Jan 18 2012
Sure, some military veterans are bad guys. A few are probably really dangerous, as the following story reports. But the focus on the background of the killer as an “Iraq war veteran”, rather than any other aspects of his background, speaks volumes about the prejudice and pandering of the coverage of these murders.
An Iraq war veteran charged with stabbing to death four homeless men in a weeks-long rampage in Southern California was a thrill seeker who took pleasure in killing his victims, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told reporters outside a jailhouse courtroom that 23-year-old suspect Itzcoatl Ocampo appeared lucid, calm and intelligent and showed no signs of mental illness.
“He gets a thrill out of it,” Rackauckas said. “This is a serious, vicious killer who went out there intentionally going about killing people and terrorizing a whole area.”
Later in the story reported here, we’re told about another recent violent crime by a vet.
Ocampo’s arrest was the latest violent crime involving a veteran. This month, an Iraq War veteran fatally shot a ranger at Mount Rainier National Park and died later as he fled police across the mountain’s snow-covered slopes.
Well, now we get the picture. Those war vets are dangerous people. After all, they volunteered to go into military service and kill people, didn’t they? We’d better keep our eyes on them, and travel in groups. Those guys are dangerous.
Or maybe not so dangerous. For the most part, our nation’s military is a microcosm of American society generally, except that it mostly behaves better, on average. Sure, the military has some proportion of nutcases. So does any large population. But generally, if I am being approached by a young man at night, I’d prefer it be someone who had served. I have more reason to trust him, and his motives, and his self-discipline.
But can you imagine what would happen if all the murders committed by 20-somethings who hadn’t served were headlined as follows?
Killer who never served in the military stalks and murders helpless old people
Military service evader kills young mother in car-jacking gone wrong
Well. THAT would get some attention, wouldn’t it? And wouldn’t all the decent people who never served in the military be right to resent the implication?
Anyone who picks on the fact that a particular cretin happens to have served in the military, and uses it to draw attention to a headline, is despicable. Isn’t there anything else to identify about the killer? It might be different if there was any link between the military service and the crime…. oh, I forgot. In the minds of lefty reporters, it’s automatically assumed that military vets must be half-cracked, and probably dangerous (maybe with PTSD and bad dreams), and so of COURSE there’s a link between that service and any crime that vets may commit.
Come to think of it, I think I know who the cretins are in this tale. The by-line.
Jan 16 2012
You used to hear that there are lies, damn lies and statistics… implying, of course, that you can tell the biggest whoppers with them.
I’ll add one to that…. the new mantra is lies, damn lies, statistics, and fact checkers….
That’s because fact checkers seem almost always biased to the left, at least the ones that appear in the major media.
Here’s a howler, from AP “fact checker” Calvin Woodward:
ROMNEY: “Three years into office, he doesn’t have a jobs plan.”
FACT CHECK: Like them or not, President Barack Obama actually has proposed several plans intended to spur the economy and create jobs. The most well-known was his stimulus plan, introduced in February 2009, which included about $800 billion in tax cuts and spending.
At the end of 2010, Obama struck a deal with GOP congressional leaders on a package intended to stimulate hiring and growth. The deal cut the Social Security payroll tax, which provided about an extra $1,000 a year to an average family. It also extended an unemployment benefits program that provided up to 99 weeks of aid.
And in September, Obama introduced his most recent jobs plan, rolling it out in a speech to the full Congress in which he urged Congress to “pass it right away.” It included $450 billion in tax cuts and new spending, including greater cuts to payroll taxes and tax breaks for companies that hire those who’ve been out of work for six months or more. The proposal also would have spent $50 billion to upgrade schools and included other infrastructure spending. Almost none of it has been passed into law.
Calling ANYTHING that President Obama has either done or proposed a “jobs plan” is historically laughable, bordering on the willfully blind. But the most risible part of this: the “fact checkers” appear to consider extending unemployment benefits to be a “jobs plan.”
That’s like calling cemetery insurance a health plan.
