…that slot is taken:
Tip o’ the hat to Commander Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadlfield) aboard the International Space Station.
…that slot is taken:
Tip o’ the hat to Commander Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadlfield) aboard the International Space Station.
I’ve a few things to get off my chest following the news that I got via Dave Weigel, that Dr. Jason Richwine, our favorite race(ist)/IQ/no-Latino-immigrants need apply
scholar aca-hack, has “resigned” from the Heritage Foundation. Richwine, recall, was the co-author of Heritage’s now roundly ridiculed immigration study released earlier this week.
Weigel asked what Heritage knew and when they knew it about Richwine’s dissertation and public statements asserting his race-IQ connection. Heritage declined to reply, but earlier in the week, Heritage vice president of communications Mike Gonzalez posted a disclaimer that read, in part, like this (via):
The dissertation was written while Dr. Richwine was a student at Harvard, supervised and approved by a committee of respected scholars. The Harvard paper is not a work product of The Heritage Foundation. Its findings do not reflect the positions of The Heritage Foundation…
It falls to Heritage to answer (to itself, perhaps?) the degree to which Richwine’s views were the reason he was hired…but as to whether they knew about them before they brought him on board?
There really are only two choices here. Either they didn’t, and the folks that hire over there are so incompetent that it might be wise to remove all silverware more dangerous than spoons from the staff lunchroom.
Or they did…and to the limits of inference, they sure did know what was behind door number one. Why do I say this? Because of what Richwine tells us in the acknowledgements to his dissertation:
I am indebted to the American Enterprise Institute for the its generous support, without which this dissertation could not have been completed. In particular, I must thank Henry Olsen, vice president of AEI’s National Research Initiative for bringing me to AEI and supporting my research. The substance of my work was positively influenced by many people, but no one was more influential than Charles Murray, whose detailed editing and relentless constructive criticism have made the final draft vastly superior to the first. I could not have asked for a better primary advisor.
I take two things from that passage. First, it reminds us of the degree to which AEI is a dog-whistling race shop — as Charles Murray himself confirms in his reaction to Richwine’s
firing decision to resign:
Thank God I was working for Chris DeMuth and AEI, not Jim DeMint and Heritage, when The Bell Curve was published. Integrity. Loyalty. Balls.
Second, in the real world, anyone who’s done any hiring knows that the person doing the intake finds out what the potential employee did in his last job(s).
Richwine may have been getting his degree through Harvard (and that’s a post for another day) but the attempt to hide behind that institutional affiliation is a text-book baffle-with-bullshit moment. His diploma may read Harvard, but the work was, by his own admission, essentially part of the AEI pipeline advised intensively by one of AEI’s best known members.
And here’s the thing: the Potemkin village of wingnut DC policy shops is not exactly some humongous impersonal word factory. It’s a village. If AEI has some hot shot graduate student breaking old ground on the inherent wonderfulness of white people, then the folks at Heritage had to have known about all that when the newly elevated Herr Doktor comes calling for a job.
I mean, you can believe otherwise, and I can’t say for sure…but in my decade or so as a small businessman, I called the last couple of places would-be interns had worked for just to see what I might be getting into. It strains waaaay past my willingness to suspend disbelief that name-brand purveyors of right wing propaganalysis wouldn’t have done at least as much.
So, is the Heritage Foundation a racist shop? Maybe. Perhaps. Maybe not — there could be more economical explanations for the determined comforting of the comfortable that is the constant theme of the right-wing policy racket. And wondering whether the whole place, or Jim DeMint, or even Jason Richwine — excuse me, Harvard Dr. Jason Richwine — is personally a bigot is on some level the wrong issue.
Rather, the proper question is what to do with an institution and a movement who can muster no better arguments, and no better arguers to advance their radical agenda?
At a minimum: Scorn, ridicule and public humiliation is my prescription…repeat as necessary.
Oh — and serious mobiliation for 2014 and beyond.
Image: George Romney, Refugee Group, undated (before 1802).
If it were just a matter of Texans killing Texans — with the victims embracing their fates — then I might be willing to let it all go with an “everyone to hell in their own handbasket” reaction. But, of course, the generalized Gresham’s Law tells us what follows from this kind of thinking:
Five days after an explosion at a fertilizer plant leveled a wide swath of this town, Gov. Rick Perry tried to woo Illinois business officials by trumpeting his state’s low taxes and limited regulations. Asked about the disaster, Mr. Perry responded that more government intervention and increased spending on safety inspections would not have prevented what has become one of the nation’s worst industrial accidents in decades…
This antipathy toward regulations is shared by many residents here. Politicians and economists credit the stance with helping attract jobs and investment to Texas, which has one of the fastest-growing economies in the country, and with winning the state a year-after-year ranking as the nation’s most business friendly.
Even in West, last month’s devastating blast did little to shake local skepticism of government regulations. Tommy Muska, the mayor, echoed Governor Perry in the view that tougher zoning or fire safety rules would not have saved his town. “Monday morning quarterbacking,” he said.
Raymond J. Snokhous, a retired lawyer in West who lost two cousins — brothers who were volunteer firefighters — in the explosion, said, “There has been nobody saying anything about more regulations.”
I’d be surprised, except for the fact that there’s nothing out of the ordinary here, if you look at matters like a (certain kind of) Texan:
Texas …is the only state that does not require companies to contribute to workers’ compensation coverage. It boasts the largest city in the country, Houston, with no zoning laws. It does not have a state fire code, and it prohibits smaller counties from having such codes. Some Texas counties even cite the lack of local fire codes as a reason for companies to move there.
Hold on a moment there, buckaroo! No fire codes? That’s a reason to locate in Texas?
I guess the goal here is to reduce the incovenience of contracting with Bangladesh.
Seriously — if you think it an act of social responsibility to demand clothing retailers to demonstrate proper work place safety for their imports, shouldn’t we demand the same of, say every oil and gas company, refiners and all, that deliver products from Texas to the rest of these United States?
Anyway — guess the inevitable consequence of such “pro-business” concern. No prize for correct answers:
But Texas has also had the nation’s highest number of workplace fatalities — more than 400 annually — for much of the past decade. Fires and explosions at Texas’ more than 1,300 chemical and industrial plants have cost as much in property damage as those in all the other states combined for the five years ending in May 2012. Compared with Illinois, which has the nation’s second-largest number of high-risk sites, more than 950, but tighter fire and safety rules, Texas had more than three times the number of accidents, four times the number of injuries and deaths, and 300 times the property damage costs.
As I said at the top…if this were a problem for Texans alone then there is a part of me that says that they voted for this government (and regulatory regime), and they should enjoy what they’ve gotten — good and hard. But (a) this ignores the fact that those most at risk are those with the least access to the levers of power, and even in a deep red state like this one, there are lots of folks who don’t want to be blown up in their back yards. Some solidarity seems in order.
More broadly there’s (b): Texas’s drive to hold harmless private businesses for any consequences of their decisions puts pressure on every other state. There are alternatives, and lots of non-feral players recognize that there’s more to a positive business climate than crap schools, an immiserating approach to health care, a failure to provide worker and public safety, and an incentive structure that rewards environmental malice. But to the extent that Texas is successful in attracting enterprises to its let-any-harm-happen frontier, the downward pressure on other states exists. Bad laws, bad regulatory frameworks drive out good, just like Gresham could have said.
National Republicans are, of course, complicit in this drive to put ever more Americans at risk. In the context of weak state protection for its citizenry, the onus falls on the federal government, through agencies like but not limited to OSHA and EPA. But they aren’t meeting that task, and won’t. There are lots of reasons why not, including some an Obama administration could address (and that we should push for), but a big part of the reason lies with the long-running effort by the GOP to hollow out government from within.
So, yeah, Texas remains too small for a country and too big as an asylum. I know it’s a near impossible task to imagine dragging it, kicking and screaming, into the Century of the Anchovy. But for our own sake, if not for theirs, we gotta try.
The first step is to remember: Factio Grandaeva Delenda Est.
Image: Alfred Rethel, The factory Mechanische Werkstätten Harkort & Co, c. 1834
…in two precision operations that involved people in more than two dozen countries acting in close coordination and with surgical precision, the organization was able to steal $45 million from thousands of A.T.M.’s in a matter of hours.
