist talk show host, former drug czar, and former Secretary of Education. That’s Readin’ down. ‘Rithmatic was pretty much shot by his prediliction for slot machines. Only one R left, but I sure as hell ain’t gonna read any of his books.

Hunter’s Civil War

It’s difficult for me to believe that anyone reading my lowly blog hasn’t already seen Hunter’s front-page Daily Kos diary responding to a post at Blogs for Bush called “Do the Democrats Want a Civil War?” But read it if you haven’t.

All I have to add is, has education gotten so bad that Republicans have forgotten what happened to the last people to declare civil war on the United States of America?

250,000 Bullets For Every Boy

250,000 Bullets For Every BoyVia Holden at First Draft, crunches the numbers from the General Accountability Office (still referred to as the General Accounting Office in the report) to estimate that the armed services have purchased about 250,000 “small- and medium-calibre ammunitions” (bullets) for each of the estimated 20,000 insurgents killed in Iraq — more than five billion bullets between 2002 and 2005.

The standard-issue M16A2 rifle fires NATO-compatible 5.56mm cartridges. The preferred cartridge for the M16A2 is the M855, which weighs 12.31gm (including the case, bullet, and propellant). They’re 57.4mm long; the case is 9.7mm in diamter.

A quarter of a million such rounds would weigh 3,077.5kg — almost 6,800lbs — not as much as an original Hummer or an H2, but about 1,000lbs more than an H3. A single bullet weighing that much would be 3.616m (almost 12 feet) tall and 550mm (just over 2 feet) in diameter. A small — very heavy — missile, in other words. Essentially, we’re dropping an anvil on them.

Retail price for each round is about a quarter: that’s $62,500 in bullets per insurgent.

I should mention that the figures here are based entirely on the smaller rounds used by US forces. “Small- and medium-” actually includes the larger 7.62mm rounds used by some weapons and .50cal ammunition for machineguns. But I like to err on the low side in these types of calculations.

MORE NUMBERS: At the 800 round per minute rate of fire for an M16A2, 250,000 rounds is nearly 5.25 hours of continuous, fully-automatic fire for each dead insurgent. The 820-foot Crystal Serenity of the Crystal Cruises passenger line weighs 68,000 tons, about the same as the combined weight of 250,000 rounds for each of the 20,000 estimated Iraqi insurgents killed.

The Halo Spins Out of Control

A number of pictures have come out of tightly-orchestrated photo ops the past couple of years showing President Bush with ringy, halo-like things behind him. The image on the left is from 2003, by AP photographer Charles Dharapak. On the right is my own version, using a slightly different circular object.

'The Halo Spins Out of Control', by

Little Men

I spent the weekend in Bend at my brother’s wedding (congratulations Jon and Kara!), so I didn’t get right on this week’s New Yorker caption contest. Since I’m on the West Coast, unless I check it online, I usually only have a day between the time my copy arrives in the mail and the contest deadline on Sunday night. I was busy and forgot to check it last week, then didn’t see it until the deadline had passed last night.

This was the cartoon and winning caption from the 13 June 2005 contest (#8):

“He’s the cutest little thing, and when you get tired of him you just flush him down the toilet.”
(drawing by Victoria Roberts, caption by Jan Richardson)

This is the from the 26 September 2005 issue (contest #20) and my own caption idea which I would have submitted:

“I saw something similar in a New Yorker cartoon caption contest a couple of months ago and I knew I just had to have one.”
(drawing by Mick Stevens)

Sing Along With Georgie

During today’s White House Press Briefing, ABC Correspondent Terry Moran said this of President Bush’s plan to visit Texas in the wake of Hurricane Rita: “But it sounds like a bit of a photo op, one that he’d prefer over playing the guitar at the airport photo op before Katrina.”

AP - Tue Aug 30, 2:56 PM ET. President Bush plays a guitar presented to him by Country Singer Mark Wills, right, backstage following his visit to Naval Base Coronado, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Bush visited the base to deliver remarks on V-J Commemoration Day. (AP Photo/ABC News, Martha Raddatz)

Regrettably, Mr. Moran’s chronology is slightly off. The photo of Bush playing a guitar by AP Photo/ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz was taken in San Diego Tuesday, August 30, more than a day after Katrina had hit the Gulf Coast, more than 24 hours after portions of New Orleans were under water. He wasn’t pretending to strum as the biggest (at the time) hurricane to hit the US in recent history was still offshore, he was hamming it up while people were dying in their houses because there weren’t enough troops in place to rescue them.

Letter to Dan Abrams, “The Abrams Report,” MSNBC

Mr. Abrams:

In last week’s “Your Rebuttal” you countered J. Doyle’s comparison of the amount of coverage given to Natalee Holloway’s disappearance versus the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with the remark that “it is hard to argue that we’re suggesting it is on a par” since you had done “weeks” of Katrina coverage.

At the time you made that statement, the number of weeks your show had done on Katrina was just about three. You’ve been covering Natalee Holloway’s disappearance for over three months, virtually non-stop except for the break caused by Hurricane Katrina. It’s been your lead story for much of that time, as well as a major story for Joe Scarborough, Rita Cosby, Larry King, Nancy Grace, and Greta van Sustern.