The “stimulus” has been the single biggest dollars down the rat-hole boondoggle in US history, as far as I can recall, at least. It has produced jobs, all right, jobs that cost a half-million dollars to fund but pay $50,000 to the worker. And not very many of those.
An actual “jobs plan” has to be something with a realistic prospect of removing barriers to the private sector creation of jobs. Obama has nothing lke that… almost by definition.
This is, of course, just one failure in the “fact checking” in the linked article.
Just repeat after me.
Fact checkers in the major media are mostly liars.
There, now I feel better.
Jan 05 2012
Al Jazeera reports that Deadly attack hits Nigeria church
Gunmen have stormed a church service in Nigeria, killing six people and wounding 10, the church’s pastor said, the latest in a string of attacks that has raised fears of sectarian conflict in Africa’s most populous nation.
“It was around 7:30 pm (1830 GMT),” Pastor John Jauro told AFP news agency of Thursday’s attack in the city of Gombe.
“I was leading the congregation in prayers. Our eyes were closed when some gunmen stormed the church and opened fire on the congregation. Six people were killed in the attack and 10 others were wounded.”
He said there was confusion as worshippers sought to flee at the Deeper Life Christian Ministry Church.
Local police spokesman Ahmed Muhammad confirmed the attack, but declined to say how many people the gunmen killed and wounded.
The attack comes after a purported spokesman for Islamist group Boko Haram on Sunday issued a three-day ultimatum for Christians living in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north to leave the region or they would be killed.
Did you hear about this? Did you read about it? Was it on the evening news?
I’m trying to imagine the coverage of a reversed but parallel event, namely, if Jewish killers murdered worshippers in a mosque in Israel or if Christian terrorists (if you could find any) stormed in a mosque somewhere and killed Muslims.
There would be days and days of coverage, and the usual suspects would use it to create moral equivalencies between Orthodox Jews, Christian Evangelical Conservatives, and Islamist terrorists. I’m sure Obama would have something to say about it.
Of course, the idea that Islamist authorities would be expected to have prevented the murders is absurd on its face. Obviously, Boko Haram was cheering the killers on. Along with too much of the rest of the Islamist world.
Oct 24 2011
I just watched an episode of “The Mentalist” which featured yet another deranged gun owner willing to commit mass murder to satisfy his dark inner demons that led him to obtain guns in the first place.
It featured all the usual cliches. There was the scene at the firing range out in the boonies somewhere, where lots of crazy people were all lined up shooting TVs, bottles, old computers, various other defunct appliances, watermelons, and so on, using shotguns, rifles and handguns, and even one belt fed machine gun (which led all the other folks at the informal range to cheer and applaud).
Here’s the thing: I’ve been at many different firing ranges, both regulated (with a range master) and unregulated (with no range master, and everyone simply applying common sense). I have pretty much never seen a bunch of people all side by side firing such a mixed array of firearms at such a mixed array of targets. Nearly everyone shoots rifles and handguns at paper targets in firing ranges, even unregulated ones. That’s because they want to know how accurately they are shooting, and you really can’t tell any other way. Generally, there is a section for handguns, a section for rifles, and a section for shotguns. This is because handgunners are shooting at different ranges than rifle shooters, and because shotgunners are often shooting at clay targets. People practicing with self-defense shotguns are usually using paper targets as well, typically at handgun ranges.
I have never seen a machine gun at an unregulated range. I have seen them ONLY at special shows where people line up to pay for a short period of shooting time under highly supervised conditions. If someone opened up with a machine gun in any other situation, especially without warning, the rest of the shooters would not applaud. Some might call the cops. Nearly all would be likely to back off, pack up, and leave. No one wants to be associated with a nut-case, or be around one… and only a nut case would do that, even if he owned one legally. (For the record, machine guns are so highly regulated that legal owners of them are just about the most trustworthy people you’ll ever meet, and the LEAST likely to do such a thing.) So that means someone who did such a thing would be highly suspect in the eyes of the shooting community.
