Lazy Saturday Afternoon News ReadsPosted: February 9, 2013
It’s a perfect day to curl up with a great detective novel. As you can see, Michael Caine up there is deeply engrossed in Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely. Chandler is terrific for those of us who are connoisseurs of the hard-boiled school of mystery writers; I think his masterpiece was The Long Goodbye. I’ve read it multiple times. Here are a few great one-liners from the book:
“I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between stars.”
“The girl gave him a look which ought to have stuck at least four inches out of his back.”
“I belonged in Idle Valley like a pearl onion on a banana split.”
“A man who drinks too much on occasion is still the same man as he was sober. An alcoholic, a real alcoholic, is not the same man at all. You can’t predict anything about him for sure except that he will be someone you never met before.”
“The French have a phrase for it. The bastards have a phrase for everything and they are always right. To say goodbye is to die a little.”
Years later, another hard-boiled detective novelist, Ross MacDonald, wrote a kind of paeon to The Long Goodbye called The Goodbye Look, which I also enjoyed and have read more than once.
These days I tend to prefer female detectives and women writers, but I still prefer the hard-boiled types over the “cozy” ones.
There’s not a whole lot of exciting news out there, but I have a variety of recent reads for you to delve into today if you choose.
I wish John Boehner and Mitch McConnell would read this article in today’s New York Times, although it probably wouldn’t begin to melt their cold cold hearts: Restored Payroll Tax Pinches Those Who Earn the Least.
Jack Andrews and his wife no longer enjoy what they call date night, their once-a-month outing to the movies and a steak dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse in Augusta, Ga. In Harlem, Eddie Phillips’s life insurance payment will have to wait a few more weeks. And Jessica Price is buying cheaper food near her home in Orlando, Fla., even though she worries it may not be as healthy.
Like millions of other Americans, they are feeling the bite from the sharp increase in payroll taxes that took effect at the beginning of January. There are growing signs that the broader economy is suffering, too.
Chain-store sales have weakened over the course of the month. And two surveys released last week suggested that consumer confidence was eroding, especially among lower-income Americans.
While these data points are preliminary — more detailed statistics on retail sales and other trends will not be available until later this month — at street level, the pain from the expiration of a two-percentage-point break in Social Security taxes in 2011 and 2012 is plain to see.
“You got to stretch what you got,” said Mr. Phillips, 51, a front-desk clerk and maintenance man for a nonprofit housing group who earned $22,000 last year. “That little $20 or $30 affects you, especially if you’re just making enough money to stay above water.” So he has taken to juggling bills, skipping a payment on one this month and another next month.
Don’t I know it!
President Obama used his Saturday radio address to once again poke Congress to deal with the upcoming “sequester” cuts.
“If the sequester is allowed to go forward, thousands of Americans who work in fields like national security, education or energy are likely to be laid off,” he said. “All our economic progress could be put at risk.”
Mr. Obama’s remarks echoed a statement issued by the White House Friday that warned the sequester would “threaten thousands of jobs and the economic security of the middle class.”
But, as usual, Republicans are blaming Obama for the problem.
“We know the President’s sequester will have consequences,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement this week. “What we don’t know is when the President will propose a plan to replace the sequester with smarter spending cuts and reforms.”
I hope President Obama reads this op-ed in The Washington Post by Georgetown constitutional law professor David Cole. Cole is the author of the recent book The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable.
There are plenty of problems with President Obama’s targeted killings in the war against terrorism: The policy remains secret in most aspects, involves no judicial review, has resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians, has been employed far from any battlefield and has sparked deep anti-American resentment in countries where we can ill afford it.
But when it comes to the particular legal issue raised in a recently leaked “white paper” from the Justice Department — namely, whether it is legal to kill Americans with drones — one problem looms largest: The policy permits the government to kill its citizens in secret while refusing to acknowledge, even after the fact, that it has done so.
There may be extraordinary occasions when killing a citizen is permissible, but it should never be acceptable for the government to refuse to acknowledge the act. How can we be free if our government has the power to kill us in secret? And how can a sovereign authority be accountable to the people if the sovereign can refuse to own up to its actions?
Cole likens Obama’s assassination policy to the “disappearances” in Argentina in the 1970s.
When Argentina’s military junta secretly abducted and killed its citizens during that country’s “dirty war” in the 1970s, the world labeled these acts “disappearances” and condemned them as violations of human rights. A disappearance is not just an abduction or killing, but an unacknowledged abduction or killing. To “disappear” citizens not only deprives them of their liberty or life without fair process but is deeply corrosive of democratic politics, casting a shadow of fear over all.
Please read the whole thing if you can.