In New York City alone, the thieves responsible for A.T.M. withdrawals struck 2,904 machines over 10 hours on Feb. 19, withdrawing $2.4 million.
The scam was simple and very smart: hack credit card processing companies in India and the US; then raise the credit limits on pre-paid debit cards issued by a couple of banks in the Persian Gulf. Clone the data on said cards so that teams IRL could hit machines in multiple countries, stuffing wads of cash in backpacks that surveillance video shows getting heavier and heavier. Rince, repeat, profit.
All this comes out of an unsealed indictment for a New York City crew of eight involved in the impressively effortful spree noted in the quote above.
Don’t try this at home, kids — not only is it a pretty hefty felony, and not your money and all that — but then there’s this:
The authorities said the leader of the New York cashing crew was Alberto Lajud-Peña, 23, who also went by the name Prime. His body was found in the Dominican Republic on April 27 and prosecutors said they believe he was killed.
I have no doubt that there are folks involved in this that you really, really don’t want to irritate. None of the putative kingpins have been identified, but in an even less surprising footnote to the tale, the authorities are tracking down some of the loot in predictable forms:
The authorities have already seized hundreds of thousands of dollars from bank accounts, two Rolex watches and a Mercedes S.U.V., and are in the process of seizing a Porsche Panamera.
Part of me says that this is something to note because so much of the financial life of individuals and the economy writ large depends on the secure functioning of — and user trust in — global banking systems at every level from the corner ATM to the massive inter-bank clearing mechanisms.
The cyber security people I talk to have to hold their hands over the mouths to stop themselves from blurting “WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!!!!” — as that trust rests on a rickety tangle of hardware and software. So while there’s a kind of Great Train Robbery thrill to the idea of capers like these, this could get ugly indeed.
The real question, though, is what role George Clooney will play.
Image: Constant Wauters, The servant as a thief, 1845.
Come Thursday week, I’ll be trying to keep my head about me when many before have lost theirs (though I doubt they blamed i on me).
Which is to say, I’ll be talking Newton, the Mint, counterfeiters and all kinds of good stuff at the Tower of London at 6:30, May 16. It’s not a free event, alas, but tickets for any geographically enabled Balloon Juicers can be booked here. I believe the talk will go up at iTunes U at some point, and I’ll add details when I post a reminder next week.
I know that I’m often kind of late with this sort of announcement. This marks a conscious attempt at improvement. I’m channeling my inner Charles Dreyfus: “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better.”*
*It was a Pink Panther flick that introduced me to the phrase whose origins lie here.
Hans Holbein the Younger, Portrait of a Woman, inscribed in gold over red “Anna Bollein Queen,” c. 1532-6. (Note: there’s a fair amount of controversy over whether this or another drawing attributed to Holbein do in fact depict Henry VIII’s unfortunate second wife.
This morning I got copied on an email blast intended to encourage our graduate students to finish their theses in the next few days.
Cruel, I call it.
But still, it works for me as a goad to push Monday up the rails.
(Credit where credit is due, dept: the vid came to my correspondent via Gawker, btw)
Chat about whatever, with bonus points for any discussion of impossible tasks to be done by Friday. Mine? Finish version 4 (a conservative estimate) of my damn book proposal.
…that has such people in’t
A 3D printable plastic handgun is now (more or less) available.
As the linked article suggests, there is a nasty possibility of having the thing blow up in your hand if you use too-powerful ammunition…but still.
Talking Points Memo is also on the story, with a gussied up video that adds swelling music and shots of WW II bombers to the mix. They grabbed this quote (warning – do not read while eating lunch):
“I recognize that this tool might be used to harm people,” Wilson said, according to Fox News. “That’s what it is — it’s a gun. But I don’t think that’s a reason to not put it out there. I think that liberty in the end is a better interest.”
Presented without further comment, this story, also now up on TPM.
And this one.
And…hell, wait half an hour and there will be another tragedy to report. (At somewhere north of 50 gun suicides per day, that’s a reasonably non-hyperbolic time period — to say nothing of gun violence imposed on others.)
The nuts, Civil War revanchists, and simple thugs who drive gun policy in this country are a danger to themselves and everyone else. Demographics are getting them too...but not nearly fast enough.