Finally, the bad guy in this story had a concealed carry weapons permit in California, apparently in the Bay Area, if I understand how the show is based. This is truly unlikely. The Bay Area is just about the hardest spot in a difficult state to get such a permit. They go to famous movie stars, millionaires, former police chiefs, and so on…. only people with pull in the system. Normal people can’t get them (we can talk about the unconstitutionality of such discrimination later). Certainly, out of work people down on their financial luck (the case in the story) are not going to have one.
The incidence of criminal behavior on the part of concealed carry weapons permit holders in ANY state is very, very low, and it’s even lower in California, where it is so difficult to get such a permit in most places.
So, let’s just say that this episode of The Mentalist was written by someone who is mentally challenged…. and obviously knows nothing about guns and gun owners….. and who has an axe to grind.
How do I know the script writer knows nothing about guns, as well as being ignorant about gun owners? As a ploy, the police are supposed to have snuck into the bad guy’s house and replaced all his ammo with blanks. Furthermore, these had to be blanks that would cause a fully automatic weapon to operate properly, so they could catch him in the act of trying to mow people down with a weapon filled with blanks, and then arrest him.
Since they didn’t know WHICH of his weapons he’d be using, they would have to have replaced ALL his ammo for ALL his weapons with blanks. Outside of the unlikelihood that he wouldn’t notice the replaced ammo, and the impossibility of being certain they’d FOUND all his ammo to replace it, self-loading semi-automatic and automatic weapons mostly won’t operate with blanks. But this guy is shown emptying an entire magazine of them with narry a malfunction. This gives thin plot devices a whole new meaning.
Does anybody think the California Bureau of Investigation has thousands of rounds of blanks in all calibers just sitting around in case they need to fool some criminal gun owner? Linked up in belt-fed form for machine guns? Since, in the story, they couldn’t have known which weapon he would use, they would have to have planned for that one, too. I can just see some flatfoot sitting at a desk laboriously building chains of linked blanks. Maybe he’d get done in a week or two.
I’m still laughing. Hollywood is indeed fantasy land, filled with dupes and dufuses. What morons.
Sep 10 2011
Yahoo “NEWS” lies again, with what is surely one of the most misleading headlines they’ve ever used, in Rick Perry Sex Tape Video Scandal: A Five-Second Exposure
You knew it was bound to happen. You knew that someone so emphatically moralistic had to have a skeleton or two in the closet. But is it true that another family-values demagogue made a sex tape and because of a little digging by Politico’s Ben Smith, said sex tape will see the light of day? And is it true that the video involves none other than Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry?
Well, it isn’t as bad as all that. In fact, by today’s standards it might not even be rated as much of a scandal. But, still, schoolchildren were involved…
To explain: Back in 1986, when then state representative Perry was trying to educate Texas teens about the horrors of drugs, his office disseminated a video to the high schools in his district. At the end of the video there was a thirty-second gap. Then there was five seconds of a scene from the movie “1984.” A sex scene.
According to the Associated Press, one account from an assistant coach at Baird High School recalled that it was very difficult trying to instruct a bunch of snickering and laughing teenagers after the video was turned off.
A technician at House Technical Services took full responsibility for the scene be added, mistakenly placed on the video while copies were being made. Perry, of whom it was said had no knowledge of the sex scene prior to the video’s distribution, asked that all 26 of the videos be returned to his office. He admitted to being shocked that the scene was included.
What can you say about a “news” organization (yes this is only “commentary”, but most people who don’t actually read the story won’t know the difference) that runs a story where the body of the story specifically contradicts the implication of the headline? That is, there is not and never was a “Rick Perry Sex Tape,” whatever scandal there was had nothing to do with anything Rick Perry did, except to try to ameliorate its effects, and the “five second skin” exposure was not Rick Perry’s or anyone associated with Rick Perry, or anyone who even knew Rick Perry.
But the Yahoo people know that many people get their news from headlines, and don’t read the story. So there are now people walking around the USA who think there is a “sex tape video scandal” involving Rick Perry.
Thanks, Yahoo. You’re behaving true to form. Again.