I liked this piece by Gary Gutting at The New York Times, despite my initial hesitation to read anything by a professor at Notre Dame. I finally decided I shouldn’t condemn him by association over the ND football team scandals. Headlined “Depression and the Limits of Psychiatry,” it’s a philosophical discussion of the upcoming changes in the definition of depression in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
Current psychiatric practice is guided by the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM). Its new 5th edition makes controversial revisions in the definition of depression, eliminating a long-standing “bereavement exception” in the guidelines for diagnosing a “major depressive disorder.” People grieving after the deaths of loved ones may exhibit the same sorts of symptoms (sadness, sleeplessness and loss of interest in daily activities among them) that characterize major depression. For many years, the DSM specified that, since grieving is a normal response to bereavement, such symptoms are not an adequate basis for diagnosing major depression. The new edition removes this exemption.
Disputes over the bereavement exemption center on the significance of “normal.” Although the term sometimes signifies merely what is usual or average, in discussions of mental illness it most often has normative force. Proponents of the exemption need not claim that depressive symptoms are usual in the bereaved, merely that they are appropriate (fitting).
Opponents of the exemption have appealed to empirical studies that compare cases of normal bereavement to cases of major depression. They offer evidence that normal bereavement and major depression can present substantially the same symptoms, and conclude that there is no basis for treating them differently. But this logic is faulty. Even if the symptoms are exactly the same, proponents of the exemption can still argue that they are appropriate for someone mourning a loved one but not otherwise. The suffering may be the same, but suffering from the death of a loved one may still have a value that suffering from other causes does not. No amount of empirical information about the nature and degree of suffering can, by itself, tell us whether someone ought to endure it.
Think Progress has a couple of interesting pieces on the relationship between climate change and our recent extreme weather. Posted yesterday: Historic Blizzard Poised to Strike New England: What Role Is Climate Change Playing? by Joe Romm.
I asked Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, to comment on the role climate change has on this storm. He explained:
1. This is a perfect set up for a big storm, with the combination of two parts: a disturbance from the Gulf region with lots of moisture and a cold front from the west.
2. Ingredients for a big snow storm include temperatures just below freezing. In the past temperatures at this time of year would have been a lot below freezing but the ability to hold moisture in the atmosphere goes down by 7% per degree C (4% per deg F), and so in the past we would have had a snow storm but not these amounts.
3. The moisture flow into the storm is also important and that is enhanced by higher than normal sea surface temperatures (SSTs). These are higher by about 1 deg C [almost 2°F] than a normal (pre-1980) due to global warming and so that adds about 10% to the potential for a big snow.
Every storm and “event” is unique. It always has unique ingredients. So it is hard if not impossible to take apart, because any piece missing means the storm behaves differently. So event attribution is not well posed. Instead we look for the environment in which the storm is occurring and how that has changed to make conditions warmer and moister over the oceans.
And here’s supplement to that piece: Must-Read Trenberth: How To Relate Climate Extremes to Climate Change
The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be….
The air is on average warmer and moister than it was prior to about 1970 and in turn has likely led to a 5–10 % effect on precipitation and storms that is greatly amplified in extremes. The warm moist air is readily advected onto land and caught up in weather systems as part of the hydrological cycle, where it contributes to more intense precipitation events that are widely observed to be occurring.
Yesterday I came across this piece with some background on Christopher Dorner, the fugitive ex-cop in California.
The final straw for Christopher Jordan Dorner grew out of a relatively minor arrest outside San Pedro’s DoubleTree hotel nearly five years ago.
Dorner and his training officer were called to the well-manicured hotel because a scruffy, angry, mentally ill man would not leave. Together, the Harbor Division officers grappled with the man in a bush until he was shot with a Taser gun and submitted. But the pair differed in their versions of what happened that morning.
The discrepancy became an obsession for Dorner, who claimed his training officer brutally and unnecessarily kicked the man in the collarbone and face. His intense feelings about that incident are the core of the lengthy, stream-of-consciousness manifesto he wrote to explain why he embarked on a killing spree – complete with a 40-person hit list.
In the 14-page manifesto (written in the parlance of a police report), Dorner directly addresses “America,” and describes himself as a heroic figure rendered helpless by a series of racist attacks that began when he was a first-grade student at Norwalk Christian School in Norwalk, when another student called him a racial slur.
The school closed down Thursday during the massive manhunt for Dorner. The disgraced former officer wrote that the first of a series of injustices that defined his life happened at the Norwalk school, where he says he was the only “black kid.” He said he was repeatedly disciplined for fighting throughout elementary school, but it was only because he was responding to racist name-calling.
This guy definitely fits the analysis of workplace and school shooters by Mark Ames in his book Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine and Beyond, except that Dorner is on the move. He’ll most likely end up killing himself or committing suicide by cop. If he’s not dead already, it’s hard to figure how he could be eluding the manhunt for this long.