“Dick’s Degrees of Separation”

From Mark Titus‘s weekly power rankings on Grantland:

I’ve decided to implement a halftime break for each column, and this week I’m using the break to start a new game. It’s called “Dick’s Degrees of Separation,” and it’s inspired by the tangents Dick Vitale rattles off whenever he calls a game. Dickie V. has a habit of letting his train of thought get away from him, resulting in rants on a variety of topics that have little to do with his original subject. It’s like he’s playing six degrees of separation in his mind and wants to find a way to connect Kentucky’s ball screen defense to the cheeseburger he ate in Salt Lake City in 1979 while watching the Magic vs. Bird national championship game. To celebrate how entertaining Dickie V. can be, I’ve picked out my favorite Vitale tangent of this past week. I’m going to provide the end point of the tangent, as well as three potential pathways that arrive at the conclusion. From there, it’s your job to determine which tangent is real and which ones I made up. Good luck.

I am so looking forward to next week’s answer and you should be too.

I plan on writing more on this once I receive my printed Quarterly, but some of the best writing on the Internet (or indeed anywhere) is currently happening on Grantland. If you don’t have it in your RSS reader of choice you should change that.

Merry Christmas

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I failed at life this year and did not send out my annual Christmas cards.

So to you all—Automattician and non-Automattician alike—may your Christmas be full of joy and love with friends and family.

Maybe We Should Stop Selling Guns to Mexico—WAIT WHAT

Sharyl Attkisson for CBS News:

Selling weapons to Mexico – where cartel violence is out of control – is controversial because so many guns fall into the wrong hands due to incompetence and corruption. The Mexican military recently reported nearly 9,000 police weapons “missing.”

This sounds like a problem, yes? You would think that if we are going to fight this “war on drugs” that we should probably stop doing this.

Yet the U.S. has approved the sale of more guns to Mexico in recent years than ever before through a program called “direct commercial sales.” It’s a program that some say is worse than the highly-criticized “Fast and Furious” gunrunning scandal, where U.S. agents allowed thousands of weapons to pass from the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels.

Oops. Hm.

Well, maybe it’s just a fluke.

One weapon – an AR-15-type semi-automatic rifle – tells the story. In 2006, this same kind of rifle – tracked by serial number – is legally sold by a U.S. manufacturer to the Mexican military.

Three years later – it’s found in a criminal stash in a region wracked by Mexican drug cartel violence.

That prompted a “sensitive” cable, uncovered by WikiLeaks, dated June 4, 2009, in which the U.S. State Department asked Mexico “how the AR-15” – meant only for the military or police – was “diverted” into criminal hands.

And, more importantly, where the other rifles from the same shipment went: “Please account for the current location of the 1,030 AR-15 type rifles,” reads the cable.

This sounds like a big deal. That’s a lot of weapons that are likely more powerful than the ones the cartels can go buy at Cabela’s or Wal-Mart.

(Aside: WikiLeaks strikes again.)

There’s no response in the record.

Oops. (Of course it’s possible that this response just never fell into the hands of WikiLeaks.)

The problem of weapons legally sold to Mexico – then diverted to violent cartels – is becoming more urgent. That’s because the U.S. has quietly authorized a massive escalation in the number of guns sold to Mexico through “direct commercial sales.” It’s a way foreign countries can acquire firearms faster and with less disclosure than going through the Pentagon.

[…]

And it did approve 2,476 guns to be sold to Mexico in 2006. In 2009, that number was up nearly 10 times, to 18,709. The State Department has since stopped disclosing numbers of guns it approves, and wouldn’t give CBS News figures for 2010 or 2011.

Hey, guys? I think you’re forgetting a little thing called “cause-and-effect.” Good job acting the reverse of what a sane person would do.

Nice to see that our government is being open and honest about what’s going on, too. That helps.

The State Department audits only a tiny sample – less than 1 percent of sales – but the results are disturbing: In 2009, more than a quarter (26 percent) of the guns sold to the region that includes Mexico were “diverted” into the wrong hands, or had other “unfavorable” results.

Oops.

I suppose it’s also “unfavorable” that people—I am assuming in a lot of cases innocent people or law enforcement—are being killed by these weapons.

“Journalistic Values”

Glen Greenwald for Salon.com regarding WaPo’s Ruth Marcus’s column on Emma Sullivan:

Behold the mind of the American journalist: Marcus — last seen in this space three years ago demanding that Bush officials be fully shielded from all accountability for their crimes (the ultimate expression of “respect for authority”) — wants everyone to learn and be guided by extreme deference to political officials and to humbly apologize when they offend those officials with harsh criticism. In other words, Marcus wants all young citizens to be trained to be employees of The Washington Post.

Reprehensible, and a prime indicator of what is wrong with the current state of American journalism.

IMO journalism should have more critique and more expression of opinion, not less. The best journalism I have ever read consists of sharply-written, impassioned words.