The question isn’t whether you’ve given Natalee as much time as Katrina. It’s a simple fact — based on the number of hours of coverage — that your show hasn’t spent even a fraction of the time on Katrina that you’ve spent on Natalee.

The fact that a major hurricane was about to hit the Gulf Coast of the United States wasn’t even mentioned in your show the Friday before the Hurricane. What was? Natalee Holloway. And that was true across the board for all of the people I mentioned above. You missed the legal problems for people forced to evacuate their homes, issues with lost public records, prisoner and sex offender transfers, all of that, because you chose to stick with the story of a girl who undoubtedly got murdered in Aruba. Last year there were 300 murders in New Orleans alone. Where were you then?

Natalee vs. Katrina

Three days before Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the Gulf Coast and swamped New Orleans, almost every “news” discussion show on cable was talking about the Natalee Holloway missing persons case, just as they’d done for most of the previous three months.

Hannity, van Sustern, Grace, King, Abrams, Cosby, Scarborough. Much of their summer had been spent talking about Aruba. If people in New Orleans had been watching them for “information” they’d have been screwed.

And, once the disaster struck — just as after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 — people wondered if it meant that a new dedication to real issues was going to take hold. Skeptics like myself were doubtful, but I hoped that given the scale of the disaster that it might deserve at least an equal amount of time as the Holloway case has. We have been proven, regretfully, wrong.

Of the seven shows we picked who aired substantial reports on Holloway the Friday before the hurricane hit Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, four of them have already gone back to the story, adding in yet another MWF (missing white female) in most cases. And they all did it last week, only a couple of weeks after Katrina struck.

FOX’s Greta van Sustern had Beth Holloway Twitty (Natalee’s mother) on as a guest Friday, 16 September, after congratulating herself for not having any shows on the subject since the storm (although she said “we monitor it daily”). Twitty, according to van Sustern, “understood this.” But c’mon now, get over it, N’awlins!

CNN’s Nancy Grace beat everyone to the punch on 13 September — two weeks and a day after Katrina — devoting the last quarter of her show to an interview with Twitty, after spending the rest of the program on the real — but somehow predictable for Grace — issue of sex offenders spread out over the country as evacuees. Twitty makes the charge that the news focus on Katrina gave cover to the Aruban government to let the suspects in her daughter’s disappearance go. Neat tie-in.

On MSNBC, Rita Cosby took up the gauntlet the next day (14 September) while bodies were still floating in the canals of Bayou St. John. In a short segment, she talked to both Twitty and Antonio Carlo, the attorney for Joran van der Sloot, the primary suspect in Holloway’s disappearance. Again, the idea that the press focus on Katrina took the heat off the Aruban authorities was brought forth, this time by Cosby.

That same night, Dan Abrams of MSNBC interviewed Twitty. At the end of the interview he remarked:

I can just tell you that even in the aftermath of the hurricane we were still getting a lot of e-mails from people saying please have Beth back on. Please update us on the story. Let us know what‘s going on.

The next night, he took some flak for the piece (emphasis added:

Last night I spoke to Beth Holloway Twitty, the mother of missing Alabama student Natalee Holloway, missing from Aruba since May 30.

Jeanmarie Miller from Flint, Michigan, “Natalee‘s mother made a comment that the Aruban government was trying to hide behind Katrina in making some of the recent rulings in the cases against Joran van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers. Was she suggesting that the Aruban justice system should have been put on hold until her daughter‘s story was once again front page news?”

Howard Aronoff, “I object to you continuing to allow Natalee‘s mother, Beth, to make totally unsubstantiated claims that Joran van der Sloot and the two Kalpoe brothers raped and killed Natalee. She continues to refer to a myriad of statements made by the three, which support the claim. I can‘t recall a single time that these so-called statements were acknowledged by Aruban officials. At best they are the result of leaks from unauthorized people and might even be invented out of thin air.”

Howard, you‘re right that they‘re unsubstantiated and I made that point, but regardless, don‘t expect the Aruban authorities to acknowledge it the same way American authorities wouldn‘t either. I also don‘t care if they were leaked by unauthorized individuals. I only care if it is true. And you‘re right. We do not know if it is true. And that‘s why we had on his lawyer tonight.

From Beckley, West Virginia, Frances Thompson. “I know the Katrina coverage and Supreme Court coverage is more important right now, but I appreciate the time you gave to let us know how things are going in the Natalee Holloway case.”

But J. Doyle from San Francisco, “Taking time away from the tragedy of likely thousands of mainly poor African Americans to again present the Aruban story suggests the disappearance of one rich white girl is somehow on par. It is not.”

Well considering it is the first time we did a segment on it after weeks of 24-hour Katrina coverage, it is hard to argue that we‘re suggesting it is on par and I think actually I made the point in response to someone who wrote in that many of my viewers probably disagree that we‘re not doing enough Natalee Holloway coverage.

A number of you writing saying you want more, more, more. I‘ve got to tell you, I don‘t think the majority of you want that, but I know, I know. People are going to write in and say yes you do.

That would be two weeks of coverage of Hurricane Katrina versus three months of Natalee Holloway coverage.