June 22nd, 2011

Matt Taibbi profile of Michele Bachmann in Rolling Stone

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/michele-bachmanns-holy-war-20110622

Taibbi is funny, but I wish he would be a little more careful in some of his more colorful language (in particular, the "tranny cabaret" remark and the "hairy hunchback" phrases).

His argument is straightforward. When we laugh at Bachmann, there is a distinct minority of the electorate which wants to defend her, because they're getting laughed at all the time, too. Taibbi's fear is that, in the event of a pre-election double dip (Wall Street melting down a second time and unemployment rising), votes against Obama/status quo might turn into votes for Bachmann.

I do not find that fear plausible. I also don't really believe she'll win the Republican primary, but I guess we'll find out in the next few months.

ATF Scandal "Gunwalker" aka "Fast and Furious"

Last night's Daily Show covered what must be an ongoing scandal over at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that presumably has been inadequately covered recently because of end of school and/or inappropriate pictures or whatever has been preoccupying the news cycle lately.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/06/10/earlyshow/main20070475.shtml

Short form: Decision makers at ATF allowed perhaps on the order of 2500 firearms, including automatic weapons, to be sold illegally to other people who then took them south to Mexico and used them to commit drug-related crimes. "Most notably, two turned up last December at the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in Arizona."

The theory was apparently that they would track these weapons through a series of "little fish" and somehow use them to bring down "big fish". Apparently this was a ATF only operation, not involving other US or Mexican law enforcement, at least as far as I can tell. The operation has not been "successful" for any obvious definition of success.

It's hard to know what to do with this. While there is a partisan element to all rhetoric involving the ATF (Republicans hate it entirely, and want it to go away, and keep blocking appointments to head the agency, so it is now running around headless like, er, a headless federal agency), this doesn't feel like a partisan issue. This feels like groupthink stupidity. But I guess we'll learn more as the story develops.

Ray Nagin selfpubs memoir through CreateSpace

http://www.amazon.com/Katrinas-Secrets-Storms-After-Storm/dp/146095971X

He was on the Daily Show promoting it recently.

I don't think this was a case of no-one-would-buy-it. Nagin indicated he wanted to be able to speak freely and he thought that wouldn't work as well through a more traditional agent/publisher route. I have not bought it and don't anticipate doing so, altho that's as much because it is well outside any of my current areas of interest as for any other reason. It is interesting, however, that he made that choice; we'll have to see if it is an isolated instance or the beginning of a trend. I was pleased that a Nagin memoir -- which _would_ have landed on the Daily Show if published by one of the Big 6 -- got time on the Daily Show even though it was selfpubbed.

Measuring Autism

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/22/us-autism-toddlers-idUSTRE75L4HQ20110622

"Ilan Dinstein of Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel" and other scientists, "In research published in the journal Neuron", "used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at the brains of sleeping toddlers". In a small number of normally developing and/or language delayed but not autistic toddlers and "70 percent of toddlers with autism" they found a "specific abnormality in synchronization between two brain areas commonly associated with language and communication".

Sleeping is good, as sleeping kids have a very different behavioral profile than awake kids.