Weapons of mass destruction

Sometimes you have to hand it to Slate to answer the questions you have but forget about too quickly to actually research.

When reading about the arrests of the Hutaree militia group members who had planned an attack against law enforcement professionals, it was mentioned (in the headline and the body) that they were charged with attempting to use “weapons of mass destruction,” but the stories explained that they had planned on using Improvised Explosive Devices, which are generally conventional in nature. “Weapons of mass destruction” is a term that is generally used to describe nuclear, biological or chemical weaponry. So, how are these so-called “militiamen” being charged with such an offense? Well, Brian Palmer, writing for Slate, explains, “When did IEDs become WMD?

In 1994. Since its origins in the 1940s, the phrase weapons of mass destruction has typically referred to some combination of nuclear, biological, chemical, and radioactive weaponry. But, in a sweeping 1994 crime bill, Congress defined the term to include weapons previously known only as “destructive devices,” such as bombs, grenades, mines, and guns with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter that are not common in sport hunting. Under U.S. Code Title 18, Section 2332a, murder by WMD is now one of 50 death-penalty-eligible federal offenses, along with treason, espionage, drive-by shooting, and murdering a member of Congress. There is nothing in the congressional record showing why then-Sen. Joseph Biden, who drafted the language, defined the term so broadly, but the bill was introduced a few months after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, in which conventional weapons killed six and wounded more than 1,000 people.

He goes further into the history of the terms, I recommend you read the whole (actually rather concise and brief) explanation.

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New York Times Columnist Line of the Day

If you’re one of the four-or-so frequent readers of this here blog, chances are you also occasionally check out the New York Times op-ed page. You may even know the names: Thomas Friedman, Gail Collins, Nicholas Kristoff, &c. Well, I’ve decided to devote a daily feature to these folks, by daily pointing out one line that is either awesome, funny, insightful, intelligent, ridiculous, or utterly divorced from reality. I hope you enjoy.

Today’s is just a sad one from Maureen Dowd:

The church gave up its credibility for Lent. Holy Thursday and Good Friday are now becoming Cover-Up Thursday and Blame-Others Friday.

Weirdly enough, Friedman’s column today is basically the same as Maureen’s, but about Afghanistan.

"Well now I feel the pain of racism"

I’d never heard of Doc Thompson until today. The only reference I can find of him in a very quick Google search is that he hosts some talk radio program out of Richmond, Virginia. However, apparently he was given the reins of Glenn Beck’s radio program yesterday and decided to make a name for himself. The type of name that will resonate with the Glenn-Beckers and Tea Partiers and nutters out there. Perhaps the type of name that will rescue him from Richmond and land him a gig on Fox News. That is, at the very least, the only plausible explanation for the following:

Racism has been dropped at my front door and the front door of all lighter-skinned Americans. The health care bill the president just singed into law includes a 10 percent tax on all indoor tanning sessions starting July 1st, and I say, who uses tanning? Is it dark-skinned people? I don’t think so. I would guess that most tanning sessions are from light-skinned Americans. Why would the President of the United States of America—a man who says he understands racism, a man who has been confronted with racism—why would he sign such a racist law? Why would he agree to do that? Well now I feel the pain of racism.

If he’s being serious, and feeling seriously slighted, then this hearkens to the apologists for the white-power crazies out there. “They have a United Negro College Fund! If white people had a United Caucasian College Fund, we’d be racists!” “Black Entertainment Television? Time for White Entertainment Television!”

You know, forget about the fact that tanning is dangerous, causes cancer, and, at the end of the day, is absolutely, one-hundred-percent, a luxury purchase. I’m not personally one for using tax code to effect changes in behavior, but calling this a racist provision is silly attention-seeking at best, and dangerous hate-baiting at worst.

Morning Constitutional – Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Good morning, folks. Jesse James is going to rehab, there will be a Hangover sequel, and Matt Damon is going to guest star on 30 Rock. Now, your morning constitutional:

The Obama administration will propose opening large swathes of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to natural gas and oil exploration and drilling. The price of oil has risen over the last year, mostly a result of investor activity. The New York Times, however, reports that oil prices are stable and are at a good place for the world economy.

The Serbian Parliament passed a resolution condemning the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, where more than 7,000 Bosnia Muslim men and boys were killed by Serb troops.

Insurance companies have decided to comply with the rules to be issued soon from the Department of Health and Human services defining the requirement for insurers to cover children with pre-existing conditions. Insurers had stated that they did not believe that the newly-passed health care reform law actually required them to cover such children. In other good health care-related news, the recent overhaul ends the practice of gender discrimination, meaning women can no longer be charged more than men.

One joint leads to deportation.

Are humans too stupid to prevent climate change? James Lovelock thinks so.

The Obama administration will pledge $1.15B over the next two years to help with Haiti’s reconstruction efforts.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will announce today that she intends on staying in the Senate, despite an earlier pledge to resign her seat.

Finally, looks like chocolate may help control blood pressure and prevent strokes.

Days until Opening Day: Four (4)

Why are novels so long?

Charles Stross has a really interesting explanation for why novels are the length they are:

Once a trend like that becomes established, it’s hard to stop. Put yourself in the position of a bored browser in front of a supermarket wire-rack, contemplating novels by two authors you’ve never read. They both cost the same, and you have enough pocket money to buy one. The year is 1980; LibraryThing or other internet resources aren’t available. How do you make your mind up? Well, you remember what you’ve heard about the authors, and you look at the cover painting, and you read the back flap blurb. Assuming all of these are equal … you probably buy on weight, because you subconsciously anticipate a longer reading experience and, all things considered, good experiences that last longer are better than short ones. Remember that the actual cost of the paper and ink is only a small component of the retail price of a book — around 10-15%. Increasing a book block’s size from 150 pages to 180 pages is cheap. And so, from the 1960s to the 1990s, publishers unconsciously trained readers to expect longer novels.

There’s a lot more, so go read the whole thing.

I'm sorta disgusted.

I was fed up with the actions and rhetoric of the left when Bush was in office, despite sharing many of their concerns. I’m fed up with the current tactics of the right, and share none of their concerns. And yes, sadly, I’m still fed up with the left. I’m having trouble understanding how we move forward from such insanity. President Obama answered the question quite diplomatically this morning, as he often does. Noting that there is a divide in the ‘tea party’* movement between the truly insane(birthers, etc…) and the more rational(deficit hawks, etc…) he thinks that there are inroads to be made to the latter, but admits the former are a lost cause. I happen to agree, if only because folks that are so susceptible to such obvious ridiculousness generally wed themselves to their insane ideas. Fortunately, generally large numbers of people do not buy into the insanity. Unfortunately, this time many have.

In light of this, how do Democrats move forward? Simultaneously relating to the increasingly violent factions of the far right and the more moderate voices doubtlessly require two separate messages and responses, yet what should either response look like? I hold out hope that more rational elements of all political persuasions will prevail when policy works as intended. When needed provisions of the health-care reform bill go into effect and formerly suspicious people see the actual good the bill provides and Stalin does not rise form the grave, hand in hand with Mussolini, and take control of the country, the wingnuts who have been arguing that would happen will look as foolish as their arguments actually are. However, we have an election in November, likely before many effects of HCR are noticed by the larger population, and majorities to defend in both houses. So what’s next? Other than not acting like wingnuts(seriously, people on the left…stop doing stupid shit…it’s not cute or helpful, it just makes you look as insane as the hordes of tax protesters who threaten violence.)

* I really, really, hate this name/term as it is undefined and sounds terribly juvenile, which, in all fairness, perhaps fits the situation quite well.