Political Animal


NEWS IN THE AGE OF BLOGGING….Man, it’s hard to keep up. Glenn Reynolds, reporting on the San Francisco anti-war march, writes this about one of the protester’s signs: “Note the pacifistic theme of wishing Bush would choke on a pretzel.”

So I click on the link and get the picture on the right. Huh? Is this like Reagan and jelly beans? And what’s this about choking?

No problem though, just go to Google and enter “bush pretzel” and up pops this CNN story from January 14, 2002:

Bush lost consciousness for a brief time in the White House on Sunday evening while eating a pretzel and watching a professional football game on television. He fell from his couch and has a scrape and large bruise on his left cheekbone, plus a bruise on his lower lip, to show for his troubles. His glasses cut the side of his face.

….[Air Force physician Richard] Tubb told reporters Bush reported a pretzel “did not go down right” and the doctor said it was possible a pretzel had lodged against a nerve and momentarily caused a decrease in the president’s heart rate, causing him to faint.

Baltimore won the playoff game 20-3.

Morals of the story: (1) I should pay more attention to events like this that provide cultural reference points, (2) protesters have long memories, and (3) Pejman is right: Glenn needs to crack a smile now and again. Maybe he should read Atrios more often?

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION….Whenever I read conservative

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION….Whenever I read conservative commentary on the U of Michigan affirmative action case, it always seems to focus on the fact that being black gets you 20 points in UM’s admissions scoring system. That’s 20 times what you get for writing an essay! That’s more than you get for a perfect SAT score!

But they never seem to eke out the space to mention that the primary part of the scoring system is high school GPA ? which counts for 80 points. Curious, isn’t it?

Now, I’m not saying that conservatives are taking a moderate program that’s designed to help minorities and lying about how it works in order to make it look like a wild lefty quota scheme that prevents white valedictorians from going to college. I’m not saying that. I’m just, you know, saying.


ENFORCING THE GUN LAWS….Families of the D.C. sniper victims are suing the gun manufacturer and the gun seller. The merits of the case are unclear (it’s apparently based on the fact that Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply “lost” hundreds of guns over the past three years), but aside from this Rachel Lucas has this to say:

While it may be true that Muhammad and Malvo would not have obtained the particular rifle they used to shoot people if Bull’s Eye hadn’t been in business, it’s beyond naive to think for that they wouldn’t have been able to acquire another one. Which is so obvious, it feels surreal to even type it. But obvious to me is obviously not obvious to them.

This is a common argument among gun enthusiasts, but I’m afraid I don’t quite understand it since it seems to imply that there’s really no point in enforcing gun laws ? or punishing the people who break them ? because criminals will always manage to get hold of guns somehow. But by the same token:

  • There’s no point in arresting that pusher who hangs out in the schoolyard. The kids will just get their drugs somewhere else.

  • There’s no point in taking out Saddam. Al-Qaeda will just get their nukes from someone else.

  • There’s no point in vaccinating for smallpox. The terrorists can always use some other virus instead.

No law can be 100% effective in preventing criminal behavior, but we enforce them anyway in order to make criminal behavior harder. And if you break a law and it results in harm to others, you can be held accountable for that.

Bartenders who sell liquor to drunks can be held partially responsible if the drunk goes out and kills someone. Likewise, a gun shop that sells a gun illegally ? as Bull’s Eye is accused of doing ? can be held partially responsible if their customer goes out and kills someone with it. In this case, a judge and jury will decide whether Bull’s Eye or Bushmaster acted negligently, and that’s as it should be. Laws are meant to be enforced, and gun laws are no exception.

UPDATE: Rachel Lucas writes to say that she agrees that gun laws should be enforced. Her objection was primarily to the sentence in the court filings that said, “If Bull’s Eye and Bushmaster and the other gun industry defendants had acted responsibly in the sale of their guns, Muhammad and Malvo would not have been able to obtain the assault rifle they needed to carry out their shootings.” My guess is that this is just legal hyperbole, but even so, point taken. Overall, I think the suit would have considerably less merit if more gun enthusiasts agreed with Rachel that existing gun laws should be vigorously enforced.


THE DEATH OF BANANAS?….Huh? Charles Kuffners passes on a report that says bananas might go extinct within ten years. According to the cover story in this week’s New Scientist, bananas lack the genetic diversity to fight off diseases and pests that are plaguing banana plantations. Genetic engineering may be our only hope of saving them.

Since bananas are practically the only fruit I’m actually willing to eat, this could be a major catastrophe. Has Bj?rn Lomborg heard about this?