Sep 03 2011
I have attended too many workshops where hand-wringing fear mongers tell us, based on research by the Barna Group (their book is UnChristian) and some others, that young people aren’t staying in the faith they were taught as children, that young people don’t care much about the moral status of people living “the gay lifestyle,” that other social issues like abortion aren’t such a big deal to today’s youth, that what young people of today really care about is taking care of the poor and downtrodden, and that they are less concerned about future salvation than the coming of the earthly kingdom of heaven when the lion will lay down with the metaphorical lamb, we won’t teach war no more, and everyone will be equally rich (or poor). Oh, they don’t always say it in quite that way…. but the clear message is this: stop emphasizing the “social issues” (read, traditional morality) or you’ll lose the young people to the secular ethos of the day. This line of thinking is especially popular with the “emerging church” or “emergent church” or “emerging conversation” people, those folks who don’t think words really mean all that much, but want us to be sure and use the right words to describe them.
Assuming the best of intentions on the part of these people, the net message seems to be that if we don’t follow their prescription (stop emphasizing traditional morality as a linchpin of Christian teaching) we’ll lose them to people who don’t believe in traditional morality anyway.
The data on which this is based is largely “social science survey” data…. which phrase should be enough to make anyone suspicious of too-sweeping conclusions. We all know how this works: the way you ask the questions, the people of whom you ask them, and the way you decide to draw lines in your demographic group in order to categorize people, are all pretty subjective. I’m not saying that social science of this sort is impossible. I’m saying that it’s really hard to do, and requires replication both by people using similar methods and ALSO by people using different methods aimed at digging out the same information, before it’s all that reliable.
Rodney Stark and Byron Johnson tell us in Religion and the Bad News Bearers that the reports of the demise of youthful interest in the faith of their fathers may be exaggerated.
The national news media yawned over the Baylor Survey’s findings that the number of American atheists has remained steady at 4% since 1944, and that church membership has reached an all-time high. But when a study by the Barna Research Group claimed that young people under 30 are deserting the church in droves, it made headlines and newscasts across the nation—even though it was a false alarm.
Surveys always find that younger people are less likely to attend church, yet this has never resulted in the decline of the churches. It merely reflects the fact that, having left home, many single young adults choose to sleep in on Sunday mornings.
Once they marry, though, and especially once they have children, their attendance rates recover. Unfortunately, because the press tends not to publicize this correction, many church leaders continue unnecessarily fretting about regaining the lost young people.
In similar fashion, major media hailed another Barna report that young evangelicals are increasingly embracing liberal politics. But only religious periodicals carried the news that national surveys offer no support for this claim, and that younger evangelicals actually remain as conservative as their parents.
Given this track record, it was no surprise this month to see the prominent headlines announcing another finding from Barna that American women are rapidly falling away from religion. The basis for this was a comparison between a poll they conducted in 1991 and one they conducted in January of this year.
The reporters who ran with this story ought to have wondered why this change wasn’t picked up sooner if it was going on for 20 years. Many national surveys have been conducted during this period—in fact the Barna Group has been doing them all along. Did the organization check to see if its new results were consistent with its own previous data or with the many other national surveys widely available? There is no sign that it did. If it had, it would have found that its findings about women are as unfounded as previous claims about young people deserting the church and young evangelicals becoming liberals.
Barna reported in 2010 that about 40% of both men and women read the Bible during a typical week, as female weekly Bible-reading had fallen from 50% in 1991. By contrast, the 2007 Baylor national religion survey found that 29% of men and 40% of women read the Bible about weekly. The statistic for women is consistent with Barna’s reported findings, but the findings for men differ greatly.
The Baylor findings were in full agreement with the results of a 2000 Gallup Poll finding that 29% of men and 43% of women were weekly Bible-readers. This, in turn, was consistent with a 1988 study by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC), which found that 25% of men and 39% of women were weekly readers. If the Barna claim about a major decline in women’s Bible-reading is true, it must have happened in the past three years. This is quite unlikely, given the remarkable stability of the statistics over the past several decades.
As for the supposed decline in female church attendance, the best data come from the NORC, which has conducted annual surveys since 1972. Across 38 years, there have been only small variations in church attendance, and Barna’s reported 11 percentage-point decline in women’s church attendance (to 44% from 55%) simply didn’t happen. Nor has the gender gap narrowed. In 1991, according to NORC data, 38% of women and 28% of men said they attended weekly. In 2002, 36% of women and 24% of men attended weekly. In 2008, 36% of women and 25% of men attended weekly, and in 2010 it was 34% of women and 25% of men.
Finally, the Baylor data show that in 2007, 38% of women, compared with 26% of men, described themselves as “very religious.” So the gender gap—which holds for every religion in every nation around the globe—remains alive and well in America, just as it has for decades. As for media-hyped studies about religion, one should always beware of bad news bearers.
In a follow up post, I’ll have some more comments about this.
Aug 23 2011
During the 2008 presidential election season, many Americans were captivated by then-candidate Barack Obama’s promises of hope and change. And some would argue that much of the media were taken in by the promises too. Nearly three years into the Obama presidency, is it fair to say the media were duped?
On Sunday’s broadcast of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” host Howard Kurtz asked New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman just that question. According to Friedman, the jury is still out.
“Way too soon to tell that kind of thing, I think,” Friedman said. “I think if — look, what have I been calling for, you know, the president to have — I think there is, we just so desperately needed a grand bargain that involves restructuring of debt, raising of taxes, cutting of spending and investing in the sources of our strengths as a country from everything from infrastructure to government-funded research to education. It’s so clear that’s what we need. My personal frustration with Obama has been that while he certainly tried that grand bargain for a little bit, it just kind of went away. Well, it didn’t on the work. He said [House Speaker John] Boehner backed out. I don’t know who backed out.”
Kurtz pointed out that Friedman had an unusual closeness with Obama as one of his golfing partners. Friedman said that was a benefit.
“Yeah, anytime you spend four hours with the president, either with a spoon in your hand or a golf club in your hand or nothing in your hand — you learn something,” Friedman said. “If he invites you to lunch — anytime you get a chance to talk to the president, in any context, I find incredibly beneficial.”
Yeah, Tom, sure.
Anyone who thinks the media even looked at Obama crosswise during the 2008 election cycle is either deluded or covering up… or just incredibly uninformed. The media covered up for him, literally, by burying stories that might have told some inconvenient truth about him, by substituting puff-pieces for actual investigative journalism, and by throwing up mud at his opponents, especially Sarah Palin.
Full disclosure: I composed the music for the movie. But I would not have done so if I hadn’t agreed with its message.
The remaining question: will the media do any better in 2012? I used to think they’d eventually become embarrassed by their non-performance of journalistic duty in 2008 and backtrack a bit. But with the media continuing to release White House spin as news, I’m having my doubts about it. I’d guess that even if Obama’s approval rating continues to nosedive, the media, who simply can’t stand a Republican (even a “center-right” one) in the White House, will still try to carry the flailing Obama over the finish line…. again.
Aug 15 2011
CNN weekend anchor Don Lemon says that Marcus Bachmann, the husband of Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, and two members of her campaign staff pushed him into a golf cart during a campaign stop at the Iowa state fair in Des Moines before Bachmann’s victory in Saturday’s straw poll.
I find myself liking Bachmann more and more.
The incident comes less than a month after a similar scene at a campaign stop in Aiken, South Carolina, where ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross said he was “manhandled” by two of Bachmann’s bodyguards.
Look, Messrs. Lemon and Ross. Either something illegal occurred (like an actual assault) or it didn’t. If it did, file a police report… since you’re in public, you should have plenty of witnesses. If nothing illegal occurred, i.e., you were NOT actually assaulted, then shut up, grow up, and move on. I very, very strongly suspect that absolutely NOTHING of note occurred, for the very simple reason that if it had you would have witnesses lined up and you would be prosecuting, since reporters are mostly inherently publicity hounds, and since we all know either of you would do anything to get to be the one who destroyed Bachmann’s candidacy. After all, she is becoming a Palin-size target in this election cycle.
Either way, whining about something that isn’t actually illegal is just another way of claiming personal privilege because you’re a bigshot reporter.
Get over it